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June 26, 2006

And Here Comes 2008

Neil's post on Markos seems to have set off something of a clamor, so let me quickly address it. Looking through the e-mails I've gotten, I think folks need to separate between two types of speculation: fair, and unfair. There's no reason to believe Markos is in any way benefitting financially from Jerome's association with Warner. Speculation to the contrary is unfounded, and in my opinion, scurrilous (and those who engage in it are rapscallions and scallywags).

But Neil's actual point seemed sound to me. There's no doubt that Kos views Warner rather warmly. Warner was, after all, the only presidential aspirant afforded the honor of addressing the entire YearlyKos convention (and yes, yes, Gina did much of the scheduling, but I have trouble imaging that Jerome's name didn't open any doors there). I know for a fact that he wasn't the only one who wanted to. Meanwhile, Richardson, Clark, and Vilsack were ghettoized to panels and others simply didn't show. That's a bit odd, is it not? What made Warner more important than Western governor Bill Richardson (our future, according to Markos, is in the West, right?), or former general Wesley Clark?

Maybe nothing. My likeliest guess is that Jerome is simply savvier than the competition and fought to get Warner a prime spot, using his influence and early awareness to secure the position. But there were plenty of places where the other contenders could go, and none were afforded the opportunity. So do spare me indignation over the fact that some folks happened to notice the inequality in pulpit -- it was a tad weird. And it's stranger still because Warner, for all his technocratic charm, tends to disagree with the blogosphere on the few issues it actually is ideological about: censuring Bush, blasting Republicans, withdrawing from Iraq. He's not quite the likeliest choice in town. That doesn't mean he's not Markos's choice, or Jerome's, for perfectly sound reasons. But it's worth pointing out.

Jerome, now, is a consultant. He's a public consultant. His job is to raise the profile of the man who employs him. He's obviously excellent at it. He's possibly a true believer. It's not strange to assume he may have convinced his best friend that Mark Warner is a worthwhile candidate. And so, as the primaries roll gear up, it's worth trying to understand where folks are coming from, and through which prism their punditry should be evaluated. What I've always loved and appreciated about the blogosphere is that there's so little pretense to objectivity, such easy admissions that we support candidates, and believe in policies, and fight for ideals. That makes it a more honest realm than mainstream punditry. Markos is a good guy and a powerfully positive force, but he's as subjective and biased as anyone. Neil, an Edwards supporter, is arguing that that's led him to support a candidate ideologically unsuited to the netroots. That strikes me as a fair point, and one that should be seen as coming from the subjective prism of an Edwards supporter.

Larger point: these are just the opening salvos. As the primaries heat up and allegiances cement, the blogs really will be ripped apart by warring partisans, all the more so if folks refuse to divulge, but nevertheless exhibit, their preferences. My guess is that, going forward, transparency is the best policy, and we'd all be well-served by a willingness to calmly accept (and even respond to) speculation about the thought processes driving our commentary.

Update: Got some better info on how the speakers were chosen here.

June 26, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Neil, an Edwards supporter, is arguing that that's led him to support a candidate ideologically unsuited to the netroots. That strikes me as a fair point, and one that should be seen as coming from the subjective prism of an Edwards supporter.

He's arguing mor than that, as that point doesn't require reference to Armstrong's problems with the SEC. That makes it look the SEC problem is included simply to unfairly tar Kos with something slimy. That's sad. And, one assumes Niel would argue, should be included in our calculation of how much weight we should give Niel's arguments, now that we know there's a bias towards speciousness.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jun 26, 2006 12:54:39 PM

Well said, Ezra.

Was it Atrios who posted something not too long ago to the efect that the upcoming political season is going to have significant repercussions in the blogosphere? This seems to be the first case proving his point. Sadly, I doubt it will be the last.

Posted by: fiat lux | Jun 26, 2006 12:55:22 PM

I think he's arguing that Jerome's SEC stuff makes him seem untrustworthy, and if he's got Kos's ear, that's problematic. I don't necessarily aggree with that (as I said, jerome is a *public* consultant, not a secret one), but I see his point.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 26, 2006 12:58:55 PM

Thanks a lot for posting this, Ezra. I agree with it entirely.

