Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

We've talked a lot about Tom White in recent weeks. White, of course, is the former career army officer and former Enron Energy Services vice chairman who now serves as Secretary of the Army. What I didn't know, though, is that White is also the "interim executive agent for homeland security." In other words, he's the guy at the Pentagon in charge of protecting the mainland until they devise a new appointive position and/or military command to oversee the task.

Also on the Tom White front, you'll remember that a couple weeks ago we reported that Public Citizen was preparing to unleash a report on White's service at Enron Energy Services. They were telling folks that the report would cost White his job. "A bombshell" was how one person familiar with the report described it to me.

A week later we reported that the Public Citizen report was focused on the company's role in fomenting or exacerbating last year's California energy crisis.

So where's the report? Good question!

I've been keeping tabs on this and the word has been that they're taking their time letting the lawyers go over the report with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that everything is kosher. But it's been a while now and you start to wonder.

Maybe White dodges this bullet? Is there some problem with the report? What's the hold up exactly?

I've gotten an amazing amount of feedback about my series of posts on dual-citizenship.

I'll try to address the various points in a series of posts.

The first question to tackle is whether what we're talking about is principally an issue of 'loyalty.' I don't think it is. Unlike many conservatives I'm not worried that today's immigrants are essentially different from those of 25, 50, or 100 years ago in their basic desire to become Americans and assimilate. We could dredge up the silly and well-worn question of whether Mexican-Americans would choose Mexico or America if the two countries went to war, or whether American Jews would fight for Israel or America, or Irish-Americans for Ireland or America.

But I find these scenarios as irrelevant as they are improbable. (I'm not saying it's never an issue, just not the most important one.) We've had a long national debate over whether it's a good thing that "ethnic" Americans (if we can use that deeply problematic phrase) maintain deep social and cultural attachments to their native countries. I think it's just fine. In fact, I think it's a very good thing, a very American thing.

But it's a different issue than the question of citizenship.

Many of the responses I've gotten have raised very good points. But what strikes me about most of the ones that disagree with me is that their authors have a quite thin and what seems to me impoverished idea of citizenship.

I've received a number of emails from dual citizens who have the status because of a foreign-born parent or spouse or some similar reason. And from many of these folks the response is something like this: 'I'm an American citizen but I've also got this French or German or Sudanese citizenship sort of in my back pocket, as it were. Why is it such a big deal?'

In a sense I suppose it's not a very big deal. But doesn't this trivialize what it should mean to be a citizen of one of those countries? It's sounds less like a civic, national identity than a sort of heritage knickknack or heirloom. Citizenship isn't just about having a standing right of residency or something you have because you have some attachment or family connection to a particular country. I think it's something more than that -- particularly in the context of American citizenship.

Let me try to sketch out my idea of citizenship. I see the American national community as a sort of club. A very large one, yes. A very diverse one. And one in which we'll only ever meet a very small fraction of the members. But a club nonetheless. It trivializes what this means to reduce it to questions of which side would you fight on if the two countries went to war. Or sneering questions about loyalty and disloyalty.

The basis of the club and our membership in it is our fundamental equality. And the essence of that equality, as I see it, is that we've all thrown in our lots together. Some of us who were born here do it implicitly others who are newcomers did explicitly. But we've all committed ourselves to this group, this enterprise, this club, this nation. If some of us are American citizens and others of us are citizens of this and another country then we're not quite equal anymore. The basis of our equality and citizenship is challenged.

More on the dual citizenship question in a bit, and also dual-citizenship in the context of 9/11 and globalization.

The Florida AFL-CIO's endorsement of Bill McBride should give pause to anyone who thinks Janet Reno is going to be the Democratic nominee to face Jeb Bush. The question is why McBride, a relative unknown, would get the nod over Reno. Is it because they think she can't win?

I'm glad to see that my earlier post on dual citizenship has sparked a lot of responses on various sites and in a number of emails.

Let me elaborate on a few points.

There are a number of people who believe that dual-citizens are so many potential fifth columnists, or that the current existence of many dual-citizens presents some real and present danger to our national fabric. I don't think either of these is true.

