Dear Mr. Joe Klein,
You warn: Beware the Bloggers Bile. I’m afraid that you aren’t quite getting what the problem is with your form of journalmalism.
Let’s start with blogging ethics, though. If you are referring to a story you wrote earlier, link to the permalink, not to the homepage, you dunderhead. I don’t have time to go look up the address for the post where you erroneously reported that Jane Harman voted for funding the war in Iraq.
Now, I understand that Ms. Harman told you she was going to vote for the bill and that she gave you the quote you used. And, it’s understandable that you would not doublecheck to see that she actually voted for the bill before you used her quote. That’s a little careless, but no one would have killed you over it. That is not what got you in trouble. What got you in trouble was the purpose to which you were using the quote. You were using it to make a very specific criticism of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. To wit (emphasis mine):
As readers here know, I would have voted for the bill. Voting against it means you’re in favor of a precipitous departure from Iraq. I’m for a careful departure from Iraq, and an immediate disengagement from the areas of most intense factional fighting like Baghdad…
…It’s difficult, though, to have much respect for Clinton and Obama, who–when you hear them speak–are opposed to an immediate withdrawal, but voted for a measure which, if passed, would force one. You might say, this was a symbolic vote. It wasn’t. It was a political vote.
Yesterday I spoke with Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Ca.)…
Do you see the part up there that is bolded, Mr Klein? That’s the part where you expressed your opinion and your opinion was a right-wing talking point that was neither factually true nor fair and balanced. What you did is assert that a vote against funding the war in a particular bill was also a vote on what kind of strategy we use to withdraw from Iraq. Ask yourself, Mr. Klein, what would have happened if the Iraq Supplemental Bill hadn’t passed on that particular vote?
Do you think Congress would not have regrouped and tried again? How is the failure to pass a bill/law going to effect our strategy for withdrawal? If we take your logic, every senator has some obligation to vote for war spending without any regard for what amendments have been attached to the bill or what amendments failed to get attached to the bill. Sens. Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn voted against the supplemental because it contained earmarks and a minimum wage hike. Were they in favor of ‘a precipitous departure from Iraq’?
So, that is where the trouble started for you, Mr. Klein. It obviously didn’t help that you went on to make your point in a most unfortunate way. Jane Harman may have told you she was voting for the supplemental, but in the end she was scared off the vote by her own constituents. Jane Harman had a tough primary challenge in 2006 and one of the main reasons is that she had a tendency to go on teevee and mouth Republican talking points about things like warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Democrats don’t like that in their representatives. And they don’t like it from journalists…even journalists who think they’re on our side:
A reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren’t you pretty tough on the Bush Administration? Didn’t you write a few months ago that George W. Bush would be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in history?
A reasonable reader might ask, Why the Hell do you keep writing crap like ‘Voting against it means you’re in favor of a precipitous departure from Iraq’? And you are doing it again in your column today.
The spitballs aimed at me don’t matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them. They may be right—in the short (primary election) term; Harman faced a challenge from the left in 2006. In the long term, however, kowtowing to extremists is exactly the opposite of what this country is looking for after the lethal radicalism of the Bush Administration.
It’s funny because it is you, Mr. Klein, who is throwing spitballs at Clinton, Obama, and (now) Jane Harman. We (extremists) are quite pleased with their votes on the supplemental. It was our pressure that got them to vote that way. And you think that is a bad thing.
Now, you have no obligation to ‘move in lockstep with
us the most extreme voices’, despite what you say. You can feel quite strongly that the war in Iraq was just kind of mishandled…botched, if you will. Or you can think that now that we are there we should stay and ‘finish the job’. That’s fine…kind of a Pottery Barn type o’ thing. Or you can think, as Sen. Webb says, ‘that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in.’ Hey! It’d be hard not to do that, now wouldn’t it? Who could disagree?
But you can’t go around saying idiotic shit that could have come directly out of Karl Rove’s mouth. And that is what you do, all the frickin’ time, Joe.
You say you love blogging but you’re bummed that ‘the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere.’ Look, let me try to be tolerant and display some wit. I don’t want to be a bully. You are calling me and most of the rest of the bloggers in the ‘left-wing sector of the blogosphere’…you’re calling us ‘extremists’ and comparing us to Rush Limbaugh. That’s not very nice. It’s also not accurate in the least. First of all, despite the fact that you’re a well paid journalist, I write a LOT more than you do. Ask any reader of this blog how frequently I screw up shit like how a congresswoman voted on a bill and then make that the main point of my posting? You make mistakes like that ALL THE TIME including in the print copy of TIME. You’re lazy. You’re complacent. You run with the pack. You echo mindless talking points from both the right and from the cocktail frankfurter consensus building table. You say exceedingly dumb things like: ‘Voting against it means you’re in favor of a precipitous departure from Iraq.’ That’s a statement so stupid and biased that is begs for intolerance and ridicule. And that’s true whether or not you go on to make a complete fool of yourself by writing:
Yesterday I spoke with Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-Ca.) just back from Iraq, who voted for the bill–as did a majority of Democrats who are not running for President. “Look, I would love to have cast a vote against Bush on this. We need a new strategy and I hope we can force one in September,” she told me. “But I flew into Baghdad on a troop transport with 150 kids, heading into the field. To vote against this bill was to vote against giving them the equipment, the armor they need. I couldn’t do that.”
You see what you did there (besides wrongly claiming a majority of Democrats for your side)? Why did you call Jane Harman in the first place? Because you consider her one of those tough Democrats that bucks the blogosphere and votes like a ‘responsible adult’. And she gave you the quote you thought you could use to contrast her ‘courage’ with Obama and Clinton’s ‘cowardice’. The problem was that Jane Harman turned out to be a ‘coward’, too. It pretty much exploded the sense of your posting. But, you can backtrack, if you want, and use some other congressperson as your example. What won’t change is that a vote against the supplemental was NOT a vote for a precipitous departure from Iraq (however that is defined).
And now to my final point. We’re trying to end this war. You are not. So long as that is the case, and as long as you call us extremists, you are not on our side. You are on the other side…the Bush side. It’s getting lonely over there.