Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

To bamboozle or palooza. That is the question, or something like that from TPM Reader BR ...

Actually, the Bamboozlepalooza tour is worse this time and even more insulting. With Social Security, Bush was pushing his proposed change in basic program of Social Security. With Medicare Part D, the Administration and its minions are fanning out on a PR CAMPAIGN regarding a program that is currently being implemented and causing serious problems and raising a number of issues. What they SHOULD be doing, is staying in DC and fixing the problems, figuring out a way to better inform beneficiaries and the medical community, and appeasing the States who have been left holding the bag. The administration will not admit the program has serious flaws (pointed out not only in the media, but internal HHS studies as well)--shades of Iraq! Maybe if we put Condi in charge of rebuilding Part D...

Pretty much.

It really is Bamboozlepalooza all over again.

From the Post: "President Bush's top health advisers will fan out across the country this week to quell rising discontent with a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that has tens of thousands of elderly and disabled Americans, their pharmacists, and governors struggling to resolve myriad start-up problems."

Will these events be open to the public? Who are the attendees?

A bold idea from Josh Marshall, sorta-well-known scribbler!

As long as we're cleaning house, can we also crack down on the pro-member of Congress cab system in DC? And down with those separate elevators in the Capitol that are only for members of Congress.

Who is so stupid or so venal as to make this whole story an issue of who can put more road blocks in the way of bagging a free meal or filling out more forms when you take your bribes?

As we noted last night, Scott McClellan first said he would arrange a list of times Jack Abramoff visited the White House over the last five years. Now he says the White House won't release details of any of the staff-level meetings Abramoff attended at the White House.

We're looking for newspapers which choose to editorialize about this. If yours does, let us know.

Have you seen this headline?

Key presidential advisor used non-profit to launder Abramoff money.

You probably haven't. But it's a key part of the Abramoff story. And really just the beginning. The individual facts are all out there, sure. Grover Norquist is one of the two or three top Republican political operatives in Republican Washington. He's a close advisor to President Bush. Among other things he used his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, as a pass-through to hide the fact that Ralph Reed was getting his money for 'anti-gambling' activism from Washington's top Indian casino lobbyist.

I don't know about the law of non-profits and 501c3s. But that's got to be an abuse of some sort.

On front after front these scandals go right into the White House. A top official at the OMB arrested? The Deputy Secretary of the Interior Department under criminal investigation? Abramoff's former chief assistant a top White House aide?

Why the unwillingness to pursue this?

Annals of Medicare Part D ...

I'm too overwhelmed to do much with the Medicare Blog, but I think it is a great idea. I did want to offer an anecdote for you though. I have just started on the inpatient cardiology service at xxxxxx and have admitted two patients to the hospital in the past 24 hours who were unable to get important medicines as a result of the new plan (or lack there of). It is truly amazing! I don't think either is life threatening, but they both could have and will cost the tax payers and Medicare tens of thousands of dollars in needless hospital days. Moreover, we are running at 110% capacity now with some patients spending three days in the ER waiting for a bed. These Medicare admissions have obviously not helped.

Now doubt, more to come.

There's been a lot of discussion in recent weeks of President Bush's aggressive use of so-called 'signing statements'. They got attention lately because of the one he signed which argued, in so many words, that he did not believe that the 'McCain law' barring torture was actually binding on him.

The point of these signing statements is to achieve for presidents something like what Congress does through so-called 'legislative intent'. By one measure the law is just what is down there in black letter in the legislation itself. But courts will frequently also look at what Congress thought it was doing, what it intended to do, when it passed the law. So they'll look at the debates which accompanied the legislation, stuff various members put into the Congressional Record, and so forth.

This process is easily abused. But that's a separate matter. At least in principle, some review of legislative intent seems reasonable in interpreting legislation, though divining what the intent actually was is likely much easier said than done.

But back to signing statements. Again, the idea seems to be here to allow the president his own version of legislative intent, to imbed what he thinks the law means into the record, presumably for future courts to take into consideration or to justify at some later point how he chooses to implement the law.

Sam Alito, twenty years, wrote that "Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress."

(As with John Yoo, this seems to me to be another example of how the greatest threat to our constitution may be the noodling of brainiac young lawyers who ply their wizbang 'logic' in the absence of what seems like just about any serious historical grounding in the traditions and practices of our system of government.)

But as Andrew Sullivan notes here and elsewhere, the president's understanding of the law or interpretation of it is irrelevant. Indeed, to imagine that this is not so turns the whole structure of our government on its head.

Congress makes laws. The president has all sorts of power invested in him by the discretion he has in enforcing the laws. But what the laws are, what they mean, is entirely beyond his purview.

Parsing this out can just be an exercise in high school civics. And at the margins it may be a fine point. But there's something big going on here.

This is the executive invading the territory of the Congress and to an extent also the judiciary. Now, I know I'm not the first one to say or realize this. There's a body of literature and debate about this theory of the unitary executive.

But this bunkum about 'signing statements' is a good example, a good opportunity to point out how these theories are solecisms in the scheme of our constitutional structure. For all their chatter about originalism and the constitution, these folks are trying to import alien ideas into the fabric of our republican system of government.

I'm looking for someone to write a limited duration blog about the Medicare prescription drug plan debacle -- the implementation, how the program is structured, who benefits, who doesn't and so forth. This would be a bit like the Social Security blogging we did early last year and a bit like the Special Edition Bankruptcy Bill blog. Basically, we're looking for one or two people to help walk us and our readers through how this program is working or, as it seems, isn't. The person who does this doesn't have to have fancy credentials or a bunch of initials after their name -- just a real world grasp of the nuts and bolts of how this stuff works. If you're interested, drop us a line.

November Santorum: "The K Street project is purely to make sure we have qualified applicants for positions that are in town. From my perspective, it's a good government thing."

January Santorum: "Well, I don't know what you mean by Senate liaison to the, quote, 'K Street Project.' I'm not aware of any Senate liaison job that I do for the K Street Project."

AP: "The White House is refusing to reveal details of tainted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's visits with President Bush's staff. Abramoff had "a few staff-level meetings" at the Bush White House, presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday. But he would not say with whom Abramoff met, which interests he was representing or how he got access to the White House."

Drip, drip, drip ...

K-ching, k-ching, k-ching ...