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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I really don't think I've ever seen a political train wreck quite like the Harris for Senate campaign. And in the political metaphor world these have been a rough few years in rail safety. So that's really saying something.

Anyway, during the last run of news about the implosion of the Harris campaign, I heard that one of the big reasons so many of Harris' top advisors were jumping ship was that they'd found out that she'd lied about some key points about her interactions with our old pal Mitch Wade. One of those things was whether he'd bought her a really fancy meal while he was wining and dining her.

This morning the Orlando Sentinel reports that meal may have cost "may have cost as much as $2,800."

And catch this passage ...

In her interview Wednesday, Harris acknowledged for the first time that Wade had paid for the dinner at Citronelle, reversing a statement from her congressional spokeswoman earlier this year.

But in the interview, Harris also said her campaign had, at some point, "reimbursed" the restaurant.

When asked how she could have reimbursed a business that was owed no money -- Wade paid the bill that evening -- she abruptly ended the interview and walked off.

Her spokesman called back an hour later and asked a reporter not to publish anything Harris had said Wednesday night about the dinner.

On Thursday, Harris' campaign released a two-paragraph statement that differed from her explanation a day earlier. It stated that Harris thought her "campaign would be reimbursing" her share of the meal but later found out that hadn't happened.

To resolve any questions, the statement said, "I have donated to a local Florida charity $100 which will more than adequately compensate for the cost of my beverage and appetizer."

Harris spokesman Chris Ingram said the donation was made Thursday to Global Dominion Impact Ministries. He would not answer any other questions about the dinner -- including the cost of the meal.


In case anyone's wondering, if any of you would like to take me out for a $3000 dinner, I'll be happy to defray the cost of the meal by giving a hundred bucks to the charity of my choice.

Also, I hear there's another Harris lie still waiting to bubble to the surface.

Is Bob Ney (R-OH) running for Congress or just running from the law?

Last quarter (Jan-March '06) his reelection campaign spent $250,000.

$96,500 went to his Abramoff case lawyer at Vinson & Elkins. More details here.

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.

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