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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A number of readers have written in saying that by writing so much about this moronic John Kerry hair story I am actually perpetuating the story, much as I accused Judy Woodruff of doing. Perhaps so. But I think it's worth writing about, even important to write about, because for all the media criticism out there, the media is very unreflective about the ways it allows itself to be manipulated. This Drudge-borne hair story is a good example.

So as frivolous as the story may be I think it's worth paying attention to as a sort of object lesson in the mainstream press's general insipidness and openness to manipulation.

Another point. Several folks wrote in to say that I mischaracterized Tony Blankley's column in the Washington Times. There's an element of truth to this. Blankley did mock the attention the hair story got. But he also ran with it. And there were so many other denigrating, disingenuous and tawdry comments in it that I thought it well merited inclusion.

Finally, a few whiny 'wingers have said this is just a joking thing that shouldn't be taken so seriously. And why am I giving it so much attention? Mockery and ridicule are two of the most effective of political tools. Conservative polemicists understand this very well -- and their opponents would do well to take note of it. As I've noted earlier, Al Gore is perhaps the best example.

More on how the right-wing trashing machine kicks into gear. The imbecilic Drudge John Kerry haircut story gets picked up undigested in Canada's National Post, the former flagship sheet of Conrad Black, Canada's would-be Rupert Murdoch. It also gets picked up and packaged with a lot of other bashing -- by turns, ludicrous and hideous -- in Tony Blankley's column in the Washington Times.

Of course, the real issue is the on-its-back insipidness of the mainstream press and how easily it gets pulled in by this stuff. Here's Judy Woodruff yesterday on CNN's Inside Politics ...

Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode. His office says the senator does not pay $150 to get his hair cut, as claimed by Matt Drudge on the Internet. "The Boston Herald" quotes a source as saying that Kerry pays more like $75 to get what some have called the best hair in the Senate.

"The Drudge Report," which we've not yet confirmed, says Kerry's do is the work of a stylist at the chic Cristophe salon. And you may remember Cristophe from the $200 trim that he gave Bill Clinton on board Air Force One while it sat on the tarmac at LAX in Los Angeles. Clinton learned then what Kerry may know now. Even hair can be a cutting issue when you are or want to be president.

The conveyor belt. Watch how it works.

In all my icy outrage about Charles Krauthammer in yesterday's post I neglected to say just whose mental health it was that Krauthammer was questioning. It was Al Gore's.

Isn't there something tasteless and shameful about a psychiatrist -- or a no-longer-practicing psychiatrist -- lazily questioning a public figure's mental health because he disagrees with that person's political views? Here's Charles Krauthammer from yesterday on Fox News Sunday ...

I'm a psychiatrist. I don't usually practice on camera. But this is the edge of looniness, this idea that there's a vast conspiracy, it sits in a building, it emanates, it has these tentacles, is really at the edge. He could use a little help ...
Is he speaking in jest? Sure. Sort of.

Do lazy columns beget tasteless insults? Or is it a long period of lazy thinking, leading to lazy columns, then leading to tasteless insults? Or is it just a coincidence in this case? Can someone clarify this for me?

Look how quickly the right-wing-agitprop take-down of John Kerry gets underway. It begins with an admittedly sophomoric routine by Matt Drudge about an over-priced haircut, with an assist from an anonymous source at Fox News. But soon enough this will all become a talking point for Matthews, Russert, et.al. Watch how it happens ... Which other normally reasonable commentators will get pulled in?

More to come on this soon. And also, the latest embarrassment from Mr. Krauthammer.

Clearly, tonight's post on John Kerry was just a few paces ahead of a spirited on-going debate on the topic. Now I notice that Mickey Kaus has just written a new post touching on the same point, though perhaps in a rather different way ("Kerry Mystery Contest: Why does everyone (myself included) hate him?"). But let me make an important point of follow-up since my initial point seems to have been easy to misconstrue. I said that the Washington press corps doesn't much like John Kerry. Some people thought I meant that this was a reason a) not to support Kerry or b) that Kerry can't win. I'm saying neither. It's just a reality that is central to his candidacy, and important to take note of.

In the summer of 2000, just as Al Gore was readying his vice-presidential choice, I wrote an article in Salon saying that John Kerry was Gore's obvious choice. On the same day I published an article about European attitudes toward the death penalty in The New Republic. I didn't know Mickey Kaus at the time. And after reading my piece in TNR he wrote a glowing post about me in Kausfiles telling everyone with eyes to read that I was some sort of rising star.

Then a couple days later he noticed that rousing endorsement of John Kerry in Salon, and promptly recanted the whole encomium, concluding that I must really be some sort of hack. To get a clearer take on Kerry, he pointed readers to this article which came out about a week later in TNR by Ryan Lizza, which took what one can only call a decidedly more sour view of the Massachusetts Senator.

Up until that time I'd never written anything that got more positive or more negative feedback. I wouldn't trouble you with this mess of journalistic insiderdom if it weren't to make a point: this reaction was pretty characteristic of the whole Washington press corps. The negative feedback came overwhelmingly from inside the DC metropolitan area.

As you know, Kerry today made a de facto announcement of his candidacy. For a variety of reasons I think Kerry is one of the very few serious presidential candidates for 2004. And we'll be talking a lot more about his candidacy. But for now let's start with just one point: The Washington press corps doesn't much like John Kerry. And, as we learned with Al Gore, that's important.

Wait! Wait! Don't get on the plane for that ClubMed Yemen vacation you were planning! The State Department is telling Americans to "defer travel to Yemen" because of new dangers of terrorist attacks. Who's going to Yemen? Why are you going? If you've got to go to that neighborhood why not go to a more friendly and pro-American country, like Somalia just across the water to the South, or Saudi Arabia just over the border to the North?

On CNN's Reliable Sources on Saturday Howie Kurtz gets a crack at Rush Limbaugh. Presumably he'll be asking him about the recent dust ups with Daschle, Gore, et. al. Also, on this question of the media and parts of it which are bought and paid for by the Republican party see Friday's Krugman column.

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