Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The article in today's Post on the indictments of three top aides to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay mentions that one of them is John Colyandro, the executive director of DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (aka TRMPAC -- an acronym which might perhaps be a subtle homage to DeLay's earlier partying days).

What it doesn't mention is that Colyandro is a one-time right-hand-shark to Karl Rove.

In fact Colyandro was at the center of one of Rove's uglier dirty-tricks from his Texas political days -- a story that is told in all its lizardly detail in a magazine article that's coming out about Rove next week.

Actually, after reading the article, you'll start to see that the whole Swift Boat business was pretty mild for what Rove is capable of.

If (or maybe 'when'?) he really wanted to lower the boom, or imitate past practice, we'd probably be hearing that Kerry was running his Swift Boat like an after-party for a Village People concert circa 1979. Or that when Kerry really wanted to party on the Delta he'd head to the local orphanage for a good time.

Surprise, surprise ...

"A year from now, I'll be very surprised if there is not some grand square in Baghdad that is named after President Bush."

Richard Perle AEI Keynote speech September 22, 2003

PS. Note of thanks to reader MW for the heads up.

PPS. This site seems to have had the quote up days ago, so credit where credit is due. They also have the sound clip for your listening pleasure.

In the final throes of a presidential campaign, the depth and breadth of a foreign policy debate are necessarily highly constricted. I am extremely pleased that John Kerry is now making the case against the President's Iraq policy in an aggressive and frontal fashion. But the thrust of that critique is inevitably on the policy's manifest failures rather than its intellectual and policy underpinnings.

A side note: It's revealing -- and the Kerry campaign should make something of it -- that whenever Kerry attacks Bush's management of the war all the Bush team can do is attack the alleged contradictions in Kerry's position on the war. That may work politically. But it's awfully telling. They have, quite literally, no response on the merits. Kerry should point that out and tell the president to stop making excuses for endangering the country.

In any case, back to the debate over foreign policy and war. If you're interested in getting more deeply into the questions raised by the Iraq war -- not WMD and troop strength, but the mix of empire, violence and democratic idealism -- I cannot recommend strongly enough John Judis' new book The Folly of Empire.

The book is half history, half polemic. Much of the historical focus is on America's experience as an incipient imperial power from the final years of the 19th century through the first two decades of the 20th century. The key events are the bloody war America fought to put down the Philipine rebellion and the ill-fated American intervention in Mexico. This Judis contrasts with a very different approach to foreign affairs that prevailed -- with relative consensus and consistency among presidents of both parties -- from Franklin Roosevelt until Bill Clinton. It was a model that in key ways grew out of the sobering experience of this imperialist interlude when America's deep-seated and in most ways benign missionizing impulses were wedded to the imperalism that would soon shake Europe, and much of the globe, to its foundations.

The image of Teddy Roosevelt that emerges from this book is very different from that which has been in vogue in recent years in Washington, DC. And in our current moment, when TR and Wilson loom so large in our historical imagination and disfigured latter-day versions of them direct our nation's affairs, it is an instructive examination of how the thirst for domination can masquerade as idealism, often in a toxic fashion fooling even itself.

With the US completely isolated and in a Mesopotamian snake pit, it's not hard to argue that President Bush's own special model of petulant unilateralism has been ineffective in securing American interests and security. But if you want to get more deeply into this -- how lessons of the past were ignored, how vacuous idealism can slide into hubris and then disaster -- this is the book.

Soon, another recommendation of a very different sort of book about empire: Hugh Thomas's new Rivers of Gold.

Front line in the war against terror ...

Today, according to the AP, Cat Stevens was "denied admission to the United States on national security grounds."

When Homeland Security officials found that Stevens -- who now goes by the name Yusuf Islam -- was flying on a plane from London to Washington, DC they diverted the plane to Bangor, Maine.

He was expelled from the US after a brief interview.

Yesterday I was talking to a friend who is pro-war but increasingly ambivalent about what's become of our venture in Iraq.

