Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

From a Friday Washington Post story on the degenerating situation <$NoAd$>in Iraq ...

This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office, according to a tally by CBS News. Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency.

and this ...

Bush spent the morning watching national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's televised testimony to the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, then toured his ranch with Wayne LaPierre Jr., chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and other leaders of hunting groups and gave an interview to Ladies' Home Journal. He is not scheduled to appear in public until Sunday, when he will visit nearby Fort Hood, the home base for seven soldiers recently killed in Baghdad.

Vacation gibes are usually unfair. But with the situation in Iraq so critical, shouldn't the president be at the White House? It's a full-time job, comes with a decent salary.

A quick note on Condi ...

I watched a good bit, but not all of the testimony this morning.

My reactions were mixed; and I feel in some respects ill-equipped to judge her performance because a) I go into it with a dim view of her and b) I knew many of her statements to be falsehoods or thorough distortions of what happened.

It seemed a good idea on Rice's and the White House's part to tone down the criticisms of Richard Clarke -- but that leaves some question as to how they became so generous to someone whom a week or more ago they were all but accusing of being a criminal.

On the level of atmospherics, she struck me as surprisingly tense and anxious during her opening statement. And she tried to skate through on many points by resorting to repeated instances of semantic mumbojumbo like the fraudulent distinction between "rolling back" al Qaida and "eliminating" al Qaida, or her equal frail distinction between tactics and strategy.

Department of Faint Hearts and Narrow Escapes. Commentary is such an inherently assertive form of communication that it's a good thing to find ways to have fun at your own expense when possible.

As many of you know, I spend a good bit of time working at a Starbucks near my home in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. And this morning I was in one of my normal seats, talking on the phone to a colleague, when I noticed a group of police surrounding the building with that yellow 'emergency' tape they use to cordon of areas or for crime scenes or whatever.

So I watched this out of the corner of my eye for a bit. And as they started to seem more intent about it, I got off the phone and went over to the front door where a few employees had congregated and were looking out seeing what was going on.

I asked what was up and was told, in a fairly nonchalant way: "Suspicious package outside, no one can come in or leave."

I didn't like the sound of that. And when I looked over and saw the package about three feet from the side of the building I liked it even less. Cover the war on terror? Yes, but not that close. And in any case I thought to myself, I've seen this miniseries before. And I'd really prefer to leave now in my accustomed unitary form.

So after a few moments of haggling with the Starbuckians (I've got a meeting! I simply must go!), they unlocked the door and I skedaddled out past the yellow tape perimeter and then scrambled home.

A short time later, with a bit, but not all, of my manhood recovered, I ventured back with my camera to see what was going on. It seemed the cops having coffee and donuts handed out among them probably meant that things weren't too far gone.

A bomb expert did various tests on the box and, a short time later, the package-formerly-known-as-suspcious was whisked away never to be heard from again.

In case you haven't seen it, take a look at Peter Bergen's list of nine questions that should be asked of Condi Rice when she appears before the 9/11 Commission. It ran on the Times OpEd page on Sunday.

Think of it as a sort of aspirational playbill for tomorrow's show.

I don't have time to write at length on this as I've got an editor (justifiably) breathing down my neck over a late article draft. But when considering tomorrow's testimony, bear in mind that few people across the ideological spectrum believe that Rice has been an effective National Security Advisor.

People on the (relative) left like Powell's team at State; those on the right prefer Rumsfeld and the neocons at DOD. The Strangelovians go for Cheney at OVP. But across the board people fault her managerial competence.

Every administration has its interagency antagonisms, often between the National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. But this one's in a class by itself on pure disorganization and factionalism.

Think how many problems this administration has had which deal with one hand not knowing what the other is doing, contending factions pursuing contrary policies simultaneously. That's what the National Security Advisor is there to ride herd over.

Sometimes if no one is completely happy it means you must be doing something right. Other times, it just means everyone can see you're not doing your job.

Don Rumsfeld today at the Pentagon: "U.S. forces are on the offense. The United States and our partners and free Iraqi forces are taking the battle to the terrorists."

Sigh ... Is it immediately clear to you who this statement is about?

"They have concluded he was so surrounded by sycophants he had no real idea of what was happening in [Iraq]."

[ed. note: Special thanks to TPM reader JML for the tip.]

Ages and ages ago we told you how Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith ran the office charged with doling out Iraqi reconstruction contracts. And we told you how Feith's law partner, Marc Zell -- amazingly contravening the law of averages -- had happened to set up a special lobbying shop to lobby for companies looking for sweet Iraq contracts.

And then, because we didn't want to leave out any details, we noted that Zell had opened that new operation with Salem Chalabi. And, yes, Salem is Ahmed's nephew.

Now it turns out that in addition to his entrepreneurial activities, Salem is also in charge of setting up the Iraqi war crimes tribunals, which will eventually try Saddam Hussein.

All of which should reassure you that as messy as things may be at the moment, we're at least freeing this sad land from corrupt dynasticism and clan rule.

Several readers were kind enough to tell me <$NoAd$> that on his radio show today Al Franken mentioned TPM. That put me in the mind of this brush with greatness I had a little earlier in my career, which I recounted in a reporter's notebook item I wrote while on assignment for Salon covering the impeachment of President Clinton in January 1999. It was my first time in Washington as a reporter ...

Maybe the funniest impeachment moment came from comedian Al Franken, who was attending the trial with one of the prized yellow impeachment tickets as a guest of some senator -- he wouldn't say which one. After a few minutes of conversation, Franken and I and a few others were shooed out of the hallway by a Capitol police officer, and we took the elevator back up to the Senate gallery. Before I knew it, Franken and I were sitting together in one of the rooms where senators give press conferences.

Sen. Phil Gramm had just bounded into the room to do a little damage control about Sen. Robert Byrd's proposed motion to dismiss. Apparently one of the first rules of the Senate is that no one can ever criticize Bob Byrd about anything, and Gramm did his best to comply. He told us he'd just spoken to Trent Lott, and he made a strained argument about how it would be wrong to cut the trial short, even if it was clear the House didn't have much of a case. Franken raised his hand and asked Gramm whether he would have voted for the articles of impeachment if he were in the House, knowing what he now knew. Gramm seemed to have no clue who Franken was and proceeded to ignore the question and pipe on about justice being a process, not a verdict.

Franken and I chuckled about Gramm's refusal to answer the question, and suddenly two spindly arms reached across me and grabbed Franken and started to pull him out of his chair. It was a woman from the Senate press office, barking, "You have to leave. You're not press." Franken pointed to me and said, "But I'm with someone from the press" as he was being rushed out of the room. But he stayed in character through the whole thing, laughing as he got tossed out. That really drove the woman crazy. She mustered up her schoolmarm best and scolded him: "It's not funny!"

I rushed out of the press room after Franken got the boot. But by the time I got out into the hall, he'd already slipped back into the Senate gallery -- where celebrities, but not the press, are allowed to roam free.

Those were the days.

This short piece on the BBC website is the first I've seen to suggest a small hint of how this situation in Iraq might be walked back. Will alone solves nothing. With will and guile, there's at least a chance.

Bag the Clausewitz and try the Liddell Hart.