Tim, again, the point of bringing up the SEC stuff is that it suggests that Armstrong can be a dangerously unreliable source of information, even to people who are in a trusting relationship with him. Insofar as Kos is influenced by Armstrong (and 'blogfather' is a pretty big word), there's reason to be concerned about decisions and beliefs Kos forms that Armstrong may have influenced.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Jun 26, 2006 1:02:01 PM

I believe Neil was making the point about the SEC in order to illustrate that Jerome had a history of doing stuff like hyping stocks (whether of tech startups or political ones).

As far as Warner's concerned, I fail to see the case for him as a Presidential contender. Yes, he won the VA governorship, and his lieutenant governor managed to succeed him.

To which I say: So what?

Merely managing to win a one-off race in a red state does not extrapolate to managing to win a Presidential election. I'm not slagging him or anything; I'm just pointing out that as far as candidates go, his ascendance is rather unlikely.

Oh, and I'd like to see someone make a case for him that doesn't rely on making the electoral equivalent of a triple-bank-shot in pool.

Posted by: Raf | Jun 26, 2006 1:06:24 PM

On preview: what Ezra and Neil said.

Oh, and it would help if all of the Kos partisans (who are so peeved at Neil for not showing fealty to the One True Kos :-D) really calmed down. No one's trying to take out Kos. All we're asking is that he exercise the same level of transparency that he (self-righteously, at times) demands from everyone else.

Seriously, though, I've got problems with the setup if the one candidate addressing all of Yearly Kos is the one backed by Kos' best blog buddy. Either they all address it equally, or none at all.

Posted by: Raf | Jun 26, 2006 1:13:29 PM

This space for hire. Will comment for Krispy Kremes, Guatemala Antigua beans, and blank CD's.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 26, 2006 1:17:19 PM

Ezra:

Neil did not write this post. He wrote a different one.

This post is very good. I agree with it.

Neil's was a guilt by association smear, apparently unintended.

The reason why Neil caught hell from me is precisely because he did NOT write this post, he wrote what he wrote.

The differences are patent.

I am glad to see that this is what Neil meant. Because it is not what he wrote.

Posted by: Armando | Jun 26, 2006 1:22:49 PM

Though Ezra, I think it is clear that Raf did not understand your post.

Unless I missed something. Ar eyou Ezra saying that transparency was aproblem for Kos? If you did I missed it. And I would ask, what transparency is lacking?

All snark aside, Raf's comment is emblematic of the problem - axes will be ground on posts like Neil's.

Posted by: Armando | Jun 26, 2006 1:25:09 PM

agree entirely ezra, I believe Atrios had a post up a couple months ago about the coming blog wars, though he was alluding to 2008; things have gotten started a lot sooner. One hopes that after the various blogs rip each other to pieces during the primaries they will be able to unite again behind whom ever emerges as the 2008 nominee.

Posted by: Jake | Jun 26, 2006 1:26:32 PM

Ezra, I've yet to see you or anyone else make the case that Moulitsas's support of Warner is somehow atypical. He lead half the blogosphere in attacking NARAL for fighting Jim Langevin's senate run in Rhode Island, and Langevin's weird record of culture war voting hardly makes him the archetypal "netroots" candidate. He's chastised his own readers for criticizing Mary Landrieu on the grounds that any Democrat in Louisiana will have to be a DINO. He's consistently supported the candidates he thinks are most electable, not the candidates he thinks would make the best policy. His animosity for Lieberman isn't due to Lieberman's stance on the war but on his habit of attacking other Democrats. He's always had a soft spot for the New Democrat Network, who are policywise in the same camp as the DLC. His problem with the DLC has always been the frequent attacks its most visible members make on the rest of the party. He wants Democrats to win before he wants them to be right. So what makes his support of a popular, centrist Southern governor so unthinkable?

(Note: I am not a Warner fan, nor an Edwards fan, nor a fan of anyone else who might be conceivably elected president in 2008. I like Russ Feingold, and the day a twice-divorced Jewish Senator from Minnesota gets elected to the president I'll be too busy making snowmen in hell to notice.)

