Klein unbound


Everyone’s talking about this Joe Klein rant on Time‘s political blog. You’ll probably want to read it, unless you’re a McCain fan, in which case at least it’ll give you something to get angry about. Small excerpt:

But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the “putting America first” front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used.

There’s a lot more.


Klein unbound

  1. As a bit of background reading for this rant, it worth digging up Mark Steyn’s review of Politics Lost. The book is essentially a paen for the “lost authenticity” of American politics, and Klein clearly had a bit of a crush on McCain, who he saw as one of the last “authentics.”

    But here’s his concluding graph, which I think gets to the heart of Klein’s political dreamscape:

    “If you think politics is about great men, you’re bound to be disappointed — at least in a democracy. The present disenchantment south of the border arises in part because in Washington the alleged greatness of the “great men” has become entirely unmoored from the great questions of the day. It’s like watching a sporting fixture where you can no longer tell what game they’re playing. Seeming “presidential” and having a “Turnip Day” moment are fine and dandy, but at this moment a great man is only as great as his sense of the times.”

  2. note — the quoted pgph in the above comment is the last graph from Steyn’s review, not Klein’s book.

  3. Klein may be right, but it’s a bit rich to hear him criticize McCain for questioning Obama’s patriotism when, in the past month, he’s accused “neoconservatives” of being traitors beholden to Israel and/or Georgia, depending, apparently, on his mood.

  4. Obama and his surrogates have to be the most thin skinned bunch ever to make a run for national office. Accusing a candidate of “not putting America first”, or some variant thereof, is about the most generic attack line going. It is certainly no worse, and no more disingenuous, than the “third Bush/Cheney term” line Obama uses on McCain. I know that Joe Klein would prefer that McCain go out and play the role of the nice, non-threatening GOP candidate who puts up only token resistance to Barack’s march to glory. That way, they can say nice things about him after he has safely been defeated. Well, guess what? McCain is actually playing to win. To quote Apollo Creed’s trainer in Rocky, “He doesn’t know this is a show — he thinks this is a fight.” Klein’s moral outrage seems highly selective.

  5. I’m quite sure that John McCain stated that he wanted John McCain to go out and play the role of the nice, non-threatening GOP candidate. Certainly he did when he thought he would be running against Hillary Clinton. But you’re right, Dennis Prouse, nothing says “playing to win” quite like charges of treason.

    Nice Apollo Creed reference too. Maybe Mark Penn is hiring?

  6. Klein gets credit for pointing to the real villian in all this, who provides the conduit from fringe-right blogs to Simon & Schuster. Thanks, Carville family!

  7. Klein’s writings have been a source of much amusement this year.

    But what’s been most disappointing — or most amusing — is watching the two most self-righteous pols in their respective parties end up with the nominations and then slowly but surely lose their halos. (In a Canadian context, it’s not unlike what we’re seeing with Harper and Dion.)

    For someone who has admired both men on occasion (and who admired both leaders of the major Canadian political parties), this has been a salutary experience.

    Politicians are politicians. They occasionally rise to greatness, but not often, and it’s seen only in retrospect.

    I keep on forgetting that, and I keep on having to re-learn it.

  8. I was pleased by Klein’s rant — something that needed to be said, said very well, and with appropriate emotion.

  9. A McCainiac doesn’t get angry reading this. Sounds like someone at the end of his fuse and its good to know your opponents – before the coventions – are at the end of their fuse.

  10. “Everyone’s talking about this Joe Klein rant on Time’s political blog.”

    Are they saying, wow, Klein has become a bit unhinged this presidential cycle.

    There’s no doubt in my mind Klein is a big Obama supporter and is a bit worried his man has feet of clay. The democrats are fighting the last election by being so worried about being swift-boated again when that was an entirely unique situation. The guys who came after Kerry were his wartime colleagues and they questioned his service but they didn’t do it anonymously.

    I have not read Corsi’s book but it seems to me that its just another book filled with innuendo, facts and gossip that criticizes Obama. There is an obvious plan on the democrats part to hit back hard on any accusation but I think they are over-reacting to this book. There was nothing in it that we didn’t know already but now it’s a bestseller.

  11. But we’re not seeing those sorts of claims being made about McCain this year…because Democrats tend not to do that sort of thing.

    It might be a nice rant if it didn’t have this big boner of a lie in it.

  12. It’s a silly rant. Eric-Vancouver makes a good point.

    There’s other lies. He claims that Fox News bias is somehow unique.

    This is after the NY Times posted a front-page story about a McCain affair, when there was absolutely no evidence (during the primary season).

    Meanwhile, there was plenty of evidence that Edwards had an affair while his wife was suffering from cancer, yet the only news organization to investigate was the National Enquirer.

    Time magazine is a rag these days, with the dumbest writing in the western hemisphere.

  13. Now let’s see. If, according to Klein’s logic, the author of the Obama hatchet job is a McCain surrogate for attacking his preferred candidate, wouldn’t it also be fair to say that Joe Klein, with his nauseatingly sycophantic treatment of Obama and tendency to get hysterical at anyone who questions his greatness, should be considered an official surrogate of the Obama campaign, and that Barack Obama should be held directly accountable every time he accuses a Republican of being racist/un-patriotic/evil etc.

  14. If only people who can’t read could resist the urge to write.

  15. Accusing a candidate of “not putting America first”, or some variant thereof, is about the most generic attack line going. It is certainly no worse, and no more disingenuous, than the “third Bush/Cheney term” line Obama uses on McCain.



    Because to me, saying that a candidate for the Presidency “doesn’t put America first” (begging the question, what does this man place before his country?) is tantamount to calling him a traitor. Or at the very least it is to accuse him of being insufficiently patriotic to the point that his utter lack patriotism would invalidate his suitability to hold the office of President.

    Meanwhile, “third term of Cheney and Bush” merely implies that the candidate plans to continue to pursue the policies of the current Republican administration.

    Oh, wait, now I see. You’re saying that continuing the policies of the current Republican administration would be tantamount to treason (or that at the very least it would be unpatriotic).


    I’ll buy that.

  16. Funny, I’ve always thought the point of the “doesn’t put America first” type of attack was to give all the mini-Limbaughs who populate right-wing radio a common talking point.

    McCain has a bit of a dilemma in that he’s always been much more centrist than most of his party. This is good for the general election, but he tried to look like a real right-wing hawk in the primaries. I can see why his McCain & his supporters will go strong on personality, character & experience & not policy, where Obama has been more consistent.

  17. “McCain has a bit of a dilemma in that he’s always been much more centrist than most of his party.”

    His voting record on social and economic matters says otherwise. McCain has always PORTRAYED himself as a centrist but the man is very much a rightwinger, make no mistake about that.

    Remember when Bush Jr was promoting himself as a “compassionate conservative” in the 2000 election? The press was suggesting at the time that he was in fact more of a centrist and people fell for it then.

    I’m hoping that mistakes of the past won’t be repeated here.

  18. The “not putting America first” line is very similar to the Liberal Party of Canada line “Conservatives do not support Canadian values” which they threw out left and right, particularly in the election won by Paul Martin.

    Hardly anything new.

    I gotta admit though, the tactic is infuriating. It’s infuriating in a democracy to declare that some ideas are out of bounds, notably those ideas held by your opponent.

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