Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Do we need to rewrite the script? This is really getting interesting.

Today Zogby has John Kerry opening up a five point lead over Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt in Iowa. The numbers: Kerry 24%, Dean 19%, Gephardt 19%, Edwards 17%.

Even more interesting however are the ARG numbers out of New Hampshire. Today's numbers there are Dean 28%, Clark 23%, Kerry 16%.

Clark is now a mere five points behind Dean. But, again, Kerry is the bigger story.

He's moved up a point or two a day each day this week. And the internals on those numbers tell an interesting tale. As the ARG analysis says: "The drop in ballot preference for Howard Dean has stabilized and women voters who have switched from Dean are giving John Kerry a lift at the expense of Wesley Clark."

In other words, Dean has lost support. And most of it has gone to Clark so far. But Clark is having a real problem getting female voters who leave Dean to come to him. And they're going to Kerry.

If those Zogby numbers out of Iowa are real and Kerry wins the caucuses ... well, let's wait and see.

So imagine that. The same day <$NoAd$>Drudge has his 'world exclusive' with ridiculously distorted clips of Wes Clark's September 2002 congressional testimony on Iraq, RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie is in Little Rock giving a speech about Clark and he's using the same testimony to riff on.

What a coincidence they were both using google on the same day with the same idea, right? Amazing.

And then, according to KnightRidder, it turns out that Drudge didn't even play the smear straight. To quote the KnightRidder ...

Clark's congressional testimony was further distorted Thursday by cyber-gossip columnist Matt Drudge, who quoted selected portions of Clark's testimony and added sentences that don't appear in the transcript on his Web site Thursday. Drudge didn't respond to an e-mail request for comment.

Oh what a tangled web ...

A small note of thanks.

At a luncheon yesterday in Manhattan (actually at Harold Evans and Tina Brown’s apartment), The Week magazine gave out its first annual opinion awards. Tommy Tomlinson of The Charlotte Observer won in the local columnist category; Tom Friedman won for Columnist of the year; and Paul Krugman won for Issue Advocacy Columnist of the year.

In a cool development they also decided to make an award in the blog category. And I’m honored to say that they chose this humble web site. So to the editors at The Week, to Harold Evans, and to the judges on the panel a very sincere thank you.

There’s a write-up on it at Editor and Publisher if you want to find out more.

Now there were various luminaries there and it was quite flattering to hear that some of these people have visited the site. But let me share with you a private moment.

Early on I noticed that one of the folks there was Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Schlesinger, if you’re not familiar with him, is one of those few people who is quite literally a legend in his own time. I don’t know precisely how old he is. But, to give you a sense of the range we’re talking about, the book that made his name as an historian, The Age of Jackson, came out, I believe, in 1946.

Schlesinger is an historian and an advisor to president Kennedy, but also a towering figure in 20th century American political life, particularly in the first phase of the Cold War when his name was almost a shorthand for liberal anti-communism and Cold War Liberalism. The key book here is The Vital Center, published I believe in 1949 --- a phrase and concept of high moment, before it got cheapened in the 1990s to refer to mere political centrism.

In any case, as you can probably see, Schlesinger is a rather big deal to me. So toward the end of the whole event, after most folks had left, I saw Schlesinger and two women standing off to one side. And I thought, this is my chance. How can I let it go by?

So I walked over to where the three were talking and planted myself there like a schoolboy and waited.

And I waited, and waited a bit more until they, a touch awkwardly, turned their attention to me. When they did, I introduced myself and told him what a great admirer I was of his and what an honor it was to meet him and so forth. When I did this I explained that in addition to my semi-reputable work as a blogger I was also a trained historian with a Ph.D. in American history and the works.

Now normally I never mention this, or say such things. And I’m half embarrassed to mention to you that I did. But given Schlesinger’s merit in the profession, and my limited window of opportunity to play up my admiration, I thought I’d make an exception for myself in this one case. I probably figured that I’d be making clear that I knew who he was, that my admiration wasn’t just a pleasantry, or perhaps, candidly, that I wasn’t just some yahoo.

