The politically ambidextrous king of one-line political zingers Marshall Wittman has made bloggers and traditional style journalists go bonkers the last couple of days. He’s going back to work in the Senate, but this time for an Independent.
I wondered what was going on when Wittman moth-balled on November 17th his thoughtful blog, The Bull Moose, which frequently seemed to be tracking issues similar to what I was writing and thinking about (or I him) — with us occasionally on quite opposite sides of an issue.
Today, the New York Times‘ Mark Leibovich penned a quite harsh treatment of Wittman’s political profile and work career on the occasion of Senator Joseph Lieberman hiring “the bull moose” to be his new communications director.
Here’s some of this biting review:
To say that Mr. Wittmann defies classification is like saying Paris Hilton defies modesty. But in his peripatetic soul, he is a Washington Original, a man without a political country going to work for a senator without a political party.
Mr. Lieberman, a longtime Democrat of Connecticut who was re-elected as an independent and calls himself an Ã¢â‚¬Å“Independent Democrat,Ã¢â‚¬Â has not ruled out becoming a Republican.
Mr. Wittmann, meanwhile, is a Trotskyite turned Zionist turned Reaganite turned bipartisan irritant turned pretty much everything in between — including chief lobbyist for the Christian Coalition, the only Jew who has ever held that position.
“Jewish mothers do not raise their Jewish sons to work for the Christian Coalition,” said Mr. Wittmann, offering one of many explanations for why that job was not an ideal fit.
“I think I’m the only person who has worked for both Cesar Chavez and Linda Chavez,” Mr. Wittmann said of the union pioneer who inspired him in the 1970s and the conservative Republican whose Senate campaign in Maryland he joined in the 1980s.
“I think I’m the only person who’s worked for both Ralph Reed and Bruce Reed,” Mr. Wittmann added, referring to the former executive director of the Christian Coalition and the top lieutenant to former President Bill Clinton.
Wittman appears to be politically amoral, but that might not be fair. I’ve met him numerous times and have marveled at his ability to see the nugget of a political idea that escaped everyone else and then market that dark horse notion into dominating mainstream political discourse.
It angers people that Wittman has worked for ALL sides, and he has — but in the case of many Washington insiders, what is driving this Wittman frenzy is pure jealousy because he has so regularly and frequently outmaneuvered Washington’s population of turbo-charged opportunists.
Until I met Wittman and looked at his resume, I thought I was a stand-out having worked for Richard Nixon in his latter years and then worked in the Senate for Democrat Senator Jeff Bingaman. I knew a few others like that — William Reinsch worked for Senator John Heinz on the Republican side and then jumped to Senator Jay Rockefeller. Today, Bernie Toon, former Chief of Staff to Senators Bill Bradley and Jeff Bingaman now works for Richard Lugar.
But we are all very small time cases of ideologically-blind policy wonks compared to Wittman.
What those heaping scorn on Wittman are missing, however, is what his employment by Lieberman really means.
When political giants tie up, it’s not an accident.
Lieberman’s acquisition of Marshall Wittman, who is very close to John McCain, signals a calculation by some that McCain and Lieberman might tie up for the 2008 Presidential run. The progressive left will start choking at this point, coughing and convulsing uncontrollably — but reason needs to be gripped for a moment.
McCain and Lieberman would be a formidable challenge for any Democratic opponent because even though both are now self-described neoconservatives and strongly supported America’s botched war against Iraq, to many pundits they would “seem like” the very epitome of centrism.
John McCain and Joseph Lieberman are also both attracted to Marshall Wittman because of his work and thinking about a “new campaign of national greatness.”
The framing of those five words already outperform most of the lead challengers on the Democratic side — perhaps with the exception of Barack Obama who really is sizzling.
It would be a mistake to see McCain and Lieberman as the champions of a new centrist political ethic, but the cosmetics of their partnership will be too seductive for many pundits who will fall for the deal.
Wittman is smart, and he will possibly be the midwife of a McCain-Lieberman campaign — and rather than railing against Wittman, people need to get smart and outmaneuver those who want to steal the center away from Democrats in the next big political race.
— Steve Clemons