In the new issue of the Nation, Phillip Weiss has an interesting article on Yale’s decision not to hire Juan Cole: “Burning Cole.” Weiss interviewed me for the article, intrigued by how it was that Power Line broke the news that Yale had passed on Cole. He asked good questions and was personally gracious. In his article, Weiss toys with, but does not ultimately buy into, the vast-right-wing-conspiracy version of the story behind Yale’s decision. Moreover, he does not distort the positions of those of us who weighed in against Cole from outside the precincts of Yale. All of this is in my view greatly to Weiss’s credit.
However, Weiss does not quote Cole’s disgusting comments about “Jewish American Likudniks,” his implications regarding the dual loyalties of Jewish American neoconservatives, or comments displaying his public vulgarity. Weiss writes that “it is appalling to consider what was done to Cole’s reputation over this blue-chip appointment.” Here Weiss’s failure to quote the statements in issue is critical. It seems to me that the damage done to Cole’s reputation was done by publicizing Cole’s own indefensible, vicious and/or vulgar statements. When Weiss seeks to convey the sense of Cole “raising his voice,” he gives the following example:
“The idea that terrorists willing to commit suicide will be afraid of the US after it invades Iraq is just a misreading of human nature,” he wrote in 2003. “If the US really wanted to stop terrorism, it would invade the West Bank and Gaza and liberate the Palestinians to have their own state and self-respect.”
This simply doesn’t capture Cole in full voice. I won’t repeat here the self-discrediting statements by Cole that were featured in columns by Michael Rubin, Joel Mowbray, Eliana Johnson and Mitchell Webber while Cole’s appointment to Yale was under consideration. I would merely add that the intellectual deficiencies of Cole’s undestanding of the modern Middle East are given a good once-over by Efraim Karsh in his June 2005 New Republic article “Dear Diary: Juan Cole’s bad blog.”