August 13 (Originally posted by Mischa)
Robert Kagan churns out the usual anti-historical dreck in the other day’s Post. Highlights of which include:
-the “morally ambiguous” Sudeten crisis;
-August 8, 2008 as “no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989;” and
-Russia “[creating] a major geopolitical confrontation” over deployment of U.S. missiles in Eastern Europe. (Unimportant side note: Massive opposition to the plan by a majority of Poles and an overwhelming majority of Czechs.)
But that’s just the segue for this very sloppy MSPaint Kagan family tree…
Not surprisingly, Greenwald has the definitive commentary. But it’s not just the Kagans who keep it in the family. Right-wing fathead Jonah Goldberg is the offspring of Lucianne “I was a spy for Nixon” Goldberg, whose website drove away advertisements by the Marines, Red Cross, United Airlines, and Weight Watchers. Giuliani advisor John Podhoretz sprang from the loins of PNAC signatory and Commentary weirdo Norman Podhoretz, who is also (via Rumsfeld hagiographer Midge Dector) the stepfather of Eliot Abrams’ wife — that’s two misdemeanors for withholding information from Congress Eliot Abrams. The smiling assassin Bill Kristol is the son of neo-con Godfather Irv Kristol, while Independent Women’s Forum founder Barbara Ledeen is married to AEI “Freedom Scholar” and lobbyist for the Republic of Congo Michael Ledeen. Hell, Rush Limbaugh’s kid brother is published by the Washington Times. (Christopher Buckley seems to have come out alright.)
So what? We’re dealing with a group of people from very similar socioeconomic backgrounds, whether in punditry, journalism, academia, lobbying. Of course they’re going to marry each other, and of course we’ll end up with something like this. It happens on the left as well, witness the fantastic Foer family, or the manner in which Marty Peretz bought and ruined New Republic with his wife’s money.
Again, so what? No one is banned from expressing opinions because of their relatives, and certainly one Kilpatrick isn’t to blame for another. That said, readers of Anne Applebaum’s consistently anti-Russian op-eds in the Post might benefit from knowing she’s married to the Polish Foreign Minister. This doesn’t mean she’s incapable of objectivity — Applebaum has a strong academic and journalistic record. However, I can’t be the only one who finds it noteworthy that the Post‘s flagship opinion writer on Eastern Europe is married to one of the region’s most important figures.
Such family ties are usually apparent with politicians. Names like Bush, Kennedy, Sanchez, Udall, are alternately trafficked in and attacked. Unfortunately there’s much less awareness of journalist and pundit family ties.
I don’t have any solution for how this should be moderated, nor can I quantify its effect on the discourse. This post is mainly a think-out-loud exercise. Obviously disclosure requirements vary tremendously, and should depend on the subject matter in question. Bill Kristol gleaned an ideology from his dad, but there’s no need to label him “Irv Kristol’s son” all the time; on the other hand, it might be nice to know that the columnist praising the surge is the brother of its planner. Thomas Frank has one suggestion for journalists that applies equally to pundits:
“Journalists love to put “full disclosure” in parenthetical statements, but, compared to federal appointees, we disclose barely a thing, and only when it suits us. Let newspapers and other journalistic media maintain disclosure Web sites where employees list potential conflicts of interest, including professional affiliations of spouses.”
It’s a great idea, but the late A.M. Rosenthal put it better:
“You can’t cover the circus if you’re fucking the elephants.“