Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Drats! There I go again, giving Mr. Perle too much credit. In my last post I told you how Richard Perle is in another controversy after giving a speech at a fundraiser for an organization the United States government classes as a terrorist group.

But a reader just pointed out to me that I seem to have gotten one detail a bit off.

I said that Perle had told the Post that his speaking fee was going to the Red Cross, and that Perle was surprised when the Post reporter told him that the Red Cross had decided not to accept any monies from the event.

But that's not quite what it says he said. The article quotes Perle telling the Post that "all of the proceeds [from the fundraiser] will go to the Red Cross."

But he says nothing about his speaking fee going to the Red Cross.

In fact, the article doesn't say explicitly that Perle even received a speaking fee, though it clearly implies that he did.

The article reports that "Perle declined to say how much he received." Later, the article has Perle explaining that the speech was arranged by something called the Premiere Speakers Bureau. Now, speakers' bureaus generally set up paid speeches. Not always, I suppose. But it's a good indication. Also, if he did the speech gratis why would he decline to say how much he got? Why not say he did it gratis and avoid any question or controversy?

As I say, we don't know, but the logic of the Post's piece points strongly toward the conclusion that Perle was paid to give this speech at a fundraiser for a terrorist organization. And if he got one, there's no indication he's given that fee back or given it to some other charity.

Should an advisor to the Pentagon be pocketing a fee for helping to raise money for a terrorist organization?

Useful Idiot? Isn’t that the phrase we use for well-meaning enthusiasts who get duped into supporting front-groups for bad-acting causes?

As you’ve probably seen already, The Washington Post today has a piece about how Richard Perle gave a speech last weekend to a group that US law enforcement and intelligence suspects is actually a front for a terrorist group, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). According to the Post, US law enforcement had debated whether they had the authority to shut the fundraiser down. And on Monday the Treasury Department froze the assets of the event's main sponsor, Iranian-American Community of Northern Virginia.

Perle told the Post that he wasn’t aware of the MEK’s involvement in the event, believing instead that it was intended to help the victims of the Bam earthquake. He also said his speaking fee was going to the Red Cross. When the Post reporter told him that the Red Cross had already ruled out receiving any monies from the event, he said he didn’t know that either.

Perle says he didn’t know about any of this. But, as this fella points out, the capitol hill newspaper The Hill reported last Wednesday (“Terrorists plan D.C. fundraiser,” Jan.21st) that House Administration Chairman Robert Ney (R-Ohio) asked John Ashcroft to investigate the fundraiser for its ties to terrorists.

Now, as it happens, I’m not sure that Perle was just another in that long line of wide-eyed do-gooders whose humanitarian impulses are darkly preyed upon by the dregs of the world's dustbin-bound ideologies.

The MEK is a terrorist organization (recognized as such by the US government since 1997) fighting the Iranian government. For years it’s worked out of an enclave in Iraq with most of its support coming from Saddam Hussein. Other than these facts the group is best known for violence and its mélange of bizarre beliefs.

Since the war there’s been an-going battle within the administration over whether to root out the MEK or, if not quite sponsor them, then at least tolerate their continued battle against the mullahs of Iran.

Perle and his faction, not surprisingly, have been on the side pushing for sorta-kinda sponsorship.

Of my essay this <$NoAd$>week in The New Yorker Andrew Sullivan writes …

I read it yesterday and then re-read it. Josh manages to write about the Clinton era "soft-imperialism" and the Bush era "hard imperialism" with nary a mention of a certain even that occurred on September 11, 2001. Maybe I missed something. I doubt if his editors noticed the lacuna. Why should they? For the Clintonites, 9/11 didn't really happen.

I’ll let readers judge whether the essay really ignores 9/11 and the effect it’s had on the country --- an interpretation which strikes me as rather strained. But as to the particular point, yes, I think he did miss something.

After September 11th, a left-wing accusation became a right-wing aspiration: conservatives increasingly began to espouse a world view that was unapologetically imperialist.

And in case there’s any unclarity, when I referred to September 11th, I was referring to the terrorist attacks that happened on that day. And in the previous sentence when I referred to 'terrorist attacks' I was referring to the hijacked airliners that were flown into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and the field in central Pennsylvania.

Andrew is of course right that I don’t see Bush administration foreign policy as simply a logical and unavoidable response to 9/11. I see it as both a pretext for and a catalyst of the implementation of an approach which the architects of the administration’s foreign policy had supported long before they even considered al Qaida type terrorism much of a threat.

