Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

"Bush operatives constantly whine about the media, but Bush is benefiting from the mock sophistication of journalists who, striking a world-weary stance, say of his campaign dishonesty, 'It was ever thus in American politics.' Even if that were true, it would be no excuse, and it isn't true. This is extraordinary ... serious people flinch from being associated with the intellectual slum that is the Bush campaign, with its riffraff of liars and aspiring ayatollahs."

Those are the words, it may surprise you to learn, of George Will, writing on August 26th, 1992, writing of course about the campaign of the president's father.

The whole column merits reading in full -- and not simply because of the irony that Will was saying of that Bush campaign what many Democrats are now saying about his son's campaign. It's more than that. You have the same tactics, the same people, even the same criticisms in many cases -- ones which the campaign makes no effort to defend as being accurate but nonetheless insists it will keep repeating.

Read this passage from Will's piece and then stop by the Bush Jr. website and see that that's the message of the day in late August this year too ...

Soon Bill Clinton will have to say to Bush what Dole publicly said to Bush in 1988: "Stop lying about my record." Bush says Clinton has raised taxes 128 times. Bush says this even though columnist Michael Kinsley has demonstrated that the list of "tax increases" is a tissue of falsehoods. (Some taxes are counted several times; components of a tax are counted as separate taxes; minor fees, such as the $ 1 court cost imposed on convicted criminals, are counted as taxes.) By the tendentious criteria used by the Bush campaign, Bush has raised taxes more often in four years than Clinton has in 12.

So, what does Teeter say of the 128 number? "We're not going to quit saying it about Mr. Clinton."

Here's the new version, for Senator Kerry.

John Kerry promises not to raise taxes, but the reality is that he has cast 98 votes for tax increases, including voting ten times to raise gas taxes on the middle class. Kerry points to the largest tax increase in American history as the blueprint for his economic plan, which advisor Bob Rubin says Kerry won't reveal until elected. Kerry's credibility problem is only expanding as more and more Americans see the gap between what Kerry says and what Kerry does.

Same stuff. Same indifference to saying things that are even remotely true. And at least till now, the same playing most of the press for chumps.

Of course, twelve years ago it took till August 26th for George Will to lower the boom. But perhaps the tide is starting to turn. Here, from Dana Milbank in yesterday's Washington Post, is a list of half a dozen quotes from Kerry and how either President Bush or Vice President Cheney have distorted them out of all recognition on the campaign trail recently.

Here's a sample ...

"Every performer tonight in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country." -- Kerry, July 8

"The other day, my opponent said he thought you could find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood." -- Bush, Aug. 18

And of course, there are several more examples for your reading pleasure ...

Yet more Navy records support Kerry, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, John O'Neill -- Mr. uber-Swift, he wrote the book, etc. -- has been going on all the shows for weeks saying that John Kerry never could have been in Cambodia on a black mission. It was impossible because there were all sorts of precautions in place to prevent any border crossings and that he would have been "court-martialed" had he done so (see this column for excerpts from his book and his appearance on ABC's This Week program last Sunday.)

Now CNN has come up with tapes of O'Neill telling Richard Nixon in 1971 that he himself had been on missions inside Cambodia. From last night's Aaron Brown show ...

O'Neill said no one could cross the border by river and he claimed in an audio tape that his publicist played to CNN that he, himself, had never been to Cambodia either. But in 1971, O'Neill said precisely the opposite to then President Richard Nixon.

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.


JOHNS: Now, O'Neill may have an explanation for this but he has not returned CNN's calls. What does seem clear is that a top member of the swift boat group is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry -- Aaron.

So there you go. It really seems like O'Neill has been going on all these shows lying right through his teeth. Not misremembering some date, not having a conflicting recollection of some battle action, but telling everyone that none of the Swift Boats crossed into Cambodia when, in fact, he himself appears to have done so routinely.

Of course, the underyling facts here aren't in dispute. As Fred Kaplan points out here and many others have as well, it is well known that the US military -- and Swift Boats in particular -- made covert ventures into Cambodia.

But, again, right from O'Neill's own mouth -- Mr. Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth.

And all of this raises the question, though it's not precisely the right analogy, what exactly is the statute of limitations on these guys? How many times do they have to get caught making false claims, unsubstantiated assertions or putting forward witnesses who weren't there, before they cease to have any credibility and get treated as such in the media?

At the moment the standard seems to be, "Okay, on your first nineteen claims, it seems like you were lying to us, but send along number twenty and we'll run that one up the flag pole too."

How long?

Just in case you don't think TPM is going to <$NoAd$>extra lengths to keep you informed, please note that we beat the news wires by at least twenty minutes (!) in bringing you the news that Ben Ginsberg had checked out of the Bush-Cheney campaign over the Swift Boat matter.

