John McCaslin

Joe Klein, who recently left The New Yorker to become chief Washington correspondent for Time, says American politics - indeed, our national leaders - are in a sad state.

The "Primary Colors" author warns in his soon-to-be-released book, "Politics Lost: How American Democracy Was Trivialized by People Who Think You're Stupid," that disillusionment is growing on both sides of the political aisle, chiseling away at Washington's integrity.

Today's leaders, he said, are less interested in leading than they are in their "permanent campaign," admonishing: "If you're going to lead, you'd best be willing to show them something of yourself, something that hasn't been pureed by pollsters.

"If you want them to take a risk, you're going to have to take one yourself. Sadly, most politicians are neither risk-takers nor leaders. They are followers - of convention, of public opinion - and while leadership is an art, followship has become a science, measured in polls and focus groups."

Klein considers Democratic Sen. John Kerry's bid for the White House in 2004 one of the most dismal political runs in history, reflecting how traits like courage, spontaneity and leadership have all disappeared from our political landscape.

He's no more impressed with political journalism, especially as reported on TV, which is "little more than the slavish devotion to polls." Then there's "the banalities of political punditry" - endless appearances by everybody and their mothers on the 24-hour cable news shows.

The "fact that pundits - people like me - are so often crashingly wrong makes it all the more pathetic," Klein writes. "Pundits, like pollsters, get most of their information by looking in the rearview mirror."


A new satellite radio sports show hosted by former Bill Clinton strategist James Carville and his collegian sidekick Luke Russert, son of NBC "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert, is cause for a cocktail reception this Thursday evening in the studios of XM Satellite Radio overlooking New York Avenue NE.

Promotion of the reception, co-hosted by Capitol File magazine, and the show is best left to XM's executive vice president Eric Logan, who draws attention to the unlikely radio pairing's "amazing chemistry and energy."

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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