Saturday, November 04, 2006

Joe Klein Brings It
Just Like Old Days

Joe Klein is a byline that political junkies have known for years. He got his start a long time ago with Rolling Stone, covering the culture in fresh, imaginative ways, presumably channeling the house icon, Hunter Thompson. He later moved on to New York Magazine, where he famously fell in love with then-longshot presidential candidate Bill Clinton. His worshipful but nevertheless insightful coverage of the man helped introduce the future president to the larger media pack, and helped launch him higher still. Later, Klein spent some time with the New Yorker, writing its venerable column from Washington, where one would presumably expect him to stay, having climbed to the top, the absolute summit, of journalism's food chain.

But for reasons that only he can know, he decided a few years ago to decamp to Time Magazine. Time Magazine? That toothless, middlebrow newsweekly, a pub still living on its founder's fumes decades later? I, for one, thought him in need of a shrink. But Time can surprise you. It's consistently interesting these days, packed with good reporting and good writing, full of stories I don't see anywhere else. Once less interesting than rival Newsweek, I think it's now far better. Anyway, Klein can still be maddeningly obtuse in his Boomer enthusiasm for centrist Democrats (The New Republic did a splendid takedown of him a few months ago, on the occasion of his latest book). But his column in the current issue of Time, its election preview issue, shows that he can still bring the heat. Just listen to how he gets started:

First, the Republicans tried to attack Democrats on national security, their old, reliable soft-on-terrorism gambit. But that didn't work, in part because George W. Bush's own National Intelligence Council issued a report that said the Administration's policies were probably adding to the sum total of terrorists in the world. Then the Republicans tried to accuse Democrats of being soft on illegal immigrants. But that didn't work because the President himself was notoriously humane on immigration—and it was the Republican Congress that had failed to produce a tough immigration bill. In recent weeks, the Republicans unwrapped another moldy chestnut, advertisements proclaiming that Democrats will raise taxes. But that didn't seem to be working either because voters were focused on Iraq and Mark Foley. And so last week the Republicans unleashed a series of ads painting the Democrats as sex-crazed, homosexual-loving, porn-perusing—and in the case of the novelist and Virginia Senate candidate Jim Webb, porn-writing—perverts. It was vivid proof that the prospect of a hanging doesn't always concentrate the mind. Sometimes it leads to feral, piss-pants desperation.

5 Comments:

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Jill said...

Those last four words alone...

 
At 8:31 AM, Blogger Daniella said...

John,

I also noticed a big improvement in Times Magazine and a marked deterioration in Newsweeks. I enjoyed reading Klein's article but I must say I wish someone would address the new carpetbaggers, the War Profiters, it seems to me that this is a subject that no one wants to touch.

Thanks again for yet another excellent post.

 
At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Roldo Bartimole said...

John, I have to disagree with you on Klein's column.

The most relevant theme of this election cycle is that despite all the information on the incredible disaster caused by the Bush Administration in Iraq and elsewhere, that still, in the media and in the voters, there isn't an avalanche of outright disgust and rage.

The American press and the American people have not come to grips with the criminality of this country's actions.

The just released Vanity Fair peek into the neocons recognition of the incompetence of the conduct of the war (as they run for cover) suggests that there shouldn't even be a hint of a close election, as exist in so many of the races this year.

Republicans should face the loss of record proportions if the media had been reflecting reality.

Tom Friedman's column (in PD today) is a perfect example of those who should have known better now trying to protect their asses from their original war hawk positions by talking tough as they see the results of their war drumming.

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

It was precisely those last four words that attracted me to this passage, Jill. It's a time-tested principle that when a paragraph ends so strongly, it lends power to the entire paragraph. This bit of writing certainly proves that.

And Daniella, you're right about the war profiteers. But their jig is up. With at least the House soon to be controlled by the opposition party, you can expect the Democratic-controlled committees to begin calling these thieves and their administration enablers to account. I think we're going to have a hell of a lot of sudden accountability. And I hope some of these people eventually go to jail.

 
At 11:51 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I would agree with all of that, Roldo. And I haven't yet seen the new Vanity Fair, but I will look forward to seeing it (In the current issue of Foreign Policy, by the way, a neocon named Joshua Muravchik, of the American Enterprise Institute, takes the opposite tack. He argues that neocons have to get ahold of themselves, and prepare to defend one last unpopular thing: the air strike on Iran's nuclear capability which Bush should and must go through with before he leaves office).

I'm as befuddled as you over why a larger slice of Americans aren't angered by the rampant criminality and shredding of the Constitution by this bunch, though I do think at least a majority is. I'm rather less surprised about the major media, since those who climb to the top of this heap tend to be invertebrate careerists who keep one eye focused on the polls as they report. Though of course there are many brave exceptions, like Paul Krugman and some others that I have tried to highlight here over time. Friedman, of course, as I've written, is an especially appalling weasle, whose reputation has taken a hit lately. But, sadly, he'll no doubt continue to be quite influential, both with general readers and people in power.

 

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