Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Okay, Talking Points has gotten a touch earnest lately. So let's lighten it up a bit. Let's run down the official Talking Points Top Ten list of reasons why the Senate should reject Bush's nomination of Ted Olson to be Solicitor General.

So, Anton, a drum roll please ....

The Top Ten reasons the Senate should neg Solicitor General nominee Ted Olson are ...

10. Made his legal career attacking and dismantling federal environmental and anti-discrimination laws.

9. Successfully argued one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history.

8. Just squints too damn much.

7. Too big a buds with Kenneth Starr.

6. What would be big polluters and tobacco companies do without him?

5. Helped prep the Paula Jones legal team for their appearance before the Supreme Court.

4. One degree of separation from former federal prosecutor/Clinton-hating freak/Dan Burton crony/Hillary-bashing author Barbara Olson is just too close!

3. Spent mid-1990s organizing and overseeing multi-million dollar anti-Clinton dirty tricks campaign called the Arkansas Project.

2. Because it's the right thing to do.

1. 'Cuzz it would just feel so damn good.

P.S. This Top Ten list is so damn good won't you please give me the exact link so I can forward it to my peeps? Sure, my pleasure ... click here.

P.P.S. Hey, did I miss any? If you think so, send your reasons here. We'll post the best. (Say whether I can use your name, or no).

John McCain is getting a lot of attention these days for his aggressive efforts in support of campaign finance reform, and to a lesser extent in favor of Patients' Bill of Rights legislation. My hunch, though, is that he's going to play a key role in the upcoming debate over the mammoth Bush tax cut - though this possibility has not yet garnered much attention.

During the Republican primaries McCain campaigned against the Bush tax cut on grounds quite similar to those Democrats are now using to oppose it - objections to its size, the effect on the country's ability to pay off the national debt, and it's skew toward the wealthiest Americans.

Sources close to McCain say he's now revisiting the whole issue of the tax cut in the light of the rapidly decelerating economy. But from all the available evidence it seems to me that McCain will likely again oppose Bush's bill (possibly in a slightly updated fashion), and perhaps make the case against it even more effectively than Democrats.

McCain has good reason to oppose the Bush bill on substantive policy grounds. He's a debt hawk; he's troubled that the Bush plan might prevent increases in military spending; and his positions on health care issues are not that different from those of many Senate Democrats. But don't discount the intensity of animosity between McCain and his supporters and Bush and his. It's a mix of ideological and personal enmities that runs very deep.

And now for something totally different (or at least kinda different).

Senator McCain is often associated with a Conservative splinter-movement called National Greatness Conservatism.

Even National Greatness types admit that the movement (if you can call it that) is quite amorphous. But broadly speaking, National Greatness types see themselves in the tradition of strong-state Progressive Nationalism often associated with Teddy Roosevelt. (They're way into Teddy Roosevent.) Like McCain, one of their signature issues is campaign finance reform and they don't think the world revolves around cuts in marginal tax rates for the extremely wealthy. They are genuinely reformist and unlike almost every other kind of Conservative there are a number of things that I agree with them about.

Or, to put it in more familiar Talking Points-style language, they're unlike most other Conservatives in that they're not completely full of crap.

In any case, Marshall Wittman, one of the made-men of the National Greatness crew, has just opened up a political commentary site.

(Between you and me, it looks suspiciously like Talking Points. But, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Or maybe he just copied it from Kausfiles, where I got the idea?)

In any case, if you're the typical Talking Points reader you'll probably find a lot of stuff on Wittman's site you'll disagree with. (The hokey picture of Ronald Reagan was almost enough to do it for me. But I held my hand over my left eye and tried to focus on the picture of Teddy Roosevelt -- you'll understand when you see the site.) But this sort of McCainite conservatism is the most interesting and dynamic stuff going on in the Republican party today. So I'd say it's worth taking a look. Hell, I'll even give it the official Talking Points Seal of Approval.

P.S. If you go to Wittman's site and then feel guilty about it afterwards, just tell people, "Hey, look ... I was young. I was experimenting."   Works every time.

P.P.S. I think on a number of issues McCain is actually moving further left, or further toward the Dems, than his National Greatness admirers. But we'll leave that for another post.

Don't miss the best piece written so far on the Marc Rich pardon. It's by Jacob Weisberg in Slate.

Are you suspicious about whether the Bush tax cut would really give the average family a $1600 tax cut a year?

Well, you've got good reason.

According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities "85 percent of families would either receive a nominal tax cut of less than $1,600 or receive no tax cut at all" and "the median, or typical, family without children would receive a tax reduction of $266."

Want more details? Check out the CBPP's new fact sheet on how much the average family would really get under the Bush plan.

Damn! Ain't it just like Reuters to pinch a story from Talking Points like two days after we broke it?


Reuters!?!?! Who's Reuters!?!?

Ya know … Don't believe the hype. The more people I talk to people in the Senate the less convinced I am that the Bush tax plan is such a slam dunk. That's the conventional wisdom, of course: the Bush plan has the Big Mo. It's only a question of Bush or Bush-plus, yada, yada, yada.

This isn't to say that the Dems don't have a helluva struggle ahead of them. Or that that struggle might not end badly. But I'm increasingly getting the impression that the DC press corps has gotten way out ahead of the facts on the ground on this one. And particularly they aren't talking to a whole slew of moderate Senate Republicans who aren't at all on-board with the Bush plan.

In the last paragraph of this otherwise uneventful Newsweek article by Mike Isikoff the author starts to get at what I at least find most interesting about the Marc Rich pardon. That's the way Jack Quinn seemed to play on Clinton's experience with/paranoia/fury about federal prosecutors and what it is like to be caught in their sites.

