Dry your eyes, my little friend


I've got a new "Think Again" column called "Taking Mr. Bush at his Word," here, about the fourth anniversary of the war, and a new Nation column called, "The Many Man-Crushes of Chris Matthews," here.

(Also, if you didn't yesterday, be sure the check out Boehlert's terrific column on the Times' War on Gore. I don't think it's a corporate decision on the part of the Times or its editors, but I do think it offers a window into the mindset of elite Washington/opinion-making journalism.)

Easy Questions, Answered:

Would Bush appointees lie to Congress? Hello? Elliott Abrams pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and was pardoned by Bush's dad and chosen to run U.S. Middle East policy in the National Security Council. Does that sound like a warning?*

* By the way, Robert Novak once told me he "admired" Abrams for lying ... to Robert Novak.

One of our obsessions here at Altercation has always been the incredible ability of most people to find ways to explain that no matter what the evidence may say, they happen to be right in the first place. If the evidence doesn't fit your prejudices, ignore the evidence .You can see this tendency almost anywhere, and most of the time, it's not that important. (In the case of say, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, it is rather important because tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of people are dying for it, but that's another matter.) The other day we took a short look at Christopher Hitchens' impressive ability to convince himself that he was right to join the neocon team and endorse virtually every catastrophe Bush and company have managed to pull off in Iraq and then some. But even so, I have to say, I don't think I have ever seen a more impressive example of it than Joe Klein's post yesterday in which -- I swear I'm not making this up -- he argues that he was correct when he wrote, just before the Bush presidency, "Given the circumstances, there is only one possible governing strategy [for George W. Bush]: a quiet, patient, and persistent bipartisanship."

Klein calls me names, for the second day in row. No surprise there. I must have really hurt his feelings when I refused his invitation to join him on his teachers' union campaign. (I might have taken it more seriously had he not made up arguments of mine in the past.) But this obsession he seems to have formed about me and calling me names -- in recent times I've noticed, "futile and pathetic, " and "still pathetic," this week, whereas in the past, dictating to a blogger named Rory O'Connor, he whined that I was guilty of "essential narcissistic laziness ... just spews opinions without having any information or doing any reporting. ... It's what he does instead of working. ... He's so peripheral, I forget he's in the business until someone calls or e-mails me his latest attack! ... written lots of inaccurate, foolish stuff ..." Klein's idea of a mea culpa is to call me "perpetually intemperate" and, I assume, part of the cadre of "frothing bloggers" who so disgusted him before he became one.

I've never called Klein any names beyond, perhaps, "liar," which is an objective description of his actions during the "Anonymous" episode, and I occasionally critique his work because, well, critiquing people's work is my job. He can call it an "obsession" if he likes, but the guy's been writing about me more than vice-versa of late ... Anyway, I find Klein significant only insofar as both Time magazine and ABC's This Week -- two absolutely central mainstream institutions -- consider him to be respectable, even promoting him for years as their most progressive contributor when in fact, his writing is characterized by the silliest kind of juvenile insults directed towards liberals you will find anywhere -- with the possible exception of the other columnists at Time, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, and, formerly, Andrew Sullivan. Jonathan Chait did a fine job of dissecting Klein's amazing ability to be wrong about everything, whether he is swinging from the left or the right side of the plate, here, and that was on Klein's book, where he presumably had time to think and consider and put his best work on the page. In his work for Time, it's pretty much bile-spewing, 24/7, if the topic is someone with remotely progressive politics.

Klein wrote of Democratic opposition to allowing a company from Dubai control U.S. ports that "They seem as confused as Democrats normally do." When Democratic advocacy groups opposed the nomination of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, he explained that they did so "in their usual vituperative fashion." Democrats, says Klein, "make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth." The phrase "Democratic ideas," he guffaws, is an "oxymoron." He has even characterized Democrats as "a party with absolutely no redeeming social value."

Two of his most recent columns have been love letters to Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee.

To term Klein "progressive" is to slander the genuine article, but to do purposefully, in order to marginalize genuine liberals from the debate -- despite the fact that most Americans today share the views of most liberals on most things.

(And by the way, I liked and admired Primary Colors as much as I disliked Klein's bald-faced lies to his editors, his producers, his friends, and his colleagues once he had been unmasked as its author.)

An aside: Everything about Time is weird. Norman Pearlstein, who came from running The Wall Street Journal, ran Time for years, but only after he leaves does its current editor-in-chief, John Huey, turn it into a weekly version of The Wall Street Journal -- with genuinely reliable and straightforward news reporting, excluding the infamous Ann Coulter suck-up cover story, and extremely over-the-top, liberal-hating opinion pages. What is also weird is that the transition to this obsessive liberal hatred in the columns has happened under a trio of editors who are actually people I like and admire and with whom I am sort of friends, to varying degrees. I can't believe any of them -- who, with the possible exception of Huey, I don't know at all -- were purposely destroying the political balance of Time, and doing so particularly at a time when this view of the world has been entirely discredited by the very people who followed Klein, Kristol and Krauthammer's advice -- on purpose. But there it is ...

