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.