The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin Problem, Redux

While it’s a bit of a departure from the foreign policy focus of this blog, Jennifer Rubin’s take on the Mitt Romney/Bain Capital controversy is worth reading, if only for comedy value. Virtually all observers across the political spectrum have concluded that the Bain Capital story has inflicted serious damage to Romney — even Bill Kristol has been pleading with Romney to release more of his tax returns to staunch the bleeding. But while opinions might differ about whether the Bain scandal will prove a fatal blow for Romney or merely a glancing one, Jennifer Rubin seems to be literally the only human being on planet Earth who thinks that the whole hubbub in fact marks a triumph for Romney and a sign of his glorious impending victory.

This is hardly surprising coming from everyone’s favorite neocon propagandist. After all, aside from her strident Likudist politics and her continuing problems with the truth, Rubin’s defining quality is a never-say-die belief in the inevitability of Republican victory reminiscent of Monty Python’s Black Knight. As I wrote shortly after the Washington Post hired Rubin away from Commentary in 2010:

Ever since Obama came to prominence, [Rubin] has spent several posts a day prophesying impending doom for his political fortunes. I actually came to enjoy reading her analysis during the 2008 presidential campaign — every time the McCain-Palin campaign hit another pothole, Rubin would invariably come forward with a strained explanation for why this was only an insignificant setback, and the collapse of the Obama campaign was surely right around the corner. (Like Bill Kristol, I’ve often thought that Rubin would have made an excellent Soviet agitprop officer.) Of course, in recent months Obama’s popularity has indeed sagged — a stopped clock is right twice a day and all that. But even if Obama recovers and successfully serves another six years in office, we can expect Rubin to use her perch at the Post to offer daily predictions of Obama’s impending collapse until the moment he leaves office in 2017.

Part of the problem is that, aside from Israel, Rubin simply doesn’t seem to have much interest in actual policy aside from its impact on the electoral fortunes of the Republican Party. In the last year, she has solidified her status as the most shameless Romney booster in the mainstream media, going to absurd lengths to dump on Romney’s Republican primary rivals in addition to the usual glut of pro-Israel and anti-Obama material. Rubin’s calculation was pretty transparent: by making her Post blog a one-stop shop for Romney campaign spin, she could stand to become his administration’s favored journalist — recipient of all the “exclusive” leaks and interviews that go along with it — in the event of a Romney victory in November.

The irony of the situation is that the Post originally hired Rubin to serve as a voice for conservatives in its opinion section. (For more background on Rubin’s hiring and its disastrous aftermath, see Eric Alterman’s recent piece as well as Ali Gharib’s excellent piece from 2010.) During the course of the primary, however, movement conservatives largely became disgusted with Rubin’s shilling for Romney, correctly perceiving that on all issues other than Israel she is simply a mouthpiece for the Republican party establishment. See, for instance, RedState’s influential Erick Erickson, who lampoons her as the “unofficial official Mouth of Romney” and elaborates:

For the past year, Rubin has done more to hinder the Washington Post in the eyes of conservatives as a place willing to treat conservative views honestly than even hiring Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent, both activist leftists who can, at least, put aside partisanship to occasionally engage in good reporting….When a majority of conservatives have rejected Mitt Romney and the Post’s in-house conservative blogger not only routinely assails all the Republican candidates but Romney (with the caveat that she will praise non-Romney candidates whose actions benefit Romney) and does so while showing no understanding, no matter how nuanced, of basic conservative positions like abortion and life issues, the Washington Post needs to rethink its strategy.

The Post wanted a hack and they got a hack. It’s becoming increasingly clear, however, that Rubin is not the hack they were looking for.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.