A Blog’s Life

OTB's secret plot revealed.

Balloon Juice‘s mistermix takes exception to this morning’s one-liner post joking about a Harry Reid op-ed, seeing it as part of some grand scheme to have it both ways:

This Joyner post is typical of the way that OTB will handle an issue.  First, both he and Mataconis weigh in with fairly sober analysis.  Having established their bona-fides, they’re free to throw red meat to the base. If anyone objects to Mr. Hyde’s observations, they’ll be sternly reminded of Dr. Jekyll’s posts.

The post, which is under Quick Takes rather than a featured post–a deliberate design choice intended to signal to the reader a distinction between full length editorials and one-offs– is a quip about the disconnect between the headline and the substance of Reid’s article. It didn’t strike me as requiring much analysis to understand that one doesn’t “restore comity” by accusing the other party of trying to kill American jobs in order to make political hay.

Blogs, unlike op-ed pages, are meant to be read in serial.  As mistermix notes, Doug and I have both already offered longer, more substantive commentary on the merits of Reid’s arguments and the so-called “nuclear option.” See Friday’s “Reid Triggers Nuclear Option Lite” and Saturday’s “Will Harry Reid’s ‘Nuclear Option’ Make The Senate Better, Or Worse?

There’s no disconnect–much less some grand master plan–between posting detailed analysis on a topic while also tossing out snark. I simultaneously think Reid was probably justified in changing the rules of the game given Republican abuse of them, that doing so will probably bite Democrats in the ass nonetheless, and that explaining himself while drawing harsh contrasts between Democrats and Republicans is unlikely to lead to increased comity.

I’m befuddled by the notion that OTB is some nefarious plot to simultaneously appear reasonable to some unnamed readership while keeping another readership happy with some red meat. That would be the worst possible business model. It’s far, far easier to attract a large and loyal following by being predictably, stridently on one side or the other.

Instead, from literally the earliest days of this site, I’ve been excoriating the most shrill voices on both sides of the aisle, violating most of the shibboleths of the conservative movement, and yet defending a brand of conservatism that’s currently attracting some 2 percent in the polls.

Further, I’ve assembled a roster of contributors from all over the map–disaffected Republicans, hard core Libertarians, soft core Democrats, and at least one Tea Party conservative. We bring a similar analytic approach and conversational sensibility but we’re otherwise rather disjointed on some key issues in the debate and favorite candidates. And, aside from occasional email discussions about site policies or technical issues, there’s no editorial agenda at all aside from very infrequent event-driven blog series: Everybody just writes about what they want, when they want, and posts.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. P.T. Barnum is reputed to have said (but probably didn’t) “I don’t care what they say about me, as long as they spell my name right.”

  2. ponce says:

    I’ve assembled a roster of contributors from all over the map–disaffected Republicans, hard core Libertarians, soft core Democrats, and at least one Tea Party conservative.

    Maybe, but the right wing poster posts on OTB hundreds of times more frequently than the mystery “soft core Democrat” cicada does.

    Fair and balanced.

  3. And, aside from occasional email discussions about site policies or technical issues, there’s no editorial agenda at all aside from very infrequent event-driven blog series: Everybody just writes about what they want, when they want, and posts.

    I can attest to that.

  4. Ken says:

    1. To people obsessed with agenda, lack of agenda is an agenda.

    2. With very few exceptions, it is utterly pointless to attempt discourse with Balloon Juice. Ask Radley Balko. You’ll never get a fair shake.

  5. mattb says:

    For what its worth, the “frustration” with some of the quick posts, like the Reid one, is probably due to how thoughtfully you and other here explore certain issues in the main body posts.

    I also tend to think that it also gets to our desire (even though most of us deny it) to see ideological consistency. Because you post nuanced thoughtful posts in one area, many expect you (the entire OTB writer “you’s”) to post them across the board. Likewise, because you profess to being a conservative but often express pragmatic viewpoints people either (a) thinking you’re trying to suddenly trap us and reveal your inner-Beck or (b) that you should just come out as a liberal democrat (all of the “this is your party” responses).

