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Lesson Of The Day From The Joe Klein School Of Journalimism

Photo by David Shankbone

Photo by David Shankbone

Joe Klein, recently honored by Salon’s War Room as the 19th-biggest hack in punditry today, offers a most remarkable explanation for why he supported Dubya’s plan to privatize Social Security:

Well, two reasons. The first was a matter of courtesy and optimism: I always try to give a newly elected President the benefit of the doubt.

Well, that certainly sounds like a sound and reasonable journalistic principle that couldn’t possibly lead anyone astray.  But wait, you ask: Wasn’t the push for privatization at the start of Bush’s second term?  Why, yes.  Yes it was.

This is especially difficult — and all the more necessary — when it’s a re-elected President whose policies seem misguided. I had written column after column about the bloody futility of Bush’s war in Iraq — and don’t get me started about the demonstrably foolish supply-side philosophy that spawned his tax cuts. Still, he was going to be my President for the next four years; my fellow citizens, and many of my readers, had voted him in.

So after four years of such nakedly obvious presidential incompetence that even Joe Klein himself complained about it, the 2004 election was a big ol’ reset button that magically transformed Dubya into a brand new president with a squeaky clean slate, as opposed to a discredited moron who could fuck up a glass of water.  Amazing.

While I’m happy that Klein has seen the light on Social Security, his benefit-of-the-doubt-even-for-the-second-term rule is right up there with fellow Titan Of Journalism Tim Russert’s all-conversations-are-presumptively-off-the-record policy.  Journalists are supposed to be seekers and revealers of truth, they’re not supposed to sit on their information or let simplistic rules of thumb trump mountains of evidence.  But as long as truthiness offers more money and job security than truth, truthiness is what we’ll continue to get.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Klein’s second reason for supporting Social Security privatization, it was because welfare encouraged poor people to stay poor, and giving poor parents a choice of schools for their kids is good, so markets are good because they’re totally the same thing, and who knew back then that markets could ever crash.  But he’s totally better now, promise.

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