Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Following up on the antics of our embarrassing Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, TPM Reader AR reminds us that Ambassador Wilkins came in at an impressive #5 on TNR's recent list of top 15 Bush administration hacks.

TPM Reader ST comments from down under ...

Hi Josh,

Just wanted to comment on that recent story above [Email Subject Line: About the recent story on US ambassador's interference in Canadian Politics].

I'm wondering if this sort of US meddling in local politics isn't a standard policy for the Bush administration. You speak about the standard way that ambassadors behave, but in Australia, we've already seen exactly this sort of thing happen. The previous US ambassador to Australia, Tom Schieffer (naturally an old Bush friend and business partner), made notable public comment on Australian politics, especially during our federal election last year. He was openly friendly with the conservative government (still in power and highly supportive of the US - sending troops to Iraq etc.), and was happy to publicly condemn anti-war or anti-US policy sentiment from the Labor party opposition leader (who lost the election and is now out of politics altogether).

This Wikipedia piece gives a good outline of what happened: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Schieffer

Just thought I'd mention this to illustrate that this is an action that might not be so out of the ordinary.

Any other recent historical perspective about how out of the ordinary any of this is?

Possible new names for Dan Froomkin's column.

"What Some Liberal Dick Thinks"

"Just One Liberal's Opinion"

"Pat Ruffini Made John Harris His Bitch and All I Got Was This Lousy Column"


"Briefing on the White House From My Desk Over Here in Virginia"

This is an odd little story. 'Little' in the amount of coverage it's received in the US, but not north of our border.

Yesterday in a speech to the Canadian Club in Ottawa, US Ambassador David Wilkins warned Canadians to tone down their criticism of the United States in their current national political campaigns. Canadian elections are scheduled for January 23rd.

"It may be smart election-year politics to thump your chest and constantly criticize your friend and your No. 1 trading partner. But it is a slippery slope, and all of us should hope that it doesn't have a long-term impact on our relationship," said Ambassador Wilkins. "It shouldn't be lost on any of us that some of your politicians use my country to score political points."

(Here are some excerpts of the speech from the Embassy website. Wilkins is a "a longtime [Bush]family friend and top Republican fundraiser", according to the CBC, as well as being a former Republican House Speaker in South Carolina.)

It was hardly the most caustic speech you've ever heard. But it's the essence of diplomatic etiquette that foreign ambassadors simply don't poke their noses into their host country's election campaigns, especially not to tell them not to criticize his country, except in cases where the host country amounts to a dependency or de facto protectorate.

So what was this guy thinking?

As you'd expect, center-left Prime Minister Paul Martin has responded to Wilkins remarks by wrapping himself in the flag and playing to Canadian disgruntlement over American big-footing: "When it comes to defending Canadian values, when it comes to standing up for Canadian interests, I'm going to call it like I see it," said Martin. "I am not going to be dictated to as to the subjects I should raise."

The whole thing vaguely reminds me of Gerhard Schroeder's 2002 reelection campaign. In the world of Bushdom, every center-left leader gets to win once on his own steam and then a second time by running on domestic disdain for George W. Bush.

It's good politics.


Heckuva Job Watch (Reuters): "President George W. Bush offered strong endorsements on Wednesday to two architects of the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, and said he was as close as ever to top political adviser Karl Rove despite his role in the CIA leak case."

Sen. Feingold just posted another update on what's happening this afternoon on the senate floor in the debate over the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. Actually, Sen. Feingold is trying to make sure there is a debate. Check out his latest.

We've got a report from on the scene at yesterday's Ueland-Katz smackdown in the senate.

This is from a reporter who was present when the events unfolded ...

Frist took questions for about 10 minutes on the Senate floor before the start of the day's session. Katz had one of the first questions, asking Frist about comments he made on Fox News Sunday that he had no idea what was in his trust. Frist looked irritated but answered generally, saying that even though Senate rules require him to provide the Ethics Committee letters about his trust, he "doesn't read them." There were a couple of attempts at followup questions but Frist then said he wouldn't take any more questions about his stock. He then went on to other issues. As we left the floor, Eric Ueland started berating Katz in a loud voice while still in the Senate chamber. It continued just outside the chamber, as Roll Call reported. At one point Washington Post reporter Chuck Babington asked Ueland if he wouldn't agree that "the issue was confusing." Even before Babington could finish his question, Ueland turned to him and in the same loud voice accused him of not understanding what was a very simple issue. Frist's Communications Director, Bob Stevenson, standing with Ueland, tried to calm things down a bit, saying he would be willing to sit down with any reporters interested to explain the issue again. Ueland went back to yelling at Katz, who stood his ground but remained respectful of Ueland. The confrontation lasted longer than did Frist's briefing---and didn't serve Frist well since it obviously drew more media attention to the HCA matter.

More muck to rake.

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