David Corn offers a solid defense of Kerry’s progressive credentials – his investigations of Iran-Contra, BCCI, and Vietnam POW/AWOL rumors, and his votes against DOMA and for Clean Elections. He sets out consciously to tell the good parts of the Kerry narrative, and he articulates them well. Corn may very well be right that

there have been times he has shown courage, devotion to justice and commitment to honesty, open government and principle-over-politics. There are few senators of whom that can be said. A full assessment of the man ought to take these portions of his public service into account.

There remain, unfortunately, other portions to be taken into account as well. Alex Cockburn, also in The Nation, a few weeks back summarized some of the major alarms Kerry should be setting off for progressives. But that said, I’m still closer to David Corn than to Cockburn or to this headline from LWB-Idol Sam Smith on this one.

Nick Confessore put together (scroll down to March 4) one of the more judicious assessments I’ve seen of Kerry’s record and various attempts to paint it:

He is pro-welfare reform, a deficit hawk, a good environmentalist, doesn’t want to privatize Social Security or Medicare, supports labor, is basically a free-trader with some occasional gestures towards less-free trade, supports civil unions but not gay marriage, and is a liberal internationalist on foreign policy. In other words, he’s your basic moderate Democrat — not too liberal, not too conservative. That was always his perverse strength. On a scale of one to ten, few Democratic interest groups would give him a ten, but most would give him a seven.

That, as they say, is the good news and the bad news.

David Corn slams Howard Dean over Roy Neel:

There has always been a disconnect in the Dean campaign between the man and the movement. If two years ago someone cooked up the idea to create a progressive, reform-minded grassroots crusade that would focus on harnessing “people power” to confront Washington’s money-and-power culture and a leader for such an effort was needed, Dean’s name would not have jumped to mind. Senator Paul Wellstone maybe, not Dean. Yet thousands of Americans were yearning for such an endeavor, and Dean found a way to tap into their desires. It was not the most natural or conventional of couplings, but it happened. And he was propelled to the front of the presidential pack.

Is Dean filing for divorce?

Maybe what we’re seeing here is the Kerry, Edwards, and Clark campaigns becoming more like Dean’s just at the point at which his is becoming more like theirs…