To recap, IOZ feels that Greenwald and I are somewhere between morons and wankers for spending any time exposing Joe Klein. Why? Well…basically because there are bigger fish to fry and getting bogged down in minutiae is at best a waste of time and at worst, counterproductive. We should have long ago realized that that reporters belong to a political class that transcends the two major parties. Yes, they have values and interests, but both parties serve those interests equally well. Therefore, the political writing class has no vested interest in petty things like Social Security or abortion on demand. They want the oil that lies beneath the soil of Iraq, Venezuela, (fill in the blank)…and free trade, low regulation, low taxes, media dominance (consolidation), huge Pentagon expenditures…even a healthy illegal narcotics trade.
If someone like say, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich comes along and questions these priorities they will get slammed equally from reporters on the ‘right’ and on the ‘left’. Any political outlier (see Howard Dean…and he wasn’t much of an outlier, really) is going to get the hatchet. IOZ wants us to know this in case we intend on wasting anymore time participating in a gamed/fixed political system.
Yet, to see how his analysis is too smug by half, all we have to do is look at the way in which he excuses Joe Klein’s anti-Clinton behavior as somehow meaningless.
He starts with an observation I have made many times.
Bill Clinton, rightly or wrongly, was percieved by a powerful segment of what Didion calls the “permanent political class” as a usurper, and was dealt with accordingly. He was neither the first nor the last “pretender to the throne.” It isn’t without reason that the phrase “palace coup” retains currency. The chauvinism, the legalism, the obscurantism, the piety, the concern with “effective governance,” and even the petty “he came into this place, and it was not his place, and he trashed it”–all of these are features of a ruling class seeking to regulate itself, of one party to power jockeying against another party to power. Inevitably the pamphleteers take sides, and most took the side of the “movement” and not of the Clintons. Does that make them propagandists against the government?
The quick answer to this is ‘yes’. In the case of Bill Clinton, a sitting U.S. president, these pamphleteers were indeed ‘against the government’. What IOZ means is that they were for something more permanent…a set of assumptions and precedents and ways of doing things…in short, an apple cart. They were for the apple cart. George H.W. Bush understood the apple cart. Bill Clinton did not. Which, is strongly supportive of my original point that the corporate press cannot be described as reliable shills for whatever government happens to be in power, but only as reliable shills for certain things they would like the government in power to do.
But, back to Joe Klein, IOZ says:
Joe Klein–we’ll come back to the example–has written quite unflatteringly about George W. Bush as well. If his put-downs lacked the personal animus that motivated his hatred of Bill Clinton, then that is a matter of personality but not of substance. He is a member of a privileged class that has some say over the faceman for America, and like anyone given that sort of power, he exercises it, especially when he can excercise it from within the safety of a “movement” and of his peers. But you will not find him questioning the percieved imperatives for the maintenance of American power. Instead, you will find him on the news speculating that it may just be time to drop a nuclear bomb on Iran.
That is a very clever and witty way of ending his essay, but it correctly accuses Klein of shilling for the ‘maintenance of American power’…not of shilling for ‘the government’. Joe Klein is consistent in criticizing Democrats while purporting to be a Democrat. He fills a role, or niche, in the political class that is not strictly loyal to either party, but that represents values that are more consistently espoused by the Republicans. Add to this that the rabble…the Democratic rabble…are the only real, potential threat to the interests that Klein’s class really cares about…and you begin to understand why there are several false dichotomies set out for us in the media between the right-wing and the center-right.
Has IOZ missed the hole in his argument?
Bill Clinton was the president but he wasn’t part of ‘the movement’. The press-class sensed this and attempted to expel him from the host. Of course, they failed. By IOZ’s own logic it is possible to inject a foreign object into the White House that is resistant to all antibodies.
Except, IOZ has it all figured out. If you cover all sides you can create a tautology and you’ll never be proven wrong. It turns out that Bill Clinton actually was a member of the club.
Looking objectively at the tenure of Bill Clinton, what is most remarkable, especially in the present atmosphere that judges George W. Bush as deeply aberrant, is the continuity of policy in the very military and economic practices in which Bush is supposed to be such an outlier. The system of State Capital functioned much as it does now; Clinton’s policy toward Iraq and the Middle East was entirely continuous with both Bush Sr. and Bush Jr–if you look at the deeds, rather than the rhetoric, it’s a stunningly clean bridge between the two. “Terrorism” and the necessity of extralegal solutions, harsher penalties, military options were current then as now. Acts of imperial policing were dressed up as essentially humanitarian actions. The domestic security apparatus grew swiftly and dangerously. Clinton didn’t mess with harsh drug-war persecution; he was famously “law and order”…
Whether you choose to believe this or not it is all very true (and the main reason I feel strongly opposed to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton). How could it be that we elected an outsider and he wound up being an insider who wouldn’t upset the apple cart?
The answer is either a) that he wasn’t an outsider at all, or b) he had to adapt to survive. Choose your poison.
The important point is that the media class (as exemplified by Klein) will always fight for their interests. What they do can can be accurately described as a whipping operation to make sure that both political parties will squabble over a narrow patch of turf that is safely within the confines of the Establishment’s comfort zone.
Therefore, David Broder will endorse McCain as reliably as the sun will set in the West and Joe Klein will bash any Democrat that is less than steadfast in their commitment to empire. And Friedman will tell you that the world is flat and your job isn’t worth a damn. It’s a game, but it’s not a foolproof game. Yeah, sometimes it takes a fluke (like Watergate) to give you a Jimmy Carter. And it’s true that the Establishment can make life very difficult for any Carter, Clinton, Dean, or Obama/Edwards that gets strange ideas in their head. Assassination is not unknown in this country…
But we are not powerless, not should we lie down just because the odds are long and the gains are always perilously and heartbreakingly at risk.
After all, we can’t just sit around.