Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hey, I'm no Brad Pitt either!

You may have heard that the editor of the Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, has attempted to put Ezra Klein in his place by pointing out to him what his mirror tells him every morning.

He's no Brad Pitt.

She feels called upon to inform Ezra of his egregious failure to look like a movie star, not because she's worried that he's harboring delusions about his chances with Angelina Jolie and wants to save him from some embarrassment and a possible restraining order, but because Ezra had the temerity, the gall, the nerve, the cheek, the brass, the...the...the...my thesaurus fails me as I try to capture the eloquence of her outrage at the arrogance of Ezra's pointing out that Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is no oil painting.

Or in Ezra's words, "He's a squat, squinty, pug-nosed fellow who just won an election that largely revolved around retail politics and the endorsement of his predecessor."

Apparently, vanden Heuvel believes that only beauty queens should be allowed to judge beauty contests.

Ezra, by being deficient in Bradness, should have left off throwing stones at glass houses and instead of wasting space on his blog insulting poor Tim Kaine concentrated on issues that vanden Heuvel deems worthy of his time and his talent and her taking the trouble to read.

Abler people than I have come to the defense of Ezra's beauty, people with an eye for this sort of thing and a vested interest in making Ezra aware that they think he's kind of cute.

If Ezra keeps a little black book, he's adding pages to it by the sheaf.

Now, as it happens, I'm jealous. Not of the many sweet young things, male and female, figuratively throwing their underwear and apartment keys at Ezra's feet in his comments. I'm jealous of the attention Ezra's Kaine post got from vanden Heuvel.

Not too long after Ezra pointed out Tim Kaine's squinty eyes, he linked to this post of mine in which I too gave Kaine a low rating on the Adonis Meter.

I wasn't as blunt about it as Ezra, but I made the point.

And the odds aren't all that against it that vanden Heuvel, who appears to check in on Ezra's blog regularly, saw the link and followed it and used my post to fuel her indignation at the lefty blogosphere's "fury" at Kaine's being chosen to deliver the rebuttal to the State of the Union address tonight.

She only mentions Ezra and Arianna Huffington but I figure she must have read more than two blogs before making sweeping conclusions about the entire left side of the bandwidth.

So I'm ticked that she didn't mention me.

After all, I'm no Brad Pitt either.

In fact, I'm far less of a Brad than Ezra.

What's more, I'm not even a Joey from Friends. I'm not even a Ross, let alone a Chandler.

Phoebe could be my little sister though.

So as long as vanden Heuvel was insulting bloggers' looks I think she should have insulted mine too.

Of course, it isn't much of an insult, is it?

Ezra is no Brad Pitt, but Brad Pitt is no George Clooney and George Clooney is no Heath Ledger and Heath is no Jake and Jake is no Peter and Peter is no Matt and Matt is no Brad.

For that matter, Brad Pitt is no Brad Pitt, not compared to the young male starlet who caused fainting in the aisles of theaters all over America showing Thelma and Louise and A River Runs Through It. Few of us are as lucky as Cleopatra. Age withers and custom stales.

But vanden Heuvel really did insult Ezra. Not about his looks. About his seriousness of purpose and his intelligence and his dilligence and his success, which is based on the first three qualities---she insulted him on those matters by treating his by-the-bye post on Kaine as indicative of all his work.

She also trivialized that post by deliberately misunderstanding it (and Arianna's and mine if she read it) and discussing it as if Ezra had no other point than to make fun of Tim Kaine. Ezra's point (and Arianna's and mine) was that in choosing Kaine the Democrats were making yet another media bloomer and throwing away an opportunity. The Democrats' failure to understand how TV works and make use of it is a major problem, and the State of the Union rebuttal is only one small instance of it. The Alito hearings were an utter disaster. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee had no idea how to play to the cameras. And this isn't something new. Oliver North's triumph during the Iran-Contra hearings and their own fumblings during the Clarence Thomas hearings should have taught them some lessons.

