Political Animal


February 25, 2012 9:02 AM Introductions

By Matthew Zeitlin

Hey all, I’m Matthew Zeitlin and I will be occupying Political Animal for the weekend. Ed’s introduction yesterday, has all the important stuff: I’m a senior at Northwestern University and I’ve done some writing for The Daily, The New Republic, and the Atlantic. Yesterday was my 22nd birthday.

But right now we’re concerned about a man who was once an ambitious young journalist, finding his way in Washington.

Eliza Gray has a profile in The New Republic of Matthew Continetti, the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon, that captures the almost-tragic transformation from a  Weekly Standard writer fresh out of Columbia who wanted to be a serious, independent-minded conservative journalist to the political warrior practicing “combat journalism” (his own phrase) who authored a book attacking the political media for going after Sarah Palin and is now the editor-in-chief of the Washington Free Beacon.

I asked if anything had changed his point of view since he graduated from college. “I stopped caring what liberals think about me,” he said. “When you’re young, you want to be friends with everybody. I’d run into people all around and everyone acts nicely. Eventually, you realize you are always going to be a conservative, and therefore flawed if not malevolent in the worldview of liberals. You might as well accept that.”

What’s striking here is not just that Continetti thinks of right-of-center journalism as an opposition project against Think Progress, but also that his conversion story so closely matches how conservatives describe the ideological temptations of Washington. The way it goes is that there are pure conservatives who come to Washington and then are corrupted by the false idols of social acceptance and respectability. They gain a “strange new respect,” from liberal D.C. elites, and before you know it, they’re writing columns for the New York Times. Matthew Continetti, as it happens, wrote some guest columns for Timeswhen he was only 24.

And while it’s true that it’s good to be one of the Times’ house conservatives, there are still only two of them. There are far more opportunities to practice journalism whose primary purpose is to elevate the status of conservatives and Republicans and denigrate liberals and Democrats. Not to mention a cohesive social, political, and cultural network that, after a few decades, can give you a $250,000 Bradley Prize for service to the movement.

And so Continetti, who once wrote a critical, deeply-reported history of Jack Abramoff and the K Street Project, is now helming a news organization whose motto is “Do unto them” and whose lead story this morning concerns itself with a battery on “Obama Way” in Seaside, California. And to do that, it probably helps to think that the primary danger to a conservative journalist’s integrity is a liberal respecting you and taking you seriously.


  • max on February 25, 2012 9:36 AM:

    The way it goes is that there are pure conservatives who come to Washington and then are corrupted by the false idols of social acceptance and respectability.

    I'd say that that's a very old story about people 'moving to the city' and falling in with 'bad people'. There is something to it but in the case of conservatives, it's first and foremost about the fact that the BS they feed people 'down on the farm' is kaka. Of course, then it gets replaced with new BS that's serves the interest of the sort of well-off people who lurk around the government feeding off the lobbying streams. And liberals experience that as well.

    Of course, conservatives actually think being corrupted by cash is just fine.

    [''round and 'round we go.']

  • Danp on February 25, 2012 9:42 AM:

    Continetti also seems to be suggesting that if anyone accuses him of getting facts or conclusions wrong, he should merely dismiss them as being of the wrong ideology. If our young Matthew (Zeitlin) were to write that "I stopped caring..." statement, I would dismiss him as a tunnel digger.

  • POed Lib on February 25, 2012 9:56 AM:

    Continetti is a whore. He no longer does anything involving journalism, and instead pimps for large sums. He will write and say anything.

    Welcome, Matt. Northwestern U is close to my hometown, and it's a great place.

  • martin on February 25, 2012 10:13 AM:

    Welcome, Matt.

    And to respect Continetti's wishes, I promise never to take him seriously.

  • DAY on February 25, 2012 10:30 AM:

    Welcome, kiddo, and don't spend too much of your weekend thinking about irrelevant people.
    Narrows the field a bit, eh?
    "Conservatives' are a tough bunch to pin down, definition wise, since it changes every decade or so. (Reagan, Ronald and Nixon, Richard, for example, were conservatives who did some conservative things in their time, but today would be castigated as flaming libs.)

  • JS on February 25, 2012 10:47 AM:

    Heya, Matthew.

    I've long suspected that guys like Continetti have the requisite lack-of-morals to do everything Mitt Romney did to make a quarter billion dollar fortune, just not the necessary connections to get atop the boardroom of a corporation that would allow them to loot their way to success.

    So they have to 'settle' for the half-million dollar home in Arlington, living off wingnut welfare.

    "Crimes happened on a street named for President Obama." Quality argument there.

  • g on February 25, 2012 10:54 AM:

    Just clicked over to Continetti's story. That's gotta be the stupidest thing I've seen today.

  • TCinLA on February 25, 2012 11:14 AM:

    I've never met a "conservative" who wasn't a third-rate intellect convinced he was first-rate.

    Here in the movie business, they're always complaining that they're "shut out" by the Hollywood Liberals, but what shuts them out is their lack of talent. A script by a conservative (I've read a few) is always hackneyed and didactic, always "making its case" rather than let the story speak for itself. As far as right wing actors are concerned (the one area where the wingnuts find some success), they're all very limited in their range, "genre" actors (action, etc.) at best. Didn't someone once prove that the "conservative brain" is physically smaller?

  • Rick B on February 25, 2012 11:30 AM:


    Your statement "I've never met a "conservative" who wasn't a third-rate intellect convinced he was first-rate." is exactly right.

