Something weird has been happening lately. I haven't mentioned it because, well, it's just so strange. But I've decided that announcing it might ease the awkwardness, the embarrassment and, yes, the fear that washes over me each time it occurs.
I don't know how to put it into words, so I'll just come out and say it:
I see Joe Klein.
Yes, Joe Klein, the Time Magazine journalist and blogger for Swampland. I see him.
What I mean is, he keeps physically showing up in my life, when I least expect it. I'll be talking to a friend, or coming back from the grocery store, or just relaxing in my living room and, suddenly, there he'll be.
The first time it happened, I was at a small barbeque on a friend's deck on Martha's Vineyard. We were talking about the health care debate, and how frustrating it is that the Obama Administration so readily compromises with the Republicans, who aren't even negotiating in good faith.
"With every concession, he just moves the goal posts further down the field," my friend Paul said in exasperation.
"Exactly!" I agreed.
And at that moment, he appeared. Right there, on the deck, as if we had conjured him. He was a scruffy leprechaun holding a Budweiser and a hot dog, wearing an Armani suit and standing obstinately between me and the grill, his back hunched and his feet splayed open at a 120-degree angle.
It was him. It was Joe Klein.
"You people are mean-spirited, graceless bullies," he said, jabbing his hot dog at me in indignation, almost splotching mustard on my shirt. "You know what would happen if Obama aggressively pushed the public option?"
I looked back at Paul. He was illustrating his goal post metaphor with an example, talking right over Klein like he wasn't there.
"Paul," I whispered, tipping the neck of my Corona in Klein's direction. Paul turned, and looked right at Klein, I mean right at him. I was just putting my hand out when Paul said, "I know, the view of the ocean is amazing, isn't it?"
I froze, and withdrew my hand from Klein.
My God, I thought, Paul can't see him.
Then the terror of a larger reality froze my blood to ice.
No one, I realized, can see him but me.
Klein barreled on. He was impish. Aggressive. Oblivious to the fact that he was invisible.
"You stick with the public option and you'll be giving moderate districts away to the Republicans in the next cycle," he said. "It's this kind of Limbaugh-like, knee-jerk liberalism that's going to sink the party," he added. "You people disgust me."
For the next few minutes, I had to listen to what both Klein and my friend Paul were saying, and move my eyes back and forth between them, hoping neither of them noticed. It wasn't easy, or polite. I hated Klein for what he was putting me through.
"Hey," Paul said, suddenly interrupting himself. "Can I get you another beer?"
Paul made for the beer cooler. I don't know how he avoided mowing down Klein, but he did. With Paul gone, Klein moved in.
"You're probably a fan of Glenn Greenwald," he said. "You've probably never written a positive sentence about the U.S. military in your life."
"Aren't you the journalist who tirelessly promoted the Iraq War?" I asked. "And defended the Bush Administration's illegal wiretap and detention programs while admitting you knew nothing about them?"
The words were like a second spell. Klein waved his hand in disgust and trundled off. By the time Paul returned with our second round, Klein was on the beach, walking toward the ocean. A minute later he had disappeared into the surf.
Then, two weeks later, it happened again.
This time, Klein appeared in my apartment, when I was watching Hardball. I turned to my left and there he was, on the other end of the couch.
"Got any pretzels?" he asked, smacking his lips. "I wouldn't mind some pretzels."
Then he was at it again, fulminating against Glenn Greenwald and attacking the "rabid leftists" who he said wanted to destroy the "vital center." It was all I could do to get him out of my apartment.
Since then I've seen Klein five times. He came into my office and plopped down in my visitor's chair. I saw him in the deli section of the Whole Foods on P Street, in a Metro car on the green line, and at Bourbon on 18th Street, when I was there on Saturday night with friends.
Each time he appears, he's a little more unhinged. Each time, he goes on a longer and more emotional rant about Greenwald, and someone he describes as, "a rather pathetic woman acolyte" of his.
"How was I to know she was I.F. Stone's granddaughter," he said the other day, surprising me in the shower. "Izzy Stone's granddaughter! What are the odds?" Then he asked to borrow the soap.
He's like a zombie, or Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. I stopped reading Time years ago, but he wrote a best seller that became a blockbuster film. Later, he showed up on Swampland and CNN. Now he's picking fights with Glenn Greenwald, which puts him on Salon and the Huffington Post.
It's been like this for decades, maybe even centuries.
There's really only one thing to do, and so, throwing my arms to the heavens, I hereby beg for mercy.
For the love of God, Joe Klein, release us from this mediocre punditry you call journalism! Stop picking fights with other columnists and go back to reporting stories! We know you have the talent to make a contribution. Please put it to use.
Also, please stop visiting me in my home. I find it creepy, and it's a hassle cleaning the pretzel crumbs off my couch.