But if you look at the New York Times bit on Ginsberg's resignation you'll see that who else is working for these Swift dudes, Chris LaCivita, who works for push-poll and astroturf king Tom Synhorst.

From the Times ...

An occasional collaborator with Mr. Ginsberg, Chris LaCivita, is also working for the group, advising on media strategy. Mr. LaCivita was political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002 and now works for the DCI Group, a Washington political strategy firm whose partners include Charles Francis, a longtime friend of President Bush from Texas and Tom Synhorst, an adviser to the Bush campaign in 2000, who was an architect of the campaign's effort in the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. LaCivita said yesterday that he worked as a private contractor for DCI and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and that there was no coordination between the firm and the group.

"Obviously, I don't work for the Bush campaign," he said.

Mr. LaCivita described his role as providing advice on the news media and placing advertisements. Asked to describe how close his involvement was or how Mr. Ginsberg was involved, Mr. LaCivita referred calls to a spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans, which declined to comment.

Birds of a feather ...

Oh, this is good stuff.

The Kerry campaign is sending Max Cleland and Jim Rassman down to the president's 'ranch' to hand deliver a letter signed by seven veterans serving in the United States Senate asking Bush to "recognize this blatant attempt at character assassination, and publicly condemn it."

Nice political theater and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Maybe it's time for Bush to bug out?

Or maybe put in for a transfer to Alabama ...

Keyes to the Kingdom <$NoAd$>...

Declaring "the front line of the war against terror once again involves the citizens," Republican Alan Keyes said Tuesday he believes the U.S. Constitution grants properly trained private individuals the right to own and carry machine guns.

"You're not talking about giving citizens access to atom bombs and other things," the former presidential candidate said. "That's ridiculous."

But the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate argued the founding fathers intended the Second Amendment to allow people to carry the types of weapons "customarily carried in those days by ordinary infantry soldiers."

"And, yes, does that mean that in this day and age people would have the right to have access to the kind of the weapons our ordinary infantry people have access to? With proper training and so forth to make sure that they could handle them successfully, that's exactly what was meant."

Keyes made the remarks at a news conference he called to attack the "ideological extremism" of his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Barack Obama.

See the rest in the Chicago Sun-Times ...

By the way, you know Keyes is in good form here since he has to note that allowing citizens to bear atomic weapons would be an excessively literalist reading of the 2nd Amendment.

Oh, that's beautiful.

The Bush campaign and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth have so little in common that they share an election lawyer -- Florida recount veteran, Benjamin Ginsberg.

He must be over there to enforce President Bush's well-known opposition to 527s.

Earlier today we noted that in an NPR story on the Swift Boat wars, Senior Correspondent John McChesney reported that the Bush campaign had "denounced" the claims of William Rood, the Chicago Tribune editor who has supported Kerry's account of one of the Swift Boat episodes, saying his comments were "politically motivated".

McChesney told me via email this afternoon that he misspoke. It was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, not the Bush campaign, that denounced Rood's story.

Ahhh, Alessandra Stanley in<$NoAd$> the Times, music to the ears ...

CNN showed less relish over the Swift boat clash, but it was not much more helpful in separating fact from friction. Wolf Blitzer's interview with the tart-tongued Mr. Dole made a lot of news on Sunday, but CNN allowed him to make misleading assertions without pointing out where he was in error. Mr. Dole suggested that Mr. Kerry was in a rush to obtain his Purple Hearts to meet a regulation that allowed soldiers to leave the war zone after winning three. "I mean, the first one, whether he ought to have a Purple Heart - he got two in one day, I think. And he was out of there in less than four months, because three Purple Hearts and you're out." ( Mr. Kerry did not receive two Purple Hearts for events of the same day. He received them for the events of Dec. 2, 1968; Feb. 20, 1969; and March 13, 1969.)

Finally, yesterday afternoon, Mr. Blitzer spoke to Mr. Dole by telephone and asked him if he regretted any of his statements. Mr. Dole said he did not.

"I wasn't trying to be mean-spirited," Mr. Dole said. "I was just trying to say all these guys on the other side just can't be Republican liars."

That kind of air-kiss coverage is typical of cable news, where the premium is on speed and spirited banter rather than painstaking accuracy. But it has grown into a lazy habit: anchors do not referee - they act as if their reportage is fair and accurate as long as they have two opposing spokesmen on any issue.

Ain't it the truth ...

Okay, I think we've got the winner for the most inane Bush-Swift Boat headline.

From the Bloomington, Indiana Herald Times: "Bush calls anti-Kerry ad 'false and libelous."

Great work, guys.

Tomorrow in the Winfield Crier: "Bush: I Hate the Swift Boat Guys. End Ads Now!"

Thursday in the Podunk Sentinel: "Bush: I Was on The Boat with Kerry."

Friday in the Lumpville Courier: "Bush Breaks Silence: Kerry Saved My Life in 'Nam."