Oso Politico: Mano a Mano with Joe Klein

More on Rand Paul

By Joe Klein Thursday, May 20, 2010 | 207 Comments

·The latest–an update from Michael Scherer’s smart post below–is that Rand Paul is now saying that he regrets the appearance with Rachel Maddow, not the ridiculous statements he made in favor of a private business’s ability to discriminate according to race. I suspect that this will be the first of many such disasters for the Tea Party libertarians. They are about to find themselves faced with actual political rivals who will be more than happy to expose the utopian foolishness of their ideology. This will be a rare moment of public education for an electorate that doesn’t pay sufficient attention to even the most important aspects of democracy.

[Oh ho, ho, ho – private property, the progressive progressive’s bête noir. Klein really elucidates with the word ‘ridiculous’. It makes for a very strong argument. And that third rail of all political discussion: ‘Discriminate’. Who would ever discriminate? And here we have the almost perfect phrase consisting of five words, three of which are loaded with negative connotations: ‘Utopian foolishness of their ideology.’ And we haven’t yet finished with ex cathedra pronouncements using the words ‘rare’, ‘sufficient’, and ‘important aspects’. We are most certain that Captain Joe will educate us in the following paragraphs as to the meaning of these words.]

If Democrats play their cards right, by November most Americans will know that Medicare is government health care, that social security is a government pension service, that all the bank bailout money either has been paid back or will be covered by a modest tax on too-big-to-fail banks, that the Obama stimulus package mostly consisted of tax cuts for them and support for necessary local government functions like schools and cops–and that the jobs-creating aspects of the stimulus package have been remarkably free of corruption.

[One wonders what will happen if the Democrats don’t play their cards right. Perhaps the answer lies below. Sigh, the November to which he is referring is but mere history now. The electorate certainly took Joe’s advice to heart and elected a Republican-dominated House. On the other hand, what the hell does this all have to do with Rand Paul? Obviously, discrimination by private businesses can be worked in here somewhere. And we are certainly gratified by the fact that the stimulus package has been ‘remarkably’ free of corruption – but apparently not totally.]

If the Republicans play their cards right, they will step away from the brink and recognize that a certain don’t-tread-on-me libertarian spirit has always been close to the heart of the American dream, but that libertarian extremism has always been a loser–and that even Ronald Reagan found that he couldn’t put a dent in the liberal social safety net because it was too popular.

[At least Joe keeps pretty much to one analogy: Playing cards, and presumably gambling. ‘Stepping away from the brink’ might mean folding your cards, being a generous interpretation. We wonder as to which ‘certain’ don’t-tread-on-me libertarian spirit Joe is referring – as there are so many. Maybe below, Joe will inform as to what is the ‘heart of the American dream’. And invoking Ronnie is a sheer stroke of genius that would not occur to just any old pundit. We guess that as he couldn’t put a dent in the liberal safety net, he must have folded his cards.]

Most extremist moments in American politics are passing fevers. Glenn Beck’s ratings are down; his paranoid act is wearing thin. Balance will eventually be restored–which, in this case, will probably mean fewer Democrats in Congress (because their 2010 levels were unnaturally high, given past history), but it will also mean that more Republicans will understand the downside of demagogic extremism.

[We wonder how many ‘extremist moments’ there have been in American politics: Barry G. or George McGovern? Speaking of paranoid acts, how did Beck wind getting into this discussion? What happened to the extremist Rand? Maybe we should check out some numbers here and give this screed some gravitas. And so, November has come and gone and we wonder: Do more Republicans understand ‘the downside of demagogic extremism’?]


Oso is very confused. Was this screed about Rand Paul and libertarianism, or was it about something else – like demagogic extremism’? Or is Joe slyly implying that that Rand and libertarianism are, at the same time, foolish and extreme?

Well, foolishness and extremism seem to have been a part of American politics long before Rand. Whether or not Rand is a libertarian we will leave for others to debate. But self-defense is certainly a part of the principles, if not the ‘ideology’, of libertarian thought. And private property is of primary importance to the concept of self-defense (which in itself is a moral obligation).

While we cannot speak for Rand’s actual intent, we doubt that it was ‘to discriminate according to race’. Rather, the discrimination referred to is much more general: Restaurants discriminate against the shirtless and shoeless; the sport of basketball discriminates against the height-challenged; politics discriminates against principled individuals; Joe Klein discriminates against the neighbor who asks to borrow Joe’s toothbrush (It’s mine – my private property!).

Discrimination is the sine qua non of an individual human being.

Otherwise, we would be but mindless sheep herded by the Shepherds of Political Correctness.

And as to ‘property’ we wonder if Joe is attempting to create a new definition of ownership somewhere between ‘public’ and ‘private’? It is your property – but – it is not, because of some concept called ‘public accommodation’. So, a restaurant can refuse service to the shirtless and the shoeless, but a Catholic couple cannot refuse to rent an apartment to a couple of queers*? Gidda-outa-here!

At last, after much arduous travail, we arrive at the phrase ‘utopian foolishness of their ideology’. This is a good one, and we congratulate Joe. Hitherto, we were under the impression that this phrase referred to Marxism. Now, at last, we understand that belief in individual liberty and responsibility is not only foolish, but also utopian. And somewhere, the idea of ‘principles’ seems to have been lost along the way: Now we are left with mere ideologies, and doctrines and dogmas.

As tedious as it may be, we are forced by ineluctable circumstances to discuss the ultimate sentence of the initial paragraph: ‘This will be a rare moment of public education for an electorate that doesn’t pay sufficient attention to even the most important aspects of democracy.’

