JOE KLEIN ON CLASS -- AND SEX
In a Time magazine blog post last night, Joe Klein praised James Webb -- or perhaps it would more accurate to say that he used his praise of Webb as a stick to beat John Kerry with ("Jim Webb and John Kerry, two Vietnam war heroes, passed each other on the up and down escalators in the past 24 hours--and there is a link between Webb's rise and Kerry's fall.... here, for once was a Democrat who palpably didn't drink chablis.... I can see Jim Webb sitting down the end of the bar, with a shot and a beer....").
Over at Whiskey Fire, Thers is livid ("Is Klein in junior high school? ... Webb's speech was a good speech because he was right: it is immoral to get people killed for nothing... People are dying, and Klein is measuring penises and wondering who he wants to have a beer with"). Webb did have biography and attitude on his side Tuesday night, but Thers has a point -- Webb's speech was impressive because he said the right things, without apology or equivocation.
Thers looks at Klein's post and sees phony populism and an effete reporter's idealization of a tough guy. But there's something more going on. Notice what else Klein says:
Kerry, whom I've known for many years, was always a different, more awkward guy in public than he was with his Vietnam pals--and, according to one of his closest Vietnam pals, he'd even stopped being loose with them in private in recent years: "We lost him when he married Teresa." ... It showed...all the time. It always looked like he was saying what he'd been told to say.
Ah, there it is -- We lost him when he married Teresa. It's the ball and chain's fault! Isn't that always the way?
I bet I'm not wrong to think of Klein as just another boomer who grew up on the sexual attitudes of Mailer and Kerouac, and who still thinks of women as imprisoners of men's wild, free souls at best, and as succubi and castrators at worst.
If we really want to see what Klein thinks of women and the working class, we need only look at his novel Primary Colors. Here's part of what Don Foster -- the guy who first figured out that Klein was Anonymous -- wrote about Primary Colors in his book Author Unknown:
As depicted in Primary Colors, the Clinton/Stanton figure makes you mad. In fact, someone should punch him. Actually, someone does punch him: the Hillary/Susan figure smacks him right in the kisser on page 122. This from a woman who could "come after your scrawny little ding-a-ling with a pair of garden shears." ...
The two kinds of females in Primary Colors are bitches and bimbos. Jack Stanton is married to one kind while chasing the other. But here, too, Henry [the novel's narrator] is ambivalent. Apart from his one-night stand with Susan, Henry has only a brief fling with the vaguely asexual Daisy. She pulls off her shirt and asks for sex: "'I'm practically a guy ... up top,' she said. She did have a nice -- pert, sexy in a businesslike way -- bottom. 'Okay,'" says Henry -- though he finds most women unappetizing, or frightening. For example, there's Libby, a 250-pound women's libber, who points guns at men's crotches and threatens to blast away their genitals, just like Hillary/Susan with her garden shears.
Though Henry and his creator, Anonymous, both love to use the F-word whenever possible, they both have trouble imagining anyone actually performing it. The sexual liaisons between Henry and Susan and Henry and Daisy are so totally unconvincing that Henry himself can hardly believe they happened. Together with campaign director Richard Jemmons/James Carville (who "looks like he was sired during the love scene from Deliverance"), Henry finds candidate Stanton's weakness for a "hairslut" utterly perplexing. The two men lie on Henry's hotel bed, chuckling over Stanton's weakness for Cashmere McLeod, who looks "hilarious: truck-stop pinups." Stanton's bimbo "had breasts, that was clear enough. But the rest of her body remained a mystery, as did the quality of her mind."
While you're shaking your head over the tangled, tortured sex thoughts of this great admirer of manliness, savor those last few details -- thus Joe Klein, champion of the working class.
One more quote from Klein's post:
For years, Democrats have been having difficulty selling their economic message, in part because the salesmen were so...unlikely. They could promise universal health care, free college, whatever--but it didn't make a difference if they O-Ra-Ted the way John Kerry did.
Er, Joe? Ever hear FDR speak? Go here and listen to a few of the Fireside Chats. Then talk to me about working people's disgust at wealthy Democrats with upper-class enunciation.
(Whiskey Fire link via Atrios.)