What Took You So Long, Joe?

Joe Klein finally gets it about George Bush in writing, “At the end of a presidency of stupefying ineptitude, he has become the lamest of all possible ducks.” He realizes Bush’s greatest failing:

It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.

Unfortunately, as Glenn Greenwald points out, Klein didn’t always see through Bush. He provides an example of Klein on Face the Nation on May 4, 2003 discussing Bush’s Mission Accomplished stunt. Klein said:

Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day. That was the first thing that came to mind for me. And it just shows you how high a mountain these Democrats are going to have to climb.

Today he describes it differently:

He is an impeccable classicist when it comes to baseball. And that just about does it for me. I’d add the bracing moment of Bush with the bullhorn in the ruins of the World Trade Center, but that was neutered in my memory by his ridiculous, preening appearance in a flight suit on the deck of the aircraft carrier beneath the “Mission Accomplished” sign. The flight-suit image is one of the two defining moments of the Bush failure. The other is the photo of Bush staring out the window of Air Force One, helplessly viewing the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. This is a presidency that has wobbled between those two poles — overweening arrogance and paralytic incompetence.(President Bush in the Middle East.)

Instaputz provides additional examples of Joe Klein’s change in attitude towards Bush.

The problems we faced during the Bush years are primarily the responsibility of George Bush, but the media deserves some blame for failing to do its job. They were so terrified by the ridiculous claims of liberal bias coming from the right that they bent over backwards to present Republican fiction as fact.

It wasn’t until after the disaster of Bush’s policies became greatly apparent that the media finally realized that presenting the facts which contradict untrue statements from government or other parties is not bias. This is simply doing their job. Just as they assisted the Bush administration in covering up facts which were inconvenient to them, some members of the media are now engaged in covering up their own failings during the earlier Bush years. As Glenn Greeenwald concludes:

Truly learning from one’s mistakes — as opposed to wet-finger-in-the-air abandoment of  previously revered leaders when they are revealed as failures and lose their power — requires, at the very least, an acknowledgment of one’s own role in what happened.   There have been very few mea culpas from establishment media journalists, many — most — of whom, to this day, think they did nothing wrong (“It was all Judy Miller!“).  As bad as this absence of remorse is, it is simply intolerable to watch those who cheered on many of the worst excesses try now to pretend that they were skeptical, adversarial critics all along.  Journalists with influential platforms have responsibilities, the primary one of which is to be accountable for what they say and do.

Back in September Joe Klein wrote about the dishonesty shown by John McCain during the campaign and indicated he would not accept an apology from McCain should he show remorse for his tactics after the campaign. It would be nice if Klein at least showed some remorse for his role in enabling George Bush. We don’t even have an apology to decide whether to accept.