    Either way, I vote for keeping on keeping on the way things are. OTB continually offers some of the best pragmatic analysis of current issues that I’ve read.

  6. Boyd says:

    mistermix’s comment is reminiscent of short-time commenters here who swoop in, read one post and then proceed to inform one and all that said contributor is nothing but a right-wing shill / left-wing nutcase / mindless Paul-bot or some such.

  7. mattb says:

    @ponce:
    But where was there ever a claim of fair and balanced here?

    BTW, who the heck is the “soft core Democrat”? Alex?

  8. James Joyner says:

    @mattb: Dave Schuler is a Scoop Jackson Democrat. I’m not sure how Alex would describe himself. When he started here, I’d say he was a left libertarian; now, I’d say he’s a reluctant Democrat.

  9. mistermix says:

    @Boyd: I’ve been reading everything written on OTB via RSS for the past at least 6 months.

    @James Joyner: Since I read OTB via RSS, I wasn’t aware this was a “quick hit”. But even if it was, does that mean that you should get a pass for pretty much misconstruing Reid’s piece as completely partisan? I’m no fan of Reid, but the piece you were mocking was a pretty decent presentation of his side of the story. Reserve the mockery for stuff worth mocking.

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    I was wondering if OTB would get around to covering the BJ post. I’ve posted a couple of responses there; James, I’m sure, will be tickled pink to know that I think he’s honest but “bullheaded at times”. Excluding Doug (Dodd goes without saying) I think OTB is one of the very few blogs one can read to find a reasonable voice on the right.

  11. Boyd says:

    @mistermix:

    I’ve been reading everything written on OTB via RSS for the past at least 6 months.

    Nonetheless, you have a very warped and inaccurate view of James’ approach to content at OTB.

  12. Davebo says:

    Excluding Doug (Dodd goes without saying) I think OTB is one of the very few blogs one can read to find a reasonable voice on the right.

    But excluding Doug and Dodd leaves OTB with at best one post every other day. Face it, Doug is now OTB.

  13. Gustopher says:

    Am I the only one expecting a Balloon Juice OTB merger at some point? One big acrimonious family with mistermix and Maticonis sniping attach other with deuling posts….

  14. michael reynolds says:

    I’ve never believed OTB had a nefarious plan. Or a plan.

  15. rodney dill says:

    We have a plot? I thought we only had cookies.

  16. ponce says:

    I’ve never believed OTB had a nefarious plan. Or a plan.

    I think of OTB as one of the few right wing blogs not infested with malware and viruses.

    Dave Schuler is a Scoop Jackson Democrat.

    Who?

  17. Boyd says:

    @ponce:

    I think of OTB as one of the few right wing blogs not infested with malware and viruses.

    Well, you’re here.

    I kid, I kid!

  18. Ben Wolf says:

    @Davebo: The site might benefit from one or two other bloggers who can post on a more regular basis, you’re right.

    James Joyner, have you considered bringing in a blogger or two who has studied (either formally or informally) economics? Someone provocative, not a mainstream type. In fact I’d suggest someone downright heterodox would be the best choice. Cullen Roche is the sort I’m thinking of, over at Pragmatic Capitalism or William Black at New Economic Perspectives.

  19. Franklin says:

    @ponce: All I’m getting from Wikipedia is that Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson influenced neoconservatives. That doesn’t sound like Dave Schuler to me.

    Or are we talking about the sports writer Robert “Scoop” Jackson? 🙂

  20. Ben Wolf says:

    @Franklin: Jackson was a proto- neoconservative and a strong supporter of the Vietnam War. He also lobbied heavily for shelling out tons of cash to the military-industrial complex: some have suggested this is why he supported he Vietnam War and the equally useless Cold War. I don’t know why James associates him with Dave Schuler.

  21. ponce says:

    All I’m getting from Wikipedia is that Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson influenced neoconservatives.

