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Blogging, Bounded

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, December 22 2008

(In an ongoing experiment, we sometimes repost and slightly expand upon a compelling item covered in the Daily Digest. This is one. -- the editors)

The Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund's acting CEO Jennifer Palmieri has jumped into CAP blogger Matt Yglesias's blog space to issue a "special note." Palmieri distanced the think tank from Yglesias's dig at the organization Third Way as peddlers of "hyper-timid incrementalist bull____," guilty of trying to sell their approach as one and the same as the aggressively moderate approach of Barack Obama. Yglesias's post:

There are a variety of issues that they have nothing whatsoever to say on, and what policy ideas they do have are laughable in comparison to the scale of the problems they allegedly address. Which is fine, because Third Way isn't really a "public policy think tank" at all, it's a messaging and political tactics outfit.

One hitch: Third Way is a CAP partner. Oopsie. Palmieri wrote under the very banner of Yglesias's blog:

Our institution has partnered with Third Way on a number of important projects - including a homeland security transition project - and have a great deal of respect for their critical thinking and excellent work product. They are key leaders in the progressive movement and we look forward to working with them in the future.

The more than 450 comments on Palmieri's mea culpa (or perhaps her "Matt's culpa") weren't kind. Here's a representative one: "This post is EXTREMELY creepy."

With CAP head John Podesta leading the Obama transition effort, it's hard not to see the organization as eager to be the very embodiment of institutional big-tent progressivism. Yglesias's critique of Third Way might be fair and incisive journalism. But having their star blogger calling foul on one centrist group of moderately high profile doesn't help that institutional mission much.

When Yglesias left the journalism world at the Atlantic for the think-tank world of the Center for American Progress, he assured his faithful blog readers that from their point of view, the move "probably won't make a huge difference." That may well have involved a good dose of wishful thinking.