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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Is the liberal Washington media ever going to level with the American people? For all the years of the Reagan-Bush recovery (1992-2000) the media just had to give credit to Bill Clinton whose policies didn't have anything to do with it anyway. Then when the 1993 tax hike finally caught up with the economy last year those media dogs couldn't help but try to cover for their man Bill. Hopefully now with all the bad economic data coming out day by day they'll finally admit that their man Bill screwed everything up after all. But you know what the kicker is? Look at those dour unemployment numbers that came out today. All those people lost their jobs. But look a little more closely. The rate of job creation also jumped well above what economists had expected. You know what that means, don't you? You got it, bud! The first inklings of the Bush recovery!

Who's gonna report this!?!?!

Rush, Lucianne, Drudge? Who?

Hey, you thought you'd heard enough about smear-gate (Talking Points' admittedly grating name for the fake White House vandalism story). But no. This weekend I'm going to be on CNN's Reliable Sources to flog the vandalism story a couple more times. You know, that's the show with Howie Kurtz, the media reporter guy (pictured below)?

And starting the week after that I get my own half-hour show right after Spin Room! Okay, the second part is bogus. But I really am going to be on Reliable Sources (Sat. 6:30 PM EST; Sun. 11:30 AM EST).

"If you were a right-wing conspiracist," Andrew Sullivan asked Hardball's Chris Matthews on January 23rd, "could you have devised a more typical ending for the Clinton administration - pardons to a lot of criminals and then vandalism by 20-somethings in the White House? It's like Gary Aldrich's fantasy."

Well, yeah. It did sound a bit like an Aldrich fantasy, now didn't it? Sullivan is still harping on the Marc Rich pardon story and embroidering it into a thick quilt of anti-Clintonism. And, frankly, who can blame him? The Rich pardon looks pretty ugly.

But what happened to that other last-days-of-Clinton scandal - that whole business with the pranks and vandalism at the White House? (What we at Talking Points have taken to calling smear-gate). Should we still be waiting for more 'proof' of the vandalism to emerge? Or is Sullivan going to admit he may have gotten duped by the Bush spin machine?

Or would it be quicker to wait for OJ to find the 'real killers.'

The Washington Times reports this morning that congressman Bob Barr (he of Council of Conservative Citizens speech-making fame) has asked the Government Accounting Office to investigate Clintonite vandalism at the White House. This is a procedural matter and a request from a congressman obligates the GAO to commence a preliminary investigation, which they have now done.

Could I be embarrassed if it turns out that the rumors were all true? Sure. But I'm happy to let the chips fall where they may.

Let's say a few more words about John Ashcroft's nomination before he's confirmed tomorrow.

First, I like Chris Dodd, the senior senator from Connecticut. But what the hell is he thinking? Thus far the people who have come out in support of Ashcroft have mostly had decent reasons. I don't agree with them. But there's at least been a logic.

Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan come from an overwhelmingly Republican state. I wish they'd decided differnetly. But I can see where they're coming from.

Zell Miller clearly wants to cover his right flank by sucking up to George W. Despicable, but understandable.

Russ Feingold? Well, Russ is sort of the beloved, honorable freak of the Democratic caucus. People give him credit for campaign finance reform and other than that have no idea what to make of him.

But what the hell is Chris Dodd's excuse? Beside his car, his houses, his stock portfolio, and the rest of his possessions he owns one more piece of personal property: a senate seat from Connecticut! Dodd owns that seat. He inherited it from his dad!

I have to imagine that Dodd decided to vote for Ashcroft out of some sense of senatorial traditionalism and courtesy. But this ain't bingo we're playing here! A lot of senators are suffering the trials of the martyrs over this (Landrieu, Cleland, etc.). Senate Democrats are going to need to stick together in some really tough situations over the next two years. And the leadership is going to have to ask some Dems from Republican-leaning states to swallow hard and cast some very difficult votes. Why should they put themselves on the line when Dodd won't even do the right thing when it's a gimme? Dodd really has a lot of explaining to do.

