February 23, 2013

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Here's Young Ezra moderating a panel at yet another one of Pete Peterson's "fiscal summits."

This is what drives me crazy about the media today. Ezra Klein, who made his bones as a liberal blogger, scales the heights of establishment to helm the Washington Post's Wonkblog. Television soon follows and even the hint of having his own show. And with that elevation of visibility, so too, goes Klein's need to represent the liberal point of view, falling backwards into some weird Broderism in his column. He, after all, anointed Ayn Rand devotee Paul Ryan a "serious" budget person.

I don't think Ryan is a charlatan or a flim-flam artist. More to the point, I think he's playing an important role, and one I'm happy to try and help him play: The worlds of liberals and conservatives are increasingly closed loops. Very few politicians from one side are willing to seriously engage with the other side, particularly on substance. Substance is scary. Substance is where you can be made to look bad. And substance has occasionally made Ryan look bad. But the willingness to engage has made him look good. It's given some people the information they need to decide him a charlatan, and others the information they need to decide him a bright spot. It's also given Ryan a much deeper understanding of liberal ideas than most conservative politicians have.

And therein lies the problem. Ryan doesn't have a deep understanding of anything. His entire world view is filtered through a terribly written and economically ridiculous novel by a sociopathic hypocrite. It is incumbent upon journalists to make this truth known -- especially the token liberal columnist for the paper of record in the nation's capitol. By not doing so, Klein validates this false equivalency: that conservative and liberal ideas are of equal value.

Don't look now, but Klein's done it again. This time, his "target" is David Brooks, a columnist who exists solely to be mocked for his omnipresent wrongness, as my colleague Driftglass demonstrates weekly. Ezra makes a point that he disagrees with Brooks, but then simply gives him more column inches to back off on some of more ridiculous points without acknowledging that Brooks simply doesn't know what he's writing about.

EK: On that point, one theme in your column, and in a lot of columns these days, is this idea that the president should, on the one hand, be putting forward centrist policies, and on the other hand, that if he’s putting forward policies that the Republican Party won’t agree to, those policies don’t count, as they’re nothing more than political ploys. But while I agree that some level of political realism should enter into any White House’s calculations, it seems a bit dangerous and strange to say the boundaries of the discussion should be set by the agenda that lost the last election.

DB: In my ideal world, the Obama administration would do something Clintonesque: They’d govern from the center; they’d have a budget policy that looked a lot more like what Robert Rubin would describe, and if the Republicans rejected that, moderates like me would say that’s awful, the White House really did come out with a centrist plan.

EK: But I’ve read Robert Rubin’s tax plan. He wants $1.8 trillion in new revenues. The White House, these days, is down to $1.2 trillion. I’m with Rubin on this one, but given our two political parties, the White House’s offer seems more centrist. And you see this a lot. People say the White House should do something centrist like Simpson-Bowles, even though their plan has less in tax hikes and less in defense cuts. So it often seems like a no-win for them.

DB: My first reaction is I’m not a huge fan of Simpson-Bowles anymore; I used to be. Among others, you persuaded me the tax reform scheme in theirs is not the best. Simpson-Bowles just doesn’t do enough on entitlements. For sensible reasons, they took health care more or less off the table. I don’t know where Rubin is right now. I held him up as an exemplar of Democratic centrism, but if he had a big tax increase and entitlement reform, I’d be for that.

There are times when I think the White House offered Republicans plans they were crazy not to take. I wrote that in 2011. And I hope Republicans look back on that as a gigantic missed opportunity. So I agree with you they shouldn’t be given veto power over the debate, but I still think that if you look at what moderates want the administration to do, they have not gone far enough.

Did you catch all of that? How many times did Brooks claim ignorance of facts, backtrack and hold up what he suspects of centrism absent any data?

This is not a serious person. He deserves no such attention in national debate. His opinions are based on what he feels like writing, not on facts.

And instead of pointing this out, Klein simply validates his existence in the punditry world.

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