Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Meeting Joe Klein

Aimai writes about a meeting he recently had with columnist Joe Klein at a cookout. Klein did not like having his pro-Bush columns brought up.


Or maybe they do. Yes, I guess they do. I was standing at the cookout minding my own business when Klein started pontificating for the rubes on how “surprising” and “shocking” it was that Grassley, of all people, should have come out and endorsed the “death panels” lie. I walked up and said “why are you surprised?” [edited to remove typo] to which he, in best pundit debater fashion (never allow yourself to admit you were just posing!), shot back “who says I'm surprised?” I said “well, you did. You just started your lecture saying “Its surprising.”” Its not surprising, the republicans have nothing left to lose and nothing left to gain at this point outside of pleasing the crazy base and attacking Obama and the dems.”

We were off and running. He then said that its true the fringe republicans were “crazy” but perhaps no crazier than the “crazy left” under Bush. I thought he meant the “truthers” so I said “name me one person in congress or the Senate who was as crazy on any topic as these Republican senators and Congressmen who sign on to the birther and deather stuff are now?” Evading this question he said “well, Glenn Greenwald is crazy—he's a civil liberties absolutist.” Now, me, I come from a long line of civil liberties absolutists so I said “I admire Glenn Greenwald's work immensley but it must be very embarrassing for you, of course, because he's been eating your lunch for years.” (!) I think this must be something of a sore point for him. He began shrieking “Glenn Greenwald is EVIL! EVILl!..do you know what he did? He “sicced” his blog readers on my EDITOR and she was going through a DIVORCE at the time.” Really? I said, politely, that was very wrong, if it happened.


Actually, Jane Hamsher published the contact information of Klein's editor Priscilla Painton. Like a bad journalist, Klein can't even get his facts straight about who sent her readers after his editor.

Greenwald took Klein to task for repeating Republican talking points. Klein's sources fed him the garbage Democrats wanted FISA court approval for foreign surveillance targets. Democrats never had that in the bill. Time was forced to put a correction at the beginning and end of the article. This is why Klein thinks Greenwald is evil.


The Democratic strategy on the FISA legislation in the House is equally foolish. There is broad, bipartisan agreement on how to legalize the surveillance of phone calls and emails of foreign intelligence targets. The basic principle is this: if a suspicious pattern of calls from a terrorist suspect to a U.S. citizen is found, a FISA court warrant is necessary to monitor those communications. But to safeguard against civil-liberty abuses, all records of clearly nontargeted Americans who receive emails or phone calls from foreign suspects would be, in effect, erased. Unfortunately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort and supported a Democratic bill that — Limbaugh is salivating — House Republicans believe would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only. (Democrats dispute this interpretation.) In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans. That is well beyond stupid.


Reprint the spin without actually vetting the source. Klein actually believed House Republicans wouldn't falsely slime their Democratic counterparts. How does someone this naive become a star columnist.

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