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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Desperate Santorum makes play for post-Enlightenment Era voter bloc ...

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."

But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."


Actually, to insulate themselves from charges of liberal bias aren't journalists supposed to refer to this as "what some Democrats refer to as 'science'"?

Just asking.

Okay, the White House has now finally engaged the debate over the exaggerations, misleading claims and falsehoods by which it led the nation to war. So we need the facts on the table. And this is an effort that is perfectly suited to refereed collective online research.

So here's what I propose.

What is needed is a list of specifics. Specific dates, specific statements and specific explanations of context, intent and consequence.

I would propose a few broad categories and we'll likely add to these or refine them as we go. First, instance, the 'smoking gun' and 'mushroom cloud' line wasn't a lie because it didn't assert any factual claim. I'd call it a "reckless exaggeration", given the facts we knew at the time.

Or how about the repeated claims that Saddam "supported terrorists". When asked to provide evidence for this, White House spokespeople will often point to the fact that Saddam offered financial support to the families of dead suicide bombers from the West Bank and Gaza. In other cases, they'll note that has-been uber-secular-terrorist Abu Nidal was living in Baghdad before the war. In both cases, you can say this counts as 'supporting terrorists'. But the point of these statements was to convey the impression that Saddam had and was supporting the terrorists we're fighting now, Islamist terrorists and specifically al Qaida. So I'd categorize claims like these as "intentionally misleading statements".

Then we get to statements like the one Dick Cheney made when he claimed that we'd neither been able to confirm or discredit claims that Mohammad Atta met with Iraqi intelligence agents in Prague not long before the attacks. I think we can say this was a straight up "lie". Several US intelligence agencies had looked into this. And each had come back either not believing the claim or with specific and solid evidence to refute it. So Cheney was just lying. And of course there was an even larger meta-lie here or intentional deception since Cheney was trying to send the message that there was reason to believe Iraq played a role in the 9/11 attacks.

In any case, we'll likely need to refine these categories and perhaps expand them. But the key is precision and a systematic effort to distinguish among and categorize the various degrees and techniques of Bush White House mendacity and bamboozlement.

What we need from you is to send in examples. For the sake of simplicity and focus we'll restrict the possible speakers to the president, the vice-president, cabinet secretaries, the president's press secretary and the national security advisor. We'll write them up on the site and then collect and organize them on a separate page for easy reference.

Send your emails to the regular comment email address linked up on the upper right hand side of the site. Use the subject line "Road to War". Then give us a specific quote you think qualifies as some breed of exaggeration, misleading statement or lie. We'll need the specific quote, a date, the speaker, and a link or citation to verify it.

It should not be difficult to compile a long, long list.

TPM Reader SS adds a piece to the puzzle ...

Another point that seems to be missed is that you can only call the 2002 vote a "vote for war" if you assumed that Bush was lying about how he was going to use the authorization (to pressure Saddam to get him to disarm) and that he had already decide to take out Saddam. That is obviously a fair assumption now but could senator have fairly assumed that in 2002? Is Bush saying that senator should have assumed he was lying when they voted?


I think this may be one of those cases where, like I noted last evening, neither side wants to engage because neither looks great. I think the answer is, yes in many cases, it was already getting pretty clear that the president was lying even then, though the full measure of his bad faith hadn't yet revealed itself. On the other hand, I think many senators don't want to cut a president off at the knees when he is trying to use a show of force to achieve a good end. It's a tradition that makes a good deal of sense if you're not dealing with a president like George W. Bush.

A short note from TPM Reader KS ...

I would have defended my position for war by saying that prez needed authority to wage a war so he could push Saddam into agreeing for more inspections and controls. How come dems never say such a thing?


My thoughts on this in an upcoming post.

A note from TPM Reader MS ...

While it may be clear to many of us how the Bush admins arguments for the war differ from the position of Democrats who were willing to give the president the authority, these nuance distinctions are lost to most of the public. What I think most people can grasp and Bush cannot wiggle out of is the timing. If we keep pointing out that regardless of the severity or seriousness of the threat Saddam may have posed, we had a process in place to determine these issues, and it was the RUSH TO WAR that distinguishes the administration position from everyone else. Both domestic and international leaders agreed that we had a right and even an obligation to determine whether Saddam was a threat, and if so, what to do about it, but this process was PREEMPTED by the decision to invade before knowing all the important facts. Let's hold them accountable for that premature decision and forget arguing about who thought what in 1999 or 2002. We could have reached a consensus with the international community and our own intelligence agencies if we had allowed the facts to come out from the inspections, and more complete intelligence that would have come from that process.

Thus the accusation is that they pre-empted that process specifically to avoid the possibility that the consensus would have been not to invade. They were determined to invade and that's what led to the intelligence manipulations. That's what we need to focus on. The decision had already been made regardless of the intelligence. Once people realize that the invasion was already planned and the NIE or PDB had nothing to do with that decision, the issue will be framed in a way they can't respond to except to deny it.


This isn't the only point, but it's one of the key ones.

Here's a short and insightful post by Matt Yglesias on the meaning of what's happening today in the Senate with the competing 'time limit on Iraq involvement' resolutions.

Bill Frist and the GOP leadership generally have lost effective control of the senate on this and other issues. Frist is struggling to create the appearance of a battle between two contending resolutions -- a battle he can win -- when really he is giving way in the face of the one the Dems are pushing. He's fighting for an orderly retreat rather than a rout.

Continued and very sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed so far to our TPM Muckraking Fund fundraiser. Twenty-four hours in, we're up to 680 contributors, which means we're just a bit shy of a quarter of the way to our goal. We're going to try to get to a 1000 by the end of today. We've found the muck. Now we need your help to buy up a few good rakes. More soon.

You've most likely heard of Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff who's been making the media rounds recently, discussing what really happened during the lead-up to war and after. This evening he's going to be on Chris Lydon's Open Source radio show. He'll be taking listener questions both off the air and also from the show's website. If it doesn't play in your area, they also stream it from the site.

E.J.Dionne: "There is a great missing element in the argument over whether the administration manipulated the facts. Neither side wants to talk about the context in which Bush won a blank check from Congress to invade Iraq. He doesn't want us to remember that he injected the war debate into the 2002 midterm election campaign for partisan purposes, and he doesn't want to acknowledge that he used the post-Sept. 11 mood to do all he could to intimidate Democrats from raising questions more of them should have raised."

This is an extremely good point. As is often the case in fierce debates some of the most relevant angles of discussion are left untouched because they serve neither side's purpose. This is most certainly one of them.

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