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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Briefly on this matter of Dean and 'unilateral' action in Bosnia. I'm running late on a few deadlines at the moment. So I don't have time to go into this at length. But I don't think this is much of a contradiction, except possibly on the most superficial level.

The tenor of the whole Iraq debate has tended to make a fetish out of the narrow meaning of unilateral and multilateral. Both have their place. And I don't think it's a contradiction on Dean's part at all to say we should not have waited for NATO to conduct air operations in Bosnia and yet also mount a critique of the president's approach on Iraq.

Remember that in Kosovo, we knew the Russians would veto our plan. So we didn't go to the UN, but went with NATO instead. As Fareed Zakaria aptly noted almost a year ago, the US never got UN approval for any of its three major military engagements in the 1990s. And few significant players suggested that it was necessary for us to do so.

So why all the hollering now over Iraq? Some on the right suggest that this is because of animosity toward president Bush or a rise in 'anti-Americanism.' But it's not. It's because the US has begun playing by very different rules in the last three years. It has moved from being a dominant power which most often works through a sort of informal consensus to one that increasingly seeks to act through dictation. We've become impatient with the minimal restraints on our power created by our participation in various international institutions and agreements -- ones which actually serve to magnify our power. And nations around the world -- not to mention publics -- have increasingly looked to the UN as a brake on US power.

In short, the issue is not so much whether you get sign off from the UN or NATO on every particular thing you do. It's a question of the totality of one's approach to allies and the rest of the nation's of the world. By that measure, the whole situation in the Balkans and the current one in Iraq could scarcely be more different.

This is a big issue and one that deserves more discussion. It's also worth noting that getting our key European allies on board in the Balkans did play a big role in the long-term success of those operations -- and the diplomatic isolation which eventually played a key role in Milosevic's fall. And perhaps Dean has himself made too much of a fetish out of the word 'unilateralism' without fleshing out the critique more fully. But basically this issue with Dean and 'unilateral' action in Bosnia just strikes me as more silly word-game gotcha. Nothing more than that.

I have a luncheon I'm going to at noon, so just a quick update on where things seem to stand in Iowa and New Hampshire. One of the campaigns has tracking numbers out of Iowa which shows each of the top three -- Dean, Gephardt and Kerry -- clumped to within a point or two. And today's Zogby poll seems to point in the same direction Dean 24%, Gephardt 21%, Kerry 21%.

As things run down to the wire, you hear a lot of things, many of which aren't confirmable. But I know that several days ago one very high-level Iowa Democrat (one who hasn't endorsed anyone) told folks that he thought that if the caucuses were held then (late last week) that Kerry would probably beat Gephardt and possibly even win the whole thing.

I don't think anyone has any really solid clue what's happening. But it does give you a sense of the fluidity of the race -- and not just the Dean-Gephardt contest we've all been focusing on.

Meanwhile, the ARG tracking poll in New Hampshire shows some more movement after several days when everyone seemed to stay in place. Dean 32%, Clark 22%, Kerry 13%.

As always, the inevitable disclaimer. Tracking polls are notoriously volatile and often show 'trends' that are the result of low sample numbers on given days. Still, over time, they give some sense of where things are going. And I think Dean's move back on to the offensive shows that his people are seeing the same thing.

Apparently the ARG pollsters were on to something.

This from tonight's WMUR from New Hampshire: "Attorney General Peter Heed said someone has been calling voters who are unaffiliated with a party and telling them that they can't vote in the primary -- which is untrue. Heed said his office has received complaints from town and city clerks as well as undeclared voters who said they are being told they cannot vote."

Some things are worth listening to again <$NoAd$>and again ...

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) When you take a look back, Vice President Cheney said, "there is no doubt Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction." Not programs, not intent. There is no doubt he has weapons of mass destruction. Secretary Powell said "100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons." And now the inspectors say that there's no evidence of these weapons existing right now. The yellow cake in Niger. George Tenet has said that shouldn't have been in your speech. Secretary Powell talked about mobile labs. Again, the intelligence, the inspectors have said they can't confirm this, they can't corroborate. Nuclear, suggestions that he was on the way on an active nuclear program. David Kay, "we have not discovered significant evidence of ... "

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

Yet.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) Is it "yet"?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

But what David Kay did discover was they had a weapons program. And had that -that -let me finish for a second. Now it's more extensive than, than missiles. Had that knowledge been examined by the United Nations or had David Kay's report been placed in front of the United Nations, he, Saddam Hussein, would have been in material breach of 1441, which meant it was a causis belli. And, look, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein was a dangerous person. And there's no doubt we had a body of evidence proving that. And there is no doubt that the President must act, after 9/11, to make America a more secure country.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) Again, I'm just trying to ask, these are supporters, people who believed in the war who have asked the question.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

Well, you can keep asking the question. And my answer's gonna be the same. Saddam was a danger. And the world is better off because we got rid of him.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) But stated as a hard fact, that there were weapons of mass destruction as opposed to the possibility that he could move to acquire those weapons still.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

So what's the difference?

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) Well ...

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

The possibility that he could acquire weapons. If he were to acquire weapons, he would be the danger. That's, that's what I'm trying to explain to you. A gathering threat, after 9/11, is a threat that needed to be dealt with. And it was done after 12 long years of the world saying the man's a danger. And so, we got rid of him. And there's no doubt the world is a safer, freer place as a result of Saddam being gone.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) But, but, again, some, some of the critics have said this, combined with the failure to establish proof of elaborate terrorism contacts, has indicated that there's just not precision, at best, and misleading, at worst.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

Yeah. Look, what, what we based our evidence on was a very sound national intelligence estimate.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) Nothing should have been more precise?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

I, I made my decision based upon enough intelligence to tell me that this country was threatened with Saddam Hussein in power.

