Josh Marshall Hunting Season

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.


9 responses to “Josh Marshall Hunting Season”

  1. Shorter Josh Marshall: Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean…If Josh has drawn a bad reaction from Deaniacs, it may have something to do with an old Aretha Franklin tune. R-E-S-P-E-C-THere you have a bottom up campaign generating loads of cash from many thousands and thousands of contributors, many of them entirely new to politics, with a candidate that is surging ahead in early polls from early primary and caucus states and generating crowds wherever he goes and what does it get? It gets the old top-down “Tsk, tsk children. Listen to us. We know what's good for you. You've had your fun but playtime is over. Now get out of the way and let the adults show you how it's done.”That's the attitude I perceive from just about everyone that's part of the inside the beltway crowd and I believe a lot of Deaniacs have taken offense. They've found something to be a part of and to believe in and feel good for the first time since the theft of 2000 and it all started when they heard the man from Vermont say “I want my country back!”I'm sure Marshall is a fine fella to know but his political instincts have not been proven to be the best. If he had instincts, he'd notice that blast of air blowing back in his face and know that the winds have changed. In any case, he'd be better served if only he would stop with posts that could be best summarized by listening to John Kerry say “Dean, Dean, Dean, Dean.” That is all.

  2. Romberry, amen. Josh was wrong on Iraq and he's wrong on Dean. As a daily reader of Talking Points Memo, I think I'll wait until Dean sweeps the primaries before I venture back there again. If I wanted to read biased commentary on Howard Dean from someone who fears his candidacy, I'd spend all my time on was particularly unimpressed with the old “from the mailbag” trick of picking an inflammatory letter and then slapping it down to make Dean supporters look bad. Tech writers for Windows magazines do this all the time by writing bogus “Apple Computer is dying” articles, and then running a follow-up column about how Mac users are part of some rabid cult, citing ill-reasoned and hot-headed letters they pick “from the mailbag.” Cheap and stale.Rick, get with the program. There's a new bat in town, or should I say, five new bats in town. Time to update your graphic.

  3. I am a Dean supporer and I'm a regular reader of TPM. I value Josh Marshall's scholarly commentary in a world filled with McNews. I don't need Josh to mirror my own thoughts and beliefs. I need him to give me facts and opinions that make me think and make me understand what some on the other side of aisle may be thinking. Josh is undoubtedly a liberal, but he is a thinking person's liberal. He doesn't just spout DNC talking points like Fox News spouts RNC talking points. Who needs that? Both the blogging world and the regular news media need more Josh Marshalls.

  4. Romberry – you talk about respect, and mention that Josh embodies the patronizing approach from others. Did you read my post? Go back and look at his comments in November of last year, or July of this year. In both cases, he's stated without exception that Dean is a smart, accomplished guy who has built a tremendous organization.We've got far bigger problems if that somehow equals a lack of respect. Does he support Dean? Not today, no. But is he insulting the guy? Not as far as I can tell.It seems to me that “respect” for you is really code for “you're with us or you're against us”.We can do better than that.–Rick

  5. buddhistMonkey – the e-mail to Josh was not an isolated incident. Over-zealous Dean supporters have been trolling other campaign blogs for months, and filling the inboxes of journalists and other bloggers with defenses of Dean and/or attacks on other candidates.It's become a big enough problem that Trippi posted to the campaign blog late last week imploring people to keep it positive:”I want to start this post by asking once again that you refrain from posting on other candidates' blogs. I can not tell you what to do, all I can do is ask — and repeat that posting on another candidate's blog is not helpful to our cause. Even a post in a constructive spirit is likely to be misunderstood, and in any case there are better things to do with your time.”'m all for spirited debate. But diatribe does not equal debate. Let's leave the name-calling to the trolls, and focus on getting Dean elected.–Rickps – thanks for the reminder on the bat. Updated the graphic this am.

  6. I am a longtime read of Josh's stuff and a big fan. His recent stuff about Dean hasn't bothered me. The only thing that teed me off slightly was his claim that the Dean campaign was perpetrating a “dirty-trick” against Clark. This was a pretty serious charge and the evidence he presented for it was pretty weak.Now, maybe Josh doesn't think an allegation of “dirty trick” is all that harsh. But to some of us a “dirty trick” is defined by the kind of shit that Karl Rove and the whole rat-fuck team have been pulling for years. So accusing someone of pulling a “dirty trick” is a very nasty allegation. Indeed, if not backed by serious evidence it could itself be accused of being a “dirty trick” (smear Dean by accusing him of smearing someone else).I do NOT, however, approve of the attacks on Josh by some Deaniacs. It is totally counter-productive and will only add to any negative impression he might have of Dean. Believe me folks, Josh is someone we want to have on our side.

  7. Rick, I think you should read my comments again. Marshall's posts on Dean over the last few days have been nothing more than echo chamber stuff. The “sampling” of a single letter was not exactly honest. I know that letter doesn't fairly represent his entire mailbag because I myslef have written to him. None were “sampled” for the masses (perhaps because they were too polite) and, more tellingly, none were replied to.Josh's track record is what it is. When I read his most of blog stuff (as opposed to the actual articles he has published which of course tend to be of higher grade), I flip a coin. Heads he might be right. Tails, he's wrong.One more thing: Rabid support is not a thing to be afraid of. As I said in the other thread, it's about damn time Democrats had a candidate they felt that way about.See, before I ever heard of Howard Dean I was really, really hoping that John Kerry or John Edwards would catch fire and build that rabid support. Neither did. Edwards still might. I don't believe Kerry is capable.Josh's kind words for Dean in months gone by mean nothing now. What he says today is important. They are his words. He owns them. If he doesn't want people that disagree — whether rabidly or politely — telling him so, he might want to think again about whether or not these musings of his should be public. The only other choice is to grow a thicker skin.

  8. individuals like Josh who represent the more sensible corners of the partyAs opposed to who — all those unsensible Democrats who didn't support Bush's march to war??

  9. Billmon – Sorry, I'm late to responding. I disagreed with Josh's opinion on the war too. But I think his writings are consistently grounded, and rarely exhibit the incendiary rhetoric you see at some other sites.So… I'd consider him one of the more “sensible” sites out there – as opposed to some of the shrill knee-jerk sites out there.

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