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TNR Slips Ezra Klein the Tongue

Valentine’s Day came early for WaPo uber blogger Ezra Klein as The New Republic released their profile of him last night as the clock struck midnight. The profile is gushing and full of unbridled passion for Klein. Maybe they’re still kicking themselves in the shins for turning him down for a reporter-researcher position?

1. Enter Ezra the bad Jew. We’re not sure what kind of a Jew Ezra Klein is, but he’s far from traditional. So much so, that it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that he eats shellfish with a side of pork and a glass of milk. For starters, he gives the reporter, Julia Ioffe, a prosciutto sandwich as a peace offering at one of their early meetings. “I have a little spiel I do at this,” he tells her on the way to a speaking engagement at Northern Virgina Community College. And this is the most Yiddish he’ll use in the entire profile. The prosciutto sandwich? Hardly a Jew-y choice, but Ezra has a wonky explanation involving a study that says more judges offer parole once they’ve eaten. So Ez figures she’ll go easier on him if she has some non-kosher food in her stomach. Another non-Jew detail about Ezra: In high school he graduated with a 2.2 GPA (a shameful admission to smart Jews everywhere). Turns out, Ez got into college by the skin of his teeth — University of California-Santa Cruz was the only institution that would let him in. Ioffe described the talk Ezra gave at the community college as reminiscent to a “schticky Bar Mitzvah speech.” What? In our forced vast experience with Bar Mitzvah attendance, there are never “speeches.” Just performances known as “haftorah portions” in which the boy or girl reads from the Torah. We only hope Ezra sang his and that there’s video lurking in his mother’s basement. Finally, Ezra loves Christmas. Whoa! What?

2. Friend-sourcing. For all of Ezzy’s angst about the profile, the sources are painfully tame. The author relies repeatedly on Ezra’s fellow Boybanders for expertise. In a true, believable profile, you get skewered and praised. All your questionable acts arise — his infamous and now defunct Journolist, briefing Senate Democratic Chiefs of Staff about the Supercommittee just days before the Committee announced its failing, and once writing of Tim Russert, “fuck tim russert. fuck him with a spiky acid-tipped dick.”  What, the author of the profile can’t even press him to explain this? The only act she mentions is what he wrote about Russert and then doesn’t bother to ask him about it. No, here we get the usuals — Slate‘s Dave Weigel and Matt Yglesias and TPM‘s Brian Beutler — all his nerdy pals saying typical, boring stuff. Which would be fine, if she found a few people who happen to think he’s pontificates way more than he reports or that he’s more of a Democratic policy advisor than a journalist — and there are plenty of journalists in Washington who share this point of view. But nope, in her profile, they don’t exist. The boys verify that Ezra is wound a little tight — in fact, Weigel rolls through his weird memory of dinner parties and can’t recall a single instance in which he ever saw Ezra drunk. Yawn.

3. Ezra’s angst. By far, the most interesting part of the story comes when the author continuously goes into exquisite detail about the internal angst Ezra feels about having a profile written about him in the first place. Before he agreed to it, he met with the author to discuss what the piece would entail. He wrestles with all of it and doesn’t seem to know what tactic to take with Ioffe. Does he open up? Does he expose his discomfort? Does he lay down the law? Does he compliment her, befriend her, cuss with her, scold her and ultimately invite her to his favorite Chinese haunt to finally at least pretend to let her see the real him? In the end, Ezra does all of the above. But our all-time favorite part of the piece is when Ioffe’s hanging out in the “Wonkpod” of The Washington Post — i.e. the nerdy nerve center for Ezzy’s five-person operation. As she scrutinizes his every move — how he sits, his constantly bouncy knee, how he types — he gets all tight-ass on her and instructs her “sternly” that she’s not to print any of the emails on his screen.

An excerpt:

“I was not to speak to his family or to his wife. Before I arrived at the Wonkpod, he sent me an e-mail warning me that the Post bigwigs prohibited me from talking to anyone in the newsroom. At one point, he turned around and said, ‘Can you see my screen?’ ‘My e-mails,’ he added sternly, ‘are off the record.’ So were his phone conversations and the names of the people he spoke to throughout the day. He was also worried about revealing the name of an economist at a conservative think tank he considers to be ‘an intense thinker,’ his habit of watching ‘Battlestar Gal- lactica’ in the evenings, as well as his love of Christmas.”

Photograph above by Spencer Heyfron for TNR.

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