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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Courtesy of the good compilers at pollingreport.com, here is a listing of the last nine public polls. Here we list the organization, followed by the date, followed by the approval rating in bold ...

CNN/USA Today/Gallup 11/11-13/05 37

Newsweek 11/10-11/05 36

FOX/Opinion Dynamics RV 11/8-9/05 36

AP-Ipsos * 11/7-9/05 37

NBC/Wall Street Journal 11/4-7/05 38

Pew 11/3-6/05 36

AP-Ipsos * 10/31 - 11/2/05 37

ABC/Washington Post 10/30 - 11/2/05 39

CBS 10/30 - 11/1/05 35


Pretty much a consensus, ain't it?

CNN-USAToday: Bush at 37%.

And this must be the harshest blow: "A 53% majority say they trust what Bush says less than they trusted previous presidents while they were in office. In a specific comparison with President Clinton, those surveyed by 48%-36% say they trust Bush less."

Given the record, it's shocking that it's even that close. Still, someone in Chappaqua must be smiling.

TPM Reader DS checks in ...

Has anyone given serious thought to the possibility that Bush himself may not have been aware of the conflicting evidence, the caveats, etc.? I strongly suspect that Cheney and Rumsfeld presented him with one sexed-up dossier after another, each of which left out the doubts and uncertainties felt at the lower levels. And Bush would have been none the wiser. After all, it is well known that Bush doesn't look beyond his advisors for news of the world, for corroboration, or for counterfactuals with which to test his working hypotheses. And they all knew this about him in advance. He was ripe for manipulation. And Cheney is nothing if not a manipulator. [Even Rove isn't beneath such knavery.]

I wouldn't be surprised if the story of the lead-up to war turns out to be the story of this cabal crafting a persuasive story, presenting it to Bush in carefully calibrated doses, and getting him to do what they had decided long in advance they wanted to do. And it was all made possible by Bush's almost total lack of curiosity and intellectual discipline.

Disturbing, but to my mind highly plausible.


At the end of the day, I don't find this theory persuasive. I don't see much reason to assume that the president is any less capable of such bad-faith and bad acts than those around him. I don't find it plausible that even in 'the bubble' he could really be that out of touch. And as America Abroad contributors Ivo Daalder and James Lindsay argue in their book America Unbound, there are many reasons to believe that the president's foreign policy is not something foisted on him by others but grounded in his own philosophy about force, power and America's place in the world.

Still, there's way too much we don't know about what's happened in the last five years to make any definitive judgments. So it's worth considering.

And I do think DS is on to something when he notes the president's lack of seriousness about facutal information and his indifference to critically evaluating evidence or challenging his own assumptions. The president's laziness, hubris and unwillingness to hold himself or anyone else accountable for anything will prove to have been at the heart of all of this.

Kevin Drum had a piece up last night on his site in which he explained one of the many -- and likely the most clear-cut -- pieces of evidence that the Bush administration intentionally misled the American public in the lead-up to war.

What Kevin does is to highlight five major bullet point arguments the administration used for war. On each of these points, information has now come out, which the administration knew about at the time, which seriously undercuts or simply discredits the claim.

In each case the White House either made no effort to let the public know this information or, far more often, took active steps to withhold the information from the public.

One example Kevin gives is that of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, the al Qaida prisoner who claimed that Saddam had given al Qaida operatives training in biological and chemical weaponry. What the administration neglected to tell the public was that the information had been obtained through torture and that our own intelligence agents thought he'd likely made the whole thing up.

Notwithstanding this terrorism-related example, one area Kevin largely leaves aside is the general topic of Saddam and al Qaida, and specifically whether the two were in league with each other and likely to work together to attack the United States.

His reasoning, I think, is that unlike most of the WMD stuff, the terrorism issue was largely aired at the time. Most of the contrary evidence managed to find its way into the press. So someone following the story reasonably closely could figure out that what the administration was saying was largely a crock.

Given how clear-cut Kevin's other examples are (of very important evidence withheld from the public), I think he's right not to blur the picture by getting too much into the terrorism question. But the whole argument about Saddam as an active or potential ally of al Qaida is still a huge example of White House dishonesty in making the case for war -- in some ways it's almost the biggest one.

Just because contrary evidence managed to get out into the media blood stream, that doesn't mean that the White House didn't work for more than a year -- and with no little success -- to convince the public -- by subtle and heavy-handed means -- of what was really just a bogus argument that they knew was a crock.