During the time I was in New Hampshire, and especially in the last couple days, there was lots of chatter to the effect that the Dean campaign was all but out of money. There was (and is) really no other way to explain their decision to pull their ads down from all the post-New Hampshire contests unless they were facing an acute funding crisis. (After all, assuming a good showing in New Hampshire, they would pretty quickly need to start advertising in at least a few of those states anyway.) And this article in Thursday's Post pretty much confirms it.

Dean raised more than $40 million. And it's apparently almost completely gone.

According to the Post article, the Dean camp believes he can essentially hang back through the February 3rd contests "remain[ing] credible by picking up enough votes to win some delegates ... even without renewed advertising or a first-place finish."

He'll then make a push in Michigan and Washington, which come later in the week, banking on the fact that these caucus states give more advantage to organizational strength.

Frankly, I think we all know that these are the sorts of things campaigns say just a bit before they give up the ghost, focusing on 'winning delegates' rather than actually winning any contests -- sort of like the hapless dry goods salesman who loses money on every sale but thinks he's going to make it up in volume.

There are other problems with this approach too. The most recent poll of Michigan -- out earlier this week -- shows Kerry holding a 37% to 14% lead over Dean.

I'm writing from a train zipping down the Northeast Corridor at the moment. But I just saw the AP story reporting the stunning news that Howard Dean has fired Joe Trippi as his campaign manager and replaced him with long-long-long-time Gore insider Roy Neel.

This has to be one of the most bizarre turns of events I've seen in Dem politics in a very long time.

In the context of Dean's campaign, Trippi is certainly not just a campaign manager. He was at least one of the chief architects of this path-breaking campaign model that we've been hearing so much about and talking so much about for months.

But the appointment of Neel is even weirder than the canning of Trippi.

I'm no purist in political matters, but isn't Neel a Washington lobbyist? An insiders' insider? I don't think that makes him a bad guy. But isn't it a little out of tune with the campaign Dean's been running?

Something very weird happened here.

All I can figure is that this all happened with no warning whatsoever. Gore is now in the mix. And in need of someone immediately they went to Neel. Is the next DC Meet-Up at The Monocle?

A quick note before I try to make my way by car back to Boston. I don't know if it was clear from the news coverage. But there was not one speck of precipitation in this state -- at least not in the southern part of the state where I was most of the time -- for the last ten days. Not a drop or a flake. It only started snowing mid-morning today. And now, loooking out my window, everything is more or less white.

On reflection, I think my late evening primary night post was, if anything, too generous about the Dean campaign's future prospects. Each of the campaigns has a basic premise, an argument. Edwards and Clark are on something just shy of life support. But both can say that their premises -- basically the ability to play well in the South and among National Security voters -- haven't really been tested yet. I doubt they'll really get a shot at this point. But we don't know how Kerry will do in the South and Midwest. So maybe they'll get a shot.

Gephardt's premise was heavy labor mobilization and support from the industrial and post-industrial Midwest. He lost Iowa. Thus his premise was proven invalid. And he left the race.

Dean's premise has been mobilization of the base and grassroots mobilization and organizing. He's now contested the two states where those strengths should have helped him the most. And he's lost both times. I think it's pretty close to the point where you have to say his premise has been disproven as well.

Yet for all Democrats I think there are some very promising signs coming out of these two contests. There was a lot of talk for months about the divisions in the Democratic party. And certainly there was something to that. But that wasn't what was happening on the ground here. I heard most of the candidates repeatedly. And the differences between them are matters of mild shading. The important differences are retrospective rather than prospective.

There has also been the beginnings of a revolution in the way Democrats organize and raise money. It didn't start with Dean and I don't think it will end with him. But he and his campaign have played a huge part is catalyzing and accelerating it.

Look also at turnout. Iowa and New Hampshire both saw huge surges in turnout. A good bit of that is due to there not being a Republican contest. But not all of it. Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are seriously energized and not just by their particular candidates but by their desire to turn George W. Bush out of office.

We'll be turning our attention now to the new funny-business over WMD, the Plame investigation, and the administration's desperate attempts to come up with any plan for Iraq that can be reconciled with the 2004 election calendar.

In this new piece in The American Enterprise, James Glassman does some party-liner due-diligence on George Soros. The financier has a "monstrous hatred" of George W. Bush and is a threat "to our truly open society..."

