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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

It's clear that the coalescing Bush administration position on those 9/11-image-laced ads is that the president couldn't 'ignore' 9/11 in the campaign.

Really heart-rending all the tough binds history puts this president in, isn't it?

In any case, this is really a head-fake on what people are really saying.

Nobody denies or doubts that 9/11 and the president's and the nation's reaction to it are going to be central to this campaign. It could hardly be otherwise. It's a major national catastrophe that happened on his watch. And what he did before and after are fair game for both sides.

But there's discussing 9/11 and there's discussing it. And I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that using images of dead bodies being pulled out of the wreckage in a campaign commercial is a tad over the line.

If he's looking for emotive images that show his crisis leadership in action, why not show a clip from the speech to the nation he gave just after the attacks? That was a challenge virtually everyone, myself included, thought he rose to with great merit and grace.

In other words, the point isn't that 9/11 shouldn't be discussed -- as though there were anyway it wouldn't be -- only that it shouldn't be exploited in the crudest ways imaginable.

Remember that a GOP insider told The Hill a couple weeks ago that there is a "real possibility ... we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero. It’s clearly a venue they’re considering.”

Let's be clear. The White House hasn't said they're going to do this. And we don't have any direct knowledge that they're considering it. But the idea is apparently being widely discussed in Republican circles.

I mean, the question isn't whether that would be a crass use of the 9/11 tragedies for political gain. The question is whether it's possible to imagine anything more crass. Isn't ground zero something like a graveyard?

What could be worse? The president addressing the crowd wearing a pelt from a recently executed Guantanamo prisoner? Personally executing Saddam on stage with a scimitar?

Not to be flippant, but could anything be more crass than accepting a presidential nomination on ground that is still mixed with the bodies of thousands of Americans?

Lincoln dedicated a cemetery at Gettysburg; he didn't hold the 1864 Republican convention there.

I know it probably seems like I'm piling on here. And perhaps I am. But this seems like such a compact example of the sort of hyper-politicization of this national tragedy that is one of the main reasons Democrats are so energized this year and eager to drive the president from office. People miss the point of this if they view it in isolation. I think the danger for the White House is that this plays to suspicions held by a not-insubstantial part of the electorate that they've been using this as a political lever from the start.

Just saw Mary Matalin on Meet the Press arguing that Vice-President Cheney isn't a political liability to the president. He's just taken a lot of attacks from Democrats; and doesn't fight back apparently.

"He's not Mr. Rapid Response," said Matalin.

Really? That burn campaign against Joe Wilson got off the ground pretty quickly, didn't it? And the Plame hit came out of the Vice President's office.

It was all pretty quick.

Credit where credit is due.

Late Update: About noon now, I'm watching ABC's This Week show, and like watching Meet the Press, it's reminding me why I seldom watch these shows anymore. They're both terrible. Now there's a panel with Matthew Dowd and Tad Devine, chief strategists for the Bush and Kerry, respectively.

The 'commentators' are George Will and Cokie Roberts. And thus your balance, one rep of Washington Movement conservatism and another of the capital's supercilious center. Will thinks the Bush commercials with the firefighters corpse at ground zero is great. And, guess what, Cokie thinks they're swell too.

So it's Tad Devine against three folks who think the ads are great. Then they move to deciding whether the president's attacks on Kerry are good. And they think those are good too.

Let the opposition research begin!

The Daily Telegraph, the conservative British daily, has a piece out in the Sunday paper right out of RNC-central: "Revealed: how 'war hero' Kerry tried to put off Vietnam military duty."

The 'charge', if you can call it that, is that before entering the military, John Kerry asked for a 12 month deferment to continue some sort of academic study in Paris. When his request was denied, he enlisted in the Navy.

In the words of the Telegraph: "The revelation appears to undercut Sen Kerry's carefully-cultivated image as a man who willingly served his country in a dangerous war - in supposed contrast to President Bush, who served in the Texas National Guard and thus avoided being sent to Vietnam."

