Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Congressman Darrell Issa of California come onnnnnn dowwwwwwnnnnnnnn!

What'd you do wrong? Nuthin! I just picked you at random. Congressman Issa, did you support the "Delay Rule" in the GOP caucus today? You know, the one that allows members of the House leadership to keep their leadership posts after they've been indicted for felonies.

Congressman Frank LoBiondo, how about you?

Anne Northup?

Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire?

Shelley Moore Capito?

Ahhhh ... I could go on an on. And by all mean let's go on and on. There are so many members of the GOP caucus to choose from (often a matter of regret, but in this case suddenly a blessing). Here's a list of every member of the House of Representatives.

Do you work for a local newspaper or TV Station? Want an easy story? Call up the local Republican member of congress to see if they supported the DeLay Rule. Believe me, this one writes itself.

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) says a "handful" of members of the caucus opposed the rule. Let's be extremely generous and say that's 20 members. That still leaves 211 supporters. Who are they?

Not a journalist? Afraid you can't play? Fuggetaboutit ... You can play too.

Just pick a Republican member of Congress, call the number on their website and ask. Don't be rude or confrontational. Just a simple question: Did Congressperson such-and-such support the DeLay Rule in the GOP caucus meeting on Wednesday. After you get your answer, drop us a line and let us know what you hear. Did they vote for the DeLay Rule or are they members of the Shays Handful?

They refused to answer? We wanna know that too.

Late Update: Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) turns out to be a member of the Shays Handful.

Even Later Update: This AP article says that Chris Shays "estimated 30 to 50 members voted against" the DeLay Rule. All I can say is, that's quite a "handful." But then maybe Shays has big hands. Who knows? In any case, the game continues.

Later Than You Can Imagine Update: Ray LaHood (R-IL) also says he was a member of the Shays Handful. He explained why his colleagues voted for the DeLay Rule: "It was the result of the fact that he increased our numbers, he takes care of members when they need legislation passed, his fund raising and, in Texas, his drawing people a good district."

Just a few moments ago I asked whether the House GOP caucus had any rule in place that would force Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down post-conviction.

And that raises the following possible scenario.

After getting convicted, DeLay could manage to stay free on bail for some time pending appeal -- probably multiple appeals. And while his appeals are dragging out month after month, or even year after year, what's to stop him from getting his enforcers in Texas to get the elected DA, Ronnie Earle, redistricted out of office?

That way DeLay gets convicted. He gets the conviction overturned on appeal (if possible). And while that's happening, he gets Earle thrown out of office. The new DA who takes over is a DeLay crony. And the new guy decides not to refile the case.

Now, I know you're thinking that this is too much even for the DeLay machine. But consider this: There was so much funny-business that went on in DeLay's redistricting power-grab last year that Earle opened an investigation soon after the events took place. On May 23rd, 2003, for instance, he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he had already opened an inquiry into another aspect of the case (specifically, a matter of some mysteriously 'destroyed' records.)

So the DeLay machine already knew trouble could be coming from Earle by late spring of last year. And, low and behold, a few months later, as Earle's investigations started to pick up steam, the guy who executed DeLay's redistricting power-grab, House Speaker Tom Craddick, began working on new legislation to redistrict the state's 300-odd elected DAs and elected prosecutors. As this article from last November in the Austin Chronicle makes clear, the widely-assumed real target of the move was none other than Ronnie Earle.

A far-fetched scenario? Maybe. But would you put it past the Bug Man?

Late Update: A few TPM readers note the point that redistricting Earle out of a job would be an awfully difficult proposition. Far easier would be to strip the Travis Co. District Attorney (Earle) of the state's Public Integrity Unit, which would accomplish DeLay's end just as well. (Again, see the article linked above.)

I'm eager to find out more about who in the GOP caucus was for and who was against the "DeLay rule" -- the new rule allowing Tom DeLay (R-TX) and future indictees to continue in their House leadership roles after being indicted.

Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut seems to be the only Republican who says he didn't support the move when it was put to a voice vote today. And he says he was one of only a "handful" of Republican House members who also spoke out against the change in today's closed door meeting.

Here's my question. And it's a genuine question since I don't know the answer. Does the Republican caucus currently have a rule which would force DeLay to relinquish his post after conviction if he remains free on appeal?

The earlier rule would have made such a rule superfluous since any leadership office had to be surrendered on indictment. But with that changed, is there such a rule? And if not, does the GOP caucus plan on imposing one?

And in the interest of completeness, is there any stage in the criminal justice process when a GOP caucus member in a leadership office has to resign his post? If the judge sentences DeLay to wearing one of those radio beacon collars around his ankle so that he doesn't leave the vicinity of the Capitol, could he continue as leader then too? Or would that be too much?

An extreme scenario, I grant you, but as long as we're plumbing the depths ...

Rep John Dingell (D-MI) on Majority Leader Tom DeLay (TX-R): "These folks talk about values and decency, but then think it’s okay to change the rules once it appears one of their own may have broken them. This amounts to a work release program for the ethically challenged. We should all remember that a decade ago, Mr. DeLay helped to create this rule. Republicans said at the time they were the party of reform and good government. Now they’ve become the party of moribund hubris."

