In which I strike again!


Over at the Corner, Michael Rubin sets his sights on my story yesterday about foreign policy consistencies between the incoming and outgoing administrations.

It’s a baffling post: It suggests somehow that I’m marginalizing Republicans and repudiating bipartisanship, when my story makes clear that President-elect Barack Obama appears to be heading toward vindicating some Bush administration policies, in part by recruiting Republicans to a bipartisan Cabinet.

He’s referring to how I deal with the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report on Iran, "Meeting the Challenge (PDF)." Specifically, he says I’m "criticizing" Dennis Ross by cherrypicking his name from among the Democrats who signed off on the report, which recommends a tough posture on the Islamic Republic’s suspected nuclear weapons program.

I named Dennis because he’s the only Democrat on the title page who is officially consulting the incoming administration. The three Republicans I named – including Michael – held Bush administration positions that bore on the administration’s Iran policies. I don’t mention – for instance – former Sens. Dan Coats (R-Ind.) or Chuck Robb (D-Va.), the principle authors, because Coats did not directly influence Bush’s Middle  East policy (he was ambassador to Germany in Bush’s first term) and Robb has no official status in Obama’s transition team.

I’m not criticizing Dennis, or for that matter, anything in the report. I’m saying that the fact that an adviser to the transition signed onto it is spooking those who advocate a much greater emphasis on outreach to Iran. In other words, the report is having an effect, one you’d think Michael would see as salutary.

My own views on Iran are irrelevant. But I have mentioned elsewhere that the Obama campaign used Dennis as a beard to the pro-Israel and the Jewish communities, and that Ross did not hide his preference for what he described to me as a first sticks, then carrots policy (which comports with this report), and I have suggested that a post-election about-face would raise eyebrows. What Dennis’ presence on the transition team suggests (along with others I’ve named) is that there is no about-face.

Michael frames this by using my earlier debate with Martin Kramer on this blog (about whether Rashid Khalidi, an Obama friend, had served as a PLO spokesman) to say I "subordinated good journalism to a political agenda." In fact, what I was doing was asking for better journalism – more substantial proof that Khalidi had served in the post. Martin provided it and I conceded.

If I wanted to "subordinate journalism to a political agenda" I would have stuck to my guns in the face of plain facts. I didn’t; morbidly attaching oneself to an ideology long past its due-date is perhaps one of the least attractive Washington tics.

I’ve quoted Michael as an expert in his field in the past and will continue to do so. I’m guessing his post is part of some policy-jockeying (behind the scenes? in his head?) that I can’t fathom, nor do I care to.

I do like the hedder though: "Ron Kampeas strikes again." A cape emblazoned with the JTA logo kind of appeals, too….

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