Hopefully the Democrats will surpass forty votes tomorrow. But let's pause for a moment to say what was important about stopping this nomination. This was not only about whether John Ashcroft gets to be Attorney General. It was important for the Democrats to defeat this nomination in order to make clear that George W. Bush is not the same as other presidents. Simple as that.

Right-wingers will probably react to that statement as though I've made some sort of fatal admission. But there's nothing to hide. Democrats had to, and still have to, make this clear. I'll say it again - that George W. Bush is not the same as other presidents.

This is not payback or vengeance or pettiness. It is simply reaffirming reality. And it's an important reality to reaffirm.

I hesitate to take up valuable Talking Points real estate with housekeeping info. But here goes: Many readers have asked/complained ("Dear Talk", "Dear Points", "Dear Lord of the Point", etc.) about not being able to give people the link to a particular post on the site - since, of course, they just keep scrolling down day after day.

People! You can already! It sounds a touch complicated. But it's pretty easy.

Every entry is date-stamped and has it's own unique address. So for instance this entry is January 31st 2001 at 2:24 PM - as it says in the datestamp above. So that means you take the normal address (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/index.html) and a '#' and then the date and the time all run together '013101224pm' like so.

So http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com> is the link to this entry.

(Note: Since this page is now archived it is no longer index.html# but jan0104.html# etc.)

Pretty cool, eh?

Next we return to the standard vital political intelligence from Talking Points. And coming soon TPM gets its own custom URL (Internet address)!

A reader raises a very interesting point which hadn't occurred to me. The Bush team is doing something very similar with the pardon issue as they did with the now-discredited vandalism story … leak that they are looking for a way to overturn the hideous pardon of Marc Rich … leak that they've found a way to overturn the hideous pardon of Marc Rich … cart out George W. to say that the Marc Rich pardon is hideous, but that the former president issued the hideous Marc Rich pardon, and George W. is going to rise above it and let the pardon stand (hideous, hideous, hideous!).

Chalk another one up for the lapdogian White House press corps. A pardon's a pardon, guys. No matter what bogus legal theory Bush's ex-Paula Jones lawyers may have fed you, there was no way (for better or worse) that they were going to be able to undo Clinton's pardons.

Think of this as a memo to Democrats in the House and the Senate. (Actually -- just between us -- that's exactly what it is.)

Dear Messrs. Daschle, Gephardt, et. al.:

This is important. You are rapidly losing ground in the battle to frame the debate over tax cuts. The approach you're now pursuing utterly ignores the essential elements of the politics of taxation. Bill Clinton had an intuitive understanding of this. But sometimes it seems like he was the only one. Clinton understood that you can never run against tax cuts, per se. NEVER. And, really, why should anyone ever be able to run against tax cuts? All other things being equal, shouldn't we all want everyone's taxes to be as low as possible?

But that's the point: all other things aren't equal. It's tax cuts or paying down the debt or saving Social Security or instituting a prescription drug benefit and so on. Clinton understood this, and acted accordingly. And he added the kicker: which is better? Prescription drugs for your mother and grandmother, or a tax cut for the wealthy who are making out great already?

Thus far Democrats have failed utterly to approach the matter in this way.

But President Bush presented Democrats with a golden opportunity yesterday when he introduced his own pinched version of a Prescription Drug Benefit Plan (PDBP). This opened up a crucial point of vulnerability. The Bush plan is not only unpopular with the public - something ably demonstrated during the late presidential campaign, but also unpopular among politicians in congress, for a host of sometimes contradictory reasons. That provides a very big opening.

You must aggressively engage the president on PDBP. It is a golden opportunity to get off your backs and fundamentally reorder the legislative terrain of the 107th congress.

All the other shenanigans you're up to pale in comparison.

What is accomplished by pushing PDBP now and not later?

Prescription drugs is not a two-fer or a three-fer, it's a four-fer.

1. It's just good public policy. A prescription drug benefit under Medicare would bring one of America's most successful social programs into the 21st century by taking account of the increasing percentage of Medical costs taken up by prescription drugs.