To be polite Schlesinger’s wife asked me to explain to them just what a blog is. And though I get this question pretty often, it turns out to be a rather challenging one if the people you’re trying to explain it to don’t necessarily have a lot of clear web reference points to make sense of what you’re saying.

I ended up telling them that it was something like political commentary structured like a personal journal with occasional reporting mixed in.

Now, as I was explaining and watching the looks on everyone’s faces it was incrementally becoming clear to me that this was playing rather like saying that something was like a washing machine structured like a rhinoceros with the occasional sandwich thrown in. And, as Schlesinger himself had said rather little through all this, it was also dawning on me that being one of the four guests of honor at this little event was providing no guarantee against making a bit of a fool of myself.

So we let the brief conversation come to a merciful end and they started to walk away. And, as he was turning to leave, Schlesinger said, “Are you Joshua Micah M ….”

“Yeah, that's me.”

“You work for Charlie Peters [i.e., for The Washington Monthly]. I’m an admirer of your journalism.”

Then they walked away.

My day was made.

Lieberman picks up on Drudge's line about <$NoAd$>Clark's September 2002 testimony.

Here's the lede from the just-released Lieberman press release ...

LIEBERMAN STATEMENT ON CLARK IRAQ TESTIMONY Drudge: Clark made the case for war against Iraq

MANCHESTER, NH -- Joe Lieberman issued the following statement in response to the Drudge Report's discovery of congressional testimony from September 2002 in which Wes Clark made the case for war in Iraq. The report provides evidence directly contradicting Clark's repeated claims that he has been "very consistent" on the war "from the very beginning."

Statement by Joe Lieberman

"Yesterday, Wesley Clark attacked me for pointing out his multiple positions on the war in Iraq. It is no longer credible for Wesley Clark to assert that he has always had only one position on the war - being against it. His own testimony before Congress shows otherwise.

"He may think it is 'old-style politics' to point this out, but the only thing old here is a candidate not leveling with the American people. If we want to begin anew and replace George Bush, we need to level with the American people, which is what I have done in this campaign and throughout my career. You may not always agree with me but you will always know where I stand."

Woe to the Democrat who uses Drudge as a clip service!

I don't know if the Lieberman folks looked at the actual testimony -- as opposed to the drudged version -- before sending out this press release. But you can, in the post below.

Elaine Kamarck is basically a founder of the New Democrat movement, long associated with the DLC and other similarly-inclined groups. Here she is in Newsday today coming out for Dean.

Ahhh, imagine that. More Drudgitprop.

You may<$Ad$> have noticed that Drudge has a blaring headline: "WES CLARK MADE CASE FOR IRAQ WAR BEFORE CONGRESS; TRANSCRIPT REVEALED" (... followed by all the 'world exclusive' silliness.)

And following that, needless to say, are some highly cherry-picked clips out of testimony he gave on September 26th, 2002, during the lead-up to war. (The panel's testimony was structured as Clark versus Richard Perle, the other witness on the panel that day.)

Rather than get into the particulars, here's the statement Clark delivered, with the portions quoted by Drudge in bold. And you decide whether they accurately capture Clark's meaning and what Clark's testimony actually was.

Thank you, sir. There's no question that Saddam Hussein is a threat. I was in the joint staff in October of 1994. I think the date was -- I think it was the 8th of October. It was a Thursday morning. The intelligence officer walked in and said, "Sir, you're not going to believe this. Here are the pictures. You can't be believe it. This is the Republican Guard. They're right back in the same attack positions that they occupied four years ago before they invaded Kuwait and here are the two divisions and there are signs of mobilization and concerns north, and we can't understand it." And General Peay was the commander of CENTCOM. Shalikashvili, I think was, visiting Haiti at the time with Secretary of Defense Perry, and we rushed together, we put together a program. General Peay deployed some 15,000 American troops and aircraft over to block it and after a few days, Saddam Hussein recognized what a difficult position he put himself in and withdrew the troops. But, we had not expected it. It was an unanticipated move. It made no sense from our point of view for Saddam Hussein to do this but he did it. It was signaled warning that Saddam Hussein is not only malevolent and violent but he is also to some large degree unpredictable at least to us.

