Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The one thing I'm certain about in this Berger matter is that I really wish the folks investigating his case were investigating the Plame case because if that investigation leaked as much as this one does my life over the last year would have been quite a bit easier.

Possible Bush slogans ...

1. Not as terrible as it could have been!

2. Four more years and we'll be safe!

3. Peace!

4. Incompetence and exaggeration, not bad-faith or lying, as shown in two recent reports!

5. Are you better off today than you would have been today assuming that that idiot Al Gore had won four years ago and he was president instead of me?

Hmmm. Imagine that. Senior officials at the White House Counsel's Office (perhaps understandable) and "several top aides to" the president (not so understandable) were given a heads-up about the Berger investigation months ago.

So says the Times.

Meanwhile, the Post has a tangled article about how Archives staffers allegedly became suspicious of Berger while he was reviewing the documents and even started monitoring him. Calling the piece 'tangled' isn't necessarily a criticism. The reporters clearly have two very conflicting versions of events and are trying to explain both -- and point out the ways they contradict. The piece reads as if the authors' themselves are uncertain which version to credit. What's also clear from the Post article is that not only law enforcement officials but also one 'government source' are leaking like crazy about this story.

The story the leakers tell in the Post story certainly seems hard to reconcile with inadvertence.

Finally, USA Today says that FBI agents involved in the case didn't think the whole thing was particularly serious.

Finally a case President Bush is eager to see investigated. Bush on Berger: "This is a very serious matter that will be fully investigated by the Justice Department."

As we said earlier, desperate.

Winning campaigns don't put the candidate in the mud.

Apropos of my earlier post about Republican <$NoAd$>desperation, here's Charlie Cook of the Cook Report on the state of the presidential race ...

Last week in this space, I discounted the widely held view that the knotted polling numbers between Bush and Kerry meant that the race itself was even. I argued that given the fact that well-known incumbents with a defined record rarely get many undecided voters -- a quarter to a third at an absolute maximum -- an incumbent in a very stable race essentially tied at 45 percent was actually anything but in an even-money situation. "What you see is what you get" is an old expression for an incumbent's trial heat figures, meaning very few undecided voters fall that way.

......This is certainly not to predict that Bush is going to lose, that this race is over or that other events and developments will not have an enormous impact on this race. The point is that this race has settled into a place that is not at all good for an incumbent, is remarkably stable, and one that is terrifying many Republican lawmakers, operatives and activists. But in a typically Republican fashion, they are too polite and disciplined to talk about it much publicly.

For more on this point see Ruy Teixeira's Donkey Rising blog.

From a Press Release just out from Speaker Hastert ...

Speaker Hastert on Congressional Investigation Regarding

National Security and Sandy Berger

(Washington D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today made the following statement:

"Like many Americans concerned about our national security, I look forward to learning more from the House Government Reform Committee's investigation into the wayward actions by Sandy Berger. The American people deserve to know why Mr. Berger apparently skirted the law and removed highly classified terrorism documents, purportedly in his pants, from a secure reading room at the National Archives and then proceeded to lose or destroy some of them.

"How could President Clinton's former National Security Advisor be so cavalier?

"Was Mr. Berger trying to cover-up key facts regarding intelligence failures during his watch?

"What happened to those missing documents?

"Whose hands did they fall into?

"What kind of security risk does that pose to Americans today?

"I know Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) will work to get the full truth of what really happened and help all of us better understand why Sandy Berger, a person who should fully understand the gravity and importance of sensitive national security materials, would operate with such overt negligence and apparent disregard for the law."

Any Democrat has to see red when <$Ad$>reading those words -- in fact, I'm tempted to say anyone with more than a bit of decency.

But I post them because critics of the administration, whatever their anger or indignation over those comments, should actually greet all this with a smile.

There's no doubt this Berger imbroglio has thrown the Dems seriously off message for a couple days. And it's embarrassing. There's no denying it. But Hastert's words are those of folks who are desperate -- real desperate. Folks looking at November 2nd, not liking at all what they see, and casting about for anything that will change the political lay of the land.

It's cornered, wounded animal time.

Oops. Is the new Committee for the Present Danger hedging its bets in the grand struggle against totalitarianisms large and small? Peter D. Hannaford, CPD managing director, was a lobbyist a few years back for Austria's crypto-Nazi wunderkind Jorg Haider.

Perhaps Jorg was, alas, just misunderstood like so many others.

But I can't imagine he's long for this Committee.

Laura Rozen has the details.

Another point on the matter of forgeries.

Since the end of the Iraq war proper, a number of documents have surfaced in Iraq which on their face appear to connect the former Iraqi regime to al Qaida or similar Islamist terrorist groups.

I'm told there's now a growing consensus within the US Intelligence Community that most and probably all of those documents are forgeries.

The documents came into the hands of the United States through the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). And they were provided to the DIA by the Iraqi National Congress (INC).

In itself, that doesn't mean that the INC is responsible for these apparent forgeries. They may simply have been the unwitting conduit for them.

Of course, as retired CIA officer Bob Baer told the New Yorker last month, the INC was running its own "forgery shop" in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1994.

I'd thought of writing a post on the newly-re-formed Committee on the Present Danger, which took out a full-page ad today in the Washington Post to announce its new mission. But I held back because a mocking effort seemed almost too obvious.

You know, like, "Why did they refound the Committee on the Present Danger?" "Because no one had come up with a list yet of the people most responsible for the Iraq mess, so why not?"

In any case, you get the idea.

Now, I got the URL from the Post ad and went to the website and was looking around the membership list. And on the list of the founding members there's a blurb from each one of them describing the war on terror -- usually with a rhetorical mix of Winston Churchill and Conan the Barbarian.

So for instance you have Ken Adelman saying ...

Just as America defeated totalitarian threats from, first, Nazism and then Communism last century, so must we defeat totalitarian threats from radical Islam this century. It is our duty, and destiny.

Fair enough, encapsulates the basic viewpoint. Or this from Jim Woolsey ...

We are fighting the Long War of the 21st Century, having been targeted by several totalitarian movements rooted in the Middle East. We cannot opt out, and we must not fail.

But what jumped out at me was this one from Ben Wattenberg.

The rules of the game are strange: we win if we win, they win if they win, and we win in case of a tie. There will plenty of other opportunities after Iraq to chase them down in a world which will remain uncertain, but with America as the leader.

Now, is that a blurb or a war on terror haiku? I'm not sure what to make of it. Or has Wattenberg joined forces with that younger generation of weed-smoking neocons? If someone can explain it to me I can then proceed to make fun of it.