By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Blogging from left field

Nothing to add to today’s Boston Globe story about John Kerry’s blog at the Daily Kos. Except this: The Kos has a reputation for being fairly hard left. That’s fine for a Massachusetts senator. But is this where a man who still wants to be president ought to be hanging out?

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Free speech for me …


Turn it down, John


  1. Anonymous

    DK, do you think the Kos site is “liberal” or do you think “progressive” or “left wing” are better descriptors for it? Perhaps all those labels are interchangeable?

  2. Anonymous

    Perhaps “politics is not his strong suit”?

  3. Sven

    The Nation is hard left. I think Kos is more accurately characterized as “belligerently center-left.”

  4. Philocrites

    Barack Obama is another high-profile (and not especially left-wing Democrat) who has already started writing at Daily Kos. What the story misses is that although the site gets labeled “left-wing,” it’s probably more accurate to label it “activist”: It’s more partisan than ideological, which makes politicians take it seriously as a support-generator even if some of the diarists are off the deep end.

  5. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 11:08: I think that “liberal” and “progressive” are roughly synonymous, but that “left-wing” is a fair amount farther to the left of those. Just one person’s definition.

  6. Anonymous

    Russ Feingold frequently posts there as well. Ted Kennedy, too. It’s a useful tool. I’ve been posting to Kos for a few years (my user number is pretty low–in the teen-thousands), and I’ve noticed it has given the MSM fits because it really defies labeling. It’s a Democratic site, yes, but the viewpoints vary wildly as far as ideology goes. There are people way out there, and there are people more toward the center. Just dipping in there for a day or two because you were assigned a story isn’t going to give you an accurate picture of the diversity of viewpoints on Kos.

  7. Kate McD

    I think it’s exactly where he should be hanging out. Democrats tend to tread too carefully and perhaps a bold, impassioned stance is what the party needs. Besides that, his posts were hardly radical, just representative of his already very public positions.

  8. Anonymous

    This is all noise!Right wingers have lefties right where they want them: worrying and arguing about labels. Are you a conservative democrat? Are you a tree hugger? Are you a progressive? Are you a Liberal? Are you a commie?I don’t see any harm from Kerry posting on KOS. Actually I think it might have been too little too late: if he wanted to maintain a direct line to a good size base of support as a hedge for future plans, he should have had a higher profile. But the media seems to focus so much on his appearence than other pols on kos.The problem with him is that he is so not as active in the ways he should that when he breaks his -reclusive- habits, it seems self-serving and opportunistic.Kennedy shows up to a lot of funerals and town meetings and local issues and big issues and local cable community TV programs, so his presence is welcomed or expected.Kerry doesn’t raise any huge fuss about Alito and never mentions any intentions of filibuster until the 11th hour by hopping onto KOS. It was too plain to read.KOS does a good job of distilling the sentiment of the left, broadly, on the issues that are front and center and tries not to let them get sidetracked by all sorts of rightwing diversionary tactics.Kerry did not use that to his advantage. The lefty activism and online discussion started with the Dean wave and its meetups and when he conceded, Kerry never capitalized on that online gathering. It passed him by and now Kerry is waking up to its potential.Liberman will tell you KOS is plain scary. And the fact that he is sweating it now because of kos is a telling sign.Republican presidents can hang out with the most extreme and polarizing figures and institutes with all the winks and nods and never really lose a lot of capital. Similarly, I don’t believe Kerry should lose any because of kos, which I don’t view as far left or extreme, but rather energized.In essence, KOS says what the closeted lefty mediatypes won’t say or do in the open. Exposing someone’s record, with a fair, direct examination should not be off-limits to journos, but it seems it is. They are more concerned about seeming fair and balanced by NOT broaching areas they should.If someone needs an example, look at the terrific job the Billings Gazette did on their Montana Senator. That is hoenst competent blind journalism.Look at today’s kos sample:”Pissing away hundreds of billions more in Iraq ” with this comment’He likes to talk about the government not taking “your money”. But whose money does he think is financing his incompetent foreign adventures?’No journalist would say that directly and deliver the message. They’d have to couch it so much blubber that they sound like pinheads.Another:’TX-28: Ciro Rodriguez’ they have been after Cueller to uncover a republican in Democratic clothing. No paper today can take credit for dissecting and hounding a congressman who says something on the record to get elected democrat and votes along republican lines. They’ll do it softly and in a reationary way but they won’t initiate to see it to the end. they’re too concerned about offending. I understand Texas democrats are a different breed but you have to face up to such fissures to rally and strengthen ANY party. There is more pressure on the Chafees than there is on the Liebermans and Cuellers of the world.”Feds moving to ban sale of cell phone info” with this line ‘Aren’t we supposed to be the party of privacy? We sure didn’t act that way.’That is a very honest and useful self-correcting slap. What was the last time papers stood for defending privacy or other rights anymore, except when there is a gain for them like Judy’s self-serving stint to burnish her image. NYT wasn’t worried about any prinicple, they were covering their backs and coveting PR dividends.Journalism wasn’t created to fold and ignore and comply. It is supposed to be the anti-establishment, and KOS is doing a better job of it.If more Dems stood together, they’d be a much stronger front. Alito could have been stopped very easily had a core of democrats stood together. I am neutral to whether he should or shouldn’t have been stopped. Just analyzing the weakness of approach.Dems won’t go anywhere with Pelosi and Reid: two incompetent wilting weak links.And spare me the Obama tricks too: He seems to be another triangulating self-serving shrewd politician with eyes on elected office down the road and NOT doing the job he was elected to do or be one of the strongest, smaretest, charismatic and best spoken representives for the Dem party; they need more of those. Dems latest rockstar promising messiah has been a nonfactor so far.So yes to Kerry on KOS or Bush or other notable Republican on such forums. It can only be good when they get closer to the public or/and their base of support: More contact, less obstacles, better pulse taking, more open communication: essentially politics at its most basic.But not enough of them do it on either side. And that is more deplorable: not that Kerry did it, but that he and others don’t do it enough.N.

