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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here's a piece you just can't miss. It's equal parts hilarious and damning. The Ashcroft Justice Department has pushed the envelope just as far as it will stretch to hunt down terrorists in the United States. It's even taken several steps - like authorizing eavesdropping on attorney-client phone calls - which under normal circumstances no one would countenance.

But why be squeamish about fine points and legal niceties when we're at war? Unless of course it's some fictive right claimed by paranoid gun freaks. Then, in that case, let's not get carried away.

According to this article by Fox Butterfield in today's Times, the Justice Department "has refused to let the F.B.I. check its [Brady background check] records to determine whether any of the 1,200 people detained after the Sept. 11 attacks had bought guns."

I'm almost looking forward to knocking this one around for a few days. But this decision is so stupid and embarrassing that I find it hard to believe that they're not going to drop this idea like a hot potato by the end of the next news cycle.

Where's Richard Hofstadter when you need him?

In the fifth installment of his O'Neill Death Watch series, Tim Noah points out some information I hadn't heard yet, which really does seem to point toward the hapless O'Neill's possible departure. He flags a New York Post report that Cheney is already interviewing possible replacements.

Anyway, at Talking Points we try to take the longer view, look beyond the ephemera of the moment to the deep structure of rumor, and of course add a healthy dose of wishful thinking.

So maybe Mitch Daniels is having some rough sailing too!

This article from National Journal says Daniels' relationship with Republican appropriators on Capitol Hill has hit a low point. Senator Stevens (R-Alaska) told David Baumann that Daniels should "go back home to Indiana. I can't do anything about that relationship."

Of course, OMB Directors never make a lot of friends on the Hill, I'll grant you. But the subtext of the article seems to be that people on the Hill are coming to appreciate one of the points TPM frequently notes. That is, that Daniels is ... well, just a bit of an &#$@(*&.

Then there's this comment from Daniels' recent speech to the National Press Club:

MODERATOR: Do you have, sort of, a target figure on how large a deficit that would be acceptable to the administration?

DANIELS: Have not set a target figure. The president had said, throughout his campaign and long before these events were visible to us, that he hoped to always operate in the black and, in fact, at levels beyond the Social Security surplus, but that there were three conditions under which a deficit would be acceptable. Those being war, recession or emergency. And as he said to me, shortly after the 11th, "Lucky me, I hit the trifecta."

Is that funny? And did the president really say that?

As I first mentioned on September 13th, in cases like these I like to recur to the Clinton Rule (CR) ("If Bill Clinton were being attacked in such and such a way would I think it was fair?"). Needless to say, if Bill Clinton were ever caught uttering such words in this context, he'd be crucified for the basest cynicism. But applying the CR tells me in this case that all sorts of verbally and morally off-color things get said in private, in jest, and in the heat of the moment.

So you have to give folks the benefit of the doubt. But this stretches things a bit. And in any case, presumably that was the sort of 'shooting the *&$%' comment that was meant to stay private.

Daniels' repeating it, or perhaps originating it, tells you something about him. For Mitch Daniels it really does seem to be a matter of, 'Phew! Lucky this world crisis came along. Otherwise, I'd have a lot of spinning to do about these budget numbers...'

Eventually, this sort of attitude and those kind of comments will catch up with him. Can you say Su-nu-nu?

Don't miss this solid and much-needed piece by Jake Weisberg about the utter absence of an anti-war (in Afghanistan) movement in the United States, and the often pitiful efforts of various right-wingers and rage-oholics to construct one.

Oh, wait! You mean Noam Chomsky's not on board? Sorry, my bad. I take it all back.

Mickey Kaus raises exactly the right point (actually I was thinking just the same thing yesterday -- really! I promise! -- but he posted first and I tarried. So according to mezine Sharia, or at least according to several key hadiths, he gets the props, the shout-out, etc.) about yesterday's Washington Post article about a dirty bomb. "If," writes Mickey, "at a meeting with Bin Laden, one of Bin Laden's associates 'produced a canister that allegedly contained radioactive material' and 'waved it in the air,' just how radioactive could the material have been?' Good point!

