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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Turns out Al Gore isn't all that bummed after all. Yes, he's disappointed. Profoundly so. He's coming into his office a few hours a day, writing thank you notes, making calls, and so forth. But he's okay. He's in a good place.

Why? Because he thinks he won. He knows he won.

Yes, he accepts the verdict of the Supremes and all that.

But he got half a million votes more than George W. nationwide. And if those votes would have gotten counted in Florida, he thinks he would have won there too. He knows he would have.

So … he's in a good place.

Good for him!

P.S. How close are Talking Points' sources to the Veep?

Inches, buddy, inches …

If you're a Democrat, be happy.

Be very happy.

Yes, yes, I know that election thing didn't pan out so well. But the post-election -- actually the post-post-election -- is going very well indeed - at least in partisan terms.

Let's be frank: if Bush were smart, he'd be playing toward the middle. (I don't mean he should tack toward the center because 'that's where the people are.' I just mean that makes strategic sense.) But he's not doing that. His moves point toward a base-centric, ideological path of governance.

Yes, I know conservatives will be heartened by this. And they'd be furious if he took a different path. But what really worries Democrats is a canny path of cooptation. And for the moment they shouldn't be worrying at all.

This plays to all Bush's weaknesses.

(Ron Brownstein gets at some, but not all, of this in this article in today's LA Times.)

Like I said, if you're a Dem, be happy, be very happy.

P.S. Next up, Talking Points unveils the Democrats' grand strategy for the next two years.

You simply must read this article by David Broder in today's WashingtonPost. The headline reads "On 1st Look, [Bush's] Approach Earns Praise."

That's funny, though. Because just about every word in the piece reads more like "On 1st Look, Bush's approach makes people think he's an arrogant a$#h@le."

How did Bush open his first ever meeting with Senator Minority Leader Tom Daschle? "I came here to ask for one thing: I hope you never lie to me."

That's a good start.

Is he for real with this stuff? I wish Daschle would have slapped him around a bit for that one. But Daschle, wisely, is probably content to let Bush fall on his face.

The theme of the article is that Bush comes in with little sense that his questionable victory has any implications for how he should begin his presidency. He seems intent on swaggering it out, or, as his dad once said in a different context, 'kicking a lil' ass."

"His determination to press for the agenda on which he campaigned was clear," says Broder, "his readiness to adapt to the power-sharing implicit in the near-parity of party strength in Congress was less visible."

Here's some more:

Yet in his meetings Monday on Capitol Hill, Bush hardly behaved like someone who was sneaking into the White House by the back door. One Republican, watching him for the first time, was struck by the "Texas macho."

"There's some swagger to him," he said. "He swore a couple times just for emphasis."

"His body language was good -- very good eye contact," said one Democrat with whom he met. "He certainly doesn't lack for self-confidence."

A senior Bush aide who sat in on some of the sessions said he thought it "important that they heard from the man himself how seriously he takes the issues he campaigned on." And that message came through, according to auditors.

(Is Broder telling us to read between the lines? Or did he himself fail to do so?)

Thus far the wise buzz on Bush's seeming intransigence on the $1.3 trillion tax cut has been that he's just setting forth a good negotiating position - from which he knows he'll have to fall back. But this article makes it sound a bit more like he thinks he can get most of what he wants if he just sticks to his guns, kicks a little butt, and tells a few dopey stories about how he handled business in Texas.

Can you say … smack-down?

Let's turn now to the increasingly notorious Hillary Clinton book deal. My understanding was always that Newt Gingrich got in trouble for his book deal because he basically cut the deal with Rupert Murdoch's lobbyist. It wasn't an open bid. It was a sweetheart deal.

Hillary's book deal was the product of an open bid. So what exactly is the problem?

Yes, she should probably recuse herself from legislation directly affecting Viacom. But can't she write a book? Shouldn't she be able to make money from it? (Trust me: I know some folks at the Clinton Legal Expense Trust. They really need the money.) Does anyone doubt that a book in which Hillary discusses her marriage will sell about a gazillion copies? Does anyone doubt that it will sell more copies than Newt Gingrich's tome about third-wave, information age, opportunity-society claptrap and how it relates to dinosaurs?

No, I didn't think so.

Maybe there's something wrong with the book deal. Maybe she shouldn't have accepted an advance. But Newt's book deal just doesn't seem like an apt comparison.

I'm ready to give George W. his due when he makes a good call. I don't expect this to happen very often. But picking Colin Powell was a very solid decision.

