Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Does it strike anyone else as odd that the White House tossed McClellan out the window without having a replacement ready to announce?

Bush legacy epitaph?

From TPM Reader MR ...

I'm no fan of dubya, but the 'do not call' list is still very popular. does it count as a policy decision, and can he claim credit for it?

We've gotten a number of interesting and insightful responses to the question below about how President Bush's record has stood up over time. In general, it's a deafening silence in terms of coming up with many actions that have stood up well. But several readers have brought up one good catch -- the invasion of Afghanistan.

Attacking Afghanistan had overwhelming support in the US just after 9/11. So as a policy decision it was a gimme. However, at the time, particularly during the early weeks of the campaign, there was a great deal of criticism that the President had undermanned the effort, particularly that he and his Defense Secretary had relied too much on precision airpower and too little on boots on the ground. I was one of those critics. And we were wrong -- at least in the short term.

Suddenly, or so it appeared at the time, the Taliban regime just collapsed. Coming in with a vast ground army just wasn't necessary.

However, this is also a debate or instance of decision-making from the past that I think you can argue had very negative follow-on effects.

The decision not to rely on a heavy ground troop component in the invasion of Afghanistan is very hard to separate from the post-invasion problems we've had in the country, which stem to a great degree from our not having the troops in the country to insure basic law and order and prevent the reemergence of the warlordism that dominated the country in the early and mid-1990s.

Even more important, this chapter of the Afghan War was a critical backdrop to the debate over the mechanics of the Iraq War. Setting aside the question of whether it was a good idea to invade Iraq at all, there's really no question that we made reconstruction and stablization of the country almost infinitely more difficult by trying to occupy the Iraq with far, far too small a force. No one who hasn't taken the Bush omerta doesn't concede this point. And the upshot of the Afghan War had a profound effect on empowering the Rumsfeldites in the Pentagon and silencing or appearing to discredit Rumsfeld's critics both inside and outside the Pentagon.

Late Update: Leave it to me to give President Bush too much credit. A number of readers have touched on an aspect of the Afghan War I neglected above. Outsourcing the ground component of the Afghan War not only affected out ability to 'win the peace' in Afghanistan, it also played a very direct role in our failure to bag bin Laden himself in the mountains of Tora Bora. And that, of course, was like the main reason we were there in the first place. So maybe, after all, it was classic Bush. Great on day one, great pictures, but in the end a dismal failure.

Here's another question I've been tossing around in my head.

Can you think of any policy-decision or action President Bush has taken in his five-plus years in office that didn't enjoy its greatest popularity on day one and then become more or less consistently less popular over time?

It's true that we're in the nadir of the Bush presidency. So now probably isn't the best time to lay down the marker. But pick any other dates -- 2001 to 2005, 2002 to 2004.

The other way to frame the question is this: Can you think of a policy-decision the president has made or an action that he took that wasn't popular when he took it, or was deemed ill-advised at the outset, but has become more popular with time or is now generally regarded as a good decision?

Some examples spring to my mind. Gerald Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon did him great damage at the time. I think history has viewed it much more positively. Bill Clinton's 1993 tax hike -- really, really unpopular at the time, but became much more popular in retrospect. There are numerous other examples. But can you think of one for President Bush?

What I think is meaningless -- I'm a consistent critic. But to the extent we can ascertain such things as public opinion judged by polls or elite consensus opinion judged through other means, is there anything from President Bush that falls into this category?

This isn't a rhetorical question -- though I think I have a good sense of the answer. Let me know. And again, don't just go by your personal opinions. Think about public opinion in general or consensus establishment opinion, and try to come up with something from President Bush that has worn well, rather than poorly, over time.

In his front page piece in Thursday's Post, Dan Balz writes: "Realigning the White House staff and bringing in new faces appear central to [the] effort ... to revitalize this presidency quickly enough to avoid crippling GOP losses in November that could thrust Bush into instant lame-duck status."

But I can't get past this point of, where are the new faces?

It's like they cannot take on anyone who hasn't a) already taken the Bush omerta or b) works currently for Fox News.

You may have heard of Robert Wright's new site Bloggingheads.tv. You get two bloggers who talk over or debate the issues of the day. And then viewers can watch the video and audio of the discussion on the web -- in a pretty high quality feed. I'm not sure that's the best explanation of it. But you can watch and see what it looks like here.

Today, The Nation's David Corn and I did a bloggingheads segment where we talked about investigative journalism, the defenestration of Scott McClellan, Niger, the 2006 election and of course Iran and Iraq. I was still getting a handle of how the technology worked. So I probably screwed things up a bit since it was a bit hard to keep my focus. (You can probably notice my on-going inability to figure out how to get the volume control to work on my headset.) I think I'll do better next time. But you can check it out for yourself.

Turns out Rove's replacement as policy czar had a hand in the "recount riot" that shut down the vote counting in Florida back in 2000.

Okay, this is pretty hilarious. Did Trent Duffy really expect his pal John Roberts was going to read this on the air? And who knew there was an official certified short-list?

This from this morning on CNN. We start with host Miles O'Brien speaking to CNN's John Roberts ...

Let's get back to Scott McClellan, John. Reading the tea leaves on what you just talked about, I gather he's leaving under his own steam. But by the same token, Josh Bolten was very vocal in leaving the door open and suggesting if you're high ranking and you're thinking of leaving, do it now, or there might about few nudges. Was is a combination of him wanting to leave and him, perhaps, expecting to be nudged out?

ROBERTS: I expect that Scott was part of the overall changeover. I really don't think he wanted to go. He really enjoyed the job, and I don't think it really was in his heart of heart's of desires to leave the White House.

I think Josh Bolten -- and this is just speculation on my part -- but I think Josh Bolten probably came to him and said, Scott, we've got to make changes. Bolten has said to various Republicans that we've talked to that communications was big problem at the White House, and that the communication shop was probably going to have to be revamped some.

In terms, by the way, Miles, of who could possibly take over for Scott, just got an e-mail from my old friend Trent Duffy, who was one of the deputies, saying, thanks a lot, man. Please include me in the...

M. O'BRIEN: Don't forget me!

ROBERTS: Don't forget me. Please include me in the list of people as "The Washington Post" and others are. So, yes, Trent Duffy is a name that's under consideration there, though we're not sure at this point who's going to get the nod on that one.

M. O'BRIEN: Obviously, Trent doesn't need his own press secretary. He's doing his own work behind the scenes in realtime.

ROBERTS: Well, if he could do as good a job for President Bush as he's doing for himself right now, maybe he gets the job.

M. O'BRIEN: He might have just gotten the job, I don't know.

ROBERTS: Sorry, Trent. Didn't mean to embarrass you so much.

Somehow I don't think Duffy did himself any favors. But he is sure is eager.

You've probably seen the reports that the FBI is trying to get access to the late and legendary muckraker Jack Anderson's papers and to confiscate any classified documents contained in them. Apparently the FBI agents on the case even stooped to going behind the back of Anderson's son, who's an attorney and official custodian of the papers, to trick Anderson's elderly widow into signing a release allowing them free rein to the papers.