Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

How not to get annual performance awards (from the Baltimore Sun)...

John Riggs spent 39 years in the Army, earning a Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during the Vietnam War and working his way up to become a three-star general entrusted with creating a high-tech Army for the 21st century.

But on a spring day last year, Riggs was told by senior Army officials that he would be retired at a reduced rank, losing one of his stars because of infractions considered so minor that they were not placed in his official record.


His Pentagon superiors said he allowed outside contractors to perform work they were not supposed to do, creating "an adverse command climate."

But some of the general's supporters believe the motivation behind his demotion was politics. Riggs was blunt and outspoken on a number of issues and publicly contradicted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld by arguing that the Army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops.

"They all went bat s- - when that happened," recalled retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, a one-time Pentagon adviser who ran reconstruction efforts in Iraq in the spring of 2003. "The military part of [the defense secretary's office] has been politicized. If [officers] disagree, they are ostracized and their reputations are ruined."


Garner and 40 other Riggs supporters - including an unusually candid group of retired generals - are trying to help restore his rank.

But even his most ardent supporters concede that his appeal has little chance of succeeding and that an act of Congress might be required.


(ed.note: Note of thanks to TPM Reader DH.)


This from <$NoAd$> tomorrow's Post ...

The Bush administration has launched a high-level internal review of its efforts to battle international terrorism, aimed at moving away from a policy that has stressed efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leaders since Sept. 11, 2001, and toward what a senior official called a broader "strategy against violent extremism."


Much of the discussion has focused on how to deal with the rise of a new generation of terrorists, schooled in Iraq over the past couple years. Top government officials are increasingly turning their attention to anticipate what one called "the bleed out" of hundreds or thousands of Iraq-trained jihadists back to their home countries throughout the Middle East and Western Europe. "It's a new piece of a new equation," a former senior Bush administration official said. "If you don't know who they are in Iraq, how are you going to locate them in Istanbul or London?"

Much of what we call al Qaida -- not just al Qaida proper which is at least a somewhat specific entity or association of radical Islamist groups, but the broader movement of violent and extremist jihadism across much of the globe -- was the spawn of the cockpit of brutality and extremism that was the Afghan jihad of the 1980s.

What will this lead to? What will these guys do?

Would take your breath away if you had any left to take.

(ed.note: Note of thanks to TPM Reader BKS.)

Some folks just can't let this drop. One of them is Walter Pincus of the Washington Post. And God bless him for it. In today's paper, Pincus has an article detailing how two intelligence analysts responsible for what is probably the single greatest screw-up about Iraqi WMD (the aluminum tubes issue) have received job performance awards in each of the last three years.

It's always important to avoid punishment or scapegoating not tied to specific malfeasance or poor performance. But, as this and other articles amply demonstrate, the screw-up tied to the aluminum tubes wasn't just a bad call made with imperfect evidence. At a minimum, it also involved bad tradecraft on several fronts.

That each of these men could have been given such high commendations over the period of time in which their errors and poor performance became apparent makes it hard not to think that they were actually being intentionally rewarded for their flawed assessments. At a minimum, it demonstrates a complete indifference to any sort of accountability for a national embarrassment and scandal the magnitude of which the country has not even begun to come to grips with.

Almost across the board in this administration, the people responsible for this trail of error and/or untruth have been rewarded while those who resisted it or went along unwillingly have been marginalized, punished or fired.

It's truly a national scandal -- the surface of which has barely been scratched because the institutions with oversight responsibility have vested interest in not revealing what happened.

It's a national scandal for which, as time goes by, we all collectively become more and more responsible.

A TPM Reader <$NoAd$> chimes in on Social Security ...

Josh --

I admire the Bushies ability to come up catchy memes and repeat them endlessly (most recently, "Up or down vote.")

Here's my suggestion for what Bush is offering:

His "Nothing For Something"™ proposal.

The government keeps taking the same amount, only the Republicans give the middle class less. No carrot, all stick. Gee, I wonder why people aren't going for this?


Repeat it enough times and I guess it just might work.

Social Security partisans winning the battle of Staten Island?

The Staten Island Advance is reporting that Congressman Vito Fossella (R) of Staten Island is distancing himself from President Bush on phasing out Social Security.

Former phase-out man Fosella is saying no way to 'progressive indexing' (aka 'huge cuts for everyone but the working poor'). And while he says he's not against all private accounts, he's not ready to support President Bush's private accounts.

Perhaps this has something to do with the Empty Chair townhall meeting the In This Together campaign held a while back in Fossella's district or the 'Where's Vito' lawn signs they've been putting up around the area to get him to come clean on where he stands on phasing out Social Security.

Law & Order: Pitiful Intent?

Has The Hammer become a Man of Tender Sensibilities?

You've probably heard this already. But Tom DeLay fired off a letter to NBC this week complaining about an episode of Law & Order CI in which passing reference is made to his threats against members of the judiciary.

Specifically, in an episode about a white supremacist who kills a judge's family, as the detectives hunt for the killer, one of them quips, "Maybe we should put out an APB for somebody in a Tom DeLay T-Shirt."

DeLay's letter claimed that this "slur" was aimed at his statements about "the need for Congress to closely monitor the federal judiciary."

DeLay's interpretation notwithstanding, we thought it might have had more to do with the time he told supporters right after Terry Schiavo's death that: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

DeLay even claims his First Amendment rights are being traduced: "To equate legitimate constitutional inquiry into the role of our courts with a threat of violence against our judges is to equate the First Amendment with terrorism."