Another point. A number of people write in to say that this is largely an enforcement issue and that it's unenforceable. The point being that the United States can't dictate to France or Israel or Mexico or any other country who they do or do not consider to be their citizens.

This is true of course. But I think it's beside the point, because we do have quite a bit of control over and say about American citizens who either claim a second citizenship or, more importantly, exercise citizenship rights in another country. (I seem to remember once being told that the old Soviet Union deemed its own citizenship to be un-alienable. Once a Soviet citizen, always a Soviet citizen. But again, who cares?) Other countries can say whatever they want. The issue is what American citizens do.

One reader from the British Isles writes in to say that my sense of citizenship as unitary is a uniquely -- and perhaps revealingly -- American understanding of what citizenship is. I think is true. And actually that's part of the point.

More on this tomorrow.

I was wondering whether it might be a good idea to start a support group for progressives (or center-left types) who really believe in reining in the role of money in politics and also really believe that part of the current bill may be bad policy and unconstitutional.

It's no fun believing something on principle and finding yourself standing together with a bunch of wretches who merely believe in protecting the power of organized wealth to beat back popular and necessary reforms. But what are you gonna do?

I'm speaking of course about the part of the soon-to-be-law which places limits on advertising by independent issue advocacy groups in the lead-up to elections. We'll be saying more about this soon and also getting into the reluctant but growing reservations I have about the campaign finance laws we already have.

For the moment though let me touch on another point.

Why is Ken Starr the lead attorney for the legal challenge to McCain-Feingold?

For my part, I believe that Starr's ethical standing and integrity are deeply compromised by a host of things he did while he was Independent Counsel in the Whitewater investigation. Of course I'm not a neutral observer and I have strongly held views on the matter. But let's assume that you don't believe as I do. Still, why is he the lead attorney?

You don't have to believe that Starr did anything wrong as IC to recognize the unavoidable truth that he has become a deeply polarizing figure with a very high partisan profile. Fair or not, it's just a fact.

Doesn't selecting him to head up the legal team saddle the constitutional question with all of Starr's baggage and give the legal battle an even more partisan (in the worst sense of the word) color than it already does and inevitably will?

The decision is even more puzzling when you figure that Starr doesn't even seem particularly well qualified for the job. Starr is, as far as I knew, an appellate lawyer, not a first amendment expert -- as many of the other members of the team are. That doesn't mean his expertise is deficient, per se. But it certainly rules out any thought that his qualifications somehow trump his too-apparent liabilities.

It seems to me that Mitch McConnell has done everyone a great disservice with this pick. Why he's done so, I'm really not sure.

For some reason I hadn't heard of Joe Klein's new book The Natural until now. It's apparently Klein's non-fictional attempt to take stock of, evaluate, and place into historical context the Clinton presidency. I'm going to run out and get it. And from the descriptions I've now read I'd recommend it to you as well.

(I'm not recommending it per se, mind you. Or endorsing what it says. How could I? I haven't even read it yet. But I'm sure it'll be an interesting read.)

I've always had deeply conflicted opinions about Klein, particularly in his middle-1990s anti-Clinton phase. One of the first non-academic articles I ever wrote when I was trying to transition into political writing, circa 96-97, was a critique of Klein and several others I grouped with him. (The piece never even got submitted for publication, let alone appeared in print -- a long story.) But his long interview-based article in the New Yorker in 2000 turned a refreshingly new page on his decade long engagement with Clinton.

According to a post today on Kausfiles, Klein says he wrote this book partly because "it has become too fashionable to flatly reject Clinton as a kind of bad dream."

It pains me to admit the degree to which this is true. But it hasn't made me lose too much sleep or faith. I'm quite confident that the Clinton presidency will stand the test of time, media scrutiny and historical scrutiny. (Most media scrutiny and contemporary pundit-comment is ungrounded and shallow anyway.) And the current presidency, whatever its advocates and opponents may say, seems unlikely to me to efface many of the previous president's accomplishments.

I don't want to flog a dead horse here, of course. Or mercilessly whack an unacknowledged error. But one more point on the Lieberman-Enron-American Prospect micro-scandal.

We've noted that it is quite legitimate to say that contributor X gave money to candidate Y if contributor X gave money to contributor Y's 'leadership PAC.'

