KLEIN ON THE LAW: Monster-in-print!

FRIDAY, MARCH 22, 2013

Epilogue—It’s time for this big fake to go: It is a truth universally acknowledged. In the modern media environment, every news org must be in want of younger viewers and readers.

In part, advertisers want to sell their useless products to those less savvy souls. This may explain the lengths to which our failing orgs go to pander to younger consumers.

How ridiculous can this get? Consider some truly pitiful conduct by the “liberal” web site, Salon.

Salon’s sad conduct involves Jonathan Krohn, an 18-year-old slave for attention who ought to be kept miles away from computer terminals. (Krohn turned 18 on March 1.)

When Krohn was just 13, he gave a predictably silly speech at the annual CPAC convention. Predictably, this turned him into an 13-year-old conservative media star.

By the time young Krohn had turned 17, he had renounced his conservative twaddle—but his desire for attention remained quite strong. Result? Last July, Salon published his pitiful first-person piece, “I was a right-wing child star.”

In the piece, Krohn—now 17 and a left-wing child star—lamented the foolishness he had displayed when he was just in eighth grade.

At Salon, this cry for attention from young Krohn wasn’t pathetic enough. Last week, Salon returned to that well, presenting an updated pile of piddle from its youthful star. You see, CPAC was holding its convention again, and Krohn was desperate for further attention. As a result, Salon published its latest pathetic piece, beneath this sad sub-headline:

“I was a 13 year-old star at CPAC in 2009. When I returned this week, I realized I wasn't the only one who'd changed.”

How many times will Salon waste its time drinking from this well? Over a nine-month period, it has now published two remembrances by Krohn about his days as a pimple-faced right-wing star.

Today, young Krohn has turned 18, which qualifies him as older and wiser. We couldn’t help thinking of Krohn and Salon when we read the latest piddle from the media-created monster who goes by the name Ezra Klein.

Klein’s piece appears at Bloomberg View, where the Serious People go to get Even More Serious. It hasn’t appeared at Wonkblog yet. Perhaps young Klein doesn’t want those readers to see what he wrote in this column.

After a serious bout of retching, Charlie Pierce savaged Klein for this latest twaddle. If anything, Pierce was too polite. Let’s examine Klein’s monstrous work.

Good God! Like all the older kids have been doing, Klein decided he should explain his real-time stance concerning the war with Iraq. He began and ended his column with a sincere apology.

Including its headline, this is the start to his column:
KLEIN (3/21/13): Mistakes, Excuses and Painful Lessons From the Iraq War

I supported the Iraq War, and I’m sorry.

I have my excuses, of course. I was a college student, young and dumb. I thought that if U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell and former President Bill Clinton and U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair all thought it was necessary, then that was because they had intelligence proving as much. I thought there was no way the Bush administration would neglect to plan for the obvious challenges of the aftermath. I turned on the war quickly when I saw how poorly and arrogantly it was being managed.
We have been wondering, in recent weeks, if something is seriously wrong with Klein. The craziness of this ludicrous piece only adds to our sense of concern.

Here’s why:

As he starts, Klein apologizes for having supported the war in Iraq. Quickly, he offers an excuse—he was a college student!

Just barely! In 2003, when the war began, Klein was 18 years old. He was a college freshman. Presumably, he was still a freshman when he “turned on the war quickly” after seeing “how poorly it was being managed.”

Did Klein “support the war in Iraq?” In a sense, but not as such! He didn’t support the war the way major journalists did, by writing ridiculous columns about the brilliance of Colin Powell’s presentation at the U.N.

He didn’t support the war the way major editors, major TV producers and major boadcasters did.

Presumably, Klein “supported the war” in the old-fashioned way—by making uninformed comments to other college freshmen who understood even less than he did. (Or perhaps a good deal more.) In the more rational parts of the world, no one cares what Klein said and did at that time, as he hung about the dorm completing his freshman assignments.

