Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

February 23, 2008

"One of The Strangest Blog Posts of All Time"

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 10:29 am

Aw shucks. I’m honored, but not sure I (or the blog post in question–even now with “added salience”) deserve such a superlative compliment. I think you need to have a sadly sheltered beltway wonk mentality to believe it’s strange at all, considering all the genuinely strange blog posts in the astonishingly strange world we inhabit. But here’s the context for the strange hyperbole as you will find it in this guest post by Reihan Salam on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

Pandora’s Box
22 Feb 2008 05:03 pm
by Reihan

Gabriel Sherman’s take on the NYT’s McCain story:

“Beyond its revelations, however, what’s most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain’s former staffers to justify the piece–both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves–the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain’s aides that the Senator shouldn’t be seen in public with Iseman–and departs from the Times’ usual authoritative voice.”

Here’s my question[this is Reihan now]: does this mean the Los Angeles Times is going to pull the trigger on yet another “scandal,” this one involving the spouse of a leading presidential candidate? Ron Rosenbaum wrote one of the strangest blog posts of all time on exactly this subject in October, and it seems to have added salience now. [Emphasis added]

Now, here’s Reihan’s notion of one of the strangest blog posts of all time. It certainly was controversial, largely because I refused to disclose the nature of the scandal-rumor, because I had no way to judge its truthfulness, something that didn’t stop the insiders spreading it from assuming a pose of certitude.

Perhaps it seems “strange” because those inside the beltway bubble don’t realize how strangethey seem to outsiders: anthropologically like Stone Age tribesmen brandishing rumors like shiny beads to prove their self worth. The post. as anyone who reads it and my subsequent thoughts on the subject (such as the post just below this). was meant to be about D.C media insider psychology, the way D.C. political journalists puff up their self esteem for each other by parading supposed inside knowledge of–for instance–presidential candidate rumors. The sort of “knowledge” they can’t or won’t share with their readers.

My contention was that even, especially, if they don’t publish their self-promoting “inside knowledge”, it exerts a subtle but demonstrable “dark matter” influence on what they do write.

By the way–note to Reihan–I made clear in the story that I did not know for a fact that the LATimes was sitting on a sex scandal story, but that DC insiders were buzzing that it was. There’s a difference! In the comments and subsequent posts I’ve repeated denials from an LATimesman that they have such a story. As for the rumor itself I still have no way of knowing whether it’s truth or folklore. Or whether it would have been right to publish it even if it could be proven true. And that’s why I did not publish the details, but rather discussed the dilemmas such a rumor would pose.

It was a complex question I know, but–second note to Reihan–complexity isn’t always “strange”. It’s the stuff of life.



  1. Let us take MSNBC. It has 250,000 viewers. It has to recycle people like Andre Mitchell and Tucker Carlson (insufferable) as “guests” from show to show. Chris Matthews styles himself as “tough”, but fawns over Bill Keller as “a great editor”, when Keller is demonstrable the kind of guy whose handshake is as squishy as a fish. MSNBC parades Pat Buchanan,a guy whose only illicit affair has been with himself, from dawn to dusk. Is it any wonder, in this incestuous circle, that nothing but incestuous thinking, as in Lewis Carroll’s “caucus” of birds, prevails? Have you ever heard of a candidate, in the history of American politics, has remained in the running after losing eleven straight races by an average margin of 66% to 33%? Yet Hillary remains “viable”. Why? Because her courtiers have been sources of the MSNBC gang for a generation! One of the most remarkable things about the Obama campaign is how few “personalities” have surfaced from it”: Axelrod, Pfouffe, maybe Susan Rice. Why? Because Obama’s people really are “new to the process”, i.e. they haven’t been leaking to Andrea Mitchell since the Depression!!

    Comment by charlie finch — February 23, 2008 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  2. I can’t imagine Mr Rosenbaum knows anything about me, nor should he — a blog post, by its nature, should stand on its own. But I tend to think of “strange” as high praise, and I certainly intended to use it that way in this case. Because I am a great admirer of Mr Rosenbaum, I’m disappointed and more than a little surprised by his reaction. At the same time, it is certainly true that the blog post was written in great haste, and I didn’t give the subject the subtle treatment it perhaps deserved. My blogging suffered, I know, while I was attending to other responsibilities.

    All that said, it’s an honor to be mentioned by Mr Rosenbaum, even if it’s not in an entirely friendly way. I’ve been reading his column in The Observer since high school, and I’ve always considered it “strange” in the best possible sense. Next time, though, I’ll hold my tongue.

    Thank you for the gracious reply. I genuinely do consider “strange” a compliment, though many would not take it that way. I just didn’t think the particular post referred to was really all that strange, which suggested to me that “strange” was not intended as a compliment, or that it would be read as one by most. “Damning with faint praise” was the way one friend put it. But I’ll take your word for its true intent and appreciate the other kind words.

    Comment by Reihan — February 24, 2008 @ 12:16 pm | Reply

  3. Commenter Charlie Finch asks: “Have you ever heard of a candidate, in the history of American politics, has remained in the running after losing eleven straight races by an average margin of 66% to 33%?”

    No, I have not. I wonder if Charlie has ever, in the history of American politics, heard of a politician dropping out of a neck-and-neck race before the other guy has actually, you know, won the thing?

    I agree it’s almost certain Obama’s going to win this thing eventually, but she’s not giving up “until the last dog dies,” nor should she.

    Comment by gyrfalcon — February 24, 2008 @ 3:04 pm | Reply

  4. Secretariat won the 1973 Belmont Stakes by 33 lengths, by gyrfalcon’s (and Harold Ickes’, speaking to Dana Milbank yesterday) definition “neck and neck”. The horse who finished second was named Sham, aka Hillary Clinton

    Comment by charlie finch — February 26, 2008 @ 9:17 am | Reply

  5. Bit late to the game, I know, but this seems to be what you were talking about.

    Second graph has a full disclosure of how the writing may be informed. Too clumsy, I think , for the daily papers but when your speaker hasn’t let you know there are known unknowns, you are patronized.

    Comment by Ed — May 21, 2008 @ 11:19 am | Reply

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