18. Jon Meacham

The pretentious historian may have failed spectacularly at Newsweek, but he still won't go away

Topics: Salon Hack List 2011, Jon Meacham, Media, Newsweek, Media Criticism,

18. Jon Meacham

Charles Pierce tackled Meacham earlier this month, asking if the failed Newsweek editor is “the most insufferable human in Washington.” I’d say he very well could be, except for when he’s in New York lunching at Michael’s with Roger Ailes.

Meacham, a famous public intellectual (with the six honorary degrees and the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson that go along with that title), undertook a mission to save print journalism by redesigning Newsweek and telling everyone it was going to be more like The Economist, which meant “for smart people,” and after losing $500,000 a week for a few years while not attracting tens of thousands of new, smart readers, the Kaplan Washington Post Co. finally gave up on owning Newsweek altogether, leaving Meacham out of work, which does give him a lot more time to appear on “Morning Joe.”

So, journalism was not saved by regurgitations of the foreign policy conventional wisdom by Fareed Zakaria or “controversial” covers like “LINCOLN VS. DARWIN,” and Economist readers were perfectly happy with The Economist, thank you.

Meacham was called “bizarrely incurious about the world” by one former staffer, and he does seem to care only about politics and how current politicians are like or not like politicians of the past. There are few political analysis clichés less edifying or useful than the old “an historian on how this candidate is just like Lincoln/Jackson/Adams/Henry Clay” bit. But for a political aficionado, he’s remarkably dim on politics. This classic 2009 editor’s letter arguing that Dick Cheney not only should but probably will run for president in 2012 is either link-bait trolling (very possible!) or evidence that Meacham is simply dumb.



He was the sort of magazine editor who kills a tough, critical introduction to an interview with Joe Scarborough when an unnamed “member of Scarborough’s team” calls him to complain, and who was unwilling to take responsibility for a sexist cover package on Sarah Palin that annoyed even us Palin-hating leftists.

He is now a Time columnist, where he bangs out 400 words weekly on how Occupy Wall Street reminded us of something to do with William Jennings Bryan and “What Jane Austen Could Teach Washington.” All of this is in the “Time Ideas” section, natch.

HACKIEST 2011 MOMENT:
His stirring defense, on “Morning Joe,” of President George W. Bush against the entirely factually accurate charge that he lied in order to justify launching a war of choice in Iraq: “To say someone lied adds a corrosive element to the public dialogue that we just don’t need,” Meacham said. Oh, heaven forfend. However will the Republic survive people claiming a president lied? I mean, it’s entirely possible that Bush launched a preemptive war based on cooked intelligence merely because he was moron surrounded by craven ideologues, which would I guess count as honest intentions.
- – - – - – - – - -

(Read the introduction here. Read the 2010 Salon Hack 30 List here.)

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>