And what, again, is a 'leadership PAC'? It's basically a modern, campaign finance law approved, patronage engine. Big pols get money on their own name and then dole it out to other pols -- primarily smaller fry -- to get various chits, gratitutde, and other favors.

Here's an example: Joe Lieberman's leadership PAC, Responsibility Opportunity Community PAC, aka ROC PAC.

I looked at the list of individual and PAC givers to ROC PAC at the the FEC website. And there's no Enron, though the Arthur Andersen PAC did give ROC PAC $5000.

Saying money to ROC PAC is money to Joe Lieberman? Accurate and totally fair.

Saying money to the NDN is money to Joe Lieberman? False and unfair.

I spoke briefly to one of the children of light at the American Prospect today and this person informs me that, notwithstanding yesterday's post, the Prospect still believes it's right in claiming that money given to the New Democrat Network, an organization Joe Lieberman co-founded with two others six years ago, actually counts as money given directly to Joe Lieberman. Apparently the whole "current leader" bit isn't the point. It's that he was a co-founder of the organization.

As we noted yesterday, this logic would be valid if the NDN were a 'leadership PAC' or a PAC run by or on behalf of Joe Lieberman. (An example of this might be John McCain's Straight Talk America PAC). But neither seems to be the case.

My understanding is that NDN is more like a New Dem version of Emily's List, with money going to striving or sad-sack New Dems in the marginal districts they inhabit around the country. Simon Rosenberg is the President of NDN. So perhaps he could tell us whether NDN functions as the equivalent of Lieberman's leadership PAC.

According to TAP, however, this sort of counting is just standard practice is campaign finance reform circles. I don't think that's true, though. I think this is at best a distortion of the normal practice of tabulating campaign contributions.

Or if it is standard procedure, then perhaps Enron economics is more widespread than I thought.

I just noticed this article in National Review Online discussing the question of dual-citizenship, and particularly the unique issue of Mexican-American dual citizenship. This is a complex question, of course, touching on the unique relationship between the US and Mexico, assimilation, the trans-national Southwestern economy, and so forth.

The broader issue, however -- the idea of dual-citizenship -- is one about which I have quite strong views.

I don't think the United States should allow dual-citizenship at all. Not ever. Not with Australia, not with Canada, not with Israel, not with Mexico. Not with anyone.

Children present a unique case, of course. They should be allowed to maintain a dual nationality until they reach adulthood so they can make a mature decision about which country to adhere to. But why should any adult be allowed to be a citizen of two countries at once. And under what theory of citizenship does such a practice make sense?

I'm very pro-globalization, very internationalist in foreign policy and outlook. But citizenship is inherently unitary. It implies not only membership but allegiance to a political community and a state. One can no sooner be a citizen of two countries than a husband to two wives or a wife to two husbands. The very idea is a solecism in civic thought.

To my mind, this isn't a conservative view. It's a liberal one. One of the things that makes us all equal as citizens is the fundamental reality that makes us citizens: membership and allegiance to this political community, this country. That's what allows an immigrant citizen to be just as much an American as the guy whose ancestors came on the Mayflower.

Just what is going on with United States policy in East Asia?

As we've discussed at some length already, the post of chief American envoy to Taiwan has remained vacant for months. James Kelly is the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific. And he -- others certainly too, but he's been the most insistent -- has been holding out for months to give that job to Douglas H. Paal.

(Kelly, you'll remember, accused TPM of being a practitioner of "hack journalism.")

Now there's another odd development brewing.

Until recently Torkel Patterson was the head of Asia policy at the National Security Council -- the official title is "senior director for Asian affairs." He resigned, rather abruptly, in late January of this year.

Now Patterson is telling friends and colleagues around Washington -- and not that discreetly, mind you -- that Kelly will be gone from the State Department in the not-too-distant future and that he -- Torkel Patterson -- will be the new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

(The idea, apparently, is a time-frame of a year or maybe less.)

What exactly is going on isn't completely clear. Certainly not to me, and apparently not to a number of DC Asia hands either. Is Patterson just trying to lay claim to the post after Kelly leaves? Is he trying to muscle Kelly out of his job? Or is he just not that discreet?

It's not clear. But it is raising a lot of eyebrows.