And we were speculating -- not rhetorically but in some real sense thinking out loud -- about how the president and his top aides could have ignored so many signs for so long that things were going seriously wrong.

Then you see something like this, and everything becomes a bit clearer.

Asked about the National Intelligence Estimate he received two months ago, which painted a bleak outlook for Iraq, the president said the CIA was "just guessing ... The Iraqi citizens are defying the pessimistic predictions."

In one ear and out the other.

Doesn't that tell you a lot about how we got to this juncture?

As Andrew Sullivan I think suggests in this post, the president and I dare say many of his supporters have little ability to distinguish between resolution, optimism and denial.

It fell, it seems, to David Brooks to start the effort to distort what John Kerry said in his speech yesterday and pull the debate back from any discussion of what is actually going on in Iraq. His column in tomorrow's Times is a classic Brooks' 'faint praiser' in which he structures the column as an attempt to give his quarry his due while actually distorting what the person in question actually said.

I'll try to comment on this tomorrow. But for now a few salient points.

To read Brooks' column, Kerry came out foursquare for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. But read the actual speech. That's not what he said at all. Brooks hangs the claim on a passage toward the end of the speech in which Kerry says that if the president does all the right things now we could begin withdrawing troops a year from now -- next summer -- and "realistically aim" to have all of our troops out in four years.

That, to Brooks, is rapid withdrawal and retreat: the possibility of any end in sight, ever.

Whether you agree with the speech and policies or not, what Kerry called for in the speech wasn't withdrawal. He said the president's policies have failed and that we need different policies and a different president if we are to prevent Iraq from "becom[ing] a permanent source of terror that will endanger America's security for years to come."

The point of Brook's column is to allow only two options: denial and 'retreat'.

The Brooks line, which is the Bush line, is that "the U.S. should stay as long as it takes to rebuild Iraq." But this platitude is simply a way of ducking discussion about whether the president's policies are working and whether things are getting better or worse.

Brooks, like Bush, is like a man in the sea, a fifty pound lead weight chained to his feet, slowly sinking into the waves. It's a tough road, he says as the water laps around his neck, but I'm going to keep at it as long as it takes until I start floating up instead of sinking down.

As long as it takes.

I'm staying the course.

Bubble, gurgle, bubble ...

Denial ... and did I mention the weight is chained to your feet too?

"What Is Bush Hiding?" -- that's the title of E.J. Dionne's column in tomorrow's Post, which you should read.

Investor's Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor poll out today has exactly the same numbers as Zogby: Bush 46%, Kerry 43% among likely voters. Among registered voters Bush 44%, Kerry 43%.

Night Riders ...

From the The Lafayette Daily Advertiser: "Vandals set fire to signs and wrote pro-President Bush messages on the front of Lafayette’s Democratic Party Headquarters, the second time the office was hit by vandals."

The net is abuzz today about Robert Novak's column suggesting that a reelected Bush administration would quickly pull American troops out of Iraq regardless of the status of the country at the moment or what the consequences of the withdrawal might be.

So what does it mean?

Has President Bush decided that we have to pull up stakes, opting for a far more immediate retreat from Iraq than the one he continually accuses John Kerry of supporting?

My take is that there's no possibility and really no point in trying to answer that question. Whether or not John Kerry has a clear plan for what to do in Iraq, it's quite clear that President Bush doesn't have any. The plan at the moment is simply to keep the troops there in order to keep from having to admit that the whole enterprise has gone south.

(The young and very serious John Kerry once asked "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" A less anguished George W. Bush has decided that a soldier or two a day is a reasonable price to pay to avoid admitting a mistake.)

Given the identity of the reporter, I think this leak is simply an effort to give options to potential Bush supporters.

For those with their hands over their eyes, there's the president's slogans on the hustings. For those who see that what the president is saying makes no sense but yet really prefer not to vote for John Kerry, there's this leak which tells them with a wink that the president realizes his policy has failed and will pull the plug very soon.

The campaign will leave to individual voters which message suits their needs.