Fear And Self-Loathing At The New Republic

Jonathan Chiat, a senior editor at The New Republic, has written a journo-dyspeptic piece headlined, “The Case Against Awards: Why the wrong person always wins.

One of Chiat’s awards-bashing examples hits close to home:

In my field, we have something called the National Magazine Awards. Magazine writers tend to be both obsessed with who wins and convinced the process is a pathetic joke. This isn’t just sour grapes, either. The last time The New Republic won a National Magazine Award, it was for publishing Betsy McCaughey’s infamous anti-Clintoncare screed “No Exit,” which is probably the worst article in the history of TNR. It’s as if the last American to win the Nobel Peace Prize was Timothy McVeigh.

Coincidentally (or not), the current edition of The New Republic features a Michelle Cottle profile of McCaughey that is flat out self-flagellating.

From the second paragraph:

A constitutional scholar by training, McCaughey (pronounced “McCoy”) blazed to fame in 1994 as the person who drove a stake through the heart of Hillarycare, with a detailed (and, as it turned out, false) takedown of the plan published in this very magazine.

Cottle’s TNR report continued:

With the help of a friend on the board of the Manhattan Institute, Betsy landed a fellowship at the conservative think tank, with a mandate to write about electoral reform and the legal system. Instead, in early 1994, she published a scathing vivisection of the Clinton health care plan in The New Republic. Touting her academic experience, McCaughey painted herself as a dispassionate truth-seeker who felt an obligation to read the entire 1,342-page bill (something few lawmakers were willing to do) and flag its malignancies for the rest of us. To emphasize how judicious her research was, McCaughey sprinkled her article with page numbers, directing readers to the exact subsections and footnotes of the text on which her criticisms were based. But, while McCaughey’s reading may have been uncommonly thorough, it was also fundamentally incorrect–or grossly dishonest, depending on your view of her (and of a recent Rolling Stone article exposing her consultations with Big Tobacco during the writing). One of her most resonant claims, that the bill would bar people from paying their doctors for care beyond what the government plan covered, was utter bunk. And the analysis went downhill from there, as tnr staffers, among others, later detailed. (“The force of her articles derived from her claim that there was ‘no exit’ from [Clinton’s] mandatory insurance plans. She was wrong,” Mickey Kaus wrote the following year.) By the time such misinformation was dismantled, however, it was too late. Prominent reform opponents from Senator Bob Dole to columnist George Will ran with her claims, and Betsy soon found herself the new darling of the GOP. From the ashes of Hillarycare a political star was born.

A political star who continues, according to Cottle’s TNR piece, to “[spin] out an indefensibly sinister, apocalyptic translation of the text that no amount of countervailing evidence can shake.”

Currently Betsy McCaughey 2.0 is trying to work her special magic on Obamacare, crusading against – according to one critic – “death panels, euthanasia and withholding care from the disabled.”

Not surprisingly, now is the autumn of TNR’s discontent.

With itself.

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