Moderator: Klein, Kirchick ‘Went At Each Other From The Get-Go’

November 12, 2009 7:25 am

A raging expletive-filled shouting match between Time‘s Joe Klein and The New Republic‘s Jamie Kirchick, written up by the Washington Post, has been gripping the blogosphere.

And now we’ve gotten a few more choice details from the man who moderated Tuesday’s panel discussion on “”The Pro-Israel Lobby and the Media,” at which the war of words took place.Ron Kampeas, a reporter with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, told TPMmuckraker that the two pundits — who had already clashed online over foreign policy– “went at each other from the get-go.”

Kampeas called Kirchick — an uncompromising advocate of neo-conservative foreign policy positions, who’s still in his twenties — “a bit of a bomb-thrower,” but added that “they were both ill-tempered.”

During a hallway confrontation after the panel was over, according to Kampeas, Klein called Kirchick a “dishonest prick.”

Kampeas said that during the discussion, Kirchick repeatedly accused Klein, of having called neocons traitors. In response, said Kampeas, Klein asked the audience: “Can you believe the shit that he’s saying?” Klein later told the Post he’s never used the word traitor in regard to neocons. “I’ve said, at times they put the interests of Israel above the interests of the U.S., ” he said.

For his part, Klein, 62, kept making an issue of Kirchick’s age, said Kampeas. “I’m glad that you’re a college graduate, but maybe you should learn how to report,” Klein said at one point. Klein sounded that same theme later to the Post, saying of Kirchick: “He’s 25 years old, and he’s one of those people who has opinions but no facts or experience.”

At one point during the discussion, said Kampeas, Kirchick argued that an atmosphere of political correctness, which discouraged concerns about radical Muslims, had helped to allow the Fort Hood shootings. When Klein objected, Kirchick responded that Klein himself and his ideological allies shared blame for creating the climate that led to the shootings — drawing boos even from the conservative members of the audience.

A final note: It sounds like there’s video of the rancorous discussion. We’re working to obtain it, and will post if we do.

Late Update: Kirchick tells TPMmuckraker that he never raised his voice, and that he asked Klein afterwards “Why are you using this sort of language?” It was this that prompted Klein to call him a “dishonest prick.”

Klein kept referring to Kirchick’s age, but “he was the one acting like a child,” said Kirchick.

Kirchick compared Klein’s focus on Kirchick’s age to Klein’s remark this summer that the work of neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is confined to a wheelchair, “would have a lot more nuance if he were able to see the situations he’s writing about,” — a comment Klein later apologized for.

“Why cant we debate the substantive issues? Why is it you always have to impugn people’s motives and qualifications?” Kirchick asked, addressing Klein directly.

Klein declined to comment.

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