Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Read Kevin Drum (here and here) on what we found out yesterday about the NSA wiretap story. Matt Yglesias has some additional thoughts along similar lines.

The key point is that we know that this wasn't some novel technology but garden-variety wiretapping. And with that being the case, it's just not clear why the administration didn't get Congress to revise the FISA law to make these searches legal.

To me the whole thing remains a mystery. One school of thought would suggest that there must have been something shady going on, otherwise they would have just gotten the law changed and avoided any legal questions. As Kevin says, it's not like it would have been that hard to get such an expansion through Congress in 2002 or 2003 or even today for that matter.

There's another possible explanation, though -- one that squares with my sense of this group in the White House. And that is that they have an ideological affinity -- perhaps even a compulsion -- for presidential assertions of extra-constitutional authority. Just on principle.

That is their mindset. It informs countless actions over the last five years. Still, it's not enough. Kevin's right. Something doesn't fit. There must be something else.

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Oops. Looks like we've got a latter-day DeLay Rule bamboozler on our hands.

Mike at the Florida News blog has been trying to get an answer from Rep. Tom Feeney's office on how the congressman voted on the DeLay Rule back in November 2004. That, you'll remember, was the attempt to change the GOP conference rules to allow Rep. Tom DeLay to remain as Majority Leader while under indictment.

He finally got his answer. Feeney's press secretary's told him there actually never was a vote on the DeLay Rule.

No vote -- notwithsanding the fact that there was a voice vote, various representative announced that they'd voted either for or against it, and that there was a month or so of rambunctious debate about the vote.

All that said, Feeney says there was no vote.

Now, when I looked back at our DeLay Rule coverage from back in November 2004, I saw that Feeney is not only a latter-day bamboozler. He was an at-the-time bamboozler too. According to this November 18th 2004 post, Feeney has been fibbing to his constituents about his position on the DeLay Rule for more than a year.

You'd think he'd be more proud of being a loyal DeLay soldier.

Department of Ouch, extra ouch edition: Ralph Reed pays 'supporters' to show up at political event at church.

As is now being widely reported, the policy centerpiece of the president's state of the union address next week will be so-called HSAs, Health Savings Accounts. You can find out more about what a ridiculous idea they are here in a post from Ezra Klein, who will be leading up our soon-to-debut Medicare Drug Bill Fiasco blog.

But, policy particulars aside, isn't the president moving into a bit of a policy headwind on this one?

What's the slogan? "Bush Health Savings Accounts! Because the Bush Medicare Drug Bill is Working Out So Well!"

Think about it.

Just a quick update: we're planning on getting our Medicare Prescription Drug fiasco blog up and running tomorrow over at TPMCafe. Stay tuned.

Okay, just to be clear, the following quotes are such obvious malarkey that I don't think they have any direct application or relevance to today's unfolding scandal. But for sheer humor and bizarreness value, I think they're worth passing along.

This passage is from a March 2003 article in The Hill in which Jack Abramoff describes how the Bush administration is so relentlessly clean that it's made the lobbyist's job far harder than it was under Clinton ...

“I’m the only lobbyist who took a 90 percent pay cut to join the lobbying field,” a smiling Abramoff said in his downtown office this month. But he doesn’t expect sympathy — with the Republicans now in control of the White House, House and Senate, and his friend Tom DeLay (R-Texas) controlling the House agenda, Abramoff does not have to look far to find clients interested in his services.

But, he stresses, being a leader in Republican fundraising and strategy doesn’t guarantee success for his clients.

“I think it’s a very different administration … compared to the Clinton days,” Abramoff said of George W. Bush’s White House. “They’re going to go out of the way to make sure that they are not courting special favors to lobbyists and to special interests. They’ll only agree to things on strict merits.

“From a good government point of view, that’s very refreshing. From a lobbying point of view, it’s obviously more of a challenge.”

Because of that, he says, many lobbyists are turning more and more to members of Congress rather than executive agencies. “What people have done is probably tried to utilize the congressional legislative route on many more things than they would have otherwise done,” Abramoff added. “In the past, I think you could have gone to the Clinton administration and gotten an administrative or executive fix on something that now people have to go to [Capitol] Hill and try to seek redress there.”

But even in the Capitol, where Republicans have controlled the House for more than eight years, Abramoff has noticed changes in the style and operations of the GOP leaders.

“[Speaker Denny] Hastert [R-Ill.] is very confident, very organized and even-tempered. It’s a stable environment there,” he said. “I think it was a little less so with [former Speaker Newt] Gingrich [R-Ga.]. The DeLay operation also has ripened into a very mature ground operation.”

Gotta love 'em.