Some speculations after the latest intellectual self-immolation.
I personally think there's a simpler explanation (based on my own experience as an investigative journalist interviewing so-called 'guilty men', up to and including child murderers). It's simply this: they think they're right. Chotiner is self-evidently a smart person and they are sure that he will see how right they are. We are all heroes in our own narratives.
I think a huge part of it is that Chotiner doesn't come across as threatening. He's polite and asks seemingly innocuous questions. But he is a master of Socratic inquiry and his interlocutors don't realize that his questions have laid a trap until they fall into it.
Exhibit A for Drezner's fascinating discussion above is Henry Kissinger, as to Oriana Fallaci: He explained himself as "the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into town." It's a daydream of uncanny powers by a serial blunderer, just to recall Nixon's observation that Kissinger would "start a crisis over Ecuador if Vietnam weren't available."
Isaac's uncle was Murray Chotiner, and it's not that usual a name even among Americans of Ashkenazi descent, so I have to wonder if some conservatives—many of whom, uh, over-emphasise ancestry in my opinion—unconsciously think that they're with a good and trusted friend.
I think the other suggestions here, particularly that these people are so full of a self-directed, passionate, intensity that they forget to stay on their guard, are probably most of it, but the above if present would intensify the effect.
Mearshimer refused to endorse the catastrophic war and the fantasy of Ukrainian "victory".
We now know he was right.
When you look at the nexus of folks like Mearsheimer, Chomsky, Taibbi, Greenwald, Maté, etc., they never seem to understand how often the very worst of folks (e.g. Putin, Xi) are getting aid and comfort from their "analysis"
I appreciate the pejorative use of both "contrarian" and "emeritus". I was once moderately favorable to contrarianism https://johnquiggin.com/2009/10/19/the-importance-of-being-earnest-how-superfreakonomics-killed-contrarianism/
While reading Chotiner’s interview of Mearshimer, for some reason the name ‘Nathan Thurm’ kept coming to mind.