Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

For years -- literally years -- I've been writing about Astroturf organizing and that trendsetting operation in the trade, DCI -- home of that Johny Appleseed of the plastic and the green, Tom Synhorst.

Simply put, Astroturf organizers are in the business of creating phony grassroots support, or rather the appearance of grassroots support, for this or that cause.

You got the money and the cause? They'll bring the front groups, the push-polls, the oped payola, you name it.

(For more details, see this post from last year.)

The secret of 'turf is a simple one.

Advertisements and paid spokesman may influence us to some degree. We hear their opinions, see them on TV and such. But because they're paid, because they're essentially advertisements, we also tend to tune them out, or at least bracket them off in our minds.

If you're someone who wants to press an opinion, or get support for your company, what you'd really want is to have community groups coming forward to support your company line. Because if you or I see the Associated People of Podunk demanding this or that piece of legislation, then we'll probably think, 'Hey, there must be something to this.' Or if some respected scholar supports it, same thing.

For years, the trendsetter in Astroturf has been DCI. And a couple days ago, if you were watching really closely, a tiny sentence changed on an out-of-the-way page on the TechCentralStation website.

The sentence that read ...

"Tech Central Station is published by Tech Central Station, L.L.C."

now reads ...

"Tech Central Station is published by DCI Group, L.L.C."

It wasn't an accident. It was because this article -- 'Meet the Press' by Nick Confessore -- was about to be published by The Washington Monthly.

Imagine that. The wildly anti-Semitic article about George Soros ("Satan lives in George Soros") authored by James Hall and published at GOPUSA.com has been taken down off the site. (For the grisly details, see the prior post.) No explanation of why, no apology, just gone --- poof!

I should have known to make a copy before they snatched it from the site.

But that turns out not to be necessary since the author, James Hall, has the piece up on his own website, with the helpful addition of a caricature drawing of Soros sprawling out on a mountain of US currency.

Oh Boy ... Something pretty big is coming down the pike tomorrow apparently. The world of Astroturf organizing may be shaken all the way down to its phony-baloney roots.

A conservative website called GOPUSA.com (though, let's be clear, *not* affiliated with the Republican party) is running a column with these pleasant things to say about George Soros ...

No other single person represents the symbol and the substance of Globalism more than this Hungarian-born descendant of Shylock. He is the embodiment of the Merchant from Venice. His public reputation as an astute currency speculator is generous, while his skills as a manipulator and procurer of pain and suffering is shrouded in the footnotes of the financial journals. Claiming to be a philanthropist, his record is literally one of being a patron for indentured enslavement.


Double standards for an advocate of a permissive, yet regimented globe? If you think he is a friend of humanity, beware of his public attempt to influence his tribe, by insulting their benefactors. Before the Jewish Funders Network, he recently made these remarks: "There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe. The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that," Soros said. "It's not specifically anti-Semitism, but it does manifest itself in anti-Semitism as well. I'm critical of those policies." The inevitable outcry from the usual suspects, just illustrates the orchestrated nature of the Soros effort to rationalize his own social agenda, while deflecting criticism back to his ancestral blood line.

Hmmmm. Trafficking <$Ad$>in anti-Semitic stereotypes and tropes? Wouldn't want to go out on a limb or anything. And that's actually the more temperate part of the piece.

Also, it's not like the site is some obscure outlet with no mainstream conservatives connected to it. In addition to the author of this particular column, James Hall, the site's other regular columnists include Austin Bay, Linda Chavez, David Horowitz (a TPM fav), Alan Keyes, and Star Parker.

Meanwhile, various other right-wing luminaries and Republican members of Congress, as Atrios notes, spoke at their conference just a couple weeks ago.

The new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows President Bush with a substantially higher approval rating than all the recent polls -- namely, at 57% approval and 39% disapproval. That contrasts with the slightly more recent Gallup/CNN/USAToday poll which showed him at 50% approve and 47% disapprove.

Last week CBS had him at 49% and NBC had him at 51%.

For the moment the new WaPo/ABC poll definitely looks like an outlier.

