Ron Rosenbaum

"One of The Strangest Blog Posts of All Time"

Aw shucks. I’m honored, but not sure I (or the blog post in question–even now with “added salience”) deserve such a superlative compliment. I think you need to have a sadly sheltered beltway wonk mentality to believe it’s strange at all, considering all the genuinely strange blog posts in the astonishingly strange world we inhabit. But here’s the context for the strange hyperbole as you will find it in this guest post by Reihan Salam on Andrew Sullivan’s blog:

Pandora’s Box
22 Feb 2008 05:03 pm
by Reihan

Gabriel Sherman’s take on the NYT’s McCain story:

“Beyond its revelations, however, what’s most remarkable about the article is that it appeared in the paper at all: The new information it reveals focuses on the private matters of the candidate, and relies entirely on the anecdotal evidence of McCain’s former staffers to justify the piece–both personal and anecdotal elements unusual in the Gray Lady. The story is filled with awkward journalistic moves–the piece contains a collection of decade-old stories about McCain and Iseman appearing at functions together and concerns voiced by McCain’s aides that the Senator shouldn’t be seen in public with Iseman–and departs from the Times’ usual authoritative voice.”

Here’s my question[this is Reihan now]: does this mean the Los Angeles Times is going to pull the trigger on yet another “scandal,” this one involving the spouse of a leading presidential candidate? Ron Rosenbaum wrote one of the strangest blog posts of all time on exactly this subject in October, and it seems to have added salience now. [Emphasis added]

Now, here’s Reihan’s notion of one of the strangest blog posts of all time. It certainly was controversial, largely because I refused to disclose the nature of the scandal-rumor, because I had no way to judge its truthfulness, something that didn’t stop the insiders spreading it from assuming a pose of certitude.

Perhaps it seems “strange” because those inside the beltway bubble don’t realize how strangethey seem to outsiders: anthropologically like Stone Age tribesmen brandishing rumors like shiny beads to prove their self worth. The post. as anyone who reads it and my subsequent thoughts on the subject (such as the post just below this). was meant to be about D.C media insider psychology, the way D.C. political journalists puff up their self esteem for each other by parading supposed inside knowledge of–for instance–presidential candidate rumors. The sort of “knowledge” they can’t or won’t share with their readers.

My contention was that even, especially, if they don’t publish their self-promoting “inside knowledge”, it exerts a subtle but demonstrable “dark matter” influence on what they do write.

By the way–note to Reihan–I made clear in the story that I did not know for a fact that the LATimes was sitting on a sex scandal story, but that DC insiders were buzzing that it was. There’s a difference! In the comments and subsequent posts I’ve repeated denials from an LATimesman that they have such a story. As for the rumor itself I still have no way of knowing whether it’s truth or folklore. Or whether it would have been right to publish it even if it could be proven true. And that’s why I did not publish the details, but rather discussed the dilemmas such a rumor would pose.

It was a complex question I know, but–second note to Reihan–complexity isn’t always “strange”. It’s the stuff of life.