Sunday, April 16, 2006

Joke Klein left jabs

Joe Klein, who's grown into the Joke as Time Magazine's "most liberal columnist," took the opportunity at a breakfast book party to beat up on Democrats. On their chances of winning mid-term elections, Klein hit below the belt:

Well they won't if their message is that they hate America--which is what has been the message of the liberal wing of the party for the past twenty years.
Whoa. Them's fighting words. Naturally, left-leaning Eric Alterman, one of the attendees at the Tina Brown soireƩ, gloved up to conspicuously put Joke on the ropes while grazing Klein's not-so liberal glass jaw. Round one.

Joke then defended his position with a bitch slap to the faces of liberals and Democrats:
There is a crucial difference between liberals and leftists, especially on foreign policy--even though Republicans (and leftist-wingers) have successfully conflated the two over the past few decades. The default position of leftists like, say, Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation, is that America is essentially a malignant, imperialistic force in the world and the use of American military power is almost always wrong.
No, Joke, leftists don't think use of force is almost always wrong--unless he means a slim minority such as Quakers. What about invading countries that don't pose grave national security threats over more pressing challenges: port security, Afghanistan, and catching Osama? That's wrong but Klein forgets that 9/11 changed everything (heh) and he conveniently ignored how resolutely we all stood together to oust the Taliban; a vote of 98 to 0 senators and 420 to 1 congressional reps authorized the Afghanistan offensive. An overwhelming majority of Democrats and self-identified liberals--84%--favored "military action" after 9/11, including 75% if it meant "going to war with a nation that is harboring those responsible." Joke tries to dismiss the effects of the Right's megaphone in transforming "liberal" into a dirty word; a quest that began decades ago hastened by the ascendency of Reagan-Bush, GOP pandering to evangelicals, shrieking radio troglodytes, and SCLM cheering for the red-state corner. Illegal war-hating liberals and leftists? Ah, they get what they deserve in Joke's world even if the fight's been rigged.

Alterman, named in Klein's backhanded liberal attack, smacked him squarely on the nose:
"Michael Moore and many writers at The Nation" are not a "wing" of the Democratic Party: They are not even in the Democratic Party, as far as I know. (I also don't accept that they "hate America," well, except Alexander Cockburn.) I know Moore was a vocal supporter of Ralph Nader in 2000 as were the people at The Nation to whom--I assume--Klein refers. When one speaks of the "left wing" of the party--that is, people who are running for office which was the clear context of the discussion--one is clearly referring to the likes of Ted Kennedy, Russell Feingold, Barney Frank, and the late Paul Wellstone. Those are the people whom everyone at the assembled breakfast understood Klein to be smearing, as he has done repeatedly in Time and elsewhere.
Jane Smiley piled on and banged the Joke up pretty good. Get out the smelling salts:
I'd like to know, what is an "America-hater"? How come the words "America-hater" always come up when we're talking about people on the left and never come up when we're talking about, say, that percentage of the US population who believes that the world is going to end and they are going to be "raptured up", leaving those Americans who disagree with them behind to suffer indescribable torments on, I suppose, American soil?
Or how about this--was Martin Luther King "an America-hater" like Michael Moore, because he recognized that the US was a two-track nation, with an opportunity track for white people and a dead-end track for black people, and he wanted to change it? Was Woody Guthrie an "America-hater" because he wrote songs like "Deportee" and "This Land is Your Land" and my favorite, "Do Re Me"? Do you qualify as an America-hater if, as I did, you wept at the election of Ronald Reagan, because you knew that the take-over of the government by the corporations was imminent? And speaking of that, why don't you refer to companies who don't pay their corporate income taxes as "America-haters"? Isn't a person who maintains that "Capital" has to be free to move around the world, and can't be kept in America an "America-hater"? And with regard to taxes--there are lots of people on the right in America who hate to pay taxes, who have made a political movement out of not wanting to pay taxes, who gutted the enforcement branch of the IRS in the nineties (I'm talking about Gingrich and his cronies). I think people, especially rich people, who aren't willing to pay taxes ("Club for Growth") hate America, don't you? Let's talk about The Nation magazine. You are willing to specifically designate the writers of The Nation as "America-haters". I read every issue of The Nation. Many times those writers do deplore things that are happening in America, like the rise of the anti-choice movement or the loss of American influence for good in the world because of a failed, misconceived, and tragic war in Iraq, or the closing of the separation between the church and state in America, but does wanting America to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing qualify as "America-hating"?
Whew. Smiley has a mean right hook. More pummeling here. I also jumped in at HuffPost in the late rounds. By then the pile-on had caused a very long delay in comments posting. Mine ended up on six of eight pages. A clip:
The insane misperception that Republicans have the edge on foreign policy comes out of the mouths of GOP apparatchiks and media snoutlets. Democrats can't get traction on national security when so-called journalists and pundits quake over losing some insider connection at the White House or the Hill and malign liberals with jibber jabber or bury the truth. Look in the mirror, Joe. You jockeying for a job at Fox News?
Since the neoconservatives have grabbed the levers of power, some Americans have joined you in jumping the shark or succumbed to propaganda and Republican misguidance. Others of us who dearly love our country fight to return her to glory as a champion of democracy. We can elicit respect in the world while carrying "a big stick." It's hard work that requires smart heads but liberals are up to that task. Republicans? I don't think so. They're busy parceling off America to the highest bidder. It is time for responsible adults [to lead]. If you think criticism, even an acid bath of rhetoric toward U.S. foreign policy under hawkish neoconning imperialism is hatred for America, you, sir, have some maturing and soul-searching to do.
How much longer can Time afford to keep Joke the Lefty Loser in the fight? Maybe the editors don't care.

UPDATE: The inconquerable Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake lifts Klein off his toes with a righteous body-jarring blow over his Newtie idol worship. FDL also provides us with a handy list of other sluggers who knocked Joke out over his forked-tongue diatribe at HuffPost.