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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Can someone explain this quote to <$NoAd$>me?

This passage is from an AP story on the White House's new request for a $25 billion supplemental appropriation for operations in Iraq, more than six months ahead of schedule ...

In recent weeks, administration officials have raised the possibility that they also will need extra money for the final weeks of this fiscal year, with many members of Congress saying they believe billions will be needed.

But as recently as Monday, a senior administration official downplayed the need for money right now for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So far, Bush ``has not been told that there is a resource problem,'' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

That official also said there was currently enough money for reconstruction in Iraq.


A bad CEO.

Along similar lines see this cartoon.

KING HENRY. I dare say you love him not so ill to wish him here alone, howsoever you speak this, to feel other men's minds; methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the King's company, his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS. That's more than we know.

JOHN BATES. Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough if we know we are the King's subjects. If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us.

MICHAEL WILLIAMS. But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy reckoning to make when all those legs and arms and heads, chopp'd off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place'- some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

King Henry V
Act IV, Scene I

Don Rumsfeld: "I think that -- I'm not a lawyer. <$NoAd$>My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."

Taguba Report: "Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."

Doug Feith today at AEI: "No one can properly assert that the failure, so far, to find Iraqi WMD stockpiles undermines the reasons for the war."

Shaken, but apparently not stirred.

Yesterday in a Q & A with editors from Detroit area newspapers President Bush said he was "shaken" by reports of abuse of prisoners in US military custody in Iraq. Yet, according to his press secretary this morning, he hasn't even looked at the Taguba Report, the one people around the world are buzzing about in disappointment and outrage and half of Washington seems already to be reading.

In fact, in this exchange from that Q & A yesterday it wasn't even clear the president knew what the report was ...

Q: Are you concerned that there was a report completed in February that apparently --

THE PRESIDENT: I haven't seen --

Q: -- Myers didn't know about yesterday --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, if Myers didn't know about it, I didn't know about it. In other words, he's part of the chain -- actually, he's not in the chain of command, but he's a high ranking official. We'll find out.

Q: The question is, should something causing --

THE PRESIDENT: I just need to know --

Q: -- concern, raised eyebrows --

THE PRESIDENT: Exactly. I think you'll find the investigation started quickly when they found out what was going on. What I need to know is what the investigators concluded.


From this exchange, the president <$Ad$>seemed unaware of what the report even was and claimed to believe that he somehow couldn't get a hold of it until it came up through the chain of command.

The point here isn't that the president is stupid, but that he seems blithely indifferent to what is a huge setback to American goals and standing in the Middle East and indeed throughout the world.

There's an echo here of his response to the pre-9/11 warnings streaming up through the government bureaucracy. It hasn't landed on his desk yet, with an action plan, so what is he supposed to do? He talked to Rumsfeld who says he's on top of it. So what more can be done?

This isn't a matter of the aesthetics of leadership. It is another example of how this president is a passive commander-in-chief, how he demands no accountability and, because of that, allows problems to fester and grow. Though this may not be a direct example of it, he also creates a climate tolerant of rule-breaking that seeps down into the ranks of his subordinates, mixing with and reinforcing those other shortcomings.

The disasters now facing the country in Iraq -- some in slow motion, others by quick violence -- aren't just happening on the president's watch. They are happening in a real sense, really in the deepest sense, because of him -- because of his attention to the simulacra of leadership rather than the real thing, which is more difficult and demanding, both personally and morally.

Is that the report from The New <$NoAd$>Yorker?

From this morning ...

Question: Scott, one question. Has the president read the Taguba report yet? I mean, it's all over the media, everybody else seems to have read it.

Answer: Is this the one that General Myers was asked about?

Question: The one the New Yorker wrote about, and that the New York --

Answer: No.

Question: -- Times is writing about. He hasn't read it yet. Is he --

Answer: Yeah, no, that's why the president called Secretary Rumsfeld, to make sure that the military was taking strong steps to address the matter and prevent prisoner abuse from happening again.

Question: But this report says that it's more widespread --

Answer: Yeah, and that's why the Pentagon has taken a -- has a number of investigations going on right now, looking into these issues. And they are pursuing charges against individuals who may be responsible for what occurred and the president -- and they're also taking a comprehensive look at the entire prison system to make sure there's no systematic problem.

Question: Thanks.

Answer: He very much wants to -- wants the Pentagon to take a broad look at this and take action against those who were responsible for these appalling acts.


Our CEO President ...

[ed. note: The exchange above is from a pool report made available this morning to reporters traveling with the president.]

From George Will: "This administration cannot <$Ad$>be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts. Thinking is not the reiteration of bromides about how "all people yearn to live in freedom" (McClellan). And about how it is "cultural condescension" to doubt that some cultures have the requisite aptitudes for democracy (Bush). And about how it is a "myth" that "our attachment to freedom is a product of our culture" because "ours are not Western values; they are the universal values of the human spirit" (Tony Blair)."

