Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Another great Bush administration moment.

In this morning's gaggle, <$NoAd$>Scott McClellan got asked whether the teleconference the president had with troops in Tikrit was scripted. Here's what he said ...

QUESTION: How were they selected, and are their comments to the president pre-screened, any questions or anything...


QUESTION: Not at all?

MCCLELLAN: This is a back-and-forth.

Here's how the pool report (i.e., from the designated reporter on the scene) described what happened.

The soldiers, nine U.S. men and one U.S. woman, plus an Iraqi, had been tipped off in advance about the questions in the highly scripted event. Allison Barber, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense for internal communication, could be heard asking one soldier before the start of the event, "Who are we going to give that [question] to?"

Oh well ...

TPM Reader TM checks <$NoAd$>in ...

What do you think of some of the speculation out there that Harry Reid suggested Harriet Miers as an effort to sabotage Bush politically? It makes a lot of sense to me - she's not very formidable, yet Reid knew Bush would like the idea of picking someone who's such a close ally/bootlicker (you pick). It's kinda like this: Say you have a colleague at work you can't stand and you know has terrible judgment. This colleague just bought a bunny suit and keeps telling everyone how he can't WAIT to find some occasion to wear it. So you sidle up to him and encourage him to wear it to the company's annual black-tie banquet. "Hey, buddy, I just want you to be happy. Would I steer you wrong?"

What I think is that these sorts of triple bankshots seldom turn out to be true, and seldom work when they are true. But seldom isn't never. And it's fun to speculate.

And watch the presidential ambitions swirl down the drain: Frist subpoenaed by the SEC (aka the Martha police).

Says the Post: "Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has been subpoenaed to turn over personal records and documents as federal authorities step up a probe of his July sales of HCA Inc. stock, according to sources familiar with the investigation."

Actually, you know what he's thinking: If I knew this was gonna happen I never would have had to demean myself in front of those Justice Sunday whackjobs!

Life's a bitch.

Speaking of which, back to atoning.

I wonder if in his comments today about Harriet Miers the president hasn't finally brought his presidency to a sort of implosive harmonic convergence.

We are, needless to say, engaged in a vast, shambling and tragic occupation of Iraq, the nominal aim of which is to create a secular, rule-of-law-based democracy which would end the cycle of repression, fanaticism and violence which spilled onto America's shores four years ago.

At the same time, President Bush argues for Miers' confirmation neither on the basis of her 'judicial temperament' nor her judicial philosophy or ideology but because she is a staunch evangelical Christian.

The fact that many of the president's more theocratic supporters don't seem to believe him just adds a level of irony or entertainment for those of us still holding out for the Enlightenment tradition.

But doesn't the juxtaposition really show the game is up at some level?

A year ago, in light of one of White House's many wag-the-dog stunts, I noted "how truly important it is that we democratize the Middle East. Because once we have, some of them will be able to come back here and redemocratize us."

Perhaps the same goes for ending theocracy over there. Sooner the better, so they can bring modernity to us too.

Over at the blog of Reason Magazine, Editor Nick Gillespie has posted a list of how much each two-term president increased spending going back forty years. Specifically, the list measures increases in discretionary spending over five successive budgets, adjusted for inflation.

Here are the numbers ...

LBJ: 25.2% Nixon: -16.5% Reagan: 11.9% Clinton: -8.2% Bush: 35.2%

Now, clearly, this exercise means different things to Libertarians like the folks at Reason than it might to readers of this website.

But I think this only represents half the picture. And probably not the more important half.

There are enduring disagreements between the moderate right and moderate left in this country over the ideal size and scope of the federal government. But the truth is that the country can do fine with relatively small government or relatively large government so long as things don't get too out of hand in either direction. What it can't withstand for very long is a radical and growing disjuncture between spending and revenue, money out and money in.

That is the problem we face today. And that's why we're probably in for a long ten years as all of this hits the fan.


Pat Robertson on Republican senators who may not salute and stand at attention for Harriet Miers: "These so-called movement conservatives don’t have much of a following, the ones that I’m aware of. And you just marvel, these are the senators, some of them who voted to confirm the general counsel of the ACLU to the Supreme Court, and she was voted in almost unanimously. And you say, ‘now they’re going to turn against a Christian who is a conservative picked by a conservative President and they’re going to vote against her for confirmation.’ Not on your sweet life, if they want to stay in office."

Interesting snippet in Fineman's latest column: "I expect that any GOP 2008 hopeful who wants evangelical support — people like Sam Brownback, Rick Santorum and maybe even George Allen — will vote against Miers's confirmation in the Senate."

Annals of interesting coincidences.

I mentioned earlier that the assignment of new DOJ attorneys to the New Hampshire phone-jamming case -- particular a Public Integrity section lawyer -- may be tied the ever-expanding Abramoff investigation in DC.

Along those lines, we wanted to note two entries in the New Hampshire GOP's receipts ledger in the days just before the phone-jamming plan came off. $5000 a pop from two of Jack Abramoff's main piggy banks -- the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

Okay, maybe I'm willing to be a bit bolder now (though probably late for the party) and say that no, I'm not at all clear that Harriet Miers is ever going to sit on the Supreme Court. The Times today quotes a staff lawyer to one Republican member of the Judiciary Committee saying: "Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact."

Down further into the article we find out that Judiciary Republicans actually have their staffs working on anti-Miers research. If the Times report at all accurately reflects what's going on up there, that is a very big deal.

Clearly, at this point Miers has significant, if still silent, Republican opposition in the Senate. They want her gone. But they're not yet willing to have it be at the expense of dealing the president a major political reverse.

So how many Republicans will prove willing to come out against her? And which ones?

One interesting dimension of this Kabuki theater exercise is that it's not even completely clear which part of the Republican caucus open defections could come from. The White House now seems to be banking everything on the claim that Miers is a down-the-line evangelical Christian (I guess we might call this 'extreme originalism'). But Sen. Brownback, one of the most staunch pro-lifers in the Senate, seems to be most out in front questioning whether she should be on the Court.

As I wrote a few days ago, I think the real issue is not that there's yet that much focused and public opposition to Miers. The issue is just who the White House can find to champion this nomination or defend it. So far, I don't think I've heard one senator come out strongly for her. Pretty much the same thing with the standard GOP pressure groups on the outside.

With so little force propelling this pick forward, it won't take much to knock it back for good.