Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I love this.

The Times has a piece today on<$NoAd$> the Republican convention and Southern Rock bands or Country-ish acts they're having as entertainment in New York: Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Charlie Daniels Band, 38 Special, et al. ( Or maybe et y'al.?)

In any case, down in the piece they have this graf ...

Throwbacks, maybe, but that does not mean they are uncontroversial: Charlie Daniels recently angered some Arab-Americans with a song that included the lyrics "This ain't no rag, it's a flag, and we don't wear it on our heads." And Lynyrd Skynyrd is known for waving a giant Confederate flag during their rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama."

A confederate flag for "Sweet Home Alabama"?

Imagine that ...

Do we need some remedial rock hermeneutics here? Look, "Sweet Home Alabama" is an amazingly good song. I'm listening to it right now. I have it on one of the top playlists on my Ipod. So I can have it at the ready when I'm jogging.

But let's face facts: it is a paean to Southern defiance of civil rights revolution.

If you don't know that, have you listened to the lyrics?

In Birmingham they love the governor Now we all did what we could do Now Watergate does not bother me Does your conscience bother you? Tell the truth ...

Sweet home Alabama Oh sweet home baby Where the skies are so blue And the governor’s true [i.e., then-segregationist Governor George Wallace] Sweet home Alabama Lordy Lord, I’m coming home to you Yeah, yeah [Alabama state capital] Montgomery’s got the answer

Now, if you'll pardon me, I've gotta go rock out to some Skynyrd.

[Late Update: I should note, as several readers have now reminded me, that several of the more deep-reading Skynyrdologists argue that the "Boo Boo Boo" which comes after "In Birmingham they love the guv'nah" is actually the band's winking effort to signal their ... well, disapprobation, shall we say, of Wallacite stand-pat segregationism. But I've never found that reading wholly convincing -- given the rest of the lyrics in the song. It always seemed to me more likely that that shadow lyric is a mocking allusion to anti-Wallace protestors. But who knows? And of course there's also the song's back-n-forth with Neil Young's 'Southern Man'.]

Okay, "He's very mobile" is out as quote of the day.

Now we're on to former Bush-Cheney 2004 lawyer Ben Ginsberg's quote to Reuters: "I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn't happen. To suggest otherwise is flat wrong."

So BC04 is so hardcore against coordination that they had Ginsberg work for the Swift Boat guys to prevent coordination. Or something like that. Anyway, he was at the heart of the battle against coordination.

Also, if you thought I was kidding about the 'bitch slap' stuff, watch the GOP embrace the meme.

Just out from the febrile GOPUSA.com: "If Kerry Can't Handle the 'Swiftees,' How's He Going to Handle the Terrorists?"

It seems Mr. O'Neill wouldn't talk to CNN, but he did show up in the friendlier waters of Hannity and Colmes last night. And here's how he tried to spin the exchange with President Nixon about his making forays into Cambodia ...

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Mr. O'Neill, just in the interest of time, look, there are so many inconsistencies here, in my view, in the swiftboat story.

I thank you for being on the show, and again, as you know, I admire your service, as I do all those who served their country, although we may disagree on this issue.

Look, this issue of Cambodia, you said, on George Stephanopoulos' show over the weekend that you knew that Kerry was not in Cambodia, that you could not have been in Cambodia on a swift boat, that he didn't go north of Sadak (ph). They just didn't go that far. You were 15 miles away.

There's a tape of you, as you now know, in the Oval Office, saying you were in Cambodia, you said to Richard Nixon. You worked along the border, or you were in Cambodia.

That seems very different than being 15 miles away and saying the swift boats didn't go to Cambodia. So they can't both be true.

O'NEILL: Alan, yes, they are, Alan. It's two different places, Alan. One place is along the Mekong River, right in the heart of the delta. The second place is on the west coast of Cambodia at a place called Hatien (ph), where the boundary is right along that border.

Where Kerry was in Christmas of 1968 was on this river, the Mekong River. We got about 40 or 50 miles from the border. That's as close as we ran.

Later, Kerry went, and I went to a place called Bernique's (ph) Creek -- that was our nickname for it -- at Hatien (ph). That was a canal system that ran close to the border, but that wasn't at Christmas for Kerry. That was later for him.

So it's two separate places, Alan, and the story is correct.

COLMES: All right. Well, either you were in Cambodia or Kerry was in Cambodia and you claim he wasn't in Cambodia. You claimed at one point you weren't and then you claimed you were. This is very confusing to people.

O'NEILL: Well, it shouldn't be confused. I was never in Cambodia, and Kerry lied when he said he was in Cambodia.

COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon you were in Cambodia.

O'NEILL: And it was the turning point of his life.

COLMES: You said to Richard Nixon, "I was in Cambodia, sir."

HANNITY: On the border.

COLMES: There's a tape of you saying that to Richard Nixon.

O'NEILL: What's the next sentence? I was along the Cambodian border. That's exactly right. What I told Nixon and was trying to tell him in this meeting was I was along the Cambodian border. As Sean clearly read...