The whole piece is worth a read.

Here's my post from last evening on why I suspect the built-up impediments to thought on their part are piled too high to be overcome, even if they wished to -- itself a proposition for which there is scant evidence.

I had promised myself: no more posts until tomorrow. But for this article ("How Ahmed Chalabi conned the neocons") out tonight in Salon I will make an exception.

This is one of those 'where to start' articles.

Let's start here. "Ahmed Chalabi is a treacherous, spineless turncoat. He had one set of friends before he was in power, and now he's got another ... He said he would end Iraq's boycott of trade with Israel, and would allow Israeli companies to do business there. He said [the new Iraqi government] would agree to rebuild the pipeline from Mosul [in the northern Iraqi oil fields] to Haifa [the Israeli port, and the location of a major refinery]."

Who said that?

That would be Marc Zell, frequent target of TPM barbs, former law partner of Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, and the guy who went into business just after the war with Chalabi's nephew Salem "Sam" Chalabi.

So apparently all is not well at Regime Change Ranch.

The broad outlines of this story -- Chalabi ditching his neocon friends for the Iranian mullahs -- have been clear for some time. But here it is in all its lurid detail. And though one can dispute this or that point of author John Dizard's interpretations -- I would dispute a few of them -- he's got neocons on the record dumping on Chalabi and the members of the Chalabi clan dumping on them.

And those quotations just aren't open to interpretation.

The upshot of the piece is that Chalabi's neocon supporters are beginning to realize that he is every bit the huckster and fraud that his most unyielding enemies at State and CIA said he was. He lured them in with all manner of improbable claims about the pain-free peace he'd make with Israel, how he'd upend Arab nationalism and generally make all the intractable conundrums of the region disappear.

In the popular political imagination we're familiar with the neocons as conniving militarists, masters of intrigue and cabals, graspers for the oil supplies of the world, and all the rest. But here we have them in what I suspect is the truest light: as college kid rubes who head out for a weekend in Vegas, get scammed out of their money by a two-bit hustler on the first night and then get played for fools by a couple hookers who leave them naked and handcuffed to their hotel beds.

And just think, it's on your dime and with your nation's honor -- what an added benefit.

I don't mean to accuse the whole group that is sometimes classed under that label. Some are serious wrestlers with our nation's dilemmas and challenges. But for the most venal and gullible of them, which, truth be told, makes up the larger part, it's an apt description.

Read the article and you'll understand what I mean.

One of the things I've found difficult about writing about Iraq in recent days is imputing some level of seriousness to the arguments of the president and his retainers who continue to press an optimistic view of what's happening in Iraq. From them, on any given day, you can still hear the argument that, notwithstanding some tough days, things are still getting better in Iraq and the key to success is sticking with it.

At the same time, I talk to, or have conversations related to me with, various foreign policy, intelligence and military experts, all of whom --- across the political spectrum --- seem to believe that things are about as bleak as they can be. On top of this, they seem uniform in the belief -- sometimes based on inference, other times based on direct knowledge -- that the White House is fresh out of ideas about what to do, and basically hasn't any idea how to proceed.

Either the president knows the situation is that bad or he (and perhaps his advisors too) is just too out of touch to have any idea what's happening. Increasingly, I think that the president is just too small-minded and vainglorious a man to come to grips with the situation.

A strong president, a good president, would put his country before his pride and throw himself into saving the situation even if it meant admitting previous mistakes and ditching past policies and advisors. But I don't think this president has the character to do that.

Making a clean sweep, firing some of his most compromised advisors, admitting some past mistakes -- not for effect, but so that those mistakes could be more thoroughly and rapidly overcome -- might well doom the president politically. But I doubt there's any question they'd be in the best interests of the country.

This president seems either disinclined to or unable to do more than preside over a drift into disaster while putting on a game face.

(Kevin Drum has an excellent post today on President Bush as the prototypical bad CEO -- Here's a snippet: "Bush styles himself a 'CEO president,' but the world is full to bursting with CEOs who have goals they would dearly love to attain but who lack either the skill or the fortitude to make them happen. They assign tasks to subordinates without making sure the subordinates are capable of doing them — but then consider the job done anyway because they've "delegated" it. They insist they want a realistic plan, but they're unwilling to do the hard work of creating one — all those market research reports are just a bunch of ivory tower nonsense anyway. They work hard — but only on subjects in their comfort zone.")

There's all this talk about what might be the best critique of the president's policies (politically and substantively), what the best alternative policies might be, and so forth. But all of that, I think, misses the point. This president is too compromised by his deceptions, his past lack of accountability and his acquiescence in failed policies, ever to correct the situation. Like C.S. Lewis's metaphor about the road to hell being easy to walk down, but the further walked, harder and harder to turn back upon, this president is just too far gone with misleading the public, covering up and indulging incompetence, and embracing venality ever to make a clean break and start retrieving the situation.

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