Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There's been a lot of back-and-forth on the state of the Franklin investigation in the last couple days -- whether it's serious and whether it extends beyond this one individual. But notwithstanding what some are reporting I hear the FBI says the original CBS report had the facts just right.

Covering conventions always puts me in a sort of media bubble -- this one even more since I've been pretty much keeping to myself. But that leaves me with little sense of what the 'buzz' is on the shows and with the major columnists and so forth. And today I realized -- somehow suddenly -- that what had been a congealing sense that the second half of August had been a bad couple weeks for Kerry had turned into a galloping panic that his campaign is in disarray and hope for his candidacy may be close to over.

There are articles about a possible shake-up among high-level staffers, blind quotes from Democratic insiders saying that after a couple more days it may be too late; and I've gotten a slew of emails from readers either asking me if I still think there's hope or ranting that they've had it with Mary Beth Cahill or Stephanie Cutter or someone else.

All I can say is, really, really, shut up and calm down.

Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

If you're a regular reader of this column, you'll know I've been very critical of the rapid-response from the Kerry campaign (wherever it may have gone to) as well as their seeming disinclination to go on the offensive and stay there.

But the difference between the race today and where it was two, three or four weeks ago is still very small. The difference in the national polls is very slight. The last nine major national polls have ABC (tied), ICR (+3 Kerry), Time (+2 Bush), Fox (+1 Kerry), CNN (+2 Bush), NBC/WSJ (+2 Bush), LAT (+2 Bush), NPR (+4 Kerry), IBD/CSM (tied).

(Those numbers are from the graphic on the front page of Pollingreport.com.)

Let me be clear: Those polls tell me the momentum of the race has clearly moved in the president's direction. And some of the state-by-state numbers (like PA, for instance) show that even more clearly. For all that, though, it is difficult to say that Kerry has lost the race when it's not even clear that he's behind.

Again, this is not a Pollyannaish post. The Kerry campaign needs to get control of the debate back from the president. And they need to start hitting much harder. But Democrats themselves need to be a lot tougher and hardier about the cycles campaigns go through. And that applies to self-serving Democratic 'insiders' too.

Discipline pays rewards.

I'm here in Madison Square Garden and I just heard the head of the South Carolina delegation announce their votes and add that South Carolina is the "most patriotic state" in the country. But of course South Carolina was also the seedbed and the leader of the only organized treason in the country's history. But I guess I'm just picky.

From the Times on Hollinger ...

" Hollinger wasn't a company where isolated improper and abusive acts took place," said the report, largely written by Richard C. Breeden, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Rather, it said, Hollinger was "an entity in which ethical corruption was a defining characteristic."


The report was particularly critical of the audit committee of the board, which it said had not performed its duties to monitor what was going on. But the report saved its harshest criticism for Richard Perle, the former Reagan administration official and current member of a Pentagon advisory board. It said it did not consider Mr. Perle to have been an independent director and called on him to return $5.4 million in pay he received after "putting his own interests above those of Hollinger's shareholders."

And in <$NoAd$>the Globe on Franklin ...

Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and current adviser to the Pentagon, said the investigations are baseless and politically motivated.

"It's pretty nasty, and unfortunately the administration doesn't seem to have it under control," said Perle, calling on the administration to defend Feith more vigorously.

And from a few weeks ago in the LA Times on the Chalabi arrest warrant ...

Richard N. Perle, a former top advisor to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and a leader of the so-called neoconservatives who embraced Chalabi and the war, said in an interview that he believed the warrants were part of an effort against Chalabi undertaken by the Iraqi government with the support of the U.S. government.

"I'm sure it's been encouraged by the U.S.," Perle said in an interview from Europe.

He said CIA and State Department officials have long opposed Chalabi and have convinced others in the government to move against him. Now officials in the White House oppose Chalabi as well, Perle said.

"It was those reports that led to a decision to destroy him," Perle said, adding that he believed there was no basis to the reports that Chalabi passed classified information to Iran.

And from The New York Sun in May on the investigation into Chalabi's passing US intelligence to Iran ...

A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Richard Perle, said, "I don't believe he has ever been given top U.S. classified information, let alone anything of a highly classified nature....I believe the whole operation is politically motivated. The accusations, the embellishment of the accusations, I believe this is fundamentally malicious and politically motivated by people who became fearful that Ahmad Chalabi might emerge as a major figure in Iraq."

Sic Transit ...

You'll remember a couple days ago we noted House Speaker Denny Hastert suggesting that George Soros may get his money from drug cartels or other such groups.

I've talked to reporters who've asked Hastert this around the convention hall. And he's been aggressively restating the 'charge.' I'm told he even shoved his finger in the chest of one of them when repeating it.

Now Soros has written this letter to Hastert, asking him to put up or shut up, or, more specifically "either substantiate these claims -- which you canont do because they are false -- or publicly apologize for attempting to defame my character and damage my reputation."

Whatever you think of Soros, this is the sort of slur that only comes from a real pig. And to think that the author of it is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and out in the light of day.

April Bush mocks August Bush ...

"One of the interesting things people ask me, now that we're asking questions, is, can you ever win the war on terror? Of course, you can."

George W. Bush
White House Press Conference
April 13th, 2004

Okay, we've got our new 'terror <$NoAd$>war' strategic concept of the day from President Bush.

We can't win the war on terror actually means we can win but our victory won't be memorialized in a peace treaty ....

I should have made my point more clear about what I meant. What I meant was that this is not a conventional war. It is a different kind of war. We're fighting people who have got a dark ideology who use terrorists, terrorism, as a tool. They're trying to shake our conscience. They're trying to shake our will, and so in the short run the strategy has got to be to find them where they lurk. I tell people all the time, "We will find them on the offense. We will bring them to justice on foreign lands so we don't have to face them here at home," and that's because you cannot negotiate with these people. And in a conventional war there would be a peace treaty or there would be a moment where somebody would sit on the side and say we quit. That's not the kind of war we're in, and that's what I was saying. The kind of war we're in requires, you know, steadfast resolve, and I will continue to be resolved to bring them to justice, but as well as to spread liberty ... There's no doubt in my mind, so long as this country stays resolved and strong and determined, and by winning, I just would remind your listeners that Pakistan is now an ally in the war on terror.

The president deserves every whack he gets for changing his position twice in three days on the issue he has made the centerpiece of his campaign. But folks should also start using his bobbling to make the point that the issue is less whether the president thinks the 'terror war' is winnable than the fact that he doesn't even have any clear idea of how to fight it.

(A reader makes a good point: Reading the above, you can see why President Bush doesn't 'do nuance.' It ain't his strong suit.)

It's not quite 'I sing of arms and the man.' But it'll do.

Don't miss Dana Milbank's piece in the Post today -- "This is a story about Swift boats and FastShip."

FastShip is the lobbying client of one of Kerry's new accusers, which just bagged a $40 million contract from the federal government.