Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

It's always fascinating to see how a news meme migrates through the nation's dense ganglia of headline writers and copy editors. Rep. Chris Shays' (R) call for DeLay to resign is not that unexpected, for reasons we'll discuss momentarily. And Rick Santorum's comments on the Stephanopoulos show weren't quite as harsh in their totality as they read in the headlines.

The whole quote was ...

I think he has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves. But from everything I've heard, again, from the comments and responding to those, is everything he's done was according to the law. Now you may not like some of the things he's done. That's for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not. But as far as the focus on him, I think clearly, when you have a leader of Tom DeLay's passion and Tom DeLay's effectiveness, you have a media that's very much going after him and tracking him and dogging him and trying to find what they can about him.

Still, Santorum's no fool. So he knew how those remarks would play in this volatile climate. For all the padding, the bottom line subtext is revealed in the first two sentences and into the third. <$Ad$> In so many words, Santorum says that the bugman is a sleaze, even if he may not have been so sloppy as to violate the law. And DeLay has to mount the pulpit before his constituents, confess his sleazy ways and hope they forgive him.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement and certainly out of step with the Bugman cult of personality David Keene, et. al. are trying to gin up.

("Bugman today, Bugman tomorrah, Bugman forevah.")

What I'm wondering is whether Chris Shays is a leading indicator in the judgment he seems to have made. Shays may be outspoken and independent. (After all, he spoke up about the DeLay Rule before it was cool.) But he ain't stupid. And I think his remarks yesterday and today, dropped like a big water balloon down on to the Sunday shows, reflects a judgment on his part that he can survive or DeLay can, but maybe not the both of them.

At a minimum his political survival now seems closely tied to define himself by his opposition to DeLay and the ultras in the House GOP caucus.

In the article in yesterday's Greenwhich Time on Shays' townhall meeting in which he called DeLay an embarrassment, this passage appeared ...

Town resident John Howard, 39, said he has supported Shays in the past and knows that the congressman is not a defender of DeLay. Even so, Howard said, he wouldn't continue to support Shays if he voted to keep DeLay in power.

"I was very proud of you for standing up to the Republican caucus," Howard said. "However, you do vote for the Republican leadership in Congress -- and you must know that you have a lot of constituents, like myself, who deeply respect you, and agree with you on many different issues -- but I can't vote for a congressperson who would vote to keep Tom DeLay in power. You must understand that he's a liability for you."

Shays had a pretty close call in November. The woman who gave him a run for his money is, I suspect, going to run against him again. And he's already showing signs of wilting in his support for private accounts. In swing districts in the Northeast next year it's hard to believe there won't be a strong anti-House majority tide. And the most obvious way for him to avoid getting swept up in that is to make himself the Republican who stood up to Tom DeLay.

I'm not saying it's all so clear cut or immediate or intentional in every respect. But the balancing act that Shays has played for years gets more difficult as the national politics grows more partisan and the House Republicans decline in popularity. And his own survival might depend heavily on being able to go into next year's election with a dynamite response to any opponent who tries to connect him to DeLay.

Bug man in winter? Hmmm, too much empathy. Twilight of the bug man? No. Bug man Agonistes? Definitely, not. Käfermanndämmerung? Bears more thought.

Late Update: TPM Readers chime in with their own headlines. The bug man goeth, says one regular. Hammerdämmerung, suggests TPM Reader AS.

Later Update: The Eugene O'Neill version of this farce might also be Long bug's journey into night.

Shays says DeLay's a handful, calls the Majority Leader an "embarrassment" who won't survive through this term as head of the caucus.

"He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," Rep. Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut told a constituents at a townhall meeting in Greenwich on Saturday.

"Do I think Tom DeLay will be the majority leader by the end of this term? No," Shays went on to say. "I don't think Tom DeLay is going to survive."

Meanwhile, arch-bag-man Jack Abramoff, is telling friends, "Everyody is lying," according to a new piece out from Newsweek's Isikoff.

"Those S.O.B.s. DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."

Mark your calendars.

According to Mike Allen's piece in tomorrow's Post, next week David Keene and a gaggle of conservative leaders "will show their solidarity by announcing this week that they are holding a tribute dinner for DeLay on May 12 at the Capital Hilton, complete with a film 'summation of what Tom has done for conservatives.' Keene said 1,000 people are expected, and tickets will be about $200."

