Wapo's Ezra Klein: I Did Not Brief Senate Democrats, We Had a 'Free-Ranging Discussion'

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein is the founder of the infamous Journolist, a notorious online gathering place where 400 or so elite “journalists” got together to plot out their anti-Republican narratives in order to help Obama win the presidency. The fact that the Washington Post didn’t fire Klein immediately upon the discovery of this tells you how far that once storied institution has fallen. It’s also important to remember that Klein is presented by Wapo, not as the partisan leftist he is, but as…

“…the editor of Wonkblog and a columnist at the Washington Post, as well as a contributor to MSNBC and Bloomberg. His work focuses on domestic and economic policymaking, as well as the political system that’s constantly screwing it up.”

Well, last week Klein was apparently caught crossing another line:

From JournoList to activist, it appears that WaPo‘s liberal blogger Ezra Klein is once again blurring the lines between being a journalist and trying to sway politics. In what appears to be at a minimum a breach of journalism ethics, Klein spoke to a group of Senate Democratic Chiefs of Staff last Friday about the Supercommittee, just days before the Committee announced its failing. “It was kind of weird,” said a longtime Senate Democratic aide, explaining that while people “enjoyed it” and gave it “positive reviews” this sort of thing is far from typical.

A longtime Washington editor who deals with Capitol Hill regularly also said this is not the norm: “”I have never heard of a reporter briefing staffers. It’s supposed to be the other way around. This arrangement seems highly unusual.”

Klein’s speech to high-level Democratic aides was in the Capitol, closed door and off the record. It lasted 30 minutes. “I think they thought it was very helpful,” said the aide. “I think it’s unusual. What’s more common is to get someone like Paul Begala or a White House staffer. To get a journalist to talk is a little unusual.”

Today Klein responded with this non-denial denial:

I did go speak with a bunch of Senate Democratic chiefs of staff. They said they occasionally invite journalists in to chat, and we agreed I would attend for a free-ranging discussion — I wasn’t delivering a presentation, much less a briefing on the supercommittee. In fact, the supercommittee wasn’t a big part of the discussion. The focus was much more on the 2012 race and Congress’s low approval ratings. Their prior meeting had run late, so we only talked for 30 minutes or so.

J.P. Freire at the American Spectator doesn’t think Klein did anything ethically wrong in this case, but he still has some fun with Klein’s history of Clintonian phrase-making whenever his biases start to show:

Here’s what [Klein] said when asked by then senior editor of Harper’s, Luke Mitchell, whether it would be possible to use the list to coordinate:

“Open question: Would it be a good use of this list to co-ordinate [sic] a message of the week along the lines of the GOP? Or is that too loathsome? It certainly sounds loathsome. But so does losing!”

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, the founder of Journolist, quickly jumped in: “Nope, no message coordination. I’m not even sure that would be legal. This is a discussion list, though, and I want it to retain that character,” he wrote.

Coordination? Briefing? Free-ranging discussion? They’re all very, very different things. Obviously. But remember! Ezra is the objective columnist.

Mickey Kaus thinks Klein is the one who got used:

On a normal day, you see, Klein is regurgitating what Democratic aides and experts tell him. Isn’t it ethical progress if the spin goes in the other direction for a change? If only I thought that were really true in Klein’s case. … -It’s not like Klein turned around and wrote a one-sided post, “In praise of congressional staff.” … Oh.

It’s telling that rather than just come out and admit his biases, Klein would prefer to be ridiculed, openly laughed at, and scrutinized by the phony pose he projects as an “objective” journalist. You would think that coming out of the ideological closet would lift a huge weight off of Klein’s shoulders, but my guess is that both he and the his publisher still believe that the phony shield of objectivity still fools some people and is therefore an effective partisan weapon. Part of it, too, is likely part insecurity and part denial. Klein doesn’t wasn’t to admit to himself he’s a partisan. He wants to keep believing he’s some sort of objective truth-seeker.

The only one Klein is fooling anymore, though, is himself, and what a fool he is.

Be sure to read Kaus’s full post. It’s a legitimately funny takedown of a Boy Wonder with amazing powers of rationalization.

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