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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

According to the script of the day, we're supposed to be castigating the French, Germans, Belgians, Russians and the rest of Old Europe for betraying us, endangering NATO, hanging Turkey out to dry, appeasing Iraq, and generally being incomparable weenies. A lot of smart people in the US are saying just that. But they're being profoundly shortsighted. After 9/11, the Bush administration quite consciously marginalized NATO, resisting even the symbolic involvement of the alliance which could be paying substantial dividends today. I think it's quite possible that the damage we are doing to NATO right now will turn out to be the most profoundly damaging legacy of this administration. (And the competition is substantial.)

NATO is what you wish the United Nations could be, but isn't -- a credible institution of collective security which marries values to force. Its member-states are all democracies. They are all, by global standards, prosperous. They respect minority rights and the rule of law.

A lot of people are saying, well, yes that's all true and I like NATO as much as the next guy. But the French are such weenies! The Germans are their deputy-weenies! Why are they being so lame?

This is foolish. We didn't know the French had strong tendencies toward geo-political weenie-ism? Of course, we did. Dealing with that fact is one of the jobs we hire our presidents to fulfill. If NATO goes down the drain, the fact that the French or the Belgians or the Germans were petulant won't make it any less of a loss for us. Perhaps getting UN approval for invading Iraq was never in the cards. But taking action in Iraq without forcing a NATO train wreck should not have been that hard. Their lameness, if that's what it is, doesn't change the fact that we've come to this moment because of this administration's arrogance and swaggering incompetence.

Back in 1998, in a notoriously fatuous article, Sally Quinn quoted David Broder saying, "He came in here and he trashed the place."

He was talking, of course, about Bill Clinton and what he had allegedly done to Washington. Now, it's revealing about both these characters that how Bill Clinton affected the Washington social scene is at the center of their moral universe. But seeing what we're seeing right now made me think of that line and how it reminds me of the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Which of our alliances and security organizations are going to be left when these guys are through?

The president and his crew are acting like that not-as-smart-as-he-thinks-he-is high school kid who's always running into reverses and always blaming it on someone else. At first you think he's getting a bad shake until you see the same thing happening over and over again. It's always someone else's fault. The South Koreans are lame. The Europeans are lame. Our Arab allies are lame. Everybody is lame. We're given excuse after excuse. But at the end of the day the result seems to be our historic alliances, if not in shambles, then at least thoroughly beat-up. After all, what profiteth a man if he gain regime change in Iraq, and yet lose the whole world order in the process?

"Speak softly and carry a big stick. Or, speak loudly and carry a big stick. Or maybe even speak softly and get by with a small stick. But, for God’s sake, don’t speak loudly and carry a small stick. And yet that’s precisely what President Bush has been doing on the Korean Peninsula issue for two years ...

That's the lead to my new column in The Hill. Click here to read the rest.

There will be an announcement this afternoon (I believe, at 5 PM EST) that will -- temporarily at least -- shake up the Democratic presidential race. Because it's health-related, I'm not going to say more than that. But keep your eye out later this afternoon.

Alright, now we're cookin' with gas. Steve Kornacki of PoliticsNJ.com has advanced the GOP Marketplace story several yards down the field.

Kornacki's story provides some good information on GOP Marketplace President Allen Raymond's background in New Jersey Republican politics. The really interesting nuggets, though, are these ... Kornacki got the New Jersey state Republican party to confirm that GOP Marketplace worked for them in 2001 and 2002. Even more interesting, Kornacki suggests that Raymond may have been the never-named GOP consultant at the heart of another phone-bank scandal from last year.

The details are important enough that I'm going to quote from Kornacki's piece at length ...

In his 20-count indictment of former Essex County Executive James Treffinger last year, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie alleged that Treffinger's 2002 U.S. Senate campaign schemed to deceive South Jersey voters with misleading phone calls.

According to the indictment, Treffinger's campaign targeted two unnamed South Jersey candidates -- presumably state Senators Diane Allen (R-Edgewater Park) and John Matheussen (R-Washington Twp.) -- and placed "attack ad" and "false negative" telephone calls to South Jersey voters in an attempt to smear the two.

The indictment cryptically referred to a political consultant who, it alleged, aided Treffinger in hatching and executing the plan.

The Consultant's identity has been a matter of fierce debate and speculation. Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), the Democratic State Chairwoman, issued a press release in the closing weeks of last falls' campaign stating that GOP operative David Murray was the GOP consultant named in the indictment.

But a letter from Christie subsequently cleared Murray, who has unsuccessfully sought an apology from Watson Coleman.

Raymond did work for Treffinger, according to a former campaign staffer, but declined to say whether he is the consultant named in the federal indictment.

"Do you want to talk to my attorney?" asked Raymond when contacted by PoliticsNJ.com today.. The consultant then promised a more thorough reply later in the day, but has not yet responded.

So now we know that GOP Marketplace worked for Republican parties and/or Republican candidates in two states in 2002: New Hampshire and New Jersey.

In one of those cases (New Hampshire), where we know GOP Marketplace was directly involved, there is an on-going law enforcement investigation. In another (New Jersey), where there is good reason to suspect the firm's involvement, there's already been an indictment.

Tell me again why this story doesn't have legs?

Who else did GOP Marketplace work for last year?

More on the GOP Marketplace scandal-ette.

As we noted earlier, GOP Marketplace's founder and president, Allen Raymond, is also the Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council, a GOP PAC known for libertarian social policies and tax-cutting.

The RLC's Advisory Board includes ...

