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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I'm still trying to assemble my thoughts about the now notorious Mike Taylor ad run by the Montana Democratic party. On balance, I just don't think Taylor has as much ground for complaint as he seems to think he does. Part of this may be the fact that before I ever saw the ad I had read a number of reports decrying it as blatantly gay-baiting. So I was expecting to be really outraged. When I actually saw it I was expecting some zinger that never quite came.

Two points that are worth mentioning: No one who criticizes the ad seems to note that the creators of the ad have Taylor dead-to-rights on the fact that his hair-care school was apparently a scam. That gives at least some hook for the commercial to get into the whole hair-care school issue. Point two is that this was an infomercial that Taylor himself produced. It's a bit hard to get past that. How offensive can it be to him to show it if he himself produced it for public consumption?

I certainly don't mean to be willfully dense. And I'm not saying I'm crazy about the ad. It's just that when I saw the ad I felt it went right up to the line but never quite crossed it.

One point that comes close is the final tagline which, after going into the hair-care scam, finishes off with: "Not the way we do business here in Montana." After you're primed to get the gay references this can, I grant you, sort of read like "Not the way we *#$% each other in Montana." On the other hand, I showed the ad to one friend today who hadn't heard anything about the controversy and she didn't pick up the gay-baiting angle at all.

In some ways the real keys are more the music and the the font and graphics of his name used at the top of the ad. They're clearly right out of Boogie Nights or an Austin Powers flick. In a sense, the ad is less guilty of gay-baiting than Boogie-Nights-1970s-Cheesedom-baiting.

One thing that is very clear is that this ad was not why Taylor got out of the race. He was just losing and this was a way to leave on a note of righteous indignation. I think that's unquestionably true, though one can certainly believe that and believe that the ad gay-baited and thus believe that his righteous indignation was justified.

Interestingly in this October 4th article Taylor said it was outrageous for the Democrats even to bring up the charges about the improper use of federal money at the school. This was before any mention was made of the TV ad. And it's very hard to see where discussing Taylor's misuse of federal education money was somehow a low blow.

Another point. A number of people wrote in yesterday arguing that this development proved that I was wrong in believing the Torricelli drop-out would be a one time thing. Seemingly everybody was going to do it and Marc Racicot, former Governor of Montana, was going to jump into the race. Frankly, had this happened, I wouldn't have seen any problem with it, even though it would have made Max Baucus's (the Democratic incumbent) race harder. As I said earlier with regards to New Jersey, so long as there is some give in the legal procedures for late ballot changes I'd say make the call in favor of giving voters the best shot at a real vote.

Actually, though, this has turned out to be a pretty good example of why the Torricelli switch phenomenon won't become that common. It now looks like Racicot won't get in the race after all. And the reason is pretty clear. If he'd wanted to run for Senate, he'd have gotten in the race a year ago when he actually would have had a pretty decent shot at knocking Baucus out. He didn't get in then because he didn't want to do it or didn't have the gumption or whatever. And he still doesn't. Additionally, now he'd face the added hurdles of being accused of just being a last minute opportunist and so forth. The bottom line is that there are just a lot of forces weighted against the whole last minute switch phenomenon.

I was ready to slam this attack ad that Montana Democrats ran against Montana's Republican Senate candidate Mike Taylor. But I became a bit more equivocal when I actually saw it. TPM has acquired a downloadable version of the spot now included in the TPM Document Collection. Click here to view or download your own copy and see for yourself.

You've likely heard of the lock-out of longshoreman in port facilities on the West coast and how President Bush has now invoked the Taft-Hartley Act to force the workers to go back to work. There's been a lot of sloppy reporting on this case -- and we'll be saying more about that. But for the moment let me draw your attention to this.

Eugene Scalia (yes, son of Antonin) is the Solicitor of the Department of Labor. He's actually not quite an appointee. President Bush couldn't get enough votes to get him confirmed so he put Scalia in the job through a recess appointment this last January, as he did with Otto Reich at State. So Scalia is the head lawyer on the government's negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association and the longshoreman's union, the ILWU.

So far so good.

But it turns out that Scalia has a bit of a conflict. Before he became Solicitor one of his legal clients was -- you guessed it -- the Pacific Maritime Association. Click here to see the key page of Scalia's public disclosure statement, which has just been added to the TPM Document Collection.

