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I’ve had some pretty strong disagreements with Joe Klein in the past, but I am still occasionally dumbfounded by things he writes. In the midst of blasting Donald Trump, the Republican convention, and the modern Republican Party, Joe Klein explains why he began this election season thinking the country desperately needs a Republican president and conservative reform.

I’m not sure I know how to write about this election anymore without seeming imprudent. I came into this year believing that our government was desperately in need of conservative reform and restraint. I came to those views watching the corroded incompetence of the Department of Veterans Affairs and also in the belief that Democrats had been too unwilling to look at and think clearly about the failures of the welfare state. I had some problems with Hillary Clinton too–from her support for the invasion of Libya to her foolish personal behavior, accepting big-money speeches from Goldman Sachs because, she said, she “wasn’t sure” she was going to run for President. But I would never question her essential decency; indeed, she is one of the most thoughtful politicians I know. And the Democratic Party, for all its politically correct smugness and silliness, has never surrendered its soul to the extremists lurking on its left. The Republican Party, by contrast, has become a national embarrassment. Donald Trump is a national embarrassment. This election will be the greatest test, in my lifetime, of the wisdom of our people and the strength of the democratic project.

Obviously, the Washington Monthly has written extensively about the myriad ways in which the Veterans Affairs scandal was hyped and misleading. That Klein seems to have fallen for that narrative hook, line and sinker is depressingly sad.

I don’t know what Klein means when he talks about the failures of the welfare state. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think it isn’t generous enough to deal with the appalling lack of savings people nearing retirement have accumulated, or that it insures too many people against health catastrophes. What are the conservative reforms on the table that Klein was eager to see implemented? Drug testing mothers of dependent children? More strictly curtailing what can be bought with food stamps? No more filet mignons and crab legs for the poor?

He sounds like a pre-welfare reform McGovern Baby battered spouse.

What about the Republicans’ behavior in the Obama years led Klein to weigh Goldman Sachs speeches as equally or more appalling? And I was vehemently opposed to our intervention in Libya, and I don’t recall having a vocal ally in Joe Klein.

Is he really so offended by the “politically correct smugness” of liberals that he’d prefer a rerun of the Bush presidency, or Ted Cruz, Ben Carson or Newt Gingrich be our president?

If Klein were actually a conservative, these things would be understandable. But he’s not a conservative. He just seems to have an aversion to the left, and it leads him to say the dumbest things.

This election isn’t a test of the wisdom of the American people. Not more than any other election, anyway. Actually, it’s the easiest choice we’ve had in modern history.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at