Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The must-read of the day, a former special <$NoAd$> assistant to President Nixon and later a Reagan Pentagon appointee, Noel Koch on Dole on the Post oped page.

I quote the first and last grafs ...

"They want me to head Veterans," Bob Dole said. "They" meant the Bush White House. His tone said there were things he would rather do.

I asked him whether he was going to do it -- take on the campaign role of going after the veterans' vote. "Probably have to," he said, although he added that he knew the Bush campaign would want him to attack John Kerry, and he didn't intend to do that. He didn't have anything against Kerry, he said.


Bob Dole knows as well as any person how capricious is the gleaning of medals. Some men deserve what they don't get; some get what they don't deserve. And who should know better than he that it is craven to belittle a man's service because it didn't extend over some arbitrary stretch of time?

Bob Dole spent little time in combat. But as a result of the time he did spend, he lay on his back for years, recovering, and helping others to recover.

I spent a year in Vietnam and came home without a scratch. My brother served two tours in Vietnam, earned three Purple Hearts (and was hospitalized, and does draw disability -- weird yardsticks used to measure John Kerry's alleged shortfall), and yet spent far less time than I did in-country. Indeed, his first "tour" lasted about 15 minutes, ending on the beach near Danang in the midst of the U.S. Marines' first amphibious assault in Vietnam.

Time in-country, how often a man was wounded, how much blood he shed when he was wounded -- it is hurtful that those who served in Vietnam are being split in so vile a fashion, and that the wounds of that war are reopened at the instigation of people who avoided serving at all. It is hurtful that a man of Bob Dole's stature should lend himself to the effort to dishonor a fellow American veteran in the service of politics at its cheapest.

There was a time when he would have refused. I know. I was there.

Bush sullies everyone around him.

This might be the most telling testimony about <$Ad$>the Rassman incident.

Robert E. Lambert, was on Larry Thurlow's boat -- Thurlow's Kerry's chief accuser about this particular incident. He himself got a Bronze Star for, among other things, pulling Thurlow out of the water that day.

Lambert says he found Kerry's post-war anti-war activism "reprehensible."

"That was absolutely reprehensible but, there again, I’m career military" he told the local paper.

But on the key point ...

Lambert, now 64, was a crew member on swift boat PCF-51 that day. The boat was commanded by Navy Lt. Larry Thurlow, a now-retired officer who questions why Kerry was awarded a Bronze star for bravery and a third Purple Heart for the March 13 incident.

"He and another officer now say we weren’t under fire at that time," Lambert said Wednesday afternoon. "Well, I sure was under the impression we were."

Lambert’s Bronze Star medal citation for the incident praises his courage under fire in the aftermath of a mine explosion that rocked another swift boat on that day 35 years ago. "Anytime you are blown out of the water like that, they always follow that up with small arms fire," he said.

Lambert also sheds some light on the idea that Kerry somehow doctored the after-action report. Read this one.

Taegan D. Goddard at politicalwire.com says he got an advance look at the new LA Times poll and that it shows Bush 49% - Kerry 46% among registered voters.

Not a huge difference from recent polls -- and of course still in the margin of error. But it does provide some more evidence for at least a small move in the president's direction.

I do think this Swift Boat garbage has hurt.

We'll see how much or for how long.

By point of comparison the last LA Times poll (July 17-21) had Kerry 48% - Bush 46% (46-44 with Nader). To a statistician the difference between that poll and today's is meaningless. They're both deep in the margin of error. But as much as I'd like to believe that the difference is insignificant, my read of the few other recent national polls tells me that at least the direction of the movement, if not the extent of it, is real.

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 ...