Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Langevin out of Rhode Island senate race.

Good news for Chafee, certainly. But good enough?

There's an interesting article today in the Post which fronts the president's new threat that Democrats "will suffer political consequences if they continue to oppose his proposal without providing one of their own."

You'll notice that the article is datelined Albuquerque, where the president just held his most recent Bamboozlepalooza event.

What caught my attention is that while the Post piece made such prominent mention of the president's 'threat', it neglected to mention the name Heather Wilson, who has been obstinately refusing to take any position on Social Security for months.

Wilson, the representative from Albuequerque and the clear target of the president's visit, was afraid to be seen at the president's event today.

Through a spokesman, she begged off with a claim that she was "on a long-planned trip with her husband and two children." But in the context of her earlier flimflammery on this issue, that's simply not credible.

Bottom-line: While President Bush is seeding the media with bogus threats, his own Republicans are afraid to appear in public with him on his Social Security tours. Most press reports either don't mention that or, like CNN, they accept Wilson's bogus denials at face value.

Try picking apart the egregiously tendentious assumptions in this AP report on the Social Security Trustees Report.

Reader mail...


Everything you say about the Schiavo fiasco is true except your conclusion. The Democrats, for once, did exactly the right thing. By letting the Republicans do what they wanted, they have give the American public, at a very crucial time, the opportunity to see the Republicans in all their sleazy glory. The unspoken backdrop of political debate in the country will now be "Look what you get when the Republicans get to do what they want." No one will point to the Democrats to say they were in it too, but if they'd have kept the vote from taking place, some would have pointed to them as against life and none would have seen the courts' utter rejection of Republican over-reaching. Republican pronouncements from authority will e crippled by the obviously manipulative and mistaken pronouncements by Republican doctors in congress on Schiavo's condition. Even conservative Republicans are upset with Delay now. With outcomes so good, why Monday morning quarterback the Democratic leadership? What better result could you hope for?


I actually don't think I necessarily disagree with this. It's not an issue for Dems to whip votes on. <$NoAd$>And the Republicans are in the majority. They can do what they want. But any Democrat should feel entirely comfortable saying they respect the legal process and don't believe Congress should intervene in family matters of life and death (notwithstanding the anguished decisions involved) to score political points.

Simple and honest.

Surprise. Surprise.

For years, every Social Security Trustees report has put the insolvency numbers further out than they were the year before.

Until this year.

Late Update: Atrios, an economist, has and, I suspect, will continue to have the best details on the precise methods of cookery involved.

I haven't had my eye as closely on developments as I had been. But it seems now that the Senate's Fainthearted Faction may have to go out of business entirely or at least nearly so. Once I've read all the tea leaves, I'll be updating as appropriate.

There's another lesson for Democrats in this whole sad and sometimes ugly Schiavo affair. It has nothing to do with the politics of end-of-life care or the particulars of this tragic case. It concerns how Democrats present their views to the nation, how they act politically.

The recent national political phase of this case began with Republicans seeing a political opportunity to mobilize the electorate against Democrats -- an especially inviting opportunity given the turn of other political news of late. Most of the national press bought into this storyline. And most Democrats seem to have done so as well.

That doesn't mean they agreed with the underlying viewpoint advanced by Republicans. But they did buy into the political storyline. And that set into motion the standard drama, with cowering Democrats put to flight and fear by grinning Republicans, with national reporters occasionally aghast but mainly enthralled, as our baser natures might be by a gloveless boxing match.

(From childhood, most of us remember that there is a certain bully character type. But it is seldom an accident just who gets bullied. Bullies, in their very nature, perhaps their deepest nature, know how to sense and seek out people who are afraid to defend themselves. That's an instructive lesson here too.)

Yet now we see, quite in contrast to the conventional wisdom, that what the Washington Republicans have done here is quite unpopular with the public. Narrow majorities think the court decision is the right one; and overwhelming majorities believe Congress shouldn't be getting involved in this at all.

But those polls shouldn't have been necessary for Democrats to know how to act in this case. Anybody watching this could see what the Republican majority was doing was a cheap political stunt. We have laws in this country and courts enforce them. This is a case where there is not even a credible argument that there is any question of legitimate interpretation. That's all another way of saying that the Democrats should have been more confident that the majority of the public would have been more supportive of living under the law of the land in this case, or put another way, of their being the grown-up party.

I consider myself very much a political pragmatist -- what's right has to contend with what's doable, and all that. There are also a number of us who've been saying for years that the Democrats have a problem on national security and that much of it is not so much a question of policy as an ingrained habit of approaching defense policy issues through a prism of politics rather than policy. But this last year has brought home to me the belief that this basic problem extends far beyond national security policy.

I think the record now shows that Democrats have reaped ample political rewards by beginning the Social Security debate with a clear and emphatic statement of their support for the Social Security system as it now exists in advance of the public's reaction. And this is one example among many.

For my part at least, this doesn't mean I'm ditching pragmatism in favor of a come-what-will idealism. Not at all. Far from it. I simply think that we are now operating in a political context in which clarity and candor about where Democrats stand makes for good politics -- much better certainly than the tacking back and forth that has become second nature after such a long time sailing against an adverse wind.

Just as is the case with Republicans, there are things that Democrats believe that a majority of the public does not. That's life. And I'm not naive enough not to recognize that there are some issues of such controversy that they may still require delicate handling. But these two examples above show that Democrats are often inclined to move immediately to the defensive in instances where the public actually supports their viewpoint. And even where that is not the case, I think the Democrats will end up, on balance, in better standing with the public that knows just where they stand and that they're willing to stand for it.

I would be remiss if I didn't quickly offer a hearty thank you to the three guest bloggers who generously took time to keep the commentary coming in my absence: Jon Chait, Harry Shearer and Ed Kilgore. A very sincere thank you to each of them. I hope you enjoyed their posts as much as I did. Remember that you can keep reading Jon in The New Republic, Harry in all sorts of different venues described here and Ed at NewDonkey.com.

One other short note. A number of folks have already written in to ask why I'm back already, why such a short honeymoon? Actually, we're taking our honeymoon in May. Thus my (relatively) early reappearance.

Despite being away for several days, I've kept one eye on the Schiavo story. And a couple echoes or reminders keep coming into my head. One is the Elian Gonzales episode from 2000; another is Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities -- only now in a different locale, a different worldview or ideology aflame, and with a new lead character: Tom DeLay.

Another part of this story, which seems hard to miss, is the increasing frequency of one-off legislation -- laws intended to obstruct the normal course of law and explicitly intended to have no value as precedent. All of this, of course, is precisely inimical to the rule of law and puts legislatures and, in other cases, courts (Bush v. Gore) in the paradoxical position of overturning the law, albeit using the procedures of either creating or interpreting it.

And Tom DeLay, this is truly the last refuge for this man. The cable networks seem not quite to have caught on to the fact that almost every tentacle of the political machine this man has created is now careening toward federal or state indictments. So here he is wrapping himself in the cloth of this family tragedy, in an effort to whip up the most whippable of his supporters in his defense, and in so doing finding the hand of God working in this woman's hospice care and in his own exposure as one of the most corrupt congressional leaders in American history. Like I said, Bonfire of the Vanities.

Take a look at this Media Matters report on CNN's skewed presentation of polling data about the Schiavo case.

It's a textbook example and, I suspect, no accident.

Late Update: As of early this evening, CNN has now revised the graph in question.