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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here's a complicated but interesting article in Roll Call about Enron and a group of long-time Tom DeLay operatives.

The article, frankly, is a bit hard to make heads or tails of. But I think this is less a matter of the quality of the reporting (which is first-rate) than the inherent complexity or even intentional opacity of what the reporters were looking at.

Briefly, three long-time Tom DeLay advisor/ operatives -- Ed Buckham, Karl Gallant, and John Hoy -- got themselves hired by Enron to put together an astroturf activism campaign in favor of electricity deregulation. This was all done with the assistance, of some sort, of DeLay.

In any case, who's really interesting here is Karl Gallant.

Gallant has been buzzing around the Majority Whip's political operation for the last several years -- most conspicuously as head of the Republican Majority Issues Committee. But his activities are much more complex and varied. He is one of the pioneers of astroturf organizing -- i.e., phony, ginned-up, grass-roots activism -- which he's employed principally on behalf of the tobacco industry, but also gun-rights advocates, the National Right to Work Committee, various other anti-regulatory and anti-tax efforts, and myriad Republican candidates.

And now Enron.

More on Gallant soon.

More on Doug Paal's appointment as envoy to Taiwan. According to Tuesday's Taipei Times, AIT spokesperson Judith Mudd-Krijgelmans says Paal's appointment remains on track.

More follow-up on Douglas Paal's appointment to serve as United States envoy to Taipei.

The Washington Post's In The Loop column took note of the New Republic article on Friday. (See bottom item, "Undone Deal?")

Today the Taipei Times said "Speculation is mounting that the nomination of Douglas Paal to head the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) could be withdrawn, as an article on Paal in a conservative US newsweekly (sic) has once again called his appointment into question."

Early this afternoon State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher was asked about the status of Paal's appointment.

Question: "Question about Taiwan. Can you comment about the possible withdrawal of Douglas Paal's nomination as Washington's envoy to Taipei"

State Dept. Spokesman: "I haven't heard any discussion of that"

Question: "And is it true that his appointment is being held up because of a delayed FBI background check?"

State Dept. Spokesman: "I wouldn't discuss anything like that anyway … don't know."

More soon.

We were about to post the second addition to the TPM Book List, Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Unfortunately, it turns out that the book is out of print. So it's not appropriate for the book list (we'll be adding a replacement soon). But I still couldn't help sharing with you how marvelous a book it is.

The book is classic travel-writing. Fermor, an Englishman and classically so, was born in 1915. And in 1934 he more or less walked from Holland to Constantinople. It took him about eighteen months. The first leg of the trip is chronicled in a book called A Time of Gifts, regrettably also apparently out of print.

Between the Woods and the Water covers travels through Hungary and Rumania. I'm actually not sure whether the third installment was ever written, or for that matter whether Fermor is still alive to write it.

Purely as a piece of writing the book is beautiful and a wonderful read. But the ever-present subtext is the Second World War. Not only will many of the characters in the book -- the people Fermor meets and attaches himself to along the way -- be dead in a decade. More than that, you realize that this whole world will disappear. Shattered first by the on-rush of fascism, both domestic and German, then ripped apart by the war, then smothered under decades of rule as Soviet client-states.

This could easily play like an easy cliche. (I would expect it to if I were reading this short review.) But in Fermor's hands it's something far richer and grand. He manages to tell a captivating story, which captures the un-rushed nature of the moment, while weaving it together with an effortless mix of erudition and history.

It's out of print so I don't want to spend too much time on it. But this is a book you can fall in love with. Amazon appears to have a few used copies available.

By all means, grab one if you can.

We'd like to announce that Talking Points Memo is now accepting contribution payments through the PayPal payments system. Of course, we've long taken payments through Amazon.com. But some readers have said they don't like paying through Amazon, for various reasons. So, if you're one of those who feel that way, this is another option.

The money gets through to us fine either way. So take your pick. And, you know, give early and often.

The story that TPM broke yesterday afternoon (that Judge John D. Bates, has been assigned to hear the Cheney/GAO case) has now been picked up by Dana Milbank at the Washington Post. Don Van Natta's piece in the Times is still, well ... Bates-less.

