Jonah Goldberg’s Bet
A bet Jonah Goldberg made two years ago is the subject of some amusement on the Left side of the blogosphere.
Progressive bloggers pledged about $800 as of [yesterday] morning toward the $1,000 that Jonah Goldberg said — on Feb. 8, 2005 — he’d give the USO if the Iraq War was still going badly in 2007.
Goldberg, a conservative Tribune Media Services columnist and National Review Online editor at large, had suggested the wager during a war of words he was having two years ago with “Informed Comment” blogger Juan Cole. The bet was turned down by Cole, who said at the time that Goldberg was “proposing a wager on the backs of Iraqis” and “betting on them as though they are greyhounds in a race.”
Paying the $1,000 for Goldberg was the idea of “Nitpicker” blogger Terry Welch. “I sent out an e-mail to other bloggers, and they quickly joined in,” he told E&P this morning.
For his part, Goldberg contends that, since Cole declined to take the bet, people should shut up about it. Matt Yglesias and Steven Taylor think the validity of the claim, not Cole’s wagering acumen, is the point.
One would think, yes.
Pundits, even good ones, get things wrong a lot of time. As a wise man once noted, it’s hard to predict the future, since it hasn’t happened yet. Most of the time, they’re smart enough not to lay down markers of this sort, preferring to be able to crow about correct predictions while quietly hoping the (likely more numerous) incorrect ones are forgotten.
UPDATE: The E&P summary above is a bit off. Here’s the exact bet Goldberg proposed: “I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it.”
It’s debatable whether what exists in Iraq now qualifies as “a civil war,” but the insurgency seems no closer to being defeated than it was two years ago. Iraq indeed has a constitution and a government operating under same; whether it is “viable” is a matter of interpretation. On the third count, though, there’s no question that Goldberg was wrong.
Then again, Goldberg admits, “Needless to say, if [Cole]’d taken the bet he would have won, quite obviously.”