Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Roll Call (sub.req.): "The Department of Justice has instructed the Senate Ethics Committee to steer clear of any investigations into actions involving ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, warning the panel it has “concerns” that any such probes could interfere with its long-running investigation."

Harry Whittington released from hospital in Corpus Christi.

Says Whittington: "My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this week."

Senator Specter won't be outdone by Sen. Santorum in ethics shenanigans. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.

Wow, that doesn't sound too smart.

Readers of this site know there's always been some pretty telling circumstantial evidence that Jack Abramoff's business partner Adam Kidan had a role in the mob-style execution of their estranged SunCruz business partner Gus Boulis.

Two of three eventually arrested for the murder, each known mafiosos, were on the SunCruz payroll at the time of the Boulis killing, both for work like 'catering' and 'security' they don't seem to have done.

In any case, the apparent leader of the three, the one Kidan paid most of the money to, was Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello.

Back in September, Big Tony was arrested at his home in Howard Beach, New York and later transferred down to Florida where he is now awaiting trial for Boulis' murder. During that time, beside visits from family and attorneys, Big Tony received only one visit.

Who? Right. Adam Kidan.

Kidan wouldn't comment when called by the Sun-Sentinel. His attorney, Joseph Conway told the paper that the meeting was "personal".

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?