Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Republicans constantly complain that Democrats play the "race card" whenever blacks or other minorities are involved in some political question or nomination or the like. And certainly the charge is sometimes valid.

The striking contrast, however, is with Republicans who now do this in virtually every case, even in the most preposterous instances, without a hint of shame, and usually without garnering much of any criticism at all from the capital's self-styled arbiters of political sportsmanship.

So far Senate Democrats have stalled three of the president's appeals court nominees: Miguel A. Estrada , Priscilla R. Owen, and today William H. Pryor, Jr.

Of those three, Republicans accused Democrats of opposing two on the basis of religious and/or racial prejudice.

That's a pretty high percentage, don't you think?

Democrats supposedly opposed Estrada because of anti-Hispanic bias and now they're purportedly opposing Pryor because of anti-Catholic bias.

According to a July 7th article in Roll Call, the group that spearheaded the claim that opposition to Pryor was based on anti-Catholic bigotry plans to do the same thing with the next controversial nominee who's coming down the pike, Carolyn Kuhl. She happens to be Catholic too. So, what the hell. Run it up the flagpole and see what happens.

No one with a shred of intellectual honesty thinks that this is really the case in any of these cases. It's understood by everyone that this is merely another political cudgel thrown into the mix to raise the heat on Democrats. In fact, it's done precisely because Democrats have large constituencies of Hispanic and Catholic voters.

It's entirely cynical, entirely obvious, everyone knows what the score is, and yet these hacks manage to get pretty much a complete pass.

One more house-keeping note. A few readers have written in fearing that I'm about to turn TPM into some whacked-out imitation of the MTV website or something else with long-downloading graphics or annoying pop-up ads or perhaps other similar terribleness.

Not to worry. The redesigned site should look very much like the current one and to outward appearances should look more or less unchanged. The changes that I do plan on having made are things like making it easier to print out individual posts, an RSS feed, the ability to adjust the size of the text. That's for all of you archeo-TPMers out who've written in to tell me of the perils of reading your daily TPM with that not-what-it-used-to-be eyesight.

Other changes won't be visible to readers but will make it easy and less time-consuming for me to update and maintain the site, which I'll appreciate a great deal. Up until now I've designed and run TPM from the ground up, doing all the coding by hand, which is something like writing an article with a decently sharpened piece of charcoal.

I've always been a fan of web design minimalism. And that feature of the site won't change.

Okay, one more round. If you've read the previous few posts you know that TPM reader Bryan M. wrote in to tell me that if I want the president to fire the "senior administration officials" who blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame then I am obligated to first ascertain who these as-yet-anonymous officials are. I published the letter because this struck me as a ridiculous argument.

Now some readers thought I was saying it was a sound criticism -- a misunderstanding I don't understand.

But a few other hawk-eyed readers pointed out that the grammar I used in my column was actually imprecise and clumsy.

Jon G. wrote in to say ...

When I originally read it, I thought it was some grammar joke. Your statement:

"the president should find out who they are, reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

could be read as the president should find out who they are OR reprimand them OR fire them. I.e., finding them out is one option, but firing (or reprimanding) them without finding out who they are is another.

I think what you meant is, "the president should find out who they are and then reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

OK, it's kind of a weak joke, but maybe that's where Bryan M. was coming from.

Ouch. I think he's got me. And there's nothing worse than being hoisted on your own mockery, believe me.

Here I was thinking Bryan M. was making a boneheaded criticism, when actually the jokes on me because he was knocking me for my dopey grammar. Now I'm feeling better though because Bryan M. has written back in to confirm that it actually was the boneheaded criticism he was making, not the grammatical point ...

I see I have become a subject of your current post. Evidently, we have both been too subtle for our respective reader(s). As you must know, my comment was directed to the fact that it may not be very easy for Mr. Bush to "pick up the phone" and "get to the bottom" of these anonymous statements. It seems to me that before you criticize the President for failing to fire these unknown employees you ought to be sure that he is able to tell who he should fire. Do you know which "senior Administration officials" he should fire for this transgression? Do you know that the President has not already attempted to discover the identities of these persons?

Since you decided publish my original comments aren't you obligated to provide your readers with my explanation as well?

