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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Let me expand on what I said yesterday about the Bush peace plan.

The problem with the plan is not that it's foolish or misguided, though I think it's both. The problem is that it's not a plan. It is simply an endorsement of the position of the Sharon government. What's dishonest is to present it as though it is in any way advancing the ball toward peace or a final settlement.

When Ariel Sharon came to power he said, in essence, that he just wasn't going to do business with Yasser Arafat. I don't agree with that position. But it's a perfectly reasonable position. Bush has now endorsed that position. Why not just call this what it is?

It's not unreasonable for the Sharon government or the Bush administration to say they won't do business with Yasser Arafat's government. It's simply a judgment. If for instance, the next Palestinian government were a Hamas government I think it would be sensible and reasonable to say, "I don't think the Palestinians should be under occupation. I think there should be a Palestinian state. But as long as the Palestinian government is run by Hamas, we won't agree to anything, period."

The question is whether the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are fundamentally the same thing.

Any government - let's call it government A -- has a perfect right to say it won't do business with government B and that it wants government B thrown out. But let's make sure we have the vocabulary right. There's a word for this state of relations: war.

Like cheap donuts the low quality of President Bush's new Middle East proposal only becomes completely clear after the first couple bites.

The highlight, the shot in the arm, of this exercise is supposed to be the US endorsement of a Palestinian state, or rather a provisional state. But isn't that what the Palestinians already have? Or thought they had? What is the Palestinian Authority after all but a provisional state? What they get is a change in vocabulary.

The rub to the proposal is that the Palestinians can have their state - or rather their provisional state - only if they get rid of their current leadership. So they can rule themselves if they choose leaders acceptable to the United States and/or the Israelis. Not to be knee-jerk about this, but isn't that almost the definition of colonialism, the antithesis of what it means to have your own state? The essence of sovereignty or statehood is that you pick your own leaders. (Grotius defined sovereignty as "that power whose acts are not subject to the control of another, so that they may be made void by the act of any other human will.") The whole thing makes no sense.

Geopolitics and diplomacy isn't about 'fair.' Israel is more powerful than the Palestinians. And the United States is infinitely more powerful than the both of them. So maybe the Palestinians just get what we tell them they can have. But that's the law of power and violence. And that law more or less gives the Palestinians free rein to continue their own campaign of unbridled violence. The White House apparently thinks this is deft geopolitical jujitsu: making the door to statehood open wide for the Palestinians, but making it one Arafat can't pass through. Actually, the whole thing makes no sense. It's illogical - which doesn't in itself make for bad policy in this world - but it's bad policy too. You can't say it's a recipe for bloodshed. They've got that taken care of. But it is a recipe for more foolishness and wasted time.

Is the Bush administration creating the new Department of Homeland Security in its own image? It sure seems that way. This article in today's Washington Times if anything doesn't ring out the full measure of irony in the story's topic.

According to the article, the administration's proposed legislation specifically exempts the department from the federal whistleblower law and the Freedom of Information Act.

Didn't we find out about the problems that prompted the creation of the Homeland Security Department because of whistleblowers and releases of embarrassing information?

Perhaps it shouldn't come as such a surprise since the announcement of the plans for the department were timed to overshadow the very damning testimony of FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley. But still, it's little short of astounding.

Why isn't more being made of this?

The John Thune vs. Tim Johnson race in South Dakota is one of the most hotly contested and closely watched of this election cycle. Both Thune and Johnson are popular South Dakota politicians. (If you visit their sites, I warn you, you'll see many farms.) But the race is widely seen as a proxy battle between President Bush and South Dakota's senior senator, Tom Daschle (Johnson is Daschle's protege). The race will also be key in determining control of the Senate.

But DC Republicans -- particularly the folks at the RNC and the NRSC -- aren't that happy about the race Thune is running. His staff looks weak; they're easily provoked by their opposites on Johnson's campaign; they've just gotten goaded into a flurry of negative ads against Johnson; and they're apparently not that cooperative with the master-strategists in DC.

It's not that Thune's out of the race. Far from it. The polls have been neck and neck for some time. And Thune's got tons of advantages. It's a strongly Republican state where Bush won by like a million points in 2000.

But the campaign Thune's team has put together is getting decidely lukewarm reviews. If that doesn't change, might Republicans shift some resources to other races?

Here's the key exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Bob Woodward from Monday night.

BLITZER: In the past, when people have guessed who Deep Throat was, like Alexander Haig and John Dean, years ago, you've denied it. I noticed yesterday on "Meet the Press" when they said -- they asked you about Pat Buchanan, you sort of threw your hands up in the air with a "No comment." What's all that about?

WOODWARD: Lots of people have died, people have taken -- gone off the list because we've taken them off the list. So it's a narrowing group. And our job is to protect sources. And by further reducing the list, we tend to jeopardize disclosure of that source before he wants to be disclosed.

BLITZER: He's still alive right now, Deep Throat.

WOODWARD: Last I checked.

