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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

For a couple weeks now, TPM has been pressing the question: what did the Bush administration know about the North Korean uranium enrichment program and when did they know it? Obviously, TPM's reporting resources are nothing compared to those of Seymour Hersh and The New Yorker. Now he's got the goods. And it's not pretty.

Last week we discussed the most recent publicly-aired GOP debate about whether the Northern victory in the civil war was, on balance, a good thing or a bad thing. A member of the Board of Directors of the California GOP, Randy Ridgel, wrote an open letter to fellow Board member Bill Back, taking him to task for apologizing for republishing an article which was a touch soft on slavery. (Back is a candidate to lead the California GOP). Ridgel saw no reason for the apology since ...

The main thrusts of the article was that our rights under the 10th Amendment began to erode chiefly as a result of the South losing the Civil War (true) and that blacks suffered far more from reconstruction than they did from the war. Of course they did; they suffered the destitution and starvation imposed by draconian Northern Reconstruction laws even worse than whites, and most of the poor devils had no experience fending for themselves, so they fared worse than before the war and during the war.
Well, now we bring you the Ridgel Letter in its entirety -- just added to the TPM Document Collection.

Yesterday, you'll remember, we discussed Richard T. Hines, a political ally of President Bush, who provided key support in mauling John McCain in South Carolina in 2000. According to Time.com, he is also the likely force behind the President's decision to resume the practice of sending a wreath to honor the memory of Jefferson Davis on Memorial Day.

Now if you think back to your high school or college American history classes, you may remember the caning of Charles Sumner, one of most infamous moments in the lead-up to the Civil War. Sumner was Senator from Massachusetts and an ardent anti-slavery 'Whig' -- a soon to be defunct political party which was in some ways the predecessor of the Republican party.

In any case, in the Spring of 1856, Sumner delivered a long and explosive speech entitled 'Crime Against Kansas' on whether Kansas should be admitted into the union as a free or slave state. Three days later a South Carolina congressman, Preston Brooks, came into the Senate chamber while Sumner was at his desk and proceeded to beat him over the head with a gold-topped cane. For the key few moments it took Brooks to inflict the first blows Sumner was partially trapped under the desk where he was at work franking copies of his speech -- staffs weren't quite so large as they are these days. After that Brooks proceeded to beat the now thoroughly bloodied Sumner into unconsciousness. It took Sumner years to recuperate -- the Bay State left his seat unoccupied during that time -- and he was partly disabled by the incident for the rest of his life. In most of the country the incident became a symbol of the barbarity of the 'slave power' and its propensity to resort to violence in defense of the 'peculiar institution.' Among Southern 'fire-eaters', Brooks was embraced as a hero.

Here -- just added to the TPM Document Collection -- is President Bush's political ally Richard T. Hines' celebration of the attack ("The Caning of Charles Sumner: Blows Struck for the South") in -- where else? -- the Southern Partisan magazine.

"Mr. Hines, a member of the Reagan administration, tells us how Southerners handle Yankees who don't treat us with respect," says the intro ...

Colin Powell is a big enough hitter that he gets to go public with a restrained (though welcome and honorable) dissent from the White House's position on the Michigan affirmative action case. But it seems not everyone gets a chance to speak their mind. Remember, Colin Powell isn't the only high-profile Republican who supports affirmative action. It took him a long time to go public about his views. But Trent Lott (R-MS) is also a big-time supporter of affirmative action.

Unfortunately, Lott now appears to be in such a weakened state -- because of his recent resignation as Majority Leader-designate -- that the White House and/or Bill Frist won't let him speak his mind on this critical issue.

What happened to the big tent? Rove and Frist would never have been able to muzzle Lott if he were still Majority Leader. Let Trent speak!

P.S. Special thanks to TPM reader EAP.

Now that's a catch!

From the presidency of Woodrow Wilson -- who, despite being admirable in other capacities, was an ardent segregationist -- until 1990, US presidents sent a wreath to the Confederate Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day to honor Jefferson Davis. The first President Bush stopped the practice in 1990. But, according to Time.com, this President Bush restarted that tradition when he became president in 2001.

Why this renewed affection for a failed leader of a failed rebellion against the government of the United States?

The Time.com story points to a logical suspect: Richard T. Hines.

Who's Richard T. Hines? Hines is a big-time DC lobbyist whose website says he "has an active voice in the current Bush Administration." But don't take his word for it. He played a key role in helping President Bush rescue his presidential campaign by whacking John McCain in the South Carolina primary in 2000. More to the point, Hines is a leading neo-Confederate and the former Managing Editor of the Southern Partisan, the crypto-racist magazine which is the venue of choice for Republican politicians looking to cater to the neo-confederate yahoo vote.

Hines is also a leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, one of the groups involved in organizing the annual event to which the White House sent the wreath. According to this article by one-time TPM advisor Sean Wilentz ...

