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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Soros lodges formal complaint against <$NoAd$>Hastert before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

Below is the text of the letter ...

Dear Members of the Committee:

I am writing to encourage the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to create an investigative subcommittee to examine the conduct of Representative Dennis Hastert under House Rule 43, clause 1: "A Member, officer, or employee of the House of Representatives shall conduct himself at all times in a manner which shall reflect creditably on the House of Representatives."

In an August 23rd radio interview and an August 29th nationally broadcast television interview, Representative Hastert deliberately and repeatedly issued an innuendo – which he cannot substantiate because it is false – that I may have received illegal drug money. The use of such dishonest smear tactics reflects discredit upon the House of Representatives and warrants the investigation of your Committee. The texts of Representative Hastert’s remarks are attached.

Representative Hastert has attempted to pass off his comments as either a misunderstanding or a disagreement about policy. Both arguments are demonstrably false. Representative Hastert made innuendoes about alleged facts, namely that I might be receiving “drug money” from “drug groups.” That he made and then repeated this smear demonstrates that there is no misunderstanding about the implication of his statements – or their purpose.

Representative Hastert now seeks to excuse his conduct by saying that this is a disagreement over groups to which I give money. The indisputable fact is that he alleged that I might be receiving “drug money” from “drug groups.” His comments were explicitly about the source of my income, not its use. This slander is invented out of whole cloth. Indeed, the only other examples of this bizarre assertion of which I am aware are the equally irresponsible accusations of the Lyndon LaRouche campaign and organizations, which bear a strong resemblance to Representative Hastert’s remarks. Excerpts of comments from the LaRouche campaign and organizations are attached.

Representative Hastert has the right to feel strongly about his opinions. He has no right to fling assertions of possible criminal conduct at those with whom he disagrees. This kind of insinuation – that a private United States citizen was in league with drug cartels and may be receiving funds derived from criminal activity – has no place in public discourse. The fact that this profoundly disturbing innuendo was made in the context of criticizing an American citizen’s efforts to participate in the political debate about the future of our country strongly suggests a deliberate effort to use smear tactics, intimidation and falsehoods to silence criticism.

Representative Hastert has had numerous opportunities to apologize for and retract his remarks. He was explicitly given the opportunity to clarify his remarks during the August 29th interview, and he chose instead to repeat the innuendo. Not only has he declined to apologize, he has made new, false accusations.

Such conduct brings discredit on the House. It is inconsistent with basic notions of fair play and open debate that are the basis of our Constitutional system, and it is all too reminiscent of the McCarthyite tactics that were used to such scurrilous effect to stifle dissent during one of the darkest periods of recent United States history.

Members of both political parties have recently decried “the politics of personal destruction.” It is time for the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to formally declare that smear tactics and innuendo are discrediting our political process and the House of Representatives as an institution by taking appropriate action to investigate and censure Representative Hastert for these outrageous remarks.

Sincerely,

George Soros

From today's Nick Kristof column ..<$NoAd$>.

One fall day in 1973, when Mr. Bush was a new student at Harvard Business School, he was wearing a Guard jacket when he ran into one of his professors. The professor, Yoshi Tsurumi, says he asked Mr. Bush how he wangled a spot in the Guard.

"He said his daddy had good friends who got him in despite the long waiting list," recalls Professor Tsurumi, who is now at Baruch College, part of the City University of New York. Professor Tsurumi says he next asked Mr. Bush how he could have already finished his National Guard commitment. "He said he'd gotten an early honorable discharge," Professor Tsurumi recalls. "I said, 'How did you manage that?'"

"He said, oh, his daddy had a good friend," Mr. Tsurumi said. "Then we started talking about the Vietnam War. He was all for fighting it."


Jim Moore's description of Bush's 1994 Texas gubernatorial debate ...

During the 1994 Texas gubernatorial race between Ann Richards and George W. Bush, I was a panelist on the only televised debate between the two candidates. The question I chose to ask Bush first was about the National Guard. I had lost friends in Vietnam, and many of them had tried to get into the Guard. We were all told that there was a waiting list of up to five years. The Guard was the best method for getting out of combat in Vietnam. You needed connections. George W. Bush had them.

"Mr. Bush," I said. "How did you get into the Guard so easily? One hundred thousand guys our age were on the waiting list, and you say you walked in and signed up to become a pilot. Did your congressman father exercise any influence on your behalf?"

