Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows President Bush with a substantially higher approval rating than all the recent polls -- namely, at 57% approval and 39% disapproval. That contrasts with the slightly more recent Gallup/CNN/USAToday poll which showed him at 50% approve and 47% disapprove.

Last week CBS had him at 49% and NBC had him at 51%.

For the moment the new WaPo/ABC poll definitely looks like an outlier.

After dinner this evening I stopped by a fundraiser for Howard Dean in Washington, DC --- one to <$NoAd$>celebrate his 55th birthday. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen him in person. But it was the first time I’d seen him speak to a campaign rally. And the event was very impressive.

The intensity and engagement of the crowd were palpable. And I could understand the enthusiasm Dean supporters have for what they’re doing and what they're a part of when surrounded by that energy.

Union representation was very much in evidence at the rally --- intentionally so, I suspect, but effectively so as well.

There were also endorsements from Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Jim Moran, which covers a lot of territory (in every respect but geographically) in the Democratic party.

In any case, after the speech, I wanted to ask Dean a few questions about Iraq and the recent turnabout in White House policy. But the place was raucous and crowded. And Dean was wielding this big metal utensil, cutting people pieces of his enormous birthday cake. So I eventually thought better of it.

I packed up my pen and notebook and slowly made my way to the door through the sardine-packed crowd of Dean-o-philes.

The Fox News clip with Wes Clark (noted below) was down temporarily. But now it seems to be back up. If you haven't seen it yet, definitely take a look. It's a wonder why the Clark campaign hasn't put it up on their site.

Before they take it down, go to this page on the Fox News website. Then scroll down to the link with Wes Clark's picture and the caption "Setting the Record Straight."

It's a six or seven minute clip. But it's worth watching through. The Fox host tries the same old mumbo-jumbo on Clark and Clark goes ballistic and doesn't back down. Good for him.

Late Update: Here's a direct link to the video feed.

Could this really be true? From tomorrow's edition of The Independent ...

The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the "coming days", Mr Solana told The Independent.

I'll believe it when I see it. See the rest here.

Talk about burying your lede!

Today in the Washington Post Lois Romano had a piece about how the Clark campaign is trying to get back on track with a big media buy in New Hampshire and other mid-course strategy corrections.

But you have to skip down to the 19th and 20th grafs to get to what sounds to me like the big story …

[Dick] Sklar, a longtime Democratic activist, helped set up the organizational structure in Little Rock, but his gruff demeanor alienated some. He said he plans to return home to California after Thanksgiving but will still be an adviser to the campaign. Eli Segal, a Boston businessman and Clinton veteran, is now running the day-to-day campaign. Klain and Fabiani are in key advisory roles but are not involved in the daily operations.

In the past month, the press office has been restructured, with Bennett and Jamal Simmons -- the traveling press secretary -- emerging as the two main spokesmen for the campaign. Kym Spell, the former national press secretary, is returning to New York where she will be a consultant to the campaign for the entertainment industry. Chris Lehane, who worked for Gore and briefly for Kerry, has become a media strategist in Little Rock.

After Clark’s first campaign manager <$Ad$>Donnie Fowler left, Sklar came on as the campaign’s ‘chief operating officer.’ Since the campaign didn’t have a campaign manager that basically meant Sklar was the campaign manager, sharing some of the duties with Segal.

As I read that sentence, it sounds to me like Sklar is out, whatever advisory role he may continue to have. The campaign’s press secretary, Kym Spell, seems to be out too. And same goes for her as far as working as a consultant.

Sklar’s departure sounds like a very good thing for the campaign since it was on his watch that the campaign made its most serious strategic blunder --- blowing the chance to get the endorsement of AFSCME. But good or bad, the departure of the de facto campaign manager and press secretary sounds to me like a pretty big deal.

Clark had a very strong performance on Meet the Press this morning. Without appearing defensive, he managed to make clear that almost all the accusations of his shifting his position on the war have been a matter of grabbing a few quotes out of context and ignoring a long and clear record of skepticism about the case for war against Iraq (pace Joe Lieberman) and even more the way the president went about it. Clark even caught Russert flatfooted a couple times, especially in the exchange about the London Times column. So perhaps with some good exposure there and some much-needed changes at the home office he'll be able to get back some of the momentum he lost over the last month.

On balance, these developments all sound like good news for a campaign that has needed some.

A few days ago we reported that plans to keep ex-Iraqi weapons scientists employed and monitored were not only woefully underfunded but held up by bureaucratic infighting between various arms of the government. This, of course, while we employ vast sums of money and personnel on an almost certainly futile search for actual stashes of Iraqi WMD.

Now comes word that Saddam's top scientist on top-range missiles design and production has gone to Iran.

A quick note on Stephen Hayes new article Iraq-al Qaida link story, “Case Closed”, in the Weekly Standard.

(I was watching Fox News Sunday this morning and saw Fred Barnes --- Executive Editor of the Standard --- go almost apoplectic about how devastating and case-closing a piece it is.)

