The Corner

The Perils of Joe Klein

He writes about “how the White House reflexively dealt with unpleasant news: destroy the messenger. Last week there was more of the same, according to a prominent Republican, who told me that the White House had sent out talking points about how to attack Brent Scowcroft after Bush the Elder’s National Security Adviser went public with his opposition to the war in the New Yorker magazine. ‘I was so disgusted that I deleted the damn e-mail before I read it,’ the Republican said. ‘But that’s all this White House has now: the politics of personal destruction.’”

I am almost certain I know the email this “prominent Republican” is discussing. It’s too bad neither Klein nor his prominent Republican friend read it. It was not a how-to guide about attacking Scowcroft, and it did not make any personal attacks on Scowcroft. Instead it explained why the author regarded Scowcroft’s specific points and general philosophy as wrong. Is that a terrible thing for the White House to do? The “politics of personal destruction” is generally thought to be a bad thing because it involves smears and distortions. Maybe Klein and his anonymous pal should stop practicing it. Mary Mapes asked for more corroboration.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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