Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A victory in the senate. Senate Democrats succeeded in getting an amendment passed to block the White House's proposal to restrict overtime pay. The vote wasn't even as close as might have been expected -- 54-45. As noted earlier, this is a very important issue in its own right. But it's also a cutting political issue and one that will now keep bubbling through the system.

The president has issued a veto threat against any legislative attempts to overturn his new overtime rule. And at first I had assumed the whole issue was academic since the Senate amendment would be stripped out by the House in the conference. But apparently the Dems might get another bite at this apple in the House, and perhaps even a vote to instruct the conferees. And I'm curious to find out whether that nine point spread in the Senate points to a shifting political climate, a growing perception of the Republicans' vulnerability on the economy, or a growing salience of economic issues as the foreign policy trump card weakens.

In any case, I'll try to find out more.

Back before things got bumpy in Iraq there was a surge of talk about an Alaska fund for Iraq -- that is, a fund to distribute some of the proceeds of Iraq's oil wealth to individual citizens, an idea first proposed by Steve Clemons in the Times on April 9th.. Today there's an update on the idea in the Times with actual reporting from on the ground in the country. Take a look.

It looks like the third special session for Texas redistricting may be the charm for Gov. Rick Perry and Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Read the latest before The Hammer strikes the final blow.

This article in tomorrow's Boston Globe says that "the US-appointed Iraqi interim government said late last month in a little-noticed statement that it would buy electricity from Syria and Iran, a deal that would probably enrich with US funds two countries that top the White House list of states that support terrorism."

Certainly that's an ironic development, though I'm not certain it's more than that. One of the ideas here was that our presence in Iraq would overawe the Iranians and the Syrians into better behavior. Making our occupation dependent on their selling the Iraqis electricity would seem to make the flow of leverage and dependence run in a slightly different direction.

Having said all that, this seems more like welcome pragmatism than an error, although it does demonstrate again the chasm which too often separates the administration's chatter from reality.

More troubling is this piece in tomorrow's LA Times. According to the Times article, the $87 billion the White House is now requesting from congress leaves roughly $55 billion in reconstruction costs still unfunded. (Actually, this fact sheet at the White House website says it's between $55 and $75 billion.)

Now, the White House says it's going to pressure other countries to pay that part of the tab.

But according to everyone I've spoken to and everything I've read (see the Times article for a good discussion of this) that is vastly more than anyone thinks other countries are going to contribute.

One of the outside experts Don Rumsfeld sent out on that fact-finding mission to Iraq a couple months ago, Bathsheba Crocker, tells the Times that, "from what we have been hearing about the donors conference [next month], they'll be lucky if they get $1 billion."

Now, some of that extra sum should be offset by Iraqi oil revenues. But yesterday the administration again revised downward those expected oil revenues. It now predicts only $12 billion worth in 2004.

For the moment, let's assume that Crocker is right or close to right. Congress appropriated $79 billion just after the war in April. It seems certain to appropriate this new allocation of $87, albeit with greater oversight. If you add on another $55-$75 billion you start getting perilously close to a quarter of a trillion dollars as the price tag for the first two years of this endeavor.

Another postcard from the 'responsibility era' ...

It's reassuring in a way when an apparent scoundrel reveals his scoundrelhood straight-out. Straight, no chaser, shall we say. Today, in case you hadn't heard, Don Rumsfeld told reporters that (in the words of the Post's Dana Priest) "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism."

Rumsfeld went on to say that ...

To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult.

In other words, the problem is not any shortcoming in the president's policies, but the president's domestic critics who are emboldening 'the terrorists' by pointing out the shortcomings of the president's policies. A week ago I said I saw the first signs of "a 21st century version of the 'stab-in-the-back' charge German militarists used against the fledgling republic which replaced Kaiserdom in the aftermath of World War I."

But I have to confess to some surprise at seeing it so quickly.

In fact, a friend alerted me today to a slightly more literary-minded version of the Rumsfeld storyline in a piece by Stanley Kurtz in the National Review Online.

