Charles Cooke has written a devastating take down of Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s ostensibly conservative blogger and reflexive critic of President Trump. Cooke has not hesitated to criticize Trump. Thus, his article isn’t coming from a pro-Trump perspective. Rather, it’s based on dismay over Rubin’s intellectual dishonesty.
There is plenty to be dismayed about — more, as we shall see at the end of this post, than even Cooke knows. And Cooke knows plenty. He writes:
If Trump likes something, Rubin doesn’t. If he does something, she opposes it. If his agenda flits into alignment with hers—as anyone’s is wont to do from time to time—she either ignores it, or finds a way to downplay it. The result is farcical and sad; a comprehensive and self-inflicted airbrushing of the mind.
When President Obama agreed to the Paris Climate Accord, Rubin left her readers under no illusions as to the scale of her disapproval. The deal, she proposed, was “ephemeral,” “a piece of paper,” “a group wish,” a “nonsense” that would achieve “nothing.” That the U.S. had been made a party to a covenant so “devoid of substance,” she added, illustrated the “fantasy world” in which the Obama administration lived, and was reflective of Obama’s preference for “phony accomplishments,” his tendency to distract, and his base’s craven willingness to eat up any “bill of goods” they were served.
At least it did until President Trump took America out of it, at which point adhering to the position she had theretofore held became a “senseless act,” a “political act,” “a dog whistle to the far right,” and “a snub to ‘elites’” that had been calibrated to please the “climate-change denial, right-wing base that revels in scientific illiteracy”. . .To abandon the “ephemeral” “piece of paper,” Rubin submitted, would “materially damage our credibility and our persuasiveness” and represent conduct unbecoming of “the leader of the free world.”
Or consider Jerusalem:
In 2010, [Rubin] praised Marco Rubio for arguing that “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, as the U.S. Congress has repeatedly recognized” and lauded the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 as the concrete on which Republicans should walk.
Two years later, in the midst of her self-appointed tenure as the president of Mitt Romney’s fan club, she reversed herself, hitting Newt Gingrich for holding precisely the view she had previously recommended, while endorsing Romney for his relative “judgment, restraint and . . . good sense” in opposing her. “It really is time,” she submitted, “to stop promising something that the U.S. can’t and shouldn’t deliver unilaterally.”
A few weeks later, when Romney began to sound more hawkish, she endorsed his new position, too, holding it up as “a blow to the Obama campaign’s frantic efforts to defend the president’s hostile stance toward the Jewish state,” and insisting that,
Of course, Jerusalem is the capital. It was declared so in 1948. The Knesset is there. The disposition of its borders is a matter for final status negotiation, but only an uninformed or virulently insensitive administration would be unable to distinguish the two.
This stance lasted into the Trump era. In June, Rubin complained angrily that the White House was “delaying its move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” a delay, Rubin wrote, that was not only pointless—“presidents come to believe that the move would somehow prejudice peace talks (of which there are none presently) or inflame Palestinians, perhaps causing an increase in violence,” she caviled—but that was indicative of Trump’s tendency never “to keep his word.” “The world,” Rubin advised, “is learning to disregard everything this president does and says” — a habit that “will adversely affect everything from the war against Islamist extremists to trade opportunities.” Trump, she concluded, “looks buffoonish in his hasty retreat.”
Trump announced that the United States would finally be recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and, in time, moving its embassy there. And what did Rubin say? That it was “a foreign policy move without purpose,“ “indicative of a non-policy-based foreign policy.”
What, one wonders, happened in the interim? Did the benefits of the president’s keeping his word — so lavishly and hyperbolically outlined just a few months earlier — disappear upon the instant? Did a president’s view on this question cease suddenly to serve as a proxy for his “stance toward the Jewish state”? Or was it more simple than that: Was it that, just as Rubin couldn’t bring herself to criticize Mitt Romney, she cannot bring herself to praise Donald Trump?
As an affect, Jennifer Rubin writes as “we.” Has there ever been a more appropriately schizophrenic pronoun?
Cooke also cites Rubin’s stunning about-face on the Iran deal. Two years ago, it was “ludicrous,” “absurd,” and “ha[d] to go.” Now, for President Trump even to decertify the deal would put “American credibility” at “risk.”
Cooke cites additional examples of Rubin’s consider-the-source approach to public policy: tax cuts, welfare, energy, and gun control.
As I teased at the beginning of this post, Rubin’s unprincipled approach predates Trump’s emergence on the political scene. It also predates her service as cheerleader for Mitt Romney.
When I first met Rubin in 2007, she was a Rudy Giuliani supporter (Giuliani now, of course, is a leading backer of Trump). As such, she lit into Giuliani’s main rivals at the time, one of whom was Mitt Romney.
I described her attacks in this post (scroll down to read). I am the “long time reader” who wrote it. John posted it for me, as I was on a leave of absence from Power Line.
Rubin’s most ridiculous hit piece was directed at Romney. I noted:
[Rubin] attacked Romney for kicking off his presidential campaign at the Henry Ford Museum. Romney chose this location because of his family’s connection to the automobile industry, his own theme of innovation, and his desire to win votes in Michigan where he was born and raised. Noting, however, that Ford was an anti-Semite, Rubin argued that Romney’s selection of this venue was indicative of “a lack of sensitivity to the concerns many Jews have about their place in American society.” She then projected this alleged insensitivity upon Republicans as a whole, and claimed that until Republicans overcome this perception, Jews will continue to vote Democratic.
But, as the Republican Jewish Coalition pointed out at the time, Bill Clinton also praised Henry Ford. Yet Jews had no hesitation about voting for him. The flaws in Rubin’s hit-piece can be found in this take down by the late Dean Barnett].
By 2011, Rubin was, as Cooke says, in the tank for Romney. His alleged insensitivity to Jews and his other failings, real and imagined, had been forgotten. Rubin thus launched unfair attacks on his rivals, including the one on Rick Perry that prompted my anonymous post.
I concluded by saying that “advocacy loses credibility when it becomes petty, illogical, and patently one-sided.” In my view, Rubin was short on credibility in 2007-08. By 2011, she had lost all of hers.
Donald Trump poses a challenging test, I think, to those of us who write about his presidency. But Rubin’s difficulties shouldn’t be blamed on Trump. You can’t expect to pass “Donald Trump” when you’ve flunked “Mitt Romney.”
UDPATE: I’m grateful to David Rosenfeld for sending me the link to Dean Barnett’s 2007 article on Romney and Rubin. Barnett was a blogging pioneer. He is missed.