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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay, maybe I'm willing to be a bit bolder now (though probably late for the party) and say that no, I'm not at all clear that Harriet Miers is ever going to sit on the Supreme Court. The Times today quotes a staff lawyer to one Republican member of the Judiciary Committee saying: "Everybody is hoping that something will happen on Miers, either that the president would withdraw her or she would realize she is not up to it and pull out while she has some dignity intact."

Down further into the article we find out that Judiciary Republicans actually have their staffs working on anti-Miers research. If the Times report at all accurately reflects what's going on up there, that is a very big deal.

Clearly, at this point Miers has significant, if still silent, Republican opposition in the Senate. They want her gone. But they're not yet willing to have it be at the expense of dealing the president a major political reverse.

So how many Republicans will prove willing to come out against her? And which ones?

One interesting dimension of this Kabuki theater exercise is that it's not even completely clear which part of the Republican caucus open defections could come from. The White House now seems to be banking everything on the claim that Miers is a down-the-line evangelical Christian (I guess we might call this 'extreme originalism'). But Sen. Brownback, one of the most staunch pro-lifers in the Senate, seems to be most out in front questioning whether she should be on the Court.

As I wrote a few days ago, I think the real issue is not that there's yet that much focused and public opposition to Miers. The issue is just who the White House can find to champion this nomination or defend it. So far, I don't think I've heard one senator come out strongly for her. Pretty much the same thing with the standard GOP pressure groups on the outside.

With so little force propelling this pick forward, it won't take much to knock it back for good.

There are certainly a lot of hints, allegations and murmurs out there tonight, particularly on the bloggier part of the web, about what might be coming down the pike from Patrick Fitzgerald. My favorite is this snippet from Hardball -- caught and excerpted on John Aravosis' Americablog -- which has Howard Fineman describing an alleged pre-indictment (political) death struggle pitting Karl Rove against Andy Card.

Gotta love that. Whether it's true or not, who knows?

In any case, an article (sub.req.) in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal contains this pleasant sounding sentence: "Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy."

And then further down there's this: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims."

First of all, it did play a big role. That's where the push back came from.

If this description is accurate, it must have many folks at the White House in cold sweats.

If Karl Rove goes down in this investigation it'll be a disaster for the president, both in terms of the damage occasioned by such a high-level White House indictment and, frankly, because he needs the guy like most of us need legs.

But this WHIG thing is a whole 'nother level of hurt.

This group was the organizational team, the core group behind all the shameless crap that went down in the lead up to the Iraq war -- the lies about the cooked up Niger story, everything. If Fitzgerald has lassoed this operation into a criminal conspiracy, the veil of protective secrecy in which the whole operation is still shrouded will be pulled back. Depositions and sworn statements in on-going investigations have a way of doing that. Ask Bill Clinton. Every key person in the White House will be touched by it. And all sorts of ugly tales could spill out.

Back in the old days a congressman arrested for a DWI was a pretty big deal. But with half of the political establishment in DC about to be indicted, I guess this sort of thing just doesn't show up on the radar.

A friend in need is a ...

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As it happens, the NRCC misspelled his name. It's Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX). He's one of the freshman Republicans from Texas elected by DeLay's redistricting scam. Also was Treasurer of Arbusto, one of President Bush's many failed business ventures.

Late Update: As long as we're on the subject, given past experience, Conaway looks like a pretty good shot for Fed Chair.

Just out from Murray Waas in National Journal: "In two appearances before the federal grand jury investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's name, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, the chief of staff to Vice President Cheney, did not disclose a crucial conversation that he had with New York Times reporter Judith Miller in June 2003 about the operative, Valerie Plame, according to sources with firsthand knowledge of his sworn testimony. Libby also did not disclose the June 23 conversation when he was twice interviewed by FBI agents working on the Plame leak investigation, the sources said. Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald apparently learned about the June 23 conversation for the first time just days ago, after attorneys for Miller and The New York Times informed prosecutors that Miller had discovered a set of notes on the conversation."

As I suspected it would, my post from earlier today about the Iraq spurred a storm of emails, many heated and indignant. But there also seemed to be more than a bit of confusion about just I was trying to say -- no doubt because of my lack of clarity.

So, on the main issue: We never would have gotten inspectors back into Iraq without a credible threat of force. But once the inspectors were in, they quickly began undermining the case that there was any serious WMD program or capability in Iraq. Had we pursued the inspections process in good faith, which we would have done had our true goal been eliminating WMDs (or confirming they weren't there), we probably would have avoided this current mess because the war never would have started.

That was my point.

An article by James Cramer in New York magazine predicting what has been obvious since 2002: that President Bush's fiscal profligacy is pushing the nation toward a harrowing economic crisis.

Matt Yglesias has a shrewd post on the on-going meta-debate about the what ifs and coulda shouldas of Iraq. Matt is advancing the increasingly convincing argument that even under the most competent and well-supplied management the entire Iraq endeavor may have been doomed to failure.

I said some of my piece on this question last month. But let me suggest another fold of the debate that seems seldom discussed nowadays.

All of our reasoning on this subject today is governed by the fact that it has proven an immensely challenging, perhaps impossible task. That weighs against the fact that the key casus belli -- the presence of weapons of mass destruction -- turned out to be false.

So we have an immensely difficult, even impossible, challenge that we embarked on -- let's be frank -- for no good reason. And you don't have to be a genius to add up the pros and cons of that one.

But what if there had been weapons of mass destruction? Some in place and an active program under way?

Yes, I know this is a counter-factual which you may think has no particular point or reason now. But bear with me.

The notional reason for what happened in 2002 and early 2003 was not to overthrow the Iraqi government but to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction program. To many it seemed that the latter almost necessarily required the former. And under the erroneous information then considered conventional wisdom, that reasoning had a certain logic.

But here's the key. If our goal had actually been the elimination of a dangerous weapons of mass destruction program -- the one challenge that might conceivably have merited the mess we've gotten ourselves into -- we might well not be in this situation at all.

Support for war really could be contingent on this question. And forcing intrusive inspections could have -- indeed, it was in the course of demonstrating that the WMD threat was bogus and that war was unnecessary. That was the reason the White House was so eager to launch the war when it did. Their rationale was in the midst of being cut out from under them.

The difficulty of the situation we're in can't be evaluated without an accounting of whether we had a good reason to get ourselves into this mess. And I guess I'm saying that there was a way we could have had our cake and eaten it too.

Now, some of you will say that my argument here is an effort to rationalize or justify my one-time, contigent support for war. And to some degree that is certainly right. In a case like this everyone's motives and biases deserve scrutiny. Still I think this part of the equation gets too little attention today. There is another part of this puzzle beside easy reconstruction vs. disastrous reconstruction and WMDs vs. no WMDs.

Of course, this leaves aside the folly of intentions that I think was the liberal hawks' greatest error.

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