It’s hard to decide what my favorite moment in Conason and Franken’s uniformly glorious demolition of Ed Klein is. The fact that his “New York Times” source turned out to be William Safire is a contender. Still, I think I have to go with this sequence:
FRANKEN: Okay. How about the, ah, LAX thing? The haircut that supposedly held up traffic at LAX.
KLEIN: Mm-hmmm [affirmative].
FRANKEN: Now you know that that’s not true, right?
KLEIN: No, I don’t know that’s not true.
CONASON: Again because you didn’t do any reporting. That was, that story was debunked at the time that it came out 12 years ago. You, you, I mean it’s just astonishing to me —
CONASON: — how little work was put into this book —
KLEIN: Well, you know —
CONASON: — in terms of trying to establish whether any of this stuff that you’ve written here is true!
KLEIN: So, you’re saying, Joe, that the president did not hold up traffic —
KLEIN: — at LAX?
CONASON: I’m saying that not only would I say that, but that’s the established fact that’s been reported after that story came out in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the FAA made it very clear that not one flight was held up as a result of that.
KLEIN: Well, Joe —
CONASON: And that was established a long time ago.
KLEIN: You and I are reading different, ah, newspapers, I think.
CONASON: No It’s, it’s not a matter of reading different newspapers; it’s a matter of what the Federal Aviation Administration said about this incident. It was debunked at the time.
FRANKEN: Do you want to read — do you want to hear what the, ah, St. Louis Post-Dispatch said?
KLEIN: Well, if you’d like to read it, that’s — it’s your show.
FRANKEN: Well, okay. The story that — was the planes were kept circling as President Bill Clinton had his hair clipped on Air Force One at Los Angeles Airport. This was 1993, not last month. The haircut by Beverly Hills stylist Christophe became such a metaphor for perceived White House arrogance that the president himself felt compelled to apol…ah, apologize for reported flight delays. But the reports were wrong. According to the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the haircut May 18th caused no significant delays of regular scheduled passenger flights, no circling planes, no traffic jams on runways. Commuter airlines that fly routes routinely affected by the President’s haircut confirmed that they had no record of delays, etc. etc. etc.
CONASON: What’s peculiar to me is, you don’t seem to care whether you get these things right or not.
KLEIN: What’s peculiar to me, Mr. Conason, is that you’re still stuck back in 1993 instead 2005. This book is —
CONASON: No, you were, you were writing about something that happened in 1993.
Now, the “we’re not talking about the past, we’re talking about the future” misdirection is a lame but effetive enough tactic of political rhetoric. But when you’re, you know, writing a biography, I don’t think it really works. But, really, “read (or listen) to the whole thing” is an imperative in this case. And why doesn’t Conason have his own show somewhere?
Speaking of richly deserved humilation, kudos to Pedro…