Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay, AP reporter Devlin Barret definitely wins at least an Honorable Mention in the Exceptional Snark in Social Security Reporting Contest.

From an article this morning on President Bush's Bamboozlepalooza event in Upstate New York on Tuesday ...

When President Bush makes his pitch for personal Social Security accounts at a town-hall meeting Tuesday in suburban Rochester, he may finally win over some key undecided voters: the three Republican congressmen representing the area.

The three reps are Reynolds, Walsh and Kuhl, phase-out hard-to-gets. But when the suitor comes calling in person, who knows?

I'm sorry there've been so comparatively few posts in the last couple days. I've been spending close to all of my time in the heavily-caffeinated world of TPMCafe, hollering at the foremen, poring over the diagrams and blueprints, hammering nails into the beams and what-have-you. In any case, we're about to launch and we'll have an announcement on that the beginning of this week.

Just this morning I saw this typically-splendid article by the Post's Walter Pincus about yet more evidence of how many questions the intelligence community had about pretty much all the evidence of Iraqi WMD during the lead-up to the war. Pincus also makes mention of the secret British memo, which came to light in the final days of the recent British election, which suggested that almost a year before the start of the war the US was shaping the available intelligence to make the case for war.

I've gotten a stack of emails from readers asking me why I haven't mentioned this or made a bigger deal out of it. Some of this is due to the distractions I mentioned above. But when I asked myself the question what I came up with was a sense of something akin to futility. I mean, how much more evidence do we need exactly to confirm the completely undeniable fact that the administration bent every rule and was reflexively dishonest in almost every way about the claims of Iraqi WMD?

Admittedly, the fact that something is obvious -- or that I perceive it as such -- is not usually a standard I apply before I start hammering on an issue. But it made me think back to an experience I had while working on the Niger uranium story last year, and one I wanted to share with you.

Much of the work I did on the Niger story, both before and after the report was released, gravitated around the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee report on Iraqi WMD. And we were working committee sources on both sides of the aisle before and after it was released.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that such a report would be incomplete and in some ways misleading. Certain highly sensitive subjects might be passed over for legitimate national security reasons and even authors who, as a general matter, wanted to keep the public informed, might shade the truth in some particulars.

But when I read the report's treatment of the topics that I'd gotten to know about in some detail I was genuinely surprised at how much it was not only misleading but how much almost the entire presentation of the facts was quite consciously engineered to give the reader precisely the opposite impression of what actually happened.

The level of mendacity was even more surprising because the report was signed off on by both the committee Republicans and the committee Democrats. And, no, I'm not saying that Democrats are intrinsically any less capable of bamboozlement than Republicans. But in this case they very much did have antagonistc political interests. And it wasn't clear to me why those political interests if nothing else would not have made them less willing to go along with such a whitewash of what happened.

I guess it was probably the same reason the Dems let themselves get scammed by Sen. Roberts with the long-awaited second-half of the committee's investigation (the one set to look at how the administration politicized and manipulated the intelligence), which he blew off once the election was safely over.

If you're going to be anywhere near a TV on Sunday evening, don't miss 60 Minutes. They have a segment they're running about the millions of dollars the federal government is spending to convince children and adolescents that condoms arent' very effective at preventing STDs or pregnancy. You may be familiar with the general topic. But the interviews with Bush administration officials and those they're funding will really take your breath away.

Kevin Drum puts the whole 'nuclear option' drama into perspective. This is really a post you must read. As Kevin says, the Republicans really brought this whole mess on all of us. For further discussion of the point, see this post by 'Hunter' at Dailykos.com.

The Associated Press finally makes the connection in their reporting on the trial of accused election-tamperer James Tobin ...

At the time, Tobin was a high ranking official of the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, whose job was to elect Republicans to the Senate. The 2002 race between Republican John E. Sununu and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen, won by Sununu, was considered one of the closest in the country.

The committee was run by Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee, now Senate majority leader.

Tobin conspires to deny New Hampshirites the right to vote, according to the new indictment brought today. And he did this while working for Bill Frist.

You'd think the Majority Leader would at least agree to answer what if anything he knew about it.

A reader from Texas checks in ...


I have been licensed to practice law in Texas since 1961. During that period we have seen the complete deterioration of the 5th Circuit in New Orleans from a beacon of reason during the civil rights battles (of course it then included more States including Alabama) to the a rubber stamp right-wing caricature of its former stature.

The court is particularly bad in precisely the areas in which Priscilla Owen is awful. Sure she is terrible on abortion issues. I think the other important areas of her reactionary views such as employee rights, civil rights, torts etc. are the ones she will do the most damage on. That is because most of those sorts of cases end at the Circuit Court level. Most abortion issues do make it to the Supreme Court, so the damage she could do on that issue is limited.

Here is my compromise, as much as it pains me: Let Owens go through. It will not make the 5th appreciably worse; the only more retrograde Circuit is the 4th. I know it will further imbalance the 5th and violate the dictum laid down by Sen. Schumer. The way I see it is that the 5th is a lost cause or sacrifice area already and for the foreseeable future. But, the DC Circuit to which Judge Brown has been nominated is both more important and more closely divided. Brown is so far out of the mainstream she almost makes Owens look moderate. Brown must be stopped. As must Myers. We need to preserve the independence of other Circuits such as the 9th and reluctantly let the 5th and 4th go even further, if such is possible, to the dark side. We have to depend on the fact that conflicts between circuits are often taken up by the Supreme Court.

Actually I do not think Frist can win a vote on the nuclear option. When crunch time comes I believe just enough Republicans will decide against violating both the rules of the Senate and permanently weakening the Senate vis a vis the Executive.

I think he may be right on that<$NoAd$> last count.

