Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

The president says he's "troubled" by <$Ad$>the rush of wedding licenses being issued to gay couples in San Francisco. But I don't think that's really what's troubling them. I think what's really got their guts in knots are these numbers from the new CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll which shows that both John Kerry (12%) and John Edwards (10%) hold double-digit leads over the president among likely voters.

The poll actually has the president's approval number holding pretty steady at 51%. But his reelect number -- which is the more significant one heading into an election has fallen to the low 40s.

You don't judge a race when one candidate is in a trough. But this is quite a trough.

I like John Kerry. And, last night's results notwithstanding, I think he's got this race pretty much wrapped up. But take a look at the Kerry website and the Edwards website, and tell me which one radiates more energy and excitement.

Some mumbo-jumbo just turns out to be ... well, too mumbo. This from CNN ...

The White House backed away Wednesday from its own prediction that the economy will add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of this year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that President Bush was not a statistician.

I think we'd all agree to that last point. But can he hire one?

Embarrassing. The bloom is really coming off this rose.

The credibility account is close to overdrawn.

Drip, drip, drip.

Back to the tangled web files ...

Knocked on his heels by increasing evidence that he willfully deceived the American public, President Bush is off to a new strategy of spreading around the blame. Let's call it the anti-buck gambit. Don't pass the buck. Just get an M-80, light it, put it over in the corner with the buck on top of it. Then no more buck, no more problem.

In any case, back to our story. The new line is, well, okay maybe we were wrong. But everyone else was wrong too. So who's gonna cast the first stone.

Said the president yesterday at an Army base in Louisiana: "My administration looked at the intelligence and we saw a danger. Members of Congress looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a danger. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it saw a danger. We reached a reasonable conclusion that Saddam Hussein was a danger."

Filling in the blanks here, the argument is that everyone thought Saddam had WMD. So it's not my mistake. It's everyone's mistake.

Now, this is dishonest at a number of levels. But let's just pick one. When it comes to what constitutes a threat, all 'WMD' are not created equal. Mustard gas is close to irrelevant weighed against the threat of nuclear weapons, especially effectively deliverable ones. And on this there was in fact fierce and public disagreement. Let's take the UN and their inspectors versus the White House.

One of the key points the White House never mentions is that, notwithstanding what people thought before the return of inspectors, we found out quite a lot during the brief period when inspectors were in the country. And almost all of what we learned was damaging to the White House's case for war. Indeed, one reason for the hurry to start the war was the fear that the case would collapse entirely. (For a broader discussion of what the UN knew and what we 'knew', see this excellent piece by Fareed Zakaria in a recent Newsweek.)

In any case, one of the key findings was the IAEA's determination, after its initial round of inspections, that there was no evidence that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. For a variety of technical reasons, it's much more difficult to hide a real nuclear weapons program from inspectors who are on the ground in your country than it is to hide, say, a chemical or biological weapons program.

So the IAEA's judgment came with a lot of weight -- at least to those who were interested in knowing the state, or even the existence, of Iraq's nuclear efforts.

So the UN (the IAEA is, in effect, a part of the UN) definitely disagreed with the White House on the WMD issue.

And what was the White House's response? Recall this exchange between Vice President Cheney and Tim Russert on the eve of the war ...

MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you'll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let's talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We've got, again, a long record here. It's not as though this is a fresh issue. In the late '70s, Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear reactors from the French. 1981, the Israelis took out the Osirak reactor and stopped his nuclear weapons development at the time. Throughout the '80s, he mounted a new effort. I was told when I was defense secretary before the Gulf War that he was eight to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon. We found out after the Gulf War that he was within one or two years of having a nuclear weapon because he had a massive effort under way that involved four or five different technologies for enriching uranium to produce fissile material.

We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past.

That of course would be the same Vice President Cheney who told Hans Blix before he took on his job that "we will not hesitate to discredit you" if Blix failed to march to the White House's tune.

They can run and they can hide. They can pass the buck, eat the buck, blow up the buck, hide it in the drawer, twiddle their thumbs and hope everyone forgets about it. But this buck is a MIRVed missile. And it's coming right for them.

Our friend Mr. Perle is giving new meaning to the phrase 'comedy of errors'. Yesterday in Washington he called for the resignation of CIA chief George Tenet and the head the of DIA. "Heads should roll," he said, "not in a punitive or vindictive way. But when you discover you have an organization that doesn't get it right time after time, you change the organization, including the people.... I would start with the head. George Tenet has been at the CIA long enough to assume responsibility for its performance."

Now, this is truly one of those 'where do you start' points of ridiculousness. It's rather like Andy Fastow and Ken Lay calling for heads to roll at the SEC because the government regulators didn't get the whole securities oversight thing quite right. Well, Yes, heads should roll, you say in response. But then when you see the would-be executioners, the rationale and the logic of the thing starts to break down.

