Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Yet more evidence.

The new ABCNews/Washington Post poll out this evening has Kerry over Bush 48% to 44% among registered voters (for a discussion of the possible significance of 'registered voters' see this post from a bit ago.)

Ralph Nader is pulling 3%. And lest we be tempted to depart from the friggin' obvious, the Post poll confirms that "Nader is drawing essentially all of his support from Kerry."

In a two way race Kerry beats Bush by 9%.

Another interesting data point: "A majority of Americans -- 57 percent -- say they want their next president to steer the country away from the course set by Bush."

So perhaps Kerry can get past the finish line first even carrying this lanky egomaniac on his back.

The poll does show that the president is getting down near his solid base of support while a substantial minority of Kerry's present supporters still don't know that much about him. That only underscores the importance of Kerry's defining himself now before the Republican slime machine -- which is already appealing to the wingnut, Manchurian Candidate Kerry's-a-communist constituency -- does it for him.

In a new article out this afternoon investigative journalist Murray Waas reports that in an FBI interview last October Karl Rove admitted that "he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists."

Rove also apparently mentioned "at least six other administration officials who were involved in the effort to discredit Wilson."

However, Rove insisted that he did this only after Plame's name appeared in Novak's column; and that he was not Novak's source.

It's great to know what Rove said. But let's find out what folks in the Vice President's office told the investigators -- from the top of the org chart on down.

Speaking of wounded, cornered animals, Republicans get awfully nasty when they see the writing on the wall.

For instance, see this headline from a new public memo from RNC research ...

Communist North Korea Is Only Government On Record Supporting John Kerry

Does the president have a list of names in his hand who ... well, you know the rest.

Now that's more like it.

A new CNN/USAToday Gallup poll out this afternoon has John Kerry beating President Bush by a 52%-44% margin, with Nader snagging a tiny, but not insignificant 2%.

Those are certainly pretty good numbers for Kerry. And they fall in with a pattern of polls showing a president who has real difficulty getting his reelect number over 45%.

But here's what catches my attention about this poll. It's among 'likely voters.' I can't base this on any systematic research, but having seen a bunch of polls over the last couple months my impression is that Kerry seems to be running stronger among 'likely voters' than among 'registered voters'.

I could be wrong. Perhaps my memory is off and it's just that Gallup is using 'likely's and their poll is favoring Kerry.

But if it is true that would be the first concrete sign of how energized Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents are, since the standard rule is that Republican candidates always do better among 'likely' voters.

I'd be curious if any TPM readers have seen any published discussions of this question.

A calculator is a terrible thing to waste ...<$NoAd$>

The labor force typically expands by about 150,000 a month. This has led economists to estimate that payrolls must rise by more than 200,000 a month to reverse the damage in the job market.

Dallas Morning News
January 10th, 2004

We've added more than 350,000 new jobs over the last six months. The tax relief we passed is working.

George W. Bush
Dallas, Texas
March 8th, 2004

Where's that calculator?

As we've noted here at TPM a few times now, one of the questions coming out of the investigation into those pilfered Democratic Judiciary Committee staff memos is whether the GOP staffers in question shared the memos with colleagues at the Justice Department or the White House.

We've now looked over the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms report on the matter issued last week. And it seems clear that his investigators were prevented from finding out whether or not this happened because of their lack of subpoena and other standard law enforcement powers.

For instance, if you look at pages 21-22 of the report (we've uploaded these sections to the TPM Document Collection), you see that Jason Lundell -- the little gizmocrat who first discovered he could get access to the memos -- was also responsible for "speaking with the Department of Justice Legislative Affairs and Legal Policy representatives."

So he worked in a liaison capacity with the people who run the judicial appointments at Justice.

It turns out there's a footnote to that sentence I just quoted.

And when you go to the bottom of the page you see that footnote reads: "As of the time this report is being completed, the Department of Justice still has under consideration investigators' request to interview the employee who Mr. Lundell reports having contacts with."

Now, they spent more than a couple days working on this report. So I think that's gentle and generous way of saying that the Justice Department declined to make this person available for an interview.

Then if you hop down to pages 48-49, you'll see that in his final interview with investigators, Manuel Miranda -- the guy at the center of all this -- for the first time mentioned that a backup disk of the documents had just come into his possession and that he got it from "a friend of his from outside the Senate" who had made the backup for him. This friend had just recently reminded him that the backup existed.

Now, here's the key.

The report says Miranda "declined to give investigators the name of the friend stating that he did not want to prolong the investigation. He also refused to give investigators the names of his White House legislative contacts for the same reason."

I bet Martha Stewart wishes she'd known about this right of non-prolongation, don't you?

In any case, all humor aside, it seems pretty clear that the Senate investigators found possible trails leading to both the White House and the Justice Department. But they were blocked from pursuing them.

