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Published on July 22nd, 2010 | by Daniel Luban


Why Does Lee Smith Have A Job?

Many readers will already have seen that this blog was mentioned, along with Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, Phil Weiss, and Steve Walt, as one of the sites “using the Internet to make anti-Semitism respectable,” in a Tablet article by their neoconservative politics columnist Lee Smith. The article is silly and substanceless enough that I won’t bother responding — Walt, Weiss, and Jerry Haber have already written fine rebuttals, and even journalists who are far from sympathetic to our politics, like JTA’s Ron Kampeas and the New Jersey Jewish News‘s Andrew Silow-Carroll, have picked apart Smith’s article for the idiocy that it is. (Although Kampeas feels compelled to take a gratuitous and frankly bizarre shot at Phil Weiss–he “gets up in the morning and plans a day that includes harming Jews”? Really, Ron? This is the kind of hysteria that one expects from Jeffrey Goldberg–who, no surprise, is the only source for Smith’s article.) I’ll just note how revealing it is that Smith is unable to produce a single instance of anti-Semitism from any of his targets, and is forced to rely on random and anonymous blog comments to make his case. His gloss on Jim’s political views also indicates that he has probably never read anything Jim’s written.

The real question is why the piece was published in the first place. I’ve written for Tablet before, and found the editors to be smart, thorough, and open-minded (as evidenced by their willingness to publish my piece in the first place). Reading Smith’s screed, I have to wonder how it made it through the publication process without anyone forcing him to provide some evidence for his claims.

More generally, it’s an interesting question why Smith has his gig at Tablet in the first place. I have no objection to the magazine airing neoconservative voices–they are a small minority in the American Jewish community, but an important one–but it is strange that the magazine would give its only weekly politics column to a neoconservative political operative who uses it exclusively as an echo chamber for talking points from Commentary and the Weekly Standard (where Smith also writes). I’ve gone through just about all of Smith’s Tablet columns, and virtually without fail they fall into one of two genres: there are hit pieces against whoever the neocons’ enemy of the week is (e.g. Trita Parsi, the Leveretts, and this latest article), and there are sycophantic puff pieces touting the wisdom of various Likudnik policymakers (e.g. Elliott Abrams, Michael Oren). Last week, he attempted a deeper think piece on Israel, Intellectuals, And The Fate Of Western Civilization, and it didn’t go too well–the kind of turgid pop philosophy that would be more at home in a college newspaper.

So why are we treated to Smith’s insights every week? Is it his good looks? His winning personality? A condition imposed by a funder? Regardless, his columns are jarringly out of place with the tenor of the rest of the magazine–and if his last couple are any indication, they’re only getting worse.

About the Author


Daniel Luban is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Chicago. He was formerly a correspondent for the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.

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