Tim Kaine's looks aren't the issue. The issue is that the Democrats don't care about Tim Kaine's looks one way or the other. And, by the way, we're talking about looks in the sense of being telegenic not in a man's being attractive to his own wife. The camera doesn't automatically love conventional beauties and it adores plenty of plug-uglies. Ask Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Arianna wanted John Murtha to replace Kaine. John Murtha is no Brad Pitt either. Heck, he's no Tim Kaine. But he is compelling on television to a degree Kaine doesn't dare dream to achieve.

But vanden Heuvel's insult goes further. In choosing to trivialize the work of one of the best and wonkiest of the Liberal political bloggers, Heauvel was intending to trivialize all Liberal bloggers.

If she really had wanted to make the case that some blogs are trivial she could have picked on this one. But picking on Ezra is more damning.

If Ezra's work doesn't matter, none of ours does.

The regular organs of the Media Elite have been beating up on Liberal blogs for a long time now. Washington Post ombudsperson Deborah Howell and editor Jim Brady have tried to intensify the act. Their object is to make us go away.

But vanden Heuvel's object is to make us all ashamed of ourselves.

For liberal bloggers who want to get exercised about something really important: Where are the Democrats or liberals talking about Ford laying off some 30,000 workers, the end of middle class benefits for working Americans, IBM's gutting of pension security, and the collapse of American manufacturing?

(Ezra helpfully points vanden Heuvel in the direction of a few of the many bloggers who have tackled those issues.)

Those are of course very important issues, but they are far from the only issues. And on top of which all the important issues in life aren't political, at least not in the specific ways the wonks and the activists see politics.

Vanden Heuvel apparently sees blogging as a specifically political activity. She's not alone in that. There are bloggers who see it that way too, and there are many readers of blogs who agree and get testy when the blog they're reading at the moment doesn't include a specifically political post on a specifically political issue they think is important.

Blogs that don't focus on politics don't matter, don't even exist. If vanden Heuvel does read Ezra's blog regularly she might very well have found her way here a few times because Ezra links this way more often than I deserve, God bless him, and if she has she's probably recoiled in bored disgust.

"Another geek posting about Star Wars???? Ick."

Vanden Heuvel wants bloggers to realize that life is stern and earnest. She wants them to buckle down, get serious, tackle the issues. Which issues? Her issues.

The layoffs at Ford, the end of pensions at IBM, the collapse of American manufacturing---these are big, frightening events that I don't feel at all qualified to take on. They concern my deeply, and I want to know more about what's happening. So what do I do?

I read the Nation.

For instance.

I read a whole lot of other magazines and newspapers too. But the Nation is a good example of a periodical that concerns itself with economic and political issues of this order and magnitude.

But, frankly, I see no point in turning my page into a mini-Nation.

That's what vanden Heuvel wants though. Not my blog, specifically. All leftyish blogs.

Starting with Ezra's.

And if blogs refuse to follow the Nation's lead, well, then they're wasting people's time with trivialities like Tim Kaine's looks.

To tell you the truth, I read the Nation but I don't much enjoy it. It has always reminded me of those people back in college who would wander into the dorm lounge while you and your friends were watching TV and ask loudly, "How can you watch this crap? Don't you all have studying to do?"

Their point was never to get us to turn off the TV and hit the books. Their point was to call attention to their own seriousness of purpose. These were people who understood that life was stern and earnest and knew what to do about it, and they wanted us to admire them for that.

If any of us had been struck by the example of their dilligence and rectitude and vowed to reform on the spot, I'm sure they'd have gladly told us how best to save our black and damned souls---by doing exactly what they did.

One of the biggest problems with this country is that it is full of people, of all political persuasions, who can't stand to see other people having a good time.

Vanden Heuval's little lecture to Ezra is intended to make him, and by extension all the other Liberal bloggers who waste their time on what vanden Heuvel regards as trivia and ephemera, to shape up.

We're to focus on the important issues.

And who gets to decide what those issues are?

People like Katrina vanden Heuvel.

The Media Elites want the blogs to disappear.

Vanden Heuvel wants them to stick around but tow the Party line.

I'm not sure which is more offensive.

Ezra's abler defenders include Jerlayn Merritt at Talk Left, Digby, Jane Hamsher at firedoglake, Crooks and Liars, and Shakespeare's Sister. I have no reason to believe any of them sent Ezra their apartment key.


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