Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A nice find by Andrew Sullivan on President Bush's Freudian slip about the Swift Boat Ads ...

I loved Bush's comment yesterday about the smear-ad: "I can understand why Senator Kerry is upset with us. I wasn't so pleased with the ads that were run about me. And my call is get rid of them all, now." "Us"?? I thought Bush had nothing to do with it.
Nice catch...

Convention Assignment Desk ...

Which reporter up here will <$NoAd$>press House Speaker Denny Hastert on whether he'll be slandering any other US citizens this week, as he did when he suggested, on the basis of no evidence, that financier George Soros is a front for drug cartels?

Check out this passage from Lloyd Grove's column today in the Daily News ...

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert - having already enraged some New Yorkers with his remarks about local office-holders' "unseemly scramble" for federal money after 9/11 - yesterday opened a second front. On "Fox News Sunday," the Illinois Republican insinuated that billionaire financier George Soros, who's funding an independent media campaign to dislodge President Bush, is getting his big bucks from shady sources. "You know, I don't know where George Soros gets his money. I don't know where - if it comes overseas or from drug groups or where it comes from," Hastert mused. An astonished Chris Wallace asked: "Excuse me?" The Speaker went on: "Well, that's what he's been for a number years - George Soros has been for legalizing drugs in this country. So, I mean, he's got a lot of ancillary interests out there." Wallace: "You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?" Hastert: "I'm saying I don't know where groups - could be people who support this type of thing. I'm saying we don't know."

No depths they won't sink to.

Isn't the press going to bludgeon John Kerry over this remark this morning?

When asked whether we can "win" the "war on terror" Senator Kerry said: "Can we win? I don’t think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the — those who use terror as a tool are — less acceptable in parts of the world.”

Oh, sorry. That was President Bush who said that.

So forget what I said about press bludgeoning ...

Today Scott McClellan went on the offensive against Ben Barnes for describing the "shame" he feels over helping President Bush duck service in Vietnam.

"It is not surprising coming from a longtime partisan Democrat," he said. "The allegation was discredited by the commanding officer. This was fully covered and addressed five years ago. It is nothing new."

It turns out that Barnes is such a down-the-line partisan that he supported Texas's Republican State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn for reelection in 2002.

Strayhorn is Scott's mom.

A bit more on the Ben Barnes thing.

After the tape of Ben Barnes saying he was ashamed of helping President Bush duck Vietnam came out a couple days ago, Bush spokeswoman Claire Buchan said "It is no surprise that a partisan Democrat is making these statements."

It's a funny attitude considering how appreciative the Bush clan has always been for his being discreet about the issue. But Buchan's right, as far as it goes, Barnes is a "partisan Democrat." He is in the sense that he's a Democrat; he's an ex-pol who remains heavily involved in politics; and he's actually a major fundraiser for John Kerry.

He just happens to be a major fundraiser for Kerry who is also the guy who helped Bush bend the rules to get out of Vietnam, which is inconvenient -- to some degree for both sides.

You'll notice that President Bush just had this exchange with NBC's Matt Lauer ...

Lauer: Did John Kerry serve heroically in Vietnam, in your opinion?

President GEORGE W. BUSH: I think his service is heroic, yes. I think he's--and should be proud of it. And I think that we ought to move beyond the past. I mean, he's proud of his service, I'm proud of mine. And the real question is, who best to lead us forward.

Nice try. After that the president's people have been softening Kerry up for three or four weeks, now he wants to look to the future. That's a pretty nice little scam, isn't it? Lauer might have done better to ask the president why he's only saying that now a day before the convention, as opposed to in early August. (Actually, why didn't you ask that, Matt?) This is right out of the Bush family playbook: have your people savage your opponent and once the damage is done try to take the high road.

But it's too late. As Max Cleland said a few days ago, President Bush's "moment of truth came and went."

And as for the Barnes thing, I think we can be pretty confident we'll be seeing something a good deal more public in the next several days.

George W. Bush: "They just had an opening for a pilot and I was there at the right time."

Bob Novak would be a much better reporter if he weren't so dishonest. Until recently, I hadn't observed his reporting that closely. So I hadn't noticed it. But I don't think there's any way around that conclusion.

Let me illustrate with an example from last night.

Last night on Capital Gang this was Novak's 'outrage of the week' ...

NOVAK: Ben Barnes was one of my favorite Democrats more than 30 years ago. The boy wonder of Texas politics until he was defeated for governor at the age of 34 in 1972. He reappeared this week, when a Texas Bush basher distributed a 45-second video for the Kerry campaign by Barnes, claiming that he, as lieutenant governor of Texas got Bush into the Air National Guard.

But, Ben was not yet lieutenant governor when Bush joined the Guard. This sleazy politics is not the way for my old friend Ben Barnes to get back on the front page.