The bitter disdain of Joe’s contempt for the hoi polloi dribbles from his mouth. Here is the voice of the intelligentsia speaking to the cognoscenti. Tell us, oh Master, what are the most important aspects of democracy – obedience to our betters?

And so we come to the second paragraph of this screed which is in intent and fact but one long sentence about a certain political party playing its cards in such a manner that the ungrateful hoi polloi will understand all of the great and wonderful things the Obama Administration is doing for them (the hoi polloi) and that indeed social security is a secure pension system based upon (but no – Joe is too busy with other matters to explain how it is financed) and supporting local cops who cannot extort tax enough from the locals to pay their salaries and pensions and therefore have ask the Supreme One to help them keep their jobs by means of a remarkably free-of-corruption stimulus package.

We think that is the gist of it – but feel free to deconstruct it for yourselves.

And by this time we have wandered well off the reservation, and Rand and the libertarians are practically forgotten and forsaken, except in spirit: For the Republicans, who, if they play their cards right will avoid stepping off of the brink and avoid the American Dream of being a loser. And poor Ronnie, ever to remain a punching bag for progressives everywhere, was unable to put a dent in the net of social safety, and no doubt intended to leave that chore to future politicians.

(We do wish that Joe would elaborate on the phrase ‘libertarian extremism’ as it is difficult to argue with a non-argument).

All good things must come to an end, as they say, and here we find ourselves deconstructing the last, ultimate, paragraph of Joe’s informative and lucidly argued screed. We begin with this sentence: ‘Most extremist moments in American politics are passing fevers.’

That’s it. No further explanation is offered, nor – apparently – required. The use of the word ‘most’, though, begs the question: Which extremist moments were not passing fevers?

At this point we do some channel switching and for a brief moment Glenn Beck appears, as a cameo?

And finally we reach the inevitable conclusion: ‘More Republicans will understand the downside of demagogic extremism’. This is undoubtedly true, as Joe has stated that it will be so.

However, it may actually be a prediction of the future – and as Yoga Bear once said: Predictions are difficult, especially about the future.

Well, November, 2010 has come and gone, and presents become pasts, and futures become presents. We will leave it to history to decide if the Republicans understand the downside of demagogic extremism – but we do have a question.

The title of this blog was ‘More on Rand Paul’. And so we feel a bit cheated as we have actually learned a lot about Joe Klein and very little about Rand Paul and are therefore inclined to rebrand the blog as: Joe Klein and His Fears.

*BTW: We have nothing against queers – why, some of our best friends behave very queerly indeed.


‘…even Ronald Reagan found that he couldn’t put a dent in the liberal social safety net…’

If corporations and the Koch brothers are today’s favorite contemporary punching bags for progressive pundits, Ronnie is the favorite ‘historical’ punching bag. No, not even the mighty Reagan could dent a net.

We wonder also what the context is here. President Ronnie was certainly no libertarian and the intent seems to be to conflate everything with extremism of one sort or another.

BTW, is it mere coincidence that Joe uses the word ‘dent’ here? See this. Do we detect quite a bit of incest amongst progressive discourse?


‘…will probably mean fewer Democrats in Congress (because their 2010 levels were unnaturally high, given past history…’

Here Joe seems to have left his fact checker in the dumper. Of the last 50 congresses (the House), 68% have been controlled by the Democrats, and of those congresses, 62% have had majorities of 59% or greater. Of course, he might be referring only to the last 4 years of history, in which case we offer our sincere apologies. (Or may it was Joe himself who was ‘unnaturally high’ when he wrote that…). It might behoove young Mr. Klein to do some research before shooting off his mouth, or giving free rein to his fingers, or whatever he uses to hold his tool.


This screed is obviously written as red meat for the choir. Unfortunately, it has no meat to it. It is a rambling, illogical discourse beginning with Rand Paul – one mention – and going on to wander aimlessly over the typical progressive boogey man territory. If Klein believes that individuals should not be allowed to discriminate on their own private property he should have developed an argument to that effect, rather than sloughing it off as a ‘ridiculous statement’.

He also misses another opportunity to develop an intelligent argument with the statement: ‘This will be a rare moment of public education for an electorate that doesn’t pay sufficient attention to even the most important aspects of democracy.’ We are still waiting to learn what those aspects are.

Seguing from racial discrimination to Democrats’ favorite social programs is quite a feat and we are overwhelmed by the ‘remarkably free of corruption’ aspects of the stimulus, and wonder why he even uses the ‘corruption’ word. Did someone accuse anyone of corruption? Again, Joe leaves us up in the air.

And this – ‘Most extremist moments in American politics are passing fevers.’ Which extremist moments were not passing – the War of Independence, perhaps?

And even though it was Joe’s intent, apparently, to merely bloviate, is there anything that we can learn from this? Well, perhaps we should just leave it at that – a mere rhetorical question.


We doubt that Klein is much informed as to libertarian principles.

The Tea Party has no fixed ideology and its participants cannot be said to hold any kind of consistent philosophy and certainly not libertarian principles.

He makes no effort to support his statement ‘utopian foolishness of their ideology’ as if the mere act of uttering those words makes them true.

Furthermore, we have this statement: ‘…libertarian extremism has always been a loser…’ We await with baited breath the gory details.


Klein’s screed follows in a long and proud history of illogical and meandering discourses on things and people that bother him. There are no premises, no development of argument and proofs, and no conclusions. We have the usual non sequiturs and ex cathedras. There is only the prediction (or hope) that ‘more Republicans will understand the downside of demagogic extremism.’

We do congratulate Joe on the minimal use of invective and ad hominems, and for keeping mixed metaphors to a minimum.

We give this screed a good solid C.

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