Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A good deal? A bad deal? We're supposed to say we got a great deal to win clearly through spin what could not be won so clearly on the merits. It seems an awfully bitter pill to forego the filibuster on both Brown and Owen, particularly the former. And the main issue isn't resolved so much as it's delayed. The moderate Republicans agree to preserve the filibuster so long as the Democrats use it in what the moderate Republicans deem a reasonable fashion. And yet the use of the filibuster, by its very nature, almost always seems unreasonable to those whom it is used against.

And finally there's the key problem: the White House. Can this agreement really withstand the appointment of another hard right nominee? The subtext of the compromise must be that neither side will be pushed beyond its limits. But that would, I think, force the Democrats to resort to the filibuster. And then everything, presumably, would unravel from there. It's hard for me to see how this deal survives the sort of appointee President Bush seems all but certain to appoint to the Supreme Court.

Having said all that, the whole tenor of the Republican ultras on the Hill today is to demand unimpeded power, to push past conventions and limits, to go for everything. And here they got turned back. A sensible Republican party might be satisfied to have gotten three of its nominees -- numerically speaking, they did fairly well. But this whole enterprise was based on wanting it all, on not accepting limits, on rejecting government by even a modicum of consensus with a sizeable minority party. They got stopped short. And the senate Republican leadership is undermined.

So this isn't a pleasant compromise. But precisely because the Republicans -- or their leading players -- are absolutists in a way the Democrats are not, I think this compromise will batter them more than it will the minority party, which is after all a minority party which nonetheless managed to emerge from this having fought the stronger force to something like a draw.

Just to follow up on the earlier post about whether there could be a court challenge to the nuclear option, here's what readers have said.

The overwhelming majority of readers who wrote in -- ranging from political junkies to con law profs (many of whom also seem to be political junkies) -- agree with what I've said earlier: absolutely no way this ever gets into court.

A pretty small minority see some arguments that might at least get a hearing. But even they see it as highly unlikely. So all of this suggests that as a practical matter there's no reason to think of this as a serious possibility in evaluating what's transpiring in the senate today.

And just to reaffirm the point, for my part, I think that it certainly should be that way. (I'll try to say more about this in a subsequent post.) This is, at root, a political question. And there's a political remedy: at the ballot box in 2006.

Indeed, if the Democrats' use of the filibuster is really such a bad thing, there's a political remedy for the Republicans too: take it to the voters.

If Republicans believe in their argument and have some confidence about their political future they should take this to the voters next year and ask the voters for the five more senators to confirm any judge they want.

Here's a question I'd be eager to hear your thoughts on.

Many readers have written in asking why it wouldn't either be possible or likely that Dick Cheney's expected ruling that the judicial filibuster is unconstitutional would not itself spawn a series of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality or legality of his opinion.

Presumably, how this would work, I guess, is that some party would file a suit or, I guess, an appeal challenging the legitimacy of the confirmation of one of the judges that will be seated in the wake of the nuclear option. And the aim would be to get a court, eventually the Supreme Court, no doubt, to review the legitimacy of the set of moves we've collectively dubbed 'the nuclear option'.

Now, my very strong assumption has been that courts would simply treat this as a non-justiciable question, that the senate is the final and sole arbiter of how it conducts its business and interprets its own rules. And I still think that.

But in the last few days I've had a number of people write in, who are far more versed in these matters than I am, who suggest that it may well happen. And in a post-Bush v. Gore world, when the Court muscled its way into a contested presidential election and assigned the presidency to the candidate whose party most of them affiliate with, perhaps it's foolish to put anything by them.

So to all you law profs, lawyers and sundry relevant experts: does this seem even remotely conceivable to you? Again, from my understanding of long-established practice, it doesn't to me. And as a separate matter, it seems like a very dangerous and ill-advised step to take.

But again, what do people think?

A number of readers wrote in yesterday about my morning post on the 'futility' of aggressively reporting on the secret British government memo (actually, minutes) which surfaced late in the British election and claimed that the White House was rigging the intelligence on Iraq to support a decision for war as far back as mid-2002.

I was less clear than I should have been. Because what I meant was not that there's no point in aggressively reporting on this issue. My point was rather how astonishing it is that such a revelation should even be news. It truly should be old news -- and thus worthy of little more than passing comment -- since it only provides some further level of support or confirmation for something we know or should know clearly did happen.

