December 02, 2007

Joe Klein's Role as Gullible Propagandist

Joe Klein sees himself as a wise and moderate political pundit yet his writings this week show that his real role is far away from what he believes it is. Klein had two significant topics this week: a major column on the FISA legislation which has been the topic of much discussion in the blogosphere and a blog post on attending a focus session with Frank Luntz to see how "real" Republicans viewed the last Republican debate. Both of these pieces of work had one thing in common: they were fed to him by rightwing operatives for the express purpose of transmitting rightwing talking points into public discussion.

The first topic on FISA has been extremely well-covered by Glenn Greenwald, and through the controversy, the "source" of this column was revealed to be Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) who has been the source of some of the weirdest conspiracy theories that have arisen in the Bush years. Joe, pundit and expert extraordinaire, has yet to realize that believing Pete's version of the world is like believing in Martians. Or buying into David Koresh's worldview. Has Joe Klein assessed the reliability of his sources or does he get carried away by a storyline that agrees with his gut?

But it wasn't till the second post that it became clear to me: Joe is a patsy for the right wing. In the midst of a raging firestorm of his FISA column, Joe was invited to a focus group assembled by Frank Luntz so he (Joe) could tell the world what "real Republicans" were thinking. Joe noted that the people he saw were pro-war, pro-torture and very hot about immigration.

But there was worse to come: When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.

As Digby noted, the people Klein observed didn't even match the general Republican viewers that attended the debate. Turns out that the unrequited cultists that Luntz had assembled weren't really a representative set of undecided Republicans who were more likely to cheer John McCain's condemnation of torture than they were to be objectively pro-torture.

Joe was appalled by what he saw, but he came away thinking that these people were representative of the "ordinary" Republican voters with values that Democrats must able to address if Democrats want to be elected. After all, the major shtick that Klein has built his reputation on is that Democrats are weak on national security and they must adopt attitudes like "reasonable" Republicans if they want to earn the trust of Americans.

So why was Joe invited to attend Frank Luntz's focus group? I suspect it was because Joe is such a good conduit of rightwing talking points that he was the perfect patsy for passing on impressions that could be used to beat up Democrats for not being sufficiently hawkish and manly. Joe, sufficiently flattered by his ideological handlers, would drop his observations into the public discourse never realizing that he was being used by his contacts to have another stick with which to beat up the Dems.

Posted by Mary at December 2, 2007 01:20 AM | Media | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |
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