Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Denny Hastert just sent a letter to Soros in which he writes that groups that support drug legalization, which Soros has helped fund, are "the drug groups that I referred to in my comments on the Fox News Sunday program. Chris Wallace said, 'drug cartels.' I did not."

A couple problems with this comment. First of all, Hastert spoke of where Soros gets his money, not which groups he funds -- a rather important distinction, and not an accidental one, given what Hastert was trying to imply. If Hastert doesn't recognize the distinction, I'm not sure we want him voting on the nation's economic policy. More seriously, this was not an accidental slip, but clearly an intentional one. See the original exchange.

What's more, Hastert quite clearly responded with the same 'who knows?' response when Wallace put him on the spot, forcing him to stand by or not stand by what he was clearly implying. From the exchange ...

WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

HASTERT: I'm saying I don't know where groups--could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know. The fact is we don't know where this money comes from."

Again, 'where this money comes from'. The nugget of this one is really clear. Hastert goes on Fox raising questions about the source of Soros's money; and when he's called to account he responds by pointing to groups to which Soros gives his money. Hastert was trying to be cute with his words but that's the way slimesters always operate.

And in his letter there's even more dreck like this: "I also believe that 527 political organizations set a dangerous precedent for political discourse because we don't know where the money comes from. For all we know, funding for some of the 527s might come from foreign sources or worse."

Foreign funding or worse? A different angle on the same slime. It is certainly legitimate for Republicans to note that Soros has given financial support to groups which advocate drug decriminalization. It's not legitimate for them to lie about it or indulge in textbook-style McCarthyism.

And to think this man is second in line of succession to the presidency.

Does the Political Director of the <$NoAd$>Republicans' senate campaign committee really see the Carson/Coburn race as a battle between "good" and "evil"?

This is the first graf of a press release put out this morning by the Carson (D)campaign ...

Following up from a debate on Monday where Tom Coburn called this race, “as the battle of good versus evil”, Patrick Davis, Political Director for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (NRSC), echoed those comments today speaking to a breakfast of Oklahoma delegates at the National Republican Convention saying, “we also view this race as good versus evil”.

Perhaps the original quote from the candidate contains some ambiguity. But Davis' comment seems to remove all doubt. Where did they get this guy?

Apparently, Davis' comments are going to be in the Oklahoma papers tomorrow. For context on Coburn's remark, see these first few grafs from a story that ran yesterday in the Tulsa World ...

With the stakes high, the U.S. Senate candidates focus on their differences.

With control of the U.S. Senate at stake in this political year, the race for one of Oklahoma's Senate seats heated up Monday when Republican Tom Coburn came face-to-face with Rep. Brad Carson, D-Okla., and called it "the battle of good versus evil."

A noon downtown Tulsa Kiwanis Club forum, which was aired live on talk radio station KRMG (740 AM), featured the leading candidates in the quest for the Senate seat that Republican Don Nickles will vacate at the end of this year.

Republicans control the Senate with 51 members to the Democrats' 48, plus one Democrat-aligned independent, but 34 Senate seats are up for grabs this year.

"If you don't recognize it," Coburn said, "you must. This is a battle for the culture of America and its future, and I would describe it as the battle of good versus evil."

If elected, Carson would vote to put liberals such as Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., in committee leadership positions if Democrats win control of the Senate, Coburn said.

Campaigns always have the game of catching each other out on awkward quotes. But it used to be that if one got caught calling the other 'evil', that meant some staffer was about to get tossed out on his ear. No more apparently...

A bit more on Ben Barnes, the guy from Texas who got President Bush into the Guard way-back-when.

Apparently, the attacks on Kerry's war record just proved too much for him. As we've noted previously, for almost a decade now Barnes has gone to great lengths to avoid causing trouble for the president on the Guard matter. And the Bush folks in Texas have made it clear to him during this election cycle that if he spills the beans about the president that they'll do everything in their power to put him out of business in the state (Barnes is now a lobbyist). And that heat has, I'm told, increased dramatically in recent days.

But apparently those threats haven't done the trick because he has already taped a lengthy interview slated to appear in the not-too-distant future on a major national news show in which he'll describe the strings he pulled to keep Bush out of Vietnam and apparently more.

(Between you and me, according to my three sources on this, Barnes told his story to Dan Rather -- remember, the Texas connection -- for 60 Minutes.)

