Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

And of course, there's more. In a landmark case decided in 1983 Bob Jones University sued the government of the United States, and particularly the IRS, claiming the IRS had wrongly taken away its tax-exempt status because the school practiced racial discrimination. The Court found against Bob Jones University and another petitioner, Goldsboro Christian Schools, Inc.

Deep in the court opinion we find this little snippet noting which individuals and organizations had filed amicus briefs on behalf of BJU and Goldsboro.

Briefs of amici curiae urging reversal in No. 81-3 were filed by Earl W. Trent, Jr., and John W. Baker for the American Baptist Churches in the U.S. A. et al.; by William H. Ellis for the Center for Law and Religious Freedom of the Christian Legal Society; by Forest D. Montgomery for the National Association of Evangelicals; and by Congressman Trent Lott, pro se.
Drip, drip, drip ...

Here is a very interesting -- and, to my mind, persuasive -- article from Slate on why the president's new pick to head the SEC -- William Donaldson -- is really impressive and why his pick for Treasury -- John Snow -- really isn't.

The essence of the story is that Donaldson really built a business, turned profits, is public-spirited, and so forth; Snow was your standard highly compensated CEO who didn't produce a very good return for investors. More importantly, he was what the author calls an "access capitalist", less an entrepreneur than someone business brings in from government to shake the Washington money tree for helpful regulations, deals, pork and the like.

The author of the Slate piece, Daniel Gross, makes the apt point that the Snow model is a pretty common one in this administration -- including the president, vice-president, defense secretary, and many others.

I think you can take this a bit further though. Critics of this administration often hit it for being full of so-called Chicken-hawks, folks who are all gung-ho to get into wars but somehow never found time to put on a uniform themselves.

On the economic side of the equation, it's also filled with what I'm calling (in a piece I'm now working on) safety-net entrepreneurs. Those would be folks who talk a great game about markets and risk-taking and entrepreneurship and gumption and such but have actually made their cash in ventures which are almost immune from real risk and where their skill isn't entrepreneurship but the ability to work the bureaucracy and purse strings of -- yikes! -- big government. Safety-nets for the poor and middle-class damage character; for the businessmen, they work just fine.

Dick Cheney's career at Haliburton is almost the archetypal example; Snow's seems a decent runner-up.

Finally, there's this piece in the LA Times. It seems former Goldman Sachs Chairman Stephen Friedman's appointment as head of the National Economic Council is on hold because supply-side activists are worried that he cares too much about fiscal responsibility and not enough about tax cuts.

That's a fascinating story. But there's an even more interesting one implicit within it. After the defenestration of Messrs. Lindsey and O'Neill the White House has been looking for people who are really respected on Wall Street and in corporate America -- not just think-tank hacks or ideologues. And they're also looking for people who will support their plans to push the budget even further into the red.

Doesn't it look like they're having a rather difficult time finding people who fit into both categories? Donaldson counts. But his position has nothing to do with fiscal policy. Friedman might too; but he may never even make it to the gate.

You don't have to feel sorry for Trent Lott. But I'm willing to shed a few tears -- and not just crocodile ones -- for his hapless flack Ron Bonjean as he tries to spin his boss's way out of a web of old statements in praise of segregation, the Dixiecrat party, and miscellaneous other examples of the abhorrent and ridiculous.

As today's Times reports, at a rally with Strom Thurmond in 1980, Lott said "You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today."


Bonjean's attempt at damage control is so sorry and pitiful that it's almost like watching a car wreck. You want to look away. But you just can't help watching the carnage unfold.

A spokesman for Mr. Lott, Ron Bonjean, said the remarks at the 1980 rally also did not pertain to race but were made after Mr. Thurmond, then a top draw on the Republican circuit, had complained mightily about President Jimmy Carter, the national debt and federal meddling in state matters.

"We want that federal government to keep their filthy hands off the rights of the states," Mr. Thurmond was quoted as saying.

Mr. Bonjean, when shown the article, said, "Clearly, Senator Lott was praising the policies of Thurmond and Reagan, of smaller government and reducing the federal deficit." He noted that a campaign rally has a similar celebratory feeling as the party last week.

Strom Thurmond, deficit hawk!

An antecedent of the Concord Coalition?

Who knew?

