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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Noted for future reference and discussion ...

"The new men of the villages, who feel they have already lost so much, find their path blocked at every turn. Money, development, education have awakened them only to the knowledge that the world is not like their village, that the world is not their own. Their rage --- the rage of pastoral people with limited skills, limited money, and a limited grasp of the world --- is comprehensive. Now they have a weapon: Islam. It is their way of getting even with the world. It serves their grief, their feeling of inadequacy, their social rage and racial hate."
-- V.S. Naipaul
Among the Believers, p. 227.
More soon ...

"We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out. We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Oklahoma, to Georgetown, Texas. It had state representatives in it, and we cannot find this plane ..."

Those are the words of a Texas state trooper calling a division of the Department of Homeland Security to help locate a missing plane with government officials on board, according to a partial transcript of the conversation released yesterday by the Department of Homeland Security and excerpted here in Friday's Dallas Morning News.

As reports in various Friday morning papers make clear, the Texas Department of Public Safety, tricked the folks at Homeland into thinking that they were looking for a missing aircraft that might either have crashed or fallen victim to a terrorist attack when in fact they were just trying to track down those Democrats who refused to make a quorum call. "From all indications, this request from the Texas DPS was an urgent plea for assistance from a law enforcement agency trying to locate a missing, lost or possibly crashed aircraft," said Dean Boyd, spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Now, House Speaker Tom Craddick -- the guy who ordered the troopers to track the Dems down -- made great efforts yesterday to distance himself from the whole fiasco, telling reporters he'd instructed troopers to find the fugitive Dems but had not involved himself in any way in how they did it.

The Dallas Morning News, however, was able to find out who the trooper in question was, identifying him as Lt. Will Crais, a "veteran fugitive-hunter" assigned to the DPS's Special Crimes Division. Now, the interesting detail is that Crais "was working on the hunt for the missing lawmakers, an effort that was run out of a conference room next to Mr. Craddick's office [emphasis added]."

If this was all going in a conference room adjoining Speaker Craddick's office, that makes it a bit less credible that he didn't know anything about what they were doing.

And what about Tom DeLay? The Dallas Morning News article quotes DeLay aids saying that there was "no contact between his office and the Homeland Security Department or the FBI." But a DeLay aide told the Washington Post that the Majority Leader "did pass along to the Justice Department Craddick's inquiry on whether federal law enforcement could assist in the manhunt."

So DeLay had "no contact" with Homeland or FBI but he did "pass along to the Justice Department" a request from his man in Austin, Tom Craddick, asking the Feds to "assist in the manhunt." (Presumably, the reason to involve the Feds would be to bring them back across state lines.) Frankly, I don't think you've got to be too big a DeLay-o-phobe to think that, pretty much by his own admission, DeLay was involved in trying to get federal law enforcement involved in arresting those state Democratic legislators and hauling them back to Austin. In this context, the difference between 'passing along a request' and making a request really doesn't pass the laugh test.

Just draw back for a moment and ask the question: what on earth is a House Majority Leader doing passing on requests from a state House Speaker to the Justice Department, asking for federal officers to arrest members of his own legislature? Add to that the fact that none of the stories match up. Craddick says he made no effort to pull in the Feds. But DeLay says he passed along Craddick's request to pull in the Feds. All of which lends tremendous credence to the notion that Lt. Will Crais, shall we say, acted alone.

The new States-Rights?

White House spokesman Scott McClellan refused to say whether he believes it would be appropriate for Homeland Security to be used to round up Texas Democrats.

"This is a matter that is being addressed in the state of Texas," McClellan said.

Courtesy of the Associated Press.

Some pretty ugly stuff and some pretty unconvincing non-denial-denials.

Let's go to the tape, or rather, to Christopher Lee's very clarifying piece in Friday's Washington Post.

It seems state law enforcement officials, working under orders from Texas state House Speaker Tom Craddick, went to a branch of the new Department of Homeland Security to try to track down a plane owned by one Texas state legislator. An odd use of the new Department of Homeland Security, especially since they seem to have put in the request for help at exactly the same time the new al qaida attack was going down in Saudi Arabia (Monday afternoon/evening).

Here, according to Lee, is what happened ...

On Monday, Craddick and other Republicans dispatched state troopers to round up the legislative fugitives and bring them back to the Texas Capitol.

State police officials, in turn, called in federal help as they pursued a rumor that Rep. James E. "Pete" Laney, a former Texas House speaker, had ferried fellow Democrats out of state aboard his Piper turboprop airplane. A state investigator called the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center in Riverside, Calif., part of the Homeland Security Department, to ask officials there to use their nationwide radar network to help locate the plane.

The call from the unnamed investigator came as an "urgent plea," describing a plane with state officials aboard that was overdue, according to a statement issued yesterday by the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"We got a problem, and I hope you can help me out," the statement quoted the officer as saying. "We had a plane that was supposed to be going from Ardmore, Okla., to Georgetown, Tex. It had state representatives on it, and we cannot find this plane."

Believing they had an emergency on their hands, agency officials called the Federal Aviation Administration in Fort Worth, and airport officials in two other Texas cities, but were unable to find the plane.

(The Post piece implies the investigator was unidentified; but the Austin American-Statesman says he identified himself by name and rank.)