That said, Klein seems to think that his past “support for the war” somehow matters. It’s a sign of his monstrous self-regard that he offers this sociopathic prose, in which he helps us imagine the very deep level at which his “analytical failure” occurred:
KLEIN (continuing directly): But at the core of my support for the war was an analytical failure I think about often: Rather than looking at the war that was actually being sold, I’d invented my own Iraq war to support—an Iraq war with different aims, promoted by different people, conceptualized in a different way and bearing little resemblance to the project proposed by the Bush administration. In particular, I supported Kenneth Pollack’s Iraq war.
Can we talk? This youngster is out of his mind, today, at age 28. You really have to be a nut to keep writing pieces in Salon about the way you were a child star when you were only 13. And it takes a monster of self-regard to type the column Klein has typed—a column in which he amazes the world with the sheer depth of his earlier “analytical failure.”

No one with an ounce of sense gives a flying falafel what Klein (allegedly) thought in 2003, when he was still 18. But everyone ought to be concerned by the pile of pomposity at Bloomberg View, where this monster of the media’s invention tries to persuade us that his error resulted from too much high-order thinking.

For the background on Klein’s “analytical failure,” we’ll turn you back to Pierce. Today, though, Ezra is older—he’s 28!—and through the conduct of the Post, he has risen far. As our nation sinks beneath the sea, he and his equally grasping wife fill the nation’s major news pages with their utterly worthless twaddle.

As for Ezra, he can now speak with the man who led him astray, analytically speaking!

This week, Ezra telephoned Kenneth Pollack and the pair conducted a chat. Decked out in tweed and puffing their pipes, the analytical giants amaze us with the depth of their current concerns:
KLEIN: This week, I sought out Pollack, now a senior fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, to ask what he thought of the war, and his role in it, 10 years later. Was it worth it?

“Whether the war was ‘worth it’ is a judgment that is going to vary from person to person,” he said. “And that view will change over the course of time. What strikes me as far more important right now is the lessons we take from it.” Those lessons, he continued, include, “always be skeptical of even the strongest intelligence,” “keep in mind the potential for unintended consequences,” “don’t ever go to war on the cheap,” and “start with the end state you want to achieve and build back from there.”

In conversation, Pollack comes off much as he did in his original book: curious and questioning. He worries openly about what he got wrong and what he could have done better. He’s careful to avoid articulating overwhelming doctrines or overly moralistic arguments. He talks about how he’s gone back and marked up a copy of “The Threatening Storm,” underlining the parts he got right and striking through the parts he got wrong, trying to figure out whether his case still coheres and whether there was more he could have, or should have, said. He talks about his justifiable pride in the final chapter of the book, a thoroughgoing indictment of the fly-by-night approach the Bush administration took to the reconstruction of Iraq.
Do you understand that last sentence? Pollack's book appeared in September 2002. Do you understand how he managed, in his last chapter, to present "a thoroughgoing indictment of the fly-by-night approach the Bush administration took to the reconstruction of Iraq?”

We don't quite understand that either. We do understand that Ezra Klein enjoys kissing upper-end ass.

In that passage, Ezra puffs his pipe and ass-kisses Pollack, as he has endlessly done with Paul Ryan. In the process, Klein builds a friendly framework around this marvelous man—or at least, he does so over at Bloomberg.

Will Wonkblog readers be exposed to this crap? We look forward to getting an answer.

In the past few weeks, we began to wonder about Klein. Previously, we had largely avoided Wonkblog. We were unable to see how the site’s blizzard of work connected to the nation’s wider faux conversations.

Beyond that, we had been puzzled by the muddled nature of much that Klein says on TV. In part, we wrote that off to the dead-fish persona the young man projects. (In fairness, MSNBC is trying hard to build a new persona for Klein.)

In the past few weeks, we began to read Klein’s work with more care. In truth, his work is often amazingly bad. He constantly seems to play all ends against the middle. Whenever he can, he kisses establishment ass, as he does here for Pollack.

Evan Krohn is now 18. He seems to be desperate for attention. Salon keeps feeding his need.

