Time Mag’s Klein Goes from Bush Delivering ‘Coolest Presidential Image’ to ‘Juvenile’ Stunt

The August 16 Weekly Standard highlighted a striking change in views from Time’s Joe Klein, whose take seems to have changed to fit what’s fashionable. On August 2, in a “Swampland” blog post looking at President Obama’s speech touting the end of combat operations in Iraq, Klein fretted it “will not be remembered as vividly as George Bush's juvenile march across the deck of an aircraft carrier, costumed as a combat aviator in a golden sunset, to announce—six years and tens of thousands of lives prematurely—the ‘end of combat operations.’”

But back when Bush’s USS Lincoln landing occurred, Klein was more enthralled with it, asserting on the May 4, 2003 Face the Nation: “Well, that was probably the coolest presidential image since Bill Pullman played the jet fighter pilot in the movie Independence Day.” (Video, from the MRC’s archive, is of the matching exchange between Bob Schieffer and Klein. Audio: MP3 clip.) The Weekly Standard’s “Scrapbook” page observed:
As Peter Wehner noted at the Commentary magazine blog Contentions, “Such bipolar shifts of opinion in a high-ranking public official would be alarming and dangerous; in a columnist and blogger, they are comical and discrediting.”
Even in that 2003 CBS appearance, however, Klein wasn’t happy about Bush’s successful PR maneuver, regretting how it illustrated the “major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent President.”

From the May 4, 2003 Face the Nation on CBS, the morning after the first Democratic presidential candidate forum of the 2004 campaign:
BOB SCHIEFFER: As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time. And if you're a political consultant, you can just see campaign commercial written all over the pictures of George Bush.

JOE KLEIN: 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. You compare that image, which everybody across the world saw, with this debate last night where you have nine people on a stage and it doesn't air until 11:30 at night, up against Saturday Night Live, and you see what a major, major struggle the Democrats are going to have to try and beat a popular incumbent President.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center