Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TPM.

Decision Time Prime Badge
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I wanted to flag to your attention this post by John Ganz, someone who, if you’re not familiar with him, is well worth becoming familiar with. Ganz and I see the questions about Israel, the Palestinians and Zionism differently. Indeed I disagree with the title of the post I’m sending you to. But what is most important in writing, especially in commentary, is not that it be “right” but that it be illuminating. Reading what is “right” is often reading a more polished version of what we already think — the utility of which is limited. Ganz manages to approach these questions with insight as well as texture and elegance, no simple feat.

On that matter of disagreement, I want to note something about what I have written on this issue. If you read carefully, I seldom make positive arguments for any particular position or question on this topic. I tend to point up what I see as disconnects or inconsistencies in pat arguments and responses. This is partly temperamental. I don’t like making arguments or claims that aren’t packaged with strong and concrete defenses. It’s also because with all the internal media and imagery there’s a huge amount of what is going on that we simply don’t know. One such question is whether Israel’s retaliation in response to the October 7th massacres is justified.

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Moment More of Israel Obsessiveness

I had a clarifying moment this early afternoon sharing notes with TPM Reader MH via email. This was about the situation in Israel/Palestine but more particularly how it is impacting both people’s views and politics in the United States. What I think has happened is that the events, which began with the Hamas massacres in southern Israel on October 7th and has continued with Israel’s merciless retaliation, has pushed the discussion among not just Democrats but everyone to the left of the 50 yard line of American politics from “should Israeli policy be different” to “should Israel exist.”

The first is fairly unifying. The second is profoundly divisive and, for a non-trivial chunk of the Democratic coalition, existential.

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Haley In Unstoppable Drive Toward Second Place Prime Badge
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We’re back to another of those comical developments in the Republican Party and it’s relationship with its leader, Donald Trump. This morning the Koch Network announced it is supporting Nikki Haley, former South Carolina Governor and the latest forlorn hope of the billionaires who fund the GOP. She joins the heap of broken political bodies like Ron DeSantis, Glenn Youngkin and others. It raises the question: Does this completely not matter or mostly not matter? It may surprise you to learn that I’m only at “mostly doesn’t matter.” There may actually be some limited significance.

When I first started writing this post I decided to double check the latest polls. Haley is in the midst of a meteoric rise in pundit and GOP elite esteem. Lots of observers point either to polls or other evidence suggesting that if only Haley could win the nomination she’d be a lock to beat President Biden. (I actually doubt that’s true. But that’s a different story.) Candidly, I was surprised by just how much Trump is now crushing the entire GOP field. Trump is no longer sitting at about 50% or so in a big field, what by really any measure is more than enough to make him nominee. He’s now consistently 10% or 15% higher. He’s no longer at 50% support. He’s now usually 50% or more ahead of the second place vote getter.

What Haley is now accomplishing is being on the verge of surpassing the crumpled carcass of Gov. Ron DeSantis. Enough to win the small trinket, not the full stuffed animal at the fair.

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History and Enthusiasm Prime Badge
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November 13th marked our 23rd anniversary at TPM. During these past 23 years I’ve managed to write as much as I have because I kept to a simple approach, which was following whatever aspect of US politics and political culture interested me most. This worked because it combined the exertion and mental energy most put toward ‘work’ with the off-hours hobbies, life, downtime and, if possible, fun we do outside of work. One might also call this obsession. But it worked in terms of productivity, focus and drive. Indeed, for those who enjoy the Editors’ Blog one of the things that makes it compelling is following the idiosyncrasies of my interests and particular storylines I latch on to. Or, so many are saying …

But over the last couple months that pattern has shifted for me in that my mind has been heavily preoccupied by something that isn’t US politics. The Israel-Hamas war has a clear bearing on US politics. Some people think it could turn the 2024 presidential election, though I suspect its salience will decrease dramatically over the coming months, as most big news stories do. At the moment it’s the dominant national news story in the US and has been for weeks. But it’s not really a US story. More importantly my interest in it goes far beyond its bearings on US politics. So I’ve been aware that my focus has shifted from things at the heart of US politics toward subject matter that is, in many ways parochial, communal and personal. And that’s not what TPM is about, at least not in its current iteration.

And it’s not like we’re in a slow period in American politics. But there we are.

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Thank You from All of Us

While we’re still in the extended Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you, especially our members but all of our readers, on behalf of everyone at TPM. We literally couldn’t do it without you. It’s a member funded publication. The overwhelming percentage of our revenue comes directly from your monthly and annual membership fees.

We are, paradoxically and oddly at this point, a huge success story, in this strange relative sense of moving forward, having stable finances and getting ready for a hugely consequential election. This would be normal and unremarkable if not for the fact that almost everyone else is struggling or going under. It’s entirely because of our readers and their dedication to what we do. You’ve consistently been there for us. Which is amazing. And we thank you for it.

In addition to keeping us solvent it has also been a liberation for us inasmuch as basically our entire focus, both editorially and in terms of our business, is reader satisfaction. That should be the case for any successful publication. But when most of the revenue comes from advertising much of that focus is only indirect. You need to keep readers happy because without happy readers you can’t keep the advertisers happy. They’re the source of the money.

If you’re looking to do us another solid, let me remind you we’re trying to hire a new reporter and we’re looking to spread the word. You can see more on that here.