Klein is now 28. He has been hustling the liberal world ever since he arrived on the scene. His work is routinely worthless or worse. He doesn’t seem to have a voice—doesn’t seem to know who he is, beyond the drive for success.

How has Klein managed to talk his way into so many positions? We have no idea. But over at the Washington Post, he has a set of “underbloggers” who include one kid straight out of college—and one other college freshman.

Why on earth is the Washington Post putting these people into print? We don’t have the slightest idea. But if you want to know how crazy Klein is, just read that piece at Bloomberg.

Klein doesn’t know that nobody cares what he thought at age 18. He doesn’t know that he didn’t “support the war” in a meaningful way.

Pompously, while covering his ass, he makes his latest sad attempt to con the entire world. “I supported the Iraq War, and I’m sorry,” he says, as he closes this ludicrous column.

Why is Ezra Klein in print? We can’t answer your very good question. But as Charlie Pierce has seemed to discern, it’s time for this big fake to go.


  1. I agree with Bob's critiques of Ezra's work. But, just for the record, I think I remember reading Klein as early as 2002 on Pandagon.net. That was a blog he confounded with another blogger(Jesse somebody?) just as blogs like atrios were really taking off. In that blog o sphere Pandagon was regarded as a fairly "established" blog.

    I mention it as background, because I think that's what Klein might be referring to in this column.

    1. Yes, posts by Klein appeared on Pandagon in those days. And in one of them (2004?) he gave a very different reason for being initially pro-invasion: it wasn't so much Pollack's stellar argument that swayed him back them as the fact that the DHFs on the Santa Cruz campus were adamantly against the Iraq invasion and Klein wished to dissociate himself from them. Perhaps Mr. Somerby can find this earlier "mea culpa."

    2. Klein's September 2004 mea culpa can be found at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine . That his pro-invasion stance was primarily irrational and reactionary could not be more obvious. Is there any reason to believe that his attitude toward DFHs has changed in the least? It's an attitude widely shared by his more successful ("high-end") peers.

  2. Barack Obama couldn't vote on going to war in Iraq, because he wasn't in Congress. He wasn't privy to the intelligence reports. At that point in time, he had no particular expertise in military matters. Obama opposed the war more or less in the same way as Klein supported it -- by making uninformed comments.

    Yet, Obama's opposition to the war was a significant issue in his favor when he ran for President in 2008. That example may be why Klein thinks his position on the war is important now.

    1. Obama was an elected official in Illinois when he came out against the war. Sorry you think that makes his statements irrelevant. His constituents apparently disagreed with you. No, he wasn't privy to intelligence reports, but then just about nobody else was either since Il Dunce and his neocon crew of chickenhawks had jiggered them. No, he didn't have expertise in military matters, but as it turned out you didn't need such expertise to understand the folly of the war.

      As you may have heard by now, Obama went on to run for higher office, and when he did, his judgment on the war was a plus for him.

  3. TDH is making some valuable points here. Just so nobody is forced to read the thoughts of anyone younger than, say, 50, here's a good start for your political reading:


    Careful, the AARP's so-called expert on savings is a mere 55 years young!

    Also, please note political expert Thomas L Friedman will turn 60 this year--today's college freshman have yet to see him be right about anything. But you can still read him in the NYT--that's his column across the page from the editorial about Iraq 10 years on. Hmmm, is the problem really the young people?


    1. Also, please note political expert Thomas L Friedman will turn 60 this year--today's college freshman have yet to see him be right about anything.

      But just wait another six months. Starting ... now.

    2. I really don't think the point is about young vs old. Mainly, Bob is ID'ing a new generation of "liberal" pundits to make a larger point about how liberals get co opted by powerful interests.

      So first, he notices Klein et al don't seem terribly well qualified, or to have any demonstrable track record that would mark them as people who should be explaining complex policy issues in high profile outlets. Second he notices, that as you'd expect given their lack of a track record, they don't do very good work. Third he suggests that they are in high profile positions because they kiss the ass of anyone with power.