Senator Robert Bennett
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Senator Susan Collins
The Honorable Alfonse M. D`Amato
Senator Pete V. Domenici
Congressman David Dreier
Governor John Engler
Congressman Mark Foley
Congressman Bob Franks
Congressman Jim Greenwood
Congresswoman Nancy Johnson
The Honorable Thomas H. Kean
Senator Jon L. Kyl
The Honorable John McKernan
Senator Frank H. Murkowski
The Honorable Bill Paxon
Congresswoman Deborah Pryce
Congressman Jack Quinn
Governor John G. Rowland
Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Arlen Specter
Congressman Fred Upton
The Honorable William F. Weld
Governor Christine Todd Whitman
The Honorable Pete Wilson

If the Manchester Union Leader story is accurate, Raymond appears to be running a dirty-tricks operation on the side. (What dirty-tricks operation? See yesterday's post.) Do these worthies know about this? Do they think it's okay? Do Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins approve? Arlen Specter? Even you, Jack Quinn? Say it ain't so ...

On Friday we told you the story, first reported in The Manchester Union Leader, of how the New Hampshire Republican party hired a Northern Virginia telemarketing outfit -- GOP Marketplace -- to jam the phone banks at the offices of the New Hampshire Democratic Coordinated Campaign and the Manchester Firefighters' Union Local on election day last November.

Both phone banks were being used that morning for get-out-the-vote efforts.

According to the Union Leader, GOP Marketplace hired Idaho-based Milo Enterprises to place repeated five-second-and-hang-up calls to the phone banks' numbers, thus effectively shutting them down on election day. After a few hours, Verizon stepped in and shut the operation down.

Now, what is GOP Marketplace? And who is its founder Allen Raymond.

We've had a hard time getting Raymond or anyone else from GOP Marketplace on the phone. That may not be surprising, given the fact that the Union Leader article suggests the company may be the target of a state, and possibly a federal, law enforcement investigation centering on the phone jamming incident.

In any case, we called GOP Marketplace and were asked to leave a message with Chris Cupit. So far we haven't heard back. According to a slew of articles in The Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, and Austin American-Statesman, Cupit is a long-time associate and sometime consultant and/or spokesman for former Congressman Steve Stockman. Stockman, a one-term-wonder elected in 1994, was generally regarded as the fringiest and loopiest of the Republicans' '94 class.

Back in the glory days of the Republican Revolution, according to two articles which ran in The Hill in May 1996, Cupit ran a consulting firm called Political Won Stop, which did a lot of work for Stockman and also happened to run out of Stockman's house. (The FEC later meted out a $40,000 fine to Stockman for shenanigans related to the Political Won Stop operation.) During the same campaign, according to an October 30th, 1996 article in The Houston Chronicle Cupit was also Stockman's campaign manager. So clearly he's sort of a jack-of-all-trades.

At TPM, though, we're more curious about Allen Raymond, GOP Marketplace's founder. His political associations seem to rest on the other side of the Republican aisle. At least most of the time ...

In addition to having a long history in Republican politics, he also turns out to the be Executive Director of the Republican Leadership Council, a centrist Republican pressure group modeled on the Democratic Leadership Council (no one accused them of being creative with the name).

The names are the same. And when we called the RLC's offices early this afternoon the guy who answered the phone was kind enough to confirm that the RLC's Allen Raymond and GOP Marketplace's Allen Raymond are, in fact, one and the same person.

The RLC's website lists its president as former Congressman Dick Zimmer and its Advisory Board as including ...

Senator Robert Bennett
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Senator Susan Collins
The Honorable Alfonse M. D`Amato
Senator Pete V. Domenici
Congressman David Dreier
Governor John Engler
Congressman Mark Foley
Congressman Bob Franks
Congressman Jim Greenwood
Congresswoman Nancy Johnson
The Honorable Thomas H. Kean
Senator Jon L. Kyl
The Honorable John McKernan
Senator Frank H. Murkowski
The Honorable Bill Paxon
Congresswoman Deborah Pryce
Congressman Jack Quinn
Governor John G. Rowland
Senator Olympia Snowe
Senator Arlen Specter
Congressman Fred Upton
The Honorable William F. Weld
Governor Christine Todd Whitman
The Honorable Pete Wilson

Now, my question is still this: using one phone bank to knock out another phone bank doesn't sound like an idea that a clever operative would pitch to just one campaign or state party. I think whoever came up with that bright idea would want to, shall we say, spread around the love.

The Manchester Union Leader says that GOP Marketplace got the job done for the New Hampshire Republican party. So who else did GOP Marketplace work for in 2002? There were a lot of close races last year...

"As commander-in-chief, I will rebuild our military and strengthen our alliances,"
Bush campaign stump speech, 2000.

"Saudis Plan to End US Presence,"
February 9th, 2003, New York Times.

"NATO Allies Trade Barbs Over Iraq: Rumsfeld: Critics Are Undermining Alliance's Strength,"
February 9th, 2003, Washington Post.

"Shifting Loyalties: Seoul Looks to New Alliances,"
January 26th, 2003, New York Times.

"Latin America On Back Burner; Bush's Priorities Have Shifted Since 2000 Campaign,"
December 23rd, 2002 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Don't miss this timely and illuminating run-down of who actually pays what taxes at the state and local level. If you want every last detail and stat you can download Bob McIntyre's whole study here. Historically, the federal government has almost always been the ally of the weak, whether that be in racial or economic terms. The states ... not so much. This is yet another good example.

By the way, Bob McIntyre -- DC's Lord of Progressivity -- has a lot more expertly crunched numbers here at the Citizens for Tax Justice website -- one of the true gold mines of information about fiscal policy.

Who is Allen Raymond, the GOP phone bank marketeer who arranged the shutdown of Democratic phone banks in New Hampshire on election day last November? Who else has he worked for? And, most interesting, what other Republican campaigns did he work for in 2002? One clue: it doesn't stop in New Hampshire. More to come on each of these questions very soon ...

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