Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Newsday: "The short, disastrous nomination of Bernard Kerik ended with a whimper and may have ended Rudolph Giuliani's Teflon period -- a three-year stretch when his status as "America's Mayor" largely obscured his own shortcomings and the foibles of close associates."

The headline is "Flameout burns Rudy politically."

And how ...

The one clear casualty of the Cash-n-Kerik debacle is Rudy Giuliani. How much has his star been dimmed in Republican circles over this? Or at least in Bush circles. Or is there a difference anymore?

In all the flurry of stories about Bernard Kerik<$NoAd$>, I must confess that I missed this one in Wednesday's Post about his time in Saudi Arabia. This had been one of the many apparent feathers in Kerik's cap.

But according to the Post article ...

Since he was nominated last week to be homeland security secretary, however, nine former employees of the hospital have said that Kerik and his colleagues were carrying out the private agenda of the hospital's administrator, Nizar Feteih, and that the surveillance was intended to control people's private affairs. Feteih became embroiled in a scandal that centered in part on his use of the institution's security staff to track the private lives of several women with whom he was romantically involved, and men who came in contact with them, the ex-employees said.

Not only is this a rather unfortunate record, if true, but it jibes with other parts of his history -- running Riker's island as a Republican fief, the undying and unlimited fealty to Rudy, the rainmaking, whatever mumbo-jumbo happened in Iraq.

Newsweek's Mark Hosenball suggests that his investigation may have been what scotched the Kerik nomination. And he may be right. According to this story on the Newsweek website, early this evening Newsweek reporters faxed the White House documents detailing an arrest warrant that was issued for Kerik in 1998, stemming from a dispute over unpaid bills for a condo he owned in New Jersey.

It was only the tip of the iceberg.

I was away from the computer and any news for the evening and here I come back to find out that Bernard Kerik has withdrawn his name from consideration for head of DHS allegedly for a nanny problem. (AP quotes the White House saying simply that it was for "personal reasons.")

Frankly, I doubt that was all there was. As we've discussed on this site, only a president with majorities as compliant as George W. Bush has right now would have even considered nominating Kerik. On top of the mysterious departure from Baghdad and the Rudy and Co. rainmaking, there's the fact that he left the Riker's Island prison as something very near to a latter-day version of Tammany Hall. And that was hardly the end of it. Eventually, the pay-off to Rudy aspect of the nod would have come up too.

This is the Bush way of handling these sorts of things: if it's going to be bloody, dispatch him early. Don't even let it get to the hearings stage -- just like Linda Chavez.

I'll be very curious to hear the follow-on reporting about what really happened. What was the problem that did him in? When did the White House send the message? How did they do it?

Maybe not a horse-head in the bed-sheets, but there must be some story to tell.

Here is the extremely broad-ranging <$NoAd$>list of participants for the Social Security (abolition) panel at the president's "Securing Our Economic Future" conference.

Richard D. Parsons, Chairman and CEO, Time Warner Inc.; Co-Chair, President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security (New York, NY)

Liz Ann Sonders, Chief Investment Strategist, Charles Schwab and Co. (New York, NY)

William Roper, Dean, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Chapel Hill, NC)

James Glassman, Senior U.S. Economist, JP Morgan Chase (New York, NY)

Tim Penny, Professor, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota; Member, President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security; former U.S. Representative (Waseca, MN)

Sandy Jaques, National Advisory Council Member, Women for a Sound Social Security Choice (West Des Moines, IA)

Everyone from Wall Street economists who support ending Social Security, to think-tankers and activists who support it too.

[ed.note: I tried to find a link for everyone. But neither google nor Nexis gave me any results for "Sandy Jaques" or her organization "Women for a Sound Social Security Choice." So presumably it's another phoney-baloney astroturf outfit that's so new their site isn't even listed on google yet. I'd figure Mr. Synhorst would be more on his game for the big moment.]

Late Update: A reader sent in this press release about the mysterious Ms. Jaques from October 6th of this year. That was apparently before she cooked up 'Women for a Sound ... etc.' She seems to come out of Citizens for a Sound Economy.

From this page, it sounds like Jacques is a classic astroturf operative.

Could this be one of the things that got ol' Clark Kent Ervin out of favor at the White House?

You may have heard of the case Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, who was born in 1970 and immigrated to Canada in 1987. In September 2002, during a stopover in New York while returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia, he was taken into custody by US Immigration officials who claimed he had ties to al Qaida.

Arar was subsequently deported to Syria. And, when he returned to Canada over a year later, he claimed to have been tortured while in Syrian custody.

In December 2003 Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan wrote the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security -- that would be our Mr. Ervin -- asking him to conduct a review into the circumstances under which INS deported Arar to Syria despite that fact that he was carrying a Canadian passport at the time of his detention.

But, according to a letter Ervin sent Conyers on July 14th, 2004, he wasn't getting a lot of cooperation on his review.

(Before proceeding, it's important to note that whether or not Arar is a bad guy is an entirely separate question from whether the statutorily-empowered Department IG can review what happened.)

Ervin began his letter by explaining various delays in the review because of his inability to see classified documents and because of various claims of privilege by DHS lawyers.

Then, in the final three grafs, Ervin describes how he had been prevented from interviewing past and present government officials involved in the case as well as being denied access to additional government documents because DHS lawyers were asserting various legal privileges, such as attorney-client privilege, among others.

Ervin found the assertions of privilege to be bogus (my words, not his) but had had "no success", to use his words, in his efforts to get the access he felt he needed. Click here to see the passage from Ervin's letter.

After reading the letter, my question is less why the guy got canned than how he ever got hired by these guys in the first place.

I hear Sen. Collins ain't crazy about Ervin either, though the reasons I've heard for her disapproval seem debatable.

What is this world coming to when you have to quit your job at Hustler just because your stepdad gets nominated as AG?

Imagine for a moment that we were having a different sort of Social Security debate. In this alternative universe it wouldn't be about reform or privatization or who had the best plan to save Social Security. The issues would be different. The question would be whether we should abolish Social Security and replace it with a system of loosely-federally-regulated 401ks, or not.

It wouldn't be abolished overnight, of course, but phased out over time. So any oldsters collecting benefits now wouldn't need to worry. And the same would probably go for pre-fogies too ... say, anyone over 55.

But that's the essence of it: abolishing Social Security or not.

Well, guess what? That is exactly the debate we're having. Only many of Social Security's defenders don't seem to know it. It's not that they don't know it exactly. They, more than anyone, understand the stakes involved. But for all the great facts they're bringing to the table, they still seem content to frame the argument in a way that obscures the true issues involved and benefits their opponents immeasurably.

If the shoe were on the other foot, Republicans would not make the same mistake.