Well, it’s now out in the open, after an announcement by Joe Liebeman’s office: my colleague The Moose, a.k.a. Marshall Wittmann, is shutting down his blog and leaving the DLC to become Communications Director for the Independent-Democrat from CT.I was travelling last week when The Moose suddenly did a post saying he was going into “hibernation.” I guessed pretty quickly where he was headed next, but couldn’t say anything until Lieberman made it public.It’s obviously the perfect gig for Marshall, and he’s the perfect spokesman for Lieberman. When he first came to the DLC in 2004, he had just changed his registration from R to Independent, endorsed John Kerry for president, and burned a lot of bridges to the Right–bridges he had already undermined in his work for John McCain in 2000. And although he wrote some of the most withering critiques of Bush, Rove, DeLay, the K Street Strategy, and the whole culture of the GOP appearing in the English language, he could not bring himself to join Our Team in the polarized politics of 2005-06, and was increasingly uncomfortable working in an unambiguous Democratic environment, even at the very tolerant DLC.The Moose became a passionate advocate for Lieberman’s primary and general-election campaigns in no small part because he sincerely believes both parties are in danger of abandoning the political center, and quite frankly because he is happiest free of either party’s yoke. This is obviously where Joe Lieberman is today. After voting for Harry Reid as Majority Leader, Joe will likely view himself as a completely free agent, much like The Moose.For regular readers of this blog, it’s been no secret that I disagree with Marshall on many issues, including Iraq, how Democrats should deal with polarization, the nature and significance of the progressive blogosphere, and the general political landscape.. I cannot count the number of times we’ve disagreed in internal DLC discussions, or around the office water cooler.But as I indicated a while back in a post defending The Moose against his blogospheric detractors, he has been a boon companion and good friend through thick and thin, not to mention one of the smartest and funniest people I’ve ever met, which counts a lot with me. And I still think his exceptionally well-informed attacks on the whole rotten culture of the latter-day GOP contributed far more to the Democratic Cause than he took away in his occasional ripostes against what he called the “nutroots,” especially among the media types who came to him so often to diagnose the conservative meltdown. It’s about as much as any Democrat could expect from a guy who, after all, was a self-proclaimed independent.I sincerely wish The Moose well in his new gig, and hope that his transition from a Democratic organization to an Independent-Democratic Senator will not slake his thirst for attacking the continuing ideological extremism of a GOP that’s half-convinced it lost on November 7 by being insufficiently right-wing.So let me say Hasta La Vista to the Moose. I don’t know if we will meet down the road as allies or friendly adversaries–hell, we both may be in assisted living before long–but I do know the blogosphere will suffer from the absence of his antlered presence.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Waiting for Joe Biden’s speech to a joint session of Congress to begin this week, I observed at New York that Republicans were struggling to define him consistently, which felt like a familiar problem for them:
When Bill Clinton was at the pre-Lewinsky peak of his powers, he drove Republicans nuts. They alternated between accusing him of “stealing our issues” with his triangulating pitches on welfare reform and crime and the size of government, and of being “liberal, liberal, liberal!” — a sort of boomer love child of George McGovern and Janis Joplin in a deceptive deep-fried southern packaging. Eventually the opportunity to depict him as a lying sexual predator solved the conservative dilemma, though you could argue he never stopped throwing them off-balance.
Republicans are similarly having problems getting a clear focus on Joe Biden, as the Los Angeles Times’ Noah Bierman observes:
“Alex Conant, a Republican consultant who has advised Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, [says] that his party’s two main messages about Biden are at odds with each other, blunting their impact. ‘The thing you hear Republicans say most is that he’s too old for the job, which isn’t consistent with saying he’s doing too much,’ Conant said. ‘You can’t effectively argue that he’s incompetent and that he’s too effective.'”
This dual framing of Biden was evident during the 2020 campaign, when Trump called him “Sleepy Joe” and with his usual lack of subtlety suggested his opponent was senile, even as he assailed Biden’s party of radical socialist aims. The 45th president and his surrogates squared the circle by treating Biden as the half-there puppet of the real powers, particularly the “communist” Kamala Harris.
But now, 100 days into the Biden-Harris administration, even though the new president has kept an unusually low profile, there are no signs of Harris or anyone else manipulating him. Indeed, so far his White House has been remarkably free of the factionalism that often undermines clear presidential leadership. With Clinton as president you had a White House staff famously divided (ironically, given the later reputations of the First Lady and the veep) into progressive “Rodhams” and centrist “Gores” who jockeyed for position and placed their varying stamps on administration policies. George W. Bush’s presidency was also marked by competing power centers (e.g., his terrifying vice-president and the “Boy Genius” Karl Rove); to a lesser extent, so was Obama’s. As for Donald Trump, hardly a week passed without someone — particularly his rotating cast of chiefs-of-staff — being described by “insiders” as the real power behind the throne or perhaps as the wild man’s lion-tamer.
Trump, of course, created some of the same problems for Democrats that Clinton — and now Biden — posed for Republicans. Was he the “toddler president” who ran a hollowed-out administration with no real core of convictions or goals? Or was he a putative Il Duce craftily planning an authoritarian takeover of the country? Up until the day he left office there was evidence for both descriptions. Indeed, the coda of his presidency, the January 6 Capitol riot, was variously regarded as a fascist coup attempt and a clown show.
Trump’s successor will have an opportunity in his first address to a joint session of Congress to add to the impression that he is quietly but firmly in charge of the executive branch, and has imposed order on his fractious party as he unveils yet another massive proposal. Kamala Harris will be sitting (and often standing and applauding) behind him, likely looking more like an adoring protégée than any sort of puppet-master. But if he stumbles at all, or looks tired, or says things that supposedly centrist Democrats like him don’t believe, the knees of many elephants will jerk and out will come the mockery of the old man who is a reassuring front for the Marxists actually running the country.
Such confusion if it continues will be of great service to Biden, much like the current Republican tendency to focus on irrelevant culture-war themes while a mostly united Democratic Party enacts legislative initiatives of a magnitude we haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan’s first year in office. For all their political gifts, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — who, lest we forget, both had a much more firmly Democratic Senate and House the first two years of their presidencies — couldn’t come close to the mastery of Congress Biden has exhibited up until now. As Republicans watch Biden’s speech, they should soberly realize that before long it may not matter that much if they bust up the Democratic trifecta in 2022. The damage to GOP policies and priorities wrought by “Uncle Joe” and his “senile socialist regime” could be too large to reverse by then. While Republicans fret about Trump and rage about “cancel culture,” Biden is eating their lunch.