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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

In the upcoming issue of The New Yorker, George Packer surveys the failure of the surge:

The Petraeus-Crocker testimony is the kind of short-lived event on which the Administration has relied to shore up support for the war: the “Mission Accomplished” declaration, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam’s capture, the transfer of sovereignty, the three rounds of voting, the Plan for Victory, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Every new milestone, however illusory, allows the Administration to avoid thinking ahead, to the years when the mistakes of Iraq will continue to haunt the U.S.

The media have largely followed the Administration’s myopic approach to the war, and there is likely to be intense coverage of the congressional testimony. But the inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis. . . .


The balance of the piece looks at the road ahead and the very difficult decisions that the U.S. is avoiding making and has been avoiding for many months. If our options before ranged from bad to worse, they now range from worse to horrible.

In his latest public statement, Osama bin Laden (or someone purporting to be him) wades pretty deep into U.S. domestic politics, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by ABC News:

He says to the American people, "you made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war, not even the most violent of its murderers, [former Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld…"

"You permitted Bush to complete his first term, and stranger still, chose him for a second term, which gave him a clear mandate from you -- with your full knowledge and consent -- to continue to murder our people in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then you claim to be innocent! The innocence of yours is like my innocence of the blood of your sons on the 11th -- were I to claim such a thing."

Bin Laden says President Bush's words echo "neoconservatives like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Richard Perle."

"People of America: the world is following your news in regards to your invasion of Iraq, for people have recently come to know that, after several years of tragedies of this war, the vast majority of you want it stopped. Thus, you elected the Democratic Party for this purpose, but the Democrats haven't made a move worth mentioning. On the contrary, they continue to agree to the spending of tens of billions to continue the killing and war there."


Now, here's the thing. Both sides of Iraq debate may be tempted to use bin Laden's words to some perverse advantage. Bush Administration supporters (and, in fairness, no one has exploited bin Laden's statements quite like the Bush Administration) will try to extract some measure of satisfaction that if bin Laden is against us, we must be doing the right thing. Iraq War opponents might be tempted to note that bin Laden is calling out the Democrats for not stopping the war. Whatever. Bin Laden is a crazy, evil man. No one should take any pleasure in trying to exploit his rantings for their own partisan purposes. The only legitimate political point to be made is why is this guy still free to spout such noxious rhetoric six years after the September 11 attacks.

John Edwards was at NYC's Pace University today for what his campaign billed as a major policy speech on counter-terrorism. Josh got a chance to sit down with Edwards for an interview following the speech. They discussed the "War on Terror" and the road ahead in Iraq. We'll have video of some of the interview shortly.

Alas, there won't be a report from General Petraeus, at least not a written report.

Late Update
: Over at The Horse's Mouth, Greg has more on the report and the rhetorical jostling over who exactly is responsible for it, the White House or Gen. Petraeus.

Following on Sen. Barack Obama's lead, former Sen. John Edwards suggested in a speech today that as President he would not hesitate to conduct U.S. counter-terrorism operations on Pakistan soil if the Pakistani government refused to take action itself.

Yesterday, the White House announced it would nominate E. Duncan Getchell, Jr., to a seat on the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. But as the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today, Getchell was not on a list of five possible nominees submitted to the White House by Virginia Sens. John Warner (R) and Jim Webb (D). Instead, Getchell had appeared on an earlier list submitted to the White House by Warner and then-Sen. George Allen (R), who Webb defeated last year:

"Today, despite our good faith, bipartisan effort to accommodate the president, the recommendations that Senator Warner and I made have been ignored," Webb said last night.

"The White House talks about the spirit of bipartisanship. . . . The White House cannot expect to complain about the confirmation of federal judges when they proceed to act in this manner," Webb added.

Webb said he and Warner jointly interviewed more than a dozen attorneys, received ratings of candidates from bar groups and submitted five "outstanding" names.


Warner is not happy either, the paper reports:

Warner said in a terse statement, "I steadfastly remain committed to the recommendations stated in my joint letter with Senator Webb to the president, dated June 12, 2007, and I have so advised in a respectful, consistent manner in my consultations with the White House senior staff."


The White House and the Senate leadership worked out a deal before the summer recess that the President would not make any recess appointments provided that the Senate moved on some of the President's nominations. It's not clear whether this is one such nomination, but the irony would be rich if it were.

One other point to be made. As the Times-Dispatch notes, a third of the 4th Circuit seats are open at the moment, which has left the reliably conservative appeals court evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. So the appointment of a Federalist Society member like Getchell, if confirmed, would help sway the idealogical bent of the court back to where the GOP base would like it to be--staunchly conservative.

Fred Thompson: "we better figure out a way" to combat al Qaeda.

Perhaps before "we" run for President?

Late Update: The video, from ABC's "Good Morning America":

We learned this week from Robert Draper's new book that the Decider remained convinced until as late as 2006 that Iraq had had WMD right up until the U.S. invasion:

Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs.


Compare and contrast that point of view (article of faith) with what we learned today from Sidney Blumenthal about what President Bush had been told about Iraqi WMD by then-CIA Director George Tenet in the fall of 2002:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.


Blumenthal talked to "two former senior CIA officers" who provided accounts of what Tenent briefed to Bush:

"Tenet told me he briefed the president personally," said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush's response was to call the information "the same old thing." Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. "The president had no interest in the intelligence," said the CIA officer. The other officer said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."


It's no surprise that this President is not one to test his beliefs and conclusions against the facts, neither the old facts nor the newly emerging facts. In the strange twilight of the Bush Presidency, the new revelation about what the President was briefed on and when about WMD falls into that category of things we thought we knew but for which we lacked all of the hard evidence.

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