I think we all realize that in making an argument to the country to take some major step, a White House or a president probably won't fall over themselves in every case to list off every contrary bit of evidence or data. During the lead-up to our Bosnian intervention I don't think Bill Clinton did or needed to dedicate a section of each speech to World War II-era Croatian atrocities against Serbs when he was making his case that ethnic cleansing by Serbs in Bosnia had to be stopped.

But when you see case after case when the president tries to lead the country to war using arguments or claims which not only turned out to be false but which he had little or no reason to believe were true at the time, at a certain point you need to just call it what it is. He didn't tell the truth. He tried to mislead the people he swore to protect. He fibbed, gambled and lost. And now he should be helf accountable for the consequences of his actions.

I feel like I've never followed the minute details of the torture debate (sort of shows where we've gotten to, that there's a 'torture debate) as much as I'd like to or should have. But be sure to check out this piece on the Times OpEd page today which looks into the backstory of how we got here. I'm curious how widely this has been reported before. But, in brief, we built our current (literal and figurative) torture manual by going back and studying how wartime enemy regimes have tortured our soldiers in the past.

As the article explains, there was a "classified program at Fort Bragg, N.C., known as SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape. Based on studies of North Korean and Vietnamese efforts to break American prisoners, SERE was intended to train American soldiers to resist the abuse they might face in enemy custody." As the piece goes on to explain, "The Pentagon appears to have flipped SERE's teachings on their head, mining the program not for resistance techniques but for interrogation methods. At a June 2004 briefing, the chief of the United States Southern Command, Gen. James T. Hill, said a team from Guantánamo went 'up to our SERE school and developed a list of techniques' for 'high-profile, high-value' detainees."

In a sense we can take some solace these days from the fact that the enablers and justifiers of torture seem more and more isolated and embattled. But it still appears to be our standing policy. And this almost novelistic detail just makes the story all the more grim.

Thanks to everyone who's contributed so far. And, so far, so good. Our goal is to come close to getting contributions from one-half of 1% of our estimated monthly audience. Our monthly unique visitors number hovers between 750,000 and 800,000 at TPM. So we've pegged our goal at getting 3,000 readers contributing.

So far we're coming up on 140 contributors. So we've got a long way to go. And it won't be easy. But it's a solid start. (Click here to contribute right now.)

I'm juggling blog business stuff today with blogging proper. But shortly we'll bring you the story of the fellow who got caught with a seat on the Abramoff freebie bandwagon and told the folks back home that it was too bad, that's just how things work in Washington.

Okay, I've threatened and described what we're doing in several posts. So here we go. This is 5th Anniversary week at TPM. Today is day one of our 6th year online. And we're celebrating by kicking off our new fundraiser.

I'll be following up with a number of posts describing our plans for expanded coverage of politics, public corruption and the 2006 election cycle and what this fundraiser is for. But here are the essentials ...

We're going to launch a new blog dedicated to chronicling, explaining and reporting on the interconnected web of public corruption scandals bubbling up out of the reigning Washington political machine. As we move into next year the coverage will also expand into how these different stories are playing in congressional elections around the country. What are we raising the money for? Simple. Salaries.

One of the reasons so few blogs do sustained, original reporting is that it's hard, time-consuming work. And that's near to impossible to do if you've got another full-time job making claims on your time. We want to hire one and hopefully two full-time reporter-bloggers to dig into this story, explain recent press reportage and distill it, work sources on Capitol Hill and around Washington, and report on it every day exclusively for you. We hope it'll be a site you'll want to visit every day.

Anyway, that's the pitch. It's an experiment and we hope you'll be part of it with us. We'll be following up with more details about what we're planning throughout the week. Click here to make a contribution right now. And thank you so much in advance.

Bob Dreyfuss has just kicked off our latest TPMCafe Book Club, explaining why he wrote his new book Devil's Game.

Here's the beginning of Bob's kick-off post ...

I wrote Devil's Game to fill in a gap amid the millions of words that have been written about political Islam and U.S. policy since September 11, 2001.

It's the story before the story, and it helps answer the question: How did we get into this mess? It's my contention that part of the answer to that question, at least, is that for half a century the United States and many of its allies saw what I call the "Islamic right" as convenient partners in the Cold War.

I approached this book not as an historian, but as a journalist. A great deal of it is based on scores of interviews with men and women from the State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. military, and the private sector who participated in many of these events. And I relied on dozens of published works. Most of the sources I interviewed are quoted on the record, and virtually every fact in the book is footnoted.


Click here to read the rest of Bob's post and join us all this week for a lively discussion of Bob's argument.

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