I knew Michael Hastings only by email and Twitter and of course by reputation. I’d looked forward to meeting him one day. This morning I’m sad to know that won’t happen, sad for his family and friends and sad that we’ve lost another good reporter.
I’ve known some courageous reporters, who can get to the bottom of things, and some good writers, who can keep you reading to the end. Hastings had both talents going for him and that was enough to set him apart. But he had more to admire.
Few journalists seemed so eager to confront the real problems facing the United States—versus the distractions served up by the weekly war of talking points—as Hastings.
He had that rare combination of career success and intellectual honesty. So often one eventually snuffs out the other, but Hastings was having a great run, even after moving to Buzzfeed, which was a gamble at the time but probably a smart one.
Hastings was hated by Beltway climbers and establishment bootlickers because he wouldn’t play ball.
They complained about his reporting; his passion; his disregard for rules invented by PR people, for PR people. Some who professed to appreciate his work always took care to note his “dickishness“, as if apologizing for having spoken kindly of a heretic.
At one low point, it was even said that Hastings “never served his country.”
We have Hastings to thank for telling the truth about a general who, as many in the loop had long suspected but never openly discussed, didn’t really believe in civilian control of the military.
Hastings took on a seemingly “untouchable” power figure at a time when it really counted: During a critical phase of a costly, losing, decade-long war in an unconquerable place that had recently brought down another world power, the Soviet Union. Had McChrystal’s clique escalated the Afghanistan war further, like they wanted to, America would be in even worse shape today.
In a just world, Hastings would’ve been the one with all the medals pinned to his chest.