Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

As I noted Friday evening, Richard Perle (a member of this administration, which I explained in the earlier post) went on Crossfire and accused Colin Powell of working against President Bush's policies. Let's follow up on a few fronts.

First, it turns out Donald Rumsfeld agrees with me! Or at least he used to. When I saw Perle mouthing off on CNN, I thought I remembered something from Rumsfeld's Rules (what's that?) about this. And it turns out I'm right. "Avoid public spats," RR says on page 9, "When a Department argues with other government agencies in the press, it reduces the President's options." All the more so during wartime, one must imagine.

Second, it turns out this isn't the only freelancing Perle was doing on Friday. On the 5th, in the London Daily Telegraph, Perle penned a derisive attack on British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, for his recent visit to Tehran.

And in case you haven't noticed, the Brits have been rather supportive of our efforts of late. (Perle just doesn't seem to like Foreign Offices, whether in the UK or the US.)

As I explained in the earlier post, Richard Perle is a member of this administration, though he seldom identifies himself as such in these contexts. This isn't about his views, but rather his behavior, which lacks honor, judgment and discretion. By his actions he has shown that he believes the normal rules do not apply to him.

According to Newsweek, Dick Cheney told Paul Wolfowitz to knock off the public statements about attacking Iraq, after publicly butting heads with Powell. Isn't it time for Rumsfeld or someone to do the same with Perle?

The rules apply to Reaganites and neo-con intellectuals too, ya know. No special pleading. No excuses.

There've been many articles describing what good has been able to come from the tragedies of September 11th: the outpouring of charitable giving, the surge of national unity and patriotism, the willingness of states around the globe to provide the cooperation necessary to hunt down and root out terrorist organizations. Of course, few developments have been more salutary than the banishment of Mitch Daniels from public life.

Have you seen Daniels recently? A quick Nexis search revealed 19 references to Daniels' name in the last week; and 124 for Glenn Hubbard, the head of the Council of Economic Advisors, who's recently been put forward as Daniels de facto public replacement.

The real question now is whether it's just Daniels -- a dissembler and a hack -- who is going to stay banished or whether his hackish ways are out too. Paul Krugman thinks the chances of that are starting to look pretty poor indeed.

This is a dirty, dirty business. If you watched CNN's Crossfire tonight you saw Richard Perle, an Assistant Secretary of Defense from the Reagan administration, talking about strategy in the United States' war against terrorism. In particular he was distinguishing between President Bush's strategy and that emanating from the State Department, i.e., from Colin Powell. I don't have the transcript in front of me. But to put it bluntly he was saying that Powell was pursuing a foolish policy of coalition building and undermining or ignoring the stated wishes of the president.

Tough words. But not so unexpected from someone with Perle's politics and temperament.

Only that's not the whole story. Because Perle's not really a former Assistant Secretary of Defense. Or at least that's not all he is. He's also the Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. He's got an office in the E-ring of the Pentagon, a floor away from Rumsfeld's office.

In other words, he's a part of this administration. CNN was either dishonest or asleep at the switch in how they chose to identify him.

(As a side note, my understanding is that part of the reason Perle was given this job is that administration hawks really wanted to bring him in but knew there was no way to give him a position that requires Senate confirmation. And this position doesn't require it.)

Different appointees of an administration will sometimes criticize each other, certainly. But junior appointees at the Defense Department do not go on TV and explicitly accuse the Secretary of State of ignoring the president's wishes or undermining his policies.

So what's going on here? Can this really be allowed to continue? Can the Secretary of State or the President's dignity abide this? And where's Rumsfeld on all this? Can we, i.e., the American people, really put up with this kind of crap at what we are told, rightly, is a time of national crisis and mobilization?

This is a big deal. And it's not a laughing matter.

Oh what a tangled web we weave ...

They say lies beget more lies. But, more importantly, boneheaded statements tend to beget more boneheaded statements. Especially when you can't bring yourself to take one back and move on.

Ever since Andrew Sullivan let fly that hot-headed and instantly pummeled remark about a lefty "fifth column" on the deracinated East Coast he's been hunting around for some way to get out of the egregious over-statement penalty box. And now he's done it! He's found the fifth column! It's called United Peoples. And they're so big and well organized they even have a web site!

Of the ten American "organizers" included on the site most are identified as affiliated with another website called Friendly Favors, which that site chillingly identifies as "A tool to find Friendly people, connect with them and acknowledge their Favors."