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Jun 26, 2006 1:37:37 PM

And the language used in Neil's original post - asserting that Markos is "just another gullible Bluepoint investor" and that "we ought to be suspicious of pro-Warner comments Kos makes in the future" - was not merely "fair speculation." It was an assertion that Markos's credibility had been obviously damaged, and that we shouldn't trust his advocacy from now on.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Jun 26, 2006 1:43:08 PM

Great post, Ezra. As for the issues being raised, both concerning the relationship between Kos and Armstrong and concerning the relationship between the blogosphere and the establishment, discussing them isn't some radically new idea. Salon published a feature on Armstrong (for which both he and Kos were interviewed) earlier this month, which addressed Kos' perceived flips on Paul Hackett and the DLC after Armstrong's employment by Sherrod Brown and Mark Warner, respectively. And as far back as 2004, Billmon (writing for the LA Times) broached the issue of A-list bloggers "selling out," which was not exactly met with unanimous appreciation then, either.

In that piece, Billmon forecasted, quite correctly, that "If the mainstream media are true to past form, they will treat the A-list blogs -- commercialized, domesticated -- as if they are the entire blogosphere, while studiously ignoring the more eccentric, subversive currents swirling deeper down," which is precisely what we've seen during this whole TNR debacle, even though, as I've pointed out, Kos' "influence and visibility are exactly what makes him perhaps the singularly worst possible exemplar from which to extrapolate details about the rest of us." In light of that, the rest of us who populate the blogosphere do and should have a very keen interest in what our most visible representatives are doing--which is not to suggest we should, as you point out, engage in unfair speculation, but certainly it's not only fair to raise the questions, but in our own best interest, since we are inextricably defined by the A-listers, whether we want to or should be, or not.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Jun 26, 2006 1:47:42 PM

IL: You mean a twice-divorced Jewish Senator from Wisconsin.

And just what is it about Warner that makes him so electable, and everyone else less so? You could say that Edwards is just as electable, has more campaign chops, has bigger and better policy chops. What would make Warner a more electable candidate than him?

I'd argue that Warner's been the beneficiary of two less-than-capable GOP candidates for VA Governor: first Mark Earley in '01, and then Jerry Kilgore in '05. Point of fact, almost everyone thought Kilgore was going to beat Kaine and succeed Warner, until Kilgore released a TV ad that claimed that Kaine's opposition to the death penalty would keep him from executing Adolf Hitler. Had Kilgore won, would we be discussing Warner's electability as much?

Full disclosure--I supported Sunshine Johnny in '04, and contributed to his campaign.

Posted by: Raf | Jun 26, 2006 2:00:22 PM

Amen, Shakes.

Posted by: Raf | Jun 26, 2006 2:01:24 PM

which is not to suggest we should, as you point out, engage in unfair speculation, but certainly it's not only fair to raise the questions

What distinction are you delineating here? We shouldn't speculate unfairly, but we should raise fair questions--I don't think anyone would disagree with that. How could they? But we're arguing about whether the claims against Kos are fair or not.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jun 26, 2006 2:07:26 PM

"I am glad to see that this is what Neil meant. Because it is not what he wrote."

So is Neil still a "piece of crap" and a "slimy idiot", Armando?

Posted by: Petey | Jun 26, 2006 2:19:05 PM

"Amen, Shakes."

Indeed.

Posted by: Petey | Jun 26, 2006 2:22:14 PM

And just what is it about Warner that makes him so electable, and everyone else less so? You could say that Edwards is just as electable, has more campaign chops, has bigger and better policy chops.

Policy chops, as I noted before, don't matter much to Markos. If you're looking for policy at DailyKos, you're barking up the wrong tree - which is just one of the reasons I'm not a regular reader of his site.

As for Warner, he became a hot property after the Virginia governor's election last year, when the conventional wisdom more or less credited him with winning the state for Tim Kaine. Beyond that, he's got better "campaign chops" than Edwards - in that he's won just as many as Edwards has and unlike Edwards he hasn't lost any. He's got governing experience and isn't burdened with a senator's voting record, he's from a southern state that's widely considered winnable, and by all accounts he's fairly popular there. It isn't hard to see how someone making a shallow "electability"-based argument would like him.