It is awfully hard to find a single data point on which the CIA or the DIA were 'wrong' in which Perle & Co. were not wrong-squared or even wrong-cubed, and in which he and his crew were not playing the same old bureaucratic and media games to mau-mau those agencies into being even more 'wrong' than they were. (See this particularly humorous example.)

We can leave aside for the moment that this is far from the first time. Perle himself was a leader in the effort to second-guess US intelligence agencies about the Soviet threat in the 1970s, arguing that Soviet military was far more threatening and powerful than the folks at the CIA believed.

Of course, the CIA did miss the boat on that one. But their error wasn't in underestimating but rather in overestimating the military and economic power of the late Soviet state.

They missed the internal rot and economic and military and political degeneration that would bring the whole edifice crashing down in the late 1980s. To say that Perle's crew failed to see this coming is rather an understatement. As late as 1980, in The Present Danger: Do we have the will to reverse the decline of American power?, neoconservative founding father Norman Podhoretz, lamented whether it might not be too late to prevent the "finlandization of America, the political and economic subordination of the United States to superior Soviet power."

In any case, if Perle wants to call for others to walk the plank, it's a call he should be making from the waves, not the deck.

Who will take this claptrap seriously? Advice on honing our intelligence processes from a serial enabler of intelligence ridiculousness stretching back two generations.

A hard time kicking the habit?

You've probably already heard the story of Richard Convertino, the Assistant US Attorney from Detroit who's just sued John Ashcroft for "gross mismanagement" and various bad acts stemming out of a counter-terrorism case in Detriot.

But look at this passage down in this Associated Press story ...

Convertino also accused Justice officials of intentionally divulging the name of one of his confidential terrorism informants (CI) to retaliate against him.

The leak put the informant at grave risk, forced him to flee the United States and "interfered with the ability of the United States to obtain information from the CI about current and future terrorist activities," the suit alleges.

More payback?

Check out this very funny and very good piece by Slate's Jack Shafer about a really embarrassing article in the New York Times. Actually that's Jack Abu Shafer -- read the article, you'll understand.

Oh, how sweet it is. We've been telling you for some time about the 6th congressional district special election in Kentucky, pitting former state Attorney General Ben Chandler against Alice Forgy Kerr.

This was the first federal election of the 2004 cycle. Kerr based her campaign almost exclusively on her strong support for the Bush agenda. And the AP is now reporting that Chandler has beaten Kerr decisively. That marks the first time since 1991 that a Democrat has won a Republican seat in a special election.

This is a big deal for a number of reasons.

The first is the shot in the arm it'll give to Democrats around the country.

But another part of the story is Internet fundraising. As you'll notice there on the left, the Chandler campaign has been advertising for about the last two weeks on this and a number of other blogs. The campaign budgeted about two grand for blog advertising. And my understanding is that by today they had raised close to $100,000 from contributors who linked through from those blogs on which the campaign was advertising.

In other words, they got roughly a 50-fold turnaround on their investment in the final two weeks of the campaign. And in case you're wondering one hundred grand is a lot of money in a House race.

Now, obviously that's exciting news for proprietors of blogs looking to open up revenue streams from advertisers. But the bigger story here is about the Democrats and the Internet, and the way this technology seems to click, shall we say, for the Democratic demographic.

Democrats have always lamented how Republicans just have far better direct-mail lists than they do, and how the Republicans are just plain better at it. And they do have better lists and they are better at it. But I've always thought that it wouldn't really matter all that much if the Democrats had high quality lists too. The truth is that direct-mail, for whatever reason, just works with folks who are apt to give money to Republican campaigns. And it just doesn't with Dems, or at least not nearly as well. It's a different demographic. For whatever social or cultural reasons, the technology or mechanism -- in this case fundraising by mail -- is just particularly well suited to one demographic and not to the other.

But the Internet does seem to work for Democrats. That was clear in the spectacular early success of the Dean campaign and now you're seeing it in smaller ways in individual House races. That doesn't mean that it won't work equally well for Republicans; we just don't know yet. But for the first time in a long time Democrats have a technology, a mechanism that is allowing them to raise large sums of money, not from a few well-heeled givers but from large numbers of energized Democrats giving $10, $50 or $100 a shot. It's already starting to make a difference.

And as long as we're at it, there's another special election coming up in which a Democrat has a good chance to pick up a seat currently held by a Republican. That's the June 1st special election for South Dakota's single House seat. The Democrat is Stephanie Herseth.

According to this AP article France has convened a special meeting to decide, among other things, whether to send peace-keepers into Haiti.

Doesn't this raise some Monroe Doctrine issues?

And, no, I'm not kidding.