    In Texas we had two economics professors at different schools who couldn't publish and blamed that refusal of peer-reviewed journals to publish them on liberals who resented their libertarian (conservative) ideology. Both then ran for Congress. That's Phil Gramm from Texas A&M and Dick Armey from then North Texas State University.

    Their academic problems centered on the fact that, as devout libertarians, they both knew "The Truth" so their publication efforts amounted to propaganda rather than presenting the results of research which developed new knowledge.

    Both were rather angry, bitter men so they weren't much fun to be around either. Each of them made the economic faculty of their respective university quite happy when they got elected and left the university.

  • Anonymous on February 25, 2012 12:17 PM:

    Continetti married one of the Kristol's!? Literally marrying into a Trotskyite cell pretty much makes it a foregone conclusion that any claim to "reporting" is going to be hollow.

  • MuddyLee on February 25, 2012 12:37 PM:

    I want Continetti OFF of public radio. He is often invited to be on On Point with Tom Ashbrook. Please join me in writing emails of complaint when supposedly serious public radio shows allow Continetti to spout off his lies with no rebuttal.

  • SYSPROG on February 25, 2012 12:48 PM:

    Welcome Matt (or Matthew if you prefer). I read this post right before I headed for the shower so I had time to think about it. It seems to me that Continetti is just trying to cover himself. 'I took the money, I drank the koolaid, all Liberals are evil and I will SAY that I don't care if they LIKE me so I can be free!' Sorry. It sounds like he has become the Abramoff that he once covered. When you watch interviews with Abramoff he even TELLS us about the conservatives court you and give you money and indoctrinate you until you feel you are REALLY IMPORTANT and doing GOD'S WORK. It takes prison to shake you out of that mindset.

  • some guy on February 25, 2012 1:02 PM:

    Does anybody but centrist totebaggers actually read The New Racist anymore? Continetti really would have advanced a lot further a lot quicker if only he had followed the lead of other bright young conservatives and gone to work for Marty Peretz. too bad he missed that boat.

  • Robert on February 25, 2012 5:33 PM:

    Re Right Winger who come to D.C.:

    1. A system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
    2. A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.

  • Doug on February 25, 2012 7:28 PM:

    I have no contempt for conservatives - as long as they can back up their claims with - what's that word?, oh, right - facts. Hint to conservatives: anecdotes pushed by the "pundits" or those such as the Fat One and the Golden Boy or even politicians (?) such as the Not-so-great Orange Imp, don't count.
    It's THAT failure that causes this liberal, and most thinking beings, to not take "conservatives" seriously.

  • Rugosa on February 26, 2012 6:55 AM:

    MuddyLee - the problem is not that Continetti is on public radio, the problem is in your last sentence. There's no rebuttal. I usually turn Ashbrook off because I know that his side of the conversation will only be to mutter, "mm hmm, mm hmm".

  • Nick MacPlato on February 26, 2012 8:38 AM:

    I'm sorry Mathew but you have gone too far here.

    It's one thing to cast a Toadie to the Plutarchs as wrong on the facts that the Plutoadie uses for the lies that are the base ingredient of the opiate the is fed to the republickn masses.

    And sure, the PluToadies add a pound of hate, a cup or two of fear, and a pinch of truth to complete the drug, but you got to give the 'real' people what they want. (and what the Plutarchs will pay for)

    And, let's face it, these masses generally can't tell the difference between shinolla and a hole in the ground. Totally addictted to this pain killer they have lost the capacity to realize that constantly voting against their own best interest is the cause of the pain.

    And ok, you have a right to write about the initiation ritual that an aspiring PluToadie must go through - the kneeling process, the time spent on their knees, and the submisive gagging (WMDs in Iraq, Bomb Iran, Drill baby drill, person hood, end of days, etc). OK, OK, you can write how this process only ends after the PluToadie writes on the blackboard a thousand times "it's the will of God" and memorizes all the talking points. (it's not global warming, "it's the will of God" - it's not anti women's health, "it's the will of God" - and of course the big One... it's not hate, "it's the will of God"

    But Mathew, Mathew, Mathew, have you no heart? This PluToadie went through the process and in doing so accepted that the Plutarchal cast system was inevitable, desirable, natural, and ergo, God's will. If you shine the light of 'liberal respect' and 'to be taken seriously' on him, he will be shunned by THE JOB CREATOR!!!

    OMG - I can't get the image out of my mind - This is your fault Mathew - You did this to me.

  • Skip on February 26, 2012 6:15 PM:

    Meh. Continetti's "I stopped caring..." covered it.

    Being against is easy, advocating is hard. Liberals advocate, conservatives contravene.

    Liberal causes are difficult: safe-guarding and increasing human liberties and freedoms, advancing environmental causes over steam-roller corporatism, promoting self-awareness and knowledge over rote acceptance of unquestioned dogma.

    Conservatives settle for citing a single static book of commandments that they themselves can't even follow to any demonstrable degree. In what arena do conservatives exhibit exemplary behaviors on any higher plane than those who ascribe to the simple principle of just being a decent human being? I am not aware of any, but they just might simply be keeping the light of innate kindness, compassion, and humanity under the baskets of their own churches and Sunday social groups, not wanting to cast their pearls before swine, don't cha know.

    Continetti is just one more human being struggling along without answers or solutions to the big issues, welcome to life, Sir. But instead creating some positive effort toward making a better tomorrow, he's decided to put his talents to use by making things even worse through empty critique and hostile rhetoric, typifying today's conservative meme. Aware that he has an obligation to keep the approving opinions of family and social acquaintances, I wish Continetti well on his contravening journey down a road well traveled.