Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

On observation of no particular political import, but interesting nonetheless. From TPM Reader DW ...

Here's a painfully obvious observation. Untold millions of tax dollars are spent on secret service agents and what-not, and the veep is prancing around the wilds with a bunch of other men of a certain age, all carrying GUNS? Let's assume that there isn't anything particularly different about Mr. Cheney that would cause him to make this kind of mistake, which then means that any of his hunting buddies could have been the one to go oops, and he could have been on the business end of the fire-stick. Boom! What were they thinking?

Makes ya think.

Are you over-insured in health insurance terms? Do you feel like you should be spending more out of pocket? If you say yes to both questions, then you and President Bush agree about what's wrong with the nation's health care system.

"When you go buy a car you're able to shop and compare," says President Bush. "And yet in health care that's just not happening in America today."

Is figuring out which cancer test to take like buying a car? Figuring out whether to get that headache checked?

What planet does President Bush live on exactly?

Functioning markets are wonderful thing. Our whole economic system is based on them. But any serious student of markets understands that to function they require at least a threshold level of informed and rational actors. Neither is really the case on the consumer end of the health care market.

That sets aside the question of the moral equities involved in placing more price pressures on individuals as they choose the quality of health care they get for their families. And it entirely ignores the really straightforward point that isolating health care purchasing to individuals pretty much guarantees that the cost to the individual is much higher.

This is bad policy and bad politics. The president's opposition would do well by their country to attack him on every point.

A short follow-up on this question of the vice president's alleged power to declassify. In this post, Steven Aftergood, who knows a lot about these things, says that the vice president probably doesn't have this authority, except in cases where he or his office did the original classification.

However, several TPM lawyer-readers tell me that is probably too narrow a reading of the order and that Cheney probably does have the authority, or at least a colorable claim to it.

We'll bring you more as we learn more.


Byron York has a piece up at NRO examining a little-scrutinized Executive Order 13292, dated March 25, 2003, while the Niger-Wilson-Plame story was bubbling away out of public view.

Byron has the precise details. But the gist is that the president delegated what would appear to be all his powers to classify information. That in itself is a stunning aggrandizement of power for the vice president, who historically (and constitutionally) has very little de jure power. And given his penchant for government secrecy, it's little surprise that Cheney would press to have such power.

But most of the discussion about this turns on the power to declassify. (Indeed, in the key passage in Cheney's interview with Brit Hume yesterday, he makes the connection.) It would make sense to me if, in the administrative or statute law, the power to classify assumes or equates to the power to declassify as well. But the executive order Byron notes doesn't speak specifically of the power to declassify.

Anyone have any more details or information relevant to this?

Late Update: Here is the full text of the executive order.

As luck would have it, I spent Tuesday and Wednesday making my way through a really nasty stomach virus. So I didn't actually catch the Cheney interview live (or, at least, live as broadcast).

But this Kevin Drum catch is great ...

Finally, Hume suggested that since this was obviously a national story, Cheney should have informed the national press and gotten the word out sooner. Cheney's reply: "It isn't easy to do that. Are they going to take my word for what happened?"

Seriously? Cheney's story is that his own credibility is so poor that a statement from him would have been worthless? Is he really going to stick to that as his explanation?

That's great. It's the Cheney-patented self-reinforcing cycle of bamboozlement and mendacity. I've covered up so many things that no one trusts me. So you can hardly expect me to start coming clean now, right?

Oh, TPM Reader AC is right. You just can't make this stuff up.

Earlier I noted David Brooks' reference to this site in today's column in the Times. And as part of that I noted David's past record of issuing rather crude aspersions of 'conspiracy theorizing' against anyone who had the temerity to question the neo-conservative turn of US foreign policy under the Bush administration.

Now, here's where it gets fun.

By way of example, I linked to this post from January 2004 which referenced one of Brooks' lowest moments in the 'conspiracy' mugging game, the instance in which he implied that the term 'neocon' is in fact an anti-semitic slur. (I think he actually had to issue a retraction in the Times for that lapse; but perhaps someone else can remind me.)

In any case, TPM Reader AC went back to the original column (which is of course behind the Times' Times-Select veil) in which this choice paragraph appears (emphasis added) ...

Theories about the tightly knit neocon cabal came in waves. One day you read that neocons were pushing plans to finish off Iraq and move into Syria. Web sites appeared detailing neocon conspiracies; my favorite described a neocon outing organized by Dick Cheney to hunt for humans. The Asian press had the most lurid stories; the European press the most thorough. Every day, it seemed, Le Monde or some deep-thinking German paper would have an exposé on the neocon cabal, complete with charts connecting all the conspirators.

As you can see, crude and a tad vulgar (especially in the three grafs which follow the one above), but occasionally, well ... prescient?

This issue of Dick Cheney's claimed right to declassify information at will is a very big deal -- both in terms of the White House's continued claims to be above the law and for Scooter Libby's trial defense.

Basically, Cheney is claiming that if Cheney decides to leak it, then by definition, it's not classified. Sort of like daubing holy water over the information in question. There's some question over whether the president might have that ability; no question, as far as I can see, that the vice president has no such right.

This is another of Cheney's efforts to claim that he is unbounded by the law. Steve Clemons has more.

Justice Department investigating its own role in warrantless wiretap case?

According to a letter which Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) received today from the Justice Department's Counsel for the Office of Professional Responsibility, the OPR has opened an investigation into "the Department of Justice's role in authorizing, approving and auditing certain surveillance activities on the National Security Agency [NSA], and whether such activities are permissible under existing law."

Here's an AP article here.

See the letter here.

I notice that in David Brooks' column today he singles out this humble blog as an example of the "the keyboard jockeys [who] had a responsibility to sniff up vast conspiracies and get lost in creepy minutiae."

Now, speaking of everyone playing their assigned roles, I understand that David's role is to clothe all this stuff over with the gauze of morality and forgetfullness. But one thing did jump out at me -- David's use of the phraseology of 'conspiracies' and particularly those of a 'vast' sort.

This was precisely the language David used back in 2003 and 2004 when his role of choice was running interference against anyone and everyone who questioned the execution of or motives behind the Iraq War -- or alleging anti-semitism. Of course, most of those suspicions have now been amply borne out. So for David's heuristic betterment, alleging conspiracies means actually alleging conspiracies. Questioning the accounts of known dissemblers is just common sense.

The bell tolls for Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA). That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.