Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here's a thought. Bob Novak pretty much put us on notice a couple weeks ago that the White House and the RNC were going to make a habit of using uniformed military personnel as props at Republican political rallies. This despite the fact that it is a plain violation of military regulations banning politicization of the armed forces.

Now, with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's (R-CO) event in Colorado we seem to have the first actual example of it.

My gut tells me this isn't the only one. But in the nature of things the notations of it will show up only in local papers, well under the radar of the national press. So I'm curious whether folks have seen examples of similar things happening in their own districts. If you've seen examples, let us know.

I've heard from a number of active duty and retired members of the military, including a number of JAG lawyers, and unless there's something very different about Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) event in Colorado than the description of it that appeared in her local paper, it clearly violated the law.

There's another little detail one retired JAG officer brings up, however.

The uniformed member of the military who appears at such an event can be court-martialed for the violation. It's not some technicality in UCMJ terms. But there's no law against a politician or party leader putting them up to it or facilitating it. So there's no risk for them.

So Musgrave and whomever else organized the event is putting this guy's career on the line as well as encouraging this misconduct for their own partisan gain.

Following up on yesterday's post about Michael "Brownie" Brown, former head of FEMA, I've been getting emails from folks on the inside at FEMA, people who worked with him and observed him firsthand when he was leading the agency.

The verdict seems pretty clear: None of them thought he was qualified for the position. But each also had the clear impression that he took his job seriously, learned a lot while he was there and -- perhaps most importantly -- was a big improvement over Joe Allbaugh, President Bush's fixer whom he succeeded as head of the agency.

If there's an online reevaluation of the guy, the new view seems one shared by those who were there as the story unfolded.

Wait a second. Doesn't this break military regulations and probably several laws?

A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that the RNC was apparently working with the White House to send active duty members of the military in uniform to speak on behalf of the president's policies at Republican political events. That's against the law and military regulations. And for good reason since that's a quick ride to making the military -- or factions or individuals in the military -- tools of one or the other political party.

Now we seem to have an example in practice.

This is exactly what appears to have happened yesterday at a political event with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO). This article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan shows a picture of Musgrave doing just that with the caption: "Marilyn Musgrave introduces Marine Sergeant Brandon Forsyth on Friday during the Larimer County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner."

A look at the picture shows pretty clearly that Forsyth was in uniform. Yet those regs linked above say clearly that military personnel can attend partisan events only as spectators and not in uniform. What am I missing?

Jane Hamsher has an interesting post here about the rehabilitation of Michael Brown (aka "Brownie"). Suddenly, Brown, who was the butt of endless jokes and the target of titanic contempt and derision, is a reborn truth-teller and almost a kind of hero to critics of the administration. (Who says there are no second acts? Nowadays it's just a matter of waiting a few months till you get your second act.) Jane links to this post in which Joe Gandelman offers Brown an apology for his earlier criticism; and Brown actually responds, accepting the apology and explaining his current position.

I don't think there's any use or reason to reconsider the conclusion that Brown was manifestly unqualified to be the head of the country's emergency management agency or that he found himself in that job because of his longtime friendship with Joe Allbaugh, one of the president's fixers. He was either guilty of or implicated in various other instances of ridiculousness. He was a poster-child for the administration's essential lack of interest in effective government, as an aim of public service distinct from consolidating political power and paying off political supporters out of the public fisc. Also, for us critics, to the extent there is a Brownie redemption afoot, it is in large part because the same guy many of us lambasted six months ago is now flattering our assumptions about how this administration works.

Still, in this and so many other cases, our assumptions, always based on a lot of factual evidence, are being borne out in spades. And Brown is coming forward with a decent amount of evidence that even if he wasn't the guy who should have had the job, and even if he made plenty of mistakes during Katrina, he wasn't just bumbling along unaware anything serious was happening. If inept and blameworthy himself he seems clearly to have understood the magnitude of the catastrophe that was afoot and took steps to deal with it.

He also is coming forward with what appears to be a decent paper trail showing he had some sense and gave warnings about FEMA's degradation and decline under the consolidated DHS. No one listen.

I can't see glorifying Michael Brown. He shouldn't have been in the job. He screwed up in a lot of different ways. He then carried the administration's water in trying to pin the blame on the locals, what must be a mortal sin in a FEMA Director. But he does get some credit for coming clean now and spilling at least some of the beans. And the beans he's spilled so far show that he's hardly the most blameworthy figure in the administration's shameful and pitiful response to the disaster that befell the Gulf Coast.

Paul Kiel mentioned earlier today that March 23rd is the day. That's when the US government will auction off the ill-begotten gains of disgraced Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). The auction is run by IRS-Criminal Investigation, actually subcontracted to a company called EG&G. But I digress.

The loot -- mainly antiques and rugs and assorted other uncharacteristically dainty items Duke bagged during his congressional crime-spree -- might fairly be titled the fruit of the Republican Revolution.

In any case, I think we're going to send someone out to cover this.

The auction is on the 23rd in Rancho Dominguez, California, which actually appears to be in Compton, from what I can tell. But on the two days previous you can actually go inspect the merchandise at the EG&G Technical Services warehouse, located at 2332 E. Pacifica Place, Rancho Dominguez, CA. It's open to the public and so presumably to one of our muckrakers too.

For instance, we'd like to get a closer look at this rug Duke got in exchange for getting the Pentagon to buy junk.


I'm not sure what a Bidjar is or a Mahei, though the later sounds like something I'd eat with rice and seawweed. In any case, I'd be interested to know.

This sounds fascinating too ...


I always thought a commode was a toilet. But apparently when you ascend further into the cultural stratosphere it's actually a chest of drawers.

We'll be bringing you more on this.

Earlier today I mentioned the report that the CIA Inspector General has opened an investigation into Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, the Executive Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. As we noted, the investigation stems from Foggo's lifelong friendship and close professional association with Brent Wilkes, the biggest fraudster at the heart of the Duke Cunningham.

Here's the key point to keep in mind here -- here and in the rest of the investigations the Cunningham case is likely to spawn. These guys were smart (Wilkes and his protege Mitchell Wade). They ran these scams in the 'black' parts of the Pentagon budget and in intelligence procurement. The 'black' stuff is top secret. Not only is it hidden from the public and all forms of public disclosure; it's not scrutinized very closely or even allowed to be seen by very many people on Capitol Hill.

There are reasons for having top secret programs in the defense and intel sphere. But it's an invitation for corruption, because few of the checks on corruption are in place. Rivers of money can just disappear. Doing his dirty work in the top secret parts of the budget was Brent Wilkes' racket. He taught it to Mitch Wade. The fact that he was tight with the #3 guy at CIA who came out of the Agency's procurement bureaucracy raises all sorts of red flags. As well it should.

Close down the Agency and just go with INR?

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy has a great post here about another case where US policymakers (Condi Rice) said a political outcome abroad -- (Hamas' election victory in the Palestinian Authority) couldn't have been predicted when in fact their own intelligence experts did predict it.

"I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas' strong showing," Condi said after Hamas won the Palestinian elections. But INR -- the State Department's in-house intel shop -- more or less predicted the result.