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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

Monday I observed that Solicitor General Paul Clement was the acting attorney general who never was. Well, not quite.

Even though President Bush originally had announced Clement as his choice to replace Alberto Gonzales until a permanent AG was confirmed by the Senate, Clement was edged out by conservative diehard Peter Keisler, in a politically calculated sleight of hand from Bush that has received remarkably little scrutiny.

Turns out though that Clement did actually serve as acting AG, for 24 hours. From the WaPo:

Clement, who was publicly tagged last month as the temporary replacement for Gonzales, wound up officially taking the helm at 12:01 a.m. Monday and relinquishing it 24 hours later, officials said.

The switch was made on Sunday by the White House with no input from Justice Department officials, said two sources with knowledge of the matter. The change added another level of uncertainty to life at the Justice Department, where nearly every top senior official has resigned in the wake of controversies under Gonzales....


That would explain why Clement's photo appeared on the attorney general webpage for a brief time Monday even after Keisler had been announced as acting attorney general by the President. But it still does not entirely explain why Keisler was shuffled into the post. The President said it was so that Clement could prepare for the upcoming Supreme Court term, as if that was a surprise development the President had not foreseen when he first tapped Clement, which was most certainly not the case.

Sen. John Warner (R-VA) will introduce a non-binding "sense of the Senate" resolution supporting the gist of the Webb Amendment on troop readiness. The effect is to undermine Sen. Jim Webb's effort to make the troop readiness changes legally binding. And as Greg Sargent reports, Warner didn't even bother to alert his fellow Virginian Webb of the move.

Late Update: Webb responds to Warner's move.

Sen. Joe Biden, on the GOP's successful filibuster of legislation restoring habeas corpus for enemy combatants:

“As I’ve said before, the terrorists win when we abandon our civil liberties. The way we win is to show them that we can fight this war without changing our character as a nation. I hope the Senate reconsiders this issue once again.” . . .

“The position urged by the Administration, that we must choose between Constitutional rights and fighting terrorism effectively, is simply wrong. Our strength as a nation, and our status as a world leader, is based in part on the fact that Americans do not choose between national security and liberty; we demand both,” said Sen. Biden.

TPM Reader ZK makes a good catch. The AP story I linked to below in the post on habeas corpus rights for detainees being rejected by the Senate says the vote was 56-43 "against the bill." ZK writes, "Last I checked that meant 56 Senators voted FOR the bill. You should put up a warning about that - the media sure has changed how they report these votes." Indeed it has, as we noted back in July.

I have to say writing the headline above still feels like a Twilight Zone moment.

Senate Democrats were unable to overcome a GOP filibuster of a bill to restore habeas corpus rights for enemy combatants detained at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

Habeas rights were expressly stripped from detainees by Congress late last year.

Late Update: In its original version, this post erroneously reported that Arlen Specter was the lone Republican voting with the Democrats. Five other GOP senators supported the proposal: Snowe, Sununu, Lugar, Hagel, and Smith.

The Minnesota U.S. Attorney declined comment to the local paper about the inquiry into whether she violated laws governing treatment of federal employees, although she did confirm the existence of the investigation.

More details are emerging on the weekend shootout in Iraq involving Blackwater personnel which led the Iraqi government to try to bar the company from operating in the country.

Late Update: Spencer Ackerman talked to Robert Young Pelton, author of Licensed To Kill, about the Blackwater incident and the company's rules of engagement.

Sen. Jim Webb's proposal to ease the rotation schedule pressure on troops in Iraq looked like it might muster enough GOP support to pass, but his fellow Virginian, Sen. John Warner, an initial supporter, may pull back.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has abruptly called off his plans to compromise with the White House on Iraq withdrawal proposals:

The Democratic leader said he will call for a vote this month on several anti-war proposals, including one by Sen. Carl Levin that would insist President Bush end U.S. combat next summer. The proposals would be mandatory and not leave Bush wiggle room, said Reid, D-Nev.

"There (are) no goals. It's all definite timelines," he told reporters of the planned legislation.


Greg Sargent has more at Election Central.

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