Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There's one point that's important to remember about the White House's pushback to cover up its collective dishonesty about Iraq. We've noted before that in scandals or political nominations the decisive issue is not the number of opponents, the intensity of their opposition or even the quality of their arguments. The decisive issue is most often whether the scandalee or the nominee has some committed base of support, even if it only amounts to a distinct minority.

A parallel dynamic is in play with respect to what the White House is trying to accomplish with this current pushback.

Virtually all of the arguments the White House is now advancing are transparently ridiculous on their face to anyone who has closely followed this evolving debate over the last three years.

But that doesn't matter. The White House doesn't need to win any debates. What they need is for their core supporters to have something to say. Anything. And to be able to say it loudly. The one thing that would be fatal for the White House from its defenders would be silence.

I don't say this as a counsel of pessimism or futility. It's just important to understand, to know what they're trying to achieve. The good news is that most Americans have already figured this out. Clear majorities of the public now believe this president misled them about Iraq. And they'll certainly grow. The key is to press these on the specifics, why they said these things they knew weren't true.

Ahhh. But sayin' it don't make it so.

Vice President Cheney was quite long last night with attacks that read like projection, calling his critics "dishonest and reprehensible" for their "cynical and pernicious falsehoods".

But he won't answer the questions.

He won't address the specifics because they're too unrefutable and damning. And that's probably one of the reasons why a decisive majority of American now think he and the president misled them. (Last WSJ/NBC poll, 57% "think that President Bush deliberately misled people to make the case for war.")

So Mr. Cheney can storm and scream all he wants. But he won't answer why he repeatedly misled Americans by claiming that the 9/11 ringleader Mohamad Atta had met with Iraqi intelligence not long before September 11th. Over and over and over. He can't answer that question because there is no answer. By every moral and factual standard, he provided false evidence to the American people. He lied. Over and over and over.

As late as January 2004, he was still trying to convince Americans of the by-then totally discredited 'mobile biological weapons lab' canard.

During the lead up to war, Cheney repeatedly claimed that Iraq was harboring and training al Qaida terrorists -- claims for which there was, at best, no good evidence. (For these and other examples, see this list. For some more fact-checking of the White House, see this article from Knight-Ridder.)

There's nothing more to say to Mr. Cheney than a) answer the questions and b) come clean.

TPM Reader DM checks in ...

You need to get a transcript of Sen. Durbin’s comments on the Spike O’Dell show on WGN Chicago about 7:35 this morning. The gist of it is that he said for the President to say that we all had the same pre-war intelligence is just flat wrong. Also additional comments about the aluminum tubes issue.

Anyone know where we can get a copy of this?

I think Matt Yglesias mentioned this in one of his recent posts. But it seems sort of silly for people to be claiming that the Woodward revelation demonstrates that Fitzgerald's investigation was somehow incomplete or flawed because he didn't find out about Woodward's role.

My recollection is that Fitzgerald said quite clearly in his press conference that he'd been prevented from getting the whole story and that a key reason for this was Libby's perjury and obstruction.

Remember the analogy about kicking sand in the umpire's face?

And there's another point just brought to my attention by TPM Reader NH. A lot is being made of the supposed fact that Woodward's revelation disproves one of Fitzgerald's claims, namely, that Libby was the first person to tell a reporter about Plame.

Libby's new lawyer Theodore V. Wells Jr. said this new information proved that Fitzgerald's accusations was "totally inaccurate."

The article in Thursday's Post makes the same point, if with far less inflammatory words: "Woodward testified Monday that contrary to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's public statements, a senior government official -- not Libby -- was the first Bush administration official to tell a reporter about Plame and her role at the CIA."

But look what Fitzgerald actually said (emphasis added) ...

But Mr. Novak was not the first reporter to be told that Wilson's wife, Valerie Wilson, Ambassador Wilson's wife Valerie, worked at the CIA. Several other reporters were told.

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

Fitzgerald chose his words carefully. He didn't state as a fact that Libby was the first government official to leak Plame's identity. Nor did he hang any of his indictment on Libby's having been the first.