So, Novak's point is that Barnes <$Ad$>has gotten tripped up in an inconsistency in his story. And thus he's not credible.

The only problem is that Novak knows this is not true. He knows it's not true; but he's trying to fool his listeners into thinking that it is because many aren't familiar with the details of the story, as he is. Again, a dishonest reporter.

Allow me to explain.

The Barnes story isn't a new one. And the relevant dates of it and the office Barnes was serving in at the time have never been questioned. It happened during the time Barnes was Speaker of the House in Texas. In the past, he went to great lengths to avoid discussing. But after being forced to discuss it in a civil suit deposition in 1999, he made a brief public announcement. See this clip from the Houston Chronicle from September 28th 1999 ...

Austin lobbyist Ben Barnes said Monday that as speaker of the Texas House more than 30 years ago, he recommended George W. Bush for a pilot's position in the Texas Air National Guard at the request of a Bush family friend.

But Barnes, in a statement issued by his lawyer, said he was not contacted by a member of the Bush family and had "no knowledge" that either the future governor or his father, former President Bush, who was then a congressman from Houston, knew of his intervention.

In fact, not only has Barnes been consistent and his account not been questioned, even Bush himself and his campaign have accepted Barnes account. All they have insisted on -- though it is quite improbable -- is that they did not know at the time about his actions and were not involved in any way in requesting it.

The president even went so far as to thank Barnes in a personal note for being clear that he had no direct, personal knowledge that the Bush family had contacted the intermediary who contacted him. Consider this clip from a September 27th, 1999 Associated Press story ...

Barnes testified for several hours Monday in a deposition in the case. Afterwards, his lawyer issued a written statement saying Barnes had been contacted by the now-deceased Sidney Adger, a Houston oilman and friend of the elder Bush.

''Mr. Barnes was contacted by Sid Adger and asked to recommend George W. Bush for a pilot position with the Air National Guard. Barnes called Gen. (James) Rose (Texas Air Guard commander) and did so,'' the statement said.

''Neither Congressman Bush nor any other member of the Bush family asked Barnes' help. Barnes has no knowledge that Governor Bush or President Bush knew of Barnes' recommendation,'' the statement said.

Barnes also said he met in September 1998 with Donald L. Evans, a longtime friend and chief fund-raiser for Governor Bush. Barnes told Evans about Adger's request, and ''Governor Bush wrote Barnes a note thanking him for his candor in acknowledging that Barnes received no call from any member of the Bush family.''

In an interview with The Associated Press, Evans said he met with Barnes on his own initiative, without informing the governor in advance. At the time, he was Bush's gubernatorial campaign chairman and was concerned only about that contest, Evans said.

There's a rich backstory to why the subject came up in that civil suit. But as you can see Barnes went to some lengths not to make trouble for Bush; and they were, well ... thankful on many levels.

In the tape someone took of Barnes at a recent Kerry political event he clearly just misspoke. And it's not hard to understand why since Barnes in fact became Lt. Governor of the state a few months after the events in question. Remember, the guy wasn't giving an official statement. He was talking at a pro-Kerry gathering and didn't even know he was being taped. When I first posted the video a couple days ago, I spoke to several Texas politicos who pointed out to me -- what I hadn't noticed -- that Barnes had misspoken, that he meant when he was Speaker of the House.

Sometimes when someone 'misspeaks' there's something sinister about it. In other cases, it's obvious that the person just misspoke. This is clearly a case of the latter. And Novak knew that in advance.

Like I said, a dishonest reporter.

Here is the article on the Franklin investigation that I discussed earlier. This is a piece my colleagues and I at the Washington Monthly wrote. It discusses how the Franklin investigation relates to the Ghorbanifar back-channel run out of Doug Feith's office from 2001 to 2003.

I haven't yet been able to comment on the breaking news last night that the FBI is investigating whether an employee at the OSD, Larry Franklin, passed classified US government information to Israel. That is because my colleagues and I have a piece coming out on the subject which will, hopefully, be appearing later today in The Washington Monthly.

A few thoughts though about this story.

I'm told the evidence the FBI has on Franklin -- at least on the narrow facts of the case -- is quite strong and involves wire tap information, though why a career DIA analyst like Franklin would allow himself to get tripped up on a phone call mystifies me.

The main focus thus far has been on the highly sensitive and troubling allegation that an ally, Israel, was spying on the United States or the recipient of classified information from a US government official.

However, I strongly suspect that as this story develops the bigger deal will be less the alleged recipient of the information, Israel, than the country that is the subject of the information, Iran.

I don't mean to imply that it's an either/or. It can very much be both. But the reportage thus far has understated the degree to which this is an Iran story -- it grows out of the simmering and unresolved administration battle over policy toward Iran.