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September 27, 2013

Of Course: John McCain Hires Not-a-Doctor Elizabeth O'Bagy, Syrian Rebel Expert

As you might know, Doctor O'Bagy penned an Op Ed claiming there weren't many jihadis in the Free Syrian Army. She later turned out to not be a doctor. She then explained that she was in a doctoral program and had defended her dissertation and was merely waiting for a grade.

This also turned out to not be true. It was not even true that she was enrolled in a doctoral program at all. So far from waiting for a grade, she was actually waiting to apply.

In addition, she failed to disclose in her op-ed that she was working for the pro-Syrian rebel "Syrian Emergency Task Force." She later parsed this as well, claiming she wasn't an employee of the group; she was merely a contractor.

Which is a type of employee. Yes, when you hire a guy to seal your driveway he's a "contractor," not an "employee," but while you're paying him for his work he's working for you.

And now she works for John McCain.

Sen. John McCain has hired Elizabeth O'Bagy, the Syria analyst in Washington who was fired for padding her credentials, The Cable has learned. She begins work Monday as a legislative assistant in McCain's office.

O'Bagy was a young but well-respected advisor at the Institute for the Study of War and had emerged quickly as an important voice among those arguing in favor of intervention in Syria...

"Elizabeth is a talented researcher, and I have been very impressed by her knowledge and analysis in multiple briefings over the last year," McCain told The Cable in a statement. "I look forward to her joining my office." McCain's office said there would be no further comment on the matter.

How to explain? I don't know.

I think John McCain has an inability to see his errors. I think his ego precludes such a possibility. It's not that his conclusions about Syria are rendered erroneous by these disclosures about O'Bagy; but he does seem foolish to have relied upon O'Bagy's claims.*

But he can't see himself as having made a mistake, so he applies his favorite Narrative: That "mavericks," like McCain himself and Not-a-Doctor O'Bagy, are like Luke Skywalker trapped in the Death Star trench (I know this doesn't make perfect sense but it's McCain's 2000 campaign line; take it up with him) and must break free of "The Empire," which are the conservatives he despises so palpably.

Thus, O'Bagy is not really at fault; rather, she is a victim of the same Conservative Hate Empire that keeps McCain trapped in the trench.

The more charitable explanation is that he simply liked her during briefings, and took a shine to her, and feels that she shouldn't lose her entire career over a lie.

I don't discount that one, either. People do just like some people, for whatever reason. There's some sympatico.

Still, what I'm imagining is that both ideas, the charitable one and the uncharitable one, are in play. The heart might have been motivated by the charitable one, and then the head applies the Death Star Evil Conservative Empire narrative to convince itself that the heart is right.

* The Pro-Air-Snub gang keeps saying "none of these disclosures disprove anything O'Bagy said."

Well let's think about that. It's technically true. But O'Bagy's piece was largely based on her own witness; that is, she was reporting her eyewitness testimony. Her beliefs, her observations.

Such a piece does not make reference to anything externally true. Such a piece -- an "On Author" piece, I think they're called -- relies upon the reputation and credibility of the Author as far as evidence of its truth.

And obviously when the author has taken an enormous hit on personal credibility, so too does her On Author claims about Things She's Seen and People She's Met and Conversations She's Had and Beliefs She's Formed decline in credibility.

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posted by Ace at 05:06 PM

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