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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Not that I want to bash Tucker Carlson. But can you read the following exchange from Tuesday night's Crossfire and not think Tucker's antics are silly and grade-schoolish? Even for Crossfire?

CARLSON: Now I noticed that Al Gore, people say he's changed a little bit. I've noticed a change. I didn't understand it until I read Time Magazine this week, a long interview with Mr. Gore in there with Karen Tumeltee (ph).

Here's the explanation. I'm quoting now. "Both Tipper and I have meditated for quite a while."

Tell me more about that.

KIKI MCLEAN: It means he actually stops to think about what happened...

CARLSON: No, no, truly.

MCLEAN: ... and think about what he says.

BEGALA: Oh...

CARLSON: Is it -- I know, but you worked for him.

MCLEAN: It is, Tucker?

CARLSON: But no, no, hold on. This is a fair question. Is it Lotus position, incense...

MCLEAN: Tucker, Tucker...

CARLSON: What does he mean by that?

MCLEAN: Do you ever say a prayer? Do you ever give a thought to something you did during the day?

CARLSON: I do. I'm talking about meditation, and that's distinct from prayer. He said, "We meditate, we pray."

MCLEAN: I am willing to bet...

CARLSON: What's the meditation?

MCLEAN: I'm willing to bet, if you asked your pastor, if you asked a rabbi, if you asked a priest...

CARLSON: We're not talking about a pastor. We're talking about Al Gore.

MCLEAN: They'll tell you that prayer and contemplation is meditation.

CARLSON: It is Lotus position?

Okay, maybe Junior High ...

If you're a subscriber to the Wall Street Journal, definitely take a look at this article in yesterday's paper about Instapundit, Talking Points Memo, and AndrewSullivan.com. For once, something I said in an interview actually makes sense to me when I read it later.

Liberals are out-of-touch elites, led by a few aging movie stars and public TV hounds, doing constant battle and facing perpetual defeat at the hands of salt-of-the-earth conservatives whose bedrock understanding of real Americans and real American values is liberalism's constant undoing. This is Charles Krauthammer's world. Whatever other causes or effects the election may have had, it popped the cork on a new bottle of conservative conceit and self-congratulation. It gave new life and currency to a bundle of hackneyed phrases, tropes and ideas.

I did business in the world of professional liberalism long enough -- to a certain extent I still do -- to realize there's more than a hint of truth to the stereotype. That's all true. And I'm a big critic. And so on.

But one of the best ways to judge someone's moral and intellectual seriousness -- perhaps also their moral and intellectual caliber, but at least their seriousness -- is to see who they pick as their enemies, who they choose to pick fights with. Someone like David Horowitz is a great example of the effectiveness of this method -- a sorry sort of guy, bubbling on churning rapids of cash, constantly casting about for some new lefty freak to mount a new crusade against, all mixed-up with aggrieved passion and outrage. The whole enterprise is about as grave and righteous as tricking retarded grade-schoolers out of their lunch money.

Krauthammer is a very different, much more creditable, sort of animal. But the mode of operation seems fundamentally the same. (Columnist Michael Kelly belongs in the category too.) How serious are columnists who get all hyped-up for battle with cliches and outliers?

I can't show you the link to the article that got me thinking about this -- since I've been traveling this weekend and am writing at the moment without an internet connection. But it's an article by Krauthammer in the new issue of The Weekly Standard ("The Fantasy Life of American Liberals").

Now let me shift gears to discuss another point. And I want to be careful to make clear the ways in which the two points are not connected.

The question is simple ... What happened to conservative reform? National Greatness conservatism? You know, McCain-ite TR worship and the rest?

Some will say that National Greatness Conservatism is alive and well in the zeal for the drive to Baghdad. But that's a weak rejoinder. Aggressive foreign policy was only part of the equation. The truth, I think, is pretty clear: it's dead. It doesn't exist anymore. Now, the whole enterprise was never that big in terms of people. It was a few people around McCain, a couple editors at the Standard, and some miscellaneous other GOP malcontents and polemicists. The whole movement -- inchoate as it admittedly was -- was in significant measure a response to the crack-up of Movement conservatism, or rather the winnowing down of organized conservatism till it was little more than a vehicle to serve the interests of corporate power and politically-organized money. Of course, it was also an effort to give the party back its intellectual muscle and political fire.

What happened is that Bush got popular because of the war. And after that happened why did anyone need reform anymore? McCain's political strategist, John Weaver, recently re-registered as a Democrat. Marshall Wittman has now taken a gig as McCain's Communications Director, closing down his Project for Conservative Reform at the Hudson Institute. So, publicly at least, Marshall's voice is silenced. At the Standard you just don't hear those same themes voiced like you did a year ago -- certainly not as you did two years ago. Why not? is a very good question.

I have little doubt that the silencing of that voice is bad for the country. I think it'll probably prove even worse for the Republicans.

My first blush opinion was -- and I think still is -- that Tom Daschle's presidential prospects were severely diminished by the Democrats' showing on November 5th. But I'm told he's making his decision now and will likely have that decision made by the end of the year. One interesting detail is that if Daschle decides to run he'd probably have a good chance of holding onto the core of the team that ran Tim Johnson's winning campaign in South Dakota. That would likely mean much of the senior staff and thus most of the couple dozen field staffers who would be key in early primary states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Johnson was the only Democrat to pull out a victory from one of the close or dead-even races last week. And he managed to do so in what was probably the most pro-Bush state in contention. A lot of that -- as we said and predicted here months ago -- was a matter of staffing. We'll be saying more about this.

There are a million things to be said about this batch of polling data which Stan Greenberg assembled for the Campaign for America's Future. But I need to nurse the illusion that I have something better to do on this Friday night than write about polling data. So just make a point of browsing through the charts and graphs yourself.

