"Liberal" Time columnist Klein fired Rove's first shots against '06 Democrats

Video ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Time columnist Joe Klein -- the magazine's "most liberal commentator" -- continued a pattern of attacking Democrats, the "Democratic left," and liberals. While purportedly critical of White House senior adviser Karl Rove, who he said will launch "another nefarious" campaign against Democrats in the run-up to the 2006 elections, Klein argued that Rove will "be aided by those on the noisome left" and singled out three prominent African-American House Democrats as particularly susceptible to such attacks.

In a May 14 "web exclusive" column for Time, Joe Klein -- the magazine's "most liberal commentator" -- continued a pattern, identified by Media Matters for America, of attacking Democrats, the "Democratic left," and liberals. Klein wrote that White House senior adviser Karl Rove will launch "another nefarious" campaign against Democrats in the run-up to the 2006 elections, claiming that Rove will organize it "around poisonous trivia," "will question the patriotism of Democrats," "will deploy an ugly, stone-throwing distortion of Christian 'values,' " and "will play the race card." While purportedly critical of Rove's controversial campaign tactics, however, Klein argu ed that Rove will "be aided by those on the noisome left who believe that the U.S. is a malignant, imperialistic force in the world," and singl ed out three prominent African-American House Democrats -- Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) -- as particularly susceptible to such attacks.

In April, Klein denied he had ever said that "the left hates America," a comment first reported by media critic Eric Alterman; in fact, as Media Matters noted, Klein has stated that the "left wing" of the Democratic Party has a "hate America tendency."

From Klein's column, titled "Setting Up Easy Targets for Karl Rove":

And yet one senses a fluttery uncertainty on the Democratic side -- induced, I suspect, by the prospect of another nefarious Karl Rove campaign. This is a legitimate fear. Rove has shown a positive genius for organizing campaigns around poisonous trivia. He will question the patriotism of Democrats (and, once again, be aided by those on the noisome left who believe that the U.S. is a malignant, imperialistic force in the world). He will deploy an ugly, stone-throwing distortion of Christian "values," especially against those Democrats who choose not to discriminate against homosexuals. And if things get really desperate, he will play the race card, as Republicans have ever since they sided against the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

The inevitability of race as a subliminal issue in the campaign became obvious as I watched House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, the personification of fluttery uncertainty, trying to defend Representative John Conyers on Meet the Press a few weeks ago. Conyers will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee if the Democrats win control of the House in November, and he has already threatened impeachment hearings against President Bush. This is one of the few scenarios that might rouse the demoralized Republican base from its torpor. It is also likely to alienate independents, who are sick of the hyperpartisanship in Washington and will be less likely to vote for Democrats if the party is emphasizing witch hunts instead of substantive policies. But the ugly truth is that Conyers is a twofer: in addition to being foolishly incendiary, he is an African American of a certain age and ideology, easily stereotyped by Republicans. He is one of the ancient band of left-liberals who grew up in the angry hothouse of inner-city, racial-preference politics in the 1960s, a group "more likely to cry 'racism' and 'victimization' than the new generation of black politicians," a member of the Congressional Black Caucus told me.

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Rangel would be one of the most powerful Democrats in the new Congress, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He is regarded as more mainstream than Conyers, well versed in tax and entitlement policies, but he has had an unfortunate tendency to shoot off his mouth in the past. He has questioned interracial adoption, and has compared colleagues who opposed tax breaks for minority broadcasters to Hitler. After Hurricane Katrina, Rangel compared Bush to Bull Connor, the public-safety commissioner of Birmingham, Ala., who attacked peaceful civil rights marchers with dogs and fire hoses in the 1960s.

In a way, Hastings, who would become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, is the most problematic of all. He is a former federal judge who was indicted in 1981 for influence peddling, acquitted on all counts, then impeached and removed from his judgeship by the Congress. In 1992 he ran for Congress himself and, improbably, won. It is an open secret that Pelosi has chosen Hastings to replace the respected and experienced Jane Harman as the ranking Democrat on the committee. This was a questionable decision even before it became apparent that the Democrats might win the Congress; now it's a devastating negative ad waiting to happen: "Why do the Democrats want to put an impeached judge in charge of your national security?"

Conyers and Rangel are embarrassments, but there is nothing the Democrats can do about them -- and they are certainly no more objectionable than any number of right-wing extremists who fester in Congress. But it's not too late for Hastings to remove himself from the line of fire and make clear his support for Harman as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBTQ, Race & Ethnicity, Religion, National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
Time Magazine
Person
Joe Klein
Stories/Interests
2006 Elections
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