In case you missed the announcement, this weekend was the kick-off to Josh Marshall Hunting Season. (See examples here and here, in addition to Josh’s own site below.) Josh, for those two or three of you who don’t know, is one of the leading left-leaning pundits in DC and maintains Talking Points Memo, one of the most highly-trafficked political blogs.
Josh is also a friend of mine, not that it really matters. But I’ve known the guy nearly 10 years, and in that time have found him to be a smart, witty and sincere guy. He’s made no secret of his views on Iraq (for the war, eventually against the administration’s prosecution of the war) nor of his views on the Democrats in the race (impressed with Dean’s fundraising, not sure about his electability likes Clark’s military bona fides).
Now, it’s no surprise to readers of this blog that Josh and I won’t come down on the same side of the fence when it comes to Howard Dean. But what exactly is everyone so upset about? Josh has been attacked in the past couple days for a) pointing out a weakness of Howard Dean’s via à vis Kerry and Clark: his military record, b) questioning the source of leaks immediately prior to Clark’s official entry in the race, c) publishing an e-mail from a Dean supporter attacking Josh’s credibility, and d) identifying that Dean’s position on the war in Iraq has a few nuances of its own.
I don’t think anyone can really claim that Dean’s military and/or foreign policy has the same credibility that Clark’s has. Whether you think that is an Achilles’ heel with his candidacy is another matter. And is anyone really claiming that someone in the Dean campaign wasn’t responsible for hinting to the press that Clark might be discussing the vice presidency?
As for Dean’s position on the war, the quotes Josh highlights demonstrate that Dean believed (as did most everyone) that Saddam had WMD hiding out somewhere. But Dean said then — and maintained from last fall throughout the spring — that unless Saddam posed an imminent threat to the security of the United States, then a preemptive strike in Iraq was unjustified and unnecessary. A war wasn’t out of the question — but a war led by us and without allied support (militarily and financially) just didn’t make sense.
If that’s nuanced, fine. But the crux of the buzz over the Senators (minus Graham) and Clark is that they voted for (or in Clark’s case said he’d vote for) the authorization for President Bush to go to war. Now many of those same individuals are saying that they didn’t want Bush to go to war, that the vote was simply a way of trying to spook Saddam into blinking.
I really don’t see the consistency in this position. Josh, on the other hand, does (in part, I suspect, because it mirrors his own evolution on the war and its justifications). It’s a legitimate difference of opinion. And it reflects the larger debate within the Democratic Party. But for it to descend to name-calling and cheap shots at individuals like Josh who represent the more sensible corners of the party seems childish and wholly unnecessary.
Josh will come around. As he says today, true Democrats are committed to winning the White House. Period. And if Dean’s the nominee, he’ll have Josh’s total support, I have no doubt. In the meantime, let’s all channel our respective energy into getting our candidate of choice in the game.
In the words of another Josh (aka Outlandish Josh) today:
This election is about whether or not we can break the cycle of fear and non-participation that has dominated politics for so long, and become intolerable over the past few years. Gephardt’s campaign and at least one member of Kerry’s grassroots are giving in to the dark side. Let’s keep our eyes on the prize, and let’s keep turning people on with participation.