Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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See this interesting post on Muqtada al-Sadr on Juan Cole's site. An example of some seemingly successful carrots and sticks applied by the CPA. Cole's site is one of the few places online -- in English at least -- where you can find good sustained reporting on these nitty-gritty details of what's going on over in Iraq. Invaluable.

We've made our way through all the entries for the TPM 'imminent threat' contest. And we'll be announcing the winner on Friday. (So if you entered the contest a lustrous, new TPM T-shirt may be in your future!)

But to get things started, here's my new column in The Hill on the effort to convince us that all those administration leaders didn't say what everyone remembers them saying less than a year ago.

In other words, the 'imminent threat' mumbo-jumbo.

TPM tonight on the Aaron Brown show on CNN at 10 PM -- talking about the Reagan miniseries ridiculousness.

As promised in the previous post, here's a copy of the letter about possible voting irregularities in Mississippi today which Secretary of State Eric Clark sent today to Attorney General Mike Moore and the state's two US Attorneys.

The irregularities include reports that poll watchers are videotaping voters in predominantly black neighborhoods.

The Kentucky governor's race is down to the wire, with Republican candidate Ernie Fletcher having a clear, though not insurmountable, advantage going into today's voting. Says uber-election-maven Charlie Cook ...

In Kentucky, Republican Rep. Ernie Fletcher appears to have a low single-digit lead over Democratic state Attorney General Ben Chandler. While a win for Chandler is still possible, the odds are higher that Fletcher, who has been the favorite, will win.

Meanwhile, in Mississippi, the other state holding a gubernatorial election today, there are reports of voting irregularities, including poll watchers videotaping voters in predominantly black neighborhoods, in direct violation of the law.

More on this in a moment.

Let's file this one <$NoAd$>under 'saving private nethercutt' ...

A couple weeks ago Congressman George Nethercutt (now running for Senate) stuck his foot in his mouth about up to his ankle when he said that the good news in the reconstruction of Iraq was "a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

Here's how the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, reported it ...

Rep. George Nethercutt said yesterday that Iraq's reconstruction is going better than is portrayed by the news media, citing his recent four-day trip to the country.

"The story of what we've done in the postwar period is remarkable," Nethercutt, R-Wash., told an audience of 65 at a noon meeting at the University of Washington's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs.

"It is a better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day."

He added that he did not want any more soldiers to be killed.

(TPM had this comment at the time.)

Now, rather than saying he'd mischosen his words, Nethercutt's campaign spinmeisters seem to have told him that the best approach was to go on the offensive. So Nethercutt first demanded an apology and then ran a bunch of ads accusing the paper of having "massacred" his words, engaging in "deliberate distortion" and "slander[ing]" him.

And what was the full quotation, according to Nethercutt?

So the story is better than we might be led to believe in the news. I’m just indicting the news people, but it’s, it’s a bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple of soldiers every day which, which heaven forbid is awful.


Frankly, it sounds to me like the Post-Intelligencer is mainly guilty of not being Nethercutt's flack, of not bending over backwards to save Nethercutt from his own clumsy and over-zealous repetition of the White House party line (viz, that the press is hiding the good news.)

It's awfully hard to get around his statement that the Iraqi schools reopening and other similar stuff is a "bigger and better and more important story than losing a couple soldiers every day" even if he did tag on a throwaway line about American fatalities being a terrible thing.

Today, Andrew Sullivan uses the whole imbroglio to attack Paul Krugman. Go figure ...

Okay, some follow-up on the ‘sees’ versus ‘seeks’ matter in the president’s speech before the Australian parliament last month, which is noted below.

I’ve done a little digging and here’s what I’ve found out --- some of it helpful to the White House, some not.

According to a trusted source, the prepared remarks the White House handed out at the time did indeed include the word ‘seek.’

But when the president delivered the speech he pretty clearly said ‘see’, thus changing the meaning of the statement and creating a small international hubbub. (Listen to the audio feed here.)

The White House released the transcript of the president’s speech saying ‘see.’ The official record of the Australian parliament records it as ‘see.’ Perhaps most revealing, when asked about it by members of the press, administration officials traveling with the president in Asia defended the ‘see’ statement and made no mention of the president’s having meant something different from what he said.

At some point people at the White House realized that the president had just committed a gaffe. He said ‘see’ but they had told him to say ‘seek’. And the folks at the White House seem to have reasoned, ‘hey, why are we defending this line when it’s not what he was supposed to have said in the first place?’ So they just changed the transcript to say what the president was supposed to have said rather than what he did say.

Now, is this a federal case or the end of the world? Of course not. But this White House does have a bit of a record of massaging transcripts. And at the end of the day there’s something to be said for the transcripts actually saying what the president said rather than what he was supposed to say.

Call me old-fashioned ...

Waiting for Godot, but getting Linda. The Pentagon has agreed to pay Linda Tripp $595,000 to settle her claims that the DOD violated her privacy rights.

I just noticed this post from Andrew Sullivan's <$NoAd$> site taking a shot at the BBC ...

Yep, they went in and changed the text which had said that "peace" had been declared in Iraq last April. It's not my error. The Beeb is one of the few news organizations which simply rewrites posted copy without any indication that they have done so. Sometimes with simple typos etc. this makes sense. But in factual errors, it's a form of deception, a rewriting of the record, with no accountability. It's a sign, I think, of the general level of integrity at today's BBC - i.e. frayed.

That reminded me of something.

The week before last I wrote a post questioning the wisdom of something President Bush said when he addressed the Australian parliament.

"We," said the president, "see a China that is stable and prosperous, a nation that respects the peace of its neighbors and works to secure the freedom of its own people."

The statement and its rather odd implication were reported around the world. But then a few days later I got an email from a reader who had followed the link I'd provided to the White House's transcript of the speech and asked if maybe I'd gotten it wrong.

A few days ago (10/23), you quoted Bush as speaking to the Australian Parliament and saying that he "sees" a China that is free, etc. At the time, I didn't go back to the White House press release, but if you look at it now you will see that it says he "seeks" a free China. Did you misread it, or have they been massaging the record after the fact? I don't know how to go about looking for a cached version of the page, but maybe it's worth pursuing.

Well, I'm not sure I'd know how to go about getting the cached version either. But luckily that's not necessary, since I made a PDF version of the original White House transcript as it appeared on the day in question. (Call me suspicious.) You can see it right here. If you scroll down to the big, clumsily-drawn red circle you'll see that the word was 'see' not 'seek'. Then compare it to the current version now at the White House website.

At some later point, they (i.e., someone in the White House press operation) simply changed the word and thus utterly changed the meaning.

Now, I've heard some speculate that the president had meant to say 'seek' but somehow misspoke or perhaps was supposed to say 'seek'.


But I find that a touch dubious because I think that on such a delicate matter the White House would check the 'transcript' against the prepared speech that the president read from. But however that may be, I'd say this performance from the White House press office turned out to be, to paraphrase Andrew, frayed as well.