As it happens, I don't think this is true. In Washington reporterese, "senior administration official" can only refer to a fairly small group of people. So I don't suspect it would be that hard, if he was determined to get to the bottom of it.

In any case, I know this is probably getting a touch tedious for regular readers. So, I promise, no more.

Okay, I need to be more clear. Last night I printed a letter from a reader (Bryan M.) calling me to task. He said that if I wanted the president to fire the two anonymous "senior administration officials" who blew Valerie Plame's cover at the CIA, it was incumbent on me to identify them first. As he said ...

If you think the President should fire someone aren't you obligated to tell him who it is he should fire? Or does it matter to you? If he fired two people at random would that be ok?
A slew of readers wrote in asking why I had agreed with the reader's criticism when his point seemed so ridiculous. After all, if the idea is that the president should dispense with the need for an investigation by getting to the bottom of the mess himself and disciplining the culprits, how am I supposed to be either able to or obligated to identify them for him in advance.

As I said, sometimes mockery can be too understated: Bryan's criticism seemed ridiculous to me too.

As it happens, a few readers have written in to say that firing a couple aides at random might marginally improve the situation as well. But I'm not yet willing to go that far.

Oh that's classic. Remember Mahdi Obeidi? The nuclear scientist who dug up the centrifuge parts from his backyard and turned them over to the CIA?

Great guy, did the right thing, came clean, straight-shooter, never liked Saddam, didn't want the hardware to fall into the wrong hands.

A real mensch, as my people would say.

Only one problem: he says the aluminum tubes were for artillery rockets, not centrifuges.


This from Thursday's Post ...

The sources said Obeidi also disputed evidence cited by the administration -- namely Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes that various officials said were for a new centrifuge program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Obeidi said the tubes were for rockets, as Iraq had said before the war.

CIA analysts do not believe he has told the whole truth, said one Bush administration official. Obeidi has left Iraq under CIA auspices after being arrested briefly by U.S. Army troops.

I think I'd like to hear directly from the analysts on this one.

Here's another example of how hazardous it can be to start typing on your keyboard without first putting the key in the ignition of your brain.

Yesterday in my column in The Hill, I noted that two "senior administration officials" blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame in their effort to discredit her husband Joseph Wilson, the retired diplomat who went on the mission to Niger. We know they were two "senior administration officials" because they leaked the information to Robert Novak and that's the phrase Novak used to describe them in his column.

In the column I said "the president should find out who they are, reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

This evening I got this edgy email from Bryan M.

If you think the President should fire someone aren’t you obligated to tell him who it is he should fire? Or does it matter to you? If he fired two people at random would that be ok?
A mind, as they say, is a terrible thing to waste. Just not using it can be pretty bad too.

TPM is looking for an intern.

No, this isn't some lead-in to humor at the expense of our former president. TPM is really looking for an intern.

TPM is in the process of an upgrade that will add a number of features many readers have long requested: a printer-friendly function, an RSS feed, easier-to-read text, ads, a whole bunch of stuff.

The intern will assist with this upgrade and then with on-going site maintenance.

Applicants should be well-versed in basic web design skills and be familiar with current web design technologies. ('Current' would mean unlike TPM who is well-versed in circa 1996 web design technologies.) They should be interested in both the technical and political aspects of the website. Living in the Washington area is ideal, but not required.

The commitment of time should be fairly light, certainly an amount that could easily be accommodated while working in a full-time job or academic program.

If you apply you should know that the internship will probably be profoundly non-remunerative. But you will get the opportunity to have hands-on experience working with a widely-read and influential political blog during what promises to be an exciting election season.

To apply, please send a resume, a brief description of your relevant experience and why you're interested in the position, and two references with email addresses provided. Send them to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com with the subject heading 'TPM Intern.'

Read this column by David Ignatius from July 18th. I don't think it got enough attention. Saddam Hussein's science adviser, Amir Saadi, was one of the less loathsome of the ex-regime's public faces. He was the liaison with the inspectors. He wasn't a Baath party member, had lived a good bit of time abroad, and he was the first guy to turn himself in.

That was on April 12th and he's apparently been in solitary ever since.

Here are two of the key grafs ...