Hines first gained national media attention in 1996 when, in a public protest over the unveiling of a monument to the black tennis great Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Va., he unfurled the battle flag of his great-grandfather's regiment and denounced the statue as "a sharp stick in the eye of those who honor the Confederate heritage."
Now at this point I was going to continue on with the post and explain how this is the White House -- probably Karl Rove, actually -- talking out of both sides of its mouth. First they denounce Trent Lott for his nostalgia for the segregationist past. Here they're pandering to these neo-Confederate yahoos. But you know how that post would unfold, right? So let's just pretend I wrapped the post up like that and get on to the fun stuff. Deal? Great. Here goes ...

If you go to the Sons of Confederate Veterans website you'll find these instructions for how to report a 'Heritage Violation.' What's a 'Heritage Violation'? "Any attack upon our Confederate Heritage, or the flags, monuments, and symbols which represent it, can be termed a Heritage Violation," says the SCV website.

"Any disrespect shown to our Confederate Heritage should be considered as serious," continues the SCV. But it's important not to let the emotion of the moment get the better of you!

SCV members are reminded, however, to remain calm and to respond in a manner befitting the dignity of the heritage we seek to preserve. Those persons or groups who cause a heritage violation often do so in a manner deliberately intended to provoke us into intemperate response. Do not play into their hands by over-reacting. We should always handle ourselves as the responsible Southern gentlemen that we are.
One of the best ways to stifle your Southern fury, it seems, is to follow the SCV's ridiculous and arcane procedures for reporting a 'heritage violation' -- procedures which may well have been secretly devised by some right-minded group like the NAACP in order to get heritage-sensitive, neo-Confederate whack-jobs running around in circles and thus not acting out in some more unfortunate fashion ...
Whom do you report it to? Your first contact should be your Camp Commander or Heritage Officer. They should in turn report the heritage violation to the Heritage Chairman in your Brigade. The Brigade Heritage Chairman should then contact his Brigade Commander and the Division Heritage Chairman. Heritage violation responses are best handled at the local level, in cooperation with Brigade and Division level officers. A plan of action to deal with the heritage violation should be developed by these Brigade and Division officers, acting in concert with the local camp and member (or other person) that initially reported the violation.

The Division Heritage Chairman should report the violation to the Division Commander, and the SCV’s Chief of Heritage Defense. The Chief of Heritage Defense can call upon the national organization to respond to the violation, if such action is required. The Chief of Heritage Defense is assisted by a members of a Heritage Defense Committee, appointed by the Commander-in-Chief.

For the Chief of Heritage Defense to have a heritage situation officially deemed as a violation by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, he must have consent from the Commander-in-Chief and such other members of the General Executive Council as the Commander-in-Chief may designate, as well as a consensus of the Heritage Defense Committee.

Did Trent Lott call in a 'heritage violation' on W? Is that why we haven't heard from him in a while? He's trying to master the reporting requirements?

Here's a key passage from a Sunday Times article on US and Russian intelligence gathering in North Korea.

The latest crisis over the North Korean nuclear program erupted last year, when United States intelligence obtained strong evidence that North Korea had secretly developed a uranium enrichment program, which would represent a second track toward the development and production of nuclear weapons. American officials said there was fragmentary evidence of a uranium enrichment effort as far back as the late 1990's, but much more compelling evidence of such a program came last year, officials said.
This squares with my own reporting, as far it goes. But it begs the question: How much was known about the program? And when?

Last week I spoke to a Clinton administration official who told me that in 1999 and 2000 the US didn't know the North Koreans had a uranium-enrichment program, per se. But they did have evidence that they were purchasing centrifuge equipment and other hardware that you would use to put such a program together. That would square with this subsequent, unclassified CIA report from 2001 which said North Korea had "been seeking centrifuge-related materials in large quantities to support a uranium enrichment program. It also obtained equipment suitable for use in uranium feed and withdrawal systems."

The relevant point is this: we didn't know they had a program, as such. But we knew they were buying all the stuff you'd use to create such a program. Which is to say, we pretty much knew they had a program.

(I was also told that the North Koreans made "an all-out push" to actually get the program started about two years ago, though it wasn't clear, from what my source told me, whether this acceleration was tied to the turnover in the US administration or for other reasons.)

In any case, what seems very clear is that the US knew of the existence of North Korea's uranium enrichment program long before October 2002. As The Nelson Report disclosed a couple weeks ago, former members of the Clinton administration say they briefed the incoming administration on this in January 2001. Clearly, over time, more and more information became available. A Post article from last week says administration officials "received conclusive evidence" about the program in July 2002. But given how hardcore the administration is on such issues, presumably they wouldn't need to get Kim Jong Il's embossed Uranium-Enrichment Open House invitation in the mail before kicking things into gear.

And thus the question: If it's been known about for so long, why did it take two years to bring it up with the North Koreans?