Of course, he doesn't think it's true. But he won't apologize for suggesting it. That's the new line from Denny Hastert.

Over at Forbes.com, Michael Maiello got Hastert spokesman John Feehery to concede that the Speaker doesn't really believe George Soros gets his money from drug runners.

"Of course the Speaker doesn't think he gets money from drug cartels," Feehery told Maiello.

That said, Hastert won't apologize for suggesting he does.

More on Soros and Hastert.

The Hill has a piece in Wednesday's paper in which the reporter asked Hastert's spokesman John Feehery whether he had any evidence of Soros' ties or funding by drug cartels. Feehery makes clear that he and his boss have no evidence for this whatsoever but insist that they stand behind the vaguely but ominously worded accusation.

(See this link for actual video of what Haster said. It's worth taking a moment to watch it because the bare words of text don't really do it justice.)

These are scary times. And it's an ominous sign of the times that the Speaker of the House can float such a false and extremely defamatory charge and have the behavior go almost unnoticed in the press.

Think about it.

There's been a lot of back-and-forth on the state of the Franklin investigation in the last couple days -- whether it's serious and whether it extends beyond this one individual. But notwithstanding what some are reporting I hear the FBI says the original CBS report had the facts just right.

Covering conventions always puts me in a sort of media bubble -- this one even more since I've been pretty much keeping to myself. But that leaves me with little sense of what the 'buzz' is on the shows and with the major columnists and so forth. And today I realized -- somehow suddenly -- that what had been a congealing sense that the second half of August had been a bad couple weeks for Kerry had turned into a galloping panic that his campaign is in disarray and hope for his candidacy may be close to over.

There are articles about a possible shake-up among high-level staffers, blind quotes from Democratic insiders saying that after a couple more days it may be too late; and I've gotten a slew of emails from readers either asking me if I still think there's hope or ranting that they've had it with Mary Beth Cahill or Stephanie Cutter or someone else.

All I can say is, really, really, shut up and calm down.

Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the offensive and stay there.

But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR (+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2 Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied).

(Those numbers are from the graphic on the front page of Pollingreport.com.)

Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers (like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though, it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even clear that he's behind.

Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too.

Discipline pays rewards.

I'm here in Madison Square Garden and I just heard the head of the South Carolina delegation announce their votes and add that South Carolina is the "most patriotic state" in the country. But of course South Carolina was also the seedbed and the leader of the only organized treason in the country's history. But I guess I'm just picky.

From the Times on Hollinger ...

" Hollinger wasn't a company where isolated improper and abusive acts took place," said the report, largely written by Richard C. Breeden, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rather, it said, Hollinger was "an entity in which ethical corruption was a defining characteristic."


The report was particularly critical of the audit committee of the board, which it said had not performed its duties to monitor what was going on. But the report saved its harshest criticism for Richard Perle, the former Reagan administration official and current member of a Pentagon advisory board. It said it did not consider Mr. Perle to have been an independent director and called on him to return $5.4 million in pay he received after "putting his own interests above those of Hollinger's shareholders."

And in <$NoAd$>the Globe on Franklin ...

Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and current adviser to the Pentagon, said the investigations are baseless and politically motivated.

"It's pretty nasty, and unfortunately the administration doesn't seem to have it under control," said Perle, calling on the administration to defend Feith more vigorously.

And from a few weeks ago in the LA Times on the Chalabi arrest warrant ...

Richard N. Perle, a former top advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and a leader of the so-called neoconservatives who embraced Chalabi and the war, said in an interview that he believed the warrants were part of an effort against Chalabi undertaken by the Iraqi government with the support of the U.S. government.

"I'm sure it's been encouraged by the U.S.," Perle said in an interview from Europe.

He said CIA and State Department officials have long opposed Chalabi and have convinced others in the government to move against him. Now officials in the White House oppose Chalabi as well, Perle said.

"It was those reports that led to a decision to destroy him," Perle said, adding that he believed there was no basis to the reports that Chalabi passed classified information to Iran.

And from The New York Sun in May on the investigation into Chalabi's passing US intelligence to Iran ...

A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Richard Perle, said, "I don't believe he has ever been given top U.S. classified information, let alone anything of a highly classified nature....I believe the whole operation is politically motivated. The accusations, the embellishment of the accusations, I believe this is fundamentally malicious and politically motivated by people who became fearful that Ahmad Chalabi might emerge as a major figure in Iraq."

Sic Transit ...