Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Bush to teach character to the elderly ...

Those who don't sign [for the Medicare drug benefit] up by May 15 will have to pay a penalty to enroll, although Bush repeatedly pointed out that there are exceptions for the poor. Many lawmakers want to extend the deadline, but Bush has opposed those calls.

"Deadlines are important," Bush said. "Deadlines help people understand there is finality and people have to get after it."


At TPMCafe Bookclub this week, Fawaz Gerges is discussing his new book Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy, in which he follows "the journey of three generations of jihadists and narrate[s] their story in their own words." Today Gerges is discussing his contention that we greatly overstate the religious or Islamic element of contemporary jihadism and overlook its essentially political character.

Here's something that keeps popping into my head and popped with an extra burst with the news this morning that the latest Gallup poll -- generally friendly to Bush -- has him at an anemic 31% approval rating.

Given that pretty much all the polls now show the president mired in the mid- to low 30s, simple statistical probability would suggest that at one point in the not too distant future some poll will catch the president under 30% in the Dante-esque public opinion nether region of the 20s.

Mind you, I'm not saying that the president's popularity will continue to fall into the 20s. The continuing descent is something like a mathematical limit. Each point lower digs deeper into the base of truly committed partisans and unquestioning hacks. So knocking off each new point on the way down requires ever greater displays of incompetence, failure and general infamy. And even for President Bush that's a challenge. So, as I say, I'm not saying he'll really get down into the 20s. I'm saying that if the president is consistently scoring like 32% or 33%, the margin of error built into the polls themselves should eventually spit out an outlier under 30%.

(By the way, if you're a pollster or statistician and you know some reason why my logic is flawed, just keep it to yourself because it'll really break my stride in writing this post.)

So, any predictions on when it will come or if it ever will? Is May the month when George W. Bush will cross that Stygian threshold on the path to presidential perdition? June? Never?

Reuters: "President Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake."

bin Laden still at large; fish rolled up in rod-n-reel sting op.

Via Laura Rozen, here's the link to an article in today's New York Sun that suggests that John Negroponte has already agreed to let the DOD take covert operations from the CIA. This, and the other issues discussed in this article, is a pretty big deal. And it is far from what the Congress called for in the 2004 intel reorganization.

Here's one passage from the article ...

The pending appointment of General Michael Hayden as director of the Central Intelligence Agency will pave the way for the agency's emasculation and for the Pentagon to assume full authority over paramilitary operations.

A senior intelligence community official yesterday said the director of national intelligence, John Negroponte, has indicated "he is willing to give up covert operations to the Pentagon."

The source also pointed out that the Pentagon has requested increased budget authority to prepare for the acquisition of the CIA's targeted military operations. The intelligence overhaul of 2004 envisioned that they would remain under the purview of the CIA.

The authority to commission and plan these secret military operations has been a point of contention since 2004 when Congress and the White House began reorganizing the intelligence community.

The proposed change would give the Pentagon unfettered authority to plan and conduct these operations without consulting an intelligence bureaucracy its civilian leaders have deemed hostile to the president's war policy.

This contradicts what we just told you Steve Clemons is saying. And I'm not sufficiently plugged in to the story to tell you who's right and who's wrong. But this stuff is genuinely worrisome on a few different levels.

First, our whole intelligence infrastructure is being chopped apart and cobbled back together in ways that Congress never envisioned and doesn't appear to be having a chance to sign off on. More immediately troubling is the fact that all our forward-leaning intelligence capacity is being taken over by the Pentagon when it's still being run by Don Rumsfeld, a guy who just about everyone seems to agree now is a demonstrated failure at the job, someone who should already have been fired.

In this universe, as opposed to the alternative Bush loyalist universe, who's screwed more stuff up recently, the political appointees at the Pentagon or the CIA? CIA's far from perfect. But I don't have much trouble answering the former. Yet we're handing over a big chunk of the what the CIA does to those guys.

I don't want to romanticize the intel community status quo ante. But you really have to wonder whether all these changes aren't doing far more harm than good to our intel capacities and our national security. Again, particularly because Don Rumsfeld appears to be the one implementing what Congress mandated. Really, that sentence says it all.

Late Update: TPM Reader LG responds ...

Re the DNI to turn over covert ops to DoD meme...keep in mind that there is a very big difference between clandestine and covert ops. Covert ops (the paramilitary stuff) has almost always relied on heavy DoD suppport, training, funding, etc. with very little DoD oversight. The DO fair-haired children do clandestine ops. I think it actually makes sense for the Pentagon to be running the covert ops, especially since the Director of the CIA is no longer the DCI, just another Agency head that answers to the DNI.

This is a decent point. But making the decisions without clear congressional authorization still seems like a big problem, and having Rumsfeld in charge of implementing them even bigger.