      He's drawing attention to this, presumably, because it's a good case study and perhaps because if we notice how bad they are now - when their careers are young - maybe we can speak up about it. Rather than trying to dislodge career idiots like Friedman. The old guard is entrenched. Maybe the new guard could be dislodged before entrenchment.

      That's very different than saying the young'uns are just stupid or worthless.

    3. I have to say, I have never seen a blogger with more sycophantic "anonymouses" than this one. There's always someone to tell us what "Bob" is trying to do. There's plenty to criticize Klein about, including, as noted, his annoying tendency to try to carve out a spot in the middle of the DC VSPs.

      But TDH is alone in the intensity of these universal and relentless personal assaults on everything Klein touches, even going so low as to reach into his marriage. There are respected economists who link to Klein on a regular basis, as he is one of the few writers with such a platform who attempts to do substantive and data-driven reporting. This reaches a level of nastiness that it must be personal, and unfortunately allows legitimate targets to dismiss his entire output as that of an angry crank.

    4. Anon 319,
      That would be reasonable...but is that what we see? TDH easily disregards PhDs as pointy-headed, ivory tower dwelling flakes. Have you ever seen TDH regard Josh Marshall with some respect for his History PhD? Or maybe Marcy Wheeler for her PhD in Comparative Literature? Or even Greenwald with his measly law degree? No.
      Do we see TDH pointing out journalists doing a better job on budet coverage? Never.
      Who is TDH proposing for the "new guard?" (Remember they certainly can't be under 30 or they're inexperienced.)

  4. Yglesias is far worse, in that he's established a niche at Slate (where he comments as some kinda experts on economics and monetary policy) when his only academic background is in philosophy. And his tilt to the dominant financial elites in commenting on these matters is even more pronounced than Klein's. Klein clearly sees himself as trying to maintain progressive/liberal views on economic matters while kissing enough establishment ass to keep the paychecks flowing. It makes him deeply compromised and muddled, but you can see by his lights that he's trying to stay on the side of the angels. Yglesias will candidly admit, however, that he's foresworn any kind of traditional liberal or class-based critique of the economic crisis, and the paychecks keep flowing to the former trsut-fund baby. Which do you think is more dangerous as being labelled "progressive" - a guy who actually will sometimes present progressive and liberal ideas on the economy (with lots of caveats and fluffing of the other side) or a guy who, when you drill down, is pretty much OK with the status quo as we have it? I find the latter more pernicious as a standard-bearer of progressive wonkery, although neither is particularly palatable.

    1. "Klein clearly sees himself as trying to maintain progressive/liberal views on economic matters while kissing enough establishment ass to keep the paychecks flowing. It makes him deeply compromised and muddled, but you can see by his lights that he's trying to stay on the side of the angels."

      Exactly. Very well said.

  5. I completely agree, Klein is an atrocious reporter and analyst.

    1. Of course you do. See above.

    2. With the relatively small number of comments on this blog, there isn't much reason for sock-puppetry. Not every commenter needs to get a response from the author, but many bloggers are able to clarify or elaborate in comments. On this blog the sock puppet's comments are often just combative or even abusive--

      "Klein is an atrocious reporter and analyst"

      Dean Baker,PhD, disagrees; Baker's pretty sharp and wouldn't be afraid to say otherwise.

  6. Great link to the Charlie Pierce column. It seems the boyish Mr. Klein is developing some insufferable traits.

  7. Dean Baker just wrote a blog post on Beat the Press regarding Klein's inaccurate assessment of the aging population being the main cause of our long term budget deficit as opposed to excess health care cost growth, it's called "An Aging Population and Drying Paint: Things People Worry About in Washington". So the idea that Baker is some fan who endorses Klein is not really the case.

    1. Doesn't say Klein ( or Drum) is "out of his mind." Just doesn't agree that their narrow choice of subject is worthwhile on that day's blot post. Certainly Baker did not retract his praise for Kleins earlier budget coverage.