Monday, January 08, 2007

Ezra Klien asks a question

Ezra Klein wonders what's wrong with Joe Klein:
Joe Klein And The Politics of Tone: ... Klein's actual complaint is staggering in its mendacity: Democrats, who he thinks arerightabout the uselessness of a "surge" strategy, are being too nasty in saying so. Let's go over that again: In Joe Klein's very first blog post, his initial chance to opine in an instant and high-profile medium, he doesn't choose to inveigh against a dangerous and counterproductive strategy which he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war. No, he chooses to toss off a tantrum against Democrats who are too rhetorically dismissive of the strategy he admittedly believes would cost thousands of lives and prolong an immoral, grievously wrong-headed war.

What is wrong with these people?

My guess: Joe Klein is unable to understand a world where liberals suffer more from timidity than they do from overreach. It makes him antsy anytime a liberal uses strong language or says things plainly. It bothers him even more when these liberals do so on issues of national defense where Joe instinctively assumes that the Democratic position should be hidden and downplayed - lest the public punish them - no matter how correct it is.

From my experience this is common in people who formed their political opinions in the 70's (like Joe Klein) and people who formed their political views thinking that BAMN is actually something worth thinking about. Why Time magazine pays Klein to provide political analysis that's 30 years out of date I can't say.

Update: Brad Delong is driven shrill by Joe Klein's foolishness.

Update: Chris Bowler weighs in with an alternate answer. He says that Joe Klein is simply acting to preserve the power of pundits in the face of discrediting facts:
As someone who opposed the war from long before it began, and thus was long branded as "not serious" as a result, it is remarkable to me how those who now support escalation are immediately branded as "serious" by those who do not support escalation but who did support the war in the first place. In fact, the entire Washington Post editorial yesterday seemed simply to be a defense of the people who support escalation as "serious" and otherwise good people, even if the Washington Post itself can't bring itself to personally step onto the ashbin of history. This isn't surprising really, since another serious commentator, Richard Cohen, has recently stated that the main reason he opposed supported the war was because he didn't want to throw his lot with the unserious, dirty hippies who opposed it.

There may be disagreements within the DLC-nexus of pundits from time to time, but as we can see form the DLC-nexus pundits are dealing with the current schism over escalation, maintaining the power and image of the punditry nexus itself is more important than any short term schism. For Joe Klein and Fred Hyatt, the most important point is that the people who wrongly support escalation are still serious and worthy of our attention. They are not, heaven forbid, any of those unserious, dirty fucking hippies who are not worthy of serious attention.
Update: Greg Sargent has another theory. He thinks Joe Klein just wants to think he's courageous. That's why he assume that liberals who oppose the surge must have nefarious motives.

Here's a possible answer, and it's something you see this again and again in today's pundits. It's not enough for them to be getting six-figure salaries to spout their opinions; to be feted at cocktail parties; invited on TV chat shows; sucked up to by star-struck underlings; and constantly told by colleagues how incisive and witty their latest effort was. No, they also need to feel that they are brave and heroic in holding their opinions, too.

To look into the mirror and see a brave and heroic pundit staring back, of course, you need to flatter yourself into believing that you're challenging entrenched ideas and the people who hold them in some way, even if you aren't. This impression can be created in several ways. One is to simply dream up a whole class of people, claim they hold "extreme" opinions based on nothing at all, and set yourself up as a lonely warrior against them -- preferably while standing shoulder to shoulder with other lonely heroes of moderation like John McCain and Joe Lieberman. That's David Broder's preferred approach. Another way is to dream up a whole series of nefarious but nonexistent motives driving colleagues' opinions, so that you can deprive those colleagues of credit for those opinions, and position yourself as, again, braver and more heroic than they are -- even though you agree with them. That is Klein's approach -- and I submit that at bottom it's all about vanity.

Klein issued a challenge in his column today that was deftly handled by Boo Man. So here's a challenge for Klein: Back up your arguments with facts and evidence. Produce one example of someone whose comments betray the fact that they're tacitly rooting for American failure. Quote this person. Explain why this person's quotes should be interpreted that way. And finally, explain why that one person's motives reveal those of the whole class of people you're so dedicated to disparaging.

Update: Kevin Drum has no idea what's gone wrong with Joe Klein.
Klein knows this perfectly well, just as he knows that the "motivating force" behind the surge almost certainly doesn't come from "military intellectuals" anyway. It comes from George Bush and Dick Cheney, who are casting around for something -- anything -- to fend off calls for withdrawal, and are desperately latching on to the tiny number of people who believe (or claim to believe) that a surge will work.

Why Klein pretends otherwise I don't know. Today, though, he goes from merely incoherent to completely flipped out. Unhappy at being criticized, and apparently unable to marshal any further arguments for his case, he lashes out:

And so a challenge to those who slagged me in their comments. Can you honestly say the following:

Even though I disagree with this escalation, I am hoping that General Petraeus succeeds in calming down Baghdad.

Does the thought even cross your mind?

I'd like to respond with some kind of snappy comment here, but words fail me. I suspect Klein would be better off if words failed him too.

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