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Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned Watch (Deborah Howell Edition)

It is an insult to the shades of Peter Zenger and John Milton that the Washington Post still publishes at all.

Matthew Yglesias:

Matthew Yglesias: Deborah Howell: No Matter How Bad McCain Is, Our Opinion Pages Must Pretend He’s Great: Washington Post ombudswoman Deborah Howell calls for less intellectual honesty on the Post’s opinion pages:

The op-ed page ran far more laudatory opinion pieces on Obama, 32, than on Sen. John McCain, 13. There were far more negative pieces (58) about McCain than there were about Obama (32), and Obama got the editorial board’s endorsement. The Post has several conservative columnists, but not all were gung-ho about McCain.

This is pretty absurd. Some institutions try to put forward a fairly consistent ideological point of view. It’s clear that The Washington Post op-ed section tries to do no such thing. Instead, its columnists represent a range of views. And it’s surely to the Post’s credit that when George Will, one of their conservative columnists, found himself not-so-psyched about John McCain and his campaign that he said so. Similarly, Anne Applebaum is a Post columnist who’s hard to classify but might at one point have been thought likely to be enthusiastic about John McCain. But she didn’t like the direction he and his campaign took, so she wrote a column laying out her thinking:

Yesterday, while reading the latest polling data on John McCain, Sarah Palin and their appeal — or growing lack of it — to ” independent women voters” it suddenly dawned on me: I am one of these elusive independent female voters, and I have the credentials to prove it. For the past couple of decades, I’ve sometimes voted Democratic, sometimes Republican. I’m even a registered independent, though I did think of switching to vote for John McCain in 2000. But because the last political party I truly felt comfortable with was Thatcher’s Conservative Party (I lived in England in the 1980s and 1990s), I didn’t actually do it.

The larger point, though, is that if I’m not voting for McCain — and, after a long struggle, I’ve realized that I can’t — maybe it’s worth explaining why, for I suspect there are other independent voters who feel the same. Particularly because it’s not his campaign, disjointed though that has been, that finally repulses me: It’s his rapidly deteriorating, increasingly anti-intellectual, no longer even recognizably conservative Republican Party. His problems are not technical; they do not have to do with ads, fundraising or tactics, as some have suggested. They are institutional; they have to do with his colleagues, advisers and supporters.

Presumably, this sort of thing is what an ideologically diverse op-ed page is supposed to be doing. The fact that the Post’s liberals were more enthusiastic about Obama than the conservatives were about McCain reflected an enthusiasm gap that existed in the country. The fact that a centrist Post columnist like Applebaum had a lot of nice things to say about McCain the man and McCain the maverick but ultimately didn’t like the 2008 vintage McCain reflected the fact that McCain was extremely popular with independents and moderates at one time, but became less popular as he re-remade himself into a more orthodox conservative. Similarly, that a neocon like Charles Krauthemmer liked McCain more than did a traditionalist conservative like Will reflected reality on the ground.

What should the Post have done? Told Applebaum that to maintain balance she had to vote for McCain? Told Will he was going to get fired unless he joined Krauthammer in becoming a McCain enthusiast? That would have been bizarre.

Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?

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