Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Just what is going on with United States policy in East Asia?

As we've discussed at some length already, the post of chief American envoy to Taiwan has remained vacant for months. James Kelly is the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific. And he -- others certainly too, but he's been the most insistent -- has been holding out for months to give that job to Douglas H. Paal.

(Kelly, you'll remember, accused TPM of being a practitioner of "hack journalism.")

Now there's another odd development brewing.

Until recently Torkel Patterson was the head of Asia policy at the National Security Council -- the official title is "senior director for Asian affairs." He resigned, rather abruptly, in late January of this year.

Now Patterson is telling friends and colleagues around Washington -- and not that discreetly, mind you -- that Kelly will be gone from the State Department in the not-too-distant future and that he -- Torkel Patterson -- will be the new Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

(The idea, apparently, is a time-frame of a year or maybe less.)

What exactly is going on isn't completely clear. Certainly not to me, and apparently not to a number of DC Asia hands either. Is Patterson just trying to lay claim to the post after Kelly leaves? Is he trying to muscle Kelly out of his job? Or is he just not that discreet?

It's not clear. But it is raising a lot of eyebrows.

As a general matter, when you're wrong, it's good policy to admit it and move on. The American Prospect (TPM's old stomping grounds -- stomping pages?) seems to be having difficulty with this maxim at the moment.

The February 25th issue of the magazine had a cover featuring pictures of various politicians with the amount of cash they had received from Enron. Joe Lieberman was listed as having received $37,000.

Only he hadn't.

Lieberman received $2000 and the New Democrat Network received $35,000. (TPM said his piece about the NDN et al., part of it at least, here.)

The Prospect's rationale for including this extra thirty-five grand is apparently that the NDN was basically what pols call a "leadership PAC." Essentially another one of Lieberman's coffers, used for his purposes.

Lieberman's communications director, Dan Gerstein, seems to have written in to complain. And here's how the Prospect responded.

As noted, we included money given directly to Lieberman's own campaign committee ($2,000) plus the $35,000 in Enron money given to the New Democrat Network's soft- and hard-money PAC, which Lieberman co-founded in 1996. On NDN's Web site, www.newdem.org/leaders/, a posting dated February 2, 2002, heralds Lieberman as a current leader of the PAC. Enron, expert in filling the many pockets of a politician's coat, found this open flap.

This is either shamelessly dishonest or pitifully ill-informed, though perhaps it's a tour de force combination of both. (The writing style of the last sentence tells the tale. But that's another matter.)

Here's why.

The argument here is that this is Lieberman's organization. He is a "current leader" after all, right? So it makes sense to count it as his money. But when you go to the site and look at the page in question you see that there are a total of ten politicians listed as "current leaders." In others words, Lieberman is just on the organization's advisory panel or board. It's not his organization.

By the Prospect's reasoning, each of these folks got thirty-five grand. (Interestingly enough, one of them is Congresswoman Jane Harman, which tells another tale.) A grand total of $350,000 for the NDN from Enron! What a haul!

The current issue of the Prospect has a special section on Enron economics -- presumably this means over-clever, deceptively structured financial calculations.

Apparently the malady is contagious.

It turns out that Jane Swift's further tarnishing of the Massachusetts governorship was a twofer. Maybe a three-fer. The night before Swift dropped out of the race to succeed herself, she roped former governor William Weld into endorsing her. Her people even convinced former Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke (an interesting relic of a bygone political era) to do the same.

In political parlance, getting convinced to go out on a limb and endorse a struggling candidate the night before she pulls the plug on her own campaign is a synonym for getting HOSED!

As Dan Kennedy aptly puts it on his sometime weblog ...

The fact that Swift's people would let Weld -- as well as former senator Ed Brooke -- endorse their woman on the eve of her dropping out of the race is just one more sign that they're too clueless, too arrogant, or both to be trusted with the important positions they hold.


Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is wetting the eyes of Bushies and money-Republicans up and down the East Coast.

Yet another installment in the saga of the political office that can't get no respect: the Massachusetts governorship. Today acting- (one might better say, accidental-) Governor Jane Swift announced that she is getting out of the race to make way for Mitt Romney.

Romney, of course, is the long-time political neophyte who tried and failed to unseat Teddy Kennedy back in 1994. He's also the son of a former Governor of Michigan.

Romney wants the job so bad he's even going leave Utah, where he's lived for the last three years, and move to Massachusetts.

I just notice that a couple days ago Mickey said that the upcoming conventional wisdom will be the Gore rebound. Perhaps so. But this will be more than simple conventional wisdom. It will continue a large measure of truth. The biggest fact -- little discussed or understood -- about the current list of Democratic presidential contenders is that Gore's strengths as a primary candidate are greatly underestimated.

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal, take a look at the story on page 3 in Monday's edition -- 'Global Crossing Courted Union Leaders.' The piece is, frankly, a touch hard to follow, partly because it's really several stories running together. What gets lost in the shuffle of the Global Crossing story is the intertwined, but distinct, story of apparent self-dealing at Ullico (formerly known as Union Labor Life Insurance Co.). Arguably, what happened at Ullico is more troubling.

Ullico is a private life insurance company, founded and still owned by various AFL-CIO unions.

The board members of Ullico apparently had the company buy back their own stock in the company when they knew the market price of the shares was about to take a big dip. Ullico isn't a publicly traded company, which may make it a bit different -- legally at least -- from your normal insider trading scenario. Still, it ain't good.

And I hear there is real concern among union folks in DC about how far this embarrassment or scandal may spread.

Regrettably, more on this soon.

So it's a no-go for Tipper Gore. I think she actually would have been a pretty strong candidate against Lamar Alexander. But not running's probably the right decision.


P.S. re: Lamar! ya had to be there ...

I must confess that when I first heard this buzz about Tipper Gore running for Senate in Tennessee, I found the whole idea quite improbable.

She's known to be a deeply private person. And I'd at least been given to understand that she was a major factor weighing against another run for her husband in 2004. But tonight I can tell you on quite good and rather direct authority that she's giving the idea serious consideration.

I can also report that she's assembling some senior staff in Tennessee this weekend to discuss the possibility.

Let's walk through a bit of what might be in that supposedly-damning (and possibly resignation-inducing) report on Army Secretary Thomas White.

White was confirmed as Secretary of the Army last May. Till then he was chairman of Enron Energy Services (EES), a major division of the dear, departed Enron Corporation.

The report apparently argues that EES played a key role in creating or exacerbating the California energy crisis, which was in full bloom during the six months or so prior to White's confirmation. Whether this is true or how strong a case the report makes -- that I don't know. Maybe it's all bluster. But I'm pretty confident that that is what it argues.

The question is how much the report ties White's and EES' role to a broader argument about the involvement of the Bush administration. I understand the report very much tries to do that. If it succeeds, dropping White might not be nearly as convenient or as easy as I had earlier predicted.

The latest I'm told is that the report is likely to be released early next week. Whatever else, the folks preparing it have everyone's attention. At the networks, the White House, and the Pentagon.

Everyone is wondering when the Public Citizen report about Army Secretary Thomas White is coming out, and what it contains.

Apparently, it's about Thomas White's division of Enron, Enron Energy Services, and its role in the California energy crisis. Possibly White's too.

As to when the report comes out, I'm still unclear on that.