On Tuesday the precocious James Kirchick participated in a workshop discussion with the venerable leftist madman Joe Klein, now of Time, on the final day of the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly. Kirchick and Klein were among four panelists in a program devoted to “The Pro-Israel Lobby and the Media.”
Klein accused Kirchick of being insufficiently attentive to the nuance of Klein’s argument on the treachery of certain American supporters of Israel. (You know who they are.) Klein assaulted Kirchick with a parade of expletives after the event. The Washington Post’s obnoxious gossip columnists report that Klein rung up Kirchick as a “dishonest [expletive]” and “[expletiving] propagandist.” One can accurately deduce Klein’s attraction to nuance by the way he wields such expletives.
Reached for comment, Kirchick responded with lapidary cool: “One wishes he went back to being Anonymous.”
Klein is, of course, the formerly “Anonymous” author of the Clinton-era roman à clef Primary Colors who falsely and repeatedly denied his authorship of the book. (If you missed it the first time around, the book is now available for $.01 from Amazon.) Klein was identified as the author of the book by Professor Donald Foster on the basis of a linguistic analysis of Klein’s Newsweek columns and the text of the novel. In denying his authorship of the book, Klein had been lying for fun and profit.
Kirchick exceeded Klein’s post-panel remarks in civility, humor and bite. Kirchick’s is a performance that recalls William Buckley in his heyday. In 1962 Buckley said of Arthur Schlesinger, for example, that he would be glad to give publicity to any lapse by Professor Schlesinger into sanity, and that he did “not worry that such a guarantee w[ould] heavily mortgage my future time.”
Checking out the obnoxious Post gossip columnists’ account of the doings, one is reminded that Kirchick is the young man who called out Klein as a “juvenile bully” for his remarkably offensive comments attacking Charles Krauthammer earlier this year. Kirchick was on the money then, and he is on the money now in wittily wishing for Klein’s disappearance from our public life.
UPDATE: TPMMuckraker has more, including this last update:
Kirchick tells TPMmuckraker that he never raised his voice, and that he asked Klein afterwards “Why are you using this sort of language?” It was this that prompted Klein to call him a “dishonest prick.”
Klein kept referring to Kirchick’s age, but “he was the one acting like a child,” said Kirchick.
Kirchick compared Klein’s focus on Kirchick’s age to Klein’s remark this summer that the work of neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is confined to a wheelchair, “would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about,” — a comment Klein later apologized for.
“Why cant we debate the substantive issues? Why is it you always have to impugn people’s motives and qualifications?” Kirchick asked, addressing Klein directly.
Klein declined to comment.
Kirchick scores again: “He was the one acting like a child.”