I was here at the Dean election night party site, arriving a bit before 8 PM, in time to catch the excited reactions to the early projections of a close race. The event room was a cavernous basketball court that held probably more than 600 people (I’m just not a good judge of crowd size). For most of the evening, until Dean hit the stage, the crowd rested somewhere between disappointment and dejection. “Somnolent” was the word I jotted down in my notebook.

Many watched the four wide-screen TVs where John Kerry’s double-digit lead just wouldn’t go away. No catcalls, no upset looks, no nothing --- just taking it in.

Later, a group of us stood on one of the risers twenty or thirty feet away from Dean as he spoke to his crowd of supporters.

I don’t know how it seemed on television (you have me at a disadvantage on that one). But in person he seemed strong and commanding, hitting each of the key points he’s been working over the last week. And though the crowd seemed subdued for most of the evening, they were electrified by Dean, with shouting and cheering and foot-stomping all through his speech.

When it was over, the reporter standing next to me, turned and said: "If he would have given this speech last week, this would be a very different story."

Without talking to everyone in the room you can’t know what people are thinking. And when you ask, as a journalist, you create a sort of Heisenbergian distortion that still keeps you from knowing. But the enthusiasm I saw in the crowd, when they were listening to Dean speak, seemed completely unrelated to tonight’s result. The excitement was all about them and Dean. Where the campaign would be in a week -- good or bad -- seemed like a secondary matter.

I think the excitement would hardly have been much different if his final vote total had been no larger than the number of people in the room with him tonight.

Over the course of the evening I saw various members of Dean’s core staff. And they seemed curiously unfazed by everything that had happened. They certainly weren’t jubilant. But they didn’t seem particularly disappointed either. They seemed like the whole thing went as they'd expected. And they were ready to move on to the next front.

I haven’t spent much of any time with these people. So I wouldn’t be the best judge. But that’s what it looked like to me.

Dean said that New Hampshire had “allowed our camp to regain its momentum” and that “we did what we needed to do tonight.” And I think that’s right. But just barely. I think they're in desperate shape. And I think they know it.

In isolation, this wasn’t such a bad result. Dean took a heavy blow in Iowa, collapsed in the polls, and then battled his way back to what he rightly called a “solid second.”

But Iowa and New Hampshire were his two best states. And now he’s going into seven states which should all be harder for him to win than these two. Some vastly more difficult.

What this race is now about is whether John Kerry can carry this momentum into the Midwest and the South. If he can -- and that's not at all clear -- then it's over.

More thoughts on the state of the race later this evening.

It's about 6 PM. The sky is dark. And, before the sun dipped out entirely, that sky was looking pretty ominous. I'm heading out for the evening now and plan to spend most of it at the Dean party here in Manchester. It looks now like Dean will probably close much of the margin, yet not catch up to Kerry. But I figure that the Dean event is where the most interesting story will be found. Where does Dean place and how do his supporters react to that showing? Coming out of New Hampshire he goes deep into red state America, where the winds won't be favorable. He needs to win the press's judgment if not primary outright. The winter boots are on for the first time this week. The parka is zipped. Lights, camera ... eh, you know the rest.

Yesterday, the day before the primary, my friend Kenny and I hit a final few events and went to a couple of headquarters to get spun once more before the voting starts. First it was a Dean Town Hall meeting at the Palace Theater in downtown Manchester -- this is the one where Al Franken helped take out a LaRouche protestor and, in the doing, got his glasses broken.

(Don't this place provide some decent street theater!)

This was actually a coordinated LaRouchie attack, with shouts, escalating into heckles and then blowing right through to blizzards of four-letter-words. It also seemed to show up some weaknesses in the Dean security detail. We were up on the theater's upper level and had one of the hecklers come down to the ledge, arms looping this way and that, screaming about Cheney, screaming at Dean, mostly just screaming.

He was the second string protestor or rather the second wave, after the first guy got tossed. Security at these sorts of events tends to be a 'C'mon, c'mon, you've really got to leave now' sort of affair. But as he was working up into full-froth a crew-cut three-hundred-poundish all-together not nice looking guy stomped out, extended his arm, grabbed the dude by the scruff of his neck, said a couple unpleasant things, and then proceeded to shake the guy around like a friggin' rag doll, all the while making clear that he really shouldn't have made such a scene.