BLITZER: And you're still in touch with him?

WOODWARD: I'm just not going to get into that.

Like I said last night, it just doesn't sound like a persuasive explanation of Woodward's change of policy.

Okay, here's a question. Over the last couple decades I can think of a few individuals who Bob Woodward has ruled out as being Deep Throat. He declined to rule out Pat Buchanan over the weekend. Is anyone aware of an instance between the mid-1970s and last weekend when Woodward similarly declined to rule out a possible Deep Throat candidate when questioned on the matter directly?

If so, please let me know.

Okay, I was positive Deep Throat was Patrick J. Buchanan, as I argued and explained in the previous post. Then I got an email from a Talking Points reader who told me that on Hardball tonight Buchanan "gave a rousing denial to Chris Matthews."

Well, hmmm.

I didn't think that killed my theory; but I'd be lying if I told you it didn't seem to land a pretty solid left hook on it. After all, Deep Throat has an obvious reason to lie about his role. The fact that Woodward would so conspicuously refuse to deny the allegation still spoke volumes.

In any case, I flipped on Hardball for the 9 PM replay and watched attentively and with no little apprehension until Buchanan and David Gergen were interviewed in the last two segments.

And now I'm even more positive that it's Buchanan.

I'll post the transcript when I get it and then we'll know word for word. But, as I heard it, Buchanan gave a very artful but also quite clear non-denial denial. I listened very closely for any sort of specific declarative denial. And I never heard it. Gergen denied it; but not Pat.

He said he wouldn't hang out in a basement parking garage to meet a reporter, that the Nixon loyalists wouldn't have betrayed Nixon, yada, yada, yada. But no denial.

Look, the real denial talks and 'yada' walks. Or something like that. Okay, that didn't work. But the bottom line, if it's not him why no real denial?

And for Chris Matthews? You totally didn't follow up! What's it now? "I'm Chris Matthews. Let's play T-ball"?

P.S. Late update: Another reader now writes in to tell me that Buchanan gave an "unqualified denial to Chris Wallace later on MSNBC." We'll see. I mean, I want to confirm this, if true. But to find out I'd have to sit down on the couch and watch hours of MSNBC? Is it really worth it?

P.P.S ... Okay, now I have listened to what turns out to have been Forrest Sawyer's interview with Buchanan on MSNBC. And after a few yadas, Sawyer pressed Buchanan and he responded by what I heard as "I, Patrick Buchanan, am not Deep Throat." But, frankly, I'm not yet convinced.

Oh, Man, is Deep Throat ever Pat Buchanan!!!

If you've been watching the mild commemorations of Watergate over the last few days you'll know that John Dean is coming out with a list of several new possible Deep Throat suspects. One of the guys on his shortlist is Pat Buchanan. And a journalism class at the University of Illinois, working under the supervision of Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter William Gaines, undertook an extremely detailed investigation of all the available evidence and produced what I thought was an very compelling argument that Deep Throat was Pat Buchanan.

But good arguments are a dime a dozen.

What started to catch my attention this weekend was that no one seemed to be able to get Buchanan on the phone to deny it. Nor was Woodward denying it, something he had been willing to do with several others accused of being Deep Throat over the last couple decades.

Just now on Wolf Blitzer's show, Wolf rightly pointed to this reluctance on Woodward's part and the veteran Postie responded with a mealy-mouthed rationale: the pool of potential suspects is getting smaller and smaller, and if he keeps eliminating people pretty soon only one person will be left.

Sorry. That doesn't wash.

It's a good argument, one that's always occurred to me when Woodward has ruled people out in the past. But why adopt it now after scratching so many people off the list?

I think it's just what an honest reporter (I have many criticisms of Woodward, but I don't have any on this count) who wants to protect his sources does when he is caught dead to rights. It's a lame argument so late in the game but it's the best he can do when faced with the question.

Even more convincing, however, is Buchanan's demonstrable unwillingness to deny it.

Have you ever seen Buchanan hide from a microphone? Of course not. If he's such a Nixon loyalist why isn't he rushing forth to deny it and even demanding Woodward do the same? Is Pat's phone disconnected? Has everyone forgotten the address of his home over in McLean, Virginia? He hasn't been able to return the calls yet? Please.

His unwillingness to deny it seals the deal as far as I'm concerned.

And there's one more clue that nails it shut. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor but I'm trying to get this posted ASAP.)

One of the great mysteries of Watergate and Deep Throat's identity is why exactly he's wanted to remain anonymous for so long. I mean, during Watergate? Sure. For a while after? Fine. But ten, twenty, thirty years later? Deep Throat may be an odd figure in American history. But for most he'd be a hero, someone who turned on a corrupt administration, the ultimate whistleblower, etc.

After all this time, why wouldn't this person come forward to get some of the limelight?

It's hard to figure ... unless he was someone still operating in those Republican circles where that sort of disloyalty would be very damning and even career-threatening. That is, unless it was someone like Patrick J. Buchanan.

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