The latest from Joe Klein brings something to mind.

Colonel Lucas: Your mission is to proceed up the Nung River in a Navy patrol boat. Pick up Colonel Kurtz’s path at Nu Mung Ba, follow it and learn what you can along the way. When you find the Colonel, infiltrate his team by whatever means available and terminate the Colonel’s command.
Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Terminate the Colonel.
General Corman: He’s out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
Civilian: Terminate with extreme prejudice.
Colonel Lucas: You understand Captain that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist.

There is a real sense now in which Joe Klein has crossed over the line between what we might term ‘civilization’ and outright journalistic barbarism. We all know that the information about Iran’s shutdown of their nuclear program has been around for over a year and that Dick Cheney fought tooth and nail to keep it out of the 2007 NIE. Yet, Klein goes on teevee and says:

KLEIN: The Bush reaction to this — he didn’t try to block it. He didn’t try to postpone it. He didn’t spend weeks, he didn’t ask the intelligence community ‘give me a couple of weeks, let’s see if we can figure out some kind of negotiating initiative or some way to respond to this.’ He didn’t try to spin it to our advantage. This is an amazing moment of candor by the United States.

What can one say? Klein’s methods are clearly unsound.

Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: Did they say why, Willard, why they want to terminate my command?
Captain Benjamin L. Willard: I was sent on a classified mission, sir.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: It’s no longer classified, is it? Did they tell you?
Captain Benjamin L. Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Captain Benjamin L. Willard: I don’t see any method at all, sir.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: I expected someone like you. What did you expect? …Are you an assassin?
Captain Benjamin L. Willard: I’m a soldier.
Colonel Walter E. Kurtz: You’re neither. You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

And maybe that is how Klein sees the blogosphere. We pesky fact checkers. Are we nothing more than errand boys, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill? Is that what Klein thinks? Because I can’t understand how else he can feel comfortable operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable journalistic conduct.

But, maybe, just maybe, Joe Klein wants it all to end. Maybe is sabotaging his own career. What inner demons are driving this man?

Captain Benjamin L. Willard: Everybody wanted me to do it [kill Kurtz], him most of all. I felt like he was up there, waiting for me to take the pain away. He just wanted to go out like a soldier, standing up, not like some poor, wasted, rag-assed renegade. Even the jungle wanted him dead, and that’s who he really took his orders from anyway.

Joe Klein is exhausted. It can’t be long before he declares ‘exterminate all the brutes’ and is forced into retirement.

All Europe contributed to the making of Kurtz; and by and by I learned that, most appropriately, the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had intrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! But this must have been before his — let us say — nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which — as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times — were offered up to him — do you understand? — to Mr. Kurtz himself. But it was a beautiful piece of writing.

The opening paragraph, however, in the light of later information, strikes me now as ominous. He began with the argument that we whites, from the point of development we had arrived at, ‘must necessarily appear to them [savages] in the nature of supernatural beings — we approach them with the might of a deity,’ and so on, and so on. ‘By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded,’ etc., etc. From that point he soared and took me with him.

The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember, you know. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence — of words — of burning noble words. There were no practical hints to interrupt the magic current of phrases, unless a kind of note at the foot of the last page, scrawled evidently much later, in an unsteady hand, may be regarded as the exposition of a method. It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’ The curious part was that he had apparently forgotten all about that valuable postscriptum, because, later on, when he in a sense came to himself, he repeatedly entreated me to take good care of ‘my pamphlet’ (he called it), as it was sure to have in the future a good influence upon his career. I had full information about all these things, and, besides, as it turned out, I was to have the care of his memory.

Yes. I think Joe Klein is going mad.

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