After dinner this evening I stopped by a fundraiser for Howard Dean in Washington, DC --- one to <$NoAd$>celebrate his 55th birthday. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen him in person. But it was the first time I’d seen him speak to a campaign rally. And the event was very impressive.

The intensity and engagement of the crowd were palpable. And I could understand the enthusiasm Dean supporters have for what they’re doing and what they're a part of when surrounded by that energy.

Union representation was very much in evidence at the rally --- intentionally so, I suspect, but effectively so as well.

There were also endorsements from Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Jim Moran, which covers a lot of territory (in every respect but geographically) in the Democratic party.

In any case, after the speech, I wanted to ask Dean a few questions about Iraq and the recent turnabout in White House policy. But the place was raucous and crowded. And Dean was wielding this big metal utensil, cutting people pieces of his enormous birthday cake. So I eventually thought better of it.

I packed up my pen and notebook and slowly made my way to the door through the sardine-packed crowd of Dean-o-philes.

The Fox News clip with Wes Clark (noted below) was down temporarily. But now it seems to be back up. If you haven't seen it yet, definitely take a look. It's a wonder why the Clark campaign hasn't put it up on their site.

Before they take it down, go to this page on the Fox News website. Then scroll down to the link with Wes Clark's picture and the caption "Setting the Record Straight."

It's a six or seven minute clip. But it's worth watching through. The Fox host tries the same old mumbo-jumbo on Clark and Clark goes ballistic and doesn't back down. Good for him.

Late Update: Here's a direct link to the video feed.

Could this really be true? From tomorrow's edition of The Independent ...

The United States accepts that to avoid humiliating failure in Iraq it needs to bring its forces quickly under international control and speed the handover of power, Javier Solana, the European Union foreign policy chief, has said. Decisions along these lines will be made in the "coming days", Mr Solana told The Independent.

I'll believe it when I see it. See the rest here.

Talk about burying your lede!

Today in the Washington Post Lois Romano had a piece about how the Clark campaign is trying to get back on track with a big media buy in New Hampshire and other mid-course strategy corrections.

But you have to skip down to the 19th and 20th grafs to get to what sounds to me like the big story …

[Dick] Sklar, a longtime Democratic activist, helped set up the organizational structure in Little Rock, but his gruff demeanor alienated some. He said he plans to return home to California after Thanksgiving but will still be an adviser to the campaign. Eli Segal, a Boston businessman and Clinton veteran, is now running the day-to-day campaign. Klain and Fabiani are in key advisory roles but are not involved in the daily operations.

In the past month, the press office has been restructured, with Bennett and Jamal Simmons -- the traveling press secretary -- emerging as the two main spokesmen for the campaign. Kym Spell, the former national press secretary, is returning to New York where she will be a consultant to the campaign for the entertainment industry. Chris Lehane, who worked for Gore and briefly for Kerry, has become a media strategist in Little Rock.

After Clark’s first campaign manager <$Ad$>Donnie Fowler left, Sklar came on as the campaign’s ‘chief operating officer.’ Since the campaign didn’t have a campaign manager that basically meant Sklar was the campaign manager, sharing some of the duties with Segal.

As I read that sentence, it sounds to me like Sklar is out, whatever advisory role he may continue to have. The campaign’s press secretary, Kym Spell, seems to be out too. And same goes for her as far as working as a consultant.

Sklar’s departure sounds like a very good thing for the campaign since it was on his watch that the campaign made its most serious strategic blunder --- blowing the chance to get the endorsement of AFSCME. But good or bad, the departure of the de facto campaign manager and press secretary sounds to me like a pretty big deal.

Clark had a very strong performance on Meet the Press this morning. Without appearing defensive, he managed to make clear that almost all the accusations of his shifting his position on the war have been a matter of grabbing a few quotes out of context and ignoring a long and clear record of skepticism about the case for war against Iraq (pace Joe Lieberman) and even more the way the president went about it. Clark even caught Russert flatfooted a couple times, especially in the exchange about the London Times column. So perhaps with some good exposure there and some much-needed changes at the home office he'll be able to get back some of the momentum he lost over the last month.

On balance, these developments all sound like good news for a campaign that has needed some.