Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Who will push behind the spin?

I caught the latter part of the president's speech and then a few moments of coverage on NBC afterwards. And I quickly realized why I never watch television news anymore. Russert, Gregory and Williams (who's actually been pretty good through this whole thing -- online at least) talking about how well the president did on contrition, how it was new for him, how the president took responsibility, how important it is "not to let this become a tale of two cities." And on and on.

There's real news to be reported -- how the president is approaching the reconstruction, what plans he's putting in place right now. He's put his chief political operative in charge of running the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. Shouldn't that be raising a lot of questions -- a man whose entire professional experience is in political messaging and patronage?

He's also at the center of on-going criminal investigation and the target of a much-rumored indictment. But set that aside.

Then there's what Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) said in his statement out this evening. "With a stroke of the pen, in one of his first Katrina directives, the President cut the wages of the workers who will undertake our largest reconstruction project since the Civil War."

That cuts right to the heart of the matter. The president's first major initiatives were deep wage cuts for the people who will do the reconstruction.

Which paper is going to dig into this?

President Bush: "It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces - the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."

Let's all be clear about one thing.

As we suggested last night, and as President Bush has now put us on notice, the Gulf Coast reconstruction effort is going to be run as a patronage and political operation.

That's not spin or hyperbole. They're saying it themselves.

The president has put Karl Rove in charge of the reconstruction, with a budget of a couple hundred billion dollars.

They've announced this in various ways over the last few days. But here's another, from today's Times ...

Republicans said Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and Mr. Bush's chief political adviser, was in charge of the reconstruction effort, which reaches across many agencies of government and includes the direct involvement of Alphonso R. Jackson, secretary of housing and urban development.

Karl Rove runs political <$Ad$> operations and manages coalitions through patronage. That's what he does. And that's what this is about.

Everybody realizes that. Don't expect much if any discussion of this point in the major papers or on the networks.

It's shameless. But that's beside the point.

This is a time when the country needs an opposition party. Every Democrat should be hitting on this. Take the politics out of the reconstruction effort. He put his chief spin-doctor in charge of the biggest reconstruction and refugee crisis the country's probably ever faced. That tells you all you need to know about his values. Nothing that happened in the last couple weeks meant anything to him. And nothing has changed. Same as Iraq. Same stuff.

Notice a problem?

Roll Call (sub. req.) has just posted a piece on its website with the headline: "House OKs Bipartisan Katrina Review Panel".

That's followed by these three paragraphs ...

On a near party-line vote, the House approved legislation Thursday creating a select committee to investigate the preparation for Hurricane Katrina and subsequent response effort.

House lawmakers passed the bill, 224-188, easily defeating Democratic opposition to the proposal, which would create a majority-led 20-seat panel charged with investigating the events surrounding the Category Five storm that decimated much of the Gulf Coast.

During Thursday’s debate on the House floor, Democrats reiterated their objections to the panel’s composition —which would include 11 Republicans and nine Democrats, as well as Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as ex officio members — asserting it will not be able to conduct an effective investigation.

Okay, so it passed on a near <$Ad$> party-line vote. It has a majority of Republican members. And it will be controlled by the Republicans. But it's the 'Bipartisan Katrina Review Panel'.

You've really gotta wonder who has what picture of what headline writer sharing a special moment with a beloved farm animal to pull this one off.

Here's something to try. Someone find me a clip where a reporter refers to the bipartisan House Ways and Means committee. Or how about, the bipartisan House Rules committee.

Find many examples?

No one calls a committee, special or otherwise, bipartisan just because it has members of both parties among its members. Can we find other examples of publications who've fallen for this one?

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Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), chairman of the NRCC (the GOP House reelection committee), tells his fellow House Republicans to abandon Social Security phase-out for the rest of this Congress. And since they won't do it in this Congress, you better believe they won't try it in the next since the GOP doesn't want to make it the centerpiece issue of the next presidential campaign.

As one senior GOP lawmaker told Roll Call (sub. req.), "It's over." As indeed it is. Not forever. But at least for the next few years.

But where, I have to ask, is the affirmative effort on the part of Democrats to make this attempted betrayal of the public trust into a cudgel for the 2006 elections? Where is it? I don't see it. And I keep up on politics.

It shouldn't be hard. Many, many Republicans who will be in competitive races next year came out for this disastrous idea, which is now deeply unpopular pretty much across the country. And with very few exceptions -- I'll give Santorum his due on this one -- they ran away like scurrying rats as soon as it became clear that the president couldn't protect them and the public wouldn't stand for it.

Their own actions and words convict them twice-over. They stood up for terrible policy and then they switched or ran away from their position as soon as it was expedient. So they're happy to sell out their constituents and lack principle. They're flipfloppers.

Are we only willing to win the defensive phase of this battle?

Beyond belief.

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This worries me. Note the added emphasis. The clip comes from a piece in tomorrow's Post about yet another huge funding bill the president will roll out tomorrow for Katrina aid, which the Post says will cost more next year than the entire cost of the Iraq war thus far ...

Bush and Republican congressional leaders, by contrast, are calculating that the U.S. economy can safely absorb a sharp spike in spending and budget deficits, and that the only way to regain public confidence after the stumbling early response to the disaster is to spend whatever it takes to rebuild the region and help Katrina's victims get back on their feet.

Regain public confidence in who? Is the nation undergoing a crisis of confidence in itself?

Put that passage together with this one in Mike Allen's piece in the Time and I think you see where we're going ...

By late last week, Administration aides were describing a three-part comeback plan. The first: Spend freely, and worry about the tab and the consequences later. "Nothing can salve the wounds like money," said an official who helped develop the strategy.

What's driving this budgetary push is not <$Ad$> a natural disaster but a political crisis, the president's political crisis. The White House is trying to undo self-inflicted political damage on the national dime.

You don't have to be a conservative or a budget-hawk to be deeply worried about what's happening here. It's not even a matter of the dollar value in itself, though this country has already been pushed to the budgetary edge and just doesn't have an infinite number of hundreds of billions of dollars it can spend.

Intentions are everything. Intentions dictate actions and actions have consequences. The two can never be teased apart.

Many people -- and to my chagrin and regret I include myself partly in this number -- were seduced into a sorta kinda support for a hypothetical Iraq war. Not the war George Bush would fight, certainly. But one that would be fought on liberal principles and with internationalist means, one about human rights and democratization, one about strengthening a concert of nations that would police malefactor states. Something on the order of NATO's war in Bosnia, perhaps.

Pick your pipe dream. It almost doesn't matter.

If there's nothing else this decade has taught us it is that there was never and never could have been any Iraq War separated from the goals and intentions of those with their foot on the accelerator. Anything else is just a sad delusion. That's why the whole mess is as it is now: fruit of the poison tree.

Same here.

Maybe you want to spend $200 billion on rebuilding the Delta region too. Fine. Something like that will probably be necessary. But don't fool yourself into thinking that what's coming is just a matter of a different chef making the same meal. This will be Iraq all over again, with the same fetid mix of graft, zeal and hubris. Cronyism like you wouldn't believe. Money blown on ideological fantasies and half-baked test-cases.

You could come up with a hundred reasons why that's true. But at root intentions drive all. You'll never separate this operation or its results from the fact that the people in charge see it as a political operation. The use of this money for political purposes, for what amounts to a political campaign, tells you everything you need to know about what's coming.