Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

"A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement." ... That's the apology Senator Trent Lott issued tonight in the face of the mounting controversy -- some of it blog-borne -- over his endorsement of Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential platform from 1948.

In such a situation one doesn't want to appear to be flogging a dead horse even after the guy has a apologized. And to me this issue transcends partisanship so I especially would not want to appear to be doing that. But frankly this strikes me as a pretty feeble apology. He won't say what 'policies' he's talking about. He won't say they're wrong, just that they were 'discarded'.

It's probably too much to ask for him to get down on his knees and confess his sins. But given Lott's history of flirtation with neo-segregationist politics and the seriousness of the original statement, something a bit more explicit and specific was and is in order.

Really, why so grudging? Why so hard to say that he knows, like everyone else knows, that segregation was wrong? It's like getting blood from a stone. If Ron Bonjean needs some help drafting a new apology, I refer him back to my proposed statement from yesterday.

"I think that a lot of the fundamental principles that Jefferson Davis believed in are very important to people across the country, and they apply to the Republican Party ... After the War between the States, a lot of Southerners identified with the Democrat Party because of the radical Republicans we had at that time, particularly in the Senate. The South was wedded to that party for years and years and years. But we have seen the Republican Party become more conservative and more oriented toward the traditional family values, the religious values that we hold dear in the South. And the Democratic party is going in the other direction. As a result, more and more of The South's sons, Jefferson Davis' descendants, direct or indirect, are becoming involved with the Republican party. The platform we had in Dallas, the 1984 Republican platform, all the ideas we supported there - from tax policy, to foreign policy; from individual rights, to neighborhood security - are things that Jefferson Davis and his people believed in." ... Trent Lott, Interview in Southern Partisan magazine, IV, 1984.

For weeks I've been defending The New York Times from attacks from various quarters, alleging this mistake or that, of fact or interpretation.

Now I've found one. And though it's admittedly in the Times crossword puzzle I still can't let it pass.

On Saturday December 7th, the clue for 16 across was "Traitorous leader of occupied France in W.W.II." Now from the length of the word and the others around it, it was pretty clear the answer was 'Petain,' as in Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain. (I waited till today for confirmation. And 'Petain' it was.)

The only problem is that the clue doesn't match the answer because Petain wasn't the leader of occupied France. After France's defeat, the country was divided in two. There was the occupied zone in the North run by Germany. Then there was the collaborationist Vichy government in the South, which sued for peace and allied itself with the Nazis.

Petain was the head of state in Vichy, not 'occupied France.'

Now perhaps this is a point of detail (though to people at the time -- and since -- it was a very important point of detail). But regardless of that, points of detail are the lifeblood of crosswords, no? I could just imagine thousands of non-historical-illiterates searching for what the answer could be on Saturday since they knew it couldn't be Petain, and now having their confidence in the Times' crossword shattered, perhaps never to be recovered.

Maybe the Times really is suffering from some deep internal rot. Could Raines be responsible for this too? Is it some insidious pro-frog bias?

These days close-fought, down-to-the-wire elections are pretty much win-win propositions for Republicans. Either they win, in which case they're rightly psyched. Or they lose, in which case they get yet another chance to whine about how they got cheated, feel sorry for themselves, and generally indulge that defining emotional characteristic of contemporary conservatism: self-pity.

In the current issue of National Review, Byron York has a cover story -- unfortunately not available online -- in which he alleges that Senator Tim Johnson won reelection through vote fraud. I've wanted to respond to this profoundly problematic story online for a few days. But I haven't yet been able to make time. However, since Byron is going on Fox this evening to talk about the piece let me just flag one important fact. And I'll try to put together a thorough run-down of the issue at some later point.

York's piece is based on about fifty affidavits compiled by a bunch of 'Republican lawyers' in the state. One of them was John Lauck, whom TPM readers will remember from this earlier incident. South Dakota's Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett, according to the Sioux Falls' Argus Leader, "reviewed the documents for the first time last week [and] said there were no vote-changing revelations."

If you want the real scoop on this issue, read the piece by David Kranz from Saturday.

