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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Yet another installment in the saga of the political office that can't get no respect: the Massachusetts governorship. Today acting- (one might better say, accidental-) Governor Jane Swift announced that she is getting out of the race to make way for Mitt Romney.

Romney, of course, is the long-time political neophyte who tried and failed to unseat Teddy Kennedy back in 1994. He's also the son of a former Governor of Michigan.

Romney wants the job so bad he's even going leave Utah, where he's lived for the last three years, and move to Massachusetts.

I just notice that a couple days ago Mickey said that the upcoming conventional wisdom will be the Gore rebound. Perhaps so. But this will be more than simple conventional wisdom. It will continue a large measure of truth. The biggest fact -- little discussed or understood -- about the current list of Democratic presidential contenders is that Gore's strengths as a primary candidate are greatly underestimated.

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal, take a look at the story on page 3 in Monday's edition -- 'Global Crossing Courted Union Leaders.' The piece is, frankly, a touch hard to follow, partly because it's really several stories running together. What gets lost in the shuffle of the Global Crossing story is the intertwined, but distinct, story of apparent self-dealing at Ullico (formerly known as Union Labor Life Insurance Co.). Arguably, what happened at Ullico is more troubling.

Ullico is a private life insurance company, founded and still owned by various AFL-CIO unions.

The board members of Ullico apparently had the company buy back their own stock in the company when they knew the market price of the shares was about to take a big dip. Ullico isn't a publicly traded company, which may make it a bit different -- legally at least -- from your normal insider trading scenario. Still, it ain't good.

And I hear there is real concern among union folks in DC about how far this embarrassment or scandal may spread.

Regrettably, more on this soon.

So it's a no-go for Tipper Gore. I think she actually would have been a pretty strong candidate against Lamar Alexander. But not running's probably the right decision.

Lamar!

P.S. re: Lamar! ya had to be there ...

I must confess that when I first heard this buzz about Tipper Gore running for Senate in Tennessee, I found the whole idea quite improbable.

She's known to be a deeply private person. And I'd at least been given to understand that she was a major factor weighing against another run for her husband in 2004. But tonight I can tell you on quite good and rather direct authority that she's giving the idea serious consideration.

I can also report that she's assembling some senior staff in Tennessee this weekend to discuss the possibility.

Let's walk through a bit of what might be in that supposedly-damning (and possibly resignation-inducing) report on Army Secretary Thomas White.

White was confirmed as Secretary of the Army last May. Till then he was chairman of Enron Energy Services (EES), a major division of the dear, departed Enron Corporation.

The report apparently argues that EES played a key role in creating or exacerbating the California energy crisis, which was in full bloom during the six months or so prior to White's confirmation. Whether this is true or how strong a case the report makes -- that I don't know. Maybe it's all bluster. But I'm pretty confident that that is what it argues.

The question is how much the report ties White's and EES' role to a broader argument about the involvement of the Bush administration. I understand the report very much tries to do that. If it succeeds, dropping White might not be nearly as convenient or as easy as I had earlier predicted.

The latest I'm told is that the report is likely to be released early next week. Whatever else, the folks preparing it have everyone's attention. At the networks, the White House, and the Pentagon.

Everyone is wondering when the Public Citizen report about Army Secretary Thomas White is coming out, and what it contains.

Apparently, it's about Thomas White's division of Enron, Enron Energy Services, and its role in the California energy crisis. Possibly White's too.

As to when the report comes out, I'm still unclear on that.

On Wednesday we mentioned that Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly would be speaking to the foreign press yesterday and that he'd certainly get asked about the delay in the appointment of Doug Paal to the AIT Directoship in Taipei.

He did. Here's how it went.

Q Jay Chen, Central News Agency, Taiwan. Sir, four months ago at the same podium, you told us that an announcement could be expected about the new AIT director in Taipei. I wonder whether that statement still holds true today.

MR. KELLY: Yes, it does. (Laughter.)

Q When can we expect an announcement? And specifically, is Douglas Paal still being considered for that job?