You heard it here TPM World Exclusive!  You heard it hear first!  Must Credit.first. The all-important Cheney/GAO case has been assigned to Judge John Bates.

Bates is a Bush appointee who was confirmed only on December 11th, 2001. He's considered a moderate Republican.

Carter Phillips of Sidley & Austin has, apparently, been retained by the GAO to argue their case.

Late Update: Judge Bates served as Deputy Independent Counsel under Ken Starr from September 1995 until leaving in March 1997.

That year Bates argued the case in which an appeals court ruled that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton had to turn over notes of conversations about Whitewater.

During that proceedings, in April 1997, Bates told the court "We certainly are investigating individuals, and those individuals -- including Mrs. Clinton -- could be indicted."

Less than a year later, in January 1998, when Starr was coming under fire for partisan bias, Bates told the Washington Post ...

The independent counsel's office has been staffed over the last several years by professional prosecutors with enormous experience who have diligently and properly followed relevant leads in an attempt to discover the truth. These individuals are not partisans who are on a mission but rather professionals who take their jobs and obligations seriously.

The two are far from identical, but it sure will be interesting to see the arguments Bates made about the earlier case of turning over notes.

The Reed-Rove-Bush-Enron Connection: pitiful, but aberrant, embarrassment? Or telling sign of a deeper pattern?

Let's review what we already know.

Back in 1997 Karl Rove recommended Reed for a pricey consulting contract with Enron. According to sources cited in this New York Times article, the idea was to send a lot of money Reed's way -- not from, but in some sense on behalf of Bush 2000 -- so as to keep him in the Bush camp. It seemed like a way for the Bush campaign to keep Reed happy but, shall we say, off the books. You might even call it an outside partnership.

We now know from this more recent article from the Post that Reed was doing what's called 'astroturf' organizing (phony grass-roots activism) for Enron.

This looks at least pretty similar to another set-up Reed had going at about the same time.

Back in 1999 and 2000, I wrote a series of articles on Ralph Reed and Microsoft. At the time Microsoft was working the political system hard to ward off the Justice Department's antitrust suit. That included spreading a lot of money around conservative circles and investing a lot in a possible future Bush presidency.

They also hired Ralph Reed to do astroturf work for them. This was during the same period of time when Reed was some vague sort of 'advisor' to the incipient Bush campaign but not an official consultant.

There's more.

Reed did his work for Microsoft in conjunction with a guy named Tom Synhorst, a phone-bank maven specializing in astroturf work. (Reed and Synhorst were involved in setting up a number of front groups for Microsoft which agitated against the antitrust suit.)

By the time I wrote this article in mid-2000, Reed and Synhorst were also both working for Bush. In fact, back in 1999, they had been getting ready to ambush John McCain on Bush's behalf in South Carolina, as I discussed in this other article.

What's interesting here, however, is the timing. Reed and Synhorst were part of a close-knit group of political advisors working with Rove and Bush as far back as 1997.

Here's what Ceci Connolly said in a profile of Bush in the St. Petersburg Times in May 1997.

Officially, Rove and Bush are thinking no further than 1998. However, it is no secret they talk regularly to prominent strategists such as Iowa's Tom Synhorst, Californian Don Sipple and outgoing Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed. Everyone in the group knows Bush needs a tax cut to compete with the other big-name Republican governors who have led the way.
We know that Rove got Reed the Enron gig in 1997 (mobilizing evangelical revivalism for electricity deregulation) to keep him on ice for Bush. He got his gig with Microsoft in 1998.

Are we talking about a similar set-up here?

More on this tomorrow.

The project that I was referring to in the previous post is this article ("Pacific Whim") which has just been published today in The New Republic.

The article is about Douglas H. Paal, a one-time China policy advisor to George H. W. Bush, who served in the NSC during the first Bush administration. Paal is soon to be appointed to serve as America's de facto Ambassador to Taiwan.

(The United States has not officially recognized the government of Taiwan since 1979. Since then, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has handled America's diplomatic affairs in the island nation. And its Director functions as the United States' de facto ambassador.)

The article discusses certain controversies surrounding Mr. Paal and his appointment.

At various points over the last two months or so, regular readers have written in to ask why the posts didn't seem as regular or as frequent as usual. The answer is that I was working on a big project. It comes out tomorrow.

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