    Haha Franklin,

    I know who “Scoop” Jackson was, I was wondering who Dave Schuler is.

    Is he like those retired generals the defense contractors put on their boards so they can jam their snouts a little deeper into the Pentagon’s trough?

  22. mistermix says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Ha!

    I think Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and the rest should be mocked regularly when they grind out a talking-points-laden press release, or make a stupid statement in front of the cameras. The point is that James Joyner didn’t pick on Reid for that – instead he mocked Reid for presenting his side of the story in a fairly factual and informative way. That’s what set me off.

    The point of my post wasn’t that there’s some kind of conspiracy at OTB, but rather that Doug and James occasionally fall into a habit of thinking that their more thoughtful posts somehow excuse stuff like this morning’s post. They don’t. James might be right about the overall impact of the mini nuclear option (or whatever we’re calling it), but he’s wrong about Reid’s piece.

  23. DRE says:

    @ponce:
    Fair and balanced.
    I sometimes wish there was less balance. I started reading OTB because it was the only right oriented site I could find that presented well thought out arguements for that side of debates. I continue to enjoy reading it as a place where there is significant meaningful debate, but I have come to doubt that I am really getting the other side of the debate as fully as I would like. I like to think that any reasonable person would be as disenchanted with the Republican party as those who post here, but I suspect that there might be more partisan Republicans who are still capable of making an argument about policy rather than faith based assertions. I find them occasionally in comments. If you could find one to add to the mix I would appreciate it.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    @Ben Wolf:
    I wouldn’t want to speak for James, but I might also have used that short-hand phrase, “Scoop Jackson Democrat” to describe myself a few years ago. I think it’s intended more to suggest a certain generally moderate point of view, and a tough anti-communism not necessarily associated with Vietnam. I think it’s one of those terms that has migrated and lost most of its usefulness now.

    I think of Schuler as being fundamentally non-partisan. He’s relentlessly honest, in my opinion, a person who regularly questions his own assumptions and is genuinely looking for solutions, not to score points. I don’t always agree with his conclusions, (the man likes opera far more than I can countenance) but he’s a voice I always listen to.

  25. Alex Knapp says:

    I’m not sure how Alex would describe himself. When he started here, I’d say he was a left libertarian; now, I’d say he’s a reluctant Democrat.

    I prefer “Democrat by default.”

    But I prefer freer markets than most Republicans do, a stronger welfare state than most Democrats do, and a more humane justice system than even most libertarians I know do.

    So I don’t really know where that leaves me.

  26. James Joyner says:

    @mistermix: What I was mocking is the juxtaposition of the headline “Trying to restore Senate comity” and a partisan op-ed that starts off “Democrats have one overriding objective this Congress: to create jobs and get our economy back on track. But our Republican colleagues are so dead set on preventing Democrats from passing job-creating legislation that they have been willing to abuse the rules of the Senate to grind the chamber to a halt” and continues down that line. My instant reaction was, Yeah, that’ll restore comity.

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds: Fair enough point.

  28. ponce says:

    I suspect that there might be more partisan Republicans who are still capable of making an argument about policy rather than faith based assertions.

    Andrew Sullivan is the probably the leader of the group of “reasonable” Republican bloggers that debate and link to.each other.

    But it’s rather sad to read their rational posts and realize they have zero power in today’s Republican party.

  29. Alex Knapp says:

    I should add, with a healthy love for public spaces in the Hamilton/Lincoln/Knope sense.

  30. James Joyner says:

    @Davebo: It’s true that I’ve gone from being one of the most prolific bloggers on the planet to someone who manages only a dozen or so substantive posts a week–a combination of a busier schedule at the day job and lowered productivity owing to child-induced sleep deprivation–I’m still writing with some regularity.

    Despite several comments here and elsewhere to the contrary, I don’t see Doug as fundamentally more partisan than I am. While I’m a longtime Republican struggling with what I see is my own party going into a tailspin, he’s a libertarian Ron Paul supporter who tends to vote Republican as a lesser of evils.

