Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The rumor has been buzzing all day. And now the AP has the story about Karl Rove's appearance today before the federal grand jury investigating the Plame leak.

Now we're cracking down?

From Reuters: "The United States on Friday ordered a freeze on assets of the militant group led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which has claimed responsibility for a series of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq."

I know they say, 'slow to anger', but ...

Karl trying it out in the minors before <$NoAd$>taking it to the bigs? I think we may have our first find for Karl Rove Dirty Tricks Watch (KRDTW).

In Josh Green's article in the current Atlantic Monthly, there's this passage ...

A typical instance occurred in the hard-fought 1996 race for a seat on the Alabama Supreme Court between Rove's client, Harold See, then a University of Alabama law professor, and the Democratic incumbent, Kenneth Ingram. According to someone who worked for him, Rove, dissatisfied with the campaign's progress, had flyers printed up—absent any trace of who was behind them—viciously attacking See and his family. "We were trying to craft a message to reach some of the blue-collar, lower-middle-class people," the staffer says. "You'd roll it up, put a rubber band around it, and paperboy it at houses late at night. I was told, 'Do not hand it to anybody, do not tell anybody who you're with, and if you can, borrow a car that doesn't have your tags.' So I borrowed a buddy's car [and drove] down the middle of the street … I had Hefty bags stuffed full of these rolled-up pamphlets, and I'd cruise the designated neighborhoods, throwing these things out with both hands and literally driving with my knees." The ploy left Rove's opponent at a loss. Ingram's staff realized that it would be fruitless to try to persuade the public that the See campaign was attacking its own candidate in order "to create a backlash against the Democrat," as Joe Perkins, who worked for Ingram, put it to me. Presumably the public would believe that Democrats were spreading terrible rumors about See and his family. "They just beat you down to your knees," Ingram said of being on the receiving end of Rove's attacks. See won the race.

Now, look what's turned up in Tennessee. Steve Clemons has the details.

"A crass, below-the-belt political strategy to attack the vice president's daughter."

Is that what John Kerry did in Wednesday night's debate? That's what President Bush's campaign spokesperson calls it.

People can interpret things differently. So perhaps you could say it was inappropriate or cynical or a bunch of other things. But an 'attack' on the vice president's daughter? That's just saying up is down.

And 'below-the-belt'? Like 'cheap and tawdry', why are all the criticisms coded in sexual language?

One way or another, the Republicans do seem to be playing most of the folks in the press like a fiddle on this one.

If you look at the words used by the Bush campaign's communications folks and their foot soldiers among the commentators, the issue is not so much the reference to the vice-president's daughter or her sexuality. (After all, Dick Cheney has repeatedly discussed his daughter's homosexuality on the campaign trail. And when John Edwards mentioned it during the vice-presidential debates, Cheney thanked him for doing so.) It is a fever over the use of the word 'lesbian', which these folks seem to feel is the equivalent to calling her by the name of a sex act itself.

It's a telling example of how the heavy-weights on the cable nets, the gilded and the gelded, can be played into running with genuflections to anti-gay panic as though it were a riposte to homophobia.

"Hannaford supermarkets, the Lee Auto Malls, and the law offices of Joe Bornstein withdrew their advertising indefinitely, according to the Portland Press Herald." That's from an AP story out this morning. Sinclair's stunt has also made TheStreet.com's list of 'The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street This Week.'

Perhaps most important, I'm hearing from sources with inside knowledge at the local station and Sinclair national headquarters level that Sinclair is getting a lot more than it bargained for with this.

All those calls to advertisers are having a real effect.

Leave no election fraudster behind!

As we told you a few days ago, six Republican party staffers and campaign workers in South Dakota resigned over a burgeoning voter fraud scandal. Chief among them was Larry Russell, head of the South Dakota GOP's get-out-the-vote operation, the Republican Victory Program.

To date, no criminal charges have been filed. But the state Attorney General says the investigation is "continuing."

