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Opinion: But would he go double or nothing?

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Two years ago tomorrow, Jonah Goldberg, in the middle of an extended online spat with noted Middle East scholar and pessimist Juan Cole, issued the following challenge:

I do think my judgment is superior to his when it comes to the big picture. So, I have an idea: Since he doesn’t want to debate anything except his own brilliance, let’s make a bet. I predict that Iraq won’t have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it. I’ll bet $1,000 (which I can hardly spare right now). This way neither of us can hide behind clever word play or CV reading. If there’s another reasonable wager Cole wants to offer which would measure our judgment, I’m all ears. Money where your mouth is, doc. One caveat: Because I don’t think it’s right to bet on such serious matters for personal gain, if I win, I’ll donate the money to the USO. He can give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is.

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Fast forward to today. AlterNet media critic Jeff Cohen says it’s time for Goldberg to pay up. More accurately, he says it’s time for the Tribune Co. to pay up:

Let the Tribune media conglomerate pay the $1,000. Not only does Tribune syndicate Goldberg’s column, it was Tribune’s Los Angeles Times that added the analytically-impaired Goldberg to its columnist roster in November 2005 -- at the same time it fired renowned columnist Robert Scheer, whose Iraq analysis had been breathtakingly accurate.

Alert readers will note that two years ago tomorrow is February 8, 2005, and that Goldberg didn’t take up residency on our pages until nine months later. But it’s the thought that counts!

So, is Goldberg -- or The National Review, for whom he wrote the fateful words -- paying up? He says the bet was never accepted, so no.

[T]here’s a whole email spam campaign going around the web about that Juan Cole non-bet from two years ago. I discussed it here and here, and have nothing substantive to add. But the vitriol and bullying of this crowd is something to behold. It’s now become something of a little media story and since the other side knows all about it (and is now badgering folks who carry my column, etc), it seems silly to keep you folks in the dark. Here’s the E&P write up.


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