  31. Neil Hudelson says:

    Is Dave Schuler still considered a contributor here? I see his comments on others’ posts often, but its been a long time since I’ve seen an original or cross-posting from him on this site.

    I’m a big fan of his own blog though.

  32. @James Joyner:

    I’ve gone from being one of the most prolific bloggers on the planet to someone who manages only a dozen or so substantive posts a week–a combination of a busier schedule at the day job and lowered productivity owing to child-induced sleep deprivation–I’m still writing with some regularity.

    I feel as though I am roughly in the same boat (although I think that James has always been more prolific than I). Of late, I have simply been too busy to write everything that I would like to write (the last several days being excellent examples–just not enough energy, or hours, in the day.

  33. @ponce:

    Andrew Sullivan is the probably the leader of the group of “reasonable” Republican bloggers that debate and link to.each other.

    Sullivan doesn’t seem to be all that reasonable to me. His politics seem to be basically a series of guy crushes on various politicians, followed by subsequent disillusionment. But he seems to learn nothing from the process, and each cycle begins anew with absolutely no doubt that the new object of his passions is finally “the real deal”.

  34. Loviatar says:

    @James Joyner:

    he’s (Doug) a libertarian Ron Paul supporter who tends to vote Republican as a lesser of evils.

    .

    Up From Libertarianism

    You may formally renounce your libertarianism. You may insist on keeping the label while justifying what amounts to joining the conservative coalition on the grounds that “Economics is primary, and the Republican Party is the lesser of two evils economically,” or explaining away operational liberalism because, “while liberals tend to overreach in regulating the free market, at least they want to keep the Hand of the State away from your nether parts.”

  35. mistermix says:

    @James Joyner: It’s perhaps a bit mockable that an editorial page writer/editor put that headline on Harry Reid’s (or Reid’s staffer’s) article. But you also characterized what Reid says as “Republicans are being poopyheads” and that is a really poor gloss on his piece, IMO, because he backs up his (obviously partisan) thesis with an actual argument.

    And, FWIW coming from me, you come off as less partisan and tribal than Doug M., who turns in some not-so-great posts outside of his areas of knowledge. For example, his piece on student loans and bankruptcy this morning is solid work compared to some of his other posts.

  36. James Joyner says:

    @mistermix: Well, it was more like “Republicans are being dicks.” Whether Reid (or his staffer) or someone at the Post came up with the headline, I don’t know (often, writers will suggest a headline and, presumably, that suggestion is more likely to be followed if the suggestor is the Majority Leader) but the piece does conclude with “or the good of our economy and our country, I hope Republicans will work with us to restore that balance in our larger political debate in the interest of finding practical, bipartisan solutions to put Americans back to work,” so it’s not a wildly unfair one. And, again, an outcome unlikely to be helped by the op-ed.

  37. Moosebreath says:

    Alex,

    “and a more humane justice system than even most libertarians I know do.”

    Libertarians are looking for the justice system to be humane? Even if you view corporations as people, I don’t see how that follows. To the contrary, most libertarians I have met would see no problem to upholding a manifestly inhumane contract if it were entered into by competent adults, and I have even met some who have no problem with enforcing contracts for slavery or sale of body parts.

    As for the rest, I echo the comments that I like this blog as a place to discuss politics with sane people on the right side of the aisle who care about facts and logic (at least the majority of the main page posters, that does not apply to all of the commentors).

  38. John Cole says:

    BLOGFIGHT!

  39. John Cole says:

    but the piece does conclude with “or the good of our economy and our country, I hope Republicans will work with us to restore that balance in our larger political debate in the interest of finding practical, bipartisan solutions to put Americans back to work,” so it’s not a wildly unfair one.

