During the meeting, Klein writes, Obama tried out a new slogan for his administration.
“I’m thinking of calling it ‘A New Foundation,’ ” Klein quotes the president as saying.
Doris Kearns Goodwin discouraged the use of the motto. “It sounds,” Goodwin said, according to Klein, “like a woman’s girdle.”
Neither Brinkley nor another participating historian, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the privacy of the meeting, recalled any mention of “A New Foundation.” Goodwin did not respond to a request for clarification.
Klein’s mainstream media credentials run deep. Before moving to the Times, he was foreign editor and assistant managing editor at Newsweek. Edward Kosner, the former editor of Newsweek and a longtime friend of Klein’s, described the author as “a very serious-minded, ambitious and industrious person.” Referring to the work Klein did nearly 40 years ago, Kosner added, “I had every confidence in him as a journalist when he worked for me.” He did not remember Klein as being “extraordinarily conservative” at the time. “I think we were all kind of middle-of-the-road, slightly liberal at Newsweek in those days.”
Klein describes his departure from the Times as the result of a difference of opinion about the direction of the magazine with newly installed executive editor Max Frankel. In a phone interview, Frankel said the two mistakes in July 1987 were not necessarily the reason for Klein’s ouster, adding: “It was a series of things — his judgment and his style of operation and his taste in stories. We just completely lost confidence in him.” Having watched Klein’s subsequent literary career, Frankel added, “None of those books are the kind that normally you’d expect a New York Times person to produce.”
His former colleagues wonder how he emerged as a combative conservative targeting powerful liberals. Klein acknowledges hawkish sentiments as far back as the Vietnam War, but while working at Newsweek and the Times he realized that “it was not my business to push my personal ideology through the pages.”
He believes he has suffered not only for turning his back on the mainstream media world but also for succeeding as an outsider in the exclusive realm of conservative commentary. The left reviles him, and the right has yet to embrace him. But for a guy who can take a punch in the blood sport of politics, Klein seems to relish standing tall in the ring, waving his best-selling books:
“From the conservative point of view I’m a liberal, and from the liberal point of view I’m a conservative, and not being able to be pigeonhole me has created a lot of jealousy and anger.”