Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Just a quick update on the media consortium's comprehensive recount of last year's presidential election in Florida. When I cited the Globe and Mail article which said the recount story had been spiked, I hadn't yet seen Howie Kurtz's article which said the recount analysis had only been delayed by the war, not canceled. Mickey Kaus makes a similar point, quoting the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray.

So consider this post a partial correction of yesterday's.

But only partial.

Mickey's evidence comes from a bureau chief of one of the news organizations. And Kurtz provides no quotations. The only quotes I've been able to find are in the Globe and Mail piece. And those seem at least ambiguous about the fate of the mega-recount analysis. A New York Times spokeswoman told the paper that the recount analysis had been "postponed indefinitely."

I assume the recount probably will proceed at some later date. But considering the importance of the matter at hand, it still seems to me that the media outlets in question are being deliberately vague. I think they're hedging. And bureau chiefs giving personal assurances to friends in the business (absent quotes) really doesn't cut it.

As mentioned yesterday, a delay in the project seems entirely reasonable. But if it's only a delay, the whole consortium should issue a press release stating that this is only a delay, and that the complete survey of disputed ballots will be completed and published as originally planned.

I assume I've written enough positive stuff about President Bush's conduct of this war that I can say the following with some measure of credibility: It's a very, very bad decision for the media consortium to cancel the publication of their comprehensive analysis of voting results from last year's presidential election in Florida.

What's even more disturbing is that the story is only being reported in news outlets outside the United States. Here's an article about it in Canada's Globe and Mail, which was picked up by a couple regional papers in the US.

As much of a firebrand as I am on last year's election, I am perfectly willing to concede that this may not be the time to rehash this controversy -- especially if, as has been rumored, it cuts strongly in Al Gore's direction. A delay may be in order, but we're still a democracy. Knowing what really happened last year still counts, a lot.

And the apparent decision of many news organizations not even to announce the cancellation of the study points less to a concern for the national interest than a less appealing desire not to offend.

More and more is being made of the story of how Sudan offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to the United States in 1996. There's been much foolish Monday-morning quarterbacking questioning various errors the Clinton administration allegedly made in counter-terrorism policy. And as a Clinton loyalist I'd be more than happy to point out how this Sudan story is just another example of that. But I can't. Because it's not. This really was a missed opportunity of immense proportions.

But it's easy to draw the wrong lesson from what happened.

The prevailing idea seems to be that the Clinton administration got things wrong because they were too indulgent toward so-called 'rogue states.' If you look close at what happened in 1996, though, it's really more that they were, in a sense, too rough with them. The real story about what happened with Sudan in 1996 is that the folks at NSC were so keen to 'isolate' the Sudan (and generally slap them around) that the they were blinded to the fact that this quasi-bad-actor state was willing to do us a very good turn. In a sense, they fell for their own spin.

In our current situation that's a lesson well worth considering.

Next up, the Richard Clarke angle.

Okay, I suppose you've probably seen this evidence of the connection between Osama bin Laden and notorious Sesame Street sourpuss Bert.

But I just couldn't help pointing it out to you in case you missed it. In case you're wondering, except for the highlight circle, this is not a doctored photo. And this article describes the very 21st century, globalization -drenched way the seemingly mild-mannered Bert ended up on bin Laden posters in Bangladesh.

But first a warning: the editor of Talking Points literally almost died of laughter when he read the story. So be warned. I mean, I hadn't heard anything so funny since I read about how Kermit the Frog had hooked up with Imad Mugniyah in the Bekaa Valley!

The Talking Points crusade (can we still say 'crusade'?) against Richard Perle is catching on. And across the ideological spectrum too.

Jude Wanniski -- pied piper of supply-side economics -- gets into the act. He actually calls on Don Rumsfeld to fire his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (a topic we've touched on here before, though I don't think Wolfowitz is in the Perle category by any means). But Perle gets his mention too.

Here's what he says:

Do you realize that Wolfowitz, and his pal Richard Perle who chairs your Defense Policy Board, have been calling all their friends in the press corps, urging them to beat the drums for war with Iraq? Perle actually signed the “famous” letter of 41 drafted by Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, who is Perle’s mouthpiece in Washington ... It is incomprehensible to me that you would allow Perle to remain at that post, where he is permitted to read all the most sensitive secret traffic flowing through the Pentagon. Not that he wouldn’t see it anyway, courtesy of Wolfowitz, but how brazen can he be and get away with it.
Now, I disagree with a number of points Wanniski makes in his piece. But the inappropriateness of Perle's behavior should be clear to everyone.

Also, let's roll out the first edition of the Richard Perle Media Hall of Shame (RPMHS): the list of media outlets which have featured Perle without noting his position in this administration. So far CNN, The Washington Post, and the London Daily Telegraph have all joined. No doubt others are soon to take the plunge.

Another Richard Perle update.

Why the continuing subterfuge and irresponsibility? In today's Washington Post article on expanding the war beyond Afghanistan, Perle is identified as "a Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who is close to many members of the Bush administration."

As we've noted repeatedly in recent posts, Perle is a member of this administration. I know this is a matter of definition. But for my money when the Sec Def appoints someone chairman of a key policy oversight committee, which comes with an E-Ring office and salary, that's being in the administration, period.

When will this man realize the rules apply to him too? And when will someone (anyone!) call him on it?

Neo-cons may not like Colin Powell but don't they like loyalty and the chain of command? And just when I was going to praise Bill Kristol's excellent piece in the Weekly Standard Online!

You may have thought this was the government of Uzkekistan's first effort to curry favor with American presidents. But far from it. Back in 1997 the Embassy of Uzbekistan paid the PBN Company (which specializes in work in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics) $7,500 to a) put together a “briefing book of Hillary Clinton speeches” and b) get approval from the White House and the publishers to translate It Takes a Village into Uzbeke!

All so dignitaries back home could drop a few good lines on Hillary when she visited the country that year.

P.S. This from secretly obtained confidential documents? Alas, no. Publicly obtained at the Foreign Agents Registration Act office several months ago while researching an unrelated story.

In case you missed this crushing passage ...

"Each addict's story here in the Pakistan city of Quetta is sadder than the next. Mooruddin Aki's arms were chopped off by the Taliban after authorities caught him smoking opium in an Afghan school. At 18, he begs on the streets and people who take pity on him place bills in his mouth."

New York Times, Oct. 7th, 2001

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.