Duce! Duce!

Actually, if I were down in DC on the 12th, I could see laying down $200 to be on hand for this train wreck.

DeLay's allies say the future of DeLay is the future of conservatism, reports Mike Allen in tomorrow's Post ...

Allies and friends of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) have concluded that public attention to his ethics is unlikely to abate for months to come, and they plan to try to preserve his power by launching an aggressive media strategy and calling in favors from prominent conservative leaders, according to Republicans participating in the strategy sessions.

The Republicans said the strategy combines leaks from DeLay allies about questionable Democratic trips and financial matters; denunciations of unfavorable news stories as biased, orchestrated rehashes; and swift, organized responses to journalists' inquiries.

The resistance was launched two weeks ago when DeLay flew back to Washington from Texas during Easter recess to speak to a group of about 30 conservative leaders who had gathered in the conference room of the Family Research Council for a call to arms on his behalf.

Officials working with DeLay said he is trying to lock in support by sowing the message that an attack on him is an attack on the conservative movement, and that taking him out would be the Democrats' first step toward regaining control of the House and Senate. These officials said they believe the attacks are part of a strategy by Democrats, aided by watchdog groups funded by liberals, to use the ethics process to try to regain power.

As you can see, when they <$NoAd$> give the advance word to journalists, there's little attempt to conceal the fact that charges of 'bias' aren't interpretations or claims, but little more than a cudgel to reassure the faithful and hoodwink gullible journalists.

And if there's any more evidence needed to know that the defining motif of all conservative politics is victimization, see this graf at the end of the piece ...

Becky Norton Dunlop, a Heritage Foundation vice president who was formerly Virginia's secretary of Natural Resources, attended the meeting, and said charges similar to those that have been made about DeLay could be made about Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.).

"And yet, these are not happening. Why? Because they're liberals," Dunlop said. "We think that those who are so intent about making charges against Tom DeLay should also take a look at Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and some of the liberal leaders."

Poor conservatives: embattled and villified in the town they run.

The St. Petersburg Times comes out against the loyalty test the White House is imposing at Social Security events on the president's Bamboozlepalooza Tour: "The Bush administration might not appreciate the difference between campaign events that are paid for through private donations and official events put on with the public's money, but the Constitution surely does."

With all of Tom DeLay's bossism and corrupt rule now finally being revealed to a wider audience, I figure it's time to revisit the DeLay Rule, and remember which Republican members of the House were so devoted to DeLay (i.e., owned by DeLay) that they were willing to rewrite their caucus's rules on his request because they thought he was about to indicted back in Texas. We've got a whole library of the letters the DeLay Rule backers sent to their constituents trying to explain themselves.

Another nice Dana Milbank article, this one on some of the borderline-violent anti-judiciary nut-cases the Republican majority (particularly in the House) is in the process of selling itself to.

How high on the list of national priorities for the American people do you figure disciplining the federal judiciary is? Higher than the economy? Terrorism? Health care? Iraq? Social Security? Long-term care? Road quality?

Perhaps it is time for the Democrats simply to embrace their destiny as the party of grown-ups. No members of congress threatening judges. No gonzo federal legislation cooked up in the middle of the night to game a family struggle in Florida. Borrowing money and saving money are not the same thing. A reasonable respect for the rules under which the country has long been governed. Congressional staffers will neither steal work material from members of the opposition party nor stand on principle when caught. Bribes tendered on the floor of Congress will be frowned upon ...

Somehow I found my way over this article by John Hinderaker at the Weekly Standard website. And in the course of providing an elaborate history of press malfeasance and liberal bias in the coverage of the Schiavo talking points memo, he notes: "The Post's story was picked up by the Reuters news service and by dozens of newspapers, and was, in large part, the basis for a widespread popular belief that the leadership of the Republican party had played politics with the Schiavo case."

Spinning and BSing is always less interesting than the genuine article of denial and self-deception. Was it really the reporting of this memo -- however accurate or inaccurate (and we're finding out it was pretty much completely accurate) -- that led overwhelming numbers of Americans to judge that 'the Republican party had played politics with the Schiavo case'?

You really have to be far gone to believe that.

I think most people judged this one by believing their eyes.

Andrew Sullivan sounds the same waters in this post out this evening.