And finally, I hate to have to keep pointing this out but if the MSM were really liberally biased in any significant fashion, none of this would even be possible.

Oh, and Greg Sargent has all this to say about that ...

Reasons Marty Peretz has to be envious of George Soros, No. 2016: He gets published in magazines he doesn't have to buy first.


Great news from Rhino: Three Warren Zevon releases, two of which have never been on CD. The Envoy is the big news. It is Zevon's most underrated record and one of my favorite records by anyone in that time period. The first song is one of the best ever written about the making of foreign policy. Turns out my old editor at the Cornell Daily Sun, David Wild, wrote the liner notes, and it's got some new tracks, including a frenetic "Wild Thing." Excitable Boy, meanwhile, is one of the greatest records by anyone ever. Originally released in 1978 and produced by Jackson Browne and Waddy Wachtel, it's got all those songs that only casual Warren fans know. If you've never heard it, you're going to have to trust me. Also with bonus tracks: an alternate version of "Werewolves." (And yes, I made the trek to London to order the beef chow mein once upon a time.) Finally, Stand in the Fire was recorded live at the Roxy in 1981. It's been pretty hard to get, and is a period piece, though a riveting one. (Warren was a little out of his mind during this period, and it shows.) It's basically live greatest-hits package with "The Sin" and "Stand In The Fire" added. Unreleased cuts include "Johnny Strikes Up The Band," "Frank And Jesse James," and "Hasten Down The Wind." Get the first two and see how you like them before moving on to this one. If you do, then get Warren Zevon too, which has charms that were later lost -- or perhaps exchanged -- for other rock n' roll virtues.

My city:

Tonight I'm seeing Willie, Merle, and Ray Price at Radio City. Tomorrow, Lucinda Williams, also at Radio City. Saturday, we get started on our annual Allmans-at-the-Beacon ritual. Sunday night, if I'm allowed out of the house, La Strada is playing two blocks away at Symphony Space. How are things in your city?

Also Friday, Suzy, Maggie and Terre Roche are doing a show at the Ethical Culture Society, if you're so inclined.

(Oh, and last night I took the kid to a dress rehearsal of a Broadway musical called The Pirate Queen, and we were seated next to the great Garland Jeffreys and his kid. Garland is perhaps one of the greatest unfamous rock performers on the planet, though he's a star in Europe. Take a moment to check him out.)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Rakesh Wahi

I notice Obama is being criticized for saying that, although he thought Iraq had WMDs, he was against the vote to authorize use of force. I think there is a little confusion -- UNMOVIC and its progeny, run by lawyers, were always looking for a level of proof (metaphysical certitude ) to certify that Iraq was free of WMDs.This did not mean that "every one " believed Iraq had WMDs. Even if Obama harbored any suspicions about WMDs, Bush's conduct during the run up to the vote was very clear -- he was going to go to war. Under those circumstances the vote to authorize force showed a lack of judgment. It is possible that Bush gave private assurances to some senators regarding the vote.

Name: Jonathan Rollins
Hometown: New York

I am bored, frankly, of reading the too-closely-parsed or flat-out-lying justifications of Hitchens and the rest of the cheerleaders for this war. I am a proud liberal and a veteran of more than one Persian Gulf war. If these people are so enthralled with killing, so enraptured of the blood and feces and noise and stench of mass violence, then why do so few -- if any -- of them pick up weapons and go to war? If the sound of angels singing and the sound of metal shredding human flesh at high velocity are to them indistinguishable, why do these cheerleaders not rush to it? Why is the horror, the bloody doing, the bloody dying, left overwhelmingly to the people with few viable economic options and little stake in the outcome?

Name: Ryan Scott
Hometown: Portland, OR

Hey Doc,

Today, TPM linked to a Tony Snow conference in which he stated that "the president has no recollection of this being raised with him," in reference to the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys. It was a response to a question about what the president knew 18 days immediately prior to the time most of them were fired.

Two questions. (1) What relevance does executive privilege -- which purports to ensure that unvarnished opinions and information are provided to the president -- have when nobody told the president anything?

I guess if executive privilege means anything, it means the right of the president to be kept completely uninformed. Once his aides are publicly criticized for making decisions without his input, they may feel compelled to tell him things he doesn't want to know. Now that's a privilege worth fighting for.

And (2) Since the president was not informed of the decision, does "serving at the pleasure of the president" include "serving at the pleasure of Karl Rove"?

Name: Alex Swingle
Hometown: NYC

Over a week ago, I emailed the ADL about this fellow John Hagee and questioning why AIPAC is allowing someone with such views to speak at their conference. No answer thus far.

So let me get this straight: if Jimmy Carter makes an awkward statement, he is a bigot, but when right-wing Christians only support Israel for their own bizarre selfish reasons which include elimination of the Jewish people altogether, it is okay? How does AIPAC have any credibility after this?

If Marty Peretz and/or Abe Foxman are reading this, I would like to hear an explanation for their silence.

Yet another topic not covered by our so-called liberal media.

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