Wait a second. I thought John Snow was just another bland non-entity the White House was installing across the street at Treasury. Turns out Snow's company, CSX, also has some pretty good tax attorneys. In three of the last four years, according to this press release from Citizens for Tax Justice, CSX paid no federal taxes even though it showed a profit in each of those four years.

Profiles in courage from the Washington Post.

Here's David Broder from yesterday on Meet the Press, commenting on Trent Lott's endorsement of the platform Strom Thurmond's pro-segregation, anti-civil-rights 1948 presidential candidacy ...

It’s not the first time that he has had to explain his association with or references to that kind of race-focused rhetoric in the South. He was involved a few years ago speaking to a group that was pretty overtly racist in the South. Race remains, much as we would like it to be otherwise, a very, very important factor in our national life. And it is a decisive factor in Southern politics. Any Southern politician that you talk to can tell you with precision exactly what percentage of the white vote he or she needs to get, because all of them assume that 90 percent or more of the black vote is going to the Democrats. As long as that racial divide continues, any kind of comment like this on Senator Lott’s part is going to be-have all kinds of bad resonance.
Does Broder really need his calls returned by Lott that badly? Is that really the best he can do? A 'bad resonance'?

Here's Broder on the shame of President Clinton and how Broder thought he'd besmirched Washington. "He came in here and he trashed the place. And it's not his place."

David Broder, the dean of the Washington press corps. Says it all.

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before the Bush administration realized that it had made a mistake in filling the Treasury Secretary post with a bland, unknown, Ford administration retread, who made his name as the CEO of an Old Economy stalwart. They sure won't make that mistake again.

Oh wait ...

Good for Andrew Sullivan. Andrew and I disagree about a lot. But he's right on the mark in not only taking exception to Trent Lott's outrageous comments in favor of racial segregation but giving them the full measure of outrage they deserve. As he says, the real question is why this incident is still being treated as no more than a minor embarrassment or a simple gaffe.

What really strikes me is not only the original comment but Lott's unwillingness to take it back or even explain it. To the best of my knowledge his only response came in a terse two sentence statement from his flack Ron Bonjean:

Senator Lott's remarks were intended to pay tribute to a remarkable man who led a remarkable life. To read anything more into these comments is wrong.
That's the flack's equivalent of 'go jump in a lake.'

The fault isn't with Lott; it's with evil commentators who are reading too much into what he said. On its face the statement makes no sense, since the simple logic of Lott's remarks went well beyond this 'remarkable life' mumbo jumbo. More to the point, however, there's a simple -- if disingenuous -- way of dealing with this sort of thing. Lott or his flack immediately comes forward and says something like this ...

I have great respect for my retiring colleague Strom Thurmond. But some of my comments at his Birthday party last week may have been unclear. Everyone should know that I believe segregation was wrong. And as incoming-Majority I'm very proud of the progress our nation has made in guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights of all Americans, regardless of race, creed or color.
Simple. Short. Almost certainly dishonest. But in such situations honesty isn't always the most important virtue. Trent Lott may not believe in civil rights for blacks. It's a disaster for the country if he doesn't. But if he doesn't, it's still important -- given who he is -- that he say he does, that he genuflect publicly to the ideal. It's important for him to say something like this if for no other reason than to underscore the fact that anyone who doesn't support racial equality -- even in this most general sense -- is politically beyond the pale.

The mystery is why he hasn't even said something like that. He doesn't even think it's a big enough deal that he has to address it publicly. An even bigger mystery is why his unwillingness hasn't generated more controversy or a serious push to make him resign as Majority Leader.

"I'm 100 percent pro-life. As a practicing Catholic, I did not leave my faith as did Mary Landrieu." ... Suzanne Haik Terrell, close-but-no-cigar loser in today's Louisiana run-off election (52-48, Landrieu), questioning Mary Landrieu's Catholicism.

Couldn't have happened to a nicer lady ...

"But, Candy, truly, I mean there's really no chance that Susie Terrell is going to lose this, is there? I mean, if you were betting, you would never bet on the incumbent senator, would you?" ... Tucker Carlson from Thursday night's Crossfire.