In regard to Steve Clemons' quote from Richard Perle noted earlier today, several readers have suggested that what Perle must have meant was that the UN Inspectors -- because of their alleged fecklessness and/or because they had to operate while the regime still existed -- would never find WMD and that our drive to war would thus be thwarted.

That thought occurred to me too. It was a common argument with Perle and other neo-cons in the run-up to war that the inspections process was worthless either because Saddam could too easily bamboozle the inspectors or because even finding evidence of banned weapons would only lead to a renewed game of 'cheat and retreat'.

But when I spoke to Clemons this afternoon and then again this evening, he said that this distinction (i.e., between what inspectors might find before the war and what the US might find after the war) was at least not clear in what Perle said and that he seemed to be speaking more broadly.

The feckless inspector argument is certainly one explanation. But I'm curious to hear more.

Before John Bolton gets to try regime-change in Iran or North Korea, first he has to pull it off at Foggy Bottom.

The latest <$NoAd$> intrigues from this evening's Nelson Report ...

Since all Beltway Insiders really think people ARE policy, here’s the latest gossip from sources joyfully playing the game. In the foreign policy community, TOTAL focus is on whether Undersecretary of State John Bolton can force Secretary-designate Condi Rice to take him as the Deputy, replacing Rich Armitage. Bolton has been working Capitol Hill for support (not the kind of thing the Bush White House likes), and his former AEI colleagues are trying to create the image of a done deal. For example: rumors at State today have Bolton with his own list of new INR staffers, ready to clean house. Reality check: Rice has made it clear she is aware of, and does not want to endure, the leaks and separate agenda behavior which characterized Bolton’s service to Powell. Outsiders are portraying this as a “test” of whether VP Cheney is the “real” foreign policy boss, or does Condi truly have the mandate from President Bush that Powell never secured. Some “insiders” argue that to put it that way shows how little one understands the real play in the Bush Administration. For what it’s worth, Rice deputies are telling friends that she is not a neo-con, but a realist in the Scowcroft tradition, from whence she came originally.

Probably not worth all that much. Remember, this is Condi we're talking about. But we'll see.

Did Richard Perle tell colleagues as early as October 2002 -- some six months before the beginning of Operation Iraq Freedom -- that he didn't believe we'd ever find Weapons of Mass <$NoAd$>Destruction in Iraq?

That's what Steve Clemons says in The Washington Note today.

Here's the key passage from the post ...

Armitage has been fighting for balance within the interagency process for some time -- and for that is probably considered disloyal to the President. When I met Richard Perle in France for a debate in October 2002, Perle recounted to Edward Luttwak and me that he couldn't stand Powell any longer.

He said that the French Ambassador to the U.S. Jean-David Levitte had had a dinner welcoming new French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin at his home -- which Perle attended, as did Colin Powell. Perle reported that Powell gave an interminably long and unbelievably obsequious and sycophantic toast in honor of Villepin.

Perle continued by saying that Powell had served his President poorly by getting the President to take what Perle then saw as a disastrous course through the United Nations to get at Saddam Hussein. Perle told us that he believed we would find no weapons of mass destruction. When I asked what he meant -- he said that Hussein had hidden the weapons so well or killed or scared those who knew to such an extent that we would never find the WMDs.

Did Perle ever say something like that publicly? The logic of the statement also indicates that he didn't believe Saddam would use chemical or biological weapons against US or coalition troops since having them used against us would certainly count as 'finding' them.

The idea that US troops or CIA weapons detection teams would never be able to find illicit weapons even after the regime had been overthrown has never made much sense to me. So why was Perle making these excuses in advance? What did he know? And who did he tell?

I'll be talking about this more in my new column in The Hill, which will be out later this evening. But with the nomination today of White House Domestic Policy Adviser Margaret Spellings as Education Secretary (see her bio) the pattern is now unmistakably clear. As was the case with with Gonzales and Rice, President Bush is transposing his White House staff out to head their analogous federal departments and agencies.

Gonzales goes from White House Counsel to Attorney General; Rice goes from NSC to State; Spellings goes from Domestic Policy Advisor to Education Secretary.

Each of them defined mainly by their loyalty to President Bush.

As we wrote earlier, the shift is not toward right, left or center, but toward more direct White House control and the silencing of dissident voices in the civil service.

From Jonathan Kaplan's piece in The Hill on the House GOP's <$NoAd$> proposed DeLay rule ...

Republicans have used Democrats’ ethical lapses, including a check-kiting scandal at the House bank, to their political advantage. In 1987, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) told The Washington Post: “[You] now have a House where it is more dangerous to be aggressive about honesty than it is to be mildly corrupt. … We have in Wright, [Majority Leader Tom Foley (D-Wash.)] and Coelho a third generation of Democratic leaders, the first that has never served in a minority. … You now have a situation where I think people feel almost invulnerable.”

Cantor said, however, that by inoculating DeLay in the present case the Republicans will not lose the moral high ground gained by instituting the rule in the first place.

“That line of reasoning [accepts] that exercise of the prosecutor in Texas is legitimate,” he said.

Ye olde rule of law line of reasoning. Of course.

House Republicans embrace new pro-crime agenda!

WaPo:"House Republicans were contemplating changing their rules in order to allow members indicted by state prosecutors to remain in a leadership post, a move designed to benefit Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) in case he is charged by a Texas grand jury that has indicted three of his political associates, GOP leaders said today."

Surely but one of many Actonian moments to come.