Saadi's friends say there has been quiet discussion about his case with the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by L. Paul Bremer. Believing that Saadi is "clean," some officials of the authority have recommended three times to higher officials at the Pentagon that he be released, according to Saadi's friends. Each of these requests has been rejected, they say.


What's bothersome about these cases is that they reinforce the impression that the Bush administration has something to hide. Why not disclose the testimony of people the coalition worked so hard to catch? The only convincing explanation, argues a former CIA official, is that their accounts would "directly refute the Bush administration's insistence that WMD still exist somewhere -- an assertion that we all know is growing more questionable every day."

Take a peek at the whole column.

This is the statement that jumped out at me from the president's press conference this morning. (And, for what it's worth, I was surprised and impressed that he held one just now.)

We gathered a lot of intelligence. That intelligence was good, sound intelligence on which I made a decision.

And in order to, you know, placate the critics and the cynics about intention of the United States we need to produce evidence. And I fully understand it, and I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe: that Saddam had a weapons program.

I want to remind you, he actually used his weapons program on his own people at one point in time, which was pretty tangible evidence.

You can see where this is going, can't you? This is really great-moments-in-goal-post-moving.

Saddam had a weapons program.

And how can you believe he didn't have a weapons program, when he actually used the weapons from his weapons programs, albeit fifteen years ago.

This isn't just a slip of the tongue or a Bushism. This is where we're going. As the White House now wants to define it, the question is whether Iraq ever had a weapons program. Or, to put it more precisely, whereas some people are foolish enough to believe that the standard is whether Saddam actually still had the weapons programs we know he once had, the real standard is whether Saddam actually once had the weapons programs we know he once had.

This is too silly to even talk about. Everybody knows that's not what we're talking about.

As if we didn't have enough signs that the administration's priorities on the war on terrorism are seriously out of whack, now this.

The same day we hear of a renewed threat of 9/11-style hijackings, we also find out that our new air marshal program is being scaled back because of tight budgets at the Department of Homeland Security.

The number of screeners is being cut too.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Brian Turmail wouldn't get into the specifics of what changes were being made. But he did tell an MSNBC reporter that all programs at TSA are “subject to ongoing review.” He went on to say, “TSA’s current task is to balance the need to meet changing threats with the need to live within the agency’s budget. The federal air marshal budget is under review to determine how best to meet these two objectives.”

Can someone talk to this guy? Or maybe his boss?

I don't think these guys quite understand the 'task.'

Forget balance. As nearly as I can figure it, the 'task' is to do everything possible to prevent anyone from flying another one of our jets into a building.

Another TSA spokesman told the Washington Post that the marshal's program "is not exempt from budget realities facing the TSA."

Really? Can we make it exempt?

Here's some helpful information from that article in Wednesday's Post ...

Just one day before the [terrorism warning] memo was distributed, an official with the undercover Federal Air Marshal Service canceled what are considered some of the most vulnerable flight missions because they required marshals to spend nights in hotels, as well as cut training for Washington-area agents next month. The official cited "monetary considerations," according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
I'm sitting here at my keyboard just before two in the morning and I'm literally at a loss. I seldom like it when people make what are often facile comparisons between what we're spending in Iraq and this or that priority at home. But, in this case, how can you not? We're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq in what we're now being told is the "central battle in the war on terror." Can't we pop for these hotel rooms? I know budgets are always complicated matters in every government agency, no matter how sensitive or vital their mission. But you back up and look at the big picture here and it really defies comprehension.

I recently had a talk with an editor of mine when I had to make a tough call about whether or not to include a particular piece of information in an article. Journalism has all sorts of established rules for when you really have a story nailed and when you don't -- this or that number of sources, statements on the record or off the record, and so forth. But a lot of the toughest calls just come down to judgment, your gut feeling. During that conversation I told him how I usually make these decisions.

When I find myself in these situations the reasoning I use with myself goes something like this: 'Let's say I run with this story. And let's say it goes bad. And then I have to explain my reasoning to my editor. How is that conversation going to go? Am I going to have a good story to tell? Or am I going to have a why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot story to tell?'

It's a very clarifying mental exercise.

If something terrible happens with a plane, aren't a lot of people going to have a lot of why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot stories to tell?