I don't, but then again I'm not Markos Moulitsas, and the contention here is that Moulitsas's support of Warner is so uncharacteristic that the likely explanation is either bribery or deception. From what I've read of Kos, that hardly seems the case.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Jun 26, 2006 2:22:48 PM

But we're arguing about whether the claims against Kos are fair or not.

That's not my perception. My perception is that Neil is being accused of making outrageous claims (i.e. unfairly speculating), as opposed to what I believe he did do, which is raise some legitimate concerns (i.e. ask fair questions).

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Jun 26, 2006 2:25:51 PM

My perception is that Neil is being accused of making outrageous claims (i.e. unfairly speculating), as opposed to what I believe he did do, which is raise some legitimate concerns (i.e. ask fair questions).

Neil didn't just raise questions. He came to a conclusion: that is, that Kos's comments on Warner shouldn't be taken at face value. The evidence present really isn't strong enough to support that conclusion. That's an unfair claim.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Jun 26, 2006 2:35:00 PM

I'm not sure about that iron. i think he argued that Kos's conclusions about Warner may not have been soundly arrived at, which is arguable in either direction, i think. Certainly Kos seems to think the guy more supportable and electable than I do.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 26, 2006 2:38:09 PM

What's fascinating to me, btw, is that Warner is the sort of candidate the media loves, that Broder will hype. To see them all arriving at his door for such different reasons is pretty funny.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 26, 2006 2:39:16 PM

the contention here is that Moulitsas's support of Warner is so uncharacteristic that the likely explanation is either bribery or deception. From what I've read of Kos, that hardly seems the case.

Well, to be fair, the contention is that it also could be that Kos has been blinded to good common sense because of his friendship.

I believe that Neil raises some good points, but that he does go a bit too far in trying to make the case that Jerome is - or could be - untrustworthy because of the SEC thing. Maybe he's guilty of something. But I have a hard time justifying the idea that we should "excommunicate" him from our "fellowship" based upon poor decisions in the past. Ezra and others have pointed out that Jerome is not doing anything in secret now; in fact, he seems to be performing his duties quite well and quite openly. To forever brand him as untrustworthy is something that conservatives would do, not liberals who believe in the human abilities for redemption and development.

The problem that so many people have with Kos, IMHO, is that he really is what he claims to be: a political novice (though that is changing, of course), a lawyer from Berkeley who wants to get involved and wants to help others get involved as well.

We are used to a certain order in our politics. There's city and countywide politics, where novices can get broken in and the field weeded a bit so that only those who show a certain aptitude can advance. The more one starts to advance, to either higher levels of local politics or statewide offices, then the more money and the more ability to hire handlers who will teach the novice politician how to act, how to speak, what not to say, how to respond and not say anything, how to attack one's opponent, etc. By the time someone starts to run for a federal office, there is a certain way they are expected to speak and act.

Kos and a few other bloggers have burst onto the national political scene without the "benefit" of these consultants and media handlers. Even worse, some of these bloggers, such as Jerome, have become consultants themselves! - taking jobs from such hardworking folk as Bob Shrum, may his name and memory be erased.

Perhaps we should be asking ourselves just how much of the media narrative - which we hate, right? - and how much of the accepted political wisdom - which we hate, right? - we have internalized and still buy into.

The simplest reason for Kos to support Warner is that he thinks Warner is electable. Surely Jerome had a big hand in this, and probably Warner's willingness to hire a blogger as a consultant plays a big part in it as well. We see conspiracies in this because there's always been conspiracies in this type of thing, because that's what Americans are supposed to see in our politics.

As a member of the "reality-based community," I'd rather wait for some actual evidence.

Posted by: Stephen | Jun 26, 2006 2:46:01 PM

He came to a conclusion: that is, that Kos's comments on Warner shouldn't be taken at face value.

Actually, what he said was: "We ought to be suspicious of pro-Warner comments Kos makes in the future," based on the possibility that Kos has received bad advice from someone who has a history of giving it.

Aside from semantic distinctions, however, about which we could argue ad infinitum, I find it rather amusing that anyone would get his or her knickers in a twist about the suggestion that we should read something with a critical eye for any reason. Maybe I'm just an intractably hard-assed cynic, but that strikes me as basic common sense from Reading and Information Processing 101.

Posted by: Shakespeare's Sister | Jun 26, 2006 2:46:09 PM

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