David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

With apologies to my wife, I would not object if Sheryl Crow touched me. Yet another difference between me and Karl Rove.

Earth Day prompted me to pull some of Wendell Berry's essays off the shelf, something I don't do nearly as often as I should. Each time I revisit Berry, I am struck anew by his gift for cloaking radical thought in supple prose, making beauty out of vehemence. It has been almost twenty years since I first stumbled across his writings. I was barely out of my teens, and I desperately wanted some day to be able to think and write as well as Berry. So it was with a bit of a shock that I realized that the essays I was perusing this morning, from the early 1970s, were written when Berry was roughly my age now. Another youthful ambition dashed.

Though most people would associate him with the environmental movement, it is an oversimplification to call Berry an environmentalist. The scope of his writings is far broader than mere environmentalism, and he has always harbored the kind of old-fashioned rural independence that made my grandfathers deeply skeptical of any fad or movement, regardless of how much it might otherwise comport with their own personal views.

Here is a sampling of Berry, from his essay "Discipline and Hope":

The most destructive of ideas is that extraordinary times justify extraordinary measures. This is the ultimate relativism, and we are hearing it from all sides. The young, the poor, the colored races, the Constitution, the nation, traditional values, sexual morality, religious faith, Western civilization, the economy, the environment, the world are all now threatened with destruction--so the arguments run--therefore let us deal with our enemies by whatever means are handiest and most direct; in view of our high aims history will justify and forgive. Thus the violent have always rationalized their violence.

But as wiser men have always known, all times are extraordinary in precisely this sense. In the condition of mortality all things are always threatened with destruction.

Berry is timeless. But for the antiquated phrasing "colored races," this could have been written today, instead of 35 years ago.

It's all about Karl Rove:

Publicly, the White House was standing by its A.G. One White House adviser (who asked not to be ID'ed talking about sensitive issues) said the support reflected Bush's own view that a Gonzales resignation would embolden the Dems to go after other targets—like Karl Rove. "This is about Bush saying, 'Screw you'," said the adviser, conceding that a Gonzales resignation might still be inevitable. The trick, said the adviser, would be to find a graceful exit strategy for Bush's old friend.

An insolent president trying to govern by tricks. Nixon lives.

And to think that for the better part of five years Bush was heralded as a man of unbending principle. The mind reels.

Doesn't sound like Rich Little's routine went over all that well tonight.

Late update: Forget about Little, Atrios says, and watch Letterman's special Top 10 list.

To be taken with a grain of salt: "Friends of Al Gore have secretly started assembling a campaign team in preparation for the former American vice-president to make a fresh bid for the White House."

Baghdad, through the eyes of U.S. commander David Petraeus:

On Friday night at dusk, Petraeus boarded a helicopter to look for scenes of normalcy and progress from above the maelstrom of the capital.

"On a bad day, I actually fly Baghdad just to reassure myself that life still goes on," he said, leaning back and propping his legs on the seat in front of him.

The aircraft banked right and Petraeus caught sight of a patch of relative calm. "He's actually watering the grass!" Petraeus said with a laugh, peering down at a man tending a soccer field, with children playing nearby.

Seconds later, the aircraft pivoted again, exposing boarded-up shops on a deserted, trash-strewn street. A bit farther, along the Tigris River, a hulking pile of twisted steel came into view -- the remains of the Sarafiya bridge, blown up April 12 amid a series of spectacular and deadly suicide bombings.

"That's a setback," Petraeus said, his voice lower. "That breaks your heart."

A look at what the Supreme Court's abortion decision portends for other important cases in the new Alito era.

Given President Bush's role in the dismissal of David Iglesias--over the reported objection of Attorney General Gonzales--it's worth going back over what the President and those who speak on his behalf have said publicly since this scandal broke. TPM Reader CB gets us started off with some choice quotes.

President Bush, at a press conference in Mexico, March 14, 2007:

I specifically remember one time I went up to the Senate and senators were talking about the U.S. attorneys. I don't remember specific names being mentioned, but I did say to Al last year -- you're right, last fall -- I said, have you heard complaints about AGs, I have -- I mean, U.S. attorneys, excuse me -- and he said, I have. But I never brought up a specific case nor gave him specific instructions.

President Bush, in his weekly radio address, on March 24, 2007:

In recent months, the Justice Department determined that new leadership in several of these positions would better serve the country. I strongly support the Attorney General in this decision.

Dan Bartlett, in a press briefing in Mexico, on March 13, 2007:

Particularly, as you can imagine, at the White House, when it comes to complaints, we receive a lot of complaints, whether it be from members of Congress, state leaders, local leaders. Oftentimes that is the job description of a White House employee, is to field complaints. That is not limited to U.S. attorneys. And over the course of several years we have received complaints about U.S. attorneys, particularly when it comes to election fraud cases -- not just New Mexico, but also Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

That information, it's incumbent upon us to share with the relevant Cabinet officers, incumbent upon the President to do that, as well. The President did that briefly, in a conversation he had with the Attorney General in October of 2006, in which, in a wide-ranging conversation on a lot of different issues, this briefly came up and the President said, I've been hearing about this election fraud matters from members of Congress, want to make sure you're on top of that, as well. There was no directive given, as far as telling him to fire anybody or anything like that. That would be under the prerogative of the Justice Department to take a look at those issues, as they obviously were doing.

So I know a lot of people want to make more out of it than that, but that is exactly what happened.

If you have other gems from the public record, please send them along, including links to the source of the quotes.

Update: And still more:

Dana Perino, on March 13, 2007, according to the AP:

"At no time did any White House officials, including the president, direct the Department of Justice to take specific action against any individual U.S. attorney."