Thank you and have a great rest of the weekend.

Why Did Oslo Fail?

After an email exchange TPM Reader TW flagged to my attention this Times symposium on the Oslo Process. It’s quite good, better than we usually have any business expecting from daily journalism. If you’re too young to remember the Oslo years or aren’t familiar with it, you’ll learn a lot from reading it. It’s quick and conversational, not a challenging read. If you are familiar you’ll probably learn some new nuances and details. The gist and one many of us know is that peace was genuinely sought after by both sides and I think it was really possible. History is full of contingencies, things that might have gone one way or another. Those contingencies build on each other to create what is usually the illusion of inevitability. But there were also basic structural flaws to the process and the standing participants which led to failure.

The core structural flaw was that the process was open-ended. In theory there was a five year deadline, but just what was supposed to happen over that five years or what end state it would arrive at at the end of five years was never clear. That meant that enemies of the process on both sides had plenty of time to destroy it. And they were able to do that because the players in power on the both sides were weak.

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One More One/Two State Discussion Before Thanksgiving! Prime Badge
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In a few recent posts we’ve discussed the question of whether one state or two states is the most logical or possible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (You can see my argument here.) A few days ago TPM Reader RC sent me this April Foreign Affairs article, Israel’s One-State Reality. It was written by three scholars at GW and another at the University of Maryland. The piece was interesting to me because it illustrates a lot of what the one state argument is really about. As the title suggests, the article is not so much an argument that one state in Israel-Palestine is a solution to anything but an assertion that it is the current reality.

In other words, Israel’s not a country that functions as a democracy while controlling occupied territories whose final status will be decided at some point in the future. It’s a single country in which all Jews have political and civil rights and most Palestinians have limited civil rights and no political rights. Given that the post-67 occupation has persisted for 56 years, this argument has many merits to it. But what is the import of that assertion? In itself it’s simply a definitional claim. That part comes next. It’s an argument for the withdrawal of US support and some escalating framework of sanctions to compel Israel to come up to international standards in which one ethnic group or most of it facing systemic legal discrimination just isn’t okay.

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Elmo Unbound, Miscellaneous Thoughts on Speech and Power Prime Badge
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I recognize that this post is somewhat preaching to the choir. But I wanted to discuss Elon Musk’s lawsuit against Media Matters for America. If you haven’t followed this closely a brief recap: Since purchasing Twitter, Musk has been in a battle both to make the platform a free-fire zone for racists, Nazis and other violent and bad actors and keep advertisers, who don’t want to be associated with those people, on the platform. He has made the matter more coherent by, incrementally over the last year, himself becoming the most prominent of those racists and Nazis. This is not hyperbole. He now routinely promotes and explicitly agrees with the most ghastly and dangerous forms of antisemitism and racism.

The pattern is consistent and clear: 1) Musk either promotes or parrots racist or anti-semitic speech. 2) Activist groups catalogue the prevalence of such speech on the platform and in some cases records advertisements appearing immediately adjacent to those posts and speech. 3) Advertisers get upset and pull their ads. 4) Elon Musk gets upset and sues (or threatens to sue) the activist group. It has the fixed pattern and regularity of cellular respiration, only with money and bad people.

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The Ever-Receding ‘Day After’

In case you were feeling too rosy about the state of the world, it’s worth reading this new article by Zvi Bar’el in Haaretz (sub.req.) about “day after” scenarios in Gaza. You can believe, as I do, that Israel is and was justified in and in fact obligated to destroy Hamas’s de facto army in Gaza after the events of October 7th. Here Bar’el goes into some depth about the utter lack of any realistic plan about what comes after that happens, assuming it does happen.

I’ve already noted the malign role of the disgraced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is of course ideologically opposed to any move toward self-rule or statehood for any of the Palestinian territories. At the moment what is equally important is that he sees leaving the military and “day after” questions unresolved being in his personal and political self-interest.

That is only the beginning of the problems.

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Not Enough Red Alerts To Go Around Prime Badge
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Over the weekend I had an exchange with TPM Reader AB that I’d like to share with you. AB is a dedicated listener to our podcast (and you should be too!) as well as a reader and he flagged an exchange in which my cohost Kate Riga discussed Donald Trump’s recent “vermin” comments, which mapped quite closely to a lot of Nazi rhetoric from the 1920s and 1930s. The comments would have gotten more attention, she said, had they happened in the heat of the campaign instead of 9 months or a year prior. AB insisted that we need to be vigilant. We need to be sounding Red Alerts. We can’t be complacent thinking the actual election is a year off and everything will change for be better.

To be clear, this was an aside from Kate in part of a longer discussion. And AB himself seemed to recognize this. So I raise this not to disagree with anyone or call anyone out. I note it because it illustrates an impulse and dynamic I think countless Democrats (and others who simply oppose Donald Trump) are finding themselves caught up in. I won’t belabor the foundational point. Trump 1.0 was really bad. Trump 2.0 promises to be much worse. A year out, polls suggest Trump and Biden are tied or with Trump slightly ahead in the popular vote. That makes something really unthinkable seem like a very real possibility.

That’s bad. Really bad. So get to sounding the Red Alerts. Break the glass and pull the alarm. Pick your metaphor. These are all very understandable and logical responses, not so much — in my mind at least — because of the percentage chances of one candidate winning over the other but because of the consequences of a bad outcome.

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