In any case, the quick note.

First, congratulations to Steve for a great scoop. He and I disagree about most things these days. But I'm certainly an admirer of his work.

But is it "case closed"? Not quite. More like, case restated.

What do we already know about the intelligence wars over the Iraq-al Qaida link?

We know that most of the Intelligence Community didn't think there was much there. Some contacts, but nothing substantial. We also know that Doug Feith -- along with other administration appointees -- didn't agree. And Feith set up his own intelligence shop at the Pentagon to review all the raw data and find what the CIA and others had missed, misinterpreted or buried.

They came up with a raft of purported connections between Saddam and al Qaida. But when they presented their findings to professional analysts in the rest of the Intelligence Community, most notably at the CIA, the consensus was that those findings didn't pass the laugh-test.

And who put together this new memo, the one the Standard article is based on? "The U.S. Government," as the headline of the article says?

Not exactly. As Steve's article makes clear, the authorship is a bit more specific. "The memo," writes Steve ...

dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources.

In other words, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee is doing their investigation into the pre-war intelligence. This memo is what Doug Feith sent them representing their side of the story. With the exception of some tidbits from interviews with Iraqis now in custody, this is, to all appearances, the same bill of particulars that Feith's shop put together in 2002 and which was panned by the analysts in the rest of the Intel community.

So, the first point to make is that there seems to be little if anything here that the folks in the rest of the Intel Community -- outside of Special Plans -- did not see before concluding that there were no significant links between Iraq and al Qaida.

Point two is that Feith's shop, the Office of Special Plans, the original source of this memo, gained an apparently richly-deserved reputation for what intel analysts call cherry-picking. That is, culling raw intel data to find all the information that supports the conclusion you want to find and then ignoring all the rest.

Now, of course, Feith's advocates say that everyone else was just doing their own sort of cherry-picking, picking the evidence that supported their preconceived notions, etc. But this is simply another example of a pattern which we see widely in this administration: the inability to recognize that there is such a thing as expertise which is anything more than a cover for ideological predilection (for more on this, see this article.)

More to the point, there's now a record. These are the folks, remember, who had the most outlandish reads on the extent of Iraq's WMD capacities and the most roseate predictions about the ease of the post-war reconstruction. So their record of interpreting raw intelligence is, shall we say, objectively poor.

Having said all this, I am, needless to say, not a trained analyst. I'll be commenting on various points in the piece that I know something about. But there's really little point in my speculating on the meaning of the various data points raised in this memo. Much of the value of this evidence rests on the reliability of the sources and methods used to find it. And we on the outside have little way of knowing who the sources were or how reliable they are. Also, you'd want people who could put the data points into their proper context.

So, let's read Hayes' article, but also be clear on the character and source of the memo he's discussing and wait till other knowledgeable folks weigh in with their opinion of what it means.

Possibly some give in the South Korean <$NoAd$>stance on acceding to the American request for 5,000 troops?

This from the Korea Times ...

Just one day after President Roh Moo-hyun appeared to draw the line at 3000 _ some say in a bid to quell further bureaucratic infighting at Chong Wa Dae _ Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Yoon Young-kwan commented on Friday that the President's guideline is not necessarily the last word on the matter.

"President Roh laid down an important guideline, but it was not a final decision,'' Yoon said in a briefing, indicating Seoul may consider sending more than 3,000 troops to meet the U.S. request.

Don Rumsfeld arrives in Seoul tomorrow.

A new TPM Featured Book. But in this case a DVD. The following is from the review I wrote in April 2002 ...

It's called The Sorrow and the Pity. And it's simply one of the most exquisite and powerful pieces of film-making or chronicling of past events that I have ever seen. For almost thirty years it was almost impossible to find a copy of it. But now it's out on DVD.

First some cautions. This isn't a Mike Myers movie or a feel-good Ken Burns flick. S&P runs more than four hours long (Run Time: 260 minutes); it's in black and white; and it's in French (and German) with subtitles. It's a movie made for DVD since it's really best watched in a couple sittings. Still, it's wrenching, engrossing and, like all really profound art, watching it makes you more deeply human. (The Times called it "The fastest four and a half hours in the history of cinema.") It's three or four times better than any other documentary and almost every other film I've ever seen.

The Sorrow and the Pity is about the Nazi occupation of France, particularly in one city, Clermont-Ferrand, in the part of France governed by the collaborationist Vichy Regime. At the broadest level the movie explains that for all the myth-making about the Resistance, and real heroes who participated in it, most French citizens were deeply collaborationist. Perhaps it's better to say that they were cowardly, afraid, willing to let almost anything happen if they themselves could remain safe.

But that only scratches the surface of the story.

More soon about Marcel Ophuls, the director of the movie; the notorious reference to The Sorrow and the Pity in Annie Hall; the shame of Maurice Chevalier; and how the movie's message about how weak and fearful people are turns out to be remarkably, perversely powerful, inspiring, and redeeming.