writes
I really like Josh Green's description of Rove, which also describes a whole class of folks I know, and I think accounts for some of the more remarkable errors in judgment that afflict this town:
[Rove] was and remains an autodidact, and a large part of his self-image depends on showing that his command of history and politics is an order of magnitude greater than other people's. Rove has a need to outdo everybody else that seems to inform his sometimes contrarian views of history. It's not enough for him to have read everything; he needs to have read everything and arrived at insights that others missed.
That's as good a description of the motivator behind self-consciously counter-intuitive journalism as I've ever read. It's not that conclusions you don't expect are worthless -- though, increasingly, such journalism is paint-by-the-numbers predictable -- but if you're searching for clever, surprising judgments as a matter of course, you're going to reach a lot of wrong answers through simple selection bias. Sometimes, "everybody" is not wrong, and the field's many experts weren't just waiting for a 27-year-old staff writer to come in and brilliantly reinterpret all the existing data.
Rove never graduated from college. He dropped out of the University of Utah and campaigned for the chairmanship of the College Republicans, a national student organization whose leaders often go on to important positions in the party. He won, placing himself on a fast track to a career in politics. But he was and remains an autodidact. . . .
Jason Zengerle