Josh Marshall

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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.

Fiction: "Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, 'There's no place like home. There's no place like home.'"

Source: The Wizard of Oz.

Reality: "The artificial windows revealed an inviting blue sky. Bush portrayed a similarly sunny outlook with remarks that used "optimistic" or "optimism" seven times in 49 minutes. He repeatedly stressed the power of positive thinking as an engine of job creation."

Source: "Bush Upbeat on Economy in Campaign Preview in Fla.", Mike Allen, Washington Post, Feb. 17th, 2004.

I came home this afternoon and saw this headline on the front page of the CNN website: "Bush says Democrats would threaten fiscal health."

The article's lede said Bush told a crowd in Florida that "Democrats would endanger America's fiscal health by raising taxes."

This is one of many reasons why President Bush is in trouble. On fiscal policy, he has not simply lost all credibility. With claims like these, he is right on his way to becoming the butt of jokes. And laughter and derision are in many ways the deadliest bogies in politics.

When the president came into office the budget surplus was over $200 billion. Now the deficit is over $500 billion.

Even my frail grasp of mathematics tells me that's a deterioration in the nation's fiscal health of roughly three-quarters of a trillion dollars in the three years he's been in office. And for almost all of that time the president's party controlled both houses of congress.

And he says the Democrats are a danger to the nation's fiscal health?

This is the arsonist in your house telling you that stranger outside with the hose can't be trusted.

On Friday, I reported on a tense exchange between <$Ad$>Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan over whether the president had taken time off from the Guard because he had been compelled to perform community service.

Now Harry Jaffe provides some helpful follow-up on the spat in The Washingtonian.

Thomas says “I think they are getting pretty nervous about this."

McClellan says "Helen was asking about trashy rumors. There’s a difference between trashy rumors and journalism. I will not dignify them from the podium."

"'I never gave anybody hell,' he would later say, 'I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.'" David McCullough quoting Harry S. Truman, Truman, p. 664.

Thirty-five years old today. In the last several <$Ad$>months this marker seemed hard to get my head around, and more than a little daunting. But now that it's here, it feels right, like it's where I should be.

Thank you very sincerely to all who've sent good wishes.

I took a light week last week. But this week ahead we should be back to the standard frequency of posts. And there's certainly plenty to write about.

The new line out of the White House is that they really just haven't been in campaign mode. But with the Democrats being so mean and ungenerous, well ... they'll have to let loose the dogs.

Allegedly predicting this shift, Peggy Noonan has a piece in the Post today which, among other things, is, in the first few grafs, a good example of cliche and slander gussied up to look like literature. It's worth taking a moment to read.

The key to so much of this is that Republicans -- particularly those in the president's orbit -- simply don't have much experience being on the receiving end of what they normally serve up with such alacrity and zest. They're knocked off balance. Their breath is a bit taken away.

There is a natural tendency for each side to believe the other side is meaner, more disciplined, more unfair, more this, that, and the other. But it's only very recently that Democrats have had enough of an infrastructure of media and fundraising to raise the attention of their ideological competitors. And the White House has, for literally years now, been sowing the wind while using aggressive tactics and the climate of national emergency to knock back any response.

That's beginning to change.

More on all of this soon.

I'm waiting to see what journalists are able to make of the president's Friday night military service record document dump. I don't have copies of them. So, like you, I'm waiting to hear what they find.

Yesterday, though, there was a new development when one of the president's fellow Guardsmen, John B. Calhoun, came forward to say that he clearly remembered him showing up for his required drills in Alabama through the summer and fall of 1972.

"We didn't have the planes that he could fly," Calhoun told the Associated Press. "But he studied his manuals, he read flying safety regulations, accident reports -- things pilots do quite often when they are not getting ready to fly or if they don't have other duties."

Interestingly, though, as the Houston Chronicle notes this morning, the documents released Friday night show "Bush's transfer to the Alabama squadron wasn't approved until September 1972, months after Bush's presence as recalled by Calhoun."


Now, needless to say, if we were still operating under the rules that prevailed in the mid-1990s, James Carville would have been appointed Independent Counsel in the late summer of 2002 to investigate Halliburton. He'd have had the Intel shenanigans, the Plame matter and the Niger documents added to his brief since then. A cowed AG would have given him the Guard matter around the middle of last week. And in a couple days some FBI agents would be showing up on Calhoun's doorstep ready to squeeze him as silly as any freshly sliced wedge of lime in close proximity to a bottle of Corona.

Lucky for him Dems don't play so rough.

A number of folks have written in to ask why the exchange between Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan reported yesterday on TPM doesn't appear in the press briefing transcript at the White House website or in the televised version on CSPAN.


There are actually two press briefings at the White House each day. Both are on the record. But a public transcript is prepared for the second (and posted on the White House website); and it's televised on CSPAN. Neither is done for the first. Because of that difference, the first -- which usually takes place between 9 and 10 am -- is often more contentious and free-wheeling than the second, which takes place just after noon.

In most cases, when I report these exchanges on TPM, they come from the early morning briefing, the "gaggle".

This guy says he remembers Bush at drills in Alabama.

These two say they never saw him and think they would have if he were there.

Yesterday the AP contacted more than a dozen former members of Bush's unit and none remembered seeing him.

"I don't remember seeing him. That does not mean he was not there," said Wayne Rambo, a first lieutenant with the 187th Supply Squadron at the time in question.