MR. KELLY: I can't comment on any appointments that might be made before they are made, but I was hopeful then and have been disappointed that we haven't been able to make an announcement during that time. But I, frankly, do expect that we will be able to make an announcement within the next few weeks. But you know, it's the nature of the world and of the bureaucracy that until something actually happens, it doesn't happen. So I'm just telling you my best guess and expectation that there should be an announcement of a representative to be director of the American Institute in Taipei before long.

We also have a report from the public event at which Kelly and renowned China-hand Chas Freeman spoke out on the oft-on-TPM-mentioned New Republic article.

(Note: Unlike the passage above, what follows is not a verbatim transcript. This comes from contemporaneous notes taken by an attendee at the luncheon in question.)

Written Question from the Audience: What are your views of the recent New Republic article regarding Douglas Paal, and do you feel that the issues raised in the article are legitimate issues for the public to raise?

Answer, James Kelly:

I have just returned from Asia and have not read the article. In fact, I haven't read the American Spectator, the National Enquirer, or the New Republic since I've been back -- but I'm glad to see that hack journalism is alive and well. (laughter) The one thing I do know is that this guy didn't do good fact checking because he has me down working for the Bush administration -- and I've taken another look at my bio, and I don't see any other Bush administration on the list other than this one. Makes you wonder about the rest of it (laughter). I suspect that the New Republic has gone to new lows on this one.

Then -- Chas Freeman, the moderator, chimed in:

(Chas Freeman) I have a few words to say about this. I think that we as a nation should be very concerned when a publication like the New Republic attacks a person who is committing himself to public service, and who has been a public servant, and who could make a lot more money outside of public service -- well, this kind of public questioning is disgusting of someone so honorable. The New Republic is engaged in slime journalism as far as I'm concerned.

Following up on the previous post, it's striking how pitiful and disrespected a job the Massachusetts governorship has become under Republican occupancy. The post has barely had an elected occupant in the last decade, but rather been passed on like a ... well, i'm not going to finish the metaphor. But I think you know where I'm going.

Consider the list.

Bill Weld got reelected to the position in 1994. But he resigned the job in 1997. Notionally, he resigned the governorship to take the Ambassadorship to Mexico. But actually, we all knew he wasn't going to get that position either. In truth, he resigned as governor because he was bored.

That left the job to Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci. He managed to win the job in his own right in 1998. But apparently he didn't think the job was such great shakes either. Because he resigned the job to assume the illustrious post of Ambassador to Canada. At least he actually got the job.

That left the job to Celluci's Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift. Swift's tenure has been unremarkable at best and most known for her decision to go on (entirely appropriate) maternity leave.

Maybe the big questions for Mass. gubernatorial candidates -- especially the Republicans -- should be whether they plan to serve out their terms -- even if they find something good on TV.

These are some rough days for the pooh-bahs of Cambridge, Mass.

First you've got the continuing travails of Doris Kearns Goodwin, who got a rather feeble defense from Natasha Berger at Prospect Online a few days back. Other Harvard Yard/Boston Globe pooh-bahs and sub-pooh-bahs are circling the wagons for Goodwin, but really it's not pretty.

Now Bob Reich is apparently also in the soup. According to this article in the Boston Herald, Reich told the Herald a few months back that Bill Clinton had encouraged him to get into the Massachusetts governor's race.

At a speech yesterday Clinton said pretty clearly that this wasn't true:

I like (Reich) fine, but I didn't like the implication that somehow I encouraged him into the race when you already had one guy in the race that had supported my policies, and at critical points (Reich) didn't. I wouldn't have done that.

This runs pretty deep. Lots of stuff public and private. Reich has burned a lot of bridges with the Democratic establishment, and with Clinton in particular, over the last couple years. (The contrast with Steve Grossman, one of his Mass. gubernatorial opponents, is total). He became a more and more pointed critic of the Clintonian policy agenda as it came into focus in the late 1990s. But it may be fair to say that the policy Reich and Clinton disagreed about most was Clinton's policy of remaining in office during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

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