In an interesting piece about how Paul Ryan convinced people in Washington that he is a Serious and Deep Thinker, Alec MacGillis of The New Republic reports an incredible development in the self-identity of young Beltway pundit and reporter Ezra Klein. Klein has moved from ostensibly progressive blogger to a gig at The American Prospect to a column and blog at The Washington Post. He also is a regular guest on MSNBC and even occasionally fills in for progressive MSNBC hosts.
While Klein is considered an expert on healthcare policy and has proven himself a reliable mouthpiece for the Obama administration, there have been plenty of people (myself included) who have questioned whether he was actually liberal or someone seeking to climb the ladder of the Beltway centrist press elite. MacGillis finds and answer to that:
I talked to Klein shortly after the convention and asked whether he thought Ryan had used wonkery to cloak a rigid ideological agenda, partly by engaging with fellow policy geeks like himself. Klein demurred, saying that it should have been clear to everyone for some time now that Ryan is a “very, very ambitious politician who is also a very fluent policy wonk.” He disputed the premise that he had given Ryan bipartisan cover at a crucial point in the congressman’s career: “I don’t think of the blog as making an argument for liberalism. At this point in my life, I don’t really think of myself as a liberal. That’s not the project I’m part of, which is to let the facts take me where they do. That’s why I gave him better coverage when the numbers added up and less so when they didn’t.”
First, anyone who’s followed Paul Ryan’s career from the left has been pretty clear throughout: the numbers he uses don’t add up to the positions he takes. Paul Krugman and Dean Baker are two easy examples.
But more importantly, Klein is saying he’s not a liberal. Without making any normative judgment about what it means for someone who emerged from the progressive blogosphere to declare themselves no longer a liberal, I would hope that this means that liberal groups and liberal media outlets take Klein at his word and stop treating him like a liberal reporter. If MSNBC needs a substitute for one of their liberal news show hosts, they should turn to a self-identified liberal, not Klein. If a progressive advocacy group wants positive coverage from a sympathetic reporter, they should not count on Klein as a good liberal reporter. There are plenty of good, liberal reporters and opinion journalists out there – they should be supported by being given stories by liberal groups.
Hopefully Klein’s honesty leads to changes in how groups relate to him and how MSNBC views him on their roster of commentators.