Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I don't much like to flack for the Times new behind-the-curtain content. But Sunday's Frank Rich column is really good, as all of his stuff has been of late on the unravelling of the Bush presidency.

Two points grabbed my attention.

He hits on the tight connection in everything we're seeing between incompetence, state mendacity and incipient authoritarianism. They're not paradoxically or counter-intuitively combined. The connection is natural and self-reinforcing.

Also on the point of Harriet Miers. Something has happened here on the right that cannot be explained simply by Miers' unfitness for the job. Not after all we've seen over going on five years. The president has lost his credibility with them too.

On Friday I asked who would put down odds on whether Miers would ever make it on to the court. It wasn't a rhetorical question. I asked in genuine curiosity. But many readers wrote in shocked that I would even seriously suggest the possibility that this may prove a failed nomination.

I have no idea whether Miers will be seated. If I had to bet I guess I'd bet on her squeaking through. But for me it's like one of those questions or future unknowns where I really have a difficult time imagining either possibility, though one must happen.

As the US has trundled down into the status of fiscal basket case over the last few years, that much-vaunted Republican fiscal discipline has been the dog which has never barked. A few meaningless remarks, the occasional hand-wringing from a conservative columnist. At the end of the day though every part of American conservatism has saluted and enabled the infamy.

But something is different here. Besides James Dobson this nomination has no supporters outside of the senate and the White House. And the conservative opposition isn't just opposing, it's contemptuous -- and critical in ways that mimic the long-expressed criticism from the other side of the aisle.

Nominations can have dynamics similar to those of political scandals.

We tend to think that the real key to a scandalee's fate is how many mobilize against him or her. Usually, though, the key issue is whether and how quickly they can find some committed group to mount a defense. If that happens, and quickly, a scandal equilibrium can be reached, and an embattled pol can often withstand merciless attacks and revelations. With no true base of support, however, a career can rapidly collapse even if the opposition itself isn't all that intense.

Miers' nomination could fail in a similar way.

Sure, only a few Republican senators have expressed serious misgivings. But who is it exactly, either in or out of the senate, who is going to fight hard for this nominee? What argument are those senators going to make on the floor? That the country needs Harriet Miers on the Court? That the criticisms of her nomination are frivolous?

John Bolton is a revealing counterpoint. Democrats were universally opposed. Privately, a great number of Republican senators would have preferred the nomination had never been made. But the nomination had a core of zealous supporters on and off the Hill. The misgivings of the moderates and the institutionalists in the senate paled in comparison to the intensity of his supporters.

Once again, I'm not saying Miers' nomination will fail. I'm not predicting it. I am simply saying that her bid could be defeated, not because opposition is so widespread or intense, but because I have real doubts that she or the White House will be able to find forces to mobilize a spirited defense.

Many of us have had a hard time crediting the claim that Judy Miller had any more reason to believe Scooter Libby's second voluntary waiver of privilege was any more 'voluntary' than his first one. And now, it seems, we have some tangible evidence to back up that suspicion.

According to a story out this afternoon from Reuters, Libby "got a push from a prosecutor before telling New York Times reporter Judith Miller that he wanted her to testify."

The article describes the particulars. But, in sum, Patrick Fitzgerald contacted Libby's lawyer and said he'd really "welcome" Libby giving Miller yet another waiver, with the case coming to a close and all.

One can't really blame Fitzgerald. It's the prosecutors job after all to squeeze these guys and get all the information he can using the looming threat of indictment to secure as much assistance as possible.

So Fitzgerald you can understand. And Libby too. After all, by all accounts he's looking at a felony indictment coming down the pike. So you try to be as helpful as you can to the guy who has your fate in his hands.

But what about Miller? Her claim that she didn't crack now seems, well ... like a crock. This 'voluntary' doesn't seem any different from the first 'voluntary'. And 'voluntary' has, of course, a withered meaning when it's the prosecutor calling for volunteers.

It seems a lot more like she just got tired of sitting in jail.

Or, some other jeopardy not yet spelled out made her give up the game.

Department of wonderfully fortuitous note-keeping ...

