Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I think Media Matters has the Times dead-to-rights on this question of Catholic support for John Kerry. Very sloppy work.

On the other hand, Bill Keller isn't an "op-ed columnist and senior writer" as MMFA identifies him. He's the Executive Editor of the paper. He runs the place. Which, I'd say, makes it worse.

I touch on this subject with some hesitation because almost always there turns out not to be anything to this sort of thing. But the story just doesn't add up to me.

In 2001, 2002 and 2003 the president had his annual physical in early August. And after each he's gotten a clean bill of health. To all appearances the president is in excellent health.

But this year, according to AFP, he's decided to postpone his physical until after the election.

On its face, the explanation makes a certain amount of sense. "This has been a busier travel period for the president than the previous three years," Scott McClellan told the AFP.

But can the president really not afford one day?

And another thing occurs to me.

What was the president doing in early August this year? Right about then is when he was taking the traditional hiatus from campaigning during the Democratic convention. It seems like then of all times he had some time free.

It occurs to me that the president's campaign officials might not have wanted the contrast of Kerry's coronation with a doctor's visit for the president. And that may be a reasonable point.

But still it strikes me as odd.

I hunted around a bit on Nexis to see whether Clinton had postponed his physical in 1996. But I couldn't find anything. Whether or not he did would probably shed some helpful light on this question. If he did, then perhaps I'm just underestimating how disruptive it would be to the campaign.

Late Update: A reader sends in this link that shows that President Clinton did have his physical in 1996. But his annual visit was in May, rather than August. So it's not a perfect comparison.

Those of you who read with interest the recent, lengthy New York Times piece on the flawed intelligence on the Iraqi nuclear program, will remember this passage about the Energy Department's then chief of intelligence ...

Some laboratory officials blamed time pressure and inexperience. Thomas S. Ryder, the department's representative at the meetings, had been acting director of the department's intelligence unit for only five months. ''A heck of a nice guy but not savvy on technical issues,'' is the way one senior nuclear official described Mr. Ryder, who declined comment.

Mr. Ryder's position was more alarming than prior assessments from the Energy Department. In an August 2001 intelligence paper, department analysts warned of suspicious activities in Iraq that ''could be preliminary steps'' toward reviving a centrifuge program. In July 2002 an Energy Department report, ''Nuclear Reconstitution Efforts Underway?'', noted that several developments, including Iraq's suspected bid to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger, suggested Baghdad was ''seeking to reconstitute'' a nuclear weapons program.

According to intelligence officials who took part in the meetings, Mr. Ryder justified his department's now firm position on nuclear reconstitution in large part by citing the Niger reports. Many C.I.A. analysts considered that intelligence suspect, as did analysts at the State Department.

But perhaps that's not the whole <$Ad$>story.

Longtime readers of this site will remember that we discussed Ryder a year ago with respect to this same incident. And the information we discussed came from what may seem like an unlikely source, two columns by Paul Sperry in WorldNetDaily.

The Times refers to Ryder's 'inexperience' and quotes an Energy Department official saying he was "not savvy on technical issues."

But, according to Sperry's article from August 6th of last year, that understates the matter. He referred to Ryder as "a human resources manager with no intelligence experience" who was "close to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham."

More disturbing were revelations contained in an article Sperry wrote six days later.

Sperry notes that Ryder directly overruled his technical experts who wanted to dissent from the NIE findings on an Iraqi nuclear program.

Then after the NIE was published and just before the war began, Abraham awarded Ryder a $13,000 bonus for "exceeding performance expectations."

This was in addition to an earlier $7,500 bonus he awarded Ryder prior to the NIE's publication.

According to the last section of Sperry's second article ...

Bonuses that big are rare, and Energy insiders say they cannot recall previous intelligence chiefs receiving as much bonus money as Rider, who is said to be close to Abraham.


Yet despite Rider's alleged outstanding performance, Abraham didn't keep him in the top position. In February, he was replaced by CIA official John Russak. By July, Rider had been relocated to another department – energy assurance.

So Spencer Abraham taps a friend for a position for which he seems to have no qualifications whatsoever. Then that friend overrules his technical experts to greenlight a finding that Iraq is building nuclear weapons. Then Abraham gives him a big bonus for outstanding performance -- performance so outstanding that he doesn't keep him on in the job.

AP: "The Education Department has advised school leaders nationwide to watch for people spying on their buildings or buses to help detect any possibility of terrorism like the deadly school siege in Russia. The warning follows an analysis by the FBI and the Homeland Security Department of the siege that killed nearly 340 people, many of them students, in the city of Beslan last month. 'The horror of this attack may have created significant anxiety in our own country among parents, students, faculty staff and other community members,' Deputy Education Secretary Eugene Hickok said in a letter to schools and education groups ... The Education Department sent its letter by e-mail Wednesday to school police, state school officers, school boards, groups representing principals and many other organizations." (emphasis added)

Pretty much on schedule, right?

In its editorial today, The Washington Post goes to some lengths to put a good face on the Duelfer report about Iraq's phantom weapons of <$NoAd$>mass destruction.

One interesting passage notes what we might call the geopolitical educational benefits of the invasion ...

As long as Saddam Hussein remained in power and refused to cooperate fully with the United Nations, there could have been no certainty about his weapons. Mr. Bush had to decide whether the risks of invading outweighed those of standing pat without knowing for sure what U.S. forces would find in Iraq or what would happen once they were there.

Because Mr. Bush chose to act, we know what capabilities Iraq did -- and did not -- possess, and we've learned how difficult it is to occupy and attempt to reconstruct that country.

So, it is only thanks Mr. Bush's decision to invade that we can now have the certainty we do about how wrong he was about Iraqi WMD.

Similarly, Bush's decision to invade has gained us invaluable new insights into urban guerilla warfare and how badly an occupation can go wrong.

I think I now have a better understanding of what the president and his supporters mean when they call Iraq a 'catastrophic success.'

Nice to know everyone's got their priorities in order.

According to this morning's Post, in response to an "increasingly high-profile Virginia gun rights group whose members have taken to wearing firearms on their hips in public places to make their case", the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has agreed to ease the "overly restrictive rules" about bringing firearms to National and Dulles Airport.

Fly on the wall envy ...

On Tuesday—the same day after Bremer’s critical remarks were made public by The Washington Post—he received no fewer than three calls from top White House officials asking for an explanation, NEWSWEEK has learned. National-security adviser Condoleezza Rice, chief of staff Andrew Card and Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby all spoke to Bremer to make sure his comments were being reported accurately. One Bush official said Libby called from the road because Cheney was about to go into a debate with Democratic nominee John Edwards in Ohio, and it was obvious he would be asked about the Bremer remarks. Rice, he said, called for a similar reason—she was doing television interviews.


Read the rest here.

Fred Kaplan on how the White House conned the cable networks into live broadcasting one of his stump speeches -- and what it means.