McCaughey And Me
I said my piece about this on this blog a while back. I do not think it's professional to air the specifics of internal battles after the fact, and I take full responsibility for being the editor of the magazine that published the piece. I accepted an award for it. I stood behind it. In my view, it had many interesting points and as an intellectual exercize in contemplating the full possible consequences of Hillary Clinton's proposal, it was provocative and well worth running. But its premise that these potential consequences were indisputably in the bill in that kind of detail was simply wrong; and I failed to correct that, although all I can say is that I tried. One key paragraph - critical to framing the piece so it was not a declaration of fact but an assertion of what might happen if worst came to worst - became a battlefield with her for days; and all I can say is, I lost. I guess I could have quit. Maybe I should have. I decided I would run the piece but follow it with as much dissent and criticism as possible. I did discover that she was completely resistant to rational give-and-take. It was her way or the highway.
I ensured that TNR ran a long and detailed rebuttal; and I also ensured, as a conservative steward of a liberal magazine, that we editorialized in favor of the Cooper plan for universal healthcare, which we did consistently. During that period, I also commissioned and ran dozens of pieces explaining the healthcare debate from the Clinton point of view.
Again, I take responsibility.
I was the editor; I threatened to quit on another occasion; it was my call; and I took credit for its impact; and did not criticize her (and praised her tenacity) subsequently. No one else is responsible. In retrospect, it was not my finest hour. I think there was a fascinating and provocative piece in there - and I always viewed The New Republic not as a tablet of liberal stone, but as a place where liberalism should be unafraid of challenges to it, and where lazy liberalism needed to be given a work-out. I enjoyed driving many liberals a little crazy in the untraditional, experimental - and often conservative and libertarian - pieces I commissioned (although I did not originally contact or commission McCaughey). Yes, that was when I was as popular with mainstream liberals as I am with mainstream conservatives today.
But look: it was one piece in a magazine. It's being treated as if it were a turning point in history. Please. There's one reason the Clinton healthcare bill failed and it isn't Betsy McCaughey. It's Hillary Clinton.