Actually, DeLay's analysis gets even better when he lassos in Brit Hume as the impartial witness to establish his non-judge-whacking bona fides.

"When a responsible journalist like Brit Hume made an inquiry into such comments," DeLay continued, "he quickly understood them to be limited to Congress's oversight responsibilities and nothing more."

Tom DeLay, tender flower.

Late Update: TPM Reader EB tells me that the perp in the episode wasn't a white supremacist but rather someone disgruntled at their treatment by a judge. I was going from press descriptions of the episode. But perhaps they got it wrong. And as long as we're on the subject, aren't there some right-wing press hooligans we have on hand who go nuts when the MSM makes such an outlandish mistake?

It seems the half-life of the McClellan/DiRita slap-around of Newsweek may be rather short.

According to just-released FBI documents revealed by a FOIA request, there have been repeated claims of desecration or mishandling of the Koran in US detention facilities, some of them including precisely the sort of thing alleged in the Newsweek article. It is also clear that at least some of the accusations were ones the military found credible enough to discipline soldiers over.

What's worth noting is the motivation for all these antics over the last week.

We already know there have been serious problems, to put it charitably, with the treatment of US prisoners in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is hard to say that the claims of mishandling Korans were particularly egregious in comparison to things we know for a fact did happen.

Remember, the McClellan/DiRita attacks on Newsweek weren't simply about getting a few facts wrong or weakly sourcing a story. Their claim was that the charges were outrageous, damaging and false, when in fact it turns out they were outrageous, damaging and quite likely true. And even more damaging for the US after McClellan and DiRita spent a couple weeks heaping attention on them.

The result of the White House and DiRita's jihad against Newsweek has only been to encourage a whole new round of international outrage and embarrassment about abuses we have to hope are now being addressed. And all, obviously, to score points in the media wars at home -- which the Bush administration so often seems to consider the true central front in the war on terror.

Distant rumblings ...

The treasurer for Texans for a Republican Majority violated state election laws when he did not disclose more than $600,000 in corporate money the committee spent during the 2002 legislative campaigns, state District Judge Joe Hart ruled this morning.


Hart's ruling is the first by a judge in the far-flung controversy that has snared the political action committee; DeLay; Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland; and the Texas Association of Business, among others. A Travis County grand jury last fall indicted three of DeLay's associates who worked for the committee and eight corporate donors. Charges were dismissed against four donors in return for their cooperation with investigators. Ceverha was not among those indicted.

Criminal trials are pending against DeLay fund-raisers Jim Ellis and Warren Robold, both of the Washington, D.C., area, and John Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, who lobbies in Austin.

The rest is <$NoAd$> out here from the Austin American-Statesman.

Okay, a bit more TPMCafe news, if you'll indulge me.

As I mentioned a few times before, there will be several blogs hosted at TPMCafe. The main group blog is one I've mentioned several times before. So let me share with you who the contributors to the main group blog are going to be. They are: Steve Clemons, David Gelber, Todd Gitlin, Reed Hundt, Ed Kilgore, Karen Kornbluh, Annie Lamott, Michael Lind, Josh Marshall, Judith Shulevitz, Mark Schmitt and Marshall Wittman.

A few others will be joining the group shortly. But that's our roster for our kick-off next Tuesday.

You can see the names of the contributors to our foreign policy blog, America Abroad, here.

WarrenReports will be the successor to the TPM Bankruptcy blog that Professor Elizabeth Warren and her students have been running here at TPM since early March.

More later on the discussion areas at TPMCafe.

There's an article in The Hill today that you should read. It's about a talk Bob Rubin, Clinton's Treasury Secretary, gave to the House Democratic caucus yesterday. The headline topic was Social Security. And his message was unequivocal: Democrats would be fools to fall into the trap of putting forward their own concrete plan on Social Security under current circumstances.

In discussing this question, one must always come back to the simple fact that the Democrats especially shouldn't come up with a concrete plan when the president himself still hasn't put one forward.

But setting that significant matter aside, Rubin is unquestionably right. And it's important for Democrats to hear this from someone like Rubin whose stature within Democratic ranks is unique.

I must admit that I've had moments of wavering on this basic issue. But Rubin strikes on exactly the point that has always brought me back to the same conclusion that Dems shouldn't get sucked in on this one.

Of course, there's a narrowly political argument. And that's important. But it's not the most important reason. The real key is that the playing field in Washington today is terribly skewed. The Republicans have the White House and both chambers of Congress. And they've demonstrated an ability to coordinate those three institutions to what is an almost unprecedented degree (this is the issue of parliamentarization I've referred to before.) In such a setting, any process of negotiation would inevitably lead to a bad result (both politically and substantively) because Republicans exert so much control over the process of negotiation itself. And that would be so because the current Republican party is against Social Security itself. And no negotiation or process of compromise controlled by such a party could, by definition I think, yield a result which was favorable to Social Security.

That has to be the case as long as Republicans are still sticking to their principles of private accounts and sharp benefit cuts for the middle class. And those are their principles -- quite explicitly, in fact

Add to this the fact that the president is clocking in at under 30% support on Social Security and most Americans now understand that he wants to dismantle the program and the whole thing really becomes a no-brainer.

In fact, Dems should really start making the point now that they are the ones who stopped President Bush from phasing out Social Security this year.

Be loud, be proud.