I'm sure he has a rationale for what he's doing, but we don't always know it. He does retain his chemical and biological capabilities to some extend and he is, as far as we know, actively pursuing nuclear capabilities, though he doesn't have nuclear warheads yet. If he were to acquire nuclear weapons, I think our friends in the region would face greatly increased risks as would we. Saddam might use these weapons as a deterrent while launching attacks against Israel or his other neighbors. He might threaten American forces in the region. He might determine that he was the messenger of Allah and simply strike directly at Israel, or Israel weighing the possibilities of blackmail or aggression might feel compelled to strike Iraq first. Now, Saddam has been pursing nuclear weapons and we've been living with this risk for over 20 years. He does not have the weapons now as best we can determine. He might have the weapons in a year or two if the control for the highly-enriched uranium and other fissionable materials broke down. I think his best opportunity would have been to go to his friend Slobodan Milosevic and ask for those materials during the time of the Kosovo campaign, since there was active collusion between the Serbs and the Iraqis, but apparently if he asked for them he didn't get them because the Serbs have turned them over for us.

If he can't get the highly-enriched uranium, then it might take him five years or more to go through a centrifuge process or gaseous diffusion process to enrich the uranium, but the situation is not stable. The U.N. weapons inspectors who, however ineffective they might have been and there's some degree of difference of opinion on that, nevertheless provided assistance in impeding his development programs. They've been absent for four years, and the sanction regime designed to restrict his access to weapons materials and resources has been continuously eroded, and therefore the situation is not stable.

The problem of Iraq is not a problem that can be postponed indefinitely, and of course Saddam's current efforts themselves are violations of international law as expressed in the U.N. resolutions. Our President has emphasized the urgency of eliminating these weapons and weapons programs. I strongly support his efforts to encourage the United Nations to act on this problem and in taking this to the United Nations, the president's clear determination to act if the United States can't -- excuse me, if the United Nations can't provides strong leverage for under girding ongoing diplomatic efforts.

CLARK: But the problem of Iraq is only one element of the broader security challenges facing our country. We have an unfinished worldwide war against Al Qaida, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies and that ultimately will be won as much by persuasion as by the use of force. We've got to turn off the Al Qaida recruiting machine. Now some 3,000 deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaida, and I think everyone acknowledges that Al Qaida has not yet been defeated.

As far as I know, I haven't seen any substantial evidence linking Saddam's regime to the Al Qaida network, though such evidence may emerge. But nevertheless, winning the war against Al Qaida and taking actions against the weapons programs in Iraq, that's two different problems that may require two different sets of solutions. In other words, to put it back into military parlance, Iraq they're an operational level problem. We've got other operational level problems in the Middle East, like the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Al Qaida and the foundation of radical extremist fundamentalist Islam, that's the strategic problem. We've got to make sure that in addressing the operational problem we're effective in going after the larger strategic problem. And so, the critical issue facing the United States right now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaida or our efforts to deal with other immediate mid and long-term security problems.

I'd like to offer the following observations by way of how we could proceed. First of all, I do believe that the United States diplomacy in the United Nations will be strengthened if the Congress can adopt a resolution expressing U.S. determination to act if the United Nations can not act. The use of force must remain a U.S. option under active consideration.

Such congressional resolution need not, at this point, authorize the use of force. The more focused the resolution on Iraq, the more focused it is on the problems of weapons of mass destruction. The greater its utility in the United Nations, the more nearly unanimous the resolution, the greater its utility is, the greater its impact is on the diplomatic efforts under way.

The president and his national security team have got to deploy imagination, leverage, and patience in working through the United Nations. In the near term, time is on our side and we should endeavor to use the United Nations if at all possible. This may require a period of time for inspections or the development of a more intrusive inspection regime such as Richard Perle has mentioned, if necessary backed by force. It may involve cracking down on the eroding sanctions regime and countries like Syria who are helping Iraq illegally export oil enabling Saddam Hussein to divert resources to his own purposes.

