Michael Goldfarb

There’s been a lot of criticism of my friend Michael Goldfarb, who has just been hired by the McCain campaign to serve as deputy communications director. Some very smart people, including Radley Balko, have suggested that that McCain personally vets all of his hires to be confident that there is no distance between their views and his own. I find this a little naive, not least because the McCain campaign, like all campaigns, is stretched pretty thin. There are many high-level McCain staffers who are, for example, adamantly pro-choice. There are a number of Democrats on his foreign policy staff. Perhaps he is willing to brook dissent on, say, social issues from a foreign policy staffer, but not on foreign policy issues from a foreign policy staffer. That makes sense, except McCain does have foreign policy staffers who have different views on specific strategic questions, e.g., the kind of presence we should have in Iraq 5-10 years hence, or whether a League of Democracies is a good idea.

My assumption is that Goldfarb was hired by the communications staff because he is adept at communications strategy, and he is someone who knows the web very well. He’s also — and this doesn’t come across in his web writing, where he wields a flamethrower — one of the most disarming, charming, and sincere people I’ve ever met. (This is the point where I, if I were a Goldfarb detractor, would write, “Charming! Do you think Goebbels was charming, you Bushitler apologist swine!!!) He’s also very knowledgeable about national security. I know this in part because I’ve been on the wrong side of an argument with him, and let’s just say I’ve been “schooled.” And he once allowed someone to Tase him, which I imagine was more unpleasant than being the object of intemperate blogging.

I haven’t always agreed with Goldfarb. He’s a lot more pugnacious than I am, he has more confidence in the national security establishment, he is less of a Schneierian than I am, and, most importantly, he doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks of him. He does, however, prefer not being Tased to being Tased. But then again, don’t we all?

Before we make any sweeping claims about what Goldfarb says about McCain — claims that invariably reflect what we already think or want to think about McCain — consider the possibility that the campaign has just hired an effective communicator.

It occurs to me that I’m friendly with many people who are profoundly antagonistic towards each other. I suppose this ought to reflect poorly on me, but I like to think I’ve managed to maintain my integrity. Of course, I suppose I’ve maintained my integrity as a kook.