Greg Sargent at Tapped goes for a bit of understatement when addressing a recent hackjob by Dem-in-Name-Only Joe Klein. Specifically Greg refers to a column that Klein wrote in Time Magazine about Howard Dean’s “gleeful” statement that we weren’t going to win in Iraq. But as Greg points out, in order to pretend that Dean had been “gleeful”, he had to replace a few words with ellipses. Greg suggests that he might be “nitpicking”, but ends by saying that this “isn’t such a small thing”.
I’m guessing that Greg was going for the ironic understatement, but I really think that he could have upped it a few notches. Because what Klein did was completely lousy. Were this behavior exhibited in a blogger, I’d gladly mock the guy and denounce him as a hack. But this isn’t some two-bit blogger. This is damn Time magazine, and a regular columnist at that. Have these people no standards? I know that Klein doesn’t, but shouldn’t someone at Time have asked him about the ellipses? Someone?? Or do they too go by the theory that columnists are allowed to have free reign to say anything they want?
Now, I understand the importance of ellipses. Sometimes, it’s just not necessary to include all the in-between parts. In fact, sometimes it can be hard to understand something appropriately in full sentence, especially a spoken sentence which might include the extra verbal garbage people include when they’re talking. And so it can be better to cut out the unnecessary parts and skip right ahead to the good stuff.
But that’s not just something to be played around with. When you chop up someone’s words, you’re doing them a disservice. It’s bad enough when you fail to give context to a quote, by not including an intro; but ellipses are even more dangerous, as you’re removing words from the middle. So you always have to be extra careful about what you’re removing. Especially as ellipses are sometimes used to indicate pauses in speech, and can too often be confused as such (your enemies will always assume that ellipses mean pauses, btw). And so anyone who can’t do it properly should instantly lose the right to use them. It’s that important.
And so let’s look at what Klein did. Here’s Dean’s original statement:
“The idea that we’re gonna win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong.”
And here’s Klein’s hackjob of Dean’s statement:
"The idea that we are going to win this war ... is just plain wrong."
Right. Now call me crazy, but I’m having a hard time understanding exactly why those ellipses were necessary. The sentence only had seventeen damn words in it (I counted), and those ellipses replaced five of them. And not just any five. It was the five that would suggest that Klein was wrong. Or at least, would undermine his argument. Hell, if we wanted to be serious, we could even say that Klein only removed one word, as the other words were only set-ups for that one word. But that one word was crucial to Klein’s argument. And there was no reason to clip it out; unless it undermined the argument.
And no, this isn’t nitpicking. Because Klein even admits that Dean was probably right. He said that Dean’s statement was “not inaccurate” and that “most generals would agree with him”. So what’s Klein’s problem? As he explains, “The trouble is, Dean--as always--seemed downright gleeful about the bad news. He seemed to be rooting for defeat.”
But was Dean being gleeful? If you only had Klein’s column to go by, you’d assume that he was. But I’ve seen the clip, and he doesn’t sound gleeful. And the ellipsed-out “unfortunately” would go a long way of suggesting that he wasn’t being gleeful, or rooting for defeat. Maybe Klein’s better at reading between the lines than I am, but I just don’t see what he’s talking about. I don’t think that Dean should have said what he did, but I know gleeful when I hear it, and Dean didn’t sound gleeful. Then again, it’s quite possible that this is the type of glee that Klein’s friends greet him with; and I don’t blame them at all. I’d be rooting for defeat whenever that jerk was around.
And this isn’t something minor; at least not according to Klein’s words. Again, Klein is saying that he agrees with Dean, but that the problem is with the manner in which Dean said it. But if Dean didn’t say it in a “gleeful” way, but rather thought that it was “unfortunate”, then does Klein think that Dean did anything wrong? I’d have to say not, not if we go by Klein’s words anyway. And yet, Klein describes this as example of Dems who “make fools of themselves even when they speak the truth”. And so what the hell is up with Klein?
And it’s purely speculation on my part, but pure speculation is what keeps you people coming back here, so I’ll gladly give it out. Klein sees the truth of the situation in Iraq, or at least he does now that it’s obvious to even a twit like him. But he doesn’t like Dean and Dean’s ilk; especially as they were right about Iraq and he was wrong. And more so, he doesn’t like liberals, and probably has a problem with true moderates.
In fact, I never read Klein, but I suspect that he likes very few Dem politicians, and prefers the McCain/Lieberman “maverick” types who are seen as traitors to their party, not for their policies, but for the tone-deafness regarding their “bi-partisanship”. They see themselves as clever outsiders, all because their party hates them. And it never occurs to them that it might be because they’re constantly undermining the party. And the Joe Kleins like them because they’re the same damn way. They don’t care for or even understand McCain’s policies, they just likes the tone-deaf politics of it all. It makes sense to them. These are empty shallow people we’re talking about, and politics is all they understand, even if they don’t really get it. Klein will constantly backstab the party he belongs to, all while insulting them for not having their act together.
