Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As you may have heard, Rush Limbaugh has<$Ad$>been branching out from talk radio into jurisprudence and constitutional law. He recently penned the foreword to Mark Levin's Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America, a polemic about how Republican court appointees are destroying American through their out-of-control liberal judicial activism. About the book the irreplaceable Dahlia Lithwick noted that "the reason it may take you only slightly longer to read Men in Black than it took Levin to write it is that you'll experience an overwhelming urge to shower between chapters," which doesn't sound like a very nice thing to say.

But however that may be, earlier this week Limbaugh was back to the law books commenting on the recent conference at Yale on progressive jurisprudence put on by the American Constitution Society where ...

some people got together to rewrite the Constitution. A bunch of liberal elitists gathered up at Yale to have this little pretend new Constitution. What it should say, what it should be, what the principles and guidelines of the new Constitution ought to be. So while there are those of us who are devoted to defending the current US Constitution, there are a bunch of leftists and liberals out there that are toying around with the idea of rewriting and changing it. (interruption) Well, I don't know if they've banned me, I haven't read everything that everybody there posited or wrote. Let me get the piece at the next break and I'll share with you some things that people are saying.

We'll pass over the current Republican party's rather demonstrable anti-constitutionalism or the fact that conservatives put together a very similar enterprise only a few decades ago. But we did notice that Rush went in for the usual victim vamping, imagining that his style of constitutional interpretation or rather he himself might be banned by these folks. And now, as it turns out, the sponsors of the conference, specifically the ACS's Yale chapter, has sent Limbaugh a pocket-sized copy of what he calls the "little pretend" constitution (i.e., the United States Constitution), a letter reassuring him that he is very much not banned and an invitation to hold an event featuring Limbaugh on campus. Indeed, on top of that, through our indefatigable sleuthing we have managed to acquire a copy of the letter (which you can view here), which we understand was sent to the legendary gabster just this morning.

Sick, dark and demented. Hyperbole? I don't think so. According to a piece by David Kirkpatrick in tomorrow's Times, Bill Frist is going to participate in a big anti-filibuster telecast, sponsored by the Family Research Council, in which Democratic opposition to President Bush's most conervative judicial appointments will be cast as a Democratic war against believing Christians.

A flier advertising the event refers to "the filibuster against people of faith" and says: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."

So Frist wants to cast this, literally, as a war between the believers and the unbelievers. I guess this is part of toning down the rhetoric.

(How much do we have to endure so that this guy can run for president?)

Also on hand for the event will be arch-wingnut and SpongeBob persecutor James Dobson, a man with hands about as clean as Torquemada's, Chuck Colson and various others.

I don't know which is more amusing -- the wingnut jihad against a federal judiciary that is already predominantly Republican or the fact that the intellectual and often literal descendents of the upholders of Jim Crow now seek to enlist the dark legacy of segregation as some sort of arrow in their rhetorical quiver.

Actually, perhaps it's even more amusing that the same folks spent the 1990s using the same methods to thwart numerous Clinton judicial appointments.

At the confab I assume we're likely to hear more like this from the likes of the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, whose Traditional Values Coalition warns us that "Atheist billionaire George Soros is funding a number of the organizations that are attacking DeLay. Soros is a one-world socialist who hates Christians and seeks a one-world government and legalized drugs. DeLay is a solid Christian and conservative legislator who is an important player in the culture war. He understands the issues and the battles we’re fighting against homosexuality, abortion, pornography, judicial tyranny, and other issues of concern to traditional values activists."

Alas, more of the fantasies of victimization that are now the defining motif of such much conservative politics. As Jonathan Edwards might have put it, helpless wingnuts in the hands of angry liberal judges.

This is a just a brief update on the new site we're gearing up to launch: tpmcafe.com. We've been doing various sorts of planning for this new project -- some figuring out money stuff, but mostly just thinking through how to design the site to make the content and discussion areas compelling to readers. And in the course of thinking through both of those parts of the equation I finally decided that I would actually take the plunge and hire a real live bona-fide paid employee.

Now, that may not seem like such a big thing. But you have to understand that this site had been around for about three years before I decided to hire myself as a paid employee. And that wasn't anything I'd ever planned on doing. Actually, and you'll have to pardon my getting a little nostalgic, but some of you might get a kick (or, admittedly, perhaps a laugh) about what this site looked like when it first went live in November 2000. All the old material has been reformatted into the new design. That's what you'll find if you look back into the archives. But the actual design at the time looked like this --- a thin white strip of text against a background of blue, the archeo-tpm, you might say. Over the years, I slowly gave way to adamant and sometimes pointed reader pressure for widening the text area until it ended up as it is now.

In any case, for the first couple years I did the site, I did everything by myself. Then for each of the last two years it's been me and one part-time unpaid intern, first Zander Dryer and now Avi Zenilman. But the new site is going to include a bunch of new administrative responsibilities. So that's what's behind the decision. A good deal of that will be dealing with the discussion areas where readers will be able to hash out the big questions and challenges the country is facing today. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we're going to try to do a lot more of the tracking of particular stories and legislative issues. More specifically, we're going to open up that part of what this site does to readers themselves.

I don't have to tell you that starting at the end of last year I turned almost all my energy at TPM over to following the Social Security story and tracking just where everyone on Capitol Hill was on the issue. By and large, TPM Readers strongly supported that decision. But in addition to the few who just found it too monotonous, which I can understand, there were others who wrote in asking why there wasn't more attention to all the other important issues.

