No, not this Marshall. But that one, Marshall Wittman.
As longtime readers know, way back in blog antiquity, Marshall ran a blog called the "Bull Moose." But it went into suspended animation when he took over as John McCain's Communications Director a couple years ago (I don't know the exact date; but it was something like that.)
I've known Marshall for, I think, about five years. He and I first met, if memory serves, in his then-office at the Heritage Foundation for an interview I was doing on ... well, honestly I can't remember what the article was even about. Thinking back on it, I think it was supposed to be for an article on McCain and the reformist conservatism that was then growing up around him. But given the constraints I was then operating under I think it never got written. In any case, I note the location to give some sense of the ideological terrain Marshall's covered over the last few years.
After that, Marshall became central (even that may be understating his importance to it) to what was then coming to be called National Greatness Conservatism -- a set of ideas that was perhaps as inchoate as it was compelling.
Bill Kristol was part of that. But Marshall was always its core. The political darling, of course, was McCain. And Marshall played a big idea role in McCain's 2000 campaign.
After McCain got dug under by President Bush, Marshall went to the Hudson Institute to work on the idea of National Greatness Conservatism. But after a relatively short stint there, he signed up with McCain.
Now, 'National Greatness Conservatism' grew out of the uncertainties and drift created within the Republican party by Clintonism, the end of the Cold War and the porkification of the congressional GOP after their 1994 sweep.
It's more complicated than that, of course. But it was an effort on the part of a group of conservative (probably fair to call them neo-conservative) intellectuals to build a new political synthesis around two basic planks: a hawkish internationalism which placed a heavy emphasis on American values and an abandonment of Norquistian anti-governmentism at home.
It wasn't liberal. But it was progressive -- at least in the old Rooseveltian (TR, that is) sense of harnessing the federal government to accomplish great things and become an engine of national unity. And perhaps it also contained some progressive elements in the more contemporary sense. But that was always the ambiguous part.
My own semi-outsider's sense of this -- and Marshall bears no responsibility for this interpretation -- was always that the post Marshall got at Hudson was in some very broad sense akin to what a venture capitalist or perhaps a major corporation will do when they buy equity in some start-up with a new technology.
So, in my sense of this, the GOP was like GM and Marshall was like some small tech company with a very promising technology for solar fuel cells or something. And they're figuring, 'Well, the internal combustion engine [the Nixon/Reagan coalition] is near the end of the line. So let's buy into this guy's new idea [National Greatness Conservatism] and see where it goes."
But then something went wrong.
The National Greatness thing was based on a belief that Bush represented a tired and vacuous politics of moneyed power -- perhaps preferable to the Democrats, but nothing to get excited about for the future. But then 9/11 came along. And most of those who'd classed themselves with the McCainiac/National Greatness clique decided that as long as Bush could rack up the votes that they could live with Karl Rove, Texas style conservatism and plutocracy just fine.
And with that, there just wasn't much need for National Greatness Conservatism any more -- no need for investments in speculative and innovative new ideas when George W. Bush was making a going concern of money politics and cynicism.
In fairness to those like Kristol, who jumped eagerly on to the Bush bandwagon, Marshall's vision of National Greatness Conservatism was also beginning to look more and more like Cold War Liberalism.
In any case, last week was Marshall's last week with McCain. He's taken a post at the DLC/Progressive Policy Institute. He's bringing back the Moose. And in his first public statement since he got his voice back, he's endorsing Kerry-Edwards.
Says Marshall in the first graf of the piece ...
I am an independent McCainiac who hopes to revive the Bull Moose tradition of Theodore Roosevelt, and I support the Kerry-Edwards agenda. Don't get me wrong -- this Bull Moose is not completely in agreement with the Democratic donkey. But the Bush administration has betrayed the effort to create a new politics of national greatness in the aftermath of 9/11.
Marshall's political views probably aren't in line with the majority of TPM readers, though in many respects I'd say that they probably differ in ways that mine also differ from the majority of TPM readers. But Marshall is at the top of my list of those who straddle the line between being political thinkers and political operators. I think the world of him.