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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Uh-oh ... Sounds like it's subpoena time for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

Off the AP wire: "San Bernardino County, Calif., has been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury for records connected to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis and a lobbying firm with strong ties to Lewis, a county official said. The subpoena asked for all records of the county's correspondence with Lewis, R-Calif., and his staff and with the lobbying firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White, which employs former California Republican Congressman Bill Lowery, said San Bernardino County's chief deputy counsel, Daniel B. Haueter."

Never a dull moment in our new gilded age.

Wow. Bizarre and sad as it is, this is almost kind of fun.

The AP sent out a detailed response to our reporting and that of Media Matters on John Solomon's piece on Harry Reid. Paul Kiel, over at TPMmuckraker, had intended to respond to it today. But he got so bogged down with the new distortions and bamboozlement in Solomon's follow-up reporting that he didn't get to it.

Now, I just noticed that Media Matters has their response to the AP, along with the AP's original defense of its reporting, posted at their site.

So this gave me a chance to glance over some of the AP's claims about TPMmuckraker's reporting. And most of the assertions are so demonstrably false that it's hard for me even to figure what sort of meltdown is going on over there.

Again, Paul's going to address the AP's rejoinder to TPMmuckraker tomorrow in some systematic sort of fashion. But let me just hit on some points that jumped out at me.

Here's one example from the AP ...

TPM Muckraker stated mistakenly that AP failed to report that there is an absolute exemption allowing lawmakers to take gifts from federal, state and local officials. AP, in fact, accurately reported that there is a general exemption for such gifts but that the Congressional ethics manual clearly warns members of Congress against accepting such normally permitted gifts if they are connected to efforts to influence their position on legislation.


All I can think is to be generous and assume the author of this response actually hadn't read what Paul Kiel -- who's been covering this at TPMm -- wrote.

Paul was very clear. What he said was that Solomon buried these details down in the piece in order to create a lead that made the whole ticket issue seem like a much bigger deal than it was.

Was Paul not clear enough about this?

Look at his words. In the post in question, Paul reprinted Solomon's one sentence lead, then explained the details which significantly deflate Solomon's story. And then he says this ...

Now, Solomon puts all these facts in his piece. So he's not covering up a key piece of information like he did last time. He seems to realize that he doesn't have any real story. So Solomon argues that Reid, out of an abundance of caution, should have paid for the tickets to avoid the appearance of impropriety.


(ed.note: The reference to 'last time' is back in February when we caught Solomon bamboozling on the Reid beat the first time.)

So AP: "TPMMuckraker stated mistakenly that AP failed to report ..." and TPMmuckraker: "Solomon puts all these facts in his piece. So he's not covering up a key piece of information ..."

What am I missing? If you have any question that the antecedents of 'these facts' includes reference to the exemption issue, I encourage you to read the post.

At another point in the AP rebuttal they write, "Contrary to TPM Muckraker assertions, Senator Reid did not vote against the legislation the Nevada commission supported. Senators Reid and McCain sponsored legislation the commission wanted to change."

Again, bizarre. The AP says we said something we never said and then 'rebuts' our nonexistent-statement with what we actually said. And if you look at the point that's actually at issue -- whether Reid came down for or against the commission's position -- the distinction he's alleging is basically a distinction without a difference.

What Kiel wrote was that Reid voted for legislation the commission opposed. I tried scanning through Kiel's posts to see if there were any instances where he bollixed up the sentence and said Reid voted against legislation they supported (as the AP claims) as opposed to voting for legislation they opposed. But, as far as I can tell, he didn't even do that.

(ed.note: Again, if you have any questions about what I'm asserting about our coverage, you can find every post we've published on this topic collected together here.)

Who says the commission opposed the legislation? Well, among others, John Solomon. As Paul quotes Solomon saying, Reid supported creating a "commission that Nevada's agency feared might usurp its authority."

After this response came out, Solomon tried to imply that Reid changed the legislation to be more to the commission's liking. But late this afternoon Kiel exposed this one as yet another howler.