  9. Steve

    Kos is hard to categorize. It’s a community blog (like RedState), not an individual blog like Atrios or Media Nation. There’s quite a bit of spectrum there, from center to left, though I don’t see much in the way of far-left thought represented there (at least in the articles that hit the front page).Why shouldn’t Kerry “hang out” there? It’s a community that specializes in Democratic Party politics, it’s a source of funds as well as ideas, and it acts as a nascent “noise machine” for Democrats.The only reason maybe Kerry *shouldn’t* be there is that the Kos community is not really aligned with the “centrist” wing of the Democratic party – the Clinton (his-and-hers) DLC big-money types. But I think that wing of the party is in definite eclipse, especially now that Dean (a Kos darling) is the national chairman.

  10. mike_b1

    And spare me the Obama tricks too: … Dems latest rockstar promising messiah has been a nonfactor so far.N., I’m wondering whom in the Senate — either side of the aisle — you think has been a “factor”?

  11. Wes

    All this bother about left/right wings. Over the course of my life the center has shifted so dramatically as to make such determinations irrelevant. Years ago a Russian assigned in Washington commented that the USA is a Don Knotts nation. It is laborious enough to winnow out some semblence of truth no matter where it’s published.

  12. Anonymous

    Steve,Your post again hits me from left field, I am left wondering about some aspects of it.I think you are getting too wrapped up in categorizing and describing and having teams stick with each other in their neat little territory.That is self-defeating.Instead, focus on one thing: What is right? as in rightful or righteous or adequate?If you are concerned by the sum of all parts, ie looking at the country as a whole, what is right for the country? It isn’t hard to figure out what makes sense regardless of where you belong? Do you need an de-scrambler to know you need to get rid of debts and deficits? Have a strong Army but with reasonable expenditures devoid of ultra-expensive non productive costs? Shielding the core of our Laws and Constitution regardles of who is in office?One objective, fair-minded, unselfish, uncorruptable person would put his or her finger on it right away and get to work. But we all know those are hard to come by these days. It doesn’t mean you too Steve have to get wrapped up in the confusion and inaction. Keep a clear mind and disregard the clutter.What is right if you are a democratic organization/gathering or the DNC itself? Obvious. You need to crystalize the issues and clearly, unambiguously and loudly ennunciate your position and objective and MOST IMPORTANTLY pull the wagon of support forward. We have heard so much talk since the Clinton years in the Lewinsky daze: Empty talk. Implementing and ‘herding’ the base is MOST crucial.That’s what KOS is good at: They’ll identify an issue, go after it and try to spring into action. They have raised money. They have organized campaign help for their pet races. They have ellicited feebdack and public record from politicians…etc. That’s why they are among the most effective, it is their energy and action level. Not just pontificating like soooooooooo many blogs, a la fraud Andrew Sullivan.There is so much worry about uniting so many disparate Democratic camps. That is just a dead horse. Over-rated, foolish and suicidal. You’ll never unite camps from one aisle. On the right. On the left. ANYwhere. If you could, McCain would have been president for the last 6 years. If a decorated, combat-tortured honest man can’t do it, you think KOS or the DNC can?Dean had the best shot of bringing them together in peace for a common goal. He was sabotaged by fellow jealous democrats AND THE MEDIA, lefty media especially.So you want to unite tree-huggers with the Liebermans and Reids of the world? You can’t!Would you want to undo all tax cuts? The country doesn’t want to and it is very counterprodcutive.Do want to burn Hummers? I despise the cars and the people who buy those things, but I’d fight to the death to protect your right to buy one. That is not how you fix things.You try to spread reason and good thinking and principles and PRESERVE what is dear and traditional to the WHOLE country. Don’t just worry about Cambridge and Manhattan but don’t forget Texas, Missouri and Wyoming and Mormon Utah and so many others. Those are as American as you are and desrve to be heard and accounted for too.It is because ONE side wants all or nothing that we embrassingly have no great Gay and larger GLBT community solutions and answers to some basic human dilemmas. Now even partnership benefits and recognition is beset with rollbacks because there is no compromise and gradual evolving towards a more civil, sophisticated and respectful medium where we recognize the need to extend the same rights to ANYone regardless of who they are.Now we are in a tugging war between ‘do we want to just solidify partenrship laws and civil unions?’ ‘Do we want to go straight to marriages?’ ‘DO you we want to ban gay marriages?’So you are left with these polarized positions and unadressed pressing issues, why? Because NO PARTY can unify behind one solution. Easier said than done.I used the Gay marriage just as an example to show you how in-fighting can hold you back in inaction and give the other party better momentum and polling.Now you have dem politicians who can’t even stand and defend Gay rights forcefully because they want to be “centrists” So what is the party’s position, on this or any other issue? Ambiguity. That’s the answer.Just unify behind SOMETHING for God’s Sake. THAT’s what KOS is marginally good at. Less ambiguous and more likely to rally under one roof. You don’t have to unify EVERY single issue and constituency. It is humanly impossible. Look at the bigger picture and what’s the cost of continued losses.So forget about labels. Keep your eyes on the prize, regardless of where it lies. If the far lefties are right on some issue, then you endorse it, and stick by it until you see it through.The DNC’s problems and loss of hill control is directly a result of their lack of perseverence. They don’t stick it out. They’ll squak a bit on some issue and then go to sleep. They wilt. Especially if a poll comes out not in their favor, they are definitely off that horse.They should grow more spine. More confidence. They are often right on many issues, more right than others. But they are always weak.And the perception of being weak is going to keep them from office even if The Oval Office and GOP congress have a 10% approval rating.That sort of answers mike’s question too, with a result of there not being ONE single senator who can claim he stuck it out on anything.ANd I fault Reid for that. He is largely ineffective and detrimental to the job at this late stage.I see the most potential in Schumer. I know, I know…He is a media w###e but the guy has the chops for the job, the brains and the smarts, the style, the charisma and unwilliness to let go in the face of heat sometimes.He still never ultimately sticks it out. Backroom wheel-dealing makes him change his schemes and volume up and down depending on the winds and he never is allowed to stay focused.If I had one advice for him, it would be “Don’t worry about any future office plans. Just concentrate on being a strong, unwielding focused senator. And respect will come by itself. Your standing will strengthen by itself and you don’t have to scheme to make yourself more likeable and electable. Just do what is right and imminent and other things will come.”My favorite people on the Hill are not there anymore. People Like Tip O’Neil or Patrick Moynahan or Moakley. Smart, competitive but dignified.I have only respect and admiration for Kennedy, but again he isn’t allowed to be himself and is restrained. He is too typecast nationally and as much as he is irreplaceable, he isn’t the future of the party.If I say the word “self-serving” or “self-centered”, do I have to fully describe my opinion and outlook for Mrs Rodham? ooops, Mrs Clinton. She likes the dividends of that last name better. She ain’t going nowhere, unelectable and detrimental to the Dem party, short and longterm. No where but down with Hil at the front.I had high hopes for Kent Conrad. Very smart and very able, honest man. But he’s been triangulating too much in a year where he is up for election. He disappointed me this year, although he’ll do less of that now that he seems to be a lock for re-election.I enjoy Byrd’s floor sessions. Most enjoyable and powerful of the house, but still controversial and NOT the future. A walking encyclopedia I’d hate to lose.Durbin is too much part of the establishment and a poster boy for wilting dems in the Senate. I like the guy. He is very decent man.McCain is too wrapped up in his plans and worries about pleasing different segments of his party at any given time. I have a lot of admiration for the guy and you can argue he had the most impact in the last couple of years and had the honesty to denounce people from his ranks. Kudos!Carl Levin is a great mind and could be a great factor but strikes me as another wilting backroom dealer. He could be a phenomenal factor.Biden acts like he always has a mirror nearby. Too self-conscious and not as believable anymore nationally. He used to be a event on Meet the Press. Stress Past tense.On the House side, I see Rangel from NY as the only worthy name that comes to mind. He is likeable, very smart, very right often, a veteran who doesn’t brag about it and a great debater. He is held back it seems and could be a great media force if he is allowed to stick it out more. He could be great on any Presidential ticket.Not enough time or energy to name more.N.

