Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

More on the disclosure of Valerie Plame's employment at the CIA.

The Post today runs a story, basically similar to the one which ran yesterday afternoon in the Associated Press. There's not too much there beyond word that a dozen-member FBI team has now interviewed more than three dozen administration officials.

They're also poring over phone logs and memos and the like. And the investigation remains centered on the White House.

The sizzle to the story is that Karl Rove and Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, have both been interviewed.

Here's what catches my eye though. These are, as the Post notes, voluntary interviews. And I doubt that either of these men is the actual culprit (I suspect Rove pushed the story after the fact, but was likely not the original leaker, though he may have known about it.)

I'd be much more interested to learn whether the investigators have interviewed anybody in the Office of the Vice President, or the NSC, for that matter. These are voluntary interviews. So have the investigators asked but been rebuffed? Just not gotten to it yet?

That's the story I'd read with great interest.

One other point: The Post piece says "McClellan has specifically denied that any of three prominent White House officials -- Rove, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby and National Security Council official Elliott Abrams -- had leaked the information or authorized leaks."

As we've noted here before, that's not precisely what he's said. He's hung his statements on a very precise -- and to my mind -- highly technical and obfuscatory statement that none of them has "leaked classified information."

He's never made any blanket statements about things they may have told reporters about Plame.

A number of readers have written in to say that the book I recommended about the conquest of Mexico came down too quickly, and can I repost the title?

Absolutely. It's The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz del Castillo. Click here to see the mini-review I wrote of it on October 13th.

I will say this: TPMers turn out to be voracious readers. When I posted the recommendation of Mike Lind's Up From Conservatism on Wednesday, it's Amazon ranking was down around 100,000. (Honestly, I don't remember the exact number. But I glanced at it briefly and saw a lot of digits. And it was in that ballpark.) By yesterday afternoon it had gotten up to 131, though now it's fallen off a bit again.

I'm willing to believe that China is a peaceful and even a benign force in East Asia.

But is it "work[ing] to secure the freedom of its own people"?

So says President Bush.

From his remarks to the Australian parliament ...

We are encouraged by China's cooperation in the war against terror. We are working with China to ensure the Korean peninsula is free of nuclear weapons. We 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.

Isn't that laying it on a bit thick?

Alas, a TPM contest.

Certain conservative mumbojumbocrats have been trying to rewrite history by claiming that the White House never argued that Iraq posed any sort of imminent threat to the United States.

For my money, one of the most revealing quotes is the passage in the National Security Strategy the White House released in 2002, which essentially argues that the concept of ‘imminent threat’ must be reinterpreted to apply to countries like Iraq.

But back to our contest. Because this debate wasn’t hashed out in NSC documents, but in public statements on the hustings.

Our wingerly friends have made a lot of the rarity of occurences in which the phrase ‘imminent threat’ was used. But they rather ignore all the instances in which administration officials told the public we had to depose Saddam right now before he could use his nuclear weapons and smallpox on us. Any quotation which conveys the imminent threat message is acceptable even it doesn't contain the phrase 'imminent threat.'

(One example, though certainly not the best one, might be President Bush’s statement on March 7th of this year that he would no longer “leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons.”)

So now it’s up to you. Send us your best Bush administration ‘imminent threat’ quote.

The Rules: Only one submission per reader. It has to be sent to contest@talkingpointsmemo.com. It must include a citation to some published account in which the quotation appeared. And it must be received by October 27th.

Entries will be judged on imminence, relevance, provenance, bouquet and other such qualities.

To the winner goes a brand-new TPM T-Shirt (fresh from the Paris runways) in addition the resultant fame, glory and honor.

Of late, The New York Daily News has become ground-zero for anti-Rumsfeld leaks from the White House. Here’s today’s example: “Rummy’s on Hot Seat: Glum Memo on War Steams White House.”

So why’s all this stuff going to the Daily News?

I suspect there’s a fairly straightforward answer.

It’s not the Daily News. It’s Daily News Washington Bureau Chief Tom DeFrank. All the stories have his byline.

The other big one was from October 10th (“President reportedly unhappy with Rumsfeld, Powell”).

DeFrank has deep ties with various Bush One insiders including the president. (I discussed this in May 2001.) DeFrank even co-wrote James Baker’s Bush years memoir.

Back in early 2001 DeFrank was a major conduit for the later discredited White House vandalism mumbo-jumbo. But that was when the Bush One/Bush Two split wasn't nearly as salient as it is now.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing necessarily untoward about this. Reporters have to work their sources. But it does seem like DeFrank has become the go-to reporter for some Bush One type at or in the orbit of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Oh, who could that be ….

Do not miss this article in the New York Times on the backstory behind the overthrow of Bolivian President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada.

I just read the Rumsfeld Memo. And my reactions, I have to say, are rather muted. There is something oddly refreshing about hearing the Sec Def think out loud rather than seeing him give press conferences in which he remains relentlessly on message --- especially since he’s often pressing messages at odds with what’s actually happening.

