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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.

I've often thought George Will must be a great inspiration to those who want to believe that even if you lack insight, honesty, or wit you might still succeed as long as you dress like you have all three. Eric Alterman comments here about the breathless dishonesty of Will's column on "Gore's Revisionism." I'd repeat the points Eric makes. But I'd just be repeating. So take a look at what he has to say. This Sunday, Will had Mitch Bainwol, Executive Director of Republican Senate campaign committee, walk him through the various reasons why Republican Senate candidates are just going to keep on winning pretty much forever. If you haven't read it yet definitely read Nick Confessore's new piece on why Paul Krugman is as important as he is: he's the only columnist with a big megaphone who consistently and intelligently resists the crutch of false objectivity and discusses the manifest dishonesty and recklessness of White House fiscal policy. Will's columns are the perfect contrast and counterpoint: backrubs to power, reassurance to the comfortable, satisfaction to the self-satisfied.

If you needed any evidence that the demise of McCainite Conservative Reformism is a bad thing -- long-term at least -- for the Republican party you need only have looked at the recent Wall Street Journal editorial decrying the fact that the very low-income, those who make well below $20,000 a year, don't pay enough taxes. If you missed it, E.J. Dionne has a good column on the issue today. The argument the Journal advanced was that by cutting so many low-income earners out of the income tax system altogether you create a whole class of voters who simply can't relate to the anguished lash of taxation the super-rich have to suffer under. As is often the case in these sorts of arguments, the grinding weight of payroll taxes are more or less entirely ignored. More broadly though it's just a sign of how much the conservative movement -- once the home of some exquisitely sharp thinking -- has degraded to the point of being little more than an instrument of politically-organized money.

I was talking to a friend tonight over drinks about Al Gore. I said I'd always liked Gore, thought he'd gotten a viciously bad rap from the press and the conservative hit-machine. But somehow, I said, it just looked to me like there was too much scar tissue to ever make a go of it. All the gas-lighting about his being insincere or wooden or calculating has just pressed him deeper into a shell of equivocation and mannered self-presentation. So, having been accused so many times of being insincere he works as hard as he can to seem sincere and in so doing seems even less sincere. The whole thing is sad to me. But I'm not sure its being sad makes it untrue.

Then I saw this other nugget in the CBS/Times poll. Gore's favorable rating is only 19%. His unfavorable is 43%. Now let's toss out the obligatory and quite correct point that this is very early in a potential campaign. And recent events -- the election, Bush's popularity, etc. -- have been almost perfectly designed to diminish Gore in the public eye. But how do you get around a 19% approval rating being a devastating verdict?

I can't see where you do.

This new CBS News/New York Times poll nicely captures the political contours of the next two years. The essence is clear and provides an equivocal message for both parties: the Republican issue agenda isn't particularly popular; President Bush is.

Just what that means for Democrats trying to retake Congress or the White House I'm not precisely sure. One thing it does point up is the importance of how hard congressional Republicans and the White House try to push an ideological agenda. The temptation to do so will be great. And I suspect it's one they'll quickly succumb to.

That could make the White House rue the day they took back unified control of the federal government. Of course, it's not like everything's a bowl of cherries for the Democrats as long as President Bush can remain so popular even as his agenda is one most Americans don't agree with.

The best angle for Democrats would be to pry at the disjuncture between those two numbers rather than to hit the president head-on.

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