Kenny and I looked at each other, thinking, "Sheesh, they're literally going to throw that guy out into the street." But a few moments later, as I'm watching Dean, scribbling in my notebook and comtemplating the fate of the LaRouchie in the hands of Dean's Rock'em, Sock'em Robot, suddenly I hear ... "Aga b'dada, yada! yada, Cheney Cheney #$%#@&, Dean Cheney, Beast Man! allooooooo, yiiiiiiigraaaaaahhhhh. Yada! Dean, who the $#@% do you think you ..."

He was back.

How did he get back in?

No idea.

Dean's talk and Q & A was relaxed and assured, though the crowd wasn't as boisterous as I expected. One marquee New Dem was a couple seats down from me, marveling at Dean's prowess and seemingly eager to climb on board.

"If you want to change the president," and this is a close to verbatim paraphrase from my notes, "vote for any of the candidates on the ballot tomorrow. They're all better than George W. Bush. But if you want to change America, vote for me."

He asked supporters to drag friends and associates to the polls to vote for him. "I need you to be draggers for Dean."

Bring everybody. "Bring your kids if they're old enough. And if they're not old enough, then move to Chicago and register them there, and move back."

There was much more on budget-balancing and extending health care then there was on Iraq, and Dean served up his devotion-stirring mix of off-the-cuff and idiosyncratic Q & A.

One moment he's condemning the president's "barbaric approach to stem cell research" and telling the crowd he doesn't "think science should be guided by religious ideology." A short time before he said that Jesse Helms' insistence on withholding dues from the UN -- which Dean said he opposed at the time -- probably did end up pushing the world body toward much-needed reforms.

Certainly, that was the only shout-out I heard to Jesse Helms this week.

After lunch we went to see Clark's brief stop in Manchester (he was hitting each of the state's ten counties, finishing up in Dixville Notch at midnight). We got there just after things were winding down and ran into a ragged crowd -- camera crews, supporters, family, campaign aides -- walking down Elm Street following Clark, who was shaking hands and glad handing from store to store. "I don't know but I've been told, yada yada, yada yada... sound off, sound off, etc." You hear this a lot at Clark functions.

As his crowd parked itself in front of the Merrimack Restaurant, where the candidate was making the rounds, they were confronted by a Kerry crowd at the other side of the intersection. (Kerry has an endless stock of potential volunteers just across the state line, remember.) In response to the Clarkies marching songs, the Kerry crew started chanting "Bring! It! On! Bring! It! On! Bring! It! On!"

It was, I guess, the reductio ad absurdum martial moment this week. Who says this party ain't down with the military?

Later, we headed over to get Lieberman HQ to see friends and get spun a final time. We heard about a new study out predicting that 50% of primary voters today would be independents, which held out some hope, we were told, of a break toward Lieberman, allowing him to slide into third. We'll know soon enough whether there was anything to that, of course. One thing though: You may think Lieberman is the corporate candidate. But his offices in Manchester are decidely ... well, uncorporate. I'd call the aesthetic neo-languid-frat-house, with pizza box accents.

A while later we were at Kerry headquarters, a big, buzzing affair, a hive of activity, with what seemed like about a million more people than at Liebermanville. We stopped in for a moment at one of the back offices for Kenny to reminisce with Bob Shrum about Gore 2000 and get the down-low on what's up with Kerry. Shrum and a Kerry speechwriter were scribbling over what looked like a speech draft. And everybody seemed to be mixing a relative confidence with a measure of finger-crossing. After a bit more milling around we were back to the Palace theater for Edwards' rally around dinner time.

Edwards' crowd seemed a bit bigger and a bit more pumped. But then this was after dinner when it would be much easier for people to come. So I'm not sure how much you can read into that.

I've written a couple times now about Edwards as performer. And on this last night before the voting began, his handlers seemed to be playing to that more than ever. (It was a theater, after all.) Usually some fellow pol or local dignitary will warm up the crowd and introduce the candidate. But this time it was just the disembodied voice of an emcee bellowing out: 'Welcome the next president of the United States, Johhhhhhhhhhn Ehhhhhhhhdwards." And then Edwards tumbles out, thumbs up, all smiles.

For whatever reason, Edwards seemed a bit off his game. He rushed through everything, though with pretty much the same lines throughout.

Edwards has these ridiculously hokey rhetorical questions that he lays on you which become more comical with each repetition. "If what you want is to eat $#%^, live on the streets for five days and comb your hair with a cheese grater, then ahhh'm not yahhhw candidate for president. But if you want ..."

You get the idea.

More to come.