It's the Democracy, Stupid?

One of the most offensive tendencies of beleaguered establishmentarians faced with the utter collapse of their precious conventional wisdom is to bemoan—or to rethink, they might protest—this brilliant representative democracy bequeathed to us by the Founders in unabashedly elitist tones. To be sure, this line of thinking often bears the appearance of innocuous experimental thought but bespeaks, at best, fecklessness, and more likely are signs of intellectual depravity. As a liberal—affected by what may be called trademark self-flagellation—I am wont to focus on this insidious tic when it is found on the left. Conservatives and reactionaries craving for the relative warmth of authoritarianism is, to me, rather unsurprising and therefore barely worth noting. What can we expect from “small-government” folk with a nary a peep to say about the warrantless surveillance of American citizens or the stupid morality of strictly-enforced marijuana prohibition?

I can think of at least three prominent liberals that gave voice to this dangerous nonsense recently—the first of whom is quite brilliant: Woody Allen (Manhattan, Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors—I mean, c’mon!); Tom Friedman, the unfortunate suck-up; and Joe Klein in Time magazine just today.

I had been minding my own business, reading Time’s mild-mannered attempt to explain what has come to be regarded as Barack Obama’s stunning failure as president, when the title “How Can a Democracy Solve Tough Problems?” on the right side of the screen seemed to lunge at me. (Who knew the unlikely symbiosis of ganja and righteous indignation could be that kickass?)

If you asked me, what's the most disappointing thing Barack Obama has done as President? I'd say, He appointed a "blue-ribbon" commission to study the federal deficit. I mean, how boring and worthy and worthless! Such commissions are an instant admission of defeat: We lack the political will to deal with (insert long-term crisis here), so we're appointing a blue-ribbon commission to study it. The process is inevitable, especially in these days of rising partisan contentiousness. A consensus won't be reached on the really tough issues. A high-minded, peripheral idea or two may emerge — frosting on a soap bubble — and then evaporate ... or worse, actually be implemented, as was the 9/11 commission's foolishly redundant suggestion of a Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI), plopped atop the CIA and military spook agencies. No doubt yet another commission will eventually be appointed to study abolishing the DNI.

Let’s rest here for a second. While this represents a digression from our main point here, Joe Klein’s treatment of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform as some sort of passing joke requires special attention and derision. Rather than being a source of amusement, this commission is a sinister assembly co-chaired by former senator Al Simpson (who’s more like the comically evil Creed Bratton than Homer’s dad as far as I’m concerned) and includes the likes of Paul Ryan, the House Republicans’ resident budget wonk. (Yes, there’s only one—and even he demonstrates how carelessly that encomium is bestowed these days.)

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The Sad State of American Journalism

This is Joe Klein of Time magazine writing in his blog, Swampland on Pakistan's capitulation in Swat Valley:
This is terrible news. The Pakistani government has essentially given control of the Swat Valley to the Taliban. It means that the Taliban are now 100 miles from Islamabad and the military center of Rawalpindi. It also means that Pakistan's Northwest Province is well on its way to becoming what Afghanistan used to be--a sanctuary for Al Qaeda and related terrorists.

As if this happened yesterday or as if the Pakistani government had much of a choice in matter. The Pakistani government did not give "control" of Swat to the Taliban, the Taliban took control of Swat months ago. This is just the best deal the Pakistani authorities could strike with the Tehrik-e-Nifaz Shariat Muhammadi which is the group that controls the Swat Valley. It's de jure recognition of a de facto condition. As for the rest of that inane paragraph, elements of the Taliban are in Islamabad. Check the local madrassas. You'll find them there. That last sentence is simply laughable. Time pays for this? Where has Joe Klein been? Pakistan has been a sanctuary for "Al-Qaeda and related terrorists" for over two decades. 

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Joe Klein Loses Spot On McCain Plane For Being DFH

Oh the irony.

During the primary and well before, Joe Klein was one of the top purveyors of the virtues of so-called bi-partisanship, which really just means Democrats giving in to whatever Republicans want. For Joe Klein, this has meant the deification of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Bloomberg and, yes, John McCain. The blogs have spent many a pixel trashing Klein for it, even giving him a pet name, Joke Line, and it was clear, a mutual contempt society had been born.

But then something happened. John McCain's campaign started to go off the rails and began to regularly betray anything honorable that may have once existed in the old McCain. And Joe Klein, in his capacity as blogger for Swampland, called McCain on it. In fact, Klein has issued some of the most scathing commentary about McCain during this election season. Take his last Swampland post, for example:

John McCain had a fabulously loony weekend, flipping out charges and attacks like a mud tornado. The truly remarkable thing about McCain's attacks, especially on Obama's economic policies, is that McCain, in each case, is "guilty" of supporting some version of the policies he's attacking:

1. He attacks Obama for increasing "welfare" by providing refundable tax credits--that is giving people the cash equivalent if they don't pay enough in income taxes to reap the full benefit of the credit--but McCain's own $5000 health insurance credit is also refundable.

2. He attacks Obama for spreading "socialism," but McCain supported the bailout that enabled the Bush Administration to partially nationalize the banking system last week. If that ain't a (very mild) form of socialism, I don't know what is.

3. He attacks Obama's tax plan as a form of "spreading the wealth"--the words Obama used when talking to Joe the Unlicensed Tax Dodger in Ohio--because Obama would reduce taxes on the middle class and pay for it by restoring Clinton-era marginal tax rates on the wealthy. And yet, McCain proudly voted for a major tax hike and wealth redistribution scheme in his early days in his early days in Congress.

So what does Klein get for speaking the truth on his blog? Access to John McCain's press plane DENIED.

From Politico:

Time columnist Joe Klein, who's been a forceful critic of the McCain campaign (and already said he's unwilling to accept a post-election apology), has found himself without a seat on the McCain or Palin planes the past four months.

In June, Klein was kept from boarding the McCain plane over what they said had been a security issue. More recently, when trying to fly on the Palin plane last week, Klein told Politico over e-mail that the campaign's response was he "couldn't be accommodated at this time."

"I've done nine presidential campaigns and this is the first time this has ever happened to me," Klein said. "I was even allowed--I won't say welcomed--on the Clinton plane in the summer of 1996 after I was revealed as the author of Primary Colors."

In the post, Michael Calderone and Joe Klein appear to give the McCain campaign the benefit of the doubt -- surely there must be a good reason for the mix up, right? Yep, there's a good reason all right:

UPDATE: Campaign spokesperson Michael Goldfarb responded that "we don't allow Daily Kos diarists on board either."

Haha. Classic. Joe Klein, after being slammed by bloggers for years for despising partisanship and equating the blogs with the coarsening of political discourse, has become one of us, at least in the McCain campaign's eyes. Well, welcome to the club, Joe.

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Chilling commentary on the Web this morning

I've been reading a lot of posts on the Internet yesterday and today where people have expressed concern at how McCain and Palin are whipping their supporters into frothy-mouthed hatred of Barack Obama.

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John McCain Has Lost Joe Klein

I hadn't seen this when I posted on the right's war against the media but Brian Williams just read from Joe Klein's defense of the media on MSNBC:

There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is "a task from God." The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.

Has John McCain managed to lose both Joe Klein and Brian Williams?

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