Dave Weigel: standing tall in Georgetown

Dave Weigel has probably never heard of Allen Drury and is of such a tender age that he almost certainly has never read Drury’s 1966 novel, Capable of Honor. Which is a shame, because he might have recognized somebody familiar.

Capable of Honor, the third in a series of political thrillers that began with the 1959 mega-bestseller Advise and Consent, dealt with the role of the news media in national politics. While the novel has long been out of print, it is notable for having introduced a memorable phrase into the American language: “standing tall in Georgetown”.

Anyone familiar with the intellectual and cultural milieu of the nation’s capital will grasp the meaning of the phrase immediately. It refers to the tendency of those who come to Washington to go native, to gradually abandon the ideals that brought them there and adopt the worldview of their new environment. The phrase is most often applied to Republican Congressmen who were elected on platforms of fiscal conservatism but, after a few years in office, forget the principles that got them elected and join the other pigs at the trough.

However, Drury invented the phrase to describe something slightly different, namely the desire of journalists for praise and approval from their peers in the news business. Although they may start out attempting to be objective reporters, they soon succumb to peer pressure, to the temptation to “stand tall in Georgetown”. And this always means moving to the left.

This is apparently what happened to Dave Weigel. For the past few months, Weigel has been blogging about the conservative movement for the Washington Post. He was forced to resign Friday after leaked emails he had written disparaging some prominent conservatives came to light.

I first became aware of Weigel’s existence around 2006 when links to his Reason articles began showing up in Google searches. While his articles reflected his more-or-less left-libertarian views, they also showcased his ability to dig deeply and get to the bottom of a story. It was like putting a good old-fashioned shoe-leather city desk reporter to work covering stories of national significance.

Weigel left the neo-libertarian Reason for the more leftish Washington Independent at the end of 2008, and then joined the Washington Post‘s on-line edition three months ago to write about conservatives. The idea apparently was to have a “conservative” writing about conservatives to counterbalance liberals Greg Sargent and Ezra Klein, who wrote about liberals. However, say critics, Weigel was not truly a conservative or even much of a libertarian.

Conservatives were never entirely happy with Weigel’s blog posts, but partly this may have been because of confusion over what he was supposed to be doing. Was he supposed to be promoting conservatism as his colleague Klein promoted liberalism? Or was he supposed to objectively report on it?

Whatever his job was, it was pretty clear he didn’t care much for those he was covering. Although there were some high points in his blog, such as his defense of Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul’s statements on the public accommodations provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he didn’t exactly conceal how he felt about most conservatives. He characterized opponents of same-sex marriage as “bigots” on his Twitter account in May, and in his leaked emails he expressed wishes for the demise of Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge and made derogatory comments about Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul.

Weigel’s drift to the left began long before he joined the Post. While at the Washington Independent, he was a frequent critic of opponents of Obamacare, and wrote disdainfully of the likes of Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Gov. Sarah Palin.

The Post should have known this when they hired him. But then, the atmosphere breathed by Washington journalists is such that maybe there is no way they could have known it. Bernard Goldberg has written that leftist ideology is so deeply embedded in newsroom culture that journalists cannot recognize bias even as they practice it.

To stand tall in Georgetown, you have to blend into the environment around you. You have to laugh at all the disparaging jokes about conservatives, nod in knowing agreement when Sarah Palin is dismissed as an airhead, and agree wholeheartedly with your colleagues’ assessment of Tea Partiers as a bunch of ignorant, racist bigots. If you don’t, you make those around you uncomfortable — who let him in? — and you might soon find yourself unemployable.

The Post is so steeped in it’s left-wing biases that it has a major problem even knowing what a conservative (or libertarian) is. It should come as no great surprise that a newspaper that thinks Kathleen Parker is a conservative would also believe Dave Weigel is one, too.