Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is pro-war but increasingly ambivalent about what's become of our venture in Iraq.

And we were speculating -- not rhetorically but in some real sense thinking out loud -- about how the president and his top aides could have ignored so many signs for so long that things were going seriously wrong.

Then you see something like this, and everything becomes a bit clearer.

Asked about the National Intelligence Estimate he received two months ago, which painted a bleak outlook for Iraq, the president said the CIA was "just guessing ... The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions."

In one ear and out the other.

Doesn't that tell you a lot about how we got to this juncture?

As Andrew Sullivan I think suggests in this post, the president and I dare say many of his supporters have little ability to distinguish between resolution, optimism and denial.

It fell, it seems, to David Brooks to start the effort to distort what John Kerry said in his speech yesterday and pull the debate back from any discussion of what is actually going on in Iraq. His column in tomorrow's Times is a classic Brooks' 'faint praiser' in which he structures the column as an attempt to give his quarry his due while actually distorting what the person in question actually said.

I'll try to comment on this tomorrow. But for now a few salient points.

To read Brooks' column, Kerry came out foursquare for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. But read the actual speech. That's not what he said at all. Brooks hangs the claim on a passage toward the end of the speech in which Kerry says that if the president does all the right things now we could begin withdrawing troops a year from now -- next summer -- and "realistically aim" to have all of our troops out in four years.

That, to Brooks, is rapid withdrawal and retreat: the possibility of any end in sight, ever.

Whether you agree with the speech and policies or not, what Kerry called for in the speech wasn't withdrawal. He said the president's policies have failed and that we need different policies and a different president if we are to prevent Iraq from "becom[ing] a permanent source of terror that will endanger America's security for years to come."

The point of Brook's column is to allow only two options: denial and 'retreat'.

The Brooks line, which is the Bush line, is that "the U.S. should stay as long as it takes to rebuild Iraq." But this platitude is simply a way of ducking discussion about whether the president's policies are working and whether things are getting better or worse.

Brooks, like Bush, is like a man in the sea, a fifty pound lead weight chained to his feet, slowly sinking into the waves. It's a tough road, he says as the water laps around his neck, but I'm going to keep at it as long as it takes until I start floating up instead of sinking down.

As long as it takes.

I'm staying the course.

Bubble, gurgle, bubble ...

Denial ... and did I mention the weight is chained to your feet too?

"What Is Bush Hiding?" -- that's the title of E.J. Dionne's column in tomorrow's Post, which you should read.

Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor poll out today has exactly the same numbers as Zogby: Bush 46%, Kerry 43% among likely voters. Among registered voters Bush 44%, Kerry 43%.

Night Riders ...

From the The Lafayette Daily Advertiser: "Vandals set fire to signs and wrote pro-President Bush messages on the front of Lafayette’s Democratic Party Headquarters, the second time the office was hit by vandals."

The net is abuzz today about Robert Novak's column suggesting that a reelected Bush administration would quickly pull American troops out of Iraq regardless of the status of the country at the moment or what the consequences of the withdrawal might be.

So what does it mean?

Has President Bush decided that we have to pull up stakes, opting for a far more immediate retreat from Iraq than the one he continually accuses John Kerry of supporting?

My take is that there's no possibility and really no point in trying to answer that question. Whether or not John Kerry has a clear plan for what to do in Iraq, it's quite clear that President Bush doesn't have any. The plan at the moment is simply to keep the troops there in order to keep from having to admit that the whole enterprise has gone south.

(The young and very serious John Kerry once asked "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" A less anguished George W. Bush has decided that a soldier or two a day is a reasonable price to pay to avoid admitting a mistake.)

Given the identity of the reporter, I think this leak is simply an effort to give options to potential Bush supporters.

For those with their hands over their eyes, there's the president's slogans on the hustings. For those who see that what the president is saying makes no sense but yet really prefer not to vote for John Kerry, there's this leak which tells them with a wink that the president realizes his policy has failed and will pull the plug very soon.

The campaign will leave to individual voters which message suits their needs.

Game. Set. Match.

CBS now says it regrets running the Memo story.

They concede that Bill Burkett was their source for the documents and though Burkett does not admit the documents are forgeries he "admits that he deliberately misled the CBS News producer working on the report, giving her a false account of the documents' origins to protect a promise of confidentiality to the actual source."

CBS says that while they have no specific knowledge that the documents are forgeries they also say that they cannot authenticate them and that the story should never have run.

This only prompts the question of why they took so much on faith from Burkett in the first place.

Alan Keyes positioned for a break-out?

New St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll has him closing the gap to under 50 percentage points against Barack Obama.

Obama 68%, Keyes 23%, Other/Unsure 9%.

A new Zogby poll out tonight has not great but decent news for Kerry.

Bush 46%, Kerry 43% on the head-to-head match-up.

Kerry's got his work cut out for him. But he's very much in this race. And the president's underlying weaknesses are still very much there.