DIANE SAWYER

(Off Camera) What would it take to convince you he didn't have weapons of mass destruction?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH

Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the fact that he is gone means America is a safer country.


What's the difference?

That says it all.

Everybody's giving Paul O'Neill a hard time now for partly backing down on some of his accusations against the president.

But this misses the point entirely. Look what an improvement this is! John DiIulio barely made it 24 hours after the horsehead showed up in his bed before he was telling the world he "sincerely apologizes and is deeply remorseful."

The O'Neill story's been out there for like a week and it's two days since the 60 Minutes interview and even now he's not taking it all back! I think what we've got here is a little rope-a-dope. O'Neill needs to give them a little but it's not yet a full Kamenev moment. More like Bukharin? I'll have to go back and review the testimony.

Hilarious. At about 5:40 PM on Tuesday evening and there's a back and forth with Peter Beinart and Deborah Perry from the Independent Women's Forum arguing about the O'Neill stuff on CNN.

Beinart raised the quite apt point that members of the Bush administration gave Bob Woodward classified documents for his highly flattering book about the lead-up to the war (did I mention it was highly flattering?). So why wasn't there an investigation then?

Deborah responded that this was a case "where the Bush administration was working with" the reporter. (That's what I caught by ear and remembered for the few moments it took me to put the dog down and grab the computer.) In other words, when it's a compulsively friendly reporter who's working with the White House on an adoring book, then they can give out classified documents at their discretion. But when it's unfriendly, you go to the slammer!

(Late Update: Here's the actual quote from the transcript: "But, again, that was the Bush administration working with Bob Woodward in terms of what they were willing to...")

Deborah, I want to thank you on behalf of all of us for that unwitting moment of candor! I'd like to encourage you to also defend the White House on the Plame matter.

(We can leave aside for the moment that there's no reason to believe the O'Neill docs were actually classified. The classification system is a little more formalized and complex then just putting 'secret' across the top of a document.)

I don't know quite what to make of this article on Wes Clark by Chris Suellentrop. Chris runs through a number of statements Clark has made on the campaign trail and, with those quotes, advances the argument that Clark, as much as Dean, has a "propensity for speaking imprecisely off the cuff."

There's a pretty widespread tendency in the mainstream media to say that Clark makes off-the-wall claims about the war on terrorism or the Iraq war. (A frequent example is the claim that the civilians at the Pentagon had a list of countries in line for regime change after Iraq.) It's more accurate to say that Clark has a habit of making points that many in high political circles consider impolitic, impolite or simply in poor taste to bring up.

Case in point, there was a list -- if by list we mean a list of countries that many in the Pentagon (civilian side) were pushing to hit next after Iraq. I know this. Most every reporter who covers the Pentagon knows this. And yet the bully-boys try to intimidate people out of saying it.

But back to Chris.

Here's Chris' quote number two.

Chris prefaces it with this headline question: "Bush 'never intended' to get Osama Bin Laden?"

And here's the quote.

We bombed Afghanistan, we missed Osama Bin Laden, partly because the president never intended to put the resources in to get Osama Bin Laden. All along, right after 9/11, they'd made their mind up, I guess, that we were going to go after Saddam Hussein. That's what people in the Pentagon told me. And they capped the resources, stopped the commitment to Afghanistan, and started shifting to prepare to go after Saddam Hussein


Is it just me, or is the story here that Chris completely distorts what Clark said? What's 'imprecise' about this statement. Provocative? Critical? Yes. But imprecise?

(I have to say that each of the quotes Chris mentions seems in same category to me.)

Clark didn't say Bush didn't intend to get bin Laden. He said he never intended to deploy the necessary resources because he placed a higher priority on the impending war in Iraq.

Now the president and his advisors could and probably would respond that they mobilized sufficient resources for both aims. But the fact that bin Laden and many of the other key targets were not captured at least makes it reasonable to argue that the forces were insufficient. (Indeed, reporting on the particulars backs this up too.)

These are the sorts of points and arguments that should be at the center of the national campaign, whichever Democrat secures the nomination -- the balance of resources mobilized to combat al Qaida and Iraq, and which was more central to the country's security.

So now the White House has pilloried Paul O’Neill as a sorry doofus and, by all appearances, launched a punitive investigation against him.

How about denying any of his claims or those in Suskind’s book?

Just a thought ...

And will O'Neill go the way of John DiIulio and Nick Smith? Where's the document they want him to sign? And who writes them?

From the archives, DiIulio's Kamenev moment: "John DiIulio agrees that his criticisms were groundless and baseless due to poorly chosen words and examples. He sincerely apologizes and is deeply remorseful."

Yikes, I'd hate to make enemies out of these guys. Or, wait ...

Number of days between Novak column outing Valerie Plame and announcement of investigation: 74 days.

Number of days between O'Neill 60 Minutes interview and announcement of investigation: 1 day.

Having the administration reveal itself as a gaggle of hypocritical goons ... priceless.

Oh, they can do better than that, can't they?

CNN's headline story on the O'Neill story reads: "Cabinet members defend Bush from O'Neill"

And then, when you click through, it turns out the cabinet members are Don Evans (the president's Texas crony and political fixer) and John Snow (O'Neill's tepidly respected successor at Treasury).

None of the bigs? That's all? No Colin? We're Rummyless?

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