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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal, take a look at the story on page 3 in Monday's edition -- 'Global Crossing Courted Union Leaders.' The piece is, frankly, a touch hard to follow, partly because it's really several stories running together. What gets lost in the shuffle of the Global Crossing story is the intertwined, but distinct, story of apparent self-dealing at Ullico (formerly known as Union Labor Life Insurance Co.). Arguably, what happened at Ullico is more troubling.

Ullico is a private life insurance company, founded and still owned by various AFL-CIO unions.

The board members of Ullico apparently had the company buy back their own stock in the company when they knew the market price of the shares was about to take a big dip. Ullico isn't a publicly traded company, which may make it a bit different -- legally at least -- from your normal insider trading scenario. Still, it ain't good.

And I hear there is real concern among union folks in DC about how far this embarrassment or scandal may spread.

Regrettably, more on this soon.

So it's a no-go for Tipper Gore. I think she actually would have been a pretty strong candidate against Lamar Alexander. But not running's probably the right decision.

Lamar!

P.S. re: Lamar! ya had to be there ...

I must confess that when I first heard this buzz about Tipper Gore running for Senate in Tennessee, I found the whole idea quite improbable.

She's known to be a deeply private person. And I'd at least been given to understand that she was a major factor weighing against another run for her husband in 2004. But tonight I can tell you on quite good and rather direct authority that she's giving the idea serious consideration.

I can also report that she's assembling some senior staff in Tennessee this weekend to discuss the possibility.

Let's walk through a bit of what might be in that supposedly-damning (and possibly resignation-inducing) report on Army Secretary Thomas White.

White was confirmed as Secretary of the Army last May. Till then he was chairman of Enron Energy Services (EES), a major division of the dear, departed Enron Corporation.

The report apparently argues that EES played a key role in creating or exacerbating the California energy crisis, which was in full bloom during the six months or so prior to White's confirmation. Whether this is true or how strong a case the report makes -- that I don't know. Maybe it's all bluster. But I'm pretty confident that that is what it argues.

The question is how much the report ties White's and EES' role to a broader argument about the involvement of the Bush administration. I understand the report very much tries to do that. If it succeeds, dropping White might not be nearly as convenient or as easy as I had earlier predicted.

The latest I'm told is that the report is likely to be released early next week. Whatever else, the folks preparing it have everyone's attention. At the networks, the White House, and the Pentagon.

Everyone is wondering when the Public Citizen report about Army Secretary Thomas White is coming out, and what it contains.

Apparently, it's about Thomas White's division of Enron, Enron Energy Services, and its role in the California energy crisis. Possibly White's too.

As to when the report comes out, I'm still unclear on that.

On Wednesday we mentioned that Assistant Secretary of State Jim Kelly would be speaking to the foreign press yesterday and that he'd certainly get asked about the delay in the appointment of Doug Paal to the AIT Directoship in Taipei.

He did. Here's how it went.

Q Jay Chen, Central News Agency, Taiwan. Sir, four months ago at the same podium, you told us that an announcement could be expected about the new AIT director in Taipei. I wonder whether that statement still holds true today.

MR. KELLY: Yes, it does. (Laughter.)

Q When can we expect an announcement? And specifically, is Douglas Paal still being considered for that job?

MR. KELLY: I can't comment on any appointments that might be made before they are made, but I was hopeful then and have been disappointed that we haven't been able to make an announcement during that time. But I, frankly, do expect that we will be able to make an announcement within the next few weeks. But you know, it's the nature of the world and of the bureaucracy that until something actually happens, it doesn't happen. So I'm just telling you my best guess and expectation that there should be an announcement of a representative to be director of the American Institute in Taipei before long.

We also have a report from the public event at which Kelly and renowned China-hand Chas Freeman spoke out on the oft-on-TPM-mentioned New Republic article.

(Note: Unlike the passage above, what follows is not a verbatim transcript. This comes from contemporaneous notes taken by an attendee at the luncheon in question.)

Written Question from the Audience: What are your views of the recent New Republic article regarding Douglas Paal, and do you feel that the issues raised in the article are legitimate issues for the public to raise?

Answer, James Kelly:

I have just returned from Asia and have not read the article. In fact, I haven't read the American Spectator, the National Enquirer, or the New Republic since I've been back -- but I'm glad to see that hack journalism is alive and well. (laughter) The one thing I do know is that this guy didn't do good fact checking because he has me down working for the Bush administration -- and I've taken another look at my bio, and I don't see any other Bush administration on the list other than this one. Makes you wonder about the rest of it (laughter). I suspect that the New Republic has gone to new lows on this one.

