Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We have a decent number of active duty Air Force readers. Can someone tell me if there's anything to this?

Larry Johnson: "There is a fundamental moral and ethical difference between someone who leaks information in order to serve the public good and someone, like George Bush, who authorizes leaks only for the purpose of saving his sorry political ass."

The post below is one of those shots of indictment and outrage mixed with a few literary detours. But somehow I feel the mood of the moment, the truth of the moment, is less outrage as it is surreality.

Consider this exchange between Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Laura Ingraham from a few days ago ...

INGRAHAM: Are you confident that that estimate of a few days ago of being five years or perhaps even ten years away is realistic and accurate given the fact that in the past we've certainly underestimated nuclear capabilities?


INGRAHAM: No which part?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No, I'm not confident.


SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think it's a very difficult target for our intelligence community. They work hard at it and they're fine people, but it's a difficult thing to do. Our visibility into their circumstance is imperfect. I would add that if one is asked the question how long would it take them to do certain things totally, alone, on an indigenous basis without assistance from other countries you'd get one answer. If you said to them, if you said what if they were able to get ballistic missiles from North Korea, as they have, and what if they were able to acquire fissile material from somebody? How long would it take? I think you'd get a somewhat different answer.

They work hard at it and they're fine people.

I guess you might call that The Unbearable Arrogance of an Unmatchable Failure.

This is right out of 2002, the snide and contemptuous pats on the back to the fuddy-duddies in the intelligence agencies who lack the 20/20 masculinity and ass-kicking philosophy to see what needs to be done and do it.

I guess Rumsfeld didn't catch the last three years or notice that we're in the springtime of an unfolding national catastrophe due in large measure to the last time he chose to talk out of his behind with, it would seem, either no idea what he was talking about or a complete indifference to the truth of what he was discussing.

Like I said, bizarre.

Is anyone taking him seriously the second time?

Marx tells us that history happens first as tragedy, and then a second time as farce. But he leaves us entirely at sea when it comes to the seventh or eighth time. So, really, what are we to make of the news that James A. Baker is leading an elder-statesman fact finding mission to Iraq to "generate new ideas on Iraq."

Perhaps we need Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence more than Eighteenth Brumaire because, haven't we been through this movie before?

Didn't we do this back in like 2003? Baker was going to kick everything into shape on Iraqi debt forgiveness. Not quite sure whatever became of that.

The Times bandies about the comparison between this Baker mission and Lyndon Johnson's calling back of Dean Acheson as he, Johnson, began to seriously question and eventually abandon his policy in Vietnam. The Times concedes that the analogy is "far from perfect." But that seems like rather an understatement.

Johnson eventually halted the bombing of North Vietnam and announced he wouldn't run for reelection. In effect, he resigned the presidency, though he remained to serve the remaining ten months of his constitutional term of office. It's probably the closest thing you'll ever see in American politics to an admission of failure followed by an intentional act of political self-immolation.

Does anyone imagine anything even remotely like that in the offing?

The president is stuck on telling us that Don Rumsfeld has done a bang up job as defense secretary.

And even with the rising chorus of retired generals calling for Rumsfeld's ouster, isn't this just displacement? Don Rumsfeld works for the president. This is the president's administration in more than just the obvious, literal sense. These are his policies. It's his denial, his indifference to the failure of his policies and the incompetence of his subordinates. As David Remnick put it recently in The New Yorker, the man in the Oval Office "does not much believe in science or, for that matter, in any information that disturbs his prejudices, his fantasies, or his sleep."

The president is accountable, not just in the sense that the president is by definition accountable, but because these failures are his failures. They stem from his weaknesses -- his inability to summon the courage to make tough decisions, his addiction to sycophants, his penchant for denial.

We'd be fools to expect any change when the president lacks the guts to recognize his failures let alone try to fix them.

Different worlds.

An email from someone who appears to be new to the site ...