Now, to me, Social Security was the defining issue of the beginning of the second Bush administration. I think it still is. But the reason I focused entirely on that one issue wasn't simply because I thought it was so important. On a more mundane level, it's just not possible for one person to immerse him or herself so deeply in more than one issue at a time. So one of the things we're trying to accomplish with the new site is to give groups of people venues to dig into these issues on their own as well as to host individual, topic-focused blogs that will zero in on particular issues. (Some parts of the site are going to come online slower than others and I've no doubt that a lot of experimentation and tinkering, much based on your insights and feedback, will be involved.) And helping organize that is going to require at least one more set of hands.

A few times in the past we've had little mini-fundraising drives for reporting trips to New Hampshire and the conventions and more recently for our contest T-Shirts. Next week, we're going to do another big round of fund-raising to put together some start-up funds for the new operation. So we'll be bringing you more information about that shortly.

Finally, we've gotten a lot of emails with questions about the new site and, even more helpfully, suggestions. So please keep them coming. They're very helpful and much appreciated.

More news soon.

DeNote to DeLay: We've got so much love to give. Isn't this our time?

Today ABC's The Note today gives Tom DeLay an advance exoneration and asks for an interview with the bug man.

Saith the Notesters: "And/but without a functioning House ethics committee, there is no natural forum in which Leader DeLay can clear up the legit unanswered questions about some of his conduct. And/but his unwillingness to do it in the feeding frenzy of a packed press conference seems reasonable. May we suggest an interview with The Note, Dan Allen?"

It's such a tough spot for the bug man, having all these unanswered questions swirling at a time when there's no functioning ethics committee. How could he have known that purging the ethics committee of its three non-DeLay loyalists and forcing through a re-write of the committee's rules to prevent it from issuing any more 'admonishments' of his behavior would lead to such an unhappy impasse?

They say power is the greatest aphrodisiac. And The Note's (as, for that matter, does much of Washington) got it bad.

(Perhaps we can set their moment to Dusty Springfield: "You don't have to say you love me/Just be close at hand. You don't have to stay forever/I will understand.")

You'll want to see the whole thing.

Is it the fruit of the Iraq war? The death of Arafat? The Brits think it's due to their patient lobbying through the course of the first Bush administration. Whatever the reason, the US, and that means the Bush administration, is more closely involved in peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians than it has ever been before. And for a host of reasons, there is actually some reason for hope on the ground where there has not been going back inot the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency.

At 2 PM today at the National Press Club, a new organization CALME (Campaign for American Leadership in the Middle East) is announcing an online petition drive for an open letter to the president commending his renewed attention to the issue and urging him to stay the course, to stick to it, in the face of what are certain to be setbacks in the negotiations and complications in other parts of the region.

(One might less charitably suggest the tendency of some in administration camp to get distracted by more fun ventures like invading other countries. But that's me talking, not them. They're very bipartisan.)

The event today will be emceed by former Joint Chiefs Vice Chair Joe Ralston. And on hand will be former Rep. and 9/11 Commission Co-Chair Lee Hamilton, former Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger and others. And if you go to the website you'll see that they've already compiled an impressive and very politically and religiously diverse least of signers.

The point, however, is not so much to get the bigwigs on board as to get ordinary Americans from across the country to add their voice. It's neither to bash the White House nor rally around it, but commend the recent progress and to get as many Americans as possible to make clear that settling this issue once and for all, with a two state solution, is not just a concern for Arabs and Jews, peaceniks or likudniks, or some peripheral concern, but something the great majority of Americans recognize as both the right thing to do and in America's vital national security interests.

If you'd like to add your voice, visit the site.

Amazing. Fascinating. I'm not sure what else to say, but please do it.

According to Ralph Z. Hallow of the Washington Times, there's a building movement among House conservatives to push ahead with passing a Social Security phase-out bill this year.

The thinking to this point, you'll remember, was that the House wouldn't move until the senate did. Phase-out is a much dicier proposition in the senate than it is in the House. So House Republicans did not want to make a risky vote on phase-out until they were certain the thing actually had some chance of becoming law. Otherwise, they'd run the risk of getting mauled in November 2006 for a wasted vote that Senate Republicans would likely run away from.

But now it seems a few of the ultras in the House have convinced themselves that it's actually good politics to vote on it, send it over to the senate, and if it dies there blame the Democrats.

"Some Senate conservatives privately agree with their House counterparts," writes Hallow, "that the Social Security debate has swirled out of control and that the situation is now playing into the hands of Democrats, who adamantly oppose partial privatization of Social Security. These conservatives say the only way to save the situation is for the House to pass a private-accounts bill and let the Democrats take the blame for blocking Senate passage."

This would be a smart and gutsy strategy if phase-out were popular. But since every public poll available seems to show that it's not popular at all, it's not immediately clear why letting the Democrats stop this unpopular bill in the senate would necessarily be a bad thing for them. Indeed, common sense would suggest that stopping an unpopular piece of legislation would be something they'd be happy to do.

For what it's worth, I doubt very much that it would currently be possible to get a phase-out bill through the House at all. But in purely political terms I have little doubt that the Democrats would love to see them try.

Mike Allen in Thursday's Post: "People who are working in support of DeLay's position said the next several days would be critical, as leaders wait to see whether any other House Republicans call for his resignation."

The House that DeLay built. Over at our Bankruptcy Bill blog, Jason Spitalnick reports that the House is planning to schedule a whopping 30 minutes for the Household Repossession and Foreclosure Empowerment Act of 2005 (aka the Bankruptcy Bill.)