Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

Just a thought, mind you. Just a thought.

When you're trying out to be vice-president, and you make it to the final cut, you sit down with the nominee's people and assist in the preparation of what amounts to an opposition research dossier on yourself.

First this means tax returns and property holdings and all the relevant documents. But it also means coming clean with all the really uncomfortable details about your background, all of them. Especially the things that could sink a campaign or at least get everyone down into the campaign bomb shelter for a few days. Even innocent or benign facts that could be distorted in an ugly way need to be mentioned.

It's a roadmap for how an opponent would attack you, so the nominee's people want to know what he's getting himself into.

It's a notoriously uncomfortable process, with the discussion of the really personal stuff often undertaken with one of the nominee's confidants. And candidates often, for obvious reasons, can't quite bring themselves to be entirely forthcoming.

In any case, who dished on themselves for Al Gore in 2000? If I remember right, it was John Kerry, John Edwards and Joe Lieberman.

And who's running against Gore in the primaries in 2004?

And don't think I'm the only one who's considered this.

Mr. Sharon and many hawkish Israel supporters say they're done with Mr. Arafat, that some new leader has to emerge for the Israelis and even the Americans to treat with. "More moderate leaders" is often the phrase that gets used.

It's been commonly noted that a) at the moment, a potential successor to Arafat would almost certainly be more militant and extreme and b) simply on logical principles, you can't dictate to your adversaries who their leaders will be.

But there's an historical context that is still more important. This gambit has been tried before and it didn't work.

The Israelis didn't decide to sit down with Arafat in the early 1990s because they liked him. They had no choice. The Israelis spent much of the late 1980s trying to find or create a Quisling Palestinian leadership they could negotiate with. But they couldn't. Was a 'moderate' Palestinian leadership prevented from emerging because of violence and intimidation in the Territories? Maybe. But it really doesn't matter. The bottom line was that they eventually realized that it was only the PLO and Arafat who could deliver anything.

Whether Arafat is inclined to do so or whether he can deliver enough is another matter. But the alternative to negotiating with him is continued military occupation of the territories in force. There's really no two ways about it.

Perhaps that's necessary. But keep in mind: the 'moderate leaders' strategy is dishonest and bogus.

Isn't this a touch embarrassing? Right after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was overthrown by a military coup, the United States bucked the tide of other countries in the region and endorsed the coup, blaming it on Chavez. (Regional leaders, rightly, didn't much like Chavez; but they apparently found the means of his ouster even more troubling.) Now the coup has been overturned and Chavez is back in power. What do we do now?

Let's call this hung-out-dry watch.

This piece in Time describes the evolution of the administration policy toward Israel over the last few weeks. And particularly how the president himself at a few points seemed painfully out of the loop even on what his own administration was doing. Here's a key graf ...

But that afternoon, when he finally made a statement, Bush seemed unaware of what his Administration had been up to. And he was working without a net: none of his top aides had followed him to Texas. "Everyone was on vacation," says a chagrined White House official, "and they pretty much stayed on vacation." Staffing the President was a junior press aide normally assigned to Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge, and it showed. "I can understand why the Israeli government takes the actions they take," Bush said. "Their country is under attack." Given the U.N. vote that very morning, the message was incoherent. And the imagery and atmospherics were all wrong: wearing an open-collar shirt and rocking back and forth in his chair, Bush looked like his pre-Sept. 11 self, a little bit scared and a little bit scary. A top official said later, "It was a mistake."

Who's the now-humiliated press guy? It must be Gordon Johndroe, Tom Ridge's spokesman. It's obvious from the description in the piece. But this Reuters story, for instance, identifies him as the guy staffing the president during the time in question.

This is called blaming it on the help.

It's sort of funny watching conservatives whipping themselves up over the quick demise of the Bush Doctrine (b. Oct. 2001 - d. March 2002). But it was our doctrine, you hear them saying. (Try to see Kate O'Beirne on the replay of Capital Gang.) Just as, I suppose, some right-wingers fixed upon the war on terrorism as their own fast track to becoming latter-day Orwells (those essays on totalitarianism really are good!), many more saw it as normal or just, well, fair that if we're going to have a war we get a doctrine too! We've got a tax cut; we've got a war; we've got a doctrine; and now even a bracing, realist literature!

