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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Yep, I agree with Atrios and the good folks at Media Matters.

The Washington Post, or rather its online incarnation, has managed to capture the essence of the silliness of the 'media bias' debate in one easily digestible set-piece of its own making.

The right mau-maus Dan Froomkin's online column, gets the wet-behind-the-ears ombudsman to write a really silly column making her own job into a venue for dumping newsroom scuttlebutt on another reporter.

The idea, the notional claim, was that the questions -- or should we more gravely say, the concerns -- about Froomkin's column began with complaints from readers. Actually, not so. They started with a 'complaint' from a young GOP operative by the name of Patrick Ruffini who'd just come off working as official webmaster and blogger for Bush-Cheney 2004.

Like I said, mau-maued. And even pretty shabbily at that.

Now, is Dan Froomkin a 'liberal'? I figure he probably agrees with my politics more than Newt Gingrich's. But it is at most opinion journalism, aimed at hitting points of hypocrisy, deception or double-dealing in public officials. It's written by a credentialed journalist. And he hits both sides.

(In any case, let's be honest: most Dem pols who make the switch into journalism -- Stephanopoulos, et al. -- bend over backwards to create 'balance'. Most Republicans use it as an extension of their political work -- Tony Snow, etc. Anyway, another story for another day.)

So, to 'balance' Froomkin, who may be a commentator with liberal tendencies, the Post goes out and gets a high octane Republican political activist who hits the ground running with a tirade of Red State America revanchism and even journalism itself.

That's balance. That's the Post's balance.

Managing perceptions is the death of good journalism, especially manufactured perceptions, and even more those manufactured for the easily cowed.

I'm embarrassed for the Post. Embarrassed by the Post.

Their explanation doesn't cut it. If they want to make a blogger Crossfire with a firebreather on the left and on the right, they should do it. It might even be interesting. But here they've just been played by bullies and played for fools.

Jump! How high?

I can think of more than a few actual journalists at the Post who must feel a bit embarrassed too.

Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) kicked off his reelection campaign in Columbia yesterday. Near the top of this article in the Columbia Tribune on how ethics scandals, Katrina and President Bush's unpopularity could bring GOPers down, is this passage ...

University of Missouri-Columbia political science Professor Rick Hardy, who helped introduce Hulshof at the rally, said Bush’s GOP connection is a challenge for Republicans seeking office this year.

"It’s not good for those in office in the president’s party in the sixth year," Hardy said. "There is a real struggle."

In his speech, Hulshof, a five-term member of Congress, painted himself as a freethinker who sometimes rankles Republican power-holders in the U.S. House.


As members of the GOP House caucus go actually, Hulshof actually is a bit of a 'freethinker'. He was on the ethics committee, opposed the DeLay Rule and got purged in the Night of the Long Gavels for his trouble.

The scope of the denial simply knows no bounds.

This is a last graf of an email a reader sent into Andrew Sullivan (emphasis added) ...

I would argue that by any fair, realistic comparison with past wars, the Bush administration has run the Iraq war with a minimum of American military and Iraq civilian casualties, and has accomplished as much as Lincoln or Roosevelt accomplished in their wars. The news media of the time never complained about America firebombing Japanese and German civilian populations."


Really don't know whether to laugh or to cry with this garbage.

Hmmm, destroyed fascism, created a new global state system, first major global conflict to observe the 1929 3rd Geneva Convention on treatment of POWs vs. overthrew Saddam Hussein, plunged the country into civil war, embraced torture as supposed American value.

Saved the union, dealt a death blow to slavery, held a free election during a civil war vs. overthrew Saddam Hussein, plunged the country into civil war, embraced torture as supposed American value.

It sends a shudder through me to think that anyone actually believes this malarkey and how little respect they seem to have for their countries traditions or greatest moments that they actually voice them.

So there you have it.

There's so much water under the bridge at this point. But the president just won't stop lying about the immediate exigencies of his decision to go to war. Here's how he described it this morning in an exchange with Helen Thomas ...

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences ... and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.


Of course, that's not what happened. We were there. We remember. It wasn't a century ago. We got the resolution passed. Saddam called our bluff and allowed the inspectors in. President Bush pressed ahead with the invasion.

His lies are so blatant that I must constantly check myself so as not to assume that he is simply delusional or has blocked out whole chains of events from the past.

For those who are interested, here's the complete exchange ...

THE PRESIDENT: Helen. After that brilliant performance at the Grid Iron, I am -- (laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: You're going to be sorry. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: Well, then, let me take it back. (Laughter.)

HELEN THOMAS: I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?

THE PRESIDENT: I think your premise -- in all due respect to your question and to you as a lifelong journalist -- is that -- I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect --

HELEN THOMAS: Everything --

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on for a second, please.

HELEN THOMAS: -- everything I've heard --

THE PRESIDENT: Excuse me, excuse me. No President wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true. My attitude about the defense of this country changed on September the 11th. We -- when we got attacked, I vowed then and there to use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people. Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy. But we realized on September the 11th, 2001, that killers could destroy innocent life. And I'm never going to forget it. And I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people that we will do everything in our power to protect our people.

Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy. And that's why I went into Iraq -- hold on for a second --

HELEN THOMAS: They didn't do anything to you, or to our country.

THE PRESIDENT: Look -- excuse me for a second, please. Excuse me for a second. They did. The Taliban provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where al Qaeda trained --

HELEN THOMAS: I'm talking about Iraq --

THE PRESIDENT: Helen, excuse me. That's where -- Afghanistan provided safe haven for al Qaeda. That's where they trained. That's where they plotted. That's where they planned the attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans.

