A year ago, journalist and author Michael Hastings lost his life in a horrific car crash in California.
Throughout his career, Hastings became a vocal critic of America’s role in the war. After his death, his wife Elise Jordan discovered an unpublished manuscript of a novel inspired by Hastings’ early years at National Magazine. ‘The Last Magazine’ is a satirical look into life as a Newsweek intern during the years leading up to the war.
Krystal sat down with Elise to discuss the work and her reasons for getting ‘The Last Magazine’ published.
Krystal Ball: The book talks a lot about how the media sort of led us to war in Iraq can you believe the flashbacks we’re having now to that time period?
Elise Jordan: It’s really crazy and I hate that the world is in such disarray, but I do like that it shows that Michael always had the pulse of what was happening with Iraq and what he does here, chronicling how so many people use the Iraq war for career advancement. Then they abandon their pro war views when the war wasn’t going as well as it should be. Also recently the Bo Bergdahl story, which he wrote the definitive piece on Bergdahl two years ago and no one, cared. He expected that to be his biggest story but no one made waves at all. Now that it can be politicized of course it’s everywhere.
Krystal Ball: I never had the honor of meeting him but everyone talks about this energy he kept what was it that really drove him?
Elise Jordan: I think that he felt that ideas mattered, that what was happening in the world mattered, that you could be on the right side of history. That you could have a positive influence that your work and words could have impact and he certainly was a great student of history and literature and all of his heroes were incredible writers and he thought it was important to look at the world with a compassionate view and understand that those in power should be questioned.
Krystal Ball: His piece on General McChrystal led to McChrystal’s resignation, did that surprise Michael?
Elise Jordan: He was absolutely shocked. He didn’t expect that at all. He thought the piece would cause waves because what he had written about counter insurgency, and the failure of counter insurgency in Afghanistan and how it was it was affecting troops on the ground, having to implement counter insurgency. He had underestimated just how much tension there was with General McChrystal and the administration and how this was kind of the final straw. And there had been the leaked memos calling for troop increase that had pressured and kind of boxed Obama in, there had been a speech in London where General McChrystal had criticized Biden-pretty overtly, and this article was pretty much the final straw I think.
Krystal Ball: Even though it’s a work of fiction, there is a lot of truth to it, what are you hoping people take from it?
Elise Jordan: I’m hoping people think that we deserve more from the press and we should expect more and we should hold press to account. I hope that it also has a positive influence on the media just calling out how it’s become a club-y atmosphere. People are becoming friends with the people in power not calling them to account. I think that’s what Michael really wanted. I think he wanted there to be more checks when the drum beat to war is happening.