I suspect a significant part of the answer is that for a year and a half the White House couldn't decide whether to engage or confront North Korea. And without resolving that basic question, nothing much could be done at all.

We need to know what the administration knew and when they knew it.

William Perry and Ashton Carter have an OpEd in the Times today which provides a good overview of Clinton administration policy toward North Korea. To my lights, Perry and Carter leave too implicit the ridiculousness and amatuerism of much of the Bush administration's subsequent policy. But they're technocrats and defense intellectuals, not polemicists. So what can you can do?

In any case, their piece does a good job fleshing out many of the complexities we face in Northeast Asia. It's particularly good at making clear that there is a history to our dealings with the North Koreans between 1994 and 2002 -- a point often missed in the cookie-cutter renderings of the situation one sees argued on the chat shows and in the press, which have a deal cut in 1994 and a sudden discovery of North Korean shenanigans in 2002.

See, in particular, their discussion of the 1998 review.

If nothing else, I give Charles Krauthammer credit for candor. He's willing to admit that in a matter of mere weeks the administration has jettisoned all its bellicose puffery toward North Korea and embraced a policy which is at least as accomodationist as that pursued by the previous administration. That, you'll remember would be the feckless, appeasing, undisciplined Clinton administration that the new crew pillories and slanders at every opportunity.

Krauthammer of course sees this as terrible. I and others see it merely as a confirmation that playing 1930s-dress-up is much easier in the conference room at AEI than it is on the actual international stage. One only wishes the Cheney-ites in the administration had realized this before they started shooting their mouths off.

As I say, most conservative commentators refuse to recognize what is obvious to everyone with their eyes open -- that the Bush administration is now looking for a deal pretty much just like the one the Clintonites were working on. Failing that, some administration supporters insist that this whole embarrassing spectacle is actually part of some grand master-plan. (This would be one of those classic diplomatic masterstrokes in which you put forth a maximalist position, cave shamelessly, have a lifeline thrown to you by second- and third-tier powers, and then emerge in a miraculously strengthened position.)

Meanwhile, in-coming South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun today says that "some high-level U.S. officials last month discussed the possibility of attacking North Korea because of its nuclear activities, but later decided to seek a peaceful solution." (That's the AP's paraphrase.) If nothing else, he's advertising the inconstancy and uncertainty of US policy.

P.S. I'm now reading Don Oberdorfer's excellent and newly-revised The Two Koreas: A Contemporary History. If you want a solid primer on what we're dealing with on the Korean Peninsula, by all means order a copy.

Republicans like taking problems out of Washington, DC and devolving them to the states. And damned if they don't practice what they preach!

Like the problem of GOP hokum-peddlers and their comically and offensively retrograde views on race, for instance.

Now that Trent Lott's out of the way, or at least out of the GOP Senate leadership, this 'problem' seems to be devolving to the several states in a big way. On Wednesday night we spotlighted the estimable Doug White, Republican President of the Ohio Senate, who has a tendency to use the word 'jew' as a verb and, apparently, rubs the heads of black people for good luck.

Now we're on to Randy Ridgel, a member of the Board of Directors of the California GOP, who just fired off a letter to GOP activists about Shannon Reeves, a black member of the Board, who recently said the GOP has treated blacks like "window dressing." (Reeves' comments were in response to the last California race imbroglio in which a candidate vying to head the state party, Bill Back, had to apologize for republishing an article which was a touch soft on slavery.) Ridgel, whom the Times calls "a retired white rancher from rural Lake County," might also be a future candidate for the 'cracker defense.' But, alas, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Ridgel is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore. According to today's LA Times Ridgel's letter read, in part ...

"I, for one, am getting bored with that kind of garbage. Let me offer this suggestion to Mr. Reeves: 'Get over it, bucko. You don't know squat about hardship.' ... I personally don't give a damn about your color ... so stop parading it around. We need human beings of all human colors in our party to pull their weight, so get in without the whining or get out."
Never one to go on the defensive, Ridgel also endorsed the earlier pro-confederate, sorta-kinda pro-slavery article. "Most of the poor devils [i.e., newly-emancipated slaves] had no experience fending for themselves, so they fared worse than before the war and during the war," Ridgel opined in his letter. Ridgel says he might even republish the original article. "You sure as hell won't see me apologize to these turkeys," he insisted.

No doubt, we'll soon be hearing more from the D.W. Griffith wing of the Republican party.

This morning's Times Op-Ed page has one of those examples of just how important a voice Paul Krugman's is. Don't miss it. The Bush administration promised their fiscal policy wouldn't lead to deficits. When it did they made excuses and said it wouldn't be for long. Now that the deficits are huge and there as far as the eye can see, they say deficits never really mattered in the first place. Bad policy, bad character, and eventually -- one has to assume and hope -- bad politics.

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