I mentioned a couple days ago that the chief bad actor in the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal, James Tobin, is now going on trial. His attorneys are seeking to throw out his indictment on the theory that there may have been Democrats on the grand jury. And they're also asking the judge to allow expanded voir dire to allow his lawyers to strip the trial jury of any liberal bias.

I'm just looking here at Tobin's lawyers' proposed jury questionnaire. And there are some really entertaining questions, like ...

"8. Are you now or have you ever been a member of a union?

[] YES, I am now [] YES, I was in the past, but am not now [] NO

If YES, what union(s)?"

"9. Are you or have you ever been affiliated with a political party? []YES []NO If YES, what party?"

"18. If you have access to the internet, do you participate in chat rooms? []YES []NO"

"19. Do you read any blogs on the internet? [] YES [] NO If YES, what blogs do you read?"

Another point, for anyone who's actually interested in the constitution, its history and its future, is the degree to which this whole operation is quite clearly being engineered from the White House. This isn't just about the internal workings of the senate. It is also about, indeed principally about, the executive clipping the wings of the Congress, part of the parliamentarization of the American government under the President Bush that we discussed back on November 5th.

It may surprise you to hear that I'm not totally averse to a compromise in the judges/nuclear option situation. Not all of the judges being filibustered, for instance, are equally extreme in their views. So it wouldn't seem a bad deal to me if the senate Democrats were to allow up or down votes on some or even most of the judges in question, if what they got in return was some ironclad guarantee that the Republicans would no longer try to break the rules and abolish the right to filibuster.

Now, how that guarantee could truly be ironclad? I have no idea. But I'm speaking in hypotheticals.

What I don't understand is the logic of the deal that some of the senate moderates seem to have been and perhaps still are considering. The proposal floated yesterday would allow the two most extreme nominees, Owen and Brown, to go through, in addition to three others. On top of that the senate Dems, if I understand this right, would agree, in essence, seldom if ever to join filibusters in exchange for a promise from their counterparts on the other side not to vote to outlaw filibusters.

Now, there are those I've spoken to who see such a deal as worth it because at least it leaves the filibuster intact for the upcoming Supreme Court nominations. But this strikes me as foolish. There are easily enough Republicans to defeat this right now, if this were a secret vote. What we're seeing, however, is the degree of pressure the president, the religious right and Sen. Frist -- who is in hock to the religious right because he wants to be president -- are putting them under.

If the filibuster is 'saved' today at the cost of letting the most constitutionally noxious nominees go through, do we really imagine that the pressure will be any less when we get into a Supreme Court battle? The question answers itself. If they can't withstand the pressure now, they certainly won't be able to withstand it then. So such a deal, as near as I can figure it, would 'save' the filibuster in an entirely meaningless way, a right the minority would continue to hold so long as they agree never to use it.

The situation would be different if the deal did not allow through at least the two most extreme nominees, Owen and Brown. On one level it would be different simply because those two judges' records make them the most important to defeat. On another level, though, it would represent a telling sign. If these Republican moderates were to agree to a deal that nixed these two nominations, that would tell me that they really are willing to hand their leadership (and the Dobsonites) a significant defeat and that they recognize that the power of the filibuster remains intact -- otherwise, why nix the two nominees both sides see as most important.

Those two facts would be the tangible proof that the filibuster still exists and that a significant number of Republicans recognize its existence and are willing to sustain it. That would mean far more than any words on paper or handshakes.

(Such an arrangement would also spawn a civil war among Republicans.)

So all of that is my thinking on why it might be good on substance and on politics -- depending of course on the precise particulars of the deal -- to give the Republican moderates a few judges now in exchange for putting to rest this plan to break the senate rules with false claims of the filibuster's unconstituionality. But any agreement that concedes on the present nominees in exchange for kicking the can down the road till the next fight on which the stakes will be even higher is just stupid.

If the filibuster is dead, far better as a matter of principle, honesty and politics to find out now, in advance of the next fight, than pretend otherwise.

The truth is that I think this whole debate is really hypothetical or moot. They've decided to break the rules with their false claim of unconstitutionality. And if that's true then Democrats should confront the situation at that level, without fear of doing so, without fear of 'losing' in the narrow sense of the term. It's just about the rump caucus of Republican moderates and whether they want to join their colleagues in their rule-breaking.

Late Update: This is one of those cases where I wish TPMCafe were already up and running (in case you're wondering, the site will launch before the end of the month) because the comments I'm getting in on this post are fascinating and have already led me to, at least partly, reconsider my position.

Many readers argue that the sort of 'compromise' I suggest still wouldn't be worth it because it would further confirm the Democrats' reputation -- both to themselves and to the electorate -- as weak, as trimmers who won't take a stand on a point of principle. In this sense, conceding anything would grant a measure of legitimacy to what is plainly an illegitimate action, one demonstrably based on false claims. I think that's a solid point. Over the last four years the Republican party has resorted with increasing frequency to tactics that at a minimum break long settled norms of our politics and in more than a few cases violate the law itself.

My openness to such a compromise is based on the belief that the sort of compromise I sketched out could well be the final straw that blows a big part of the Republican coalition apart. If the Republicans, either as a whole or because of a few defectors, let the filibuster stand, the Dobsonites will simply go nuts, though I admit in one sense of the word that may seem redundant. So I don't think Frist can or will compromise in this case because it's not as though there's any principles here save his own advancement that he cares about. And he doesn't think he advances any further without James Dobson pulling his strings.

And, as long as we're on the topic, have you ever seen Dobson and Frist talk simultaneously?

Did Rick Santorum really just say that?

Late Update: It seems he really did. Amazing.

Said Santorum: What the Democrats are doing is "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.' This is no more the rule of the senate than it was the rule of the senate before not to filibuster."