Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.

It seems that National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley has now become a key White House point men for deflecting blame for the president's dishonest road to war. Fair enough, it's a logical role for the head of the NSC.

But Hadley turns out to be a perfect illustration of the doublespeak the administration is now peddling.

As I've noted several times, the White House has hung a lot of its credibility on a slippery distinction. The two major investigations of the WMD debacle found little if any evidence of the White House's pressuring analysts to alter their analytic judgments and estimates of Iraqi WMD capacity. What no commission has yet been allowed to examine is how the White House used those analyses.

Which brings us back to Steve Hadley.

Twice during the lead-up to war, Hadley pushed the CIA to sign off on the president using the Niger uranium claims in speeches dramatizing the danger Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. In December 2002 he failed. In January 2003 he succeeded.

The essential facts aren't even in dispute. In the summer of 2003 Hadley stepped forward with a choreographed apology to the president for allowing the claim into the 2003 State of the Union address. According to Hadley, by January 2003 he had forgotten the two memos he had received from the CIA asking that the Niger claim be removed from the president's speech and the personal call for George Tenet asking the charge to be removed. "The high standards the president set were not met," said Hadley.

This little charade never completely cleared up why, having allegedly forgotten the episode from October, Hadley and his staff again argued with the CIA's Alan Foley in an attempt to get the claim into a speech.

But the basic point is clear.

You have the CIA's analysis: that the Niger claim was unsubstantiated and not credible. Then there was what Hadley and the White House wanted to do with it: have the president level the charge in a high profile speech with no indication the president's intel advisors doubted it was true.

I think this pretty nicely captures the distinction between pressuring analysts to change their judgments and what the president does with the intelligence. And Hadley's your guy if you want to ask the question. Yes, this is only one episode in the long story of obfuscation and misdirection. But it seems to capture the essential point with great clarity. Why did Hadley twice fight to get the CIA to sign off on the president's making a claim that they didn't think was true? Someone should ask him.

A short note from TPM Reader MC ...

I've obviously missed something. When did it become appropriate for the Commander-in-Chief to go onto a military installation before a military crowd and denounce the opposition party? I cannot remember a time in my 21-year career when anything remotely like this happened. Is it just me or are we embarked on something very dark and dangerous for our democracy?

He might have added that it's also on the eve of a trip abroad.