Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

This genuinely surprises me. William Perry and Ashton Carter have an column in Thursday's Post in which they argue that President Bush should use a cruise missile attack to destroy the Taepodong missile now sitting on a launch pad in North Korea and apparently being prepared for launch. (There is also an article in the Post that discusses the significance of the article.) This latest version of the Taepodong missile can reportedly hit the United States.

Here are some key portions of the piece ...

Should the United States allow a country openly hostile to it and armed with nuclear weapons to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering nuclear weapons to U.S. soil? We believe not. The Bush administration has unwisely ballyhooed the doctrine of "preemption," which all previous presidents have sustained as an option rather than a dogma. It has applied the doctrine to Iraq, where the intelligence pointed to a threat from weapons of mass destruction that was much smaller than the risk North Korea poses. (The actual threat from Saddam Hussein was, we now know, even smaller than believed at the time of the invasion.) But intervening before mortal threats to U.S. security can develop is surely a prudent policy.


This is a hard measure for President Bush to take. It undoubtedly carries risk. But the risk of continuing inaction in the face of North Korea's race to threaten this country would be greater. Creative diplomacy might have avoided the need to choose between these two unattractive alternatives. Indeed, in earlier years the two of us were directly involved in negotiations with North Korea, coupled with military planning, to prevent just such an outcome. We believe diplomacy might have precluded the current situation. But diplomacy has failed, and we cannot sit by and let this deadly threat mature. A successful Taepodong launch, unopposed by the United States, its intended victim, would only embolden North Korea even further. The result would be more nuclear warheads atop more and more missiles.

All sorts of people write all sorts of columns. But Bill Perry isn't some nut. Far from it. He was Bill Clinton's second defense secretary. He's a very shrewd, level-headed guy. And he's been deeply involved in the North Korea issue for years. Carter was an assistant secretary of defense under Perry.

Good work: the Hastert earmark scam makes it into the Washington Post. Post writer Jonathan Weisman also notes that Reps. Calvert (R-CA) and Miller (R-CA) also profited through similar arrangements in which road construction earmarks they got dramatically increased the value of nearby parcels of land they owned.

We get emails ...

Nope, the dead enders appear to be those on the left who despite continuing electoral nightmares continue to cling to the idea that if only they upped the vitriol a couple of quanta they would surely either convince or cow the public into voting for the party of the Murthabots.

You see the problem with that hypothesis is that you really can't heat things up much past where they are now unless that thin line between unreasoning rage and violence is crossed, in which case it's important to remember which philosophical camp owns and knows how to use the guns.

It seems to me that the dead enders are the folks at KOS [5 NYT reporters at the Vegas gig?? absolutelyunbelievable] and Dem Underground, who have no understanding of Islamism and probably wouldn't care if they did, because to them the U.S. is the real enemy and heaven forbid the idea that the United States has the right and obligation to proactively de-Islamize the area of the world from whence the threat has arisen.

Re Fr. Coughlan, not me - its the left who are the anti-Semites.

Okay, back on Monday we discussed Tony Snow's comments about how if polls had been taken during World War II's Battle of the Bulge people would probably have been pushing for a change in the course of the war as they are now in Iraq.

That's actually an insult to the American people generally, as well as the men who fought World War II and those who supported them on the homefront.

In any case, Snow clearly believes he can get away with this malarkey because he thinks polls weren't taken at the time.

But he's wrong. They were taking them. And they pretty clearly belie Snow's whole point.

My great friend and former graduate student colleague James Sparrow dropped me a line last night to tell me that "Hadley Cantril, at Princeton, did secret polling for FDR throughout the war on public support for the war, and specifically focused on trendlines, noting shifts from event to event."

This morning we managed to dig up a helpful chart that shows the polling Cantril did (click the image below for a full sized picture).

As you can see, there was no downtick in public support for the war around the time of the Battle of the Bulge. Approval for President Roosevelt's conduct of the war continued at around 70% where it had been for years. The number of people who said they had a clear idea of what the war was about was at about the same level and appears to have been rising. Support for a negotiated peace with Hitler remained around the anemic levels it had been for years -- at around 15%.

The only slight movement in the polls was a brief uptick in the number of people who would be willing to negotiate a peace with the German Army if they got rid of Hitler. That went up to the mid-30s before falling down again into the 20s. Keep in mind too that this was a much more primitive period for the collection of public opinion data. So a lot of the small wobbles in the trendlines are probably within the polls' then-larger margins of error. But the basic picture is clear: the American people then, as they will now, will stick through a lot of adversity if they think the war they're fighting matters and that their president knows what he's doing.

Then they did. Now they don't.

Also, this isn't just a gotcha on Tony Snow, showing the existence of polls he wasn't aware of, and so forth. There's a serious underlying point here about the administration's basic frivolousness in its conduct of the war.

No one thinks you can fight a war or conduct any project of great consequence by following minor oscillations in polls. But long term and imbedded trends in public opinion mean something. In this case, the public can see President Bush doesn't know what he's doing.

Having his flacks go out and compare him to great wartime leaders of the past and insult the American people in the process doesn't change that.

I'm going to have a bit more about this later today. But you'll remember that Monday we were taking apart White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's witless comments about the Battle of the Bulge. "If somebody had taken a poll in the Battle of the Bulge, I dare say people would have said, 'Wow, my goodness, what are we doing here?' But you cannot conduct a war based on polls," said Snow.

Well, as I hypothesized, there were polls taken -- right at the time. And they show Snow's all wet.

The American public really can tell the difference between a able president with a plan and one who's just floundering from one failure to the next.

More on this shortly.

Do the Democrats need 'new ideas'? Or are the old ones -- or to put it more evenhandedly, the existing ones -- just fine?

This debate is actually several debates in one. And we're going to try to hash them out this week at TPMCafe. Today, tomorrow and Friday, Ken Baer (go new ideas!) of the new quarterly Democracy is going to debate Jon Chait (existing ideas are cool!) of The New Republic.

Kenny has just posted his first post and Chait will follow this afternoon.

We've been talking a lot over the last two days over where the public is on Iraq and how the Democrats should be approaching the issue as they make their case to voters in the lead up to the election.

As we noted yesterday, Republicans are trying to cow Democrats by making a play of going on the offensive in the Iraq debate. But Bruce Jentleson shows pretty clearly here that all the supposed good news over the last couple weeks has barely registered in the public opinion polls. (Take a look at his break down of the numbers.) And President Bush's handling of Iraq remains overwhelmingly unpopular.

In terms of domestic politics, this isn't that complicated. President Bush wants to stay in Iraq for at least three more years. Members of his party in Congress agree with him. They don't have a plan. That's where to make this argument because very few people in this country think we should keep our troops there for another three years with our current policy.

Moreover, getting suckered into a debate about deadlines for leaving Iraq is foolish, especially when President Bush has said on the record repeatedly that he plans to keep our troops in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. He wants them there for at least three more years. What happens after that he'll leave to future presidents. This isn't what Democrats claim. This is what he says. He doesn't say he's willing to keep them there to achieve this or that aim. He's committed to keeping them there.

He doesn't have a plan for what to do in Iraq so he wants to keep troops there for the rest of his presidency. That's his plan: stay long enough that it becomes someone else's problem.