Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Here are the results of a comprehensive poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland. They're bad news for the White House.

A summary of the findings in the Financial Times includes ...

SIXTY-FOUR PERCENT of respondents said that the U.S. military presence in the Middle East increased the likelihood of terrorism, 77 percent thought there were widespread negative feelings towards the U.S. in the Islamic world that enhanced terrorist recruiting, and 54 per cent thought the US had been too assertive in its foreign policies.

In addition, 81 percent thought a key lesson of September 11 was that the U.S. needed to work more closely with other countries to fight terrorism, up from 61 percent in a similar poll more than a year ago.

The poll was conducted between August 26th and September 3rd. And it's only fair to say that that was one of the worst foreign policy weeks this White House has ever had.

But these numbers do show that the White House has serious vulnerabilities on foreign policy and national security issues. The 2004 election could well turn on whether the Democrats will nominate a candidate who has sufficient credibility on national security issues to exploit those vulnerabilities.

Today when taking questions about Iraq, President Bush said, "I will once again make that plea" for money and troops from other countries.

I guarantee you that the president's handlers in the room gritted their teeth or drew blood from their lower lips when they heard the P-word come out of the president's mouth.

Just for starters, what would the Standard and the National Review have said if Bill Clinton had used that word in the context of seeking help from other countries?

(Actually, scratch that: What will the Standard say? They're getting as much distance from this administration on this as they can.)

This is what we call a Kinsley Gaffe, the unintentional and deeply embarrassing statement of the truth.

The truth is that we do need other countries' help. But it's only the president's folly which has put us in the position of needing to beg.

A victory in the senate. Senate Democrats succeeded in getting an amendment passed to block the White House's proposal to restrict overtime pay. The vote wasn't even as close as might have been expected -- 54-45. As noted earlier, this is a very important issue in its own right. But it's also a cutting political issue and one that will now keep bubbling through the system.

The president has issued a veto threat against any legislative attempts to overturn his new overtime rule. And at first I had assumed the whole issue was academic since the Senate amendment would be stripped out by the House in the conference. But apparently the Dems might get another bite at this apple in the House, and perhaps even a vote to instruct the conferees. And I'm curious to find out whether that nine point spread in the Senate points to a shifting political climate, a growing perception of the Republicans' vulnerability on the economy, or a growing salience of economic issues as the foreign policy trump card weakens.

In any case, I'll try to find out more.

Back before things got bumpy in Iraq there was a surge of talk about an Alaska fund for Iraq -- that is, a fund to distribute some of the proceeds of Iraq's oil wealth to individual citizens, an idea first proposed by Steve Clemons in the Times on April 9th.. Today there's an update on the idea in the Times with actual reporting from on the ground in the country. Take a look.

It looks like the third special session for Texas redistricting may be the charm for Gov. Rick Perry and Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Read the latest before The Hammer strikes the final blow.

This article in tomorrow's Boston Globe says that "the US-appointed Iraqi interim government said late last month in a little-noticed statement that it would buy electricity from Syria and Iran, a deal that would probably enrich with US funds two countries that top the White House list of states that support terrorism."

Certainly that's an ironic development, though I'm not certain it's more than that. One of the ideas here was that our presence in Iraq would overawe the Iranians and the Syrians into better behavior. Making our occupation dependent on their selling the Iraqis electricity would seem to make the flow of leverage and dependence run in a slightly different direction.

Having said all that, this seems more like welcome pragmatism than an error, although it does demonstrate again the chasm which too often separates the administration's chatter from reality.

More troubling is this piece in tomorrow's LA Times. According to the Times article, the $87 billion the White House is now requesting from congress leaves roughly $55 billion in reconstruction costs still unfunded. (Actually, this fact sheet at the White House website says it's between $55 and $75 billion.)

Now, the White House says it's going to pressure other countries to pay that part of the tab.

But according to everyone I've spoken to and everything I've read (see the Times article for a good discussion of this) that is vastly more than anyone thinks other countries are going to contribute.