We've been focusing on the Wilkes-Wade dimensions of Porter Goss's firing at CIA. Meanwhile, much of the criticism of CIA nominee Gen. Hayden, from both sides of the aisle, has been over the fact that he's an Air Force General (not retired, but currently serving) and that his command over the CIA would bolster Don Rumsfeld's efforts to consolidate control of the intel community in the Pentagon. Remember, in theory at least, as a general, Hayden works for Rumsfeld.

But Steve Clemons has a contrary view.

He thinks Hayden's appointment may actually bolster John Negroponte in his efforts to resist Rumsfeld. There are a lot of different moving parts in what's going on here -- contending personalities, fights over the structure of the intel community, whether the balance of power will be at the Pentagon or elsewhere, etc. But on balance, blunting Rumsfeld in his efforts to run everything out of DOD seems like a good thing.

Steve also says that Steve Kappes, a key CIA player who was run out by Goss, will be coming back as Hayden's deputy.

So why did Porter Goss resign as Director of the CIA?

Over the weekend there's been a lot of amorphous talk about turf battles between Goss and DNI John Negroponte. We've heard that the White House has long doubted Goss's leadership of the Agency. We're hearing that Goss's ouster is part of a planned overhaul of the entire beleaguered agency.

I don't doubt that each of these stories are true, in some measure.

From the start, however, I've never believed that any of these overlapping explanations explain the jagged and sudden nature of Goss's departure. And if you read the follow-on coverage closely you'll see the taint and awareness of the underlying scandal spreading like ink in tissue paper.

Newsweek, for example, has a quizzical piece which lays the Foggo story right next to the Goss resignation without quite connecting the two. Interestingly, though, Newsweek says that it was Dusty Foggo was at the center of the turf battle with DNI John Negroponte -- a point we'll return to.

We've heard too that while there was a power struggle between Negroponte and Goss, what tipped the scale was an intervention the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. In its day one reportage, the Times said Goss's "departure was hastened because a recent inquiry by the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board had found that current and former agency officers were sharply critical of Mr. Goss's leadership."

By Sunday, though, Richard Sisk of the New York Daily News, was reporting that the FIAB's concerns centered on Foggo ...

Bush had already gotten an earful from Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte on the shortcomings of Goss, but the final push came from the "very alarmed" President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, intelligence and Congressional sources said.

Alarms were set off at the advisory board by a widening FBI sex and cronyism investigation that's targeted Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, and also touched on Goss himself.

Now, successful cover stories must always contain at least a partial version of the truth. Otherwise, they can't be credible. The issue is what they leave out. As we move forward, I think you can see that the official narrative intentionally leaves out the key details. And the White House's inability to provide any reasonable explanation for the manner and timing of Goss's departure points unmistakably the criminal investigation that began with Duke Cunningham and has now made its way into the CIA.

Let's review what we know now about Dusty Foggo to provide context.

The Executive Director of the CIA runs the day to day operations of the Agency. It's the third-ranking position in the organization. In corporate parlance, he's the COO. Foggo was a career CIA officer. But before Goss's arrival, he'd never had a leadership position in the organization. He worked in logistics and procurement.

Newsweek says Foggo was "a logistics expert well known to junketing congressmen who visited Frankfurt, Germany, where Foggo was based." Foggo was in Frankfurt earlier in this decade, I believe. But a deeper look would reveal that he played a similar role in Central America in the 1980s. As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported last December, back in the mid-1980s one of Wilkes' jobs was "was to accompany congressmen ... to Central America to meet with Foggo and Contra leaders."

When Goss tapped him for the #3 job, it surprised everyone, as you'd expect, given the background I just described.

Now, some are suggesting that the real actor here is one of the congressional staffers Goss brought with him to CIA. And I think there may be something to that. It's quite possible that the only thing Goss did wrong was allow his staffers to make some very bad decisions on his behalf. There's been a lot of chatter about whether Goss was at the Wilkes parties or whether he profited in any way from the Wilkes' related corruption. To date I've seen no credible claims of either. But, politically and simply in terms of accountability, Goss is on the line for what his chief staffer does.

In any case, you have this lingering question of what prompted Goss to put Foggo in the number three job.

Now, fast forward to the present. We've known for more than six months that Duke Cunningham's chief briber Brent Wilkes was a life-long friend of Dusty Foggo's and that their careers were closely tied together. Given that the Justice Department claims that Wilkes gave more than $600,000 in bribes to a sitting member of Congress, the association, for better or worse, inevitably cast some taint on Foggo.

But now we know a lot more.

According to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News, Foggo himself is now a target of the expanded Cunningham investigation and federal prosecutors in San Diego are trying to build cases against both Foggo and Wilkes. As the Journal explains, the "criminal investigation centers on whether Mr. Foggo used his postings at the CIA to improperly steer contracts to Mr. Wilkes's companies."

The #3 at the CIA is about to resign because he's being investigated for his role in one of the biggest congressional bribery scandals in decades. The Director hired him for the job and he quit last Friday. Do you think there's a problem?