Today comes news, however, that Russell -- still under investigation in South Dakota -- has been reassigned to run President Bush's get-out-the-vote operation in Ohio. Russell will now "lead the ground operations" for Bush in Ohio, according to an internal Republican party memo obtained by the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

And Russell's bringing along with him to Ohio three of the five other GOP staffers who had to resign in South Dakota and are similarly under investigation in that state.

Ya heard it here first.

And now the Manchester Union Leader comes on board.

The unindicted co-conspirator in a 2002 election fraud case, which has already yielded two felony guilty pleas, is none other than Jim Tobin, New England regional chair of Bush-Cheney 2004, according to court documents filed Thursday by the New Hampshire Democratic Party and now reported by the Manchester Union Leader.

Tobin is named, according to the Union Leader and TPM sources, in the plea agreements of Allen Raymond and Chuck McGee, the two men who have already pled guilty to felonies in the case.

Tobin, says the article, did not return calls requesting comment from the Union Leader Tuesday or Wednesday. Tobin has also not returned repeated calls over the last three months from TPM requesting comment on his alleged involvement in the case. TPM last attempted to contact Tobin on Sunday and Monday of this week.

Now the Justice Department is intervening to delay discovery and depositions that would almost certainly bring more of the facts to light before election day.

Tobin's alleged role has been an open secret for some time within the Bush campaign, political and journalistic circles in New Hampshire and, of course, among the lawyers involved in the case. But late Thursday the state Democratic party, which has been trying for months to get more information on what happened in this case, identified Tobin by name in a new court filing and the Union Leader ran the story.

A few questions ...

1. Why do Justice Department officials in Washington seem to be interfering in the legal proceedings surrounding this case to push depositions and discovery past November 2nd? (See the Union Leader article and today's court filing.)

2. When did the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign first learn of Tobin's alleged involvement in the phone-jamming case?

3. Does the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign believe that Tobin is an appropriate person to oversee the Bush campaign in New Hampshire and the rest of New England when his alleged involvement in this earlier election fraud case is still being investigated.

Kevin Drum has the details: as slimy and cynical as you might have imagined the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to be, they end up being even more shameless than you might have thought.

Exposed again as hacks, liars, puppets.

But then who escapes Rove with his soul in his own hands?

A thought.

I understand that George Soros is a rather wealthy man. Perhaps he should announce that he is interested in buying 90 minutes of prime time air time on Sinclair Broadcasting to show either Fahrenheit 9/11 or, even more appropriately, Going Upriver, the new movie out about John Kerry during the Vietnam era.

If Sinclair won't sell the time, they're exposed for what they already clearly are. If the FEC won't allow it, on the premise that it amounts to a de facto campaign contribution to the Democrats or the Kerry campaign, then the folly of our current campaign laws is exposed.

I doubt somehow that Soros would ever end up having to spend the money. But he has a big enough checkbook to force the issue.

Well, now that we've had the primaries, <$NoAd$>the convention, and the nail-biting debates, all that's really left now is the Karl Rove dirty tricks portion of the campaign, right?

As Josh Green writes in the current issue of The Atlantic (finally available free online), Rove's trademark is ferocious dirty-tricksterism in the final few weeks of dead-even campaigns ...

If this year stays true to past form, the campaign will get nastier in the closing weeks, and without anyone's quite registering it, Rove will be right back in his element. He seems to understand-indeed, to count on-the media's unwillingness or inability, whether from squeamishness, laziness, or professional caution, ever to give a full estimate of him or his work. It is ultimately not just Rove's skill but his character that allows him to perform on an entirely different plane. Along with remarkable strategic skills, he has both an understanding of the media's unstated self-limitations and a willingness to fight in territory where conscience forbids most others.

With Kerry coming out of the debates with the momentum, it really does come down to Karl now.

The voter registration shredding seems to have gotten upended, though a lot are probably already shredded. And I suspect we'll be hearing some interesting news out of New Hampshire in the next day or so.

But what else? It'll be like a 'where's Waldo' thing: Karl Rove Dirty Trick's Watch. (For examples, see the Green piece.) Who will be able to spot Karl's dirty tricks first? Who has the sharpest eye? Sit back in your seat. Get out the popcorn.