On Monday, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard L. Trumka called on Scalia to recuse himself. So far though Scalia hasn't even responded to Trumka's request. And the press has simply failed to mention it. No one seems to think it's even important enough to report on. The AFL-CIO's Lane Windham told TPM today that Scalia "can't try to be impartial when he's represented one of the parties." And we find it sorta hard to disagree with her.

TPM made repeated efforts this afternoon to contact Mr. Scalia but he was not available for comment.

Scalia's recess appointment is only good through this session. And presumably they'll try to send him up again. Especially if the Republicans win back the Senate next month. Isn't this a pretty clear conflict? What does it say that Scalia doesn't seem to care? Doesn't it deserve more press attention? Doesn't it show that the Democrats may have been right in thinking he wasn't suited for the job? Can't we expect better?

Sometimes life faces you with vexing problems, insoluble quandaries, heartbreaking choices. But even in such rough moments there are some simple joys that never leave us. Like watching Larry King create twelve car pile-ups with logic and the English language.

Like tonight when Larry asked Colin Powell ...

KING: A few other things, Mr. Secretary: Israel supports the United States completely in [attacking Iraq] yet they face the most immediate danger. Is this a dichotomy?

POWELL: They do face a danger. I think Saddam Hussein and the weapons he's been developing are a danger to all the nations in the region, to include Israel. And so that's why Israel has been a strong supporter of the need for the international community or for nations who are inclined to act together if not under the umbrella of the international community to deal with this threat.

Isn't it weird how Israel's arch-enemy is Saddam and Israel sees Iraq as a strategic threat and yet Israel still supports our clobbering Iraq? Isn't that weird? Isn't that a dichotomy?

See this earlier post for a discussion of the fine art of fielding Larry's boneheaded questions (Larry: "That's like what happened when you discovered the cure for gravity, right?") See this post for a candid discussion of the no-goofing-on-Larry rule, which effectively bars people in the media from ever pointing out what a goofball Larry is. See this post to see the top three questions Larry almost got around to asking Dan Rather on June 4th, 2002. 1) "Dan, what was it like to travel to the Moon on Apollo 51? It changes your life, right?" ...

Let me recommend a book to you in very strong terms. It's called The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq by Ken Pollack. I can't do an extensive review of the book here since I've just completed a formal magazine review of it which will be appearing in a few weeks. And I don't want to step, as it were, on my own toes. Or more to the point, the magazine's toes -- if magazines have toes.

As the title states, the book argues that there is no other good solution to the Iraq problem save a military one. Pollack is an ardent critic of the slapdash and petulantly unilateralist way the Bush administration seems inclined to go about it. (This actually is the new TPM catch-phrase for Bush administration foreign policy: petulant unilateralism) But at the end of the day he thinks that the only real option is to topple Saddam's regime and that the only real way to do that is by force.

Now, I know many regular TPM readers don't agree at all with that proposition. It's one I find both deeply troubling and, I think, inescapable. But even if you don't agree -- perhaps especially if you don't -- I think you'll get a lot out of this book.

This is the most honest, candid, and intelligent discussion I've read of this topic. Pollack explains very clearly why serious people -- and not just yahoos -- believe that the current Iraqi regime represents a serious threat. Pollack, who spent most of the last decade formulating Iraq policy for the US government, also makes a compelling case that the policy we pursued toward Iraq in recent years was and is just a losing game.

Whether you're for 'regime change' or against it, if you want to really understand this issue in detail and have your beliefs and preconceptions seriously challenged, buy this book.

Regrettably, through a tragic technical error, the first week of October's TPMs have slipped into cyber-oblivion. We're trying to recover a copy. And if and when the gods smile on us in this endeavor we shall post them in the TPM archives promptly.

This passage stood out to me in Fareed Zakaria's excellent article ("Our Way") in the new New Yorker ...

Perhaps most important, Roosevelt and Truman, having lived through the nineteen-thirties, knew how fragile the international system was and believed that it needed support. Having reaped the fruits of this system—upheld by all successive Presidents of both parties—we have come to believe that stability is natural. But the world order put into place by the United States in the past half century—an order based on alliances, organizations, and norms — functions largely because of the respect paid to it by its superpower creator. Without that support, it will crumble into chaos.
It's worth pondering. Also check out this brief Talk of the Town piece on George Kennan, the now-98 year old conceptualizer of 'containment', and the passing of his doctrine. It's good, really good.

