Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Did you see what I just saw? EPA Administrator Christie Whitman was just interviewed on CNN's Late Edition about administration environmental policy. Obviously not a pretty site on a number of levels.

But Wolf Blitzer repeatedly pressed her to say whether she supported drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Repeatedly. Two or three times in several different ways. But she wouldn't answer. Not even not a straight answer. She simply refused to answer the question.

Aren't the Democrats going to see this as blood in the water?

Cut to thirty-second TV ad ... deep male voice intones: "The President wants to trash the Alaskan wilderness to help big oil. Even his own EPA Chief knows it's wrong."

Isn't she in some trouble?

Boy, I really don't want to be in the position of doing a good turn for crime-against- democracy indictee Katherine Harris. But I can't help myself. Someone has to talk to this woman's PR flak.

Quite contrary to what we heard back in November and December about the election mess making Harris untouchable as far as future elective office was concerned, she is very much interested in shinnying further up the political pole (climbing higher on the ladder, pick your metaphor).

I even hear she wants to run for congress in 2002. And that's not so crazy, considering the Republican party will run the entire redistricting process in Florida next year and they have, I think, two new seats to play with.

Anyway, if she wants to make it in mainstream politics, should she really be giving the headline speech at the annual South Carolina Free Republic hoedown? I mean, I think she's pretty much got the right-wing freak demographic nailed down, no?

Katherine, branch out! I mean, take a cue from George W. Start doing photo ops with black kids. Ask Karl Rove. He'll show you how it's done.

Have you noticed how the phrase "civil society" -- already an often facile and over-freighted concept -- is being hijacked by people who use it to signify a society where people have better manners, are nicer? In The Washington Times a few months back an article on the coarsening of society says ..

Some cultural observers might say the snickering smarm of "Drew Carey" is the least of the worries parents should have today in the arena of civility, what with road rage on the increase, profanity spewing from every playground and school bus stop and, of course, the specter of gun violence in the hallways. Against such a depressing backdrop, teaching children "the magic word" and the golden rule seems hopeless. Many parents do it anyway, hoping the little things at an early age will add up to a more civil society later.
Or take another example from our new president's election victory acceptance speech ...
We differed about the details of these proposals, but there was remarkable consensus about the important issues before us: excellent schools, retirement and health security, tax relief, a strong military, a more civil society. We have discussed our differences. Now it is time to find common ground.

What's this about exactly?

I have a difficult time deciding if this is just an ignorant bastardization of the phrase and concept. Or whether it points to some deeper shallowness in the movement which often gathers behind the phrase.

More on this later.

Alright, I've thought for a while now that Talking Points was getting maybe a bit too consistently and endlessly anti-Bush, always criticizing something the new president was doing, and so forth. But on second thought, who gives a &$%#!

I'm going to leave the subtlety, balance and introspection to my paid gigs. So let's get back to business.

Having said that, let's chat about something that's only half about Bush.

Here's a very good article in the new issue of The New Republic about John DiIulio and the controversy breaking out between supporters of black inner-city churches -- which DiIulio is generally in line with -- and the white evangelicals who he is very much not in line with - and who are, of course, perhaps George W. Bush's most important constituency.

DiIulio is the head of Bush's new faith-based services office.

By all means, read it. It's a clever and informative piece, precisely the sort that intelligent, enterprising young journalists are supposed to come up with.

Here's the key issue with DiIulio, however. There's something deeper at work here than just a disagreement over how faith-based services should function, even deeper than the obvious fissures over racial politics.

The whole debate over social services, poverty, welfare and so forth moves on two separate axes. One is the right vs. left axis that we're all familiar with. But this is often the less interesting of the two.

There's also the 'give a #$%&'  vs. the 'don't give a @#&$'  axis.

I disagree with DiIulio on all sorts of points. But anyone who's familiar with DiIulio's career knows that he's definitely in the 'give a $%&#' (GAF) category. I would say that someone like James Q. Wilson is also in the GAF category even though I disagree with him on many points.

And that's the problem. What the Bush folks should have realized is that if you're in the DGAF category (which the Bushies indubitably are on urban poverty and social disenfranchisement issues) the last thing you want to do is to hire a GAF to run your shop.

Bad, bad, bad decision. And now they're going to pay the price for that mistake with really embarrassing stories which will almost certainly lead to DiIlulio's eventually getting canned.

All of which suggests a contest. Starting from today, March 22nd, how many days will we go before a major metropolitan daily prints an article with anonymous accusations of DiIulio's mismanagement of the faith-based office (intended, of course, to lay the groundwork for DiIulio's eventual firing)?

(For the purposes of the contest we'll say that the papers which count are the New York Times, Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Yes, good point, the Washington Times isn't really a legit major metro daily. But it's likely to be the place the White House folks first go to start trashing DiIulio. So we've kinda got to include it. And, in addition to mismanagement, charges of incompetence, bias, dereliction also count.)

And before we're done let's do a contest update. A little while back Talking Points ran a contest to be won by the reader who could tell which idea in this article by Andrew Sullivan was given to Sullivan by Talking Points. The answer: the reference to Chaucer's Pardonner's Tale. The winner was Jeff. H at the NYU (sorry, forgot to ask him if I could use his name) who gets a lunch with Talking Points - dutch, of course.

Only, only, only in South Carolina!