I mean, I think I'd be within my rights to say they're just making it up. Like they can't help it: 'Stop me before I bamboozle again!' But, again, I figure they just didn't bother to read what we wrote before issuing their rebuttal.

What do you make of it?

Can one man catalog all John Solomon's Reid bamboozles? Paul Kiel's trying. And he's found yet another.

Actually, in all seriousness, keep Paul in your thoughts. Chronicling this much recidivist bamboozlement is like drinking from a burst water main. But he's holding up pretty well so far.

Have we been wrong about frogs all along?

Yesterday I did a post with the oft-mentioned story of how a frog will sit still for his cooking when put in water that is slowly brought to a boil.

But TPM Reader EG wrote in yesterday to tell me that about a year ago he ran this story past a respected frogologist (actually, the word is apparently 'herpetologist' but that sounded more like a doctor they might have on call at the local Planned Parenthood clinic) and the frogologist said this simply isn't true.

As the water heats up, the frog starts to wig out. And if he can bail before the boil, he will.

Can anyone confirm this? Is the frog anecdote wrong? And if this story isn't true, how much more must we be in the dark about? Late Update: Power of the web. Seems Fast Company reported out the details of the frog hoax ten years ago. We've all been deceived. Later Update: Another debunking of the frog hoax.

Even Later Update: Yet another research-based refutation of the frog canard, along with bonus frog heating research.

The last couple days we've been going back and forth with AP writer John Solomon's reporting about Harry Reid and these boxing tickets. He's back tonight with another piece which is written in such a way that it's hard to come to any other conclusion but that the composition of the piece is meant mislead readers. I know that's a tough claim. But I think it's merited. Paul Kiel is going to have a run-down on it shortly over at TPMmuckraker.

As long as we're on the subject, let me share a few thoughts with you.

What's this story all about and why won't we let go of it?

At the end of the day, Sen. Reid got to sit ringside to watch a big prize fight because he's a US senator. I didn't get to go and neither did you. I think those facts speak for themselves. If that's Solomon's point, put us down as a big thumbs-up.

But in writing about it, Solomon buried or omitted key facts about what happened with the unmistakable intention of pumping the incident up into something it just clearly wasn't. Did Reid vote in favor of the agency that gave him the credentials? Did taking them actually violate any ethics rules? And in his follow-up reporting, Paul Kiel has found additional factual errors in Solomon's original report. There's a pattern of selective use of information and misleading omissions that, candidly, I find surprising, maddening and offensive.

Why the effort to pump up this one story? Because Harry Reid's a Democrat and you really want to get the Senate minority leader on an ethics rap. Bill Jefferson and Alan Mollohan aren't good enough. Not high enough on the totem pole. There's just no other way to understand the reporting on this story. And in this case, the method of distortion is very similar to the one Solomon used in his last piece about Reid. It's becoming an identifiable MO.

If you're going to take a berm on the mountain range of congressional ethics and cut corners, omit key facts and get other facts wrong to manufacture a false appearance of balance, we think it's right to call you on every single distortion and error. And we're going to keep on doing just that.

Then again, word from Missouri ...

I was holding back, but dude?!?

"The vast majority of Democrats totally understand that Dems running in reddish states can't have stereotypically liberal positions on hot-button social and cultural issues. I think everybody gets that."

No, no, no. THEY DON'T GET THAT AT ALL.

"Reddish"? Dems don't get that notion even when it comes to blood red states.

Come on. If Dems got it, the party would have never nominated Kerry, and Hillary would be consigned to the oblivion of a Senate committee chairmanship, at best.

In fact, I'm trying to conjure up any factual basis for thinking that the majority of Dems get that, let alone a "vast majority."

I lived in Louisiana when Dukakis ran. I lived in Missouri when Kerry (his fricking lt. gov.!) ran. They were jokes. Not just unelectable. Jokes. Howard Dean? Another joke. Hillary? God help us.