In any case, if Homeland Security's statement is to be believed, they got tricked into tracking down Laney's plane on the false pretense that they were investigating either a plane crash or a terrorist incident. Now, who ordered it? Craddick? Not so, says his flack:

"He called them [state police] in and let them do their job," said Bob Richter, the spokesman. "There was an effort made to find out if they could get some federal help in that. It was either turned down, or they found out they couldn't do it. By the end of the day Monday, it was a dead issue [because the lawmakers were found]. . . . I think Craddick is getting credit for a lot of things other people did. He may have said, 'Let's do what we can to find them.'"
What do Richter say exactly? I'm not sure either. 'There was an effort made ...' Passive voice is never a good sign in false denials. (Also, see this follow-up in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram about Craddick's story.)

And DeLay?

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said DeLay did not seek federal help in forcing the Democrats back to Austin. DeLay did pass along Craddick's inquiry to the Justice Department on whether federal law enforcement could assist in the manhunt, Grella said.
So DeLay never sought federal help, except when he did seek federal help.

Gives a whole new meaning to constituent service ...

"I am deeply troubled by recent news reports that the Department of Homeland Security wasted scarce resources to search for a Texas state legislator ..." I'd been thinking for the better part of the day that Tom DeLay's wild, wet-lipped zeal had gotten the better of him on this Texas redistricting issue, that he'd 'overreached' as the mushy Beltway phrase has it. Now the other shoe has dropped. Those lines are from a letter Joe Lieberman just sent to Tom Ridge. And since Lieberman's basically the canary-in-a-coalmine for safe consensus opinion, it's now official. It's now safe for Broder, Russert ... hell, maybe even Matthews to get into the act. Hopefully, the scary goon tactics employed by DeLay's minions will get people to take a second look at the underlying issue: upending at least half a century of established tradition in which redistricting takes place just once a cycle -- absent voting rights lawsuits. This is part of a much bigger story of which the redistricting power grab is only a part.

Postcards from the edge ...

"Once our wives tell them they don't know where we are, that should be the end of it and once they know where we are that should be the end of it," said Craig Eiland of Galveston, one of 51 Democrats holed up in an Ardmore, Okla., motel.

He and others there said state House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, used Texas Department of Public Safety officers to intimidate their families and staffs.

Eiland said a Texas Ranger questioned nurses late Monday night at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston neo-natal intensive care unit, where Eiland's premature twins are patients. The Ranger later went to Eiland's home to question his wife.

...

Denise Pickett, the wife of El Paso Democrat Joe Pickett, said she received a call on her cell phone about 8 p.m. Monday from her 17-year-old daughter, who reported that officers were at the Pickett home questioning her about her father's whereabouts.

When she arrived back home, she said officers emerged from the front door.

"I have a lot of respect for police officers so I was just trying to answer their questions as well as possible," she said. "However, reflecting back I do wish I would have asked them, `What are you doing in my house without my being there?' "

Reports that federal law enforcement officials may have helped look for the missing Democrats led all but one of Texas' congressional Democrats to demand that Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller disclose whatever help was provided.

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the driving force behind the Texas redistricting effort, said Tuesday that he consulted an attorney in his office to determine for the Texas House speaker whether FBI agents and U.S. marshals could be used to arrest the Democrats.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Monday he wants federal authorities to pursue Texas Democrats dodging a vote on a plan he authored to increase Republican seats in Congress.

The Sugar Land Republican told reporters that bringing in either U.S. marshals or FBI agents is justified because redistricting is a federal issue, involving congressional seats.

One federal agency that became involved early on was the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center, based in Riverside, Calif. -- which now falls under the auspices of the Homeland Security Department.

The agency received a call to locate a specific Piper turboprop aircraft. It was determined that the plane belonged to former House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center.

The location of Laney's plane proved to be a key piece of information because, Craddick said, it's how he determined that the Democrats were in Ardmore.

Hopefully we can democratize Iraq quickly enough that they can come back and democratize us ...

As longtime readers of the site know, well before all the messiness of the lead-up to the Iraq War, I wrote a number of columns and articles on the Democrats' fundamental incoherence and lack of seriousness about national security issues. Here's an example I wrote last year in The New York Post. Bill Clinton began, briefly, to turn this around. But the last two years have shown a sorry regression. The key to solving this problem is to recognize that it is not a cosmetic problem, but one woven into fabric of the contemporary Democratic party and center-left. (If you want to know more about what I think the problem is, take a look at this column.) This evening I'd like to point you to a new website from a new organization: Democrats for National Security. I don't know if they'll be the group that will help bring change. But they're identifying the problem and beginning an effort to grapple with it.

Paul D. Wolfowitz said something extraordinary, and deeply controversial, on Turkish television ten days ago. He essentially said that bringing democracy to Iraq was so important that the Bush administration wished the Turkish military had subverted Turkish democracy to achieve it. I explain the details in my new column in The Hill.

Say what you will about looted nuclear sites, ransacked government ministries, mullahs calling for an Islamic Republic, it's not like Hezbollah is setting up a branch office in Baghdad or anything, right?

Well, guess what ...

I'll be posting the link to the story tomorrow when it goes online.

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