One of the outside experts Don Rumsfeld sent out on that fact-finding mission to Iraq a couple months ago, Bathsheba Crocker, tells the Times that, "from what we have been hearing about the donors conference [next month], they'll be lucky if they get $1 billion."

Now, some of that extra sum should be offset by Iraqi oil revenues. But yesterday the administration again revised downward those expected oil revenues. It now predicts only $12 billion worth in 2004.

For the moment, let's assume that Crocker is right or close to right. Congress appropriated $79 billion just after the war in April. It seems certain to appropriate this new allocation of $87, albeit with greater oversight. If you add on another $55-$75 billion you start getting perilously close to a quarter of a trillion dollars as the price tag for the first two years of this endeavor.

Another postcard from the 'responsibility era' ...

It's reassuring in a way when an apparent scoundrel reveals his scoundrelhood straight-out. Straight, no chaser, shall we say. Today, in case you hadn't heard, Don Rumsfeld told reporters that (in the words of the Post's Dana Priest) "critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are encouraging terrorists and complicating the ongoing U.S. war on terrorism."

Rumsfeld went on to say that ...

To the extent that terrorists are given reason to believe he might, or, if he is not going to, that the opponents might prevail in some way, and they take heart in that, and that leads to more money going into these activities, or that leads to more recruits, or that leads to more encouragement, or that leads to more staying power, obviously that does make our task more difficult.

In other words, the problem is not any shortcoming in the president's policies, but the president's domestic critics who are emboldening 'the terrorists' by pointing out the shortcomings of the president's policies. A week ago I said I saw the first signs of "a 21st century version of the 'stab-in-the-back' charge German militarists used against the fledgling republic which replaced Kaiserdom in the aftermath of World War I."

But I have to confess to some surprise at seeing it so quickly.

In fact, a friend alerted me today to a slightly more literary-minded version of the Rumsfeld storyline in a piece by Stanley Kurtz in the National Review Online.

Kurtz says that internationalizing the mission in the Middle East isn't an ideal solution, but rather a poor one that has nonetheless been forced upon us by unamerican liberalism and the culture war. "The best foreign policy requires not the United Nations," says Kurtz, "but a united nation. Unfortunately, our nation is not united. The occupation of Iraq is not the occupation of Japan or Germany. This is even more because of the fact that we are different than we were back then than the fact that Iraq is not Japan or Germany."

Continues Kurtz ...

A nation where the political opposition stands against our foreign policy, and even secretly (and not so secretly) hopes for its failure, cannot reform a region as recalcitrant as the Middle East. A nation where–even after an event like 9/11–a draft can be offered as a political tactic against the hawks, is a nation unready to manage social transformation on the other side of the world. Our culture war is real. Now it has taken its toll. In many ways we are strong. Yet disunited we are weak. Our turning to the U.N. is not necessarily a disaster. But it is a sign that our internal divisions have finally exacted a cost.

Rumsfeld says that the struggle is harder than it should be because domestic critics are making the country's enemies stronger. Kurtz says our hopes for true success are diminished because the electorate has been degenerated by liberalism.

So here the whole sordid business comes full circle. The administration games the public into an endeavor by exaggerating the gains and minimizing the price. Then the gains are revealed as not quite so great. And the price is revealed as very much greater. And if all that weren't bad enough, the operation is bungled on several fronts. So the gamers and the scammers say it's the fault of the critics who tried to carve through the mumbo-jumbo in the first place. And when the public has a touch of buyers' remorse over a product that was peddled on false advertising, the answer lies in the public's own degeneracy and division.

It's everyone's fault but theirs. 'The terrorists', domestic enemies, cultural declension, the French, perhaps tomorrow the decline of reading, the end of corporal punishment in the schools, permissive parenting, bad posture, rock 'n roll, space aliens. The administration is choking on its own lies and evasions. And we have to bail them out because the ship of state is our ship.

Great moments in the passive voice ...

BLITZER: But the bottom line is you have to admit that you could have done a better job planning for this current environment.

RICE: The planning went on. Obviously, there were things that were not foreseen. They have now -- are now being addressed.

From today's interview on Late Edition ...