Conspiracy Theories and Immune Systems

John Hood, writing on the National Review blog, “The Corner,” suggests that there’s been a sinister agreement between the Kerry and Edwards campaigns for Edwards not to quit before Super Tuesday, drawing ongoing attention to the race and thereby allowing Kerry to snag more free media. Then Edwards will be the veep choice. But we know that can’t be true, since it sounds awfully close to being a conspiracy theory.

Andrew Sulivan, meanwhile, seems overcome by outright schadenfreude at the news of Wes Clark’s departure from the race, calling the former NATO commander “a nutcase” who “believed in preposterous conspiracy theories” (Conspiracy theories? Well, say no more then, Andrew). He also makes a plea to “give Edwards a chance. Kerry is far less than meets the eye.”

Mickey Kaus, who’s no fan of the frontrunner either, argues that Democratic voters are “totally unware of basic Kerry vulnerabilities.” Kaus draws a contrast with 1992, when Bill Clinton’s womanizing was exposed before the primary, and voters voted for him anyway. That inoculated Clinton on the issue, says Kaus. But this year, “the antiseptic primary has left Democrats not knowing whether their likely nominee has a healthy immune system or none at all.” Though at least the crucial issue of Kerry’s forehead hasn’t been ignored.

Noam Scheiber on his New Republic blog “&c.” really loses his temper with Howard Dean for appearing to change his mind about whether or not to stay in the race if he doesn’t win Wisconsin next Tuesday. Having suggested in an email that “Anything less [than a win] will put us out of this race,” Dean is now saying he’ll fight on regardless of how he finishes. This apparent shift drives Scheiber nuts. He tells Dean: “Maybe it’s time you started thinking for a change before you opened your frickin’ mouth.” Easy there, tiger.

Finally, Atrios pulls off a mass smackdown on the range of commentators who’ve accused John Kerry of “damn(ing) his ‘band of brothers’ as a gang of rapists, torturers, and murderers led by officers happy to license them to commit war crimes with impunity.” Atrios looks at the record of Kerry’s testimony to a Senate committee, and shows that he said no such thing. We wish we’d gotten there first.

Zachary Roth

Update: The language describing Dean’s potential withdrawal from the race depending upon his performance in the Wisconsin primary has been changed to more accurately reflect Dean’s email, which stated that “A win there will carry us to the big states of March 2 — and narrow the field to two candidates. Anything less will put us out of this race.” We regret the error.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Zachary Roth is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, and Talking Points Memo, among other outlets.