Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The Muckrakers lament that they won't have Howard Kaloogian to kick around anymore -- after he managed a feeble fourth place in yesterday's open primary to succeed Duke Cunningham. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.

Actually, just kidding. Here's a photo from Howard's victory celebration.

I find more and more that the only place I get to read for any length at a time without distraction is at the gym. So it was this evening that I finally got down to reading Seymour Hersh's much-discussed article on Iran in the New Yorker.

Like many Hersh articles, it was studded with many glowing quotes and very few names attached to them. But I have to say that in the actual reading I found the article a good deal more alarming than the advance billing suggested.

Perhaps Hersh is totally out to lunch on this issue and talked to all the wrong people. But given the subject matter and the sort of sources he cultivates, I doubt that. And if he's anywhere near right about his portrayal of the current thinking inside the Bush White House we're in a lot of trouble.

President Bush's dimwit megalomania seems to have survived the disaster of his Iraq adventure wholly intact.

Consider this passage ...

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was "absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb' if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do," and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy."

Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

I have to say, I can totally imagine the crackpots and sycophants around the president (many of them, no doubt, 'consultants' and 'contractors') stoking up his grandiosity along these lines. The world really didn't know how easily it was getting off when President Clinton settled for the national conversation about race being his legacy, did it? (For you younger folks, you sort of had to be there.)

Here's the graf that comes after that one.

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that "a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government." He added, "i was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, 'What are they smoking?'"

This is what I was getting at. If this is an even remotely accurate reflection of what these clowns are thinking ... well, you can finish the sentence.

I'm going to try to write in a more considered and detailed way about this tomorrow. But for the moment I'd refer back to a point I made a couple weeks ago and say that the biggest folly would be to engage the administration on the particulars of their fantasies and delusions about foreign policy in the Middle East.

They appear to have learned almost nothing from the last three years in Iraq. The only sensible expenditure of energy is to find ways to hem these guys in or constrain them before they do even more damage to this country.

Below I posted the statement RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman released this evening on the latest news about the 2002 New Hampshire phone jamming scandal. Mehlman was White House political director in 2002. And in his statement he says that "none of my conversations nor the conversations of my staff, involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident."

I'm quite happy to believe that. Heck, it may even be true.

But Mehlman knows, and I hope those in DC won't forget, that he's dodging the real question. Is he ready to issue such blanket denials on behalf of the Republican National Committee, the organization he now runs. And how about the NRSC?

Let me fill in some of the details here before we proceed.

In 2002, the recently convicted James Tobin worked in a dual capacity for both the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the organization in charge of electing Republican senators. Principally, though, he worked for the latter group, which happened to be chaired that year by Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN). Now there is ample evidence connecting Tobin's bad acts up the chain at both committees -- a fact hinted at in the government's witness list in the Tobin trial.

You get another hint of this in the fact that the RNC has to date spent almost $3 million on Tobin's legal defense. -- despite the fact that Tobin's defense didn't deny his involvement in the phone-jamming case.

So let's have it.

Will Ken Mehlman make a similarly categorical statement about the involvement of the Republican National Committee? And will he address his organization's continuing bankrolling of Tobin's defense -- given that Tobin doesn't actually deny his role in the scheme? If he wants to toss in a blanket denial on behalf of the NRSC, great. But I'll settle for one and two.

DC Republicans have been covering up their role in this caper for years -- abetted, admittedly by the national political press's almost total lack of interest in the case. Now Mehlman seems to think the standard refusals to address the question won't wash any more. So here's a chance for reporters to ask some key questions.

This really is too funny. But I guess it's appropriate that a would-be avatar of free markets and unbridled libertarianism finds himself applying to the government for restrictive monopoly rights to a phrase so that others can't use it in ways he's doesn't like.

What am I talking about?

Grover Norquist is trying to trademark the phrase "K Street Project."

I guess in the application to the trademark office his lawyers may ask for exclusive rights to engage in organized corruption under this title in the environs of Washington, DC. Of course, the scope has reached worldwide. So they may not settle for the geographical restriction.

Norquist told the Hill: "We will jealously guard the real phrasing the way Kleenex and Coca-Cola do. We will sue anyone who says it wrong and make lots of money."

RNC Chair Ken Mehlman responds to the new phone-jamming records ...

"As White House political director during the 2002 election cycle, my staff and I regularly communicated with competitive Congressional campaigns and Republican Party organizations. One of the most competitive was the Senate race in New Hampshire and throughout the election season and Election Day, Alicia Davis, my deputy responsible for the Northeast, frequently communicated with the New Hampshire State Party, the RNC and others.

"To be clear, none of my conversations nor the conversations of my staff, involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident. While I have profound policy disagreements with Chairman Dean, I have always tried to maintain what he and I discussed when we were first elected: keep it to the issues."

That's his story. Let's see if he can stick to it.

Chris Bowers has an advance read of the tea leaves in the primary election being held today to select the successor to Duke "felon" Cunningham in California's 50th congressional district. If Francine Busby, the Democrat in the race, can get over 50%, she's in. If not, she'll go up against the Republican who gets the most votes.

There's little doubt she'll get near 50%. Whether she gets over 50% is the question of the night.

Howard 'You say Istanbul, I say Baghdad, let's call the whole thing off' Kaloogian is in the race. But now he seems like a longshot. Also in the race is former Rep. Brian Bilbray, lobbyist and former Abramoff buddy. His idea for cracking down on lobbying is preventing the state of California from calling him a lobbyist. He has a decent shot at getting the chance to run against Busby in the run-off.

There's also a self-financing gazillionaire named Eric Roach in the race. He's the other contender to take on Busby in the run-off. But he doesn't seem to be as good a material for humor as Bilbray and Kaloogian, so you're on your own with him.

Chris has more details.