The one number that really caught my attention is on page five. In the November 8th poll of actual voters, on the question of which party was better at "keeping America strong," Republicans beat out Democrats by an astronomical thirty-nine points -- Republicans 59; Dems 19. (The specific breakdown of the responses can be found on page 18 of the questionnaire. Yes, it sounds like it should be 40, not 39, but they must be rounding off or something.)

Republicans will crow over those numbers. And it'll be terribly annoying listen to them do so. (I overheard one of the most annoying of them crowing about it today. And, boy, did I want to slap this dude around ...) But Democrats really need to think long and hard about what those numbers mean. That's just an astonishing number.

This is both a substantive problem and a political one. In fact, the key is that it is a political problem in large measure because it is a substantive problem. This issue is starting to get more attention among professional Dems. I discussed it a month ago in The New York Post and Heather Hurlburt wrote a powerful piece on the issue in the current issue of The Washington Monthly. It's starting to get attention. But it needs to get a lot more.

TPM tomorrow night on CNN's Reliable Sources. 6:30 PM Eastern Time on Saturday evening.

More on Pelosi. For all the conservative chattering and outrage about alleged Democratic gay-baiting in Montana and South Carolina this Fall, don't we all know the subtext of Republican efforts to tag Pelosi as a "San Francisco Democrat"? Is this something we're not allowed to discuss? And why not?

The new Conventional Wisdom is that the Democrats' are moving to the left after last week's election. David Broder says it. So, by definition, it's Conventional Wisdom, though he's by no means the only one saying it. But a lot of the thinking that's gone into this line of thought is really sloppy.

Let's start with the ascendence of Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader, the woman who Broder calls "the near-perfect embodiment of a San Francisco liberal."

I have some concerns about her ascendency. But her election doesn't have anything to do with ideology. It's all about hierarchy. Pelosi's the Minority Whip, the second in the House leadership. Had the Democrats won the House, Gephardt would have become Speaker and she would more than likely have become Majority Leader. House leaders almost all ascend the ladder in this way. Just look at Tom DeLay, who's just gone from Whip to Majority Leader -- exact same thing. Gingrich followed the same path too.

This doesn't mean that Pelosi's elevation won't have any effect. But the fact that she's becoming Minority Leader isn't really a sign of anything.

This is but one part of the puzzle. But the whole Democrats moving to the left line is filled with lots of similarly lazy or shabby thinking. And many of the quotes you'll see from the predictable quarters in the Democratic party are from people whose understanding of the party is still rooted in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

More on this to come ...

Let's hash out a hypothetical. What if there was a columnist for one of the prestige news weeklies and suddenly he completely lost his mind and started penning column after column about how he had taken command of a ragtag army of snails and lemurs who were running through the neighborhood stealing from the rich and giving to the poor?

Would there be an intervention? Would he lose his column? Or would things just keep going on as per usual with maybe a few people chiming in about his edgy new style and crackerjack reporting?

You guessed it: We're talking about Howard Fineman.

Look at this final graf from his new article about Democratic power-brokers ...

With Bill Clinton’s humiliation in last week’s election (Democrats lost virtually everywhere he campaigned), there is only one revered elder statesman figure left in the party, and it’s Sen. Ted Kennedy. The Democrats have decided to hold their convention in Boston, in good measure because, as one party insider told me, “Teddy wants it so much.” Kennedy’s support would be a crucial benefit to Kerry, his Senate colleague from Massachusetts, but the relationship between the two is chilly. Teddy seems somewhat taken with Edwards, as a matter of fact. But however much he is a symbol of faded liberalism to the GOP, Teddy is a power in the party — and his word about whom to support (and whom not to) will be pivotal.
Let's take the first part of this. Bill Clinton humiliated? Is this cut and paste out of Karl Rove's talking points or dictated over the phone? (Margaret Carlson churned the same CW here.) As nearly as I can tell, Bill Clinton campaigned for Mark Pryor, Gray Davis, Rahm Emanuel, Ed Rendell, Frank Lautenberg, Bill Richardson, etc. Did he also campaign for a lot of folks who totally got their butts kicked? Absolutely. But in case you hadn't noticed Democrats pretty much all got their butts kicked last Tuesday. And they didn't really need the former President's help to accomplish that.

Now of course I'm a fan of the former president. How effective he was on the campaign trail is certainly debatable. And I certainly realize there are plenty of places in the country I probably wouldn't send him to campaign. Like, say, Alabama or Mississippi, for instance. They don't have philandering in those states so he really doesn't go over very well there. Anyway, you get the idea.

But now let's go on to the choice morsel. The revered elder statesman-power-broker isn't Bill Clinton. It's Teddy Kennedy. His support for president is pivotal.

This is pretty much the point where you're talking your rag-tag army of snails and lemurs. What the hell is Fineman thinking? I'm a big fan of Teddy Kennedy's. Big admirer. Love that he's in the Senate. All that good stuff. But his support is really pretty damned far from being pivotal. I mean, he couldn't even get his niece and especially his nephew over the hump in frigging Maryland this year.

One thought: Democrats are grinding their teeth about all the terrible blood-letting going on amongst them. Republicans are giddy over it. Democrats wonder whether the in-fighting will be productive or just leave a lot of blood on the floor. Will it turn off voters to see the party in such disarray, etc.?

Why does it matter? Who cares if there's a lot of in-fighting? It only matters to political obsessives and insiders who, obviously, are not politically up for grabs anyway.

So let them fight. Or not fight. Get it out of their system. It will all be ancient history by the next election. Doesn't matter a bit.

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