Perhaps the key lesson to take from the Dave Weigel debacle is that it is a bad idea to hire a reporter/opinion writer based on a mistaken assumption concerning that reporter’s/opinion writer’s ideological leanings. It is mind-boggling that the Washington Post seemed to think that Weigel was, or is a conservative; the question remains as to whether the Post simply failed to do its homework, or whether it was actively misled. We know that Post blogger Ezra Klein recommended Weigel for the position that Weigel held at the Post. In examining the aftermath of the Weigel controversy, it is worth wondering whether Klein somehow failed to tell the people at the Post the truth about Weigel’s own ideological bent.
Philip Klein makes a number of good points in defending Weigel; among them being the point that Weigel apparently had his comments leaked to the public from the Journolist e-mail group that Ezra Klein founded (are you getting all of this?). Yes, Weigel got burned, yes, whoever did it was likely out to get him–it is hard to think that all of those nasty quotes were somehow just inadvertently released to the public–and yes, the leaks were despicable. Additionally, yes, we have all written things on e-mails that we hope will never be made public. All of that having been written, the conservatives whom Weigel covered–and will cover in his next job–have every right to ask how Weigel could possibly cover them fairly if he is busy wishing death on the likes of Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh. That, plus the apparent effort to mislead the Post concerning Weigel’s ideological leanings, made his departure from the Post a no-brainer.
I don’t take any pleasure in Weigel’s fall. I am sure that he will land on his feet, many people see him as the aggrieved party, which will help him get back on his feet, and by all accounts, he is a talented writer with a sellable product; coverage of the conservative community. I hope that the person who leaked the unflattering comments Weigel made is suitably punished for betraying a trust. But that doesn’t change the fact that there was, at the very least, some serious neglect on the party of the Post in hiring him. And it also doesn’t change the fact that if one makes intemperate comments, one ought to be prepared to face the consequences for them.