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Hack Watch: Joe Klein

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By Ben Cohen

Joe Klein is the most sophisticated of political hacks, a sharp minded analyst with no fixed values and a thirst for relevance. Apparently a Democrat, Klein has spent most of his career advocating the 'Third Way' for his party. A major player in the 90's, selling out to the business community and adopting right wing national security policies was the order of the day, and Klein reveled in lecturing Democrats on giving up their core values.

Glenn Greenwald  on recently bashed Klein for his support for government wiretapping, provoking others in the blogosphere to hammer him for his continued dedication to triangulating on the issues.

Not to be left out, The Daily Banter did some digging on Klein, and surprise surprise, we found an even deeper commitment to political hackery.

In a brilliant expose earlier this year, Arianna Huffington took Klein to task for revisionist journalism when the political pundit pretended that he had opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. Wrote Huffington:

"While offering his Time blog take
on the Sunday show appearances of John McCain, Chuck Hagel, and John
Edwards, Joe Klein once again made the claim that he opposed the war in
Iraq from the beginning. Speaking of McCain he said: "I disagreed with
him about going to war in 2003..."

"But here is Klein on Meet the Press in February 2003:  "This is a really tough decision. War may well be the right decision at
this point. In fact, I think it--it's--it-it probably is." When Tim
Russert presses Klein on why he thinks Iraq is "the right war," Klein
responds, "Because sooner or later, this guy has to be taken out.
Saddam has -- Saddam Hussein has to be taken out... The message has to
be sent because if it isn't sent now, if we don't do this now, it
empowers every would-be Saddam out there and every would-be terrorist
out there."

In a response to Huffington's piece, Klein fired back on his Time blog:

"Yes, I said it. It was a moment of stupid weakness on the brink of war.
It was clear to me that we were going to war and I was--again,
stupidly--thinking aloud, trying out--did I say, stupidly?--a position
I had never taken before and never would again. I was wrong. Period."

He continued:

"Granted, I was not a fire-breathing antiwar bravo. I didn't say, "This
is criminally stupid." I had my doubts about my skepticism about the
war, as evidenced by my remarks--did I say they were stupid?--on Meet
The Press"

Klein then went on to attack Huffington, calling her the 'Doyenne of
the Hollywood left
', and inferring that her critique was "a need, born of intellecual myopia and insecurity, to burn heretics".

lines like "I had my doubts about my skepticism", it is easy to see why
people do not take Klein seriously any more. However, the corporate
press are not nearly so discerning, and Klein still makes the rounds on
all the big shows and continues to write for 'Time Magazine'. Not
content with Klein with ruining his credibility on Iraq, he then sought
to flop all over the place on Iran.

'Crooks and Liars' reported that on April 16th, 2006 Klein appeared
on THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos to talk about Iran. Said Klein:

"We should not take any option including the use of nuclear, tactical nuclear weapons off the table"

A few weeks later Klein reversed his position on his blog for Times Magazine. Sort of.

"A few weeks ago, I made a mistake while bloviating on the Sunday
morning television program This Week With George Stephanopoulos",
he said.
"I said that all military options, including the use of tactical nuclear
weapons, should remain on the table in our future dealings with Iran. I
was wrong on three counts.

If you thought Klein was bravely accepting the errors of his ways, you would be sadly mistaken. He continues:

"My words were a technical violation of a long-standing protocol:
A diplomat friend tells me that while it is appropriate to say, "All
options should remain on the table," the direct mention of nukes —
especially any hint of the first use of nukes — is, as Stephanopoulos
correctly said, "crossing a line." If George had asked, "What about
nukes?" the diplomatic protocol would have been to tapdance: "I can't
imagine ever having to use nuclear weapons," or some such, leaving the
nuclear door open, but never saying so specifically. In truth, I was
trying to make the same point, undiplomatically-..."

If anyone other than Joe Klein can understand this piece of verbal
gymnastics, The Daily Banter would like to offer them a cash prize. The
point of course, is that Klein speaks a language that only he and his
beltway pundit chums can understand. Much like resolution U.N
resolution 1441
that supposedly gave the U.S and U.K the right to
invade Iraq, Klein is attempting to restore his credibility by
obscuring his original statement and linking it to something vaguely
official sounding.

Following Bush Administration tactic of diversion, Klein continues to excuse himself by attacking the Left.

"There's been a growing sense that since Republicans resort to
disgraceful tactics — the impeachment of Bill Clinton, questioning the
war records of candidates (John Kerry, Max Cleland) who happen to be
Democrats — Democrats should respond in kind, call for the impeachment
of George W. Bush and resort to demagoguery whenever plausible."

And here Klein really falls flat on his face. Drawing an analogy
between calling for the impeachment of Bill Clinton and George Bush is
so ridiculous it is barely worth examining. Bush has systematically lied
to the American people, illegally invaded two sovereign nations,
embarked upon an unconstitutional wiretapping program, dismantled
environmental regulation and destroyed America's standing in the world.
If that is not grounds for impeachment, then it is not clear what is.

Always ready to tell the left what it should be thinking, perhaps Klein could 'bloviate' on what he believes is worthy of impeachment. He'll probably change his mind later, but of course, that would only be a technicality easily reversed.