New York Times reporter Judith Miller discovered notes from an earlier conversation she had with Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and turned them over the prosecutor investigating the leak of a covert CIA operative's identity, legal sources said on Friday.

Judy, Judy, Judy ...

Question: Anyone willing to lay down odds on whether Harriet Miers will ever be seated on the Supreme Court?

And as long as we're at it, which senator is going to stand up and demand to receive the secret Dobson Briefing?

Late Update: More here from The Hotline on the Dobson Briefing.

More crackerjack reporting from the Washington Times.

Today's Times runs a piece with the headline "DeLay accuses Earle of taking corporate funds."

The relevant passage reads ...

Rep. Tom DeLay said District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is prosecuting him for trying to involve corporate money in Texas politics, has taken such contributions himself.

"It's real interesting he has this crusade against corporate funds. He took corporate funds, and he's taken union funds, for his own re-election. That's against the law," Mr. DeLay told The Washington Times yesterday.

A review of Mr. Earle's campaign-finance filings in Texas shows that he has received contributions from the AFL-CIO, including a $250 donation on Aug. 29, 2000. He also has received contributions listed on the disclosure forms only as coming from the name of an incorporated entity, often a law firm.

Mr. Earle has said repeatedly that state law bars corporate and union contributions. Attempts to reach Mr. Earle yesterday for comment, including a phone message left on his assistant's voice mail detailing Mr. DeLay's charge, were unsuccessful.

The story seems like it has real punch until you realize that the Times decides not to tell its readers that the statute doesn't cover law firms.

The law (see page 24) says ...

§ 253.091. Corporations Covered This subchapter applies only to corporations that are organized under the Texas Business Corporation Act, the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act, federal law, or law of another state or nation.

Texas law firms are incorporated under the Texas Professional Corporation Act.

A bit further down in the statute they make it even more clear ...

(a) For purposes of this subchapter, the following associations, whether incorporated or not, are considered to be corporations covered by this subchapter: banks, trust companies, savings and loan associations or companies, insurance companies, reciprocal or interinsurance exchanges, railroad companies, cemetery companies, government-regulated cooperatives, stock companies, and abstract and title insurance companies.

And if that <$Ad$> weren't enough the friends of the Times and DeLay at this Texas anti-trial lawyer site say it explicitly: "These corporations are restricted from contributing directly to candidates. Law firms, however, do not have the same impediments to contributions, leaving trial lawyer firms free to contribute as much as possible to their favorite candidates."

I don't know whether the claim about union contributions is equally silly (Late Update: Yep, turns out it is. See here.) I'll leave that to folks in Texas who know the statute better. But what does seem pretty clear is that Mr. DeLay made an intentionally misleading accusation. And the good folks at the Times just decided to go along for the ride.

Shocking, just shocking ...

Late Update: It seems I didn't fully plumb the depths of the dishonesty of DeLay and his enablers at the Times. Stakeholder has more.

I know everyone is atwitter at the moment over today's events and poring over the just-published pieces in the Times (an outfit still in denial about its institutional guilt) and the Post about the Rove-Fitzgerald developments. But I would like to take a moment to remind everyone of the severe health risks associated with schadenfreude toxicity (ST), in both its chronic and acute forms. It doesn't take a lifetime of exposure to guilty pleasure at the suffering of others. In rare cases, even a few hours of euphoria watching poetic justice being meted out to evil-doers can prove fatal. Today walking down Sixth Avenue, in fact, I saw several apparently healthy and able-bodied Democrats just go poof! into thin air. Even a few Republicans who just believed in good government were taken ill. It can happen that quick.

A longtime reader gently, or not so gently, puts me in my place ...

Don't be a lawyer! This is simple. The manual is not law, it is a manual. Prosecutors need to avoid being accused of abuse of grand jury process. Rove has testified so often to this grand jury they must be bored with him. There's no chance of abuse. So why is he testifying again? Because the case has gotten refined. Now it is about conspiracy. It is about the cover up not the crime. I assume. So he's come in to explain what he knew, when he knew it, how he didn't really cover up. Grand jurors will ask him q's. So will prosecutor. Record will be made. Then they can indict him if they want. Simple.

'nuff said.