Now that the Supreme Court isn't going to walk Douglas Forrester across the finish line in New Jersey, things just seem to be going from bad to worse for the one-time, future, accidental Senator from New Jersey. He's campaigning with all the grace and pizzazz of a live fish on a hot griddle.

Today Forrester denied Frank Lautenberg's claim that he supported Social Security privatization, only to have it revealed that his primary campaign website endorsed just that policy.

Then later in the day Forrester made the shrewd call of attacking Lautenberg for being too old. Following up on his earlier challenge to debate Lautenberg 21 times in 21 days, he said "It doesn't have to be a three-hour debate every day. That may be too much for him."

When called on this gaffe, Forrester denied any effort to call Lautenberg's fitness for office into question. Then, however, he apparently realized that if he kept his mouth shut he wouldn't be able to keep this helpful insult-senior-citizens campaign angle going. So he jumped again into the fray, claiming that it was hypocritical for Lautenberg to accuse him of making age an issue when he, Lautenberg, had made age an issue when he first ran for the Senate against Millicent Fenwick in 1982. The idea, presumably, was to expose the 78 year old Lautenberg as the real denigrator of the aged. "There should be no age limit," intoned the rapidly deflating Forrester, "But there should be a limit on hypocrisy."

On Tuesday, TPM has it on good authority, Forrester will launch a stinging new attack on Lautenberg's unseemly habit of cavorting with smelly poor people.

There's an excellent -- and intelligently assigned -- piece today in the Washington Post about the Lautenberg/Forrester race. The raging national debate about the late New Jersey ballot change from Torricelli to Lautenberg seems more like just a rage on the part of Republicans and talk radio denizens. (All yada and yada, signifying nothing, to update the classic line ...) In New Jersey, everyone but hardcore Republicans seems fine with it. As they should be.

It's sometimes difficult to fathom what ridiculous hypocrites Republicans are when it comes to election law and the courts. It turns out that back in the primaries Douglas Forrester, rule-of-law crusader from parts North, had his own problem with a last-minute ballot change. Here's a few grafs from today's New York Times ...

Mr. Genova [the Democrats' lawyer] also uncovered a legal memorandum from Mr. Forrester lawyer written in April, when State Senator Diane Allen, one of Mr. Forrester opponents in the Republican primary, was trying to block him from taking the ballot position of James W. Treffinger. Mr. Treffinger, the Essex County executive, had resigned from the race because of scandal three days earlier, or 40 days before the primary.

Senator Allen maintained that moving Mr. Forrester name to Mr. Treffinger's place on the ballot would come too late under Title 19 of the state election law, which sets a deadline of 51 days before an election for ballot substitutions. It is the same argument that Mr. Forrester lawyer, Peter G. Sheridan, made before the State Supreme Court on Wednesday, opposing Mr. Lautenberg's placement on the ballot. The Democrats said that the deadline was merely a guideline.

In April, Mr. Sheridan read the law the way the Democrats do today.

"Strict compliance to statutory requirements and deadlines within Title 19," Mr. Sheridan wrote, "are set aside where such rights may be accommodated without significantly impinging upon the election process."

It first seems worth pointing out that if the United States Supreme Court is inclined to throw Frank Lautenberg off the ballot they would appear to be obligated to throw Forrester off the ballot too, since his primary candidacy was also a violation of state election law.

Now, I had heard about this issue before but I hadn't realized that the comparison was that spot-on. It's the same 51 day deadline. The Times asked Sheridan about the seeming contradiction and he replied that the two cases were not similar because "no primary ballots had been issued" last April when the earlier controversy took place and today 1600 absentee ballots have already been sent out.

But this argument only shows that Sheridan is dull as well as hypocritical. He seems to be arguing that the relevant issue is not the inviolability of the deadline but the practical effect of allowing a change after the deadline takes place. He says that in April it was okay to make the change because no ballots had yet been printed and thus no harm -- nothing "significantly impinging upon the election process" -- could come from listing different names on them when they were printed. In other words, the deadline is simply an administrative guideline and if changes can still be made after that date passes, then they should be.

What Sheridan doesn't seem to realize is that this argument is already taken. The Democrats have it! And by embracing it, he tears his own case to shreds. The county clerks in New Jersey all said that they could make the changes in time. They could even reissue the absentee ballots. So if the issue is the practicality of making the change and not the inviolability of the deadline then Sheridan has no case.

Forrester has no case.

Even the lickspittle commentators who embraced their case have no case.

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