Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay, I need to be more clear. Last night I printed a letter from a reader (Bryan M.) calling me to task. He said that if I wanted the president to fire the two anonymous "senior administration officials" who blew Valerie Plame's cover at the CIA, it was incumbent on me to identify them first. As he said ...

If you think the President should fire someone aren't you obligated to tell him who it is he should fire? Or does it matter to you? If he fired two people at random would that be ok?
A slew of readers wrote in asking why I had agreed with the reader's criticism when his point seemed so ridiculous. After all, if the idea is that the president should dispense with the need for an investigation by getting to the bottom of the mess himself and disciplining the culprits, how am I supposed to be either able to or obligated to identify them for him in advance.

As I said, sometimes mockery can be too understated: Bryan's criticism seemed ridiculous to me too.

As it happens, a few readers have written in to say that firing a couple aides at random might marginally improve the situation as well. But I'm not yet willing to go that far.

Oh that's classic. Remember Mahdi Obeidi? The nuclear scientist who dug up the centrifuge parts from his backyard and turned them over to the CIA?

Great guy, did the right thing, came clean, straight-shooter, never liked Saddam, didn't want the hardware to fall into the wrong hands.

A real mensch, as my people would say.

Only one problem: he says the aluminum tubes were for artillery rockets, not centrifuges.


This from Thursday's Post ...

The sources said Obeidi also disputed evidence cited by the administration -- namely Iraq's purchase of aluminum tubes that various officials said were for a new centrifuge program to enrich uranium for nuclear bombs. Obeidi said the tubes were for rockets, as Iraq had said before the war.

CIA analysts do not believe he has told the whole truth, said one Bush administration official. Obeidi has left Iraq under CIA auspices after being arrested briefly by U.S. Army troops.

I think I'd like to hear directly from the analysts on this one.

Here's another example of how hazardous it can be to start typing on your keyboard without first putting the key in the ignition of your brain.

Yesterday in my column in The Hill, I noted that two "senior administration officials" blew the cover of CIA agent Valerie Plame in their effort to discredit her husband Joseph Wilson, the retired diplomat who went on the mission to Niger. We know they were two "senior administration officials" because they leaked the information to Robert Novak and that's the phrase Novak used to describe them in his column.

In the column I said "the president should find out who they are, reprimand them or, preferably, fire them."

This evening I got this edgy email from Bryan M.

If you think the President should fire someone aren’t you obligated to tell him who it is he should fire? Or does it matter to you? If he fired two people at random would that be ok?
A mind, as they say, is a terrible thing to waste. Just not using it can be pretty bad too.

TPM is looking for an intern.

No, this isn't some lead-in to humor at the expense of our former president. TPM is really looking for an intern.

TPM is in the process of an upgrade that will add a number of features many readers have long requested: a printer-friendly function, an RSS feed, easier-to-read text, ads, a whole bunch of stuff.

The intern will assist with this upgrade and then with on-going site maintenance.

Applicants should be well-versed in basic web design skills and be familiar with current web design technologies. ('Current' would mean unlike TPM who is well-versed in circa 1996 web design technologies.) They should be interested in both the technical and political aspects of the website. Living in the Washington area is ideal, but not required.

The commitment of time should be fairly light, certainly an amount that could easily be accommodated while working in a full-time job or academic program.

If you apply you should know that the internship will probably be profoundly non-remunerative. But you will get the opportunity to have hands-on experience working with a widely-read and influential political blog during what promises to be an exciting election season.

To apply, please send a resume, a brief description of your relevant experience and why you're interested in the position, and two references with email addresses provided. Send them to talk@talkingpointsmemo.com with the subject heading 'TPM Intern.'

Read this column by David Ignatius from July 18th. I don't think it got enough attention. Saddam Hussein's science adviser, Amir Saadi, was one of the less loathsome of the ex-regime's public faces. He was the liaison with the inspectors. He wasn't a Baath party member, had lived a good bit of time abroad, and he was the first guy to turn himself in.

That was on April 12th and he's apparently been in solitary ever since.

Here are two of the key grafs ...

Saadi's friends say there has been quiet discussion about his case with the Coalition Provisional Authority headed by L. Paul Bremer. Believing that Saadi is "clean," some officials of the authority have recommended three times to higher officials at the Pentagon that he be released, according to Saadi's friends. Each of these requests has been rejected, they say.


What's bothersome about these cases is that they reinforce the impression that the Bush administration has something to hide. Why not disclose the testimony of people the coalition worked so hard to catch? The only convincing explanation, argues a former CIA official, is that their accounts would "directly refute the Bush administration's insistence that WMD still exist somewhere -- an assertion that we all know is growing more questionable every day."

Take a peek at the whole column.

This is the statement that jumped out at me from the president's press conference this morning. (And, for what it's worth, I was surprised and impressed that he held one just now.)

We gathered a lot of intelligence. That intelligence was good, sound intelligence on which I made a decision.

