Keeping the Knives Sharp | Harper's Magazine

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
[No Comment]

Keeping the Knives Sharp


I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of an attack by Matt Taibbi. He’s not a gonzo journalist, but given the inventiveness of his prose I keep thinking that Taibbi is the Hunter S. Thompson of his generation, perhaps without the alcohol and drugs. In the current Rolling Stone, Taibbi offers us an exit interview with George W. Bush. How does Taibbi crack the turf controlled by Fox News and the certified-wingnut talk show jocks? He makes it up:

Despite a financial crisis for the ages, the catastrophic collapse of a Republican Party crippled by his political legacy, and the highest presidential disapproval rating in the history of American polling, outgoing commander in chief George W. Bush has not completely lost his sense of fun. When Rolling Stone caught up with him at the White House shortly after the holidays for what would turn out to be his final extended sit-down interview as president, the graying but still quite fit Texan had just finished his morning exercycle session in an eagle-emblazoned sweatsuit and was fiddling with a new toy. “They call it a Wii, or a Mee, or something,” Bush tells me, smiling as he waves a wandlike plastic device in front of a 54-inch plasma TV in the Treaty Room, a large, brightly lit chamber on the second floor of the Executive Residence that traditionally functions as the president’s private study.

Dubya hasn’t matured a moment past his days at Delta Kappa Epsilon. And after eight years, hasn’t the whole nation come slowly to that realization?

In the New York Press, Taibbi takes on the “porn-stached” god of the New York Times op-ed page, Tom Friedman. Is Friedman the most overrated columnist in America? Taibbi performs some psychoanalysis on one of his more vacuous recent columns, filled as usual with clichés peddled as novel insight as well as longwinded passages whose senselessness suggests the absence of an editor’s pencil.

“The fighting, death and destruction in Gaza is painful to watch. But it’s all too familiar. It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? Can the Jews have a room? And shouldn’t we blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque?” There are many serious questions one could ask about this passage, but the one that leaped out at me was this: In the “title” of that long-running play, is it supposed to be the same person asking all three of those questions? If so, does that person suffer from multiple personality disorder? Because in the first question, he is a neutral/ignorant observer of the Mideast drama; in the second he sympathizes with the Jews; in the third he’s a radical Muslim. Moreover, after you blow up the bar and replace it with a mosque, is the surrounding hotel still there? Why would anyone build a mosque in a half-blown-up hotel? Perhaps Friedman should have written the passage like this: “It’s the latest version of the longest-running play in the modern Middle East, which, if I were to give it a title, would be called: “Who owns this hotel? And why did a person suffering from multiple personality disorder build a mosque inside it after blowing up the bar and asking if there was a room for the Jews? Why? Because his editor’s been drinking rubbing alcohol!”

This, however, is nothing compared to Taibbi’s dissection of the Friedman claim to environmentalism, which I recommend you read immediately.

More from