"Not that I know of, Jim," the future president told me. "I certainly didn't ask for any. And I'm sure my father didn't either. They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

A new new Bush Air National Guard document? This one's from Paul Lukasiak's AWOL Project. Take a look.

Hmmm. That's an interesting twist.

The former secretary for the Texas Air National Guard colonel who supposedly authored memos critical of President Bush’s Guard service said Tuesday that the documents are fake, but that they reflect real documents that once existed.


The lede of a story just out from The Dallas Morning News.

Headline: Hurricane Forces GOP to Put Nader on <$NoAd$>Florida Ballot Despite Court Order ...

From Reuters ...

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's name can appear on Florida ballots for the election, despite a court order to the contrary, Florida's elections chief told officials on Monday in a move that could help President Bush in the key swing state.

The Florida Democratic Party reacted with outrage, calling the move "blatant partisan maneuvering" by Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's younger brother, and vowed to fight it.

In a memo to Florida's 67 county supervisors of elections, Division of Elections director Dawn Roberts said the uncertainty of Hurricane Ivan, which could hit parts of the state by week's end, forced her to act.

The action came in an ongoing legal battle over whether Nader should be allowed on the Florida ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

Nader, an independent nominated by the Reform Party, was a presidential candidate in 2000 when Bush won Florida, and the White House, by 537 votes over then-Vice President Al Gore. Analysts said most of the nearly 98,000 votes Nader got in Florida would have gone to Gore had Nader not been on the ballot.

Florida Circuit Court Judge Kevin Davey issued a temporary injunction last week preventing the state from putting Nader on the 2004 ballot, siding with a Democratic challenge that the Reform Party did not qualify as a national party under state law.

A hearing on a permanent injunction is scheduled for Wednesday. But Roberts said Hurricane Ivan, which is headed for Florida's Gulf coast, had raised "a substantial question as to when such a hearing" will be held.


Remember, it's the rule of law party.

And as long as I'm providing examples of my workaholism, one other thing ...

Kerry needs a catch phrase or catch question about the Iraq war, one that provides offense against President Bush's oft-stated, extremely lame, but also somewhat effective line that the world is safer with Saddam Hussein out of power.

In political rhetoric, coherence and clarity almost always trumps substance. So substance must be rendered very coherent and very clear.

There's a pretty obvious response to the Bush line: Yeah, Saddam sucked. It's great that we're rid of him. But at what cost? A thousand American lives, upwards of half a trillion dollars and blowing up the whole world order?'

Yet that just means going on to defense and drowning yourself in details.

Ronald Reagan got to the heart of the matter when he asked voters in 1980 if they thought they were better off than they had been four years before. That got cut to the essence of voters' discontent. And it spoke for itself.

As I wrote earlier today, I think voters know Iraq has become a disaster.

The subject of the phrase or question has to be: Don't you know President Bush has blown it in Iraq? It needs to be shorn of zingers and rage and allowed to make the point clearly.

Often I think these sorts of points are made best by asking voters to think in retrospect -- especially in this case since there are very few people out there -- certainly very few who aren't already deeply committed to President Bush -- who wouldn't love the chance to rewind this tape if they could.

The essence of it is, "Do you think Iraq has made us safer or less safe?" ... "If you had to do it over again, would you trust George W. Bush to get this right?"

Neither of those quite cut it. And I'm thinking aloud here. But I'd like to throw it open for suggestions. What should Kerry's version Reagan line from 1980?

Now back to the water for the sunset in the company of my girlfriend and my dog.

I see that on his site Andrew Sullivan says that "Kerry's recent attempt to make the fiscal case against the Iraq war almost comically awful."

I don't know specifically what Andrew is talking about. But I assume it's a recent soundbite I heard in which Kerry said something to the effect that all the money that's been poured down the Iraq rathole could be going to improved education, prescription drugs and the rest.

If that's what he was referring to then I have to say that I really agree. This is almost a parody of a Democratic response. And I think it entirely misses what is really at issue with the voters who are potentially in play in the election.

The key with the Iraq war isn't how many dollars have been spent but on what has or hasn't been achieved. And this way of framing the issue entirely misses that.

