Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Joe Klein Grovels

Joe Klein has issued an explanation (I hesitate to call it an apology) of his distasteful comments in Politico today regarding Charles Krauthammer who is a brilliant writer, doctor, and commentator, among other things, and is also a quadraplegic as a result of a diving accident. You might remember Klein's name as the hack that anonymously pubished Primary Colors.

This is the Politico passage Klein is now groveling over:

"He became ground zero among the neo-cons, but he's vastly smarter than most of them," said Time's Joe Klein, an admirer and critic who praised Krauthammer's "writing skills and polemical skills" as "so far above almost anybody writing columns today."

"There's something tragic about him, too," Klein said, referring to Krauthammer's confinement to a wheelchair, the result of a diving accident during his first year of medical school. "His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about.

Klein opens his "apology" with, "The usual neoconservative malingerers [sic] have been hammering me about a quote I gave to Politico, regarding Charles Krauthammer's limitations as a columnist. Obviously, I didn't mean to imply second-class status for disabled people. On the contrary, the distance and perspective that comes with physical deficits often leads to enhanced insight and abilities."

"Limitations as a columnist"? Krauthammer's prose is as distilled and insightful as it gets. He has a clarity of style that Klein only aspires to.

"I didn't mean to imply second-class status for disabled people"? Of course he did; at least in the case of Krauthammer, he did.

Klein goes on: "So it is possible to write brilliant, nuanced commentary—on the war in Iraq, for example—without visiting there. But it sure does help to understand a complicated situation in an unfamiliar culture if you can see it for yourself." I'm sure that actually being in Iraq or Afghanistan brings a certain perspective to your work if you are a war correspondent, but it's not a precondition or prerequisite for writing well about policy.

Krauthammer writes in opposition to Mr. Obama's policies. Must he actually see the West Wing or the Oval Office to do this well?

And then Klein accuses Krauthammer of some kind of mass murder or genocide: "And while Krauthammer's skills are impressive, his commentary has been dangerously bellicose, arrogant and wrong. Given his influence with the Bush Administration, his unflinching support for American unilateralism--his invention of the notion of a unipolar world--did extensive damage to our nation's security and reputation overseas, and caused the unnecessary loss of life" [emphasis mine].

I was unaware that Krauthammer's influence over Bush was so powerful; all along I thought it was Dick Cheney we were supposed to be afraid of.

Klein's closing line is why I hesitate to call this an apology: "In the end, Krauthammer's deficit is not a matter of body, but of judgment." You can't really apologize to someone when you insult them on the backside.

It's not just Krauthammer, of course, that Klein insults here. It's an entire population of disabled people who can't "see for themselves" the things that Klein is so privileged to be able to experience. It's reminiscent of Obama's crack comparing his bowling skills to the Special Olympics.

Somebody is falling down on their diversity and tolerance training.

(Photo credit: John Shinkle)


Jordan said...

Klein is so enamored with Obama he also gleefully makes fun of the disabled.

And next, Mr. Klein will raid his neighbor's bank account and change his mother's car from a SUV to a Hybrid, while driving a Hummer.

snaggletoothie said...

Klein is an example of physical mobility failing to keep a writer from a life of mediocrity.

G.R. said...

Why do you think mediocrity has been held up as an example for the past 25 years or so. Just for moments like what we have now. When someone with below mediocre qualification comes along and runs for office, a majority of the people won't notice, and the medioacracy runs rampant