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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.

More from the annals of foreign agency.

In the coming days we'll be discussing the captivating tale of Richard A. Schechter and LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, L.L.P and their work on behalf Bogoljub Karic and the Karic Group of companies. Here's a link to the Karic family foundation.

In the bastard form of crony capitalism which prevailed during Slobodan Milosevic's decade-plus reign, Bogoljub Karic served as crony-in-chief. He rose to riches and fame under the Milosevic regime; he operated as Milosevic's personal banker; he published Milosevic's wife's memoirs and loaned her his private jet. Karic even served in Milosevic's cabinet during the Kosovo war and, according to the February 9th, 2002 Daily Telegraph, Serb authorities still believe Karic is serving as the Milosevic family's banker.

Those fascinating documents are still to come. But for now let's deal with some unfinished business, or rather, continue a story we started a little while back.

As regular readers will remember, on March 2nd we discussed the lobbying which Jefferson Waterman International did for the Republic of Croatia, particularly with regards to laying the media groundwork for their military reconquest of the Krajina region. There was also a follow-up on March 6th.

We don't want to give readers the idea that the Croats were the only ones playing the foreign lobbying game in Washington in the 1990s. So today we have filings from foreign agents who represented the two pseudo-states Serbs carved out from Croatia and Bosnia -- the Serbian Krajina, repped by Zoran Djordjevic, and the Republika Srpska, repped by Danielle Sremac.

In any case, the Serbs and the Croats both had folks working for them in DC. The basic difference seems to be that the Croats had a more professional operation. They had established firms -- with no obvious ethnic connection to Croatia -- working for them for big bucks. The Serbs tended to have Serbs or Serbian-Americans working on their behalf in DC. And often they were paid, at least in part, with funds collected from Serbian-Americans.

The really interesting figure here is Danielle Sremac.

Sremac made frequent television appearances in the 1990s as a supporter of the Serb position in the Bosnian and Kosovo conflicts. More recently she hits the airwaves as the Director of something called the Institute for Balkan Affairs.

Seldom noted in these various media appearances was the fact that Sremac was the paid agent of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb secessionist pseudo-state ruled by indicted war criminal Radovan Karadzic. And she signed on to represent RS, as these documents show, in July 1994, at what can only be called the era when the RS was committing the worst of its excesses, war crimes, and miscellaneous other crimes against humanity type activities.

I never read the Slate Diary of Robert Klingler, the supposed American CEO of a major European auto manufacturer, later exposed as a fraud. But the article born of the investigation into the hoax is one of the most interesting little detective stories I've read in a long time. You really must read it.

The upshot of the story is that 'Robert Klingler' is not some anonymous schmo but almost certainly a fellow named Ravi Desai, a storied and rather whacked impresario from the dot.com era.

Desai himself is fascinating to learn about -- and one learns a good bit about him from this article. Many folks manage to be highly educated and fabulously and legitimately successful. Not a few are able to live as frauds and hucksters who pad their resumes with myriad non-existent accomplishments and credentials. There is a select breed, however, able and for some odd reason perhaps best understood through the modalities of psychiatry inclined to be both. Desai apparently falls into that category -- the few, the proud, the ridiculous.

The author of the article, Jack Shafer, has been my editor at Slate for the last year or more. And occasionally, frustratingly so, since he's constantly sending me back to do more reporting, more interviewing -- often long after I feel enough's been done. But reading this article, I see that Jack lives by what he preaches. And it also makes me wish Jack were doing more of these investigative type pieces.

Of course, I guess there's one more possibility yet unmentioned. Perhaps Jack's been yearning to write such a piece for some time. And the original hoax diary was just a ploy to make it possible -- cunninngly and sinisterly devised as a joint enterprise by the fertile minds of Ravi Desai and Jack Shafer!!!

Obviously, the Public Citizen report on Army Secretary Thomas White didn't come out today, as I said it would previously.

TPM regrets the failed prediction, based on a tip from someone I'm now referring to as the source formerly known as reliable. 'The source' will regret it even more, once TPM gets a hold of him. But that's another matter.

However, I am assured by, well, let's say extremely informed sources that the report is still coming out. And there's still a good chance it'll be out by the end of the week.

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