    I’m just curious. When I read the op-ed piece by Reid, my reaction was “Yeah. They pretty much have done everything they can to gum up the works.” And there can be no doubt that they intend to do absolutely nothing about the economy until after 2012. Why is it partisan to note that? It isn’t a partisan talking point, it is reality. My goodness, every vote, from the idiotic debt ceiling to the lowest judicial appointment is met with unparalleled resistance. It isn’t partisan to point that out, it is simply reality. And even odder, it is a reality that James and others here regularly note.

    But somehow, because Harry Reid said it in a matter of fact editorial piece, it is some partisan hitjob.

  40. John Cole says:

    This link was supposed to be attached to “regularly note” in the next to last paragraph in the previous comment.

  41. It didn’t strike me as requiring much analysis to understand that one doesn’t “restore comity” by accusing the other party of trying to kill American jobs in order to make political hay.

    James, “the other party” — meaning, of course, the Republican Party — IS trying to kill American jobs in order to make political hay. Republican leaders have said as much over and over and over again. They will not pass ANY Obama-supported legislation because their top priority is to get a Republican in the White House.

    Restoring “comity” isn’t even the point. The point is restoring jobs. I know you meant that it’s Harry Reid and the Democrats who are trying to make political hay by accusing Republicans of wanting to kill American jobs, but James — it’s not “making political hay” if it’s true.

  42. James Joyner says:

    @John Cole and @Kathy Kattenburg: Again, the post was a snarky commentary on the disconnect between the headline and the body, not a substantive analysis of Reid’s argument, which I mostly anticipate and agree with in a post I wrote a week ago and point to above.

    I would, however, say Reid overstates his case in saying Republicans are trying to thwart job creation. A particular bill, yes. The Democrats in general, yes.

  43. John Cole says:

    @James Joyner: What are the Republican job creation bills numbered so I can look them up and examine them?

  44. PD Shaw says:

    James, there’s nothing as boring as comments complaining about what a blogger doesn’t write about. Write what you want to write about, disregard the rest.

  45. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Andrew Sullivan is the probably the leader of the group of “reasonable” Republican bloggers that debate and link to.each other.

    Seconded. Come over here by way of a link from Sullivan and stayed since I really liked the rational tone of discussion and the exposure to different viewpoints.

    And, FWIW coming from me, you come off as less partisan and tribal than Doug M., who turns in some not-so-great posts outside of his areas of knowledge.

    Also seconded. Doug does really good work on legal issues and mostly good work on politics. But his forays into economics are usually quite painful, especially considering his frequent refusal to reply to substantial criticism and his tendency to repeat the same more over and over no matter how often it gets dissected. I’m still somewhat unsure how one can leave GMU (one of the best Law & Economics faculties in the states) with that amount of economic blind spots. It gives all the signs of ideological blindness which is something I have rarely seen in James or Steven.

  46. Tom Hilton says:

    @James Joyner: What do you think would restore comity? Or more to the point, what do you think would induce Republicans to improve their behavior?

  47. G.A.Phillips says:

    Fair and balancing!

  48. James Joyner says:

    @John Cole: Well, there’s this from the House Majority Leader. But nothing of substance is likely to pass in the current environment, unfortunately.

    @Tom Hilton: I haven’t the slightest idea, I’m afraid. We’ve been in an escalating partisan standoff for going on 20 years now. Each side ratchets up the obstructionism when they’re the out party. We had brief bipartisanship after 9/11 and, oddly, during the heyday of Bill Clinton’s triangualtion under a Republican Congress headed by Newt Gingrich.

    @PD Shaw: Yeah, I know.

  49. michael reynolds says:

    @Alex Knapp:

    So I don’t really know where that leaves me.

    Hopefully sharing an adult beverage with me some day so we can solve the world’s problems and damn all who water their whiskey.

  50. Tom Hilton says:

    @James Joyner:

    and, oddly, during the heyday of Bill Clinton’s triangualtion under a Republican Congress headed by Newt Gingrich.

    Until the Republican Congress headed by Newt Gingrich devoted all of its energies to destroying President Clinton. So, y’know, there was that.