Enough already. What you are citing was a minority opinion. How minority? Try in contradiction to the assessment of every major intelligence agency, including the CIA, which was headed by Clinton appointee Tenet. This effort, where you take the opinion of a single analyst, based on a single source, and try to claim that this proves against all relevant disclosures of the predominate pre-war intelligence that the pre-war intelligence squares with apparent post-war relevations is a very shoddy type of revisionism. It depends on making the entire Clinton administration disappear. (Even Clarke and McCarthy remain of the view, to cite a single example, that the Sudan pharmaceutical plant was part of the Iraq WMD program. If I recall that was in 1998.) Democratic world view is that what was indisputably a bipartisan fact until at least 2002 when the question of actual war emerged, and what remained a predominate opinion even among the Clintonians, can be conjured away and voters like me, who used to vote Democrat, never bothered to read a newspaper in the interim. What it all amounts to is playing games with issues of national security.

Last week I mentioned that there's a very bad bill moving through Congress. It's supported overwhelmingly by Republicans but also by a lot of Democrats too. Basically the bill would turn over the control of the Internet to the phone companies -- though 'phone companies' is probably now an antiquated phrase for Verizon and AT&T and other such outfits. There's a lot more underlying complexity to it of course. But the change could make it much harder to access TPM or any source of news or entertainment that isn't owned by some big corporation or, more likely, have the inside track with one of the phone companies. If you're cool with AT&T deciding the sources of use you can access then you probably won't mind. But if you like making those decisions yourself, you may want to speak up.

Here's one group mobilizing against the bill: savetheinternet.com. Another group that is on the case is publicknowledge.org.

This isn't some obscure issue of interest only to policy wonks. It may seem like it, but it's not. It's a very big deal and I strongly encourage you to find out what's going on.

We tend to take for granted how the Internet evolved. For all its shortcomings, it is a remarkably level playing field where all sorts of voices -- the strong and the weak, the popular and the despised -- can all make their voices heard. Yes, Viacom's voice is louder than TPM's or Atrios's or Newsmax's. But if you want to read TPM, we're right here, just as easy to visit as the media giants.

But it won't necessarily stay that way.

The Internet could have evolved very, very differently. It could have turned in to one or two big proprietary networks -- maybe AOL and Compuserve, or AOL and MSN, each closed, each controlled by one company, without the dynamism, freedom and entrepreneurial magic we associate with the web. The big media offerings would be easy to get to and easy to download while the blogs and other moderately funded alternatives, right and left, had to make do with second or third tier access. Or maybe Verizon decides that anti-Verizon content just won't run on their network.

Think of it like Cable TV. Anybody can start a cable channel. But if you can't get on TimeWarner Cable here in Manhattan, for me you might as well not even exist. The Internet could work like that.

It could have been that way. And it could still become that way. That's what this new debate is about. Find out more about it. And see what you can do to make your voice heard.

Yesterday evening I noted the Tyler Drumheller inteview on 60 Minutes and asked why little or none of what he had to say had made it into the reports of either the Robb-Silbermann Commission or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence reports on Iraqi WMD intelligence. As I reported in that post, Drumheller was interviewed by the Robb-Silbermann Commission three times prior to the issuance of its report and twice by the Senate Committee, though in the latter case only after its summer 2004 report came out.

Now, a number of readers have written in to ask whether it might not be the case that only staffers or investigators on the Robb-Silbermann Commission interviewed in Drumheller. In that case, perhaps his information never made its way up to the Commissioners themselves.

Not so.

I called Drumheller back today and asked him who from the Robb-Silbermann Commission interviewed him.

He told me that at his main interview -- where he discussed everything he discussed on 60 Minutes -- he was interviewed by the entire commission. That means Sen. Robb was there, Sen. McCain, Judge Silbermann, everybody. (You can see the complete commission roster here.)

On two other occasions, said Drumheller, he was interviewed by commission staffers. But he estimated that his interview before the full commission went on for between two and three hours. And he assured me that they heard everything that 60 Minutes viewers heard yesterday evening and more.

Why his account didn't get into their report is something they can answer. But they can't say they didn't hear it.

On Friday, Jon Landay had a piece on the latest Iran bamboozlement out of the Bush administration. The State Department's top arms control guy, Robert Joseph, says "We are very close to that point of no return" on Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Remember though, in last gig at the NSC, Bob Joseph was the guy charged with browbeating the CIA into letting the president use the Niger-uranium story in his 2003 state of the union address, even though Agency officials told him and other White House officials repeatedly that there was nothing to it.

Just no reason to take anything Bob Joseph says even remotely seriously on this question. His credibility is shot.