Grilling Jennifer Rubin for Faith-Based Excuse

Jewish Telegraphic Agency Bureau Chief Ron Kampeas and others grill the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin for using a Sabbath time stamp excuse for her reporting on Norway terrorism.

Thumbnail image for j_rubin.jpg

The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin is typically unrelenting in her ad hominem, edgy attacks on those with whom she disagrees -- and now many are as equally committed to not giving her any space to recover for sloppy work she did reporting on the Norwegian, platinum blonde, right wing, fanatical Christian in Norway.

In reporting on the murders, allegedly committed by Anders Behring Breivik, Rubin assumed as did many others that some quadrant of al Qaeda-affiliated violent extremism was involved.  Colleagues of mine including Jeffrey Goldberg and Max Fisher at The Atlantic made similar assumptions -- but for the most part everyone included a responsible placeholder in his or her comments that we couldn't yet be sure (at the time) who was behind the attacks.

What separated Rubin from the rest were two things, which my colleague James Fallows has repeatedly pointed out.  First, she used the incident to bash legislators -- particularly Georgia Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss -- for considering potential defense cuts during a time of serious national debate about how to rebalance the outlays in America's spending portfolio.  This was irresponsible in my opinion as she linked her criticism of Chambliss to the Norway attacks and on her assertion that some in Congress were going soft on jihadism.

Some others have skewered Rubin's defense that she did not update for more than a day her provocative post laying blame on the wrong villain and taking it an octave higher in her anti-defense cuts rant.  Rubin, according to Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton, said that the sabbath got in the way.

Turns out there are some kinks in that story. 

Some sleuthing by Eric Alterman as well as by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's Ron Kampeas -- both a little Columbo-like in how they operate -- have said that the timing just doesn't work out. 

One person forwarding me the exchange has said that Jennifer Rubin even "lies to God."  Well, I'm not going to go that far -- as I'm not into faith-based excuses or rationalizations and that may be a bit too mean.  Folks have stuff going on in their lives.  I get stuff wrong on occasion -- have to backtrack. Occasionally I really regret a post I made.  Best thing is to admit it and make amends by apologizing and trying to improve.

I wish Rubin worked from that kind of playbook as she is clearly smart, a talented writer and thinker -- but she's deeply ideological and too frequently chooses nastiness and corner-clipping with the facts to move a deeply biased agenda.  If she shifts gears and begins to more responsibly engage alternative views and associates, then I'll keep an open mind -- but so far, there is no evidence of that. 

Given her intransigence, I basically agree with Kampeas' kicker:

. . .making Jewish observance an excuse when it clearly is not -- well, it rankles. There's way too long a history of Jews having to take risks to observe Shabbat for it to be used as a bad faith out.

Jennifer Rubin has been spitting on a lot of folks in the opinion blogosphere for quite a while.  She would be well advised to dial it back a bit and find a path towards mutual respect with others with whom she disagrees.  There's nothing wrong with her passionate opinions; there's everything wrong with how Rubin defames and engages in ad hominem assaults against so many with whom she disagrees.

When she was hired by the Washington Post, I asked Fred Hiatt what he had in mind with this acquisition and was told that he wanted a more conservative voice on the team.

Rubin's domestic US conservative commentary is limited, and not nearly as frequent as her posts that touch on Israel.  That's not "conservative" but rather a silo of work in one obsessive, highly toxic area of debate in which she provides a flamboyantly Likudist portal. 

Fine -- but where's the balance on the Post's team to that?  Fred Hiatt suggests that he brought her in to "balance" the progressives on the team.  If balance is an issue, which it might very well be, where is the "Muslim" or Arab voice at the Post that defends as passionately the other side of the argument? Or if having a blog voice on the Arab side of the equation is too much, how about a genuine two-stater from the Israeli side whose love of Israel and commitment to Israel's long term interests wouldn't be savaged as traitorous?

This debate about Rubin will begin to taper off now -- but what is driving this race to get her is that she has just refused to embrace any reasonable civility with others who don't share her views.  I hope she changes course.  I would like to have a beer with her -- have some civil discussions and debates about policy without the name-calling.

But if Rubin doesn't shift, it's clear that there is a community of people out now ready to pound her for any mistake or slip -- and the truth is, we all make mistakes.

Jennifer Rubin should set a new tone in her work -- and that will change how critics deal with her as well.

Presented by

Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs. More

Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Politics

Just In