Two quick points. First, a quick thanks to (apparent Talking Points reader) Jerry Balsam for getting this site mentioned in this week's New Yorker, in the Talk of the Town section ("An E-Mail Bombardier").

Second, a reader writes in a with a good point. Maybe I sold myself short in this earlier post. Why can't I have an institute too? We could call it the Talking Points Institute and it could have like a Middle East Division. Or maybe a special Middle East chair. Like I said, everyone seems to have one now. You can even hire lackeys for peanuts. It's great.

Here's a New York Post column by yours truly on why we need to support/ stand by/ give a general shout-out to Pakistan's Pervez Musharaff. Sure, he's a military ruler. But, hey, no one's perfect, right?

Wanna read a nice selection of bluster, tautology, nonsense?

Then by all means read this column by Daniel Pipes and his researcher Jonathan Schanzer about why toppling Saddam Hussein would be a walk in the park. (You or I could probably do it ourselves out in the garage with a few common implements and supplies purchasable at the local Home Depot!) The column is an apt primer on this new breed of yahoo-cons for whom Iraq has become a totem, a dogma, a logical banana peel waiting for the slow-witted to stumble on.

(Yup! Ouch, indeed.)

Don't get me wrong: most Iraq-hawks have an easier time piecing together a logical argument. Some are even friends of mine. But this sort of talk raises a more general question. Who will mark out the terrain that will allow one to be a hawk, but not a dork, on Iraq and the war on terrorism?

The point of opposing Iraq yahoo-cons is not that Saddam deserves a break. Nor is that we shouldn't be pushing to get inspectors back in or finding ways to get Saddam Hussein out of power. It's simply based on the recognition that we're almost certainly facing bigger dangers right now from those terrorist cells in Yemen, Somalia, Hamburg and (most of all maybe) Saudi Arabia. And we probably can't root them out and go back to Baghdad for old time's sake at the same time.

Hell, even I can tell you that. And I don't even have my own institute with the words 'Middle East' in it.

The CIA has been getting a lot of grief lately over our lack of quality human assets in the Al Qaeda and Taliban ranks. But what are our spooks supposed to do? Send some fresh-faced American kid over to Afghanistan, have him knock on the cave door and say, 'hey, I wanna join!'?

I mean, c'mon! Let's be realistic.

Does the Post have a conflict here? This article gives some more details on the future New York Sun - the new daily being financed by Conrad Black et. al. and edited by Seth Lipsky and Ira Stoll.

The headline of the article should probably read:

Pitifully Small 'Daily' to Be Read By Almost No One; History of Failures Precedes Attempt
Actually, come to think of it, the actual headline ain't too different:
I feel a touch vindicated in my earlier comments about the pittance being put forward to finance the Sun - a paltry $15 million, the rough equivalent for Black of the cash you or I might toss down for a bunch of CDs or maybe a low-end laptop. The Post says the paper will be a broadsheet of "only four to six pages with a daily press run of only 6,000 to 10,000."

That makes Drudge's earlier comment that the Sun would be set to compete with the New York Times sound more than a touch laughable.

On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with a tiny daily, I suppose. And it may be a wise place to start, giving the advertising recession. They can always grow from there.

I hope they make it.

As regular readers know, TPM never goes in for self-congratulation. But let's make an exception.

We've been making the case about Richard Perle's cheesy inside-the-administration, outside-the-administration double game since early October.

Now the bigs are getting into the action. Bob Novak asked Secretary Rumsfeld about it over the weekend on Novak, Hunt & Shields. And no sooner does that happen than Maureen Dowd's gotta get into the act.

All I can say, welcome aboard! And Maureen, whatever I said about you in the past, that's all behind us. Let's do lunch. It'll be fab!

P.S. Actually more I-told-you-so to come when Vanity Fair releases its January issue with David Rose's article on mid-1990s Sudan policy.

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