Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Yet another follow-up on Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's (R-CO) Republican party event out in Colorado over the weekend.

Here's a photograph from the Larimer County GOP website in which Rep. Musgrave appears to be introducing two Marines at the County GOP political event. (That's how it's described in this article in the local paper.)

We still need to know more about just what happened here (and what seems to be happening at a lot of GOP events around the country). But just what appears within the four corners of this photograph seems in direct contravention of military regs.

And as we noted before, this is something people across party lines should be concerned about because it's bad for the country and bad for the armed forces.

I've long suspected a wide-ranging Republican party conspiracy to create content ready-made for Talking Points Memo. And as Republican conspiracies go, it's one I can't say I have too big a problem with. But I think I've found another example of the cabal at work.

To paraphrase the late Richard M. Nixon, we don't have Duke Cunningham to kick around any more. But perhaps the conspirators are cueing up a replacement.

Francine Busby is the main Democrat running to replace the seat left vacant by Duke's resignation. It's CA-50, for those of you keeping score. It's an open primary on April 11th. The top Dem and GOPer go to a run-off, unless one candidate gets over 50%, a distinctly unlikely outcome.

Anyway, one of the main Republicans is former GOP Congressman Brian Bilbray.

Since leaving Congress, Brian Bilbray has worked as a lobbyist for, among other clients, a controversial Indian tribe with a casino. Actually, let me amend that slightly. More recently, he's been spending his time fighting with the state of California over whether he has to identify his profession as that of "lobbyist" on election materials. Bilbray prefers to style himself "consultant".

In any case, given the recent unpleasantness in the 50th district, Busby is pretty keen to make the election about ethics and political corruption. (It's a fairly Republican district.) And if Brian Bilbray makes it into the run-off against her, that may not be that hard.

You see, Bilbray was a pretty big pal of our friend Jack Abramoff. Back in the mid-1990s he even went on one of Jack's all-expense-paid junkets to the Marianas islands to watch first hand the alchemic magic of laborers from across the Far East working in sweatshops producing "Made in the USA" label clothing.

A lot of Republicans went to the Marianas back in the glory days; and even a few Dems. But Bilbray became one of the most outspoken proponents of the campaign to keep US labor laws off the island. Somehow I suspect there's more beneath the surface on this one.

Let me mention another point about this issue of uniformed military appearing at and/or speaking at partisan political events.

I've gotten a few emails on this point so I want to clarify lest there be any confusion: violation of the ban on uniformed military participating in partisan political events isn't some technical violation like not filling out a form or not following some obscure protocol. And pointing it out isn't just some blog gotcha.

The existence of this ban and the enforcement of it are hugely important both to good order and discipline within the military and to preserving our democratic republic. The military can't be made into an arm of one or the other political party. Nor can the executive be allowed to enlist members of the armed forces, either individually or en masse, willingly or not, as soldiers in his domestic political battles.

This is about preserving a professional military and preserving our system of government. It's a big deal. We need to find out a few more specifics about what happened at the Musgrave event. Perhaps the newspaper account is deeply misleading about what actually happened. But if this thing that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, is a duck, then it needs to be nipped in the bud.

Here's a thought. Bob Novak pretty much put us on notice a couple weeks ago that the White House and the RNC were going to make a habit of using uniformed military personnel as props at Republican political rallies. This despite the fact that it is a plain violation of military regulations banning politicization of the armed forces.

Now, with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's (R-CO) event in Colorado we seem to have the first actual example of it.

My gut tells me this isn't the only one. But in the nature of things the notations of it will show up only in local papers, well under the radar of the national press. So I'm curious whether folks have seen examples of similar things happening in their own districts. If you've seen examples, let us know.

I've heard from a number of active duty and retired members of the military, including a number of JAG lawyers, and unless there's something very different about Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) event in Colorado than the description of it that appeared in her local paper, it clearly violated the law.

There's another little detail one retired JAG officer brings up, however.

The uniformed member of the military who appears at such an event can be court-martialed for the violation. It's not some technicality in UCMJ terms. But there's no law against a politician or party leader putting them up to it or facilitating it. So there's no risk for them.

So Musgrave and whomever else organized the event is putting this guy's career on the line as well as encouraging this misconduct for their own partisan gain.

Following up on yesterday's post about Michael "Brownie" Brown, former head of FEMA, I've been getting emails from folks on the inside at FEMA, people who worked with him and observed him firsthand when he was leading the agency.

The verdict seems pretty clear: None of them thought he was qualified for the position. But each also had the clear impression that he took his job seriously, learned a lot while he was there and -- perhaps most importantly -- was a big improvement over Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's fixer whom he succeeded as head of the agency.

If there's an online reevaluation of the guy, the new view seems one shared by those who were there as the story unfolded.

Wait a second. Doesn't this break military regulations and probably several laws?

A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that the RNC was apparently working with the White House to send active duty members of the military in uniform to speak on behalf of the president's policies at Republican political events. That's against the law and military regulations. And for good reason since that's a quick ride to making the military -- or factions or individuals in the military -- tools of one or the other political party.

Now we seem to have an example in practice.

This is exactly what appears to have happened yesterday at a political event with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO). This article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan shows a picture of Musgrave doing just that with the caption: "Marilyn Musgrave introduces Marine Sergeant Brandon Forsyth on Friday during the Larimer County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner."

A look at the picture shows pretty clearly that Forsyth was in uniform. Yet those regs linked above say clearly that military personnel can attend partisan events only as spectators and not in uniform. What am I missing?

Jane Hamsher has an interesting post here about the rehabilitation of Michael Brown (aka "Brownie"). Suddenly, Brown, who was the butt of endless jokes and the target of titanic contempt and derision, is a reborn truth-teller and almost a kind of hero to critics of the administration. (Who says there are no second acts? Nowadays it's just a matter of waiting a few months till you get your second act.) Jane links to this post in which Joe Gandelman offers Brown an apology for his earlier criticism; and Brown actually responds, accepting the apology and explaining his current position.

I don't think there's any use or reason to reconsider the conclusion that Brown was manifestly unqualified to be the head of the country's emergency management agency or that he found himself in that job because of his longtime friendship with Joe Allbaugh, one of the president's fixers. He was either guilty of or implicated in various other instances of ridiculousness. He was a poster-child for the administration's essential lack of interest in effective government, as an aim of public service distinct from consolidating political power and paying off political supporters out of the public fisc. Also, for us critics, to the extent there is a Brownie redemption afoot, it is in large part because the same guy many of us lambasted six months ago is now flattering our assumptions about how this administration works.

Still, in this and so many other cases, our assumptions, always based on a lot of factual evidence, are being borne out in spades. And Brown is coming forward with a decent amount of evidence that even if he wasn't the guy who should have had the job, and even if he made plenty of mistakes during Katrina, he wasn't just bumbling along unaware anything serious was happening. If inept and blameworthy himself he seems clearly to have understood the magnitude of the catastrophe that was afoot and took steps to deal with it.

He also is coming forward with what appears to be a decent paper trail showing he had some sense and gave warnings about FEMA's degradation and decline under the consolidated DHS. No one listen.

I can't see glorifying Michael Brown. He shouldn't have been in the job. He screwed up in a lot of different ways. He then carried the administration's water in trying to pin the blame on the locals, what must be a mortal sin in a FEMA Director. But he does get some credit for coming clean now and spilling at least some of the beans. And the beans he's spilled so far show that he's hardly the most blameworthy figure in the administration's shameful and pitiful response to the disaster that befell the Gulf Coast.