An unnamed 'Republican strategist' chimes in: "I've not heard this before. This undercuts Kerry's complaints about Bush and it continues to pose questions as to his credibility among ordinary Vietnam veterans."

It's not completely clear from the article whether this is true or whether it's in any way disputed. The factoid comes from a 1970s article which appeared in the Harvard Crimson. And the Kerry campaign, according to the article, declined comment.

So assuming this is all true, it's hard to imagine what the response would be aside from, Are you kidding?

To the best of my recollection Kerry says that he had doubts about Vietnam before he ever entered the Navy. So I'm not sure this contradicts anything; and to say it puts his service on a par with the president's, who used his father's political connections to jump to the front of the line for a position in a Guard unit he knew would never be sent into combat, gives 'laughable' a bad name.

Certainly, we're going to see a lot more of this. The article helpfully notes that GOP oppo reserachers working for the president are investigating whether the wounds Kerry sustained in the war were really so bad after all.

It's true that since Kerry has made a big deal of his service that it's open for scrutiny.

But, frankly, I hope they keep going on this angle because the more they push on this front the more it will push the president's service record back to the center of attention. The contrast, on so many levels, is terrible for the president -- a running political wound which hits on all the patterns of skating through on family connections, letting others do his dirty work, and having connected friends clean up his messes.

All that is necessary is that Democrats push back hard on this stuff.

Along those lines, and we'll be saying more about this, David Bossie and Floyd Brown are back in the mix. And they're after Kerry too with a new independent expenditure ad lambasting him as an effete Massachusetts liberal.

Bossie, you'll remember, is the Republican hate freak who provided much of the dark comedy of the Clinton-hating years playing the role of second-string Wile E. Coyete to Bill Clinton's Road Runner.

Bossie's pal, Floyd Brown, first made a splash helping along the democratic process by putting together the 1988 Willie Horton ad -- which was, not particularly convincingly, disavowed by the president's father.

By 1992 Brown was back in the mix running an anti-Clinton Gennifer Flowers ad with a 900 number viewers could call for steamy details.

Along the way the two were publishing classics like Prince Albert: the Life and Lies of Al Gore (2000) and Slick Willie: Why America Cannot Trust Bill Clinton (1992) and between the two of them managing to be involved in every twist and turn of the anti-Clinton shenanigans from their 1992 'investigations' in Arkansas, through various Whitewater and Paula Jones dirty tricks, through Bossie's telling role as 'Chief Investigator' for Dan Burton's Committee on Government Reform and Oversight.

There's much more of course -- and you can follow their role as semi-hapless bad-actors in the books of Sid Blumenthal, Joe Conason, Gene Lyons, and Jeff Toobin. But if I go into any more detail at the moment my head will surely explode and then I won't be able to finish this post and there will also be a big mess on my desk.

In any case, now they're in the hunt for John Kerry, starting with the new ad you can see at their website. Go take a look, to get a taste of what's coming down the pike.

Discussing it with the people <$NoAd$>...

I will continue to speak about the effects of 9/11 on our country and my presidency ... How this administration handled that day as well as the war on terror is worthy of discussion and I look forward to discussing that with the American people.

George W. Bush
March 6th, 2004


The independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks won't accept strict conditions set by the White House for the panel's interviews with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, commission members said Tuesday.

The White House wants the interviews to be limited to one hour, with the questioners limited to the panel's chairman and vice chairman.

Detroit Free Press
March 3rd, 2004


When hypocrisy outruns mockery ...

Lest we miss any opportunity to give the White House a hard time over Friday's disappointing employment report, let's not overlook this important detail.

None of those 21,000 new jobs came from the private sector. They were all the result of increased government sector hiring.

Bush 2004: Dirigisme in Times of Change!

Atrios is spot on when he says that the headline of this New York Times article is ridiculous on its face.

The headline of the article discussing the fallout from yesterday's job report is: "Job Data Provides Ammunition for Two Sides in Presidential Race."

Ammunition for both sides? Gimme a break.

