On this the 24th and final day of his Election Road Trip, Time's Joe Klein availed himself of the opportunity to attack center-left blogger Mickey Kaus and conservative writer Jonah Goldberg for "distort[ing] a striking point" made by a liberal Democrat vineyard owner from California that Klein quoted in a September 27 Swampland blog post.
Klein vented most of his spleen at Kaus, a blogger for rival magazine Newsweek.
Wealthy attorney and Iron Horse Vineyards founding partner Barry Sterling had simply argued that "the current, post-Reagan tax fetishism of the Republican party is foolish," Klein insisted. "He made the point with a creative overstatement of the case--that he'd survived 70% marginal tax rates; indeed, the high rates caused him to work harder to make more money. I am absolutely certain that Sterling was not advocating a return to 70% rates, as Mickey well knows," Klein protested. The Time reporter went on a few sentences later to label Kaus as a "feckless, puerile jerk at times." Here's what Kaus wrote that set Klein off:
The New Johnny Apple: Joe Klein's electrifying Election Road Trip across America arrives in Sebastopol, California, where Time's premier correspondent takes the "pulse of the nation" at a "sumptuous" vineyard meal. The pulse of the nation seems to be that the "Nancy Pelosi Democrats" who own the vineyard would be happy with pre-tax-reform 70% marginal tax rates on the rich (never mind that the rich never actually paid those rates--they used tax shelters to avoid them). Campaign coverage will never be the same again.
Kaus's attack then, was mostly on Klein for being a lame reporter, not so much on Sterling or other rich Democrats, although Kaus makes an excellent point about how the wealthy can easily exploit the complex tax code to shelter most of their income anyway.
Klein is surely not so naive as to think that wealthy liberals don't have scores of accountants tasked with helping them shelter income from heavy tax rates, but for his part the Time writer insists it wasn't his task to judge anyone he talked to on the road trip (emphasis mine)
The Sterling visit unique in my travels; most of my interviews took place in coffee shops, political meetings and modest middle class neighborhoods--the sort of places Kaus and Goldberg, and far too many of my other columniating colleagues, rarely frequent. I've faithfully reported lots of views along the way and, in most cases, tried not to cast judgment on the people telling their stories. Readers have gotten exercised about some and were moved by others. I'll attempt to make some larger sense of what I've seen next week in the print magazine. After I get some sleep.