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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Ahha! The source of the Slam TPM on McKinney campaign is revealed. Who says there's no such thing as grassroots organizing anymore?

I'm trying to think if I can imagine anything more pitiful than Matt Drudge's attempt to pin this all on Clinton by ... well, dredging up some 1998 warning about al Qaida planning attacks on NY and DC. Mmmmmmmmm ... Nope. Couldn't do it.

Potpourri of feedback on TPM's refusing to back down on Cynthia McKinney ...

Fess up, fool, you were wrong, not her.

[ed.note: I coughed up most of my morning ice-coffee laughing when I read that one. Classic.]

Not true. She did not accuse, she questioned. A BIG difference.

Look, Bush & co. dropped the ball. It's painfully obvious this administration is only interested in generating revenue for themselves and their benefactors. When faced with a crisis they do nothing, Enron, the Middle East, now the 9/11 revelations. Cynthia Mckinney is right. Don't turn into a Bush apologist now, unless of course you need the money.

The thing you should aplogize for to Rep. McKinney is that you were so naive as to accept a vague and distorted paraphrase of her remarks as the truth without attempting to check. Consider the source, the lack of actual quotations in the Post article, and the now-standard smarmy editorializing in what claims to be a news story. At one time, journalists were skeptical of the official story. Now, they seem ready to fall for any pap, no matter how cookie cutter. Give me a break: "Post runs story that is dismissive of black liberal democrat and gets sloppy with quotes" is not a shocker.

Well, slings and arrows.

Anyway, a couple points. A number of people have written in insisting I'm wrong but also being gracious enough to say how much they like the site and so forth. I'm literally being flooded with emails this morning so I'm not going to be able to respond to each one. But I really appreciate the kind words and respect your disagreement.

Here's where I am on this though. I've gotten enough emails on this that I went back and looked at what is apparently a transcript of the radio interview in question. Reading the interview I think it's actually true: she doesn't make a direct accusation. She implies intentional inaction and a possible financial motive. And I think it's probably fair to say the original Washington Post piece did over-dramatize what she said.

But frankly, not by that much. And as you can see she gave the Post a statement in which she said: "I am not aware of any evidence showing that President Bush or members of his administration have personally profited from the attacks of 9-11. A complete investigation might reveal that to be the case." So I'm really not sure you can say she was running away from the financial motive theory.

As I read McKinney's statements she was implying that the White House may have intentionally let this happen. And possibly with a financial motive. The difference between a collosal screw-up and intentionally letting something like this happen is not a difference of degree. It's a difference in kind.

Do I think these new revelations are a big deal? Absolutely. I think the White House has some real trouble on its hands. Maybe a lot of trouble. Bring on the investigation. Let's find out. I just don't think any of this is the same as what McKinney was talking about.

I guess you could say that these pre-9/11 warning stories are amounting to something of a bad press day for the Bush White House. I have to confess, though, that I have an unhelpful tendency to want to defend the administration rather than go on the attack.

(Don't get me wrong. I'm going to try to overcome it. And I'm sure I'll be able to. I'm just letting you know where I am right now.)

The one thing I'm quite happy about is that this will take a good bit of the bloom off that pro-Bush, anti-Clinton war-on-terrorism swagger. Hell, it might even shame some pundits (ones who have weblogs and are picking fights with Howell Raines) into backing off a bit on the pro-Bush cockiness.

I will say this: these new revelations make the administration's efforts to quash an investigation (Cheney's call to Daschle, etc.) look EXTREMELY cynical ("if we have any investigation, the terrorists will have won!").

One other thing: how long until someone looks super-close at that controversial September 11th picture of Bush now being hawked by the RNC for fund-raising purposes, and sees a little note in his vest pocket that says "Note to self: Ask Dick about the hijacking warnings about the Arab guy. Sam Laden? Ledeen? Does this have something to do with the tax cut too?"

Anyway, having said all that, in these situations I always come back to the Clinton rule: what would I think if Clinton were getting attacked in this situation. Of course, this doesn't occur to most of the Bush boosters. But then they're intellectually dishonest hacks and I'd rather not join them in their hackery. In this case, presidents get lots of information over the transom, lots of it that looks pretty scary. Most of it doesn't happen. If any of it does and it comes out that you got a scrap of paper warning that something like this could happen, you know you will end up looking really, really bad. It's a very tough situation.

Anyway, I've got to get to work. So more on this later. But all I'm saying is this. These jokers deserve lots of criticism for sitting on this info for like eight months or so. But let's look closely at just what they knew, how many other things they were hearing at the same time, how much reason there was for these threats to stand out from the myriad of other ones that routinely get included in the president's intel briefing. I'm totally ready to attack these guys for screwing up if they did. And they may well have. But let's just wait and see.

Back to work. Saddam calls.

With the new revelations that President Bush had some intelligence warnings of potential Al Qaida plane hijackings I'm getting tons of emails saying I owe an apology to Rep. Cynthia McKinney for my earlier criticism of her.

No apology is in order.

I've long said there should be an investigation into how much our intelligence services had picked up about the plot, what they should have done differently, how they might have better protected the country, etc.

It doesn't surprise me at all that some embarrassing revelations are now emerging, though we should keep in mind the distinction between signals and noise in intelligence collection, and how hard they can be to distinguish from each other.

McKinney said something very different however. She accused the White House of having specific foreknowledge of the attack and intentionally failing to act so as to justify a future military build-up, from which many members of the administration would personally profit. If that were true it would be criminal, to put it mildly. But there is absolutely no evidence I have seen even remotely pointing toward its being true.

So I am quite comfortable with my earlier comments.