There is a clear message behind all of President Bush's responses to these sorts of critiques. And it runs like this: 'Sure, I probably wasted a lot of money over there. But there were guys over there who wanted to kill you. And you know what? I killed them first.'

Framed in that way, President Bush wins that argument. Hands down.

Very few voters want to shortchange security for higher cost of living adjustments or more teacher training.

The key is that President Bush has blown vast sums of money (actually way more than $200 billion) and managed to make us less secure than when he started. He's spent that much money to purchase us a prize our most determined enemies would have gladly paid that much for to put in our lap.

The recent run of denial on Iraq has brought back to the fore what a year ago was known as the 'fly paper' thesis.

Namely, that the outbreak of chaos, terrorism and insurgency in Iraq is actually a good thing since it allows us to kill 'the terrorists' in Iraq rather than wait for them to come to our own shores.

Thus the 'fly paper' analogy.

Gregg Easterbrook, in The New Republic, embraces this concept in a new article even today. "What if the invasion of Iraq is having the unintended consequence of drawing terrorists and killers to that country, where our army can fight them on our terms?," he asks.

The only thing complicated about this argument is calibrating a hierarchy of all the levels of foolishness it embodies. Logically it is nonsensical; strategically it is moronic; morally it is close to indefensible.

The key fallacy, as so many have pointed out, is the notion that there are a finite number of 'terrorists' who we can kill and be done with.

Added to this, is the idea -- as antiquated as it is ridiculous -- that fighting 'the terrorists' in Iraq prevents them from hitting us in the United States. Have these fools heard about globalization? Grant the false premise that the Iraqi insurgency is being run by bin Laden. He can't spare a couple dozen jihadis to come over here to spring another 9/11 on us? What about al Qaida demonstrates their strategy of hitting us where our defenses are strongest?

As a TPM reader put it to me both hilariously and brilliantly more than a year ago, this 'fly paper' thesis is like saying we're going to build one super dirty hospital where we can fight the germs on our own terms.

Clearly that analogy points in some uncomfortable directions. But the salient point is clear: everyone who is not an utter fool knows that the number of young and disaffected men in the Muslim world who are potentially willing to take up arms against America is, for practical geopolitical purposes, all but infinite. Killing those already bent on suicide missions againt the US is undeniably a good thing. But doing so in a way that is guaranteed to replace them with ten new volunteers is the most foolish way to go about it. It is the classic case of dousing the fire with gasoline.

Of course that leaves untended the fact the guerillas we're blowing up in Iraq aren't the folks running the safe houses in Karachi and Peshawar who constitute the real threat. Adrift as well is the straightforward matter that turning Iraq into a killing field isn't really compatible with making it into a redoubt of democracy, prosperity and western values.

Knocking holes in this argument is really too easy and after a bit beside the point. The real problem with this argument is its proponents -- folks who seem inclined to put insipid wordplay above the lives of American soldiers and marines, indeed, above against the future security of the country itself.

There are many reasons President Bush has taken a narrow but perceptible lead in the polls. Some are tied to tactical decisions on both sides; others are products of accidental developments; still others emerge from more deeply-rooted trends that won't be clear for months or years.

But all of them amount to the same thing: the president's campaign has managed to take Iraq out of the election debate.

Iraq remains ever-present, but as a rhetorical fixture, not a reality. Who's tougher; who's been consistent; who likes Saddam Hussein more, and so forth -- that's all there. The increasingly tenuous claim that Saddam Hussein had any relationship to Islamic terrorism -- that's there too.

But the actual Iraq war is nowhere to be found. Sunday was a disastrous day in Iraq, both for the Iraqis and for the American enterprise in Iraq.

But it garnered little attention here. The American death rate has creeped up as the occupation has continued. And to anyone who has eyes to see it, the entire American venture in Iraq has become a disaster of truly monumental proportions.

There are many ways the Iraq war could have 'succeeded' in the American political context. If a chamber of horrors had been found in Iraq's WMD factories, Americans would have judged the war a success even if the aftermath would have been as bloody and chaotic as it is today. For most, the necessity of the invasion would have been vindicated.

The same would apply if manifest ties to al Qaida had somehow been unearthed in the rubble of the old regime.

Even with no WMD or al Qaida ties found, the enterprise might still have been vindicated on other grounds. Had the post-war period been even moderately successful in terms of stability, democratization and a pro-western stance on the part of the new government, I suspect that a majority of the public would have quickly forgiven and forgotten the failure to find the weapons which served as the pretext for war.