And in order to, you know, placate the critics and the cynics about intention of the United States we need to produce evidence. And I fully understand it, and I'm confident that our search will yield that which I strongly believe: that Saddam had a weapons program.

I want to remind you, he actually used his weapons program on his own people at one point in time, which was pretty tangible evidence.

You can see where this is going, can't you? This is really great-moments-in-goal-post-moving.

Saddam had a weapons program.

And how can you believe he didn't have a weapons program, when he actually used the weapons from his weapons programs, albeit fifteen years ago.

This isn't just a slip of the tongue or a Bushism. This is where we're going. As the White House now wants to define it, the question is whether Iraq ever had a weapons program. Or, to put it more precisely, whereas some people are foolish enough to believe that the standard is whether Saddam actually still had the weapons programs we know he once had, the real standard is whether Saddam actually once had the weapons programs we know he once had.

This is too silly to even talk about. Everybody knows that's not what we're talking about.

As if we didn't have enough signs that the administration's priorities on the war on terrorism are seriously out of whack, now this.

The same day we hear of a renewed threat of 9/11-style hijackings, we also find out that our new air marshal program is being scaled back because of tight budgets at the Department of Homeland Security.

The number of screeners is being cut too.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Brian Turmail wouldn't get into the specifics of what changes were being made. But he did tell an MSNBC reporter that all programs at TSA are “subject to ongoing review.” He went on to say, “TSA’s current task is to balance the need to meet changing threats with the need to live within the agency’s budget. The federal air marshal budget is under review to determine how best to meet these two objectives.”

Can someone talk to this guy? Or maybe his boss?

I don't think these guys quite understand the 'task.'

Forget balance. As nearly as I can figure it, the 'task' is to do everything possible to prevent anyone from flying another one of our jets into a building.

Another TSA spokesman told the Washington Post that the marshal's program "is not exempt from budget realities facing the TSA."

Really? Can we make it exempt?

Here's some helpful information from that article in Wednesday's Post ...

Just one day before the [terrorism warning] memo was distributed, an official with the undercover Federal Air Marshal Service canceled what are considered some of the most vulnerable flight missions because they required marshals to spend nights in hotels, as well as cut training for Washington-area agents next month. The official cited "monetary considerations," according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
I'm sitting here at my keyboard just before two in the morning and I'm literally at a loss. I seldom like it when people make what are often facile comparisons between what we're spending in Iraq and this or that priority at home. But, in this case, how can you not? We're spending $4 billion a month in Iraq in what we're now being told is the "central battle in the war on terror." Can't we pop for these hotel rooms? I know budgets are always complicated matters in every government agency, no matter how sensitive or vital their mission. But you back up and look at the big picture here and it really defies comprehension.

I recently had a talk with an editor of mine when I had to make a tough call about whether or not to include a particular piece of information in an article. Journalism has all sorts of established rules for when you really have a story nailed and when you don't -- this or that number of sources, statements on the record or off the record, and so forth. But a lot of the toughest calls just come down to judgment, your gut feeling. During that conversation I told him how I usually make these decisions.

When I find myself in these situations the reasoning I use with myself goes something like this: 'Let's say I run with this story. And let's say it goes bad. And then I have to explain my reasoning to my editor. How is that conversation going to go? Am I going to have a good story to tell? Or am I going to have a why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot story to tell?'

It's a very clarifying mental exercise.

If something terrible happens with a plane, aren't a lot of people going to have a lot of why-was-I-such-a-friggin-idiot stories to tell?

Now, that's classic. A month or so after the Texas House Democrats hightailed it to Oklahoma to prevent the Tom DeLay re-redistricting, a state court ruled that the attempt to use the Department of Public Safety to track them down had in fact been illegal.

Since Gov. Rick Perry (R) and crew insist on knocking down every precedent in the state to get it done, the state senators have now gone to New Mexico in replay of the earlier saga. (New Mexico was apparently the choice because one of the abscondees recently had a heart attack and there were better or more convenient medical facilities nearby.) The most recent precedent down the drain is the one which requires a 2/3 vote in the state senate to bring a bill up for debate -- thus the senators' departure.

In any case, without the ability to use the state police, Republican state officials are now considering sending bounty-hunters across state lines to bring them back -- an idea you can certainly understand since bounty-hunters are such an upstanding and constitutionally-minded group of characters. Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) has helpfully obliged by issuing an opinion okaying the bounty hunter idea.

Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, has provided the Dems with a state police detail to protect them and, reportedly, has vowed to press kidnapping charges against any bounty hunters who try to take them into custody.

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the ultimate author of all this ridiculousness, is off on a tour of the Middle East where, one would imagine, he'll fit right in.

Joe Conason nicely tracks the Republicans' new "So Sue Me" defense on intel manipulation. Also, don't miss this nice piece by Fred Kaplan in Slate, detailing how the president's actions on how well things are going in Iraq are speaking louder than his words. Note to my neocon friends: I think your "flypaper" line may be about to be withdrawn by HQ. Just a heads-up. Don't be the last one to find out.