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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

"Nobody ever asked me before."

Rep. Heather Wilson's (R-NM) answer to why she's only now revealing today her claimed misgivings about one of the Bush administration's key rationales for the war in Iraq.

Is Abramoff pal Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) in danger of going down on November 7th? Seems so.

Oh my ... Parody just can't make a break on reality down in Virginia with the flagging campaign of Sen. George Allen (R-VA).



Here you can see a screen shot from Allen's website, where he's providing a photo gallery of his special "ethnic rally" where he invited potential non-white supporters for a quick meet-n-greet. I guess 'ethnic rally' was better than 'brown people outreach' and that probably would have been better than 'macaca day'.

TPM Reader PB reads Josh's mind ...

If the Democrats want to achieve a substantial victory in November there are two words they need to excise from their vocabulary, "ashamed" and "politicized." Those words need to be replaced with "failure" and "accountability." Every time a Democrat gets the understandable urge to cry foul and say the President should be "ashamed" for having "politicized" national security, they need to exercise some self-censorship, and go on the offensive and attack the President for his many failures and promise the American people to hold him accountable.

Unfortunately, looking at the Democratic response to Bush's speech last night I feel like Bill Muarry in Groundhog day. It's the same thing over and over. Bush uses the memory of 9/11 to advocate for his policies and like Pavlov's dogs the Democrats cry foul. How many times can Democrats pretend to be shocked that Bush would politicize 9/11? Republicans have done it the last three elections, and each time it worked. Of course they are going to do it again.

The simple fact is that Bush's approach works. Any psychologist, advertiser or propagandist will tell you that people will be more receptive to your message if you soften them up emotionally first. The Republicans understand this, why don't the Democrats? If the Democrats are serious about re-taking power they need to stop complaining about what is acceptable in political discourse and start running ads with footage of people standing on rooftops in New Orleans, chaos in Iraq, and bin Laden still on the loose and remind the American people all of these things are Bush's fault. Republicans will go wild complaining that it is not fair and it politicizes tragedies. Let them.

Rather than trying to work the refs, Democrats need to remind the American people over and over that this President has failed at everything he has done: he has failed to capture bin Laden, his policy in Iraq is a monumental failure, and he has failed to make the American people safer. Every level of government has broken down because of Bush's mistakes. These guys can't even get the little things right let alone the big stuff. And voting Republican only means more of the same.


Working the refs has its place. Definitely. But fundamentally, making this the centerpiece response is just whining.

I'm always reminded of the president's notorious Mission Accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier off San Diego. At the time, the Dems were complaining that he'd delayed the return of the sailors and airmen on the ship, that it was political and all the rest. But as long as he was riding high it was all just words in the wind. Needless to say, the event became an albatross that still hangs around the guy's neck.

That didn't change because anyone realized it was political when they hadn't realized it before. It changed because the 'victory' he was crowing over started to seem more and more like a failure. People will accept a lot from someone who delivers. But they're merciless when a leader fails.

Today, the record is really quite clear. Pretty much everything the president has done on the foreign front since 9/11 has been an abysmal failure. Even the things were legitimate successes early on, taking down the Taliban, for instance, have turned into failures.

If the president is politicizing 9/11, which he is, people who are open to seeing that, can see it already. And the way to focus attention on that is not to state the obvious. It is rather to point out the almost countless ways in which his record is one of failure. Where's bin Laden? Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Is Iraq part of the problem or part of the solution in making the United States safer from terrorism? All these questions all but answer themselves. And all in ways profoundly damaging to the president. Start asking them. And stop whining.

After a summer hiatus, TPMCafe Bookclub returns today. And we're excited to kick off off with a discussion of Sidney Blumenthal's new book How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime.

Joing the discussion are Andrew Bacevich, David Greenberg, Todd Gitlin, and Larry Johnson.

Sid's first post is up here.

TPM Reader RP on Rove ...

Quite right about Rove. Just one sidebar.

Every basketball coach will tell you the way to win games is to 'get the other team out of its game, and make them play your game." To a certain extent, even listening to Rove and the Republican Screech Monkeys is a waste of time. Rove & Co. is going to take the lowest of low roads in the next 75 days, accusing every Dem House candidate of being Osama bin Laden's personal valet. The attacks are going to be vile, fraudulent, and personal.

If the Dems "take the bait" -- defend themselves in the conventional way -- they will lose. Why? Because they'll burn their ad dollars playing Rove's game. They will have "localized" the election.

What to do? Stay focused on one and only message -- "You -- the Voters -- have ONE DAY to hold the Bush Administration accountable for what's happened in Iraq, and here at home. ONE DAY -- election day. If you like the way things are going, vote Republican. If you think things need to change, VOTE DEMOCRATIC. Seize the day. It's your very last chance."


Couldn't agree more.

Or, put another way, the whole campaign is, as Newt said, "Had Enough?"

A message to Dems: Get off your butt, forget the cult of Rove, and start contesting the election.

