...I feel for the people at the magazine who are going to lose their jobs behind this move. And, as someone who suddenly lost the publication at which he learned all his chops, I feel for Jonathan Chait. But, institutionally, the slow destruction of TNR by its new and witless owner doesn't come up for me to the slow and deliberate destruction of its credibility as a legitimate liberal voice during the ownership of the execrable Marty Peretz.
John Cole has helpfully provided a brief list [Stephen Glass; Franklin Foer throwing Scott Beauchamp under the bus, backing the bus up, and then delivering his carcass to wingnuts; The Bell Curve; levating Betsy McCaughey and killing health care reform; Jeffrey Rosen shitting all over Sonia Sotomayor while not disclosing his relationship to Katyal; providing a forum for the noxious Marty Peretz to slandar at will anyone to the left of Avigdor Lieberman; Serving solely as a “liberal” website used by Republicans to club liberals] of the atrocities committed by the magazine under Peretz's leadership, and under the editorships of Michael Kinsley, Andrew Sullivan and the late Michael Kelly, among others, whose reputations as thinkers and journalists have survived largely untouched because that's the way it is when, to poach a phrase from the estimable Driftglass, there is a club and you're not in it.
It was at TNR where Kinsley pole-vaulted over the line separating being an interesting contrarian from simply being an overeducated dick. It was at TNR where Kelly let loose his unguarded mania against Bill Clinton. The New Republic became the index patient for a lot of terrible stuff that happened to progressivism over the past 30 years.
I would add a couple of items, including the strange career of Ruth Shalit, who would steal a hot stove if somebody else wrote about it. (The magazine's solution? Put Stephen Glass in charge of the magazine's fact-checking department. The joke, it writes itself.) But it's Cole's last entry that covers a multitude of sins, and many of them both mortal and unforgivable. In the 1980's, the magazine used its decades of liberal cred to line up behind the worst of the Reagan Administration's enterprises, especially in Central America.
The subsequent lede, titled 'The Case for the Contras,' was published in the issue of March 24, 1986. It was an unqualified endorsement of the Reagan administration's policy of trying to overthrow the Sandinistas by any means necessary, starting with military aid to the Contra guerrillas. The motives it attributed to critics of the Reagan policy were limited to isolationism, defeatism, willful blindness, and selective 'scrupulousness' about the sovereignty of 'states ruled by pro-Soviet Leninists.'
Hertzberg, ever the gentleman, goes on to tell his readers that the author of this dreck, Charles Krauthammer, was a liberal back in the day, at least on domestic matters. One can only conclude from Krauthammer's subsequent contributions to our national dialogue that he found a gig that paid and ran with it.
In any event, the magazine went on, 30 years later, to shill for C-Plus Augustus and his war in Iraq and to club anyone who dared protest the looming debacle in terms that would not be out of place over at The Corner or at The American Thinker. This is the through-line of the magazine's recent history--praise adventurism, delegitimize its critics, and then apologize all over the place, to everybody except the indigenous dead, when it all goes to sticks and splinters.
So, no, contra Chait, and even though the magazine unquestionably has regained a lot of its lost quality... the notion that The New Republic is 'an essential foundation of American progressive thought'... sailed a long time ago.... Chris Hughes is going to make a complete hash of the magazine he bought as a chew toy. At least this form of malpractice will be less likely to kill people in distant lands. I guess there's that.