But let's get something straight. Great Guy, Lousy Doctrine. The Powell Doctrine essentially says: if you only fight fights you can win easily, then you'll win every fight. That's not a doctrine, it's a tautology, a truism. It gives you no guidance for ascertaining or protecting national interests.

Like well-designed scientific experiments, good doctrines must be capable - in their nature - of failing. And Powell's isn't. Because you don't know what you should have done, but didn't.

Still with me?

Anyway, it's a doctrine that might work for a Secretary of Defense, but not a Secretary of State. Approve Powell, not his doctrine.

Also, if there's anyone Talking Points loves more than Al Gore, it's Bill Clinton. But I must say it's pretty disappointing to hear he's considering a pardon for Indian-rights-activist- cum-convicted-murderer Leonard Peltier. I mean, isn't this sort of like finding out that Clinton's favorite musician is Kenny G.? Anyone who's really hip knows that Peltier really did ice those two FBI agents back in the seventies. For God's sake, they teach that in the second week of freshman orientation. Peltier's the Mumia of the Me-generation. Who doesn't know that?

If I find out that my man Bill has the cultural literacy and political acumen of a granola-fied sixteen year old, I'm gonna cry.

Here are a few thoughts on the Gore in Four question.

(First, take into account that Talking Points is something of a Gore booster. So keep that in mind when evaluating his credibility on this question.)

1. On the question of the quality of Gore's campaign. Most of my friends say Gore ran a crummy campaign. More important, the one person whose political opinions I respect more than anyone else (I'll him Mr. X) says Gore ran a crummy campaign. However, consider this question: How many losing candidates do you know who ran good campaigns? How many losing candidates do you know of, of whom it was said: "Man! He lost big. But damn did he run a great campaign!" Right. None.

This doesn't mean Gore didn't run a crummy campaign. Just that it's very hard to evaluate a campaign through the prism of it's own defeat. (Of course, I too often thought that Gore ran a crummy campaign and said so here and here among other places. So who knows.)

2. When you're reading an article about whether Dems will support Gore for another run in 2004 don't forget to use the Talking Points de-knife-in- the-back-spin formula. (Formula: count number of quotations from politicians who themselves want to run in 2004. Double this number. Now divide the number of paragraphs in the article by this doubled number. If the answer is less than one throw away the article; between one and two, take it with a grain of salt; over two, take it seriously.)

2b. Quotes by shameless stab-in-the-back self-promoters like Bob Torricelli who may be in denial and think they can run in 2004 count for THREE under the Talking Points de-knife-in -the-back formula.

3. It's just too early to tell. Go back to what people were saying about Dick Nixon in early 1961. No one had any idea what 1964 would be like or 1968 would be like. All speculation right now makes no sense.

4. Dukakis is not a realistic analogy for Gore. Dukakis was utterly untested politically outside the provincial environs of Massachusetts. Gore's been in national politics for a quarter century. Plus, Dukakis completely sucked as a candidate and Gore only kinda sucked. Not comparable.

5. Pundits are ignoring the real angle for a possible Gore comeback. With deft management (okay, not that likely) Gore could turn his primary disability this year into an advantage. That disability was that he had connections with almost every wing of the party but he wasn't quite identified with or beloved by any of them. However, without the centripetal force of Clintonism Dems may well become more polarized between their labor-left and New Dem wings. Gore could turn out to be one of the only people to run with support in both these groups, who can bridge that gap. Gore has developed quite good relations with the labor wing of the party. And the folks at the DLC, once they get through shamelessly stabbing him in the back, will realize he's still at heart basically one of them. (In some respects this bridging is what Nixon was able to do in 1968. Yes, back to Nixon.)

P.S. Email to my friends with gorenet.com email addresses is starting to get bounced back with "fatal errors." Ouch! Okay, I've got to deal. This really must be over.

P.P.S. Al, don't fret. Some of these points above must be true. Don't fret. You want Talking Points to come work for you and play Boswell to your Dr. Johnson? Just say the word!

P.P.P.S. Alright, I've really got to get over this.

Talking Points is announcing a new contest!

Who can come up with the most brazen and dishonest (and/or moronic) Republican use of the 'Hey, it wasn't a 5-4 decision, it was a 7-2 decision' line about the Supreme Court decision?

