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You Are the Sucker, Joe Klein Edition


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Joe Klein is impressed by Jeb Bush!

But Bush offered something far more important than specificity. He offered a sense of his political style and temperament, which in itself presents a grownup and civil alternative to the Giuliani-style pestilence that has plagued the Republic for the past 25 years.

Hmm, if only Joe Klein has been around to cover another reactionary son of George H.W. Bush so we could see how valuable evaluating politicians by their tone is.  Oh wait, he has:

It may have seemed like a stretch to infer some deeper conclusion about the GOP’s ideological direction from the looks of some panelists at a nominating convention. And, if one was to draw such an inference, it’s puzzling to interpret a resemblance to snooty Depression-era bankers (who, after all, had notoriously reactionary political views) as evidence of moderation, rather than the opposite.

Yet nothing could shake Klein from his theory. Not even Bush’s decision to bring on non-compassionate conservative Dick Cheney. “Anybody who tries to take a really strong position on [Cheney] from the left or from the right seems kind of silly,” Klein said of Bush’s vice presidential selection on a “Meet the Press” panel. “We’re all Clintonians now. Everybody is a Third Way Democrat or Republican, you know, and I think that that’s one of the central problems that politicians in both parties face right now, is that there are no huge differences, or at least very few.”

And then, after the election, Klein predicted that the result would be “a quiet, patient, and persistent bipartisanship,” with no big tax cuts or Supreme Court ideologues. Klein suggested helpfully, “Bush could easily retain Lawrence Summers at Treasury and Richard Holbrooke at the United Nations.” And this scenario could have easily come to pass, provided every other Cabinet-eligible American citizen had been wiped out in a nuclear holocaust.

So, let’s see.  Klein’s preferred way of evaluating candidates — assessing the “civility” of their rhetoric as opposed to their policy positions, actual records in office, political coalitions, etc. — makes no sense on its face.  When applied, it led to predictions that George W. Bush would not sign any big tax cut bills or nominate any justices like Sam Alito.  (For that matter, the Alito nominations were another case in which the theater critic pundits absolutely humiliated themselves. “He likes baseball and doesn’t write like Scalia, so how can he be a reactionary?”)  The answer, of course, is to continue to evaluate candidates in the same way, because the latest Bush is bound to settle down and start treating him right.  Hard to argue with that logic!

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