Then -- Chas Freeman, the moderator, chimed in:

(Chas Freeman) I have a few words to say about this. I think that we as a nation should be very concerned when a publication like the New Republic attacks a person who is committing himself to public service, and who has been a public servant, and who could make a lot more money outside of public service -- well, this kind of public questioning is disgusting of someone so honorable. The New Republic is engaged in slime journalism as far as I'm concerned.

Following up on the previous post, it's striking how pitiful and disrespected a job the Massachusetts governorship has become under Republican occupancy. The post has barely had an elected occupant in the last decade, but rather been passed on like a ... well, i'm not going to finish the metaphor. But I think you know where I'm going.

Consider the list.

Bill Weld got reelected to the position in 1994. But he resigned the job in 1997. Notionally, he resigned the governorship to take the Ambassadorship to Mexico. But actually, we all knew he wasn't going to get that position either. In truth, he resigned as governor because he was bored.

That left the job to Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci. He managed to win the job in his own right in 1998. But apparently he didn't think the job was such great shakes either. Because he resigned the job to assume the illustrious post of Ambassador to Canada. At least he actually got the job.

That left the job to Celluci's Lieutenant Governor Jane Swift. Swift's tenure has been unremarkable at best and most known for her decision to go on (entirely appropriate) maternity leave.

Maybe the big questions for Mass. gubernatorial candidates -- especially the Republicans -- should be whether they plan to serve out their terms -- even if they find something good on TV.

These are some rough days for the pooh-bahs of Cambridge, Mass.

First you've got the continuing travails of Doris Kearns Goodwin, who got a rather feeble defense from Natasha Berger at Prospect Online a few days back. Other Harvard Yard/Boston Globe pooh-bahs and sub-pooh-bahs are circling the wagons for Goodwin, but really it's not pretty.

Now Bob Reich is apparently also in the soup. According to this article in the Boston Herald, Reich told the Herald a few months back that Bill Clinton had encouraged him to get into the Massachusetts governor's race.

At a speech yesterday Clinton said pretty clearly that this wasn't true:

I like (Reich) fine, but I didn't like the implication that somehow I encouraged him into the race when you already had one guy in the race that had supported my policies, and at critical points (Reich) didn't. I wouldn't have done that.

This runs pretty deep. Lots of stuff public and private. Reich has burned a lot of bridges with the Democratic establishment, and with Clinton in particular, over the last couple years. (The contrast with Steve Grossman, one of his Mass. gubernatorial opponents, is total). He became a more and more pointed critic of the Clintonian policy agenda as it came into focus in the late 1990s. But it may be fair to say that the policy Reich and Clinton disagreed about most was Clinton's policy of remaining in office during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

I just got done reading the advance copies of an article -- set to appear around the first of April -- which is sure to take a lot of the shine off President Bush's promise to "bring a new tone to Washington." Don't get me wrong. There's no big scandal reported. Just a great investigative look into the inner-workings of the Bush White House.

More news on this just before the piece hits the newsstands.

Still more back and forth on the long, long, long anticipated appointment of Douglas H. Paal to serve as America's chief envoy to Taiwan, the island nation at the center of one of the most volatile crisis points in the world.

The publication of this article in The New Republic three weeks ago at first threatened to torpedo Paal's chances for the Taiwan appointment. But State Department and White House officials quickly regrouped and dug in their heels, insisting that Paal's appointment go through. Hot-spots of opposition to Paal's appointment -- like the Office of the Vice President -- either got on board or were muzzled.

Since then, behind the scenes, there's been a flurry of letters written back and forth and last-ditch politicking.

Here's a bit of it.

Days after the TNR article appeared, James Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific, attacked the article and The New Republic at a speaking engagement in Washington, calling it among other things an example of "hack journalism."

Yesterday, Washington Asia-hand Steven Clemons, Executive Vice President of the New America Foundation, wrote Kelly a letter criticizing his cavalier dismissal of the ethical and legal questions raised in the article. The letter contains a description of Kelly's remarks.

(According to this State Department website, Kelly is scheduled to address the foreign media today -- March 14th -- at 2:15 PM at the Washington foreign press center. He'll likely be asked about the Doug Paal appointment.)

Here's the earlier letter Senator Jesse Helms sent to Kelly's boss, Colin Powell, asking for an explanation of, or response to, the questions raised in The New Republic article.

Because of the Helms' letter, and other developments, State Department officials have now agreed to hold a private briefing for Senate opponents of the Paal appointment to discuss the questions surrounding it.

That meeting is expected to take place in the next several days. But Paal's opponents in the Senate believe the administration's mind is made up and it's a done deal.

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