10 questions with new Washington Post conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin

Jamie Weinstein Senior Writer
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Jennifer Rubin is the author of the Washington Post’s new conservative blog, Right Turn.

Before joining the Post last week, Rubin was a contributing editor to Commentary magazine and a regular contributor to its Contentions blog. She has also written for the Weekly Standard, the New York Post and the Jerusalem Post, among other publications.

According to the announcement last month from Washington Post editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, Rubin’s blog will, “from a conservative perspective,” “cover a wide range of foreign and domestic issues and media controversies.”

Rubin recently agreed to answer 10 questions from The Daily Caller about her background, her new blog, and some current topics of political debate:

1. What does your new role at the Washington Post entail? Will it be different than what you have been doing for Commentary’s Contentions?

I have a new blog, Right Turn. It will be the same mix of reporting and opinion/analysis that I’ve been doing at Contentions for the last three years. I have a center-right perspective but will cover both sides of the aisle and a whole range of issues.

2.  Why do you consider yourself a conservative and what led you to conservatism if you weren’t always a conservative?

My core beliefs – American exceptionalism, free markets, individual rights, personal responsibility – are now considered “conservative” positions. So yes, I’m a modern conservative. I’ve held many of my beliefs, especially on the role of the U.S. in the world as a force for freedom, for as long as I can remember. But the Carter era and the Reagan presidency sealed the deal.

3. What is your background? You came into journalism late in life, right?

I’m a recovering lawyer, as I like to say. I’ve always been a news junkie and avid political observer, but I made my living for two decades as a labor lawyer. It was great preparation for journalism. I learned to write, to argue, to dissect an opponent’s argument and to work long days. All of that comes in quite handy as a journalist.

4. What are the three most important books that shaped your worldview?

Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose,”  which helped me conceptualize why free market capitalism not only works but is the most morally defensible economic system.

Mike Royko’s “Boss.” I read it in junior high school and the tales of Richard Daley taught me that politics is as much about personality as policy. I came to see politics as a series of fascinating vignettes in which personality, chance and ideology swirl around to create moments of great drama – and sometimes comedy.

Everything Jeane Kirkpatrick ever wrote. In high school and college I managed to get through virtually all of her writings. She had an extraordinary mind and the ability to convey how American values and power must complement one another.

5. What living writers and thinkers do you most admire and why?

OK, now you are going to get me in trouble. You obviously mean OTHER than all my colleagues at Commentary, the Weekly Standard and the Post, right? With that caveat, Tony Blair (who writes exquisitely and has become one of the most important foreign policy thinkers on the international stage); Antonin Scalia (whose opinions and dissents are mini masterpieces of scholarship), and Thomas Sowell (who continues to be one of the most important thinkers on race, equality and a range of social policy issues).

6. What inspires you?

Our armed forces who place love of country above their own personal safety.

The state of Israel – a small island of democracy and an economic dynamo in the world’s toughest neighborhood.

The group of conservative pundits, writers and former officials whom I’m proud to call my friends and whose ideas and writings spur me to do my best work.

7. WikiLeaks has been big in the news. What do you think the Obama administration should do to its founder Julian Assange? Should they treat him like a terrorist?

Well this administration doesn’t treat terrorists very harshly, does it? Assange should be tracked down and prosecuted. If they have room at Gitmo, I don’t see why he shouldn’t go there. He might come to appreciate America’s role in protecting civilians, even ones as noxious as he, from Islamic jihadists.

8. Another revelation of WikiLeaks is something many people really knew, which was Arab countries were pushing the U.S. to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, by force if necessary. At this point, do you think the U.S. needs to seriously consider targeting Iran’s nuclear program with military force and do you believe President Obama would ever order such a strike?

For some time I have thought that we should be talking up, not down, the potential use of force. I think it needs to remain an option in the event sanctions don’t halt the Iranian regime’s nuclear program. A credible threat of force and regime change should be our existing policy. And at some point I think the U.S. must act. It would be a shameful dereliction of our responsibility as the leader of the Free World to allow the “unacceptable,” namely the acquisition of nuclear weapons by an Islamic revolutionary state. That’s been the position of two presidents and should the unacceptable happen the consequences in the region and around the world would be devastating. As for the president, I would hope he would not “outsource” this task to Israel but I remain skeptical that he would carry out a military action against Iran.

9. President Bush has been saying on his book tour that historians are the ones who will ultimately judge him and his legacy once his full record is better known. Given what we know now, do you think that they will judge him kindly?

I do. He got the big things right – the freedom agenda, rallying the country after 9/11, carrying the fight to the Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, the liberation of Iraq, and the Bush tax cuts. Think about it: to the extent Obama has departed from each of these he’s run into trouble politically and substantively. And where there has been continuity (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq) he’s been his most successful. And now he’s looking to improve his own record on human rights (which to date has been shoddy), extend the Bush tax cuts in some fashion, and maintain an ongoing presence in Iraq. I would add to Bush’s accomplishments the appointment of two outstanding Supreme Court justices.

10. Do you think President Obama is vulnerable in 2012? What Republican would pose the greatest challenge to him?

Yes, given the state of the economy and the multiple international threats, this administration is taking on that Jimmy Carter-like aura. Every day more wheels come off the bus. I don’t think we know all the candidates yet but I think there are a  lot of impressive Republicans – Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, John Kasich, Bob McDonnell, to name a few. It’s not clear which, if any, of these will run. The Republicans will need to find a sober, mature candidate who can get on the stage with Obama and impress the country  with a credible domestic agenda and the vision to project American power and values in the world.