(Just so we're all on the same page. Seven justices - all but Stevens and Ginsburg - said there were, or might be, equal protection problems raised by the Florida recount. But two of those (Breyer and Souter) raised real questions about whether this was actually the case - and, far more importantly, thought the problem could be resolved with a directed remand to the Florida court. Alright, do we understand each other? Send submissions here.)

I'll start the ball rolling with George Will today on This Week. I'll post the actual quote when I get a hold of the transcript.

P.S. Know what the new "L" word is? "Legitimacy," of course. On Meet the Press today Dick Gephardt wouldn't use it about George W. Bush. That's brass-knuckles.

Just finished reading Jeffrey Rosen's indictment of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore in the new New Republic -- a trenchant and devastating analysis of the court's decision. I almost don't recommend reading it. Because it's hard to do so and not get even more outraged about what the Court conservatives did.

Rosen stops short of accusing the conservatives of purely political intent in deciding the case in the way that they did. He implies that they believed they were stepping in to end a galloping legitimacy crisis which was about to spin out of control. They were acting, he surmises, on a sort of subtextual 'this has gone on long enough' reasoning. So they abused their oath, but to serve what they believed to be a higher purpose.

I wonder if this is what Rosen really believes or whether he, perhaps rightly, stopped short of accusing them of narrowly political motives because of the impossibility of proving such an allegation, and the explosive nature of the charge. In any case, it's a very good piece.

There is an interesting thread, or instance of crosstalk, running through the opinions which I haven't seen noted elsewhere. In Rehnquist's concurrence on page 4, in the course of justifying the Court's obligation and power to overrule a state high court's interpretation of state law, Rehnquist relies on two Civil Rights-era cases wherein the Court stepped in to shut down legal funny business perpetrated by segregationist state courts. Considering how many African-American voters had their votes thrown out in Florida and the … well, less than civil rights-friendly jurisprudence of Thomas, Scalia and Rehnquist, this is more than a cruel irony. It's more like sick humor. (See this article on Rehnquist's early work as a Republican political operative assigned to harass African-American voters.)

And it's a vicious irony not lost on Justice Ginsburg, who seems to have taken particular offense. "[T]his case involves nothing close to the kind of recalcitrance by a state high court that warrants extraordinary action by this Court," Ginsburg writes on page 6 of her dissent. "The Florida Supreme Court … surely should not be bracketed with state high courts of the Jim Crow South."

Too true.

I wonder if this was behind her sharp "I dissent" which she used to conclude her opinion instead of the standard "I respectfully dissent."

She might also have noted another ironic inversion: In the cases cited in the Rehnquist concurrence, a civil rights US Supreme Court was stepping in to block the plainly injudicial acts of rogue Southern state high courts. In this case a rogue US Supreme Court was committing an injudicial act to block the efforts of a civil rights Southern state high court.

Now that's progress!

P.S. I guess pointing this out would be too much even for Ginsburg. After all, dropping a "respectfully" is already pretty much their way of saying "Hey, You Wanna Piece a me?!"

Three excellent articles Talking Points recommends for your reading.

This article by Jack Beatty in Atlantic Unbound gives an impassioned, angry, and absolutely first-rate run-down of all that went wrong in Florida. You'll probably know the basic facts but he puts it all together in a way that only a first-rate writer really can. Read it and you'll be glad you did.

A nice Salonish article in (you guessed it) Salon about why Bush's speech to the Democratic Texas House of Reps was a bit of a sham. A lot of Dems weren't allowed to come. Basically the one's who got invites were pretty much those who either supported Bush's candidacy or as much as did so. A nice metaphor for the reality behind Bush's bipartisanship. Good piece by Jake Tapper. Not sure any of the prestige press caught this.

Finally, this article in Saturday's New York Times is about the prison employees who administer executions in Texas. No Bush-bashing here. Just a very affecting and powerful description of an anguished job and the conflicted men who do it. Not light reading, but really good.

Wow, wow, wow! I'll say it again. Wow!

According to this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Al Gore's lead in the popular vote now stands at 540,435. Think of that. More than a half a million votes.

I don't want to make too big a deal of this. But I think that at half a million votes Gore's margin pushes past a certain psychological threshold. In the national vote this really wasn't a 'virtual tie.' Bush lost. Narrowly, yes. But he lost (Historical perspective: Jimmy Carter beat Gerald Ford by 678,000 votes in 1976).

Make a note of it and have it on hand for future discussions about Bush's mandate.

P.S. A special TPM shout-out to the Pointster who passed this info along.

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