Josh Marshall

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There may not be a groundswell of support for John McCain becoming a Democrat to run for president in 2004. But there is a groundswell of articles telling him to do it. Josh Green's piece in the Washington Monthly went up today. And tomorrow Jon Chait's piece on the same topic is going online on the New Republic website. I happen to know that neither of these guys is following the other. There's just some weird McCain-as-Dem-for-President mojo going around. Also, it's some strange online journalism, game-theory moment: both pubs are scooping their print mags to get their pieces on the web first.

There was a short email circulating in Goreland today. It was from one of the folks at Gore's new Leadership PAC, Leadership '02. Here's the first part of it. Take a look and then we'll discuss.

1Q Federal Receipts

Dashpac (Daschle): $62,158
Leadership '02: $502,482
New American Optimists (Edwards): $187,750
ROCPAC (Lieberman): $642,469

Leadership '02 received contributions from 859 supporters (and some even gave more than once). Our median contribution was $25.

Thanks again, to those you helped make our filing a big success! Please let me know if you have any questions about the filings.

What can we glean from this? Well, a few things. Kerry's numbers are hard to figure since he's currently raising money which is nominally going to his Senate reelection campaign for this Fall. And he's raising a ton.

Second, Gore's amount is reasonably impressive, considering he's just gotten started with new fund-raising.

Third, Lieberman's obviously raising some decent change and I'll bet his median contribution is a touch larger than $25.

But real political mandarins will immediately see that the real revelation in this email is that John Edwards or someone in his shop is one hard-core doofus. Why? New American Optimists? My god, was Patriots for Fun! and Americans for Niceness already taken? What a goofball.

Good piece by Paul Krugman on the fiasco of the US reaction to the overthrow and then un-overthrow of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The degree of embarrassment this represents has presumably been eclipsed by the crisis in the Mideast. One point Krugman alludes to is how clumsy and cliched a coup this turned out to be. The protests included a fairly broad section of the population -- business groups, labor groups, the church. But the new 'president', Pedro Carmona Estanga, assembled a government which excluded all but a series of business leaders and also dissolved the national assembly and all sorts of other good things. The whole gambit was turning into a set piece from some really bad example of fifties-era socialist realist fiction. In the end, even the military leaders who had launched the coup decided it had gone too far. They withdrew their support and the whole thing fell apart. And now we see the first signs in the mainstream press that the Bush administration may actually have had a hand in the coup itself.

Two further points on Israel. A couple nights ago CNN replayed a Larry King Live interview with Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat and King Hussein. Watching that interview brought home just how much was lost when Rabin was assassinated a few months later in November 1995. Looking back, I think it was clearly the pivotal moment in the entire peace process, the entire decade of the 1990s for the Israelis and the Palestinians.

After that came Shimon Peres' prime ministership. As much as I've always had a warm place in my heart for Peres, he's never enjoyed the deep trust of the Israeli electorate, certainly not the level of trust needed in late 1995 and 1996. Then came the adventurer and opportunist Netanyahu, who had fanned the fires before Rabin's death and proceeded to further sabotage the negotiations while in office.

Netanyahu's folly led to his downfall and the election of Barak. But Barak was no Rabin and in any case perhaps too much had already happened by the time he was elected in 1999. In any case, the fatal mistake of Arafat and the Palestinians -- turning down the offer at Camp David in 2000 -- led to the historical accident of Sharon. And here we are.

Perhaps only Rabin had the toughness, the vision, the credibility and (perhaps most important) the innate skepticism about the peace process itself which made success possible.

It was a profound loss.

The second point: Barak's OpEd in the Times yesterday seems the best part of wisdom and realism anybody is voicing at the moment.

I didn't go to the pro-Israel demonstration in DC today, but a few friends who did gave me reports. What stood out to me was that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz was roundly booed.

Some of this, clearly, was in response to recent administration policy generally. But apparently what really touched it off was his discussion of the creation of a Palestinian state as part of administration policy. Another boo line was "innocent Palestinians are suffering and dying as well. It is critical that we recognize and acknowledge that fact."

For starters, this was certainly a situation Wolfowitz never thought he'd find himself in -- jeered as pro-Palestinian at a pro-Israel rally.

I don't have a brief for Wolfowitz. But the booing itself filled me with feelings of anger and shame. What he was saying was nothing less than reality. And the thought that someone as pro-Israel as Wolfowitz could get booed speaks to something sour and curdled and blinded in the crowd that booed him.

Getting cheers was Benjamin Netanyahu, a hustler and an opportunist of the most dangerous sort, who said "Yasser Arafat is nothing more than Osama bin Laden with good P.R."

Righteousness can become intoxicating -- this rally, apparently, becoming a case in point.

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.