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Please begin with an informative title:

Stephen A. Douglas
Joe Klein's historic doppelganger, Stephen A. Douglas, the "radical moderate" of his time.
This week, Joe Klein wrote:
Obama's anger served a larger purpose. It was directed at the plague affecting--no, paralyzing--our public life: the ability of well-funded extremist groups to thwart the will of the overwhelming majority. This is a problem that goes well beyond the gun issue. It has infected liberal and conservative lobbying groups alike. Their constant screeching defiles the mass media and drowns out voices of sanity. Their give-no-quarter politics defines our time. [...] It is well past time for political moderates to speak as forcefully as the snake-oil salesmen who are hijacking our democracy.

I include among the demagogues Democrats like Jim Dean--former governor Howard Dean's brother--who recently sent out a fundraising letter titled "Disgusted," which began with this subtle enjoinder: "President Obama's budget has left me absolutely disgusted." Really? Why? Because the President has called for very modest cuts in old-age entitlements. I also include both sides of the abortion debate, public employees' unions that won't change their work rules, the gun lobby--obviously--and its liberal doppelgänger, the civil-libertarian lobby.

Of course Joe Klein's inability to actually engage the substance of issues has been obvious for some time. His criticism of  "the gun lobby—obviously—and its liberal doppelgänger, the civil-libertarian lobby," is emblematic of his ignorance and pettiness (he's still mad because his stupidity on warrantless wiretapping was widely ridiculed).

And this "angry moderate" act of his is also a rehash. In 2006, he said:

I call myself a moderate — a radical or flaming moderate, take your pick — because in this witlessly overheated political environment, you've got to call yourself something.
I can think of some things to call Joe Klein, but let's leave that for another time. I actually want to equate Klein to a figure in history that will illustrate the noxiousness of his views—and I keep coming back to Stephen Douglas:
Douglas's ideal of American nationality was a powerful and fluid political force. But other, countervailing forces were also at work. In the North, a growing moral abhorrence of human bondage aligned with swelling fears that the territorial domain of slavery would be expanded without limit. In the South, a constitutional interest in protecting states' rights merged with a rising apprehension that northern radicals would constrict the prerogatives of slaveowners. Caught between these colliding passions, Douglas called for a retreat from extremism [...]. [Emphasis supplied.]
That's Joe Klein. His idea of thoughtfulness is to say both sides do it, without a thought for the actual positions he is supporting. There is no doubt that Joe Klein would have equated John C. Calhoun with Frederick Douglass. Back in 2011, I wrote a post titled
Frederick Douglass: The activist who would not 'grow up'
:
The life of Frederick Douglass is one of the prime examples of American history of why reaching for the impossible, for not "growing up," is essential for the effective activist. Born a slave, Frederick Douglass was the living embodiment of asking for the impossible in order to achieve the good. While the perfect should not be the enemy of the good, asking for the perfect is essential to achieving the good.
Let me be clear, it's not that I think Klein has formed any ideas about the role of activists versus politicians; frankly I'm pretty sure he is not smart enough to think that deeply about the issue. But I do think he is so absorbed in his own inanities that he mimics the type of thinking that lionized Stephen Douglas' "radical moderation" in his time.

More on the flip.  

Intro

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So why devote a post on Joe Klein? Does he really matter? Not really. But his type of thinking still seems to matter. Every day you will read about the need for bipartisan compromise and the president's supposed "failure to lead" when the real story is, of course, the extremism of the Republican Party. (I have more than few bones to pick with the Green Lanternists in reverse who seem to see nothing in the president's own history of actions as contributing to this.)

Joe Klein sees extremism EVERYWHERE, except of course from himself (the truth of course is that Joe Klein has stumbled into supporting extremism at every turn in his drive to be a "radical centrist"). See here, here, here, and here:

Klein: [Y]eah, by all means, we should talk to [Iran] , but, on the other hand, we should not take any option, including the use of [....] nuclear weapons off the table.

Stephanopoulos: Keep that on the table?

Klein: It's absolutely stupid not to.

Stephanopoulos: That's insane. [...]

. . .

Klein: I'm some sort of creepy, covert conservative. Of course, most conservatives consider me a liberal. I call myself a moderate — a radical or flaming moderate, take your pick — because in this witlessly overheated political environment, you've got to call yourself something. But the conservatives do have a point[. . . .]

. . . .

Klein: The Great Society was an utter failure because it helped to contribute to social irresponsibility at the very bottom.

. . . .

Klein: You know, I'm pretty much a social conservative on a lot of stuff. I'm certainly opposed to late term abortion, and I think the deal to be made is morning after pill is legal, anything after that probably shouldn't be...in the past year, I've stood for the following things. I've taken the following positions. I agreed with the President on social security reform. I supported his two Supreme Court nominees, and I support, even though I opposed this war [He lied about that], I support staying the course in Iraq, and doing whatever we have to do in order to stabilize the region.

. . . .

Pretty extreme stuff. But, like Stephen Douglas, Klein has found that to stay in "the middle" when radical extremists are involved requires becoming pretty extreme yourself, and so it was with Douglas and so it is with Joe Klein.

Put Joe Klein in the pre-Civil War era and he would have been churning out columns attacking Frederick Douglass and lauding Stephen Douglas.

History will not be kind.  

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