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Joe Klein (born September 7, 1946) is a longtime Washington, D.C. and New York journalist and columnist. He is the political columnist for Time magazine and is known for his novel Primary Colors, an anonymously written roman à clef portraying Bill Clinton's first presidential campaign. Klein is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former Guggenheim Fellow. In April 2006, he published Politics Lost, a book on what he calls the "pollster-consultant industrial complex". He has also written articles and book reviews for The New Republic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, LIFE and Rolling Stone.
Klein is the son of Miriam (née Warshauer) and Malcolm Klein. His maternal grandfather was professional musician Frank Warshauer.
Klein graduated from the Hackley School and the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in American civilization. In 1969, Klein began reporting for the Essex County Newspapers, and The Peabody Times in Peabody, Massachusetts In 1972, he reported for Boston's WGBH, and until 1974 he was also the news editor for The Real Paper in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was a contributing editor for Rolling Stone from 1975 to 1980, and Washington bureau chief from 1975 to 1977. He became friends with actor-director Tom Laughlin after interviewing him for Rolling Stone and appeared briefly as a reporter in Laughlin's 1977 film Billy Jack Goes to Washington.
Klein published Woody Guthrie: A Life in 1980 and Payback: Five Marines After Vietnam in 1984. He was a political columnist for New York from 1987 to 1992 where he won the Peter Kihss Award for reporting on the 1989 race for Mayor of New York. In May 1992 he joined Newsweek and wrote the column "Public Lives", which won a National Headliner Award in 1994. Newsweek also won a National Magazine Award for their coverage of Bill Clinton's 1992 victory. From 1992 to 1996 he was also a consultant for CBS News, providing commentary.
In January 1996, Klein anonymously published the novel Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics, based on the 1992 Democratic presidential primary. The book spent nine weeks as number one on the New York Times bestseller list, with its author listed as "Anonymous". Several people, including former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet and, later, Vassar professor Donald Foster correctly identified Klein as the novel's author, based on a literary analysis of the book and Klein's previous writing. Klein denied writing the book and publicly condemned Foster. Klein denied authorship again in Newsweek, speculating that another writer wrote it. Washington Post Style editor David von Drehle, in an interview, asked Klein if he was willing to stake his journalistic credibility on his denial, to which Klein agreed. On July 17, 1996, Klein admitted that the speculation had been correct.
In December 1996, he joined The New Yorker to write the "Letter from Washington" column. In 2000 he published The Running Mate, a sequel of sorts to Primary Colors. In March 2002 Klein published The Natural: Bill Clinton's Misunderstood Presidency, an account of Clinton's two terms in office.
In January 2003, he joined Time to write a column called "In the Arena" on national and international affairs. It appears in Time's upfront "Notebook" section and has been criticized for its reporting about then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic opposition to warrantless wiretapping. The column has been the source of several retractions by Time.
Klein is a regular blogger on time.com's Swampland blog. In November 2007, Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote about factual errors in a Klein story about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Klein reported that the Democratic version of the FISA bill "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court" and that it therefore "would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans." Time later published a comment: "In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don't." Greenwald noted that the text of the legislation does not require court review of individual targets, and that Time's response disregards this fact. Klein's response was, "I have neither the time nor legal background to figure out who's right."
Later, Greenwald reported that Time "refused the requests of two sitting members of Congress ... to correct Klein's false statements in Time itself". Greenwald has reported that Senator Russ Feingold has been informed by Time that his letter rebutting Klein will be published in a forthcoming issue.
In The Natural, his book about the Clinton presidency, Klein gave a mixed assessment of Clinton's time in office. In the book, he wrote: "the conventions of journalism prevent me from fitting too neatly into one political niche (although as a columnist for the New Yorker and Newsweek my predilections are obvious)". Klein's depiction of the Clinton presidency also gave a detailed examination of the moderate Democratic positions espoused by the Democratic Leadership Council, as well as third way politics generally, of which Klein was highly complimentary.
In 2008, Klein caused controversy with comments on the motivations of neoconservatives, when he said:
|“||The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives – people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary – plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.||”|
American foreign policy scholar Max Boot and the Anti-Defamation League National Director, Abraham Foxman, were among the critics of Klein's views. Klein is also frequently criticized by Bob Somerby, a media commentator.
In May 2009 he invited further controversy when he was quoted in an article in Politico.com, wherein he stated that the reasoning and ideas of prominent conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer were of limited value because of Krauthammer's wheelchair use:
"There's something tragic about him... His work would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he's writing about."
Klein has been criticized by several conservative publications for accusing Fox News host Glenn Beck, Republican Senator Tom Coburn and former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin of sedition.
|“||I was on Ed Schultz's show to discuss Afghanistan. I was just back from there. It is the most complicated issue imaginable. And the guy writes down on a piece of paper "Get Out Now" and holds it up in front of the screen. That's so stupid and it's so unworthy... it's one of the reasons why people hold [pundits] in lower regard than they do lawyers.||”|
In March 2008, Klein aroused controversy after making what many saw as an anti-Catholic remark: "I do believe there's something weird a few of our colleagues have [against Hillary Clinton]," he said. "They tend to be Roman Catholics, actually. People like Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Maureen Dowd." He later apologized. Others, such as media critic Bob Somerby, defended Klein's comment as accurate.
Klein lives with his wife, daughter Sophie and son Teddy, in New Rochelle, New York, and is also the father of two adult sons, Chris and Terry.
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