Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Alongside not talking with your mouth full and wiping, one of the elemental lessons in manners that civilized societies teach their young is not to mock the physically disabled. Someone should remind Joe Klein, the ostensibly adult political columnist for Time magazine.

In a Politico story last week about conservative pundit Charles Krauthammer, Mr. Klein said “there’s something tragic” about the quadriplegic writer’s work, as it “would have had a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about.” In other words, don’t trust the cripple because he can’t take trans-Atlantic flights.

Rationalizing his disgraceful remark on Time’s Web site, Mr. Klein wrote that Mr. Krauthammer’s “unflinching support for American unilateralism … caused the unnecessary loss of life.” So not only is Mr. Krauthammer’s writing hindered by his physical disability, he’s also responsible for the deaths of countless American soldiers and Iraqi civilians because he … writes newspaper columns that Mr. Klein doesn’t like?

Mr. Klein’s ad hominem attack on Mr. Krauthammer is but the latest in a series of wild accusations. Last summer, he attacked the “great many Jewish neoconservatives” who “plumped for [the Iraq] war” and whose hawkishness on Iran “raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.” (Notice the cowardly use of the passive voice. Who “raised the question” that Jews have divided loyalties, Joe, other than unapologetic anti-Semites and yourself?)

Mr. Klein derides these individuals as “Professional Jews,” an epithet that applies to any of his co-religionists with whom he disagrees. (Full disclosure: Several weeks ago, Mr. Klein wrote, in response to a column I published in another newspaper, that I was “overwhelmingly limited,” an insult I’m still trying to figure out. Given his propensity for adolescent name-calling and mockery of people for their innate traits, I should consider myself lucky he didn’t call me a “Professional Queer.”)

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the notion that Jews harbor “divided loyalties” has become a disturbing trope among some elements of the American left, and it’s troubling to see this hoary slander find a home in the pages of Time.

Mr. Klein has frequently repeated the slur. In another Time piece, he warned readers that then-Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain had “surrounded himself with, and been funded by, Jewish neoconservatives who believe Iran is a threat to Israel’s existence.” Did it not occur to Mr. Klein that it is not just “Jewish neoconservatives” who “believe Iran is a threat to Israel’s existence?” President Obama, a rather prominent political figure who is neither Jewish nor a neoconservative, has spoken repeatedly of the threat Iran poses to Israel, as has Adm. Mike Mullen, the gentile chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Klein’s constant impugning of Jews as traitors earned him a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League, which only strengthened his delusive sense of victimhood. He informed the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that the Jewish cabal of his fevered imagination “seem* to have the power to hurt people’s careers,” implying that he was paying some sort of professional price for his truth-telling, when in reality he has earned himself boatloads of left-wing admirers. Writing about this same “small group of Jewish neoconservatives” on the Time Web site, he declared, “They are also bullies and I’m not going to be intimidated by them.”

What a brave man you are, Joe Klein, warning us all of the disloyal “neocons” and attacking a man for being wheelchair-bound.

What explains this intellectual collapse? Blogging. Mr. Klein, who viewed himself as a good, right-thinking liberal, was totally unprepared for the vitriol of the netroots, whose angry multitudes assailed him as a witting cog in the evil Beltway machine immediately after he took to the internet. In a trenchant 2007 piece reflecting on his early blogging experience, Mr. Klein complained about the netroots’ “free range lunacy” and bemoaned how “the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere.”

The dissonance between what Mr. Klein wrote about left-wing bloggers just two years ago and his contemporary ranting is an incredible thing to behold. The netroots stole Mr. Klein’s lunch money, but rather than fight to get it back, he became a caricature of the vituperative bloggers he previously reviled.

Once an independent liberal willing to speak unpleasant realities to the left, Mr. Klein has become a reliable purveyor of the leftists’ pieties. Responsible parents would punish their child for saying what Joe Klein uttered about Charles Krauthammer. How much longer will Time allow this juvenile bully to pollute its pages?

James Kirchick is an assistant editor of the New Republic.

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