Joe Klein's Moral Compass Always Points Left

Time Magazine's Joe Klein leveled another accusation of racism against Tea Party protesters today, employing fallacious arguments that could be torn apart by any student of basic logic.

Tea Party protesters, by Klein's account, are similar to the caricature of the 1990s religious right: "largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command," in the words of the Washington Post. Klein takes that WaPo adage and adds 'racist' to the end.

The Tea Party protesters are scared above all, Klein asserts, "by an amorphous feeling that they [sic] America they imagined they were living in--Sarah Palin's fantasy America--is a different place now, changing for the worse, overrun by furriners of all sorts: Latinos, South Asians, East Asians, homosexuals...to say nothing of liberated, uppity blacks...

"Finally, I should say that the things that scare the teabaggers--the renewed sense of public purpose and government activism, the burgeoning racial diversity, urbanity and cosmopolitanism--are among the things I find most precious and exhilarating about this country."

Here's what the Tea Party protesters find most precious in America: that we are a nation of limited government, not activist government. The protesters don't fear racial equality. They fear a government that, in the name of that objective, gives itself powers so expansive that it can nationalize banks and automobile manufacturers, confiscate and spend trillions of dollars on a whim, conduct experiments with 18 percent of the economy (health care), decide how much energy Americans can use, and dictate payment and compensation for private companies.

Tea Party protesters worry that the President is taking his Chief of Staff's advice, and being careful not to let this crisis go to waste. Emanuel was advocating the use of a crisis to vastly expand government power to mitigate social ills. It is the means of Emanuel's plan, not the ends, that Tea Party protesters oppose.

Klein derides those who want to prevent the economic crisis from allowing the administration to enhance its own power, just as Klein himself warned of the previous administration's purported use of the 9/11 attacks to do the same.

"Cheney's overreach was a result of understandable panic after the 9/11 attacks," Klein wrote in May. "But the real problem, as evidenced by the Vice President's actions in other areas (like environmental policy), was Cheney's twisted belief that the Constitution confers on the President near-dictatorial powers, especially in a time of war."

In Klein's mind, war is not a suitable reason for the dramatic expansion of federal power. Why is economic crisis any different? The objective--economic recovery--is absolutely essential, as was rooting out extremists that plotted to attack the United States. He opposed Cheney's power grabs in pursuit of the latter, yet he defends the current administration's expansion of power in pursuit of the former.

Klein offered absolutely no evidence to support his absurd accusations of bigotry. But it's not hard to decode his astoundingly fallacious argument: Because the administration wants to end racial and social inequality, and the Tea Parties were held in opposition to the administration's policies, protesters at the Tea Parties obviously do not want racial and social equality.

Of course anyone who has ever taken a class in symbolic logic will recognize that Klein is employing an oft-used logical fallacy: If we give the Obama administration unprecedented power, there will be no inequality. We won't give him that power, so inequality will never disappear.

Klein seems totally ignorant of the American philosophy of limited government, which holds that the state is not a tool for remedying social ills. It is a means to secure our rights, and nothing more. Those who are wondering what Tea Party protesters are arguing for--rather than what they are arguing against--should take the sentiment to heart.

That Klein dismisses this philosophy as racism because it opposes the use of the bludgeon of federal power in pursuit of a utopian agenda shows that he is completely ignorant of even the possibility of reducing inequality without dramatically expanding federal power. At this moment, since the Obama Administration most fully embodies Klein's philosophy, opposition to Obama is opposition to the only means of achieving such equality, and therefore is necessarily racism.

John Stossel mused that when he asks reporters about leftist bias, "I get blank stares. It's like asking fish about water. 'What water?' say the fish." When liberalism is the only possible solution, opposition to it becomes not about civil disagreement, but rather about bigoted obstructionism. Klein's conclusion in this sense is correct, but he needs to check his premises.

Liberalism is the ocean to Joe Klein the fish. The lack of consideration for any other view than one's own is a very dangerous world view for a journalist to have. The liberal bias is ingrained in Klein's perspective. That there could ever be another way to mitigate the problems he sees in society does not even occur to him, and he is therefore disposed to see all who oppose his one-sided vision of government as racists.

In discussing "The Perils of a Righteous President," as the article was headlined, Klein in 2004 derided President Bush's "overheated sense of good vs. evil," saying it had led to a "crusade", and that "Those who opposed the crusade opposed democracy. Those who opposed the President coddled terrorists ... They were not morally serious."

This moral absolutism, which Klein was so quick to criticize when it led to policies he did not favor, is the same absolutism, albeit for a different crusade, that now brings him to dub Tea Party protesters as racists.

Klein cried foul when the Bush Administration sought to enhance executive power for the stated objective of prosecuting the war on terrorism. But now that he agrees with the ends of enhanced executive power, he is morally outraged that anybody would disagree. This double standard is all too pervasive among journalists, most notably among those who decry as racism any opposition to President Obama's policies.