In a similar way, there’s something appealing about listening in on his brainstorming.

What jumped out at me was this line down at the bottom of the memo in which he tosses out the idea of founding a sort of Muslim MacArthur Foundation (Ansar al-MacArthur?) which will subsidize madrassas that are crazy but, you know, not that crazy.

Here’s the line: “Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madrassas to a more moderate course?”

Couldn't we just build a super-strong ladder up into space instead of using those rockets?

You’d think the madrassas backed by the America-funded Madrassa Foundation (administered, no doubt, by General Boykin) might take a bit of a hit to their legitimacy. But, you know, I’m a details man. And why quibble with a bold idea …

All this aside, what’s missing here, what’s troubling about this memo is that it really does seem to be a candid appraisal meant only for his top advisors. And even in that context there’s apparently no sense that any of the key strategic decisions in the war on terror might have been flawed or misguided.

Yes, there's pessimism. But it's pessimism of a certain sort. The theme of the memo isn’t that there might have been too much of X or too much of Y, but that they need to consider 2X or 2Y. And perhaps if things get really freaky, Y squared or even cubed.

In today's edition of The Nelson Report, Chris <$NoAd$> Nelson says that, according to his sources, the Pakistani-Saudi nuclear pact story reported today in the Washington Times is simply bogus.

As Nelson says in his lede ...

This is one of those "famous last words" risks….but…reliable sources in Washington (including Capitol Hill, professional Middle East watchers, and fellow journalists) all say that the "Pakistan/Saudi nuclear weapons" story being passed around by UPI, The Washington Times, and by the head of Israeli intelligence in testimony to the Knesset, is false. Sexy as hell, but false.

-- several sources note the "coincidence" that the stories come barely one day after the EU, Iran and Russia reached separate but interlocking agreements which offer real hope of defusing the Iran nuclear weapons crisis before it gets out of hand.

Nelson, himself, clearly leaves room for uncertainty. But until I hear more, given who's publishing the story and who's knocking it down, my assumption is that this is mainly or even entirely disinformation.

Of course, none of that changes the fact that Pakistan is the most serious nuclear proliferation threat in the world today.

Following up on the earlier post, I've had a slew of readers write in to ask me what the other best political book is.

To recap I said that David Frum was the "author of one of the two best political books I’ve ever read."

So what's the other one? Michael Lind's Up From Conservatism.

Idiosyncratic, penetrating, erudite, highly original, with shards of auto-didacticism cutting through it, and all strung tightly over a rock-solid narrative.

It's a must-read for anyone who wants to understand American politics.

This requires a response because I believe David Frum has twice mischaracterized me.

Yesterday Frum, who writes a blog at the National Review Online, wrote a brief post about how some journalists who themselves write things which inspire anti-Semitic fantasies have pounced on Gregg Easterbrook for one off-hand comment.

He includes me as one of those writers.

First, I think it’s pretty clear that my two posts on the Easterbrook matter were written in his defense, rather than as an attack on him. So this criticism is just mistaken.

Frum then writes that I -- along with two other writers -- have “inveighed against 'American Likudniks' and 'neoconservatives' in a way that seems almost calculated to fuel anti-Jewish fantasies.”

He also implies --- though the structure of the prose is a tad less clear on this --- that I am one of the “journalists who show virtually zero interest in the fate of … five million Israeli Jews – and many more Jews worldwide in countries from Iran to Argentina – [who] are threatened with mass murder.”

(It’s a short post, so if you have any question about how I’ve characterized Frum’s comment, please look at the actual text.)

As it happens, I have a lot of respect for Frum. And not just in the sense that you say you have respect for someone before you criticize them.

Just a couple days ago I told a friend that Frum was the author of one of the two best political books I’ve ever read. And he’s been kind enough to help me understand certain aspects of the Iraq-hawks' thinking on democratization and change in the Middle East.

But I must tell you that I am growing more than a little weary of the Jewlier than thou comments emanating from some of my co-religionists on the other side of the aisle. (Similar aspersions from non-Jews are no great shakes either. But those guys are just practicing unwitting self-parody.) I would ask Frum to note any specific quotes or any general arguments from my writing which provide any basis for these claims. Needless to say, I think there are none.

I think I could say, with far more merit, that those who make these charges are exploiting and trivializing the issue of anti-Semitism by using it as a tool to blunt criticism of their foreign policy views and the foreign policy pursued by this administration. One does not have to agree with the policies of Ariel Sharon’s government to be a Jew in good standing or even an Israeli for that matter. I have some acquaintance with more than a few of the latter. And, believe me, they don’t all see eye to eye on this issue. (There is a reason, after all, why they call it ‘revisionist Zionism.’)

So, David, with all due respect, I have to say: put up or shut up.