We have to work this problem in a way to gain worldwide legitimacy and understanding for the concerns that we rightly feel and for our leadership. This is what U.S. leadership in the world must be. We must bring others to share our views not be too quick to rush to try to impose them even if we have the power to do so. I agree that there's a risk that the inspections would fail to provide evidence of the weapons program. They might fail, but I think we can deal with this problem as we move along, and I think the difficulties of dealing with this outcome are more than offset by the opportunities to gain allies, support, and legitimacy in the campaign against Saddam Hussein.

If the efforts to resolve the problem by using the United Nations fail, either initially or ultimately, then we need to form the broadest possible coalition including our NATO allies and the North Atlantic Council if we're going to have to bring forces to bear. We should not be using force until the personnel, the organizations, the plans that will be required for post conflict Iraq are prepared and ready. This includes dealing with requirements for humanitarian assistance, police and judicial capabilities, emergency medical and reconstruction assistance and preparations for a transitional governing body and eventual elections, perhaps even including a new constitution.

Ideally, the international/multinational organizations will participate in the readying of such post conflict operations, the United Nations, NATO, other regional organization, Islamic organizations, but we have no idea how long this campaign could last, and if it were to go like the campaign against the Afghans, against the Taliban in which suddenly the Taliban collapsed and there we were.

We need to be ready because if suddenly Saddam Hussein's government collapses and we don't have everything ready to go, we're going to have chaos in that region. We may not get control of all the weapons of mass destruction, technicians, plans, capabilities; in fact, what may happen is that we'll remove a repressive regime and have it replaced with a fundamentalist regime which contributes to the strategic problem rather than helping to solve it.

So, all that having been said, the option to use force must remain on the table. It should be used as the last resort after all diplomatic means have been exhausted unless there's information that indicates that a further delay would represent an immediate risk to the assembled forces and organizations. And, I want to underscore that I think the United States should not categorize this action as preemptive. Preemptive and that doctrine has nothing whatsoever to do with this problem. As Richard Perle so eloquently pointed out, this is a problem that's longstanding. It's been a decade in the making. It needs to be dealt with and the clock is ticking on this. Obviously once initiated, a military operation should aim for the most rapid accomplishment of its operational aims and prompt turnover to follow on organizations and agencies, and I think if we proceed as outlined above, we may be able to minimize the disruption to the ongoing campaign against Al Qaida. We could reduce the impact on friendly governments in the region and even contribute to the resolution of other regional issues, perhaps such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, Iranian efforts to develop nuclear capabilities and Saudi funding for terrorism. But there are no guarantees. The war is unpredictable. It could be difficult and costly and what is at risk in the aftermath is an open-ended American ground commitment in Iraq and an even deeper sense of humiliation in the Arab world which could intensify our problems in the region and elsewhere.

The yellow light is flashing. We have a problem. We've got to muster the best judgment in this country. We've got to muster the will of the American people and we've got to be prepared to deal with this problem, but time is on our side in the near term and we should use it. Thank you.

I didn't want to clutter up the site with the entire transcript of the session, which runs fairly long. But if you're interested in getting a good sense of what Clark's position was on the war, I'd highly recommend you read the extensive questioning of Perle and Clark by the congressmen and women on the panel, in which they both elaborated on their views. This is where Drudge's other text-bites come from. You can read the entire transcript here.

Surprising numbers out today. Zogby has Kerry not simply surging but actually in the lead in Iowa: Kerry 22%, Dean 21%, Gephardt 21%. Especially in a daily tracking poll a point difference means less than nothing (note to statisticians: don't even say it). But this does square with what a lot of people have been saying about Kerry's move in the state.

(Also, with the numbers that close, I'd want to hear more both about the ground organization of each candidate and how regionally concentrated their support is in the state.)