What he said is that Libby's was the earliest instance he'd found of an official leaking Plame's identity.

In truth, this whole point seems like a tempest in a teapot. For better or worse, I doubt that precisely what Fitzgerald said about who was first will play any role at Libby's trial. But it seems worth running this bit of imprecision to ground before it becomes a 'fact' by endless repetition.

So maybe it was one of those two people who spoke to Fitzgerald not under oath.

This just out from the NYT ...

A senior administration official said that neither President Bush himself, nor his chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr., nor his counselor, Dan Bartlett, was Mr. Woodward's source. So did spokesmen for former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former C.I.A. Director George J. Tenet and his deputy John E. McLaughlin.

A lawyer for Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff who has acknowledged conversations with reporters about the case and remains under investigation, said Mr. Rove was not Mr. Woodward's source.

Vice President Cheney did not join the parade of denials. A spokeswoman said he would have no comment on an ongoing investigation. Several other officials could not be reached for comment.

Remember, there are only so many 'senior administration officials'. I wouldn't have much difficulty believing that Cheney is the ur-leaker. It's been obvious for some time that he's the prime mover in this whole affair. What I find hard to believe is that he came forward to Fitzgerald on his own volition. We shall see.

Late Update: Steve Soto nicely unpacks what it might mean for the president if the mystery SAO is Steve Hadley.

Kerry on Cheney: "It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq than Vice President Cheney. The Vice President continues to mislead America about how we got into Iraq and what must be done to complete the still unaccomplished mission."

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With Cheney coming out tonight to preach more falsehoods to the 30+ percent of the population still willing to listen, let's remember that this is the established, all-too-familiar strategy.

How do you go after a decorated war veteran running against a quasi-draft-dodger? Hit him hard for cowardice and disloyalty to country.

How do you knock out a respected juvenile court judge? Spread rumors that he's a pedophile.

You can see pretty clearly that Karl Rove is back in the saddle because what we're seeing now is straight from the Karl Rove play book. You throw them off balance by charging directly into their line of fire.

When the veil is finally being lifted on your history of lies, hit hard against the other side for 'rewriting history' or trying to deceive the public.

According to Drudge, a knock line from Cheney's speech this evening has him saying, "yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition."

The up-is-downism is truly bracing -- hilarious or outrageous depending on your mood. And you can feel the belligerence and instinctual reliance on blunt force in all things that allows Cheney to say such things with a straight face or any hint of fear that sensible will see him digging himself still deeper.

All there is to do is just keep cataloging this man's history of lies and attempted cons. That's all that's necessary. They can't hide. But don't forget that this latest gambit is only the first flash of what we'll see from this crew as they swing over the downward arc of Fortune's wheel.

Since I wrote my initial thoughts on the Woodward matter earlier today -- what I called "preliminary impressions" -- I've already revised some of my opinions, in large measure in response to a number of reader emails. I'll try to do a follow-up on that point later this evening.

But for now I want to share a few thoughts that have occurred to me about this mystery Senior Administration Official (SAO) who came forward to Patrick Fitzgerald.

One thing we learned toward the end of the build-up toward the Libby indictment is that Fitzgerald interviewed or deposed quite a few people in the course of his investigation. The SAO category includes a good number of people. But not that many. Is this someone Fitzgerald had never interviewed or brought before the grand jury? My recollection is that Fitzgerald talked in one fashion or another to most SAOs, maybe the great majority of them.

Whoever Fitzgerald talked to you would certainly think he'd have been sure to ask a question which would force the person being questioned to answer who, if anyone, they'd discussed Plame's identity with.

"Did you know Plame's identity?" "Did you discuss Plame's identity with anyone outside the White House?" etc.

You can probably see where I'm going here. Did this mystery SAO's testimony contradict earlier testimony provided in the course of the investigation?

Unless Fitzgerald had never spoken to this person, it's hard to see how that wouldn't have been the case.

Unless of course it was someone who'd been interviewed in some very cursory manner or perhaps not under oath.


Tonight Cheney comes out swinging against critics of White House lies, deceptions and sundry Iraq bamboozlements.