That doesn't mean that anything untoward happened, only that the Senate investigators lacked the standard array of investigative tools available to law enforcement investigators. So we just don't know whether Miranda, Lundell or possibly others shared the memos with people at Justice or the White House. Because in any meaningful sense, the question simply hasn't been investigated.

The White House is worried about the Plame investigation. But I'll bet this poll -- or their own internal ones that match it -- is what has their attention.

According to a Miami Herald poll released this morning, John Kerry is beating the president 49% to 43% among registered voters in Florida, with Ralph Nader picking up 3%.

That's bad news for the White House.

It will be difficult for John Kerry to win this election without winning Florida. But it will be all but impossible for the president to win without winning there.

I think most political professionals would agree that the significant number here isn't Kerry's relatively strong 49%, but Bush's pretty poor reelect number of 43%.

Incumbent presidents, the known quantity in a national election, tend to get what they poll. That's one reason why the 1996 presidential election turned out closer than many expected. Clinton was polling around 49% with Bob Dole trailing far behind him.

But if you hadn't decided to vote for Bill Clinton after watching him for four years on the job, there was probably a reason. And the undecideds broke heavily for Dole, thus making the final margin seem closer than the polls suggested.

Let's of course do the standard disclaimer: these are early numbers which are likely to change. After all, if John Kerry ended up beating President Bush by six points in Florida I suspect that would mean that he'd crushed the president nationwide. I don't expect that to happen. But if the Kerry campaign can make the Bush campaign fight hard for what is at least marginally their home turf, that's a big deal in itself which could have ripple effects in Ohio, Missouri, Pennsylvania and other states across the country.

It's clear that the coalescing Bush administration position on those 9/11-image-laced ads is that the president couldn't 'ignore' 9/11 in the campaign.

Really heart-rending all the tough binds history puts this president in, isn't it?

In any case, this is really a head-fake on what people are really saying.

Nobody denies or doubts that 9/11 and the president's and the nation's reaction to it are going to be central to this campaign. It could hardly be otherwise. It's a major national catastrophe that happened on his watch. And what he did before and after are fair game for both sides.

But there's discussing 9/11 and there's discussing it. And I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that using images of dead bodies being pulled out of the wreckage in a campaign commercial is a tad over the line.

If he's looking for emotive images that show his crisis leadership in action, why not show a clip from the speech to the nation he gave just after the attacks? That was a challenge virtually everyone, myself included, thought he rose to with great merit and grace.

In other words, the point isn't that 9/11 shouldn't be discussed -- as though there were anyway it wouldn't be -- only that it shouldn't be exploited in the crudest ways imaginable.

Remember that a GOP insider told The Hill a couple weeks ago that there is a "real possibility ... we could see President Bush giving his acceptance speech at Ground Zero. It’s clearly a venue they’re considering.”

Let's be clear. The White House hasn't said they're going to do this. And we don't have any direct knowledge that they're considering it. But the idea is apparently being widely discussed in Republican circles.

I mean, the question isn't whether that would be a crass use of the 9/11 tragedies for political gain. The question is whether it's possible to imagine anything more crass. Isn't ground zero something like a graveyard?

What could be worse? The president addressing the crowd wearing a pelt from a recently executed Guantanamo prisoner? Personally executing Saddam on stage with a scimitar?

Not to be flippant, but could anything be more crass than accepting a presidential nomination on ground that is still mixed with the bodies of thousands of Americans?

Lincoln dedicated a cemetery at Gettysburg; he didn't hold the 1864 Republican convention there.

I know it probably seems like I'm piling on here. And perhaps I am. But this seems like such a compact example of the sort of hyper-politicization of this national tragedy that is one of the main reasons Democrats are so energized this year and eager to drive the president from office. People miss the point of this if they view it in isolation. I think the danger for the White House is that this plays to suspicions held by a not-insubstantial part of the electorate that they've been using this as a political lever from the start.

Just saw Mary Matalin on Meet the Press arguing that Vice-President Cheney isn't a political liability to the president. He's just taken a lot of attacks from Democrats; and doesn't fight back apparently.

"He's not Mr. Rapid Response," said Matalin.

Really? That burn campaign against Joe Wilson got off the ground pretty quickly, didn't it? And the Plame hit came out of the Vice President's office.

It was all pretty quick.

Credit where credit is due.

Late Update: About noon now, I'm watching ABC's This Week show, and like watching Meet the Press, it's reminding me why I seldom watch these shows anymore. They're both terrible. Now there's a panel with Matthew Dowd and Tad Devine, chief strategists for the Bush and Kerry, respectively.

The 'commentators' are George Will and Cokie Roberts. And thus your balance, one rep of Washington Movement conservatism and another of the capital's supercilious center. Will thinks the Bush commercials with the firefighters corpse at ground zero is great. And, guess what, Cokie thinks they're swell too.

So it's Tad Devine against three folks who think the ads are great. Then they move to deciding whether the president's attacks on Kerry are good. And they think those are good too.