But there’s more in it for Klein. You see, Klein’s one of those former liberals who likes to believe that he’s still the same liberal diehard he always was; but perhaps a bit more grounded in the harsh realism of the realworld. He likes to believe that he’s stayed relatively pure, but that the political landscape shifted around him and now the extremists like Dean make him look rightish (much as Zell Miller has claimed, to the rightish press corps’ delight). And he hates that. Because he really is rightish. He adopted the “New Democrat” thing so much that he actually switched sides and never realized it. Or maybe he does know it, deep down, but is in hardcore denial about the whole thing. It’s kind of like an old woman who was once beautiful and who now resents pretty young women because it reminds her that she is no longer young or beautiful. Klein’s a sell-out to his cause and despises the people who remind him of that, or act the way that he once acted. He wants to be both the pure idealist and the pragmatic realist; attacking Clinton and other Dem politicians for selling-out, while simultaneously attacking the Deans for not facing reality. And in the end, he’s losing both battles.
But in any case, he has to lash out against liberals, not because they did anything wrong, but because he’s afraid that he’s wrong. And regarding this Iraq stuff, Dean is looking more right all the time, while Klein is looking more wrong. And while Klein wishes that he had always been on the right side, he has to stick it in Dean because Dean really was right. Especially as it is now so obvious that the Kleins got duped, and had been attacking the anti-war people who turned out to be right. When you think about it, it’s hard to blame them for what they’re doing.
And if you read the end of Klein’s column (something I don’t recommend), you’ll see that he sees Dean’s comments as being solely partisan; which means that he probably believes that Dean & Co got it right, but for the wrong reasons. He can’t admit that the logic was on the anti-war side, and still believes that it was Bush Hatred and empty partisanship that got us to oppose the war. Victims of brainwashing are always difficult to bring back to reality.
And when he pulls this crap, the main person he’s trying to convince is himself. He might work for Time Magazine, but poor Joe only writes for himself. Peggy Noonan is that exact same way, except that she writes to convince herself that she’s not crazy; and that everyone acts like her. But in both cases, writing is a form of therapy. They abuse their positions of punditry; working with the assumption that their opinions must be valid, simply because they’re so important. I suppose it’s an addendum to the “Might makes right” concept; the louder you are, the more correct you must be. And god knows they’re not getting much confirmation of that in the real world.
And so Dean makes a statement that Klein doesn’t like. Not because it’s wrong, or because he disagrees. But because Dean said it. And he hates Dean. And you can tell that by his “Dean—as always” line. Because whenever Dean says anything, Klein always hears it in a bad way. He imagines it as such, because he hates Dean. And that taints everything that Klein thinks about Dean. He may agree with everything that Dean says, and he’ll even say that military men would agree too (because Klein is so totally in with the whole military man mindset); but he has to disagree with how Dean said it. And that’s the surest way of an emotional freak whose logic will take second-place to his feelings.
And so what does Klein do? He has to trim five short words out of Dean’s short statement, not because they got in the way or were confusing or superfluous; but because they went against the point that Klein wanted to make. Klein doesn’t like Dean. Klein imagined that Dean said it in the gleeful way he always does. And then trimmed out the few words that might make Dean not look so bad.
But this isn’t the work of real people who make honest mistakes. This is the work of hacks. This is how a hack uses ellipses, in order to use someone’s quote dishonestly. To back up their point, even if the truth goes against them. And that violates the very principle of ellipses. Again, ellipses are a privilege, and when you use them, you have a duty to make sure that you’re representing the quotee accurately. Even if you disagree with them, and even if they’re a moron, you have a duty to make sure that your ellipses replacement doesn’t destroy the integrity of the quote. And if you can’t do that without ruining your point, then you can’t do it. And if you have to distort someone’s words to prove them wrong, then maybe they’re not wrong.
And yet here we see important Time magazine guy doing this to an important person. Again, when we see this deplorable practice in some two-bit blogger, it’s embarrassing. But this is far beyond that. This is a major break in ethics. Well, it would be if Klein had any ethics. But shouldn’t Time be ashamed of this? Would they ever admit to it?
On a final note, can any sane person possibly imagine that Dean would have been “gleeful” when saying such a statement? That’s insane. Even if Dean really is happy about us losing in Iraq, would he really give the public impression that he was “rooting for defeat”. I was never a fan of Dean, but this is really too much. Klein’s theory is obviously pure fantasy. And that’s what we’re dealing with. Someone who could think the worst of someone who, in theory, is on his same side. And to prove it, would remove a word in order to suggest that the worse thoughts were wrong. The one word that supposedly changes it from being an accurate statement to being wrong. That’s just crazy. And yet, that crazy is given a regular column in one of the most important news magazines in the nation; and you’re just some dumb dope reading another dumb dope’s blog.