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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Not a sexy topic, but way more important than you might think: the decline of Congressional oversight. It's one of Congress's key roles in our system of checks and balances. But it's a role that has largely been abdicated by the Republican Congress. During the 1990s, the sort of meticulous but often unsexy work of oversight of the executive branch departments and agencies was pushed aside to make way for high-octane but mostly nonsensical scandal investigations. Under Bush, it's been shunted aside even more because serious oversight sounds too much like criticism, which must of course be avoided at all costs. The Post has a nice, though too brief, piece on the subject.

There were rumors flying around all day today that Plame prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was about to indict one or more White House officials, perhaps as early as today. The 'today' part obviously didn't pan out. But an article from Reuters, which hit the wires little more than an hour ago, seems to have nailed down some outlines of those rumors. At a minimum they seemed to grab on to the tail of the same animal.

Reuters makes clear that what Fitzgerald is going to do (indict, strike plea bargains, do nothing) isn't clear. But he's expected to do whatever it is he intends to do "within days."

Another tale zipping around email boxes was that Karl Rove had received a "target letter" a standard precursor to an indictment, but one I thought you got more than like a day in advance of the big day.

Here's what Reuters came up with, it seems trying to nail down that part of the story ...

As a first step, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was expected to notify officials by letter if they have become targets, said the lawyers, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

...

The inquiry has ensnared President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The White House had long maintained that Rove and Libby had nothing to do with the leak but reporters have since named them as sources.

Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, declined to say whether his client had been contacted by Fitzgerald. In the past, Luskin has said that Rove was assured that he was not a target.

Libby's lawyer was not immediately available to comment.


As a friend of mine said today, sagely: we'll know soon enough.

Late Update: The fact that the president has decided to schedule a "major speech" on Iraq and terrorism, apropos of more or less nothing, would seem to suggest some bad coming down the pike. On the other hand, he seems to schedule these speeches about twice a month nowadays.

It's seems that we're divided into two camps when it comes to the news on Avian Flu coming out of Southeast Asia: those who are worried silly about it and those who just haven't heard the news yet. Perhaps worried silly is an overstatement; but it's scary stuff. And along those lines here's a post which suggests (much too persuasively for comfort) that the guy in charge of flu pandemic response at HHS may be another Michael Brown in the making. Perhaps we can send this guy packing before he does a heckuva job on all us.

More from the AP ...

The Bush administration's former chief procurement official was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements and obstructing investigations into high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The five felony counts in the indictment charge David H. Safavian with obstructing Senate and executive branch investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire property controlled by the General Services Administration around the nation's capital. Both probes looked into an August 2002 golf outing that Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff, former Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and others.


More soon<$NoAd$>.

From the AP ...

Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.

When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.


Round and round it goes, where it stops <$NoAd$> ...

Al Gore gave a speech this morning on the decline of the media, public discourse in America, and the threat both hold for the future of American democracy. See the transcript here.

From reader emails, it seems there were more than a few who took my comments yesterday about Miers to mean that I think that Dems should support her. I'm not sure how that meaning got across. But if it did, mark it down as my not being clear enough when I was thinking out loud.

My point was to note the real possibility that Miers could be knocked out only to be replaced by a genuine extremist who would likely be voted through without much difficulty by Senate Republicans.

Extremist versus hacklicious toady, sort of sums up the choices that may be on offer.

Along those lines, Sen. Lott now puts himself down as leaning against.

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is telling leading Dems he's in the race against Sen. DeWine in Ohio, will announce this week.

From Roll Call (sub.req.): "Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) questioned Tuesday whether Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers has a 'firm commitment' to what he called the framers’ 'original intent' of the Constitution, saying that President Bush’s knowledge of her “heart” didn’t end the need for tough questioning."

I was thinking yesterday about the Miers nomination. And it occurred to me that while President Bush may not be world's most brilliant man, as Miers has claimed, he may have an unintended knack for irony.

In the case of John Roberts the president served up a nominee who was pretty clearly a down-the-line conservative but also, in the sense of value-neutral credentials and qualifications, certainly qualified for the job. With Miers, you have someone with what might be real moderate tendencies, but also someone who on pretty much every count seems unqualified for the position.

So what to do?

Certainly one thing to do is sit back and relish the brewing fight between the principled wingnuts and the confirmed Bush toadies. At the same time, it must be occurring to at least some Dems that, at least in ideological terms, they could likely do far worse than Miers. In any case, set that all aside and focus on the fact that Miers has been involved -- often deeply involved -- in pretty much everything that the White House has been trying to keep secret for going on five years. That should make for interesting questioning.

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