Ezra Klein and the Evolution of Spin
For those who have never read Ezra Klein’s blog, it’s a lot like the Food Network: There’s some explanation, some light-hearted banter, and that’s it–or so it may seem.
One thing you should know about Ezra is that he never, ever criticizes the Democratic establishment, except in the gentlest "on the one hand, on the other hand" sort of way. He’s built up connections in the White House and in Congress, and positioned himself as a health reform guru. This has led, despite below-average speaking skills, to regular appearances on lefty talk shows, particularly Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
Ezra’s closest ideological compatriots are Matt Yglesias and John Cohn, who work for the Center for American Progress and The New Republic, respectively–which happen to be the institutions most closely linked to the Obama administration. These three and a few others form a center-left blogging clique which plays off and amplifies its own ideas and denigrates those with whom it disagrees.
Unlike his clique-mates Ezra doesn’t do name-calling. He recently did a set of serious interviews with conservative Congressman Paul Ryan, in which Ryan explained his plan to abolish Medicare and cut taxes for the super-wealthy, and they managed to find some common ground.
He is less charitable toward those on the left who have been willing to take on the Democratic establishment, notably Glenn Greenwald, Howard Dean, and Jane Hamsher.
With respect to Jane Hamsher and FDL, Ezra has systematically sought to delegitimize her by portraying her as an "activist" as opposed to a thoughtful fellow like… Ezra Klein:
7/31/09: "Jane and I have different roles. She’s doing great work organizing for the public option. I dearly hope she succeeds. But my job is to explain all this as best I can, as precisely as I can, to all of you."
9/25/09: "Jane Hamsher has a quick roundup of the prospects for a public option… The thoughtful, wonkish argument against the strong public plan is that Medicare underpays for services."
Ezra also did a point by point rebuttal of FDL’s "Top 10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Health Care Bill" but he did so with the wary disgust with which one approaches an old sandwich in the back of the refrigerator:
12/21/09: "I’m not sure there’s much in the way of productive dialogue to be had here. Some of the list is purposefully misleading and is clearly aimed more at helping activists kill the bill than actually informing anyone about what is in the bill."
He then proceeded to make several misstatements about what is in the bill. In fact on any given day, if you know what to look for, you can find something on Ezra’s blog that’s wrong. On Friday it was the date hospitals come under the purview of the Independent Payment Advisory Commission. Not a big deal, but if you’re accusing others of being imprecise…
The truth is Ezra’s blog is not an oasis of accurate reporting and reasoned arguments. He doesn’t have the most enlightened worldview. He’s a hack who hides it well, who can argue politics as if he were cooking a roast duck. Bon appétit!