COLMES: "I was in Cambodia," Those are your words.

O'NEILL: Yes, but you missed the next sentence. You're not reading the next sentence, Alan.

COLMES: Yes, along the border. But you're in Cambodia or you're not in Cambodia.

O'NEILL: Well, I'm sorry, Alan. I wasn't -- I was talking in a conversation. And the first thing, by the way, I told him in the conversation, as you know, was that I was a Democrat and I voted for Hubert Humphrey.

Hey, did I mention I voted for Hubert <$Ad$>Humphrey?

Anyway, the deck is stacked on that show and Hannity's there barking in the background. But, that notwithstanding, O'Neill's line is that sentence number two is a correction of sentence number one.

In other words, "Hey, I was in Cambodia. No, scratch that. I was on the Vietnamese side of the Cambodian border."

That's sorta like all the fellas who've patrolled the DMZ in Korea who say, "Yeah, I was in North Korea. I worked along the DMZ."

Again, let's review what he actually said ...

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.

As the reader who alerted me to the transcript said in his email, the pretty clear meaning of O'Neill's words is that he worked along the border and made occasional forays across the border into Cambodia.

How far into Cambodia? Who knows? But then O'Neill's the guy running around saying John Kerry is a liar for saying he was in Cambodia.

Of course, we know how assiduous young Mr. Kerry was in covering up his misdeeds. So we should hold open the possibility that after returning from his measly four month tour in Vietnam he edited the Nixon tapes to render them more in line with his self-serving version of what happened.

This really is 'Saving Private W.'

The president gets called on to step up to the plate and say one way or another way he supports his friends' (rapidly deteriorating) smears on his opponent's military record.

And he just won't do it.

First, he sends out his chief spokesman to dodge the question.

Then he dodges the question.

And now, politically on the defensive, he calls another veteran and asks him to rush over to the ranch to face Max Cleland.

(It turns out that Patterson, the guy who got the 911 call from the president, has received $150,000 in campaign contributions from Bob Perry, the funder of the Swift Boat ads.)

Needless to say, the president doesn't have to play into the Kerry photo op by showing up to take Cleland's letter; a straight answer about the Swift Boat smears would do nicely.

But he just can't do it -- a classic bully.

Perfect ...

As we wrote earlier, Max Cleland and Jim Rassman went to the president's "ranch" today to present him with a letter from a number of Democratic vets in the Senate asking him to denounce the Kerry smears.

Cleland got stopped at the first roadblock.

He tried to give the letter to secret service officials guarding (giving the word rather a new meaning) the president. But the president got a political ally from Texas, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson -- who is also a vet -- to show up and offer to take the letter, if Cleland would take a letter from him in exchange.

(The press accounts I've seen thus far don't mention what the Bush campaign letter said.)

Cleland told him never mind; he'd rather stick it in the mail.

That prompted Patterson to utter this pricelessly unlovely retort ...

"I tried to accept that letter and he would not give it to me," said Patterson. "He would not face me. He kept rolling away from me. He's quite mobile."

Yes, quite mobile. Classic.

Did I mention that President Bush is addicted to having others do his dirty work for him?

Am I honor-bound to thank him for giving me this priceless example?

I don't want to be accused of not doing my duty.

(Late Update: Here's the letter from Patterson, from the Bush campaign website. Without naming them directly, it turns out to be a letter claiming that Kerry is pursuing a double-standard by giving such a rough-shake to the Swift Boat group.

I guess the campaign has had a change of mind about whether it wants to stick up for the Swift Boat group. Or perhaps being afraid to name them specifically -- as per President Bush's comments a couple days ago -- means it doesn't count?)

"Bush operatives constantly whine about the media, but Bush is benefiting from the mock sophistication of journalists who, striking a world-weary stance, say of his campaign dishonesty, 'It was ever thus in American politics.' Even if that were true, it would be no excuse, and it isn't true. This is extraordinary ... serious people flinch from being associated with the intellectual slum that is the Bush campaign, with its riffraff of liars and aspiring ayatollahs."

Those are the words, it may surprise you to learn, of George Will, writing on August 26th, 1992, writing of course about the campaign of the president's father.

The whole column merits reading in full -- and not simply because of the irony that Will was saying of that Bush campaign what many Democrats are now saying about his son's campaign. It's more than that. You have the same tactics, the same people, even the same criticisms in many cases -- ones which the campaign makes no effort to defend as being accurate but nonetheless insists it will keep repeating.

Read this passage from Will's piece and then stop by the Bush Jr. website and see that that's the message of the day in late August this year too ...

Soon Bill Clinton will have to say to Bush what Dole publicly said to Bush in 1988: "Stop lying about my record." Bush says Clinton has raised taxes 128 times. Bush says this even though columnist Michael Kinsley has demonstrated that the list of "tax increases" is a tissue of falsehoods. (Some taxes are counted several times; components of a tax are counted as separate taxes; minor fees, such as the $ 1 court cost imposed on convicted criminals, are counted as taxes.) By the tendentious criteria used by the Bush campaign, Bush has raised taxes more often in four years than Clinton has in 12.