    Anyway, I don’t know either what might induce the Republicans to behave better, but if there’s even a slight possibility that public disgust at their behavior would make a difference, isn’t that worth trying?

    I think that’s what your snark at Reid’s piece was missing: if there’s any hope at all for greater comity in the Senate (big if), it has to come from public pressure on the Republicans. From that perspective, there’s no contradiction at all between headline and content; Reid was doing exactly what he needs to do to (possibly) make things better.

  51. John Cole says:

    @James Joyner: That’s not a bill. That’s boilerplate crap they’ve been pushing (successfully) for 30 years. More deregulation, tax cuts, and spending cuts. None of that would create jobs.

  52. @michael reynolds:

    Does vermouth count as watering?

  53. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Excellent question. I do drink the occasional Bourbon Manhattan. But I’ve never been a fan of Rob Roys.

    These are the things we should be debating.

  54. Alex Knapp says:

    @michael reynolds: The rules are simple. You can mix Bourbon. You can’t mix Scotch. I haven’t settled my thoughts on Canadian whiskey and am open to suggestion.

    Also, you should have your publisher send you to KC on tour. We have lots of kids here, I’m reliably informed.

  55. Jacob Blain Christen says:

    @James Joyner:

    I would, however, say Reid overstates his case in saying Republicans are trying to thwart job creation. A particular bill, yes. The Democrats in general, yes.

    Given that the “particular bill” in question is meant to create jobs that absolutely everyone agrees are needed this is a distinction without merit.

  56. David says:

    While you should always take what Alex says with a grain of salt (or is that a whole shaker full?), yes, there are lots of kids in KC.

  57. @Alex Knapp:

    I haven’t settled my thoughts on Canadian whiskey

    My thoughts are along the lines of “Why isn’t there anything here better than Canadian Whiskey?”

  58. Lit3Bolt says:

    May I recommend George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey? White label no 12, of course. Perfect with a touch of vermouth and bitters, either on the rocks or up.

    See, this is much more interesting than trying to parse someone’s ideology from their blog posts. There’s more to blogging than casting Snarkbolts at each other (which is the trap of the liberal blogger…the conservative blogger has more of the “la la la la la la I can’t hear you” problem).

  59. michael reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    My thoughts are along the lines of “Why isn’t there anything here better than Canadian Whiskey?”

    That’s me staring into every hotel mini-bar. It’s Crown Royal, Jack Daniels and either Chivas or Dewars. And of course vodka, but unless there’s caviar there’s really no excuse to drink vodka.

    Worse yet are the damned peanut M&Ms. Surely they know how bad refrigerated M&Ms are. Just as surely they must know I’ll succumb (usually after I drink the Jack) and then hate myself.

  60. rodney dill says:

    @Alex Knapp: Doesn’t a Rusty Nail count as mixing Scotch, not that I’d do that with a really good Scotch. As I recall Canadian Mist mixes pretty good with Ginger Ale.

  61. Mike H says:

    Mr. Joyner…I wish I could understand what motivates someone like you. You’re obviously smart and well-informed, but you support a party that is so intellectually bankrupt that idiots like Trump, Palin, Santorum, Bachmann, Cain, and Perry are considered to be SERIOUS contenders for the presidency.

    You defend the ridiculous, lockstep obstructionism of the Republicans by noting that the Democrats have blocked things in the past, when you know that there has never in the history of this country been a time when one party has engaged in the kind of tactics that are being used now.

    John Cole asks a good question about the Republicans lack of any real jobs legislation and you cite a ridiculous document that consists of nothing but right wing cliches like “drill, baby, drill” and “get the government out of businesses’ way” as though that is a real answer to the question.

    Is there some basis to your beliefs, or are you a “conservative” the way some people are “christians” … that’s what you have been, that’s what you are, and that’s what you’ll always be, facts be damned?

  62. James Joyner says:

    @Ben Wolf: I’m not aware of their work; I’ve give them a look. Steve Verdon was our resident economist but he’s all but stopped posting in recent months.