You can certainly debate the mixed signals coming out of the economy as a whole. But there's just no way in the world that job report (which reported a meager 21,000 jobs, almost all from the public sector) wasn't bad news for the White House.

How'd they come up with that headline?

Late Update: Oh the infamy! The shame!

A reader notes that the Washington Times headline was: "Job Slump Puts Bush in Bad Light" and Fox News runs the headline as "Jobs Report Doesn't Do Bush Any Favors."

So long trying for false balance that you just fall off the edge?

The shame! The Infamy! Oh the Humanity!

[ed.note: this post originally began "Atrios is dead right when he says..." But a number of readers who use the RSS feed wrote in noting their brief moment of panic when they saw the RSS headline "Atrios is dead." Thus the change.]

The Post's Mike Allen seems to have gotten a bit more off the record on the 5th Amendment question than he did at the gaggle.

"White House officials," he writes at the end of his piece in tomorrow's paper, "said that neither Bush nor Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. had forbidden aides called by the grand jury from invoking the Fifth Amendment."

The Times also has a less-detailed piece. But they do add that "lawyers [involved in the case] said that they believed, however, that the prosecutors were nearing a turning point when they would decide whether to charge anyone with a crime or drop the case."

Finally, Newsday, which broke the story yesterday about the subpoenas, adds a hint about what that weird addition of the guest list for Gerald Ford's birthday party might be about.

In two words, Andrea Mitchell, who may have been there with her husband Alan Greenspan.

Final point.

Lawyers note that having your lawyer send the message that you will take the fifth can often get you out of a grand jury appearance altogether or at least be the opening gambit in a negotiation with a prosecutor. So there's probably various levels of wiggle room on this one.

Are we blocking an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza until after the November election?

This is the last graf in an article running on the Associated Press wire ...

Earlier this week, Dov Weisglass, a senior Sharon aide, discussed the proposed withdrawal with top U.S. officials. The Maariv daily said Friday that Weisglass was told the Bush administration would not like to see a withdrawal before the U.S. election because of concerns of growing instability in Gaza. However, Sharon adviser Assaf Shariv said Friday that no dates for a possible withdrawal were raised during the meetings with U.S. officials.


A couple points. I'm pretty sure <$Ad$>there's no English language edition of Maariv. So I'd really be curious to find out precisely what this article in Maariv said, not just this clipped reference.

Secondly, there are a host of legitimate issues about how this disengagement might take place -- not least of which is whether it's done unilaterally or through some sort of bilateral agreement. So there are various reasons we might want them to hold their horses. One might even speculate that the Israelis are using supposed US domestic political concerns as an excuse to delay action in Gaza.

But if the administration is pushing back turmoil in the Middle East to game the election, we should know more about that.

Late Update: This article in the Israeli daily Haaretz adds credence to the conclusion that that is precisely what's happening.

Here are two key grafs from the Haaretz article ...

Also Friday, security sources said that, bowing to White House pressure Israel intends to wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November before uprooting the Jewish settlements in Gaza.

The security sources said Sharon recognized the Bush administration's concern that implementing his unilateral pullout plan during the U.S. campaign could cause political problems by fuelling instability in Palestinian areas.


This should get more attention in the American press.

Questions about the Plame investigation from today's <$NoAd$>gaggle ...

QUESTION: Can you also confirm that Air Force One documents -- been handed over to a federal grand jury?

McClellan: Well, I would just say that we are, at the direction of the President, cooperating fully with those who are leading the investigation. We are complying with every request, and we will continue to comply fully with the requests from those who are leading this investigation. No one wants to the bottom of it more than the President of the United States.

QUESTION: So they were handed over?

McClellan: Well, we did send -- the White House Counsel's Office did send a letter out to White House staff, urging everybody to comply fully with the request from the investigators, and that's exactly what we are doing. But, yes, at this point we're still in the process of complying fully with those requests. We have provided the Department of Justice investigators with much of the information and we're continuing to provide them with additional information and comply fully with the request for information.

