Slate Editor Discovers America's Problem: Americans

Following in the footsteps of Joe Klein

This article is from the archive of our partner .

A few weeks ago, conservatives dogpiled Joe Klein, a writer at Time, for calling Americans “too stupid to thrive.” Klein was writing in response to a CNN poll indicating that 63 percent of Americans think that stimulus funds are wasted on current public works projects.

Far from dissuading others, Klein's experience seems to have set a pattern. Jacob Weisberg, Slate's left-leaning editor, has now trotted out his own vision of a "childish, ignorant American public" at the root of our economic woes and political deadlock. He writes that Americans are more negligent than stupid, since “a lot more people are watching American Idol than are watching Glenn Beck."

For this, Weisberg, too, has been bashed by the right. Even a few liberals are chiding Weisberg for jumping to another condemnation of the American public

  • 'Jacob Weisberg Is An Idiot,' bluntly notes Dan Collins at POWIP, arguing that Weisberg has overlooked an important player: “There’s another major actor in this equation that somehow gets elided in Weisberg’s account, and that is the legacy media, who were so busy shilling for this one-term Senator and presenting him as a secular messiah that they overlooked his strange associations and socialist leanings. … The legacy media conned a lot of people. They got what they wanted, politically. Now, it’s not their fault, oh no.”
  • Fun Reading, But Misguided Matthew Yglesias at Think Progress thinks Wiesberg puts way too much stock in polling: “The fact that the public, in response to opinion polls, delivers contradictory desires about the details of public policy just shows that most people have a second-order desire to not invest their time learning the answers to these questions. If you tried to decide how to build highway overpasses by polling people, you’d have (a) paralysis, (b) shitty highways, (c) snarky articles about how public ignorance rather than bad engineering was to blame. But the reality is that that would be a dumb way to build overpasses.”
  • You’re Surprised? Tim Cavanaugh at Reason chides Weisberg for failing to see the real source of American disenchantment: “Weisberg is not just wrong in his parsing of American disenchantment. He's wrong to think it's a tragedy. Increasing numbers of Americans in the vast lands to be found outside the D.C. Beltway (join us, Jacob, the water's fine!) understand that government delivers far too little at far too high a price… Skepticism about authority, expectation of better performance, and a determination to get more for your dollar are not problems that need to be solved. They're bedrock American ideals.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.