Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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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.

A new site to check out: The Daou Report, a running round-up of what's on all the blogs, left, right and center.


Ed Kilgore comes up with the one sure way, and perhaps the only way, for Arlen Specter to hold on to the Judiciary gavel.

Convert to Christianity ...

About the only thing I can think of that would do the trick is for Specter to dramatically announce a conversion: no, not just to Movement Conservatism, or to the views of the Right to Life Committee, but to Christianity. Imagine the cries of joy that would ensue in Virginia Beach and Colorado Springs and other precincts of the theocratic Right! It would be like that scene in The Apostle when Billy Bob Thornton succumbed to the Call just as he was preparing to bulldoze Robert Duvall's church! Victory is mine! Victory is mine!

I had a hard time resisting reprinting the whole post. See it here.

WaPo painfully coded and/or tortured lede watch ...

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's resignation announcement Monday evoked a mixed international reaction of personal sympathy, political disappointment and intense concern over whether his replacement will be another moderate or a hard-line ideologue.

Does that reaction sound 'mixed'?

President Bush's reelection evoked a mixed Democratic reaction of bitter disappointment, insensible depression and sheer terror.

Another mixed reaction.

Got any others?