So, what does Teeter say of the 128 number? "We're not going to quit saying it about Mr. Clinton."

Here's the new version, for Senator Kerry.

John Kerry promises not to raise taxes, but the reality is that he has cast 98 votes for tax increases, including voting ten times to raise gas taxes on the middle class. Kerry points to the largest tax increase in American history as the blueprint for his economic plan, which advisor Bob Rubin says Kerry won't reveal until elected. Kerry's credibility problem is only expanding as more and more Americans see the gap between what Kerry says and what Kerry does.

Same stuff. Same indifference to saying things that are even remotely true. And at least till now, the same playing most of the press for chumps.

Of course, twelve years ago it took till August 26th for George Will to lower the boom. But perhaps the tide is starting to turn. Here, from Dana Milbank in yesterday's Washington Post, is a list of half a dozen quotes from Kerry and how either President Bush or Vice President Cheney have distorted them out of all recognition on the campaign trail recently.

Here's a sample ...

"Every performer tonight in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country." -- Kerry, July 8

"The other day, my opponent said he thought you could find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood." -- Bush, Aug. 18

And of course, there are several more examples for your reading pleasure ...

Yet more Navy records support Kerry, according to the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, John O'Neill -- Mr. uber-Swift, he wrote the book, etc. -- has been going on all the shows for weeks saying that John Kerry never could have been in Cambodia on a black mission. It was impossible because there were all sorts of precautions in place to prevent any border crossings and that he would have been "court-martialed" had he done so (see this column for excerpts from his book and his appearance on ABC's This Week program last Sunday.)

Now CNN has come up with tapes of O'Neill telling Richard Nixon in 1971 that he himself had been on missions inside Cambodia. From last night's Aaron Brown show ...

O'Neill said no one could cross the border by river and he claimed in an audio tape that his publicist played to CNN that he, himself, had never been to Cambodia either. But in 1971, O'Neill said precisely the opposite to then President Richard Nixon.

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.


JOHNS: Now, O'Neill may have an explanation for this but he has not returned CNN's calls. What does seem clear is that a top member of the swift boat group is now being held to the same standard of literal accuracy they've tried to impose on John Kerry -- Aaron.

So there you go. It really seems like O'Neill has been going on all these shows lying right through his teeth. Not misremembering some date, not having a conflicting recollection of some battle action, but telling everyone that none of the Swift Boats crossed into Cambodia when, in fact, he himself appears to have done so routinely.

Of course, the underyling facts here aren't in dispute. As Fred Kaplan points out here and many others have as well, it is well known that the US military -- and Swift Boats in particular -- made covert ventures into Cambodia.

But, again, right from O'Neill's own mouth -- Mr. Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth.

And all of this raises the question, though it's not precisely the right analogy, what exactly is the statute of limitations on these guys? How many times do they have to get caught making false claims, unsubstantiated assertions or putting forward witnesses who weren't there, before they cease to have any credibility and get treated as such in the media?

At the moment the standard seems to be, "Okay, on your first nineteen claims, it seems like you were lying to us, but send along number twenty and we'll run that one up the flag pole too."

How long?

Just in case you don't think TPM is going to <$NoAd$>extra lengths to keep you informed, please note that we beat the news wires by at least twenty minutes (!) in bringing you the news that Ben Ginsberg had checked out of the Bush-Cheney campaign over the Swift Boat matter.

But if you look at the New York Times bit on Ginsberg's resignation you'll see that who else is working for these Swift dudes, Chris LaCivita, who works for push-poll and astroturf king Tom Synhorst.

From the Times ...

An occasional collaborator with Mr. Ginsberg, Chris LaCivita, is also working for the group, advising on media strategy. Mr. LaCivita was political director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2002 and now works for the DCI Group, a Washington political strategy firm whose partners include Charles Francis, a longtime friend of President Bush from Texas and Tom Synhorst, an adviser to the Bush campaign in 2000, who was an architect of the campaign's effort in the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. LaCivita said yesterday that he worked as a private contractor for DCI and Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and that there was no coordination between the firm and the group.

"Obviously, I don't work for the Bush campaign," he said.

Mr. LaCivita described his role as providing advice on the news media and placing advertisements. Asked to describe how close his involvement was or how Mr. Ginsberg was involved, Mr. LaCivita referred calls to a spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans, which declined to comment.

Birds of a feather ...

Oh, this is good stuff.

The Kerry campaign is sending Max Cleland and Jim Rassman down to the president's 'ranch' to hand deliver a letter signed by seven veterans serving in the United States Senate asking Bush to "recognize this blatant attempt at character assassination, and publicly condemn it."

Nice political theater and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Maybe it's time for Bush to bug out?

Or maybe put in for a transfer to Alabama ...