Yet, of course, none of these things have happened. The claim that Iraq had any meaningful ties to al Qaida style terrorism was always a tissue of falsehood and zealotry. The mistaken belief that Iraq was reconstituting a WMD capacity (though the greatest confidence was on chemical and biological weapons) was a fairly widespread failure in the American intelligence community which the White House then immeasurably inflated to whip up war sentiment. And of course post-war Iraq has been a disaster by really every measure.

The number of Americans who've died in the country still pales in comparison to the numbers lost in Vietnam. But the rate of casualities and fatalities is increasing -- notwithstanding the nominal handover of sovereignty to a caretaker government. And the current policy basically projects the current blood-letting indefinitely into the future. In more basic military terms, the US is losing the war. We are rapidly ceding large parts of the country to control by insurgents. And even major areas like Baghdad seem to be slipping out of control -- as yesterday's upsurge of violence was intended to demonstrate, and to a great degree, did demonstrate.

Back more than a year ago, when it first began to dawn on many that stabilizing, let alone democratizing, Iraq would be a great struggle, the challenge was often framed around the unacceptability of allowing Iraq to 'become another Lebanon' or descend into civil war.

Let's be honest with ourselves. That's already happened. That's the clearest reason why yesterday's violence garnered so little attention. It's not surprising any more. A year ago, when a bomber blew up the Jordanian Embassy, it sent a shock through the United States. The same was more or less the case in the bombings that followed through the rest of 2003 and into early 2004.

Iraq has quite simply become a disaster for the United States. And while people disagree over why this has happened, no thinking person can now fail to see that it has happened.

In the last two months, all of this has been pushed to the side of the election debate -- either by rhetorical tangles over 9/11 and terrorism, or attack politics centered on the two men's war records or lack thereof. That is the reason for the president's resurgence in the polls. It's really that simple.

There's another point that worth noting here too. And it's at least played a role in pushing Iraq out of the political debate. That is, that President Bush has been able to mobilize his manifest failure as a political asset, and the Kerry campaign has allowed him to do so.

Here's what I mean.

Recently, President Bush has sought -- with real success -- to edge Iraq out of the campaign dialogue by putting the issue back on to Kerry, asking what he would do differently and how it would produce a better result.

This puts Kerry in a bit of a bind because the politically-unspeakable answer here is that there are no good solutions anymore. A year ago, even six months ago, there were. Now, there really aren't.

President Bush at least has a straightforward approach: denial. Pressed to come up with a soundbite-able and practical policy, Kerry is, well ... hard-pressed.

(As I said, President Bush, in this way, has managed to derive political advantage from the magnitude of his own failure.)

Politically, Kerry needs to ignore the commentators who will press him to come up with a twenty point plan that will immediately rectify the situation in Iraq. Yes, he needs to give an idea of what he'll do if and when he takes over. But the emphasis should be on the undeniable fact that though the way forward may be murky, the last person you want to lead the country down that foggy path is the guy who screwed everything up so badly in the first place.

As my friend John Judis noted recently, the key to winning an election is often simply a matter of bringing to the surface of the public consciousness what voters already really know. They know Iraq is a disaster. They know it's President Bush's fault.

Coming Soon: two book recommendations, one about the present, another about the distant past.

The Post tomorrow has a good article about a bad situation in Iraq.

Specifically, it's about Fallujah and poorly-thought-out civilian intervention in the course of battle in that restive city.

According to the article, the White House first ordered the assault on the city (in response to the killing and mutilation of four US military contractors) over the advice of the commanders on the ground. Then, again over the advice of those same commanders, they ordered the end of the assault before the mission had been accomplished.

That rapid turnabout managed to achieve most of the ill effects of an iron fist policy (lots of deaths, radicalization of civilians and terrible effects on world opinion) while preventing any of the possible positive ones from being realized.

There is a lively literature about the often fruitful tension between military commanders and their civilian superiors. But this is text book case of the bad effects that can stem from injecting narrowly political considerations into war-fighting, especially when they take little account of facts on the ground.

In any case, read the article. It's an important one.

More tomorrow about how Iraq -- i.e., the actual Iraq as opposed to the rhetorical 'Iraq' -- has disappeared from the 2004 presidential campaign.

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