Thursday, September 11, 2003

Josh Marshal spreading smears against Dean?

I'm a big fan of Joshua Micah Marshal. I've followed his work for several years now, even before he got big into blogging. Having said that, I really don't understand his two recent comments on the Dean/Clark rumors. 

Earlier today he posted this:

Is the Dean camp trying to set up Wes Clark? (Yep, I'm talkin' about you, Joe!) This piece in today's Post says Dean and Clark "discussed the vice presidency at a weekend meeting in California." Read down into the article and there doesn't seem to be that much there there. But the story got picked up on CNN too. And now the story of the day is not those very active discussions Clark is having about his own presidential run, but the potential 'Dean/Clark alliance'. And if Clark decides to get into the race after all, doesn't that mean that he wobbled, that as recently as this week he was thinking of taking the number two slot from Dean, or endorsing Dean? (His opponents want to play to the 'indecision' meme, remember.) I think that's what some people would like us to think. The Post calls those people "sources familiar with the [Dean/Clark] discussions." But I think we can imagine who those folks might be.

On what basis does Josh basis his contention that this is a rumor being circulated by the Dean people in order to derail Clark's potential announcement? He doesn't even cite any source for the allegation. Not even an anonymous one. I certainly hope he is not simply assuming that that is what is going on..

First clue Josh: the reports in both the Post and the Times do not say that Dean has offered Clark the VP spot. They only say that Clark has been offered a position with the Dean campaign. That could be as simple as Dean asking Clark to be a military/foreign policy advisor (with maybe the promise of something more down the road). It is the feeding frenzy of the press that has ginned this into speculation that Dean asked Clark to be his running mate (with an admitted assist from some over-eager Dean supporters). Josh even acknowledges that the original report didn't have much "there there". Unfortunately neither does his speculation.

Josh then compounds his error with his latest post on this topic:

Aha! More news about Dean Campaign Manager Joe Trippi's 'he's-begging-to-be-our-VP' dirty tricks campaign against Wes Clark. This from the just-posted edition of USNews' Washington Whispers ...

And forget about that talk that all the retired four-star general and former NATO boss wants is the veep nomination. Supporters say that's a dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean who's scared of a Clark candidacy. Says Frisby: "Wes Clark firmly believes that he is the best choice to be president, not be vice president or hold any other government post."

Second clue Josh: the claim that this rumor is a "dirty-tricks campaign pushed by rival Howard Dean" is being pushed by Clark supporters! In other words, the only source you are naming for this scoop that Dean is pushing a dirty trick are the very people who would most want to shoot down the rumor and, at the same time, damage Dean's reputation. Is that what you consider a reliable source? Especially since you are getting it second hand from a gossip column?

Who's pulling the dirty trick here Josh?

And in this just-released AP story signaling Clark's decision to run, see these two grafs ...

While mulling his options, Clark has met with several presidential contenders who covet his endorsement and might consider him for a vice presidential slot. He met Saturday with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who said it is too soon to talk about political alliances.

"There is a lot of vetting that would have to be done before you would have those kinds of discussions," Dean said when asked whether he had discussed the vice presidency with Clark.

In other words, the Dean camp is trying to pooh-pooh the bogus spin they floated to the Washington Post only yesterday.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave ...

Josh, you have presented no evidence that the Dean campaign "floated" this "bogus spin" in the first place. So why shouldn't they be "pooh-poohing" it?

To reiterate, Dean and his campaign have repeatedly spoken highly of the general. Clark has done the same about Dean. They have been holding several long talks (apparently for several months now). No one is denying that. Dean has apparently offered the General some position with his campaign. No one has denied that either. There are lots of rumors floating around about a possible Dean/Clark ticket. The original report on this appears to be a big noise created by an over-eager reporter at the Post who heard something about a job offer by Dean to Clark if Clark decides not to run (entirely believable) and decided to push it as if Dean had offered Clark the VP slot (pure speculation).

Stop smearing the Dean campaign with allegations of "dirty-tricks" unless you have something more solid to go on than conjecture. And if you do, then please cite your sources!

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