Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Several readers were kind enough to tell me <$NoAd$> that on his radio show today Al Franken mentioned TPM. That put me in the mind of this brush with greatness I had a little earlier in my career, which I recounted in a reporter's notebook item I wrote while on assignment for Salon covering the impeachment of President Clinton in January 1999. It was my first time in Washington as a reporter ...

Maybe the funniest impeachment moment came from comedian Al Franken, who was attending the trial with one of the prized yellow impeachment tickets as a guest of some senator -- he wouldn't say which one. After a few minutes of conversation, Franken and I and a few others were shooed out of the hallway by a Capitol police officer, and we took the elevator back up to the Senate gallery. Before I knew it, Franken and I were sitting together in one of the rooms where senators give press conferences.

Sen. Phil Gramm had just bounded into the room to do a little damage control about Sen. Robert Byrd's proposed motion to dismiss. Apparently one of the first rules of the Senate is that no one can ever criticize Bob Byrd about anything, and Gramm did his best to comply. He told us he'd just spoken to Trent Lott, and he made a strained argument about how it would be wrong to cut the trial short, even if it was clear the House didn't have much of a case. Franken raised his hand and asked Gramm whether he would have voted for the articles of impeachment if he were in the House, knowing what he now knew. Gramm seemed to have no clue who Franken was and proceeded to ignore the question and pipe on about justice being a process, not a verdict.

Franken and I chuckled about Gramm's refusal to answer the question, and suddenly two spindly arms reached across me and grabbed Franken and started to pull him out of his chair. It was a woman from the Senate press office, barking, "You have to leave. You're not press." Franken pointed to me and said, "But I'm with someone from the press" as he was being rushed out of the room. But he stayed in character through the whole thing, laughing as he got tossed out. That really drove the woman crazy. She mustered up her schoolmarm best and scolded him: "It's not funny!"

I rushed out of the press room after Franken got the boot. But by the time I got out into the hall, he'd already slipped back into the Senate gallery -- where celebrities, but not the press, are allowed to roam free.

Those were the days.

This short piece on the BBC website is the first I've seen to suggest a small hint of how this situation in Iraq might be walked back. Will alone solves nothing. With will and guile, there's at least a chance.

Bag the Clausewitz and try the Liddell Hart.

Wow, that is a good line, and a very true one too. Courtesy of Atrios, comes this line from Harold Meyerson's column today in the Post ...

The only unequivocally good policy option before the American people is to dump the president who got us into this mess, who had no trouble sending our young people to Iraq but who cannot steel himself to face the Sept. 11 commission alone.

We have backed ourselves into a very narrow <$Ad$>and very bleak set of options here. What's astonishing is how blindly the White House seems to have stumbled into it.

I don't want to get into a silly conversation about who's 'responsible' for what's happening in the South or who 'caused' it in some deep sense. But we do seem to have triggered it -- by shutting down Sadr's newspaper and arresting his deputy.

One might argue that that was a proper strategy. Sometimes a looming crisis needs to be brought to a head. But if that's so, we seem to have done little to prepare for the reaction. Where's the White House's strategy? Where is it now, three days later?

All we seem to be hearing are hollow assertions of a vacant will.

From the White House's advocates we hear logic puzzles about appeasement in which the fall-out from the president's screw ups become the prime argument for continuing to support them.

At the critical moment the president has the toxic mix of the bulldog will of a Winston Churchill and the strategic insights and imagination of a Neville Chamberlain.

He has no plan. And will without policy just equals death.

The gap between the reality in Iraq and the White House's Potemkin village version of it is closing rapidly, like an upper and lower jaw about to shut tight. And the White House's penchant for denial is being squeezed between the two.

Oh well ...

When Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Tex.) took charge <$NoAd$>of an independent political fund called American Dream PAC in 1999, he made clear that its mission was "to give significant, direct financial assistance to first-rate minority GOP candidates."

Since then, only $48,750 -- or 8.9 percent -- of the $547,000 the southwest Texas congressman has raised for his political action committee has gone to minority office-seekers while more than $100,000 has been routed to Republican Party organizations or causes, including a GOP redistricting effort in Texas, a legal defense fund for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) and Bonilla's reelection campaign. Most of the remainder of the money went to legal fees, fundraisers in Miami and other cities, airline tickets, hotels, catering services, consultants and salaries.

The piece is in tomorrow's Post.

This is really extraordinary. Finally we have an example of White House stonewalling of the 9/11 Commission in which all the dross of bogus national security flimflam and the impurities of dishonest classification mumbojumbo have been burned away to reveal the pure, hard nugget of political scamliness and antipathy toward letting the public know the truth.

You'll remember a few days ago I posted a few comments about the speech Condi Rice was scheduled to give on September 11th, 2001 -- a speech endorsing National Missile Defense as the cornerstone of a new national security policy as well as a response to a speech by then-Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joe Biden the day before.