  13. mike_b1

    Seriously, did anyone read any of that last post?

  14. Anonymous

    I did. What’s the beef, it’s too long? So what, no harm.I haven’t followed kos much but will start to. I’m unhappy with the milquetoast nature of the Democrats too. Kerry is too careful, a word I can’t use in here comes to mind. His posting to kos (ooh!) is probably the extent of his daring. He’s all waffle. I can’t believe anybody thinks Hilary is the Dem’s best shot. No wonder Repubs are so smug.>Just unify behind SOMETHING for God’s sake.Right. They really emasculated themselves with their Iraq war vote, and haven’t recovered.Grow a spine. Stand for a clear alternative. Stop triangulating.

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you, Anon 8:31Weighing between should I write longer and get all of my point across in a subject -and so many others- that are dear to most of us and not discussed thoroughly, directly or honestly enough or should I accomodate the little bimbo loser punks that offer nothing to the site but simply prowl blogs with no useful life, it is obvious which I will choose.(How do you like that long sentence, mike -no capitalization for you. I wrote it expressly for you, the big ‘success’ that you must be)

  16. whispers

    Dan, quick answer is yes.If Kerry had spent more time at Kos in 2004, and less time listening to the advisors who left him twisting in the wind while Bush beat the crap out of him with the Swift Boat lies, he might have actually won the election.You seem to suggest that the path to the Presidency for a Democrat is to be found by running away from the base of the party. Of course that’s what Kerry did, and Gore before him. Didn’t do them much good, did it? As Truman said, given a choice between a fake Republican and a real one, the public will choose the real Republican every time.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Whispers: Uh, Gore won.

  18. Anonymous

    No, he didn’t, Dan.I love ya, but you gotta stop with this starry eyed talk that gives Dems a bad look and a black eye everytime a lefty goes on the record in public saying that Gore won.Ruysh and company love to ridicule that and turn it against the left, with success and apoint I might add.He didn’t win.If he had carried his own state or Clinton’s state, he might have won.If he had paid more attention to the absentee ballot shenanigans, especially military absentee ballots that were largely ‘mismanaged’ in Florida, he would have won.Given the success he inherited fromthe Clinton years, he should have had more cushion than the dangerously thin margins that ended up making the Florida close vote seem so precious for a win.We agree that if all the sabotaged ballots were properly screned out or if you go by the popular vote, he did get enough votes to claim a win, but the Laws are written allow only for otherwise.Gore DID lose.Kerry DID lose.It is time they started winning the right way and with class.If they can’t win with a Clinton dividend and against an underwhelming TX gov wannabe, nor a besieged vulnerable president a second time around, when will they win?The 06 will be a huge test. Congressional races and fundraising carry a good sign these days for them, but the story doesn’t end there. Three years is an eternity in political terms.They have more than enough time to screw themselves right out of contention.Thinking that Gore has been the rightful president is just one of them.N.

  19. Dan Kennedy

    N.: Did too.

  20. Anonymous

    I dont agree with this post, Dan. Its about time someone with presidential aspirations stopped running scared from anything that could be associated as “left.”Michael Corcoran

  21. whispers

    laughsHi Dan,I’m pretty sure Bush was inaugurated in 2001 since I saw the motorcade myself. There all sorts of tacky floats from Texas and Wyoming there.”Gore won” in a fairly meaningless sense, in that he got more votes nationally than Bush did. But he lost in a very real sense, in that he didn’t have the intelligence/fortitude to get a proper recount done in Florida and actually move into the White House. His lack of willingness to fight hurt him ultimately, and it did the same to Kerry four years later.Ordinarily, I try to avoid using the 2000 Election is evidence in any argument about political trends, pro or con. Certainly it was not evidence that ‘the country is moving to the right’, a constant meme in the media for, oh, the past thirty years. If you want, we can drop Gore. But he was a big part of the DLC network that turned a Democratic party that controlled both houses of Congress, but not the Presidency, into a Democratic party that controlls neither house of Congress, nor the Presidency.At some point, the piper has to be paid. In any point, your original post seemed to be a slam on the Kos website. I was hoping you’d clarify: do you think speaking to the base is inappropriate for a Presidential hopeful? Certainly it’s worked for Bush (well that and the cheating/lying/Rovian approach to politics).

  22. mike_b1

    whispers, so now you’re blaming Gore for not having the foresight to have 1) been previously elected president, 2) while president, convinced Scalia, Thomas, O’Connor, Rehnquist or Kennedy to retire, and 3) nominated as a replacement someone with a brain, er, fair, er, a Democrat so as to ensure a majority for when the Republicans stole the next election?That would take some pretty remarkable seer ability.

  23. Steve

    Hey, Dan – apparently you and the Washington Times are agreeing on this!Do you want to reconsider? 🙂

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