Well, there's the other shoe dropping. Early today I got a tip that back in 1980 Trent Lott had used nearly the identical "poor choice of words" to lament Strom Thurmond's defeat in 1948. I was told by a very reliable source that he'd said the words at a Reagan campaign rally in Mississippi in 1980 with Thurmond by his side. Try as I might I couldn't get a hold of a transcript to confirm it.

But as of 10 PM this evening Drudge has it blaring across the top of his site. So I think we can be pretty confident that someone else was able to confirm it.

I don't want to overplay the political significance of this. And I'm certainly not going to say the guy is toast. But I think Trent Lott's in real trouble. The conventional wisdom on the news today was that Lott had pretty much put this story to bed with his 'apology.' I didn't think that was true. Now it seems clear that it's not true.

But you don't have to have your ear to the ground or be getting tips about long forgotten speeches to know this. Much of the wobbly coverage of this story (and much of the deep unease over this among conservatives) stems from fact that this obviously wasn't some misstatement or hyperbole or slip of the tongue. It's what the guy believes. You can tell that from just listening to his words. And it's clear from the man's long history of hobnobbing with neo-confederate wing-nuts and general nostalgia for the pre-civil-rights era South. It's even painfully, and belatedly, clear from his weird unwillingness to utter even a pro forma condemnation of segregation. It's what the guy believes. And for a lot of reasons that makes it hard for a lot of journalists to cover it.

You don't have to believe that the guy's an out and out racist. But it's very hard not to conclude that he sees the old Jim Crow days as the good ol' days. And that's pretty damn bad.

This shines a light in some pretty dark places. It makes a lot of people really uncomfortable. And it's not going away.

A whole article devoted to attacking lil' ol' me? And in the American Spectator no less? (Or at least its online alter-ego, The American Prowler?) This isn't payback for my not agreeing to contribute a list of books to the Christmas Books issue, is it? (You know, the email request you guys sent me on October 21st?) The piece is sprinkled with a few of what I'd call small errors of fact. But in general it's all above-the-belt and just the author's take on my recent posts on John Kerry and Trent Lott. And after all, being attacked is fun -- especially by the right people.

Ok, back to fighting the good fight. Nice to see this little operation is drawing some blood.

As we've noted earlier, there's a cover story in this week's National Review alleging various forms of vote fraud in the South Dakota Senate race, which supposedly cost the Republican candidate, John Thune, the election. You've got conservatives in town jumping around like monkeys over this (I even see them popping up and down outside my window sometimes...). So let me just note a few points to keep this all in, shall we say, perspective.

Here's an article from today's Rapid City Journal -- the more conservative of the state's major papers -- in which the Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, debunks the RNC-collected affidavits on which the National Review article is based.

Definitely read the article to get the whole picture. But here are a few choice snippets.

"Realistically, many of the things set out in those affidavits are not crimes. They are what I would call local election-board management problems," Barnett, a Republican, said. "A fair number could be read as complaints about how effective the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort was. They had people watching, then jumping on the phone to one of their drivers."
And about those Democratic goons who kept the polls open late in that one precinct? Well maybe not so much ...
Barnett offered an on-the-spot Election Day legal opinion about what to do when poll workers inadvertently opened the polls at 7 a.m. Central time, an hour too early according to the law.

"Saying the polls were open too long is not an accurate way to describe it. It was opened too early," Barnett said. "Several affidavits assume that Democratic operatives are the ones who made it stay open. That's not accurate. It was Republican officials who made the decision, myself among them."

State law does not say polls shall be open for 12 hours, he said. The law says polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., local time.

"If you screw up and open at 6, you don't fix a morning screw-up by doing an evening screw-up," Barnett said. "If a voter had walked up to a polling place at 6:30 p.m. and found a padlocked door, we would have had the clearest case of a voter-rights violation that I ever heard of. If statute says you're open until 7, you're open until 7."

Hopefully this dose of truth will cut down on the local monkeys' hang-time.

In the department of quotes that just make you cringe, see this graf from the Associated Press article which reports Trent Lott's 'apology'.

Kevin L. Martin, government and political affairs director of the African American Republican Leadership Council, said people were overreacting to the remarks. "By no means was he endorsing segregation or anything like that. It was lighthearted, it was humorous." Martin said Lott captures 25 percent of the black vote in Mississippi, which he said couldn't happen if Lott were a racist.
Ugh ...

"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.