Joe Klein and John Kerry: Gross


Michael Crowley excerpts a portion of Bob Shrum’s memoir on The Plank today. Shrum, for those who have managed to keep their minds unpoisoned by the insanity of Washington’s consultant circles, is a man who has consulted for eight Democratic presidential candidates. All eight have lost. You might think after the fourth, fifth, or sixth loss Shrum would be out of work. You obviously don’t know anything about politics.

Shrum writes at length about his experience as a consultant for John Kerry’s 2004 campaign. Crowley highlights a disturbing passage about Time columnist and world class blowhard Joe Klein:

Klein himself was trying to play many parts. He was not only reporting on the campaign and preparing to write a book about consultants; he was also a constant critic and yet another sometime adviser. After the Kerry appearance at the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day dinner, he told [Kerry spokesman] David Wade: “Great speech, but it’s too late” — then turned around and stalked away. With Klein, it was almost always too late for us, in part because we didn’t always take his persistent advice. He would chastise Kerry on the phone when he didn’t like a speech, counseling both Kerry and me about what the candidate should say and what our strategy should be.

Okay, so it’s weird (and probably unethical) that a famous journalist who writes regularly about the presidential campaign is advising one of the candidates. But here’s something even more odd:

Rejecting [Klein’s] advice was uncomfortable for Kerry, who liked Joe, craved his approval, and worried what his columns would say when we didn’t take his recommendations.

Jesus! I’m not even angry that I supported a guy so insecure and unsure of his convictions that he considered how a egomaniacal columnist would evaluate his actions before he took them. I’m angry that I work in a profession where writers and their subjects become so intertwined that it affects the subjects’ behavior. How can one reasonably argue that it doesn’t affect the writers’ also?

I’m not one of the bloggers who criticizes journalists and their sources for running in the same social circles. I’ve always assumed that these people can separate their personal feelings and professional responsibilities. But if this is how journalism works inside the beltway, good heavens, count me out.

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