Do you have any idea how demoralizing it is having these folks wrecking the top of the ballot again and again? It not just that those of us in red states have to endure GOP presidencies, just like you blue staters. But we get the shit kicked out of us up and down the ballot. It's a disaster.

You tell me how it is that Dems managed to nominate two Massachusetts liberals for president during the greatest conservative movement in this country since--I don't know--prohibition? It sure ain't because a vast majority decided to accommodate the mood of the country.

With those two nominations as bookends to the last 18 years, I don't think the problem is that reporters like Goldberg keep repeating the same old tired cliches. So long as the Dems keep living those tired old cliches, you'd have to become a novelist to write a different storyline. Don't shoot the messenger.


I guess my rejoinder would be that it was a wooden and unoriginal version of the message.

But I'll let TPM Reader ZR speak for me ...

Josh -

Since you ask for other people's responses to the Goldberg NYer story:

I was really glad to read your post, as i had exactly the same response to the story when I read it. It's not that any of the stuff Goldberg talked about was untrue, or unimportant exactly, or even unfair to Democrats. (The concern, for instance, that moderate red-state candidates may be harmed by a more outspoken, anti-Bush party leadership strikes me as legitimate, and who knows how it'll play out?) It's just that, if you follow this stuff, the issues Goldberg focused on have been so completely hashed out already. It would be generous to call them conventional wisdom. What they are is something like a basic backdrop to the much more dynamic trends and "cross-cutting alliances", as you say, which are actually taking place and might be worthy of attention.

The other thing is -- and this goes beyond the shortcomings of this particular lame story -- I understand the NYer isn't writing for a political-junkie, DC crowd.

But even so, the NYer consistently includes better journalism, across just about every other subject, than anyone else out there. So you'd like to think they'd have something to say about Washington that actually advances the ball conceptually, and helps readers understand politics in a fresh way. And I don't think they've figured out how to do that.

Enjoying your site as always.

ZK


More soon.

Word from Kansas ...

Josh,

In spite of being a far left progressive whose views of the media narrative, well-skewered by your parody, is best explained by the Daily Howler, here in the midwest there is something to be said of former liberals, such as Claire McCaskill in Missouri, trying to portray themselves as centrists -- whatever that means -- in an effort to dodge the guns-gays-and-god bullets that are so potent here. Look at Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius in Kansas. Just today she picked as her Lt. Gov. running mate candidate the head of the GOP in Kansas who just switched his registration to Democratic....in Kansas!

That is on the heals of Paul Morrison, a law-and-order Republican prosecutor, becoming a Democrat a few months ago to run for Kansas Attorney General. And there are others doing the same.

What is going on? In a bright red states such as Kansas, the guns/gays/god crowd have pushed the moderates out of the Republican party and the Democrats are conscious of the need to capture the center to create a long-lasting political realignment. Various candidates approach that task in different ways. The fact that some Democratic governors, such as Schweitzer in Montana, are anti-gun control and not afraid of the "leftist base", shows the strength of the Democratic party west of the Mississippi and east of the Sierras. The mountain west, surely, and the northern plains, possibly, are where the Democratic party will find its future leaders. Even if a few of us out here would prefer Russ Feingold, he is not going to be on the 2008 ticket. Kathleen Sebelius has a better chance of being on the national ticket than he does.

AB


AB makes a point the inattention to which was, I think, one of the biggest problems with Goldberg's piece. The vast majority of Democrats totally understand that Dems running in reddish states can't have stereotypically liberal positions on hot-button social and cultural issues. I think everybody gets that. I don't deny that there are arguments on where to draw the line. There are. Everybody, to one degree or another thinks that their issue is a little less compromisable than the trest. But, in general, no kidding. And AB's reference to Schweitzer is a good example of that recognition. Look who his supporters are, in terms of activists and online types around the country. This is why, despite the fact that he's often portrayed as the embodiment of the whacked-out, Bush-bashing, run-on-universal-abortion-in-Utah online left, Kos as often as not is supporting candidates who, by Goldberg's standards, are centrists or moderates and probably disagree with Kos on several key issues.

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