Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Okay, just to be clear, the following quotes are such obvious malarkey that I don't think they have any direct application or relevance to today's unfolding scandal. But for sheer humor and bizarreness value, I think they're worth passing along.

This passage is from a March 2003 article in The Hill in which Jack Abramoff describes how the Bush administration is so relentlessly clean that it's made the lobbyist's job far harder than it was under Clinton ...

“I’m the only lobbyist who took a 90 percent pay cut to join the lobbying field,” a smiling Abramoff said in his downtown office this month. But he doesn’t expect sympathy — with the Republicans now in control of the White House, House and Senate, and his friend Tom DeLay (R-Texas) controlling the House agenda, Abramoff does not have to look far to find clients interested in his services.

But, he stresses, being a leader in Republican fundraising and strategy doesn’t guarantee success for his clients.

“I think it’s a very different administration … compared to the Clinton days,” Abramoff said of George W. Bush’s White House. “They’re going to go out of the way to make sure that they are not courting special favors to lobbyists and to special interests. They’ll only agree to things on strict merits.

“From a good government point of view, that’s very refreshing. From a lobbying point of view, it’s obviously more of a challenge.”

Because of that, he says, many lobbyists are turning more and more to members of Congress rather than executive agencies. “What people have done is probably tried to utilize the congressional legislative route on many more things than they would have otherwise done,” Abramoff added. “In the past, I think you could have gone to the Clinton administration and gotten an administrative or executive fix on something that now people have to go to [Capitol] Hill and try to seek redress there.”

But even in the Capitol, where Republicans have controlled the House for more than eight years, Abramoff has noticed changes in the style and operations of the GOP leaders.

“[Speaker Denny] Hastert [R-Ill.] is very confident, very organized and even-tempered. It’s a stable environment there,” he said. “I think it was a little less so with [former Speaker Newt] Gingrich [R-Ga.]. The DeLay operation also has ripened into a very mature ground operation.”

Gotta love 'em.

Rep. Bob Ney, dirty before he even came to Washington. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.

Actually, I can't resist adding this clip from Paul Kiel's Daily Muck this morning.

Back when Ney was a [Ohio] state senator, for instance, he regularly supplemented his income with checks from lobbyists (amazingly, a legal practice at the time). Two of his former aides there became lobbyists and then went to jail - one of them for bribing another former Ney aide.

It just gets better and better.

"Jack is directly involved in the Republican party and conservative movement leadership structures and is one of the leading fund raisers for the party and its congressional candidates."

From Jack Abramoff's bio on the Greenberg-Traurig website, circa 2003.

Read this article: it explains how the free flow of information on the Internet could be squelched out by the end of the decade. This is serious. Take a few minutes and give this a read. Then think about how to make your voice heard.

I haven't watched every new development in the firestorm over Post ombudsman Deborah Howell and her remarks about whether Jack Abramoff gave political money to Democrats. But just to recap: She made some sloppy and inaccurate remarks, which dovetailed, accidentally or not, with Republican spin. Then, instead of just correcting herself, she hedged, claimed it was a distinction without a difference and then tried to hide behind claims that it was simply a matter of poor phrasing.

It's hard to be surprised, given the first episode with Howell last month.

But the whole blow-up has created this subdiscussion about whether honorable press types like Howell and others are being mauled and knocked around and generally abused by cyber-ruffians who have been on her case over the last few days.

This stuff isn't always pretty. But, really, thank God those folks are on her tail because shoddy reporting isn't pretty either.

So much of the imbalance and shallowness of press coverage today stems from a simple fact: reporters know they'll catch hell from the right if they say or write anything that can even remotely be construed as representing 'liberal bias'. (Often even that's not required.) Indeed, when you actually watch -- from the inside -- how mainstream newsrooms work, it is really not too much to say that they operate on two guiding principles: reporting the facts and avoiding impressions of 'liberal bias'.

On the left or center-left, until very recently, there's simply never been an organized chorus of people ready to take the Howells of the press biz to task and mau-mau them when they get a key fact wrong. Without that, the world of political news was like an NBA game where one side played the refs hard and had roaring seats of fans while the other never made a peep. With that sort of structural imbalance, shoddy scorekeeping and cowed, and eventually compliant, refs are inevitable.

This is evening the balance, creating a better press.

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Iranian nuclear program but were afraid to ask?

Iran and its nuclear program are going to be a big issue this year. So it makes sense to know something about it. Clearly, the Iranians are engaged in a major nuclear research program. Is it for weapons? If it is, how close are they to producing them?

(Contrary to the impression you'd get from reading a number of your more antic columnists, the US intelligence community believes that the Iranians are roughly a decade away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Charles Krauthammer says it's just a matter of months. You decide who to believe.)

So next week, from Monday through Thursday, we're going to have two arms control experts, Paul Kerr of the Arms Control Association and Dr. Jeffrey Lewis of Armscontrolwonk.com. They'll be blogging about the technical capacity of the Iranian nuclear effort, what it's for, whether it's any near to produce a nuclear weapon and other related topics.

They also want to answer your questions. So we've set up a thread over at TPMCafe where you can pose questions for them to answer next week.

Just a question.

Back in 1988, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) launched his jihad against House Speaker Jim Wright over his infamous book deal -- an arrangement which, while by no means kosher, seems almost quaint by today's standards.

Wright was eventually forced to resign the speakership in May of 1989.

Did Gingrich base his crusade on pushing for tighter rules on book deals?

Can we learn something from this?

More fishy money coming in to Jack Abramoff.

This time it's $1.4 million from an oddly named outfit in Hong Kong called "Rose Garden Holdings." Only there don't seem to be any records in Hong Kong that such a company does or has ever existed.

That may be why, as the Hong Kong Standard reports, DOJ investigators recently showed up in Hong Kong to look into the company and whatever funny money business Abramoff was conducting over there.

Check out the article. It even references some of the Abramoff emails we've published here on TPM.