It really was all a bit precious. Too bad there was little sense that the doctrine had to make sense or be enforceable or simply have someone in the White House who had thought through its implications.

Now the White House is being reduced to the most mortifying, dignity-busting expedients like distancing itself from the president's own Secretary of State -- surely a great moment for the responsibility era. Is Colin Powell really just freelancing? If the president doesn't like what he's doing he really does have the authority to request he return to the United States.

To say that the administration's current policy is incoherent really is something of an understatement. Either the president -- or someone on his behalf -- needs to retreive his manhood from that pickle jar in which it's currently residing or stop issuing doctrines he's incapable of following.

Another edition of fiscal irresponsibility watch.

If you remember back to last year, the much-heralded and derided Bush tax cut was squeezed into various long-term budget projections by giving it a ten-year time horizon. If they were permanent their full deleterious effects on the nation's long-term finances, along with their strangling off of the revenue for any sort of Social Security reform, would have been even more abundantly clear.

Not that it wasn't clear, mind you. But the ten year time horizon gimmick facilitated the efforts of those inclined toward deception and lies.

Now the president says he wants the cuts all to be permanent.

How much bait-and-switch should he get away with?

And will the Dems be shrewd enough to see this as an opportunity?

Oh, the indignity!

You'll remember last week we discussed Dai Xiaoming, his company's former board-member Assistant Secretary of State James A. Kelly, and his political angel Chen Yuan on the mainland, the Communist Party princeling who now runs the China Development Bank. Right, now it's all coming back to you. Well, you'll also remember that the institution that made the $100 million sweatheart loan to Dai was the People's Bank of China.

Well, now even the People's Bank of China (the Hong Kong unit actually) has dropped Arthur Andersen as their accountant.

Like I said, oh the indignity!

Here is a very sobering statistic.

Amidst the carnage and devastation underway in Israel and the Occupied Territories there is a minor legal flap over whether the IDF (the Israel Defense Forces) can remove and bury bodies of Palestinians killed in the fighting in the Jenin refugee camp.

Palestinians have accused the IDF of burying bodies in a mass grave and yesterday the High Court ordered the IDF not to remove the bodies pending a legal hearing, which presumably will get to the bottom of the accusations.

These sorts of accusations and conflicting accounts are to be expected in such a situation. Each side will at least lean toward estimates of dead and wounded which are most favorable to them. And this question isn't what I mean to draw your attention to, only to draw some context.

What did catch my eye is this: According to this article in the respected Israeli daily Ha'aretz, "[IDF] Soldiers had been removing bodies [from Jenin] since Thursday and plans were to continue to do so ... [and] the army estimates that there are still 100 to 200 bodies in the camp."

As a matter of principle, deaths suffered as a result of legitimate acts of self-defense or retaliation are not the same as those lost in the original act of aggression. Thus, to me at least, you can't compare civilian casualties in Afghanistan to those in the World Trade Center. In a related manner, an army has very little choice if enemy soldiers or paramilitaries simply refuse to surrender and insist on fighting to the death.

Still, those numbers are very high and they come from only one -- albeit very large -- camp. And I hadn't heard such numbers before.

I'm not sure any political piece I've ever written has whipped up quite the degree of feeling and emotion as the piece I wrote on Al Gore a couple days ago -- at least in small world of Clintonites and Gorians. Don't get me wrong: I don't think this was because the piece itself was particularly well done, but rather because of the raw and barely healed-over wounds still lingering over that campaign which the article discussed.

As the piece described, there is really no end of the bitterness among many of the ex-staffers toward those who had what you'd call executive positions in the campaign. Particularly the marquee consultants. Whether their complaints are legitimate or not is another matter -- about which I guess I'm ambivalent. But they are quite real.

That, however, only scratches the surface of all the rankled emotions swirling about among the alums of that campaign.

I spent much of the day hearing from different folks in the Gore and Clinton orbit and obviously as you might imagine lots of the people mentioned in the piece were not at all happy with it.

But one of the things that surprised me most was that one person quite close to the former vice-president actually liked the piece quite a bit, I'm told. As a friend who talked to this person today told me by email, the person in question also "believes that Gore was surrounded by the wrong people. Your piece made some pretty memorable points in that regards, stuff that only insiders know about."