I remember the days when Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo was pretty measured, less cynical, less bombastic, more boring, then Daily Kos or Atrios, to name a few. And it still is. More measured that is. But it's rarely boring or apt to give the Administration and the Very Serious People in Washington a pass anymore.
In addition to its yeoman investigative work on the various scandals in the Administration and Congress from Duke Cunningham to Prosecutor-gate, Josh is just plain ole fed up nowadays. Tired of the BS just like the rest of us. The prez's recent railings at Speaker Pelosi is just the latest fuel on the fire:
I knew as a general matter that the White House was just bamboozling the press with this Pelosi-in-Syria malarkey since plenty of Republicans from Congress have recently gone there too. But I didn't know the precise details. In addition to recent trips by other Congressional Republicans there's actually a GOP House delegation in Syria right now, according to ThinkProgress. And in March a senior State Department official held talks in Damascus about flow of Iraqi refugees.
So which member of the White House press corps or which cable network host has directly asked an administration official why they're only concerned when prominent Democrats visit Damascus and not Republicans. Wolf Blitzer, whatever hack they've got on the air at the moment on Fox, MSNBC? Whichever. Someone let me know when someone puts a question like this directly to an administration official.
I'm not sure why no one brings this up. The president keeps saying that the Democrats are substituting their judgment for that of the generals on the ground. But this is an easily rebutted statement. The entire story here is that the president substituted his judgement for that of the generals on the ground. Remember, they didn't think the surge was a good idea. So what happened? He fired them. That's why Gen. Petraeus is there. The president looked around until he could find a general willing to agree with him. And when he did he put him in charge. This isn't about the 'generals on the ground'. It's about President Bush, whose judgment has been catastrophically abysmal from the start. Who can deny that?
And while we're at it, can someone explain to me why CNN's Suzanne Malveaux played suck up to former unconfirmed and unconfirmable, Ambassador-stand-in, John Bolton, about Pelosi's trip to Syria?
MALVEAUX: Tough questions today about Middle East flash points and risky diplomacy. We are joined by the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton -- thank you so much for being with us today. Of course, the first question: you've worked for the president, you've put in a lot in foreign policy here, what we're seeing is Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she is going to Syria to deliver a message from Israel, to open up negotiations. Has the president lost control of his foreign policy?
BOLTON: I don't think he's lost control, but this is a very confusing thing to do, and I think it's naive at best and possibly quite counterproductive. I'm at a loss to understand why Speaker Pelosi wants to do something like this.
MALVEAUX: Well, the White House has said, and it has asked her, essentially, that, look, this is not helpful, in terms of our stand. I know the Iraq Study Group says talk to Syria, talk to Iran. They say don't do this. How would you approach her if you were still in the administration and in your ambassadorial -- kind of in your position?
BOLTON: Well, I don't think it's productive for her to go to Syria at all, but to pretend to be an envoy for -- not just for the United States, but for Israel, has to be sending, at best, very confusing signals to the dictator in Damascus, so I would simply hope that people would understand that, under the Constitution, the president conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.
MALVEAUX: But what's strange here is that the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert, I mean, he knows where to go if he wants to have talks, negotiations, go to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Instead, he goes to Nancy Pelosi here. I mean, what does that say?
BOLTON: Well, I hope that isn't exactly what he's done, and if he has, then I think we need to talk to him, too. This is not the time for people to misunderstand who speaks for the United States, particularly in the Middle East. So, I think there are a lot of mistakes being made here and, hopefully, we'll have this visit get passed without more mistakes being committed.
MALVEAUX: It's hard to believe, because the prime minister really is -- he is very close to the Bush administration. They like the president here. Do you think that we are seeing maybe some back-channel talks that are going on, that perhaps there's a tacit approval from the White House, "OK, let this happen"? I can't imagine that he would allow this to go forward, perhaps without a wink and a nod from the administration.
BOLTON: If this is a back channel, it's a pretty public back channel, so my guess is there's confusion and, hopefully, once the trip is over, we can get it straightened out, because, if it's not straightened out, it can only be counterproductive.
MALVEAUX: Do you think that this also perhaps portends to something that might happen in the future? I'm being somewhat flip, but you know, Syria today, Iran tomorrow. I mean, where does it end?
BOLTON: I think that's part of the problem. I think, when you have members of the House and Senate, who are out essentially freelancing, it gets competitive. You know, the governor of New Mexico is now about to go to North Korea to conduct some diplomacy, so I think this is a mistake. I think people ought to let the debate in this country take place and let the president conduct our diplomacy overseas.
First, Bolton's just a punk and a hack. Why have this nucklehead on your show, particularly when you're just going to feed him lines? And how about noting that an armored humvee full of GOP congresspeople were over there, too. How difficult is that?