Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Joe Klein


As Walter and Jim were both MEs of Time, it was a Time-heavy party, and Joe Klein was there. As I said in this space recently, I don't remember ever speaking to Klein before and I've tended to avoid it on purpose. I shook his hand walking in and then avoided him for the rest of the party. But on my way out, as I went to thank my hosts, Klein accosted me and demanded to know why I only wrote mean things about him and never nice things. I tried to explain that I felt it was my jobs to defend liberals against unfair abuse in the MSM and that I didn't really care about him otherwise. He insisted I should be writing nice things about him, in part, he seemed to be arguing, because Springsteen liked his book about Woody Guthrie and also because he had had lunch with Omar Minaya that day. I kept trying to explain that Klein, per se, was uninteresting to me; I had a job to do and I did it. He should stop worrying so much about what I wrote and said and did and do the same. Soon, however, he started screaming and backing me into a corner of the living room as if he wanted to fight about it. I did not think this was such a hot idea, given the location, and so I tried to make a joke of it, making the sign of a cross in front of my chest as I backed into the corner. Thinking fast of how to save his party from disaster, Jim ran into the other room to get his camera and perhaps capture the moment for posterity. I dunno.

Still, it's weird. I am loathe to speculate publicly about what Klein's problem may be, but as I mentioned above, I had just done this bloggingheads with Garance that afternoon and in it, I had occasion to mention that in New York, we don't take politics too seriously when the day is over and that evening I expected to see someone at a book party for a mutual friend and we would behave as if no problem existed between us, or something. I was actually thinking of Klein. In other words, this kind of thing is rarely if ever done, and I'm rather amazed by Klein's intense personalization of my criticism of his work, but you would think a guy who dishes out such nasty stuff would be able to take it with a little more grace -- especially since, as I keep pointing out, I stick to the work, not the person, at least until something crazy like last night takes place. Coincidentally, my last Nation column, "The Politics of Pundit Prestige," is, in part, a take on just this phenomenon ...