On the other hand, it’s tempting to take a Washington “public intellectual” like Beinart too seriously, even as a weather vane. I should add, too, that my assessment of him is based solely on his public career. I’ve never met him nor spoken to him, as far as I recall, but—if you’ll forgive a closing personal note—I do cherish a single, vivid memory of him.

I was living the life of Riley as a writer at Bloomberg News at the time. I returned from lunch to find a voicemail message from Beinart, then the editor of the New Republic. The message commenced with 90 seconds of flattery, densely packed, followed by an insistence that I had to write for his magazine, simply had to. Did I have any ideas? Of course, I had ideas…someone of my stature. He had ideas of his own, though they could only pale next to mine. Perhaps lunch would be in order? He had never dared allow himself to dream that such a transcendent experience would be available to him, but if I might find time…

It had never occurred to me that there could be such a thing as too much flattery, no matter how insincere. I discovered then that my upper limit is about 45 seconds. We were well into overtime when I figured out what was coming next.