Kurtz says that internationalizing the mission in the Middle East isn't an ideal solution, but rather a poor one that has nonetheless been forced upon us by unamerican liberalism and the culture war. "The best foreign policy requires not the United Nations," says Kurtz, "but a united nation. Unfortunately, our nation is not united. The occupation of Iraq is not the occupation of Japan or Germany. This is even more because of the fact that we are different than we were back then than the fact that Iraq is not Japan or Germany."

Continues Kurtz ...

A nation where the political opposition stands against our foreign policy, and even secretly (and not so secretly) hopes for its failure, cannot reform a region as recalcitrant as the Middle East. A nation where–even after an event like 9/11–a draft can be offered as a political tactic against the hawks, is a nation unready to manage social transformation on the other side of the world. Our culture war is real. Now it has taken its toll. In many ways we are strong. Yet disunited we are weak. Our turning to the U.N. is not necessarily a disaster. But it is a sign that our internal divisions have finally exacted a cost.

Rumsfeld says that the struggle is harder than it should be because domestic critics are making the country's enemies stronger. Kurtz says our hopes for true success are diminished because the electorate has been degenerated by liberalism.

So here the whole sordid business comes full circle. The administration games the public into an endeavor by exaggerating the gains and minimizing the price. Then the gains are revealed as not quite so great. And the price is revealed as very much greater. And if all that weren't bad enough, the operation is bungled on several fronts. So the gamers and the scammers say it's the fault of the critics who tried to carve through the mumbo-jumbo in the first place. And when the public has a touch of buyers' remorse over a product that was peddled on false advertising, the answer lies in the public's own degeneracy and division.

It's everyone's fault but theirs. 'The terrorists', domestic enemies, cultural declension, the French, perhaps tomorrow the decline of reading, the end of corporal punishment in the schools, permissive parenting, bad posture, rock 'n roll, space aliens. The administration is choking on its own lies and evasions. And we have to bail them out because the ship of state is our ship.

Great moments in the passive voice ...

BLITZER: But the bottom line is you have to admit that you could have done a better job planning for this current environment.

RICE: The planning went on. Obviously, there were things that were not foreseen. They have now -- are now being addressed.

From today's interview on Late Edition ...

We went into Iraq to eliminate Saddam's stock of weapons of mass destruction, to depose a reckless strongman at the heart of a vital region, and to overawe unfriendly regimes on the country's borders. Agree or not, those were the prime stated reasons. Now we've got a deteriorating security situation and a palpably botched plan for reconstruction. And our effort to recover from our ill-conceived and poorly-executed policy is now the 'central front' in the war on terror, which is among other things extremely convenient.

The president has turned 9/11 into a sort of foreign policy perpetual motion machine in which the problems ginned up by policy failures become the rationale for intensifying those policies. The consequences of screw-ups become examples of the power of 'the terrorists'.

We're not on the offensive. We're on the defensive. A bunch of mumbo-jumbo and flim-flam doesn't change that.

Excerpts from tonight's presidential speech ...

In his address on Sunday night, the President will inform the American people about the current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will discuss the progress our coalition is making in winning the War on Terror; outline our strategy for meeting our objectives in Iraq; and emphasize why our efforts in Iraq and the Middle East are critical to winning the global war on terror:

"The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and beyond, would be a grave setback for international terrorism."

The President will discuss the recent bombings in Iraq and why the terrorists are making this desperate stand in the heart of the Middle East:

"There is more at work in these attacks than blind rage. The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world."

The President will reaffirm our nation's commitment and outline our strategy to meet this challenge:

"Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there, and there they must be defeated. This will take time, and require sacrifice. Yet we will do whatever is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our Nation more secure."

"Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives: destroying the terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq, and helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future."

Finally, the President will call on the nations of the civilized world to contribute to the efforts in helping the citizens of Iraq transition to self-government:

"Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation?"

"Iraq is ready to take the next steps toward self-government. The Security Council resolution we introduce will encourage Iraq's Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for the drafting of a constitution, and for free elections. From the outset, I have expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to govern themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people, and secure the blessings of their own liberty."

Just released by the White House.