In late 1999 and early 2000 I spent a couple months trying to nail down some suspicions of mine that Ralph Reed was getting ready to bludgeon John McCain down in South Carolina if his boss, George W. Bush, stumbled in New Hampshire.

He did stumble of course. And the Bush operation did bludgeon McCain with all sorts of scurrilous accusations. The main one I was trying to track down were hints that the Bush operation was planning on pushing the line that McCain was gay, or overly friendly toward gays.

And, yes, they did end up using this line of attack -- memorably spreading word that McCain was the "fag candidate."

Here's one example of my efforts; here's another article looking a little more broadly at Reed et.al.'s nasty South Carolina shenanigans.

Anyway, those South Carolinians are apparently at it again. Only now it's Dems bashing Republicans!

Lindsey Graham is an extremely popular South Carolina politician; he's a congressman now fixin' (as they would say) to run for Strom Thurmond's Senate seat. Most Americans know Graham -- if they know him at all -- as one of the House impeachment managers. From that you'd probably think Graham is pretty much a whacko. And to an extent you'd be right. But not entirely.

Graham was a big supporter of McCain in the primaries last year. But he's also a big supporter of campaign finance reform and a number of other McCainite type reforms. So let's just say he may be a right-wing whacko. But also one with some important redeeming qualities.

So anyway, as I said, he's gearing up to run for Senator.

Recently, Dick Harpootlian, the head of the Democratic party down in South Carolina, issued a press release (and apparently also said in a number of speeches) that Lindsey was "a little too light in the loafers" to succeed Strom Thurmond. (Graham is 45 and unmarried, but denies he's gay. And, as far as I know, there's no reason to think that he is.) Graham accused Harpootlian of slander for insinuating that he was gay.

Harpootlian said he didn't know the phrase had that connotation.

Anyway, now I read in the Southern Political Report that this isn't the first time Harpootlian has pulled this stunt with Graham. So reads the March 12th issue of the Report...

At a Democratic luncheon last year, Harpootlian said, "Congressman Lindsey Graham criticized President Clinton for 'having sex with a woman in the Oval office.' Now, I don't know about you but I can't tell what part he objected to -- having sex with a young woman or having sex in the Oval office?"
Southern politics. Gotta love it.

Since leaving the Clinton administration Gene Sperling's new full-time job seems to be whacking the Bush White House with Op-Eds in major national dailies. But, hey, more power to him!

This one today in the New York Times is right on point in thrashing the president's irresponsible evasion on Social Security. The insight of this very original argument is to point out that no matter where you are on the Social Security reform question (progressive, traditionalist, privatizer, etc.) you still can't support the Bush budget plan.


Simple. Every honest approach to the Social Security reform issue will require substantial infusions of general revenue funds (i.e., money beside that which we get from payroll taxes) to make reform work.

Since the Bush tax cut bill more or less wipes out the surpluses with tax cuts (as Bush himself proudly proclaims) there's simply nothing left for reform.

Okay, I've had a number of questions about this. So let me address it once and for all here on the site.

A week ago Monday I resigned my post as Washington Editor of the American Prospect. So now (or at least as of March 30th) I am officially a freelance writer.

What, you may ask, is a freelance writer?

Well it's something between being an independent, top-of-your-game, call-your-own-shots writer who answers to no one and being unemployed. All depends on how many assignments you manage to get. I'm planning on the former option but we'll see how it goes. For me it was a big step, but I think the right one.

And why did you quit your job exactly? Well, long story. But we can get to that later.

P.S. So are you psyched or bummed? Very psyched.

P.P.S. Enough personal revelation. Now back to the Talking Points persona!

Ahhhh ... There's nothing quite as refreshing as a nice, bracing glass of arsenic in the morning, no?

Don't worry. Talking Points isn't thinking of ending it all. Just trying to put the best spin possible on the Bush administration's just-announced decision to scrap Clinton administration rules limiting the permissible amount of arsenic in drinking water.

Are you noticing a pattern here?

The president wants to gun up support for a mammoth tax cut which apparently has, at best, broad but tepid support. But he can't make the case for it on practical or ideological grounds. So he starts talking up a dire economic slowdown to justify the tax cut.

If we don't get the tax cut ... Ohhhh is it gonna be bad!

Then he wants to overturn CO2 emissions guidelines, drill for oil in Alaska, and basically have government of, by and for fossil fuel producers. But his proposals aren't very popular. So he and his minions start bellowing about the "energy crisis now sweeping the nation" -- the worst since the 1970s according Energy Secretary Spence Abraham.

You noticing a pattern here?

There clearly is an energy crisis in California -- though one of a quite specific nature. And high fuel prices are a threat to the economy and consumer pocketbooks nationwide.

But are we really in a national energy crisis? The worst since the early 1970s? Are you old enough to remember those gas lines? (Talking Points was just a little guy back then. But he remembers.) Isn't this a vast -- almost comical -- overstatement?

You noticing a pattern here?

Is there any alarm bell this administration won't sound in order to get its unpopular policies enacted?

Think about it.

CNN has been going off at the mouth about it's 'exclusive' photos of the now-semi -destroyed Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan (seen below).

But the Talking Points investigative staff has unearthed its own exclusive photos of one of the Bamiyan Buddhas. And in ours the statue looks pretty much intact.

And pretty good picture quality too, eh?