Isikoff writes:

In their appeals to Clinton, Quinn and Denise Rich tried to win sympathy for Rich by tapping into the president's own resentment toward the zealous prosecutors who had dogged him for years. Quinn portrayed Rich as the victim of a "highly publicized and aggressive investigation." Denise Rich laid it on even thicker, saying she knew "what it feels like to see the press try and convict the accused without regard for the truth." Sources close to Clinton say these arguments hit home. "I think Clinton wanted to pardon all of them," says one lawyer of the applicants tugging on his sleeve. "He just can't stand law enforcement."
Each of the articles published on the Rich drama have either paraphrased or quoted the arguments that Quinn made to Clinton. And they are in the nature of ... this man was persecuted by an out of control federal prosecutor, who just wanted to bring down Marc Rich, who tried him in the press, etc.

In other words, this poor Marc Rich fellow was in the same kind of jam you were in, etc., cut the guy the some slack!

Now Jack Quinn was Clinton's White House Counsel until just months before the Lewinsky scandal and, if I recall rightly, extremely loyal to him and close to him during the scandal. On the one hand there's an obvious payback angle here -- Clinton felt he owed Quinn big time. But I get the sense that having weathered that storm together, Quinn had a lot of emotional pull with Clinton to equate the two cases and make Clinton feel a vicarious sympathy for the Rich.

Now there's no sense diminishing the money and influence-peddling aspect of this. Without all the money that had changed hands these folks wouldn't have been close enough to Clinton to make their case. And without his close relationship with Clinton Quinn wouldn't have had the pull with him to make the case either. But looking at it all together these look much more like necessary than sufficient conditions. The access and frienships cemented through fund-raising and the Quinn connection got Rich to the door. And Denise Rich was clearly hard for Clinton to say 'no' to. But I suspect it was this more personal equation that actually got Clinton to pull the trigger.

I've also always heard from people who know Clinton that he's just a bit of a sucker for rich people. Not so much in the craven sense of begging donations. But at some deeper level of personal insecurity or sense of being wowed by great wealth.

I don't know if I completely buy into this latter explanation. But it's likely part of the mix as well.

The preceding is a slightly-modified article pitch I wrote about ten days ago and it still pretty much captures my sense of what happened in the Rich case.

Good for John Podesta, Clinton's former Chief of Staff! Podesta went on the This Week show this morning to go head-to-head with about ten minutes of witheringly-moronic questioning from Cokie Roberts. I don't know what else to call it. Podesta seemed to become visibly impatient, even angry with Roberts' questioning. When the transcript comes out, I give some details.

Roberts also apparently has little, if any, idea what's going on in the tax cut debate. Democrats agree on an across the board cuts in marginal rates? And the only debate is about size? Really? Does she do any reporting? Or is this just what she hears at cocktail parties?

This stuff defies critical analysis. Only vituperation can really do it justice.

And we'll be saying more about Sen. Arlen Specter and his outrageous claim that former President Clinton can still be impeached even after he's left office. I know most reporters say Specter is insufferable in person. But when did he become such a Tom DeLay-clone in public life?

Okay, tonight we're reporting directly from the official Talking Points sickbed. Anyone care to join me for another poke at the egregiously regressive GWB tax cut plan? Sure ya do. So here goes.

When faced with criticisms that the bulk of their tax cut plans go to the very wealthy, Republicans are apt to argue that it could hardly be otherwise since the great proportion of taxes are paid by the wealthy. Now there are all sorts of problems with this argument (which we'll say more about later). But for the sake of discussion let's accept the argument: which would mean that high-income earners would be entitled to a percentage of the tax cut bill equal to the percentage of federal taxes which they now pay.

Well it turns out that under the GWB plan high-income earners receive twice that amount. "The top one percent of the population," says the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a recently released analysis, "would receive about 40 percent of the tax cuts from the proposal, which is double the share of federal taxes that they pay."

So, in other words, the Bush tax cut plan is wildly inequitable even on the largely bogus terms conservatives say we should use when judging the fairness of tax cuts. Go figure.

And now to another subject.

A couple posts back I said that Jonah Goldberg seemed like a decent enough guy when I met him in person on C-Span, despite his Clinton-hating political views - most all of which I find execrable.

Well in response to that post I got a few … well, let's just say a few not-uncritical emails from normally adoring Talking Points readers.

This got me to thinking. Before I moved to Washington it was easier for me to insult individual conservatives in print because there was little chance I'd ever run in to them. On the other hand one of the biggest problems with the "Washington establishment" or "the inside-the-beltway mentality" or whatever you want to call it is that the journalistic community here is too incestuous. People know each other and they're afraid to criticize each other. And even more insidiously they become part of the same political milieu, with a shared set of political and values assumptions, and all the rest of it. And as I've written any number of times this is one of the greatest evils of our contemporary politics and political dialog, and contributes mightily to the persistent disconnect between politicians and journalistic elites and the public at large.

At the same time, though, there is a difference between levelling personal attacks and being willing to say that 9/10ths of what Cokie Roberts, for instance, says each Sunday on the This Week show is facile, protective of her class (the DC establishment/cave dweller tribe), and moronic -- which is all true.

Anyway there are clearly pitfalls to be avoided on both sides of the equation.

But look! Enough of this rumination. Clearly there is an appetite out there among the Talking Points readership to toss some obnoxious conservative to the wolves, no? Well, hey, come on, I'm happy to oblige. From my experience of one very unpleasant personal encounter with conservative blowhard (and columnist) David Horowitz, I am happy to attest, affirm and stipulate to the fact that he is just as big a cretin in person as the one he plays on TV and in print. So there you go. More details? Stay tuned.