If you're Professional Pundit Joe Klein (God help you) and you want to remain Professional Pundit Joe Klein (God save you) then you've got to walk a very thin and tricksie line. To keep hang onto your place as "left-leaning guy #2" on every panel to which you're invited to add your decibels, you've got to occasionally give a nod to the fact that Liberals have a long and noble history of being right about almost everything. And yet if you want to keep your Beltway Media all-access pass you are also required to immediately negate whatever you just said about maybe, just maybe, the Left being right and the Right being wrong by immediately burying it under a honeybucket-full of ooey, gooey Centrist, "Both Sides" glop.
In 2007, this kind of fancy two-steppin' looked like this...
First, point out that the GOP is actually destroying itself by pandering to its batshit crazy base:
Some hints about why Rove is actually leaving can be found in this excellent piece in The Atlantic by Josh Green, in which it is argued that Rove’s real agenda–as the man himself told Nick Lemann in the New Yorker many years ago–was to make the GOP the dominant U.S. party. But there was a fundamental incoherence to the strategy: to build a realigned Republican majority, Bush-Rove (or, perhaps, Bushrove) had to reach out to moderates, but his electoral strategy was to build and win from a (fairly nutball) base on the right. And the few attempts Bushrove made to build a larger coalition–immigration policy, for example–were shot down by GOP extremists.Then, out of the clear blue, simultaneously concede that the entire Democratic domestic agenda is now so mainstream that it can be waived off as “Well, of course…” while at the same time issuing Dire Warnings to "smart Democrats" against some incipient, invisible, Democratic extremism and base-pandering:
Finally, Rove is right about 2008, if not about his reflexive demonization of Hillary Clinton: this may not be a Democratic walkover. Indeed, the surest way to make it a close election is to ape Rove. You can’t run from the base and then try to govern from the center. You can’t govern from the base and succeed. This is not a plea for half-a-loaf moderation: on some issues, like universal health insurance, corporate (especially oil company) tax breaks and a tax system that treats wealth far more leniently than work, there are real distinctions that should be made. But there’s a smart bipartisan national security policy to be promoted, now that Bush’s pre-emption has been proved a failure. And there may even be some common ground to be had on global warming. A smart Democrat will do both–stand on principle, and find areas where a larger coalition is possible. A smart Democat will study Rove and do the opposite.
In 2013, it looks like this...
First bust out the "Both Side" scattergun and fault everyone in creation for the GOP being intractably obstructionist assholes:
Then, sing a sad little song about the long string of Stupid Centrist failures, followed by a happy little song about the nascent bipartisan glories of the No Lables clowns:You may be forgiven for thinking, How incredibly pathetic. And also for thinking, How did it get this bad? Actually, it's been a 40-year process. Former Republican House minority leader Bob Michel once told me that things started going downhill when committee meetings moved from long narrow tables, where Republicans and Democrats had to look directly at each other, to fancy banquettes, where the members sit, segregated, facing in the same direction--toward the television cameras. There's more to it than that, obviously. There's the rise of special-interest money. There's gerrymandering, which has become a noxious computerized art, producing more than 300 "safe" districts--safe for re-election, if you strictly adhere to the whims of your party's most extreme zealots. There was Newt Gingrich, who saw politics as war by other means and almost single-handedly destroyed the comfy "my esteemed colleague" collegiality of the House. And then there was the lockstep liberalism of the assorted identity caucuses. And then there was the Tea Party.
Or, if I may shamelessly quote myself from 2007:For those of us who consider ourselves political moderates, life is a dispiriting slog, a sorry mix of rectitude and ineptitude. We simmer with anticipation each time a new bipartisan initiative or Gang (of Six, of ... anything) is offered--and we are inevitably disappointed. The results are either too pedestrian, in a Solomonic slice-the-baby way, or far too ambitious. Abolish the Electoral College! Grant public funding for election campaigns! Start a third party! In 2012 there was a megafoolish, if well-funded, effort by a group called Americans Elect to raise an independent Cincinnatus to run for President via an Internet draft. It flopped, spectacularly. Oh, there are worthy think tanks with names like the Bipartisan Policy Center and Third Way. And there is the memory of a centrist research group, the Progressive Policy Institute, that provided Bill Clinton with many of his best proposals in 1992. But we moderates generally suffer from too much righteousness, too little populist grit and too many compound sentences.I am, however, slightly optimistic again. On Jan. 10 I witnessed a public act of humility by 24 members of Congress, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. The event was sponsored by a centrist group called No Labels. It was revolutionary not only in its humility but also in its agenda. There was no agenda. They simply agreed to start talking to one another....
...“Don’t run with that soup!” Jokeline shrieks. “You’ll spill it!”But there isn’t any soup.And we’re not running.“Yeah, well, as may be. But if there was soup, and if you were running, then I’d be right!”And there we have it.Every pillar of Modern Conservative Dogma now lies in ashes, and everything the Dirty Fucking Hippies warned would happen has now come to pass with a bloody vengeance...."The Center" as a robust, respectful round-table at which compromised can be honorably reached -- "The Center", which Jokeline claims to love above all else -- is now a dead zone precisely because greasy Quislings like Jokeline abetted a cabal of truly loathsome, truly unhinged, truly un-American monsters in destroying it by adamantly refusing to ever call them out by their true name.All of which he did...in the name of Centrism.Like virtually every addict I’ve ever encountered, the press shows signs of having reached that point in their free fall where they fucking well know exactly how their drug of choice is killing them.And killing us.But because creatures like Jokeline have absolutely no other shtick left to sell, they keeps stabbing the same filthy needle into the same rotting vein and chasing over and over again their ancient, glorious high of being considered Serious Journalists, instead of the pathetic caricatures they have become.And yet even when their track marks are as clear and stark as the scars on an albino mole rat that’s been clubbed with a hot waffle iron…Even at that last moment when what is left of part of their mind is still sharp enough to see what a bent wasteland they have made of the rest of their mind…They nonetheless float above their body like a Predator drone, piloted by their addiction, observing themselves as they carefully pick up, open, prepare and consume the spike/bottle/scripture/dogma which, on some level, they know full-well is the very thing that is hollowing them out and destroying everything they claim to care about.It is a sad fate for anyone to suffer, but when your entire press corps is caught in the riptide of a junkie-death-spiral, it is a tragedy on a scale so massive that it is sometimes hard to comprehend.