Last night I noted that Mickey Kaus said that some Pew polling data about 'secular Democrats' and support for Israel wasn't backed up by his informal tally of the views of him and his friends -- who are mainly secular Democrats. I noted -- gently, very gently -- that there might be a bit of tribal sample bias at work in Mickey's survey.

This morning Glenn Reynolds (aka Instapundit) says: "I THINK THAT JOSH MARSHALL is wrong about this. After all, I'm not Jewish."

But does Instapundit strike you as a 'secular Democrat'?

Me neither.

My friend and perpetual inspiration Mickey Kaus questions or at least wonders out loud about a Pew poll which says that among 'secular Democrats' 28 percent sympathized with the Palestinians and 26 percent sympathized with the Israelis in the current round of ritual bloodletting. Let me quote the master at length:

I note the I'm a secular Democrat. Many of my friends are secular Democrats. And I don't think any of them would have told a pollster, since the suicide bombings began, that they "sympathized with the Palestinians" over the Israelis, even if they supported Palestinian's long-term aspirations to statehood. ... Keep in mind, the result for all those polled (in the Post-ABC survey Kohut seems to be talking about) was 49-14 in favor of Israel. ... There must be something funny in how "secular Democrat" is defined. Do you have to actively check off a box labeled "secular"? Are you denied "secular" status if you ever set foot in a church or synagogue? ... Either the Post-ABC poll is screwed up, or advocates for the Palestinians have been more successful than anyone thought. One Zogby or another has reason to be happy. But which one? ...

Isn't there a frighteningly straightforward answer to this mystery? Mickey is JEWISH. His friends are disproportionately JEWISH compared to the rest of the population. As Seinfeld would say, not that there's anything wrong with that. I'm Jewish too. But I think this is the answer to the mystery.

Back in the Clinton days I used to get really pissed at Jimmy Carter for stickng his nose into foreign policy stuff. Really pissed. But in Cuba this week Carter is making the Bush administration look like idiots and they really have only themselves to blame.

John Bolton's charge that Cuba has an offensive bioweapons program was clearly intended both to embarrass Carter and to minimize any good press Castro might get from Carter's feel-good visit.

But Carter has pretty effectively turned the tables on them. Obviously his personal inspection of a biotechnology facility means nothing. But you can't say the same for what he says he was told in his pre-visit State Department and CIA briefing. Carter claims he asked and was told the US had no evidence such a program existed. And now the former president has said so publicly.

Castro may not deserve good press. But he sure is getting it. And John Bolton looks like a mendacious, reckless ideologue who's happy to squander American anti-WMD credibility on the dopey sideshow of anti-Castro foolery.

A Bush administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Cuba has 'a number of projects that are what could be dual-use things, but they're probably not. . . . It's a question more of them exciting suspicions by not being open. I don't know of any tangible stuff that shows yes, they are making anthrax [or anything else]. There is stuff we don't know about.'

This is the key graf from today's Washington Post piece about the Bush administration allegations that Cuba has an offensive biological weapons program. An administration official is in so many words saying that Under Secretary of State John Bolton's allegations are crap. As I noted in the earlier post, Cuba has a fairly advanced biotech industry. If you do biotech, almost by definition much of your equipment and facilities are going to be dual-use. So they seem to have nothing. And the actual briefings Carter got from the State and intel people seem to back that up.

This is the problem with the hawks. They often do see certain big picture things with real clarity. But they're irresponsible, reckless, and they often just don't tell the truth.

As I said earlier, Bolton's throw-away remarks about Cuba -- perhaps a sop to Otto Reich -- weaken our hand against Saddam Hussein. If you're a hawk, if you really care about weapons of mass destruction, you should be angry with Bolton. If you think this is just a parlor game then maybe you won't mind.

I really, really, really want to recommend a book to you. It's called Strange Victory: Hitler's Conquest of France and it's by Ernest R. May, a highly respected diplomatic historian. There are two reasons why this book is so good. The first is that it is just a marvelously engrossing narrative of one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th Century: the lead-up to the Second World War and particularly Hitler's lightning victory over France in May and June of 1940. It's just a very polished, compelling World War Two book and a very good read.

But it's much more than that.

May begins with a question that most of us would probably not imagine really was a question. That is, why did France lose?

From the newsreels, many histories, and the mythology of appeasement you'd get the impression that this was just a given, that Germany was strong and armed-to-the-teeth and France was unprepared and weak. But this just wasn't the case. May makes very clear that France (and especially France and Britain together) were both quantitatively and qualitatively stronger and better prepared for war. Simply put, on balance, they had more stuff and better stuff.

So then the question: why did they lose and lose so quickly?

May provides a complex series of answers to this question. But the key ones are easily stated.

One, the French intelligence services were inefficiently organized and intelligence gathering was not well wedded to policy-making. In other words, though France had better intelligence assets in Germany the French weren't particularly good at analyzing and making use of that information. Nor were they particularly good at crafting policy based on intelligence.

Two, the French military, though professional and well-equipped, was organized around a series of what one might call risk-averse doctrines which made it cumbersome, immobile and less agile and quick to react than it should have been.

May uses diplomatic, military and intelligence sources from the French and the German sides to assemble a very clear view of how the two diplomatic and war-fighting machines operated. May's readily apparent depth of familiarity with these sources is little short of breath-taking.

All of this combined to allow the weaker power, Germany, to defeat the stronger one, France.

What makes this book valuable to read today is that May makes a convincing case that our Western military and intelligence services are much more like that of the French circa 1940 than the Germans. And that's sobering.

This is the rare work of history that has very real application to constructing defense, intelligence and foreign policy today. More on Strange Victory soon.

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