McCain Hires Disgraced Syria ‘Expert’ Elizabeth O’Bagy

John Glaser, September 27, 2013

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People involved in politics almost invariably engage in confirmation bias. It’s easy to welcome ideas that bolster what you already believe, than to deal with facts and evidence that seem to puncture your own opinions.

If there are two seasoned politicians in Washington, surely they are John Kerry and John McCain. So we’d expect them to be confirmation bias professionals. And that’s exactly what they were doing when they were citing Elizabeth O’Bagy, an alleged “expert” at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), to elucidate the make-up of the Syrian rebels.

O’Bagy is now disgraced, after it was revealed that her opinions on the rebels are not exactly objective since she was part of a pro-Syrian rebel lobbying group and often did not disclose this fact to people seeking her counsel on how awesome the rebels were. She was even further discredited when it was revealed she lied about having a PhD. She was subsequently fired from ISW.

I kind of assumed Kerry and McCain would have been at least a little embarrassed that they cited O’Bagy favorably. It was bad enough their confirmation bias was displayed for the world to see.

But I was giving McCain too much credit apparently. Not only is he not embarrassed, he is hiring O’Bagy.

Foreign Policy:

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.

…”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.

Despite the pull of confirmation bias, normal human tendencies should have engendered some shame on the part of both O’Bagy and McCain.

McCain? Shame? Who was I kidding.




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