I'm a fairly avid reader of op-ed pieces, and I pretty much read most of the big names on the opinion journal business, as well as some of the lesser names. On a daily or weekly basis, I'll read far-left, slightly barmy Eric Alterman, David Corn (The Nation), Jonah Goldberg (NRO), Victor David Hanson, George Will, Mike Barnicle, Tom Friedman....you get the idea. Opinion journalism is just that, someone's opinion. But the facts with which they arrived at their conclusions have to be credible, or they lose me. Case in point, John Podhoretz.
I've been reading JPod for a couple of years now. He's usually somewhat incisive, but he did something that made him lose major credibility in my eyes: he let his politics color his facts. After writing about the first presidential debate between Bush and Kerry, Podhoretz gushed about how Bush trounced Kerry. Hey, I'm a Republican, but there's no way that happened. I watched that debate, and Bush was just awful. He had a scowl on his face, he kept repeating himself, and with the exception of jumping on Kerry for his "global test" comment, Bush scored almost no points. On the other hand, Kerry was smooth and his elocution was superior. Mind, he made absolutely no sense, straddling every issue and obfuscating his positions with his overblown verbiage. But Podhoretz wrote that Bush trounced him. No way, and to this day, ten months after, I've lost my ability to take Podhoretz seriously, despite being ideologically sympatico with the man.
Then there's the case of Maureen Dowd. Dowd has brought dishonesty and sheer idiocy to an amazing level. Not content to analyze things in a cogent, mature manner, Dowd resorts to cute little derogatory nicknames, like Rummy (Rumsfeld) and Shrub (George W. Bush). But this isn't what knocked her credibility out for me. What did destroy it was when she deliberately cuffed a Bush quote to make him look unserious about al Qaeda. Bush exclaimed a while back that "70% of al Qaeda's leadership has been either captured or killed. Let me put it this way: they're not a problem anymore." Dowd's version of the quote went like this: "al Qaeda....they're not a problem anymore." Dowd took this quote and proceeded to write an entire column slagging Bush for a quote that she herself fudged. I never found Dowd particularly insightful to begin with, as she is a juvenile, cheapshot artist...which is probably why she's won the Pulitzer Prize. But when you cuff a quote from a sitting president, a quote that he never said within the sentence structure that it was presented, you've lost all credibility in my eyes. Unfortunately, that journalistic standard (credibility) doesn't extend to her when it comes to covering a Republican. Kind of explains why the Times is under fire all the time, and its circulation is dropping. But there you go.
Andrew Sullivan is another op-ed columnist I've since given up on. I still peruse his blog from time to time, but his credibility is shot with me. He blew it last year when he decided to back Kerry in the election. Fair enough, though shocking, as he was a stone Bush fan for the previous three years that I'd read his work. But it's a free country, he can back who he wants. But he wasn't honest about his choice, for he said he was backing Kerry because he felt that Bush was mismanaging the war. This was entirely disingenuous, for I doubt that anyone out there that voted for Kerry did so because they thought he would to a better job in Iraq. Anyone I ever talked to voted for Kerry because they were against the war, not because they thought he'd prosecute it more vigorously. Sullivan, you see, is gay, and openly so. Being a gay quasi-conservative can't be an easy thing, mind. But Sullivan turned on Bush not because of the Iraq enterprise or the way it was being conducted, but because Bush was pushing the Federal Marriage Amendment, which sought to federally ban homosexual marriage. Sullivan posted daily about this, frothing at the mouth with rage over the social conservatives that were pushing the president on this issue. Which was his right. But he was dishonest about his change of heart right to the very end. Sullivan kept insisting that it wasn't FMA, but the prosecution of the war. No one out there really honestly thought that Kerry would or could do a better job prosecuting the war; they voted for Kerry to END the war. I subsequently tried to read Sullivan regularly thereafer, but he lost me. I couldn't come back. I didn't trust his credibility anymore. I still don't.
In conclusion, I don't mind opposing views, and I actually seek them out. It pays to know what the other side is thinking politically, be you left or right. But when a columnist of any stripe resorts to slander or dishonesty, I just can't read 'em anymore. I just can't.