Further developments from Kos-ville, with commentary

Kos says his previous remark was “stupid.” That takes him out of the Ann Coulter category. He’s catching lots of flack from our side of the aisle — Kerry’s site just de-linked — which suggests that his remark wasn’t really characteristic of “the left.”
Now about Ann Coulter …

1. Kos has now called his original remark “stupid.” That’s not exactly an apology, but it certainly puts some distance between Kos and what he first said. It clearly takes him out of the Ann Coulter category.

2. A childhood of terror at the hands of mercenary soldiers doesn’t justify Kos’s remark, but it does help explain where it came from. And now that he acknowledges it was wrong, his personal history is a reason to cut him some slack.

3. The original remark was criticized in this space, by Kevin Drum, and by Oliver Willis, and has, to my knowledge, been defended by no one but Kos’s own commenters. At least four candidates have pulled their ads, and the Kerry blog just publicy de-linked. So the notion that Kos’s original words somehow revealed “the rot that has infested so much of the left” is, fairly obviously, rubbish.

4. Speaking of the Ann Coulter category, no one that I’ve seen has tried to argue that her remark about the New York Times wasn’t at least as bad as Kos’s. And of course she’s never taken it back in any way. I wonder what the links are between Coulter, and sites that promote her work, and the Bush-Cheney campaign? Are those on the right who have been critical of Kos and anyone who associates with him now ready to be equally hard on their own side?

(Speaking of completely tasteless attacks on those who have suffered for their country on the field of battle, let’s not forget Coulter’s sneer at Max Cleland, who won a Silver Star and lost three limbs to a grenade, because the incident in which he lost the three limbs wasn’t the same as the incident in which he won the Silver Star. Ergo, said Coulter, Cleland showed “no bravery.” No, I’m not making this up; read for yourself, and compare what Coulter says to the actual facts.)

Update Atrios is sorry that the good guys hold themselves too higher ethical standards than the bad guys. I don’t agree. I think we should do so, and then pound on the bad guys to force them to compete.

Second update The Young Curmudgeon is, it seems to me, wrong to say that Daily Kos is a “hateful, vile website,” unless he’s using hateful in it’s original sense of “something I [the writer] hate.”

Daily Kos is a website most of whose content is completely unobjectionable but on which one transcendently tasteless remark was made, and not retracted (in my view) either quickly enough or thoroughly enough.

Kos is somewhat to my left in programmatic terms and perhaps somewhat more ferociously, or at least single-heartedly, partisan, than I. That reflects in part the difference between someone who is primarily an analyst, as I am, and someone like Kos who is primarily an activist and organizer.

But Daily Kos is no Little Green Footballs. I think that Kos’s slow reaction time (by the accelerated standards of blogging) in figuring out that his remark couldn’t be defended and needed to be renouned made it necessary for candidates for office to disassociate themselves from him, and for those of us who share his goal of defeating Bush to say that we disagreed vehemently. That has happened, and I’m glad.

[Not everyone on our side of the room agrees; almost no one is defending Kos’s original comment, but many left-leaning bloggers are much less critical of him than I was, and some of them (and several of my readers) are critical of me, among others, for what they see as moral arrogance and inflicting friendly-fire casualties. My mail-bag hasn’t had this many really nasty missives in it since I dissed Chuck Colson; one favorite trope is “You know you should apologize but lack the courage to do so.”

Sorry, folks: I said what I meant, and I stand by it. My only regrets are that I didn’t act as sooner, and that I didn’t send a draft of my original post to Kos before posting it.]

But I don’t think that Kos, or Daily Kos, has somehow become permanently radioactive; he said a dumb thing, he took a hit for it, and he said it was dumb. If I were a campaign manager, I wouldn’t advertise on his site today, but I might two months from now. (I’d be more willing to do so if Kos clarified his attitude, toward those four dead men and toward those who killed them, but two months from now that mostly won’t matter.)

I’m not glad that Kos was damaged, either personally or as an institution. No doubt those on the Republican side of the aisle are glad. But they’ve now commited themselves to a standard that Republican politicians seem far less capable than Democrats of meeting: office-seekers must distance themselves from those who say unforgivable things. That, it seems to me, is also something to be glad about.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Further developments from Kos-ville, with commentary”

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    The Kos comments are the big controversy of the day. Read the posts by Mark Kleiman and Winds Of Change. Blog delinking is one thing, but I don't agree with the campaign to force politicians to return funds raised through…

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    There is a little blog-tempest going around about the comments of highly popular left-wing blogger dKos. It is tough to link to the original comments because he is rerouting links to his pseudo-apology. I'll try to link here but I…

  3. Kos Kerfuffle Roundup (UPDATED)

    For the last few days I've been in the ideological trenches, waging war over this sordid, tawdry little controversy. I have been in multiple comment box battles, and I've written e-mails to advertisers (happily with success) to try to get

  4. Future of Political Blogs Put Into Doubt By Hardball Tactics

    So, John Kerry's blog and a couple of other campaigns have pulled their ads from Kos's site and de-linked him over the minor controversy I wrote about the other day. The charge against Kos was led by Glenn Reynolds and


    I took a walk on the other side of the tracks and saw some more interesting Opinions about what the Leftorium thought of Kos saying "screw them" concerning the men in Fallujah. For instance, Mark Kleiman showed off some moral relevancy by saying "If …

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