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August 31, 2010
Joe Klein, Chris Matthews, and their feet of clay
There was a great bit of TV this weekend, separate from Glenn Beck's wonderful rally. It was on Chris Matthews' show where a panel addressed Beck and his rally.
In addition to Matthews, there was Joe Klein, along with the normal cast of characters --plus one. It is currently available on "Newsbusters." We have Klein calling Beck a "paranoid lunatic." Matthews is, of course , urging him on, and Kelly O'Donnell (she of hard news ) is seen nodding her head, like the bobblehead she has become.
What they hadn't counted on was the intellectual heft of their one outlier guest --"National Review"s Reiham Salam. He easily countered their mean spirited attacks , while asserting that the anger they so readily recognize within the Tea Party, and Beck's rally, stems not so much from anyone as "those sitting around this table."
Klein's animus towards Beck is well understood. Beck ,no doubt, gets under Joe's skin, particularly with his pretentious pipe smoking character, and his barbs at Klein's alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania ( the lesser Ivy). Last but not least, Klein's diminutive height is continually brought up, no doubt making Joe's teeth grind. Klein has responded in characteristically small-man fashion: chest out, chin up and ready for a fight, particularly regarding Beck, Fox News,and Rupert Murdoch. Beck admits to all kinds of warts, but it may be a good idea to rewind the tape, and take a small peek at Joe Klein and Chris Matthews.
Joe Klein was born in 1946. He graduated from the Hackley School, a private ivy prep, then went on to the University of Pennsylvania, obtaining an undergraduate degree in "American Civilization," whatever discipline that is. Although Beck dismisses his college as not quite ivy enough, Joe does seem to have acquired the necessary credentials to be a full-fledged member of the "east-coast liberal elite."
For men of a certain age, like me, the year 1946 rings a very loud bell. How did he avoid the Vietnam draft? Klein did not go to any graduate school , particularly one which would give him a deferment, so we can only assume that Joe avoided service because of his short stature. It appears that he also never had a job which didn't involve him shooting his mouth off, either out loud or on paper.
To my mind, the defining moment of Joe's career, came in 1996 when he published "Primary Colors." He did not identify himself as the author, but used "Anonymous" as a pseudonym. His reason for this , presumably, was a desire to leave access to his sources intact, as well as access into the new Clinton administration. The book was a huge success, and Joe made a ton of money, all the while denying his authorship.
Two people at the time claimed he was the author. David Kusnet, a Clinton speechwriter, and Donald Foster, an academic who examined the writing style, and recognized it as Klein's. Presented with these assertions Klein lashed out at Foster, and out and out lied, first in Newsweek, then the Washington Post. An editor of the Post asked if Klein would stake his journalistic integrity on his denial; unbelievably, he agreed. Finally on July 17, 1996 he finally admitted to being the author of "Primary Colors" The amazing thing is that he kept his job.
Yet, if this weren't bad enough, his one truly despicable moment came in 2009. Charles Krauthammer is wheelchair bound, having suffered a diving accident leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. The two men often disagree, to which Klein once opined that Kraruthammer would have more nuance to his opinions if he were "able to see the situation he is writing about" -- i.e., out of his wheelchair. Pitiful. That is Klein-World, where nobody can have a legitimate opinion other than his , unless he/she is a phobic bigot, or has a disability offering a deficiency of perspective. Another aspect of this rarefied world of Joe's; a lie is just another nuance.
Chris Matthews is not your average East Coast elitist, but give him credit for trying. He did not attend an ivy prep, went to the The College of Holy Cross, and graduate school at the University of North Carolina. Befitting his working class background, he actually had a real job -- Capitol policeman for a number of years. He was born in December 1945, and, once again, a loud bell goes off. How did he avoid Vietnam?
This time, it was Swaziland and the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps was not a slam dunk draft deferment, like medical or dental school, but it was often effective putting one lower on the list. This is not a particularly big deal; lots of people avoided Vietnam, for some very good reasons. On his show Matthews took Richard Blumenthal to task for lying about his Vietnam service. He was in the National Guard, but not Vietnam. Blumenthal surely deserves our contempt, but it was Matthews' behavior that some took note of.
Referring to Blumenthal, he repeatedly bellowed was he "in it", was he "in it?" A May 18 , 2010 Lawrence Meyer article in the Huffington Post called Matthews out on this behavior. The article entitled "Chris Matthews Come Down From Your High Horse" pointedly suggests that Matthews was not exactly "in it" himself.
Yet, to get some idea of how ungrounded Matthews is, one has only to look at his recent book, arguably the silliest piece of non fiction ever to come out of the liberal pundit class: "Life's a Campaign: What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation and Success." The point, incredibility , is that politicians and their political campaigns should guide us all in the way we live our own lives. Life itself is a political campaign. Really, that's the premise, and it's not tongue-in-cheek. This was too much even for Jon Stewart, who skewered Matthews when he came on Stewart's show to promote the book. Stewart made it clear he had no intention, nor should anyone else, of using politicians or their political campaigns as any sort of life's guiding light. This should be kept in mind, as Matthews endlessly demeans Sarah Palin's intelligence, claiming Palin can hardly read a book, let alone write one. Well, definitely not one to Chris's taste, such as it is; lacking in common sense and all.
Watching these two, it is if they see themselves as liberal Gods, hurling words and judgements down from the liberal mountain top. But things are changing. The mountain is shrinking, the ratings are falling, and no one is buying the magazine. They are becoming ever smaller, the populace is starting to grasp their hustle, and they themselves have way too much clay on their feet.