Most of the best tips and ideas for this site, I've gotten from readers. But I cannot tell you how many times I have had readers write in in the midst of some complete debacle for the White House and/or the GOP claiming that despite appearances the entire episode is another carefully and brilliantly planned scheme of Karl Rove's. I could find you emails like this when President Bush was getting his head handed to him about Social Security or during his post-Katrina meltdown. This is, in a sense, the bigger victory Rove has managed over Democrats: his ability to get deep inside the heads of many Democrats and make them think that no matter what the situation or what the available facts suggest, Karl Rove must be on top of the situation and it must be playing to his advantage. The only question is finding out precisely how.

Don't get me wrong. I think the man is a blight on the country, one who consistently uses amoral tactics and often immoral in his goals. But he's no genius. And I think his political gifts are actually quite overstated. The GOP has had a damn good run for the last six years. But I don't think that's mainly because of Karl Rove. I think it's largely because of 9/11 and a pretty effective policy of exploiting it for narrow political goals.

Yesterday, I noted that the RNC is banking on oppo research and personal attacks on Democratic candidates to get them through November in one piece. As a sign of what's to come, they've put in charge of the effort one of their number involved in not one but two recent cases of Republican campaign corruption and criminal conduct.

So, yes, be ready for anything. But it is also hard to think of another time when the incumbent party stood before the country with more of a record of failure, incompetence and corruption as the Republican party of President George Bush does today. That's more than enough to run on, if only the decision is made to really contest this election on the issues before the country, to, in a word, fight.

I think I've written enough pieces of personal recollection for the moment. I live in New York City now but I didn't five years ago. I lived in DC, close enough to the events of the day to feel part of it, but certainly not as much as many in the city on that day. Here's some reporting I did from downtown streets for Salon (see third item down) that day.

As a still relatively new New Yorker, I have a great deal of pride in this city, for reasons tied to 9/11 and many others. But my feelings on this fifth anniversary of that terrible day are more ones of regret for wrong paths taken, and not just bad decisions by the Bush administration -- about which everyone knows my views well enough -- but of the country more generally.

There's a good article in this month's Atlantic by James Fallows on where we stand in the War on Terror. It's a good semi-contrarian take on the question, the upshot of which is that over the last five years we've actually damaged al Qaida much more deeply than is commonly realized. With all the caveats about what can happen tomorrow, the consensus of the terrorism experts interviewed by Fallows was that al Qaida's ability launch 9/11 style attacks on the US has been very badly damaged. That's not widely understood or appreciated because it's not in either political party's interest to have this be known.

In any case, what stuck with me from the article was a comment from one of the people Fallows interviewed. It's not an unfamiliar argument. But from the perspective of 2006, it has a special salience. The point is that al Qaida itself does not pose an existential threat to our civilization. It can kill hundreds or even thousands of us. There's the outside chance of a catastrophic attack perhaps with hundreds of thousands of death, though most of the people Fallows spoke to think that it's far, far harder for al Qaida to get, say, a nuclear device than people imagine, particularly with the reduced means of al Qaida today. But if al Qaida itself doesn't threaten our civilization itself, our possible reactions to al Qaida's threat do. This is a elementary point about assymetrical warfare and the ways that a relatively weak group like al Qaida can leverage our own tremendous power against us.

This seems persuasive to me as an argument and it also seems borne out by the evidence of the last five years.

Our geopolitical and diplomatic posture certainly seems diminished. And I don't think there's any question that our military capacity has been reduced, both in the concrete sense of the grinding down of preparedness that has taken place in Iraq and also in the way that the limits of our military power has been displayed in that disastrous endeavor. Perhaps most of all though, I wonder about what we have allowed to happen to our national character.

Over the weekend I read one of the many 'why haven't we been hit again' articles. One I read, after disposing of many of the standard possible answers, proposed the following answer to the question: the reason we have not been hit again on our own soil after five long years is simply a sign of al Qaida's patience. They'll hit us at a time and place of their choosing.

That was just one article. And, like you, I'm dependent on the terrorism 'experts' for the specifics I fit into my estimations. But that sounds to me like the thinking of a country that has become addicted to fear and feelings of powerlessness. Or, perhaps better to say, one that sometimes seems caught in a vicious cycle of unrealistic feelings of powerlessness and self-defeating exertions of power.

Perhaps you're thinking this is too downcast a post for this unique day. And I don't want it to be. I see this city and its vitality. I see a country finally emerging from some of the greatest injuries of that day. And I see this country's resilience, the resilience of what it stands for and its enduring values.

But what seems to me to be one of the greatest injuries of that day is the way we now sometimes seem to mistake optimism for pessimism and vice versa. Persistent fear and retreat from our own ideals and power isn't optimism. It is the deepest and most pernicious form of self-doubt. Yes, something terrible and unthinkable could happen tomorrow. But none of us has more than a probable claim to life from one day to the next. And as a country we are neither weak nor threatened. With apologies for a perhaps over-used line, I can't help thinking of Franklin Roosevelt's "firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Doesn't it have an uncanny claim on this moment?

So my regret for today is that the way that al Qaida has gamed us into doing great damage to ourselves. And my feeling of optimism is the sense that tide may at last be turning.

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