Daniel W. Drezner

The Conservative Side of the Idea Industry is Broken

The Conservative Side of the Idea Industry is Broken

On foreign policy grounds, Senator Rand Paul and Middle East analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy have about as little in common as humanly possible.  O’Bagy has advocated for the moderate elements of the Syrian rebel movement; Paul has praised Bashir Al-Assad.  Really, the only thing the two of them have in common is that they’re both considered "right-wing" in their worldviews. 

Well, there’s one other thing they have in common. 

Over the summer, O’Bagy was caught flat-out lying about possessing a Ph.D. from Georgetown.  Understandably, this got her fired from the Institute for the Study of War, the think tank where she worked.  In the past, this would have been the end of O’Bagy’s story in Washington. 

Not in 2013.  As Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reported over at The Cable six weeks ago: 

Sen. John McCain has hired Elizabeth O’Bagy, the Syria analyst in Washington who was fired for padding her credentials, The Cable has learned. She begins work Monday as a legislative assistant in McCain’s office.

O’Bagy was a young but well-respected advisor at the Institute for the Study of War and had emerged quickly as an important voice among those arguing in favor of intervention in Syria. McCain and others had cited her work publicly before her nascent reputation collapsed when it was discovered that her claims to having a combined master’s/Ph.D. were false and that in fact she had not yet defended her thesis.

"Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year," McCain told The Cable in a statement. "I look forward to her joining my office." McCain’s office said there would be no further comment on the matter.

So that’s a pretty soft landing.

Now we come to Senator Paul.  Over the past week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski caught the good Senator plagiarizing in speeches, his Washington Times column, and his last book.  First wished he could challenge someone to a duel as a response.  Then a mildly chastened Paul allowed that some mistakes had been made — even though he also complained that he was being held to a higher standard.  Not surprisingly, Paul and the Washington Times agreed to end his column, which seemed the decent thing to do. 

Less than 48 hours later, Politico’s Hadas Gold reports that Rand Paul has found a new home for his musings

Just one day after The Washington Times ended Sen. Rand Paul’s column over plagiarism charges, the Kentucky Republican’s musings have found a new home at Breitbart.com.

With no mention of the plagiarism controversy currently surrounding the senator, the combative right-wing site announced the news in a lead story on the homepage Wednesday evening.

The site took obvious jabs at The Washington Times, claiming Breitbart has surpassed the Times in web traffic and quoting Paul’s senior aide as saying the senator is excited to broaden his audience.

"Paul is pleased to partner with Breitbart News and looks forward to the new, wider audience for his columns," senior adviser Doug Stafford said in the piece.

Now this is, in some ways, an unfair comparison. O’Bagy is a grunt-level policy wonk; Paul is a sitting Senator.  Elected officials get to do all kinds of crazy s**t and, so long as they’re still in office, are still relevant.  Furthermore, I seriously doubt that Paul himself plagiarized so much as his apparently incompetent staff

Still, it seems a bit odd that it’s apparently impossible for someone on the right to commit a serious ethical breach and go 48 hours without… landing a cushy new gig. 

Now is normally the point in my blog posts where I sum up the lesson learned.  Today, however, the only summation I can muster is that the conservative side of the Idea Industry is badly broken. Seriously, when do right-wing thought contributors get to fail? 

Am I missing anything?