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Politics Lost by Joe Klein

- Abstract

Joe Klein has been a high-visibility presence on the politico-media landscape for more than a quarter-century, but I have always had trouble getting him in focus. The blurriness probably owes something to the fact that as a political analyst he has appeared on a dizzying succession of platforms over the years: Rolling Stone, New York, the New Yorker, Newsweek, and (currently) Time, where he writes a weekly column. He can also be found chirping away on the television talk shows while also producing the occasional big book—the biggest by far being Primary Colors (1996), a political roman à clef obviously based on the Clinton presidency and signed “Anonymous.” The credit line changed when handwriting and other forensic experts demonstrated that the author had to be Klein, a dénouement that providentially gave the book another big burst of buzz just as the paperback version was being rolled out.

But my failure to have a coherent fix on Klein undoubtedly has deeper roots. I learn from passing remarks in Politics Lost that he began his professional life wedded to Left-liberal politics, souring on them at some point without, however, turning conservative. In other asides, he mysteriously identifies himself with our country’s “radical middle,” whatever that is. He seems mostly to have positioned himself over the years as supremely non-ideological, someone not particularly interested in evaluating the ideas served up by politicians but rather a handicapper whose main job is to tell us which horse is the best bet to win the political derby, and why.

About the Author

Dan Seligman is a contributing editor of Forbes.