It was fairly clear when it was all happening. And after the fact the details have been reported in abundance, not just in obscure publications, but in many of the nation's leading newspapers and magazines, albeit usually shoved to the back pages. And yet the claim -- not the individual morsels of the story, but the whole narrative wrapped together -- still seems wildly controversial. And no one has been held to account, or rather only those who tried to stop the scam while it was afoot or put up some resistance to being coopted into it.

And with all that, why exactly did Sen. Rockefeller(D) of West Virginia roll over when Sen. Roberts (R) of Kansas pulled the plug on the rest of the inquiry into administration manipulation of intelligence on Iraqi WMD?

Yep, just like Kevin says: "This is like watching Darkness at Noon in real life. Newsweek made a small error in a 300-word blurb a couple of weeks ago, and since then the right-wing media hate machine, like a jackal sensing a rare opportunity for blood, has somehow managed to convince them they bear responsibility for riots in Afghanistan that were staged by extremists who obviously used the Newsweek article as nothing more than pretext."

Okay, AP reporter Devlin Barret definitely wins at least an Honorable Mention in the Exceptional Snark in Social Security Reporting Contest.

From an article this morning on President Bush's Bamboozlepalooza event in Upstate New York on Tuesday ...

When President Bush makes his pitch for personal Social Security accounts at a town-hall meeting Tuesday in suburban Rochester, he may finally win over some key undecided voters: the three Republican congressmen representing the area.

The three reps are Reynolds, Walsh and Kuhl, phase-out hard-to-gets. But when the suitor comes calling in person, who knows?

I'm sorry there've been so comparatively few posts in the last couple days. I've been spending close to all of my time in the heavily-caffeinated world of TPMCafe, hollering at the foremen, poring over the diagrams and blueprints, hammering nails into the beams and what-have-you. In any case, we're about to launch and we'll have an announcement on that the beginning of this week.

Just this morning I saw this typically-splendid article by the Post's Walter Pincus about yet more evidence of how many questions the intelligence community had about pretty much all the evidence of Iraqi WMD during the lead-up to the war. Pincus also makes mention of the secret British memo, which came to light in the final days of the recent British election, which suggested that almost a year before the start of the war the US was shaping the available intelligence to make the case for war.

I've gotten a stack of emails from readers asking me why I haven't mentioned this or made a bigger deal out of it. Some of this is due to the distractions I mentioned above. But when I asked myself the question what I came up with was a sense of something akin to futility. I mean, how much more evidence do we need exactly to confirm the completely undeniable fact that the administration bent every rule and was reflexively dishonest in almost every way about the claims of Iraqi WMD?

Admittedly, the fact that something is obvious -- or that I perceive it as such -- is not usually a standard I apply before I start hammering on an issue. But it made me think back to an experience I had while working on the Niger uranium story last year, and one I wanted to share with you.

Much of the work I did on the Niger story, both before and after the report was released, gravitated around the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee report on Iraqi WMD. And we were working committee sources on both sides of the aisle before and after it was released.

It certainly comes as no surprise to me that such a report would be incomplete and in some ways misleading. Certain highly sensitive subjects might be passed over for legitimate national security reasons and even authors who, as a general matter, wanted to keep the public informed, might shade the truth in some particulars.

But when I read the report's treatment of the topics that I'd gotten to know about in some detail I was genuinely surprised at how much it was not only misleading but how much almost the entire presentation of the facts was quite consciously engineered to give the reader precisely the opposite impression of what actually happened.

The level of mendacity was even more surprising because the report was signed off on by both the committee Republicans and the committee Democrats. And, no, I'm not saying that Democrats are intrinsically any less capable of bamboozlement than Republicans. But in this case they very much did have antagonistc political interests. And it wasn't clear to me why those political interests if nothing else would not have made them less willing to go along with such a whitewash of what happened.

I guess it was probably the same reason the Dems let themselves get scammed by Sen. Roberts with the long-awaited second-half of the committee's investigation (the one set to look at how the administration politicized and manipulated the intelligence), which he blew off once the election was safely over.

If you're going to be anywhere near a TV on Sunday evening, don't miss 60 Minutes. They have a segment they're running about the millions of dollars the federal government is spending to convince children and adolescents that condoms arent' very effective at preventing STDs or pregnancy. You may be familiar with the general topic. But the interviews with Bush administration officials and those they're funding will really take your breath away.

Kevin Drum puts the whole 'nuclear option' drama into perspective. This is really a post you must read. As Kevin says, the Republicans really brought this whole mess on all of us. For further discussion of the point, see this post by 'Hunter' at Dailykos.com.