I've found it amusing, over the last few months to watch Klein and other writers who've started blogs with comments discover a) the blogsophere is the bare knuckle league and b) what it is like to actually be criticized. As you might gather, Klein isn't a real big fan of 'b'.
He uses an example of where he quoted Jane Harman in a piece he did on the Iraq supplemental vote. Harman told him she couldn't, in good conscience, vote no on the bill, especially remembering her recent visit to Iraq and flying in with 150 young soldiers headed in to fight. She just couldn't vote no on a bill which might deny them what they needed to survive the fight. After talking to Klein, party politics apparently managed to overcome her conscience and Harman changed her mind and voted no on the bill. Klein, of course, had already published her quote and her reasoning. The leftosphere went off on him:
This is not the first time this kind of free-range lunacy has been visited upon me. Indeed, it happens, oh, once a week to each of us who post on Swampland (Karen Tumulty, Jay Carney and Ana Marie Cox are the others). A reasonable reader might ask, Why are the left-wing bloggers attacking you? Aren't you pretty tough on the Bush Administration? Didn't you write a few months ago that George W. Bush would be remembered as one of the worst Presidents in history? And why on earth does any of this matter?
Well yes, Joe has been pretty tough on the administration and yes, he has said Bush is a pretty bad president, but as Jonathan Chiat mentioned in his recent piece about the leftosphere, that doesn't matter a bit. What matters is consistency of message ... their message:
But the smart stuff is being drowned out by a fierce, bullying, often witless tone of intolerance that has overtaken the left-wing sector of the blogosphere. Anyone who doesn't move in lockstep with the most extreme voices is savaged and ridiculed—especially people like me who often agree with the liberal position but sometimes disagree and are therefore considered traitorously unreliable. Some of this is understandable: the left-liberals in the blogosphere are merely aping the odious, disdainful—and politically successful—tone that right-wing radio talk-show hosts like Rush Limbaugh pioneered. They are also justifiably furious at a Bush White House that has specialized in big lies and smear tactics.
Note the cop-out though. Lefties are only "aping" the right, especially the usual suspects. It is only the left trying to be as effective as the right. And that is Joe Klein trying to tell the truth while at the same time giving the left an excuse and some room which will preclude them from again hammering him.
In fact what the leftosphere does it does all by itself. It is the dominant culture of that side of the blogosophere and it has grown from the activist mentality it brought to the net. It isn't aping anyone or anything. This isn't about what the right has done or not done, Joe. This is about what the left is, at least in this domain. And pretending they're attempting to ape anyone is really rather insulting to them. Why is the leftosphere like it is?
Because, as you almost figure out, it works:
The same could happen to the Democrats. The spitballs aimed at me don't matter much. The spitballs aimed at Harman, Clinton and Obama are another story. Despite their votes, each of those politicians believes the war must be funded. (Obama even said so in his statement explaining his vote.) Each knows, as Senator Jim Webb has said repeatedly, that we must be more careful getting out of Iraq than we were getting in. But they allowed themselves to be bullied into a more simplistic, more extreme position. Why? Partly because they fear the power of the bloggers to set the debate and raise money against them.
Human nature, as you might have gathered by now, works like that. If something is effective, people have a tendency to continue doing it. As long as leftist politicians kowtow to the leftosphere, nothing in tone, tactics or rhetoric is going to change. And that includes smacking Joe Klein upside the head every time he refuses to march in lockstep with them.
Oh, and Joe, for someone who claims not to be bothered by the spitballs aimed at him, you sure do write a lot about them.
UPDATE: Speaking of those spitballs, David Frum thinks Klein's piece is mostly a whine and reminds Klein that such rough-edged criticism comes with the territory. Says Frum to Klein 'suck it up and keep working.'
Klein has been getting savaged by the lefties (especially Kos) since even before he started writing for Swampland. I guess the comments section gave him immediate feedback in what low regard the lefties hold him and his writing, though, and he can’t handle it.
"I bet at least half of the netleft are failed professors, over-educated literary theory PHDs, who make themselves appear more numerous than they arethrough their anonymity and deliberate manipulation of google. Their real audience are the technocrat staffers for Dems on the Hill, who agreed with them that their bosses were pushovers during the Bush presidency."
"What if the netleft, that has created the impression that there is a rising plurality that would like to abandon Iraqis to Qaeda, Quds and the Ba’ath, are just a few thousand committed Marxists in their pajamas? What if the Dems have strategically miscalculated? What if their over-compensation is to appease a vocal 1 percent of the electorate that actually draws contempt from the rest of the country?"
Wonder what der erbmiester thinks? He fits the description. Washed-out and trying to stear opinion at least.
They are like that, Bruce, for one reason, and one reason only; because that’s what the left is.
Put another way; The problem here is not that the radical left end of the sphere is not representing the left well, the problem is that they are representing the left very well indeed. The bullying, the moral vacuum they operate in, the lack of common sense, all of it. All of it is part and parcel of what the left has become over the last 40 years.
And if Klein is now considering that what he’s putting up with is an inordinate amount of abuse, what in the name of sand hill does he figure WE have been dealing with?
You’re quite right, To some degree that kind of abuse does work, and democrats tend to be pragmatists on things like this. But notice who the abuse seems to work best on... fellow leftists.
Which is why the right embraced it in the 90’s and rode it all the way to 2004. Since Carter, the left as a whole has played battered wife to the full-throated bi*ch slapping of the right wing. That era is over. The leftosphere has ended it. Coincidentally, the party is enjoying the best cohesion and success they’ve had in decades. It works, Q. Why stop doing something that works? So that the right can have the tactics of demonization and anger all to themselves? Is the left supposed to kneel down and present its a** for reaming until the end of the world? Shall we play Alan Colmes to the Sean Hannities forever? Shall we be the simpering junior partner into eternity? It looks like we’re not on board with that.
I think the leftosphere hates on Klein too much, but I wholeheartedly agree with Klein - and you - a certain degree of aggressiveness and venom is a prerequisite for success in the political sphere. If you don’t like, McQ, you should get behind a liberal rule to regulate it, so that it stops working. Otherwise, get used to whining about it - and being ignored except by similarly whining rightists. But as the left learned after a decade of whining about the mean-spirited right, whining rarely wins.