Obviously, the speech is a sore matter for the White House since on the very day the country was hit with what was arguably the worst foreign attack on American soil in the country's history, Rice was scheduled to endorse a new defense strategy and technology which would have done nothing whatsoever to prevent it.

Not surprisingly, the Commission would like to see the speech, only parts of which the Washington Post was able to get access to in their article last week.

But the White House is saying 'no': the speech is 'confidential'.

But you have to ask, why?

Confidential work product?

Unless the argument is that we can't let our enemies know the depth of the poor judgment displayed by the president's national security team it is searchingly hard to fathom what possible national security issue could be implicated by handing over the speech since it was -- do we have to say it? -- a speech! A speech for public consumption.

Like almost all the other restrictions the White House has placed on the Commission, this is just so they won't be embarrassed politically. They don't like the Commission. Again and again they display open contempt for its work. They didn't want it created in the first place. And they've tried to obstruct its work at almost every turn.

All that's different here is that the political nature of the obstruction is undeniable.

Possibly a more innocent <$NoAd$>explanation.

Yesterday we noted a testy exchange between President Bush and AP reporter Pete Yost in which the president appeared to upbraid the reporter for addressing him as 'Sir' as opposed to 'Mr. President.'

Today, there's this from Dan Froomkin's online column in the Washington Post. After reprinting the same transcript, Froomkin adds ...

Not entirely clear was whether Bush was ticked off because Yost didn't call him "Mr. President" -- or if Bush thought Yost was talking to someone else on his mobile phone. [Update: I am now told that Yost had a phone to his ear. That would tick me off, too.]

The president's swipe still strikes me as uncalled-for. But this certainly puts the matter in a different light. If anybody else was there and has more to add, please drop me a line.

A number of readers have written in to ask whether the "Joshua Marshall" who is the registered owner or registrant or whatever of 'bushflipflops.com' is this Josh Marshall.

Well, yes. It is.

About a month ago I registered the domain.

In large part, my immediate motivation was to make sure someone else didn't get it who, shall we say, didn't have a true and sincere interest in exposing the president's long list of broken promises, changed positions, and highly disparate interpretations of the same facts.

My plan was either to set the site up myself or hand it off to some other organization or individual who was interested in setting up a site dedicated to the president's distinguished record of flipfloppery.

I'm already so pressed for time that I'm really not going to have time to do anything with it myself. So if you're that organization or individual, drop me a line. I'll pass it on for the $35 registration fee or, just as likely, for nothing at all.

Our dilemma ...

As the days go by, a full-fledged Shiite <$NoAd$>uprising in Sadr's support is looking less likely. Most Shiites, about 60 percent of Iraq's population, insist that they should become the arbiters of political power. But they see fighting for it now - with the US still battling Sunni insurgents - as premature.


Iraq's major Shiite political parties, like the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, are reluctant to stand up to Sadr's militants, afraid they could lose standing for siding too closely with the US.

They're hoping that the US will deal with Sadr's people for them, leaving them free to criticize the operation if public anger grows at the civilian, predominantly Shiite casualties in Baghdad's Sadr City, the holy city of Najaf, and the southern town of Nasariyah.

Take a moment to read the rest of this article out today in the Christian Science Monitor.

Also note this passage from a dispatch just out from Voice of America ...

The head of the al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Jordan, Uraib el-Rantawi, says the coalition should be very careful in dealing with Mr. al-Sadr, in part because he has strong Shi'ite religious connections outside of Iraq.

"He has a very good connection with the Iranian clerics, especially Ayatollah Hahari," he said. "He is one of the most leading clerics among the Iranian regime. Moqtada al-Sadr, from the early beginning, tried to put himself in a certain manner in order to be a legitimate representative of the Shi'ite people in Iraq.

"And, he is trying to take the example from what happened in Lebanon with the leadership of Hezbollah and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin of Hamas in Palestine," continued Mr. el-Rantawi. "And, I think it is very, very dangerous to underestimate his role in the Iraqi Shi'ite population and in the region."

More soon ...

I must say I am stunned at how quickly things seem <$NoAd$> to be coming apart in Iraq, particularly in the south. I can't imagine this particular takeover will be permitted to last for long. But at least for the moment, according to CNN, Sadrist forces have taken control of Najaf, a city of a quarter million people and one of even greater religious significance.

Here's a brief report I got this morning from a friend working as a private security consultant in Iraq (but not for the CPA), who we should be hearing more from in the coming days ...

Hey Josh ... thanks for the concern . I wrote the other day but power went out. This place is HOT! I am driving with max Iraqi bodyguards (whom I have just finished training), max weapons and max bodyarmor. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING with this Moqtada Sadr thing? Were they just bored with Fallujah. The place is a hornets nest now. Armor is all over the streets but doesn't seem to have disrupted most city life ... I told [a reporter] two weeks ago we were "one massacre away from the second Intifada of Iraq." Well I think we are there now.

More soon.

No one ever thought President Bush would win California this November. But this is a steep plunge. A new poll out Monday puts his approval in the Golden State at 38%.