I also saw a threat in Iraq. I was hoping to solve this problem diplomatically. That's why I went to the Security Council; that's why it was important to pass 1441, which was unanimously passed. And the world said, disarm, disclose, or face serious consequences --

HELEN THOMAS: -- go to war --

THE PRESIDENT: -- and therefore, we worked with the world, we worked to make sure that Saddam Hussein heard the message of the world. And when he chose to deny inspectors, when he chose not to disclose, then I had the difficult decision to make to remove him. And we did, and the world is safer for it.

I didn't know we'd be returning to this issue. But Mark Schmitt returns to the question Yglesias and I have been knocking around -- is there a case that President Bush is the worst president ever?

Not to keep you waiting in suspence too long, but Mark is clearly in the 'yes' camp. And while I think I agree with Mark on that general judgment (as well as the issue of Bush's treatment of the career civil service), I agree with him even more on the issue of Ronald Reagan.

Matt says that President Bush is actually slightly better than Ronald Reagan, as presidents go. But having lived through the Reagan presidency, even at a relatively young age, I just can't come close to seeing that. Like Schmitt, I don't mean to get nostalgic about the gipper. But for all my disagreements with various of his policies, Reagan was a far better president than George W. Bush on almost every measure I can think of.

As someone whose politics are on the center-left, I think he was better simply because he wasn't nearly as conservative as President Bush. But that's obviously a fairly situational sort of judgment.

More aptly, Mark says this ...

Bush “somewhat better than Ronald Reagan”? I don’t think so. I have a certain - limited - respect for Reagan, some of it developed after his presidency. As a model for one kind of presidency - the person of a few strong principles who leaves implementation to others - he had an admirable sense of his own strengths and limits. His 1981 budget cuts were not devastating and while he cut taxes that year, he also increased them, massively, when things got tight in 1982 and then later moved the Tax Reform Act of 1986. He invaded countries, but manageable, symbolic ones. My defense of Reagan is limited - he was not a president I would vote for - but on the narrow question of whether he was worse than Bush 43, I cannot see the case for it.


Let me expand on the issue of tax cuts followed by tax increases because I think it gets us toward something like a general theory of presidential quality.

On key points during his presidency, Ronald Reagan was capable of shifting gears. Again, not to idealize the man. But he was capable of seeing that outcomes hadn't matched up to expectations and changing policy or, in other cases, capable of seeing that basic facts had changed and that policies and even something approaching world-views must change accordingly.

Mark has noted the issue of fiscal policy. I would add the rapprochement with Soviet reformers in his second term.

As a side note, I think it's worth noting that there's a vast ocean of revisionism that conservatives indulge in when they claim that the denouement of Soviet power, as it came to pass in the 1980s, was somehow part of the plan in their push for anti-Soviet confrontation in the 1970s and 1980s.

Not at all.

The US military build-ups played a role, yes. But the vision of 1970s neo-conservatives was altogether more grim and pessimistic than the retrospective view. The plan was not to force the Soviet machine into overdrive and watch it peacefully breakdown. The issue was, as neoconservative godfather Norman Podhoretz put it as late as 1980, whether we could avoid the "finlandization of America, the political and economic subordination of the United States to superior Soviet power."

What did happen was the last thing they imagined. Thus, Reagan's shift was a very big one.

In any case, that is another matter entirely. So, back to Mr. Reagan and presidential quality.

Reagan had the ability, simply, to change his mind. You might say it's the ability to allow the facts to overcome your mind or as our secular saint, President Lincoln, put it, far more eloquently, the ability to 'disenthrall ourselves.'

And that is an ability the current occupant of the White House entirely lacks -- a fact which is on display now as he again crosses the country arguing that black is white and up is down.

President Bush represents something different from the normal sloshing back and forth between liberalism and conservatism. He's a radical. He's set on a destructive course, laced with corruption and fed by extremism. And he mistakenly believes that stubborness and ignorance constitute a virtue he calls 'leadership'.

I don't think there's much question that President Bush is the most conservative president in modern American history. But the issue is not his conservatism; it's his radicalism and destructiveness, his willingness to wreck the state. 'Worst ever' covers a lot of ground. But I think there's a good argument to be made that he is.

(ed.note: For those who are interested the full Lincoln passage is: "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." It's from his second annual message to congress -- what we'd call his second State of the Union address -- in December 1862.)

I think we all know that Sen. McCain is doing his best to fit in with DC's Republican establishment at the moment. But who knew how far he'd go?

Yesterday the Post reported that McCain had hired GOP operative Terry Nelson to be his new 'senior advisor.'

Now, today over at TPMmuckraker.com, Paul Kiel managed to dig up the fact -- actually, facts -- that Nelson is not only implicated in the money-laundering scheme that Tom DeLay is currently awaiting trial for down in Texas. He's also tied to the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal. He was the immediate superior of James Tobin, the RNC guy who put the operation together. And his name was on the government's witness list at the trial.

The guy really gets around.

Anyway, the beltway media doesn't like anyone better than John McCain. So I'm wondering if this gets noticed.

Vice President Dick Cheney, yesterday: "I made sure both in 2000 and 2004 that the president had other options. I mean, I didn't ask for this job. I didn't campaign for it. I got drafted. And delighted to serve."

Does this man have some unresolved issues with the concept or the word 'draft'? Wasn't Cheney in charge of the Veep search in 2000? Got drafted? I think that's called choosing yourself.

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