QUESTION: -- these latest subpoenas that were reported today?

McClellan: I think that's the context in which Heidi was asking her question.

QUESTION: But you're answering more broadly. I'm looking for confirmation you got the subpoenas and that you responded to them.

McClellan: Yes, our Counsel's Office immediately sent a letter to White House staff, directing everyone to cooperate fully and comply with the request from those leading the investigation.

QUESTION: What was the date of that letter?

McClellan: I can double-check the specific date. It was -- you know, part of our complying fully with the request of the Department of Justice investigators was not making this document public, as well.

QUESTION: But this was not the broad directive from --

McClellan: It was the latter part of January. I didn't check the exact, specific date, but it was the latter part of January.

QUESTION: Was it in response to this set of subpoenas we're hearing about today?

McClellan: Was what in response --

QUESTION: The White House Counsel's directive.

McClellan: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

McClellan: We immediately sent a letter out to White House staff, urging everyone to comply fully with the request.

QUESTION: Can you say how many subpoenas were received, Scott?

McClellan: Mark, I think you ought to direct those specific questions to those who are leading the investigation. Again, as I said, we're complying fully with their request, and that includes not making that letter that we sent to White House staff public.

QUESTION: Scott, does either the President or Secretary Card have a policy on whether it's acceptable for White House aides to take the Amendment when they're asked questions in this case?

McClellan: Well, keep in mind that by law, grand jury investigations are closed, and prosecutors and grand jurors cannot reveal anything about the proceedings. The President has made it very clear he wants everybody inside government and outside government to provide those who are leading the investigation with information that might help them get to the bottom of this. He's been very clear about this, but let me make clear that -- well, go ahead, Mike.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

McClellan: No, no. You were going to ask a question; go ahead.

QUESTION: Are you willing to say that White House aides who ask questions in this investigation should not take the 5th Amendment?

McClellan: Our policy, at the direction of the President, is that everybody should cooperate fully with those who are leading the investigation. That's our policy. I'm not going to speculate about grand jury proceedings. I have no knowledge of anyone invoking their legal right against self-incrimination. I checked with White House Counsel's Office, and they have no knowledge of anyone invoking their legal right against self-incrimination.

Jeff, go ahead.

QUESTION: Scott, it was a little difficult to hear the exchange that was going on, I want to make sure I understand what you've acknowledged responding to, subpoena-wise. You have responded to the subpoena for telephone records from Air Force One?

McClellan: Yes, we are complying fully with the request from the Department of Justice. I think you can ask them about the specific questions and issues -- the investigators, that is -- and, like I said, we prefer that you direct those questions to them, in our belief that that is helping them move the investigation forward.

QUESTION: Okay. One more thing on the jobs issue. You said the President --

McClellan: We are complying fully with that request, and we are continuing to comply with certain matters that have been requested. We're working very closely with the investigators on that.


More on this soon.

As I've noted in these pages before, I remain very conflicted about the politics of opting for gay marriage as opposed to civil unions. As I've also told you, my feelings and thoughts about this issue have moved a lot, even in the last few weeks.

But set aside for a moment what I think.

A group called Massequality is taking up the fight for gay marriage within the state of Massachusetts. Given the standing Massachusetts Supreme Court decision and the unlikelihood of a federal constitutional amendment actually getting enacted, that means that to make gay marriage a reality in the state (and not just a brief blip) supporters of gay marriage will have to prevent the state from amending its own constitution to overturn that court decision.

In Massachusetts, to amend the constitution the amendment needs to be approved in two consecutive joint legislative sessions and then voted on in a statewide referendum.

The state legislature will try to act on this for the first time on March 11th, i.e., next Thursday. Given what I just described above, the soonest the court ruling could be overturned is in 2006.

But if supporters of gay marriage can defeat that amendment in this session, they'll gain another two years before gay marriage can be banned in the state and likely go a long way to making it permanent.

That's what Massequality is trying to accomplish. March 11th is less than a week away. If you care about this issue, they need your support right now. Visit the site.

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