2. It would outflank Bush on tax cuts. The president has introduced his winnowed-down version of a prescription drug benefit. Any Democratic alternative will be more generous, more popular, and - yes - more expensive. But that's an advantage, not a liability. The White House will charge that the Democratic plan costs too much. At which point Democrats should respond: if it costs too much that's only because the president's tax cuts are so large. PDBP opens up a second front in the battle over fiscal policy. This moves the debate from an abstract discussion of taxes (which is inherently unfriendly to Democrats) to one of priorities (which is inherently unfriendly to Republicans.)

3. It will stymie and possibly derail efforts to reform Medicare along the lines of the Breaux-Thomas Medicare Reform Commission (the recommendations of which would convert Medicare into a voucher program run largely by HMOs).

4. It will throw the president off his legislative schedule and inflict the first real political damage on the new administration by exposing its political priorities as ones most Americans do not share.

There's really no time to waste.

P.S. Next post we return to the fun stuff.

Good Morning and welcome to the first Talking Points report from Davos, Switzerland and the World Economic Forum.

I arrived last night and I must admit that the crisp Swiss air does add an extra charge to the heady and far-reaching discussions we're all having here. I'm planning on meeting up with Tom Friedman for lunch today and hopefully also reconnecting with some friends from the British Labour Party who I haven't had a chance to speak with since the end of our presidential election. I'm also going to be attending a seminar on bridging the global digital divide, especially in sub-arctic regions where the expansion of the Internet will apparently be a great boon for economic development. Much talk here of course about the American economy and whether the new American administration will retreat toward isolation or return to the embrace of …

Okay. Look. Fine. Whatever. I'm not in Davos, Switzerland. I'm in my Du Pont Circle apartment in Washington, DC. But obviously everyone else who is anyone is in Davos. But for me - no invite. Despite my heroic efforts exposing the Bushies' attempt to smear the out-going administration with trumped up stories of inauguration day vandalism (contained in this article in Slate) I'm clearly not a big enough player to go to the international shindig' in the Alps.

But who cares about that nonsense!

Look. The Dems have not had a good week. But if they're shrewd their big opportunity just opened up for them. What is it? Easy. PRESCRIPTION DRUGS. It's a three-fer. No. Make that a four-fer. 1. Good policy. 2. Outflanks Bush's rapidly growing momentum on taxes. 3. Stymies those who support privatizing Medicare and turning it over to HMOs. 4. Draws the first real political blood from the new administration.

What about Ashcroft?    &%$# Ashcroft! This is the real deal. That is, if the Dems know to seize the opportunity.

Well, since I grew up in California let me say a few quick words about the crazy California energy crisis. There is a growing chorus of conservative columnists who say that the crisis isn't the result of too much deregulation but too little. (You know who they are!) It's an argument as foolish as it is elegant.

Several California power companies face looming bankruptcy because the cost of the electricity they buy was deregulated but the prices they are allowed to sell at remained capped. So their prices skyrocketed but their revenues remained flat because they couldn't raise their rates.

Now along come the gaggle of deregulation wiseacres who say: Wait a minute. Of course this isn't working! You can't half-way deregulate. You have to do it or not do it. Deregulate all the prices or none. If you hadn't left in the caps on utility rates, prices would has risen, the whole system would have stabilized, and these utilities wouldn't be on the brink of going under and dragging the whole state with them.

This is true, of course. But assertions can be true, and irrelevant, and even moronic all at the same time. And this one certainly qualifies.

You don't get consumers to vote for deregulation by telling them their prices will go up. You entice them by telling them their prices will go down. And thus to make sure they're not being hoodwinked voters will often require some guarantees. And thus the caps.

If rates were going to skyrocket, why do it in the first place?

Now the dereg floggers will argue that once all the magic of the market got going, incentives would kick in, new production would come on line, and prices would just fall and fall and fall.

Don't bet on it.

Lots of my lefty friends can't get the logic of markets through their skulls and refuse to see the benefits of market forces in many aspects of economic life. Phones are the key example, of course. But the applicability of market forces to all aspects of economic life is a classic bogey for high-IQ simpletons whose minds are apparently not big enough for more than one good idea.

Phones are one thing; electricity is different. Why is electricity different? More on that later.

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