Meanwhile ARG's New Hampshire tracking poll has Dean 29%, Clark 24%, Kerry 15%.

The common denominator seems pretty clear: Dean's support is falling -- not precipitously, but measurably -- and at least some Dean supporters appear to be going to his near rivals in each state.

With Clark rising in the polls, Dean is back to accusing Wes Clark of being a Republican.

According to Reuters, today he said that he thought Clark was a "good guy, but I truly believe he's a Republican ... I do not think somebody ought to run in the Democratic primary and then make the general election a Republican primary between two Republicans."

If Clark is a Republican, why did he vote for the Democratic presidential ticket in 1992, 1996 and 2000?

If the issue is Reagan or Nixon, those two won pretty handily (at least for reelection). To win, any Democrat will need lots of Democrats who pulled the lever for them too.

Briefly on this matter of Dean and 'unilateral' action in Bosnia. I'm running late on a few deadlines at the moment. So I don't have time to go into this at length. But I don't think this is much of a contradiction, except possibly on the most superficial level.

The tenor of the whole Iraq debate has tended to make a fetish out of the narrow meaning of unilateral and multilateral. Both have their place. And I don't think it's a contradiction on Dean's part at all to say we should not have waited for NATO to conduct air operations in Bosnia and yet also mount a critique of the president's approach on Iraq.

Remember that in Kosovo, we knew the Russians would veto our plan. So we didn't go to the UN, but went with NATO instead. As Fareed Zakaria aptly noted almost a year ago, the US never got UN approval for any of its three major military engagements in the 1990s. And few significant players suggested that it was necessary for us to do so.

So why all the hollering now over Iraq? Some on the right suggest that this is because of animosity toward president Bush or a rise in 'anti-Americanism.' But it's not. It's because the US has begun playing by very different rules in the last three years. It has moved from being a dominant power which most often works through a sort of informal consensus to one that increasingly seeks to act through dictation. We've become impatient with the minimal restraints on our power created by our participation in various international institutions and agreements -- ones which actually serve to magnify our power. And nations around the world -- not to mention publics -- have increasingly looked to the UN as a brake on US power.

In short, the issue is not so much whether you get sign off from the UN or NATO on every particular thing you do. It's a question of the totality of one's approach to allies and the rest of the nation's of the world. By that measure, the whole situation in the Balkans and the current one in Iraq could scarcely be more different.

This is a big issue and one that deserves more discussion. It's also worth noting that getting our key European allies on board in the Balkans did play a big role in the long-term success of those operations -- and the diplomatic isolation which eventually played a key role in Milosevic's fall. And perhaps Dean has himself made too much of a fetish out of the word 'unilateralism' without fleshing out the critique more fully. But basically this issue with Dean and 'unilateral' action in Bosnia just strikes me as more silly word-game gotcha. Nothing more than that.

I have a luncheon I'm going to at noon, so just a quick update on where things seem to stand in Iowa and New Hampshire. One of the campaigns has tracking numbers out of Iowa which shows each of the top three -- Dean, Gephardt and Kerry -- clumped to within a point or two. And today's Zogby poll seems to point in the same direction Dean 24%, Gephardt 21%, Kerry 21%.

As things run down to the wire, you hear a lot of things, many of which aren't confirmable. But I know that several days ago one very high-level Iowa Democrat (one who hasn't endorsed anyone) told folks that he thought that if the caucuses were held then (late last week) that Kerry would probably beat Gephardt and possibly even win the whole thing.

I don't think anyone has any really solid clue what's happening. But it does give you a sense of the fluidity of the race -- and not just the Dean-Gephardt contest we've all been focusing on.

Meanwhile, the ARG tracking poll in New Hampshire shows some more movement after several days when everyone seemed to stay in place. Dean 32%, Clark 22%, Kerry 13%.

As always, the inevitable disclaimer. Tracking polls are notoriously volatile and often show 'trends' that are the result of low sample numbers on given days. Still, over time, they give some sense of where things are going. And I think Dean's move back on to the offensive shows that his people are seeing the same thing.