Joe Klein is one of those writers who drive me a little bit crazy because he either writes something I'm about to applaud until he gets to a false equivalency to offset the good thing he just wrote, or else he just completely misses the mark.
October 15, 2011

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Joe Klein is one of those writers who drive me a little bit crazy because he either writes something I'm about to applaud until he gets to a false equivalency to offset the good thing he just wrote, or else he just completely misses the mark. This week is missing the mark week.

It seems Joe took a road trip, and on that road trip he came to the conclusion that the majority of Americans are moderates who, more than anything, want compromise. As evidence, he cites the following:

Lest you think these views were merely pruned and harvested me, there is a new TIME Magazine poll that vehemently reinforces the opinions of the Normal Majority: 89% of Americans want politicians to compromise on the major issues like the federal deficit; more than 70% believe the rich should pay higher taxes; 60% believe the media and politicians aren’t discussing the most important issues. There are mixed feelings about the effect of the Tea Party on American politics, but only 11% describe themselves as Tea Party supporters. The feelings about the Occupy Wall Street protesters are far more positive; a solid majority agree with the goals of the movement. (Most of my travels took place before OWS went viral; none of the people I interviewed mentioned it.)

Let's unpack those numbers just a bit: 89 percent of Americans want politicians to compromise on the major issues like the deficit. Who was it again who was uncompromising? Democrats compromised; President Obama in particular. Yet for all of that, the debt ceiling debate cost him a ton of political capital, tanking his approval rating to the lowest yet and giving heartburn to those of us who have nightmares about President Romney's Supreme Court picks.

Moving on to his other numbers, now. 70 percent believe the rich should pay higher taxes. That doesn't really sound like a hunger for compromise to me. It sounds like one group of political actors just thumbed their noses at 70 percent of the American electorate, actually. In an uncompromising way.

Finally, 69 percent believe the media and politicians aren't discussing the important issues. Of course, he fails to tell us what those important issues that they aren't discussing might be. I would agree that when Fox News spends hour upon hour talking about the faux-Solyndra scandal, it's not the right thing to be talking about. Similarly, when Joe Klein comes on Lawrence O'Donnell's show to opine about how the President is such a weak leader, it's also not the right thing to be talking about.

The problem they should be talking about, identifying, and calling for what it is without reservation or hedging is this: We have a group of crazy people who call themselves Republicans but are really just crazy right now. They're so crazy over to the right that they're willing to send the country into a tailspin simply because they can. Because they believe they need to destroy it to save it, or some such nonsense. We have religious zealots and tax cut worshipers bowing before the conservative gods and standing firm on their belief that doing nothing is better than doing anything. So yes. The media and politicians are dancing around the room with a lot of fancy phrases and fundraising soundbites, but no one seems willing to call these people what they are: unpatriotic fools.

Klein cites even more evidence to refute his theory while claiming it supports it:

Also, as expected, the poll reinforced the sense I got that most Americans think the country is on the wrong track (81%) or in decline (71%).

Conveniently, Klein fails to mention the reasons most Americans feel that way. Here they are, straight from the Time Magazine topline poll results naming those having a major impact on the perceived decline:

  • Wall Street and Corporate CEOs: 63 percent major impact; 20 percent minor impact
  • The Rise of China: 64 percent major impact; 19 percent minor impact
  • US Businesses investing abroad: 67 percent major impact; 17 percent minor impact
  • People not working as hard as they should because of welfare and unemployment benefits: 60 percent major impact; 18 percent minor impact
  • US Foreign Policy: 61 percent major impact; 21 percent minor impact
  • Decline in the value of the dollar: 84 percent major impact; 8 percent minor impact

To prove that Klein is right about the perception that the wrong things are being discussed in the media, we have this fascinating little tidbit: When asked whether spending cuts or stimulus spending is more important right now, there was a near-even split: 49 percent said to cut spending; 44 percent said spend money to stimulate the economy and create jobs; 7 percent didn't know. However, 73 percent agreed that raising taxes on millionaires was a good thing, and 74 percent believe it wouldn't hurt the economy at all.

It would appear to me that the split on stimulus versus deficit reduction is the direct result of the daily hammering by the cabletalkers about the deficit without similar balance or attention paid to the benefits of stimulus. This is reinforced by the fact that when polled as individual provisions, respondents overwhelmingly approve of the American Jobs Act, but when asked if they approve of President Obama's plan, the number drops.

It's no secret that Klein, as Villager extraordinaire, has practically endorsed Mitt Romney as the Republican nominee and newest Shiny Thing. His articles for Time, as well as his appearance Thursday on The Last Word (above), are big glossy ads for Romney, which is fine as long as he's not trying to paint himself as some kind of serious objective journalist.

For me it's not fine, and here's why. There's been far too much intellectual dishonesty about how Barack Obama's presidency has been reported. Instead of pointing at obstreperous Republicans and calling them the roadblocks they are, writers like Klein hem and haw around the edges while giving weight to tea party nonsense as though it's something anyone should be taking seriously. Even in his article about the road trip, he can't resist pointing out that a small minority of the country likes or agrees with the tea party, but never does he mention the outsized influence they currently have on our national politics. From Day One, this President has not received thoughtful coverage from any traditional media outlet on a consistent basis. I will not speculate on why that might be, only that it is.

Because of that, the public has been woefully misinformed. Woefully. To leave that where it is and pick up the newest shiny object, present it to the public in the form of a glossed-over Mitt Romney is simply continuing the tradition. Somewhere, sometime, it has to stop.

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