I, for one, already feel more secure that Andrew has unearthed this gaggle of risible oafs. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit seems to have the right idea when he says: "if this is the fifth column, we can focus most of our attention on the first four. They're no threat, except to their own credibility."

I was thinking they might be a bigger threat to Andrew's.

P.S. Yes, yes, yes. I know I'm writing too much about Sullivan. And I'm trying to kick the habit. But on this one I couldn't help it.

As long as we're already fighting this war on terrorism maybe we can also set aside a little juice for a war on Ukrainian ineptitude.

Ugh! Is it just me or did tonight's episode of The West Wing make you almost ashamed to be a liberal. Not that I'm a liberal exactly. But my God! I've only watched the show maybe 4 or 5 times. But this was supposed to be a special episode. So I watched it with friends. Anyway, where to start? Mawkish, preachy, trite, boneheaded, ridiculous on logical principles. I mean, can we get Sorkin back on crack? This is terrible.

I'm really glad The West Wing has all those ex-Clintonites on hand as consultants to give the show that seamless verisimilitude. Otherwise I never would have known that, in cases of a terrorist incursion into the White House, policy dictates that the Chief of Staff is in charge of interrogating the suspect. I don't think Andy Card reads Talking Points, but maybe Podesta can help us out here. Did you ever get tasked with that detail, John?

Oh well. For a few months now -- that is to say, long before 9/11 -- I've been working on a story about Osama bin Laden. Particularly how the government of Sudan had opened a back channel to the United States in 1996 offering to take bin Laden -- then resident in Sudan -- into custody and turn him over either to the Saudis or to the United States.

In essence, we passed on the offer. It wasn't quite that simple. The Saudis didn't want him back. And at the time the United States had no criminal indictment against him. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we passed on the offer. We told the Sudanese we didn't want him going to Somalia and regretfully acquiesced in his departure for Afghanistan on May 18th 1996.

I've been interviewing various players in this little drama for some time now -- something I've alluded to elliptically in a few posts over the last couple months. And though I was able to nail down the Saudi part of the equation, sufficient confirmation of the US part of puzzle eluded me.

So why am I telling you all this? Shouldn't I be more hush-hush about it?

Well, when the Washington Post broke the story in Wednesday's edition of the paper that sort of made secrecy a tad less important, didn't it?

Oh well.

Cynics and wags may look at the Anglo-American 'special relationship' and deride the Brits as America's poodle. But you look at Tony Blair's speech at the Labour Party Conference today and you say ... some poodle!

"This is a battle with only one outcome - our victory, not theirs ... Let there be no moral ambiguity about this, nothing could ever justify the events of 11 September, and it is to turn justice on its head to pretend it could ..."

This is one of the many reasons why folks with politics of the TPM variety love Tony Blair.

We're smitten. We're in love. We've fallen and we can't get up.

A few quick points. Lost amidst much of the news over the tightening noose around the Taliban is what this is all going to mean for our long term relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Much has been made of the Saudis' balking over allowing us use of one of their key military bases. But the depth of non-cooperation and estrangement between the US and the Saudis, and their recent history of sufferance of, or passive cooperation with, bin Laden has far-reaching consequences. The Saudis are the ones with the big oil supply (with very elastic production). They are the ones who host our primary military presence in the Gulf. They are both bin Laden's enemies and his accomplices. Once the dust settles here there are going to be some serious 'whose side are you on' type questions to be asked.

Second, I noticed today on WSJ/Opinion Journal's Best of the Web that The Weekly Standard has just debuted a new web site. BoW says the Standard site was "long an online laggard." But we can leverage the strategic flexibility created by the fact that TPM is headquartered in a small apartment in DuPont Circle and faces precious little pressure from advertisers to be a little more evocative and blunt.

It blew. It was really awful -- especially when you consider the cash they pour into the print magazine.

Anyway, I'm happy to report the redesign is quite nice, a real improvement.

It may surprise you that we're plugging the Standard here at TPM. (A good bit of the content does offend my basic sensibilities. And the frequent, needess-to-mention anti-Clintonism speaks for itself.) But strictly in magazine terms it is perhaps the best political magazine currently being published. And it's now the undisputed home of the most original and intelligent voices in contemporary conservatism and the ones TPM most admires -- two groups which, admittedly, tend rather to overlap.

Speaking of which, here's an article I just found on the Saudis on the Standard site which touches provocatively on themes noted above. A few of the points seem over-stated -- particularly with regard to the puritanical streak in Islam and Wahabi anti-modernism -- but I strongly commend it to you.