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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

Latest Newsweek poll: For the first time since 2001, more Americans trust the Democrats than the GOP on moral values and the war on terror.

Late Update: The Newsweek story describing the poll results also contains this head-scratcher: "Americans are equally divided over whether or not Speaker Hastert should resign over mishandling the situation (43 percent say he should, but 36 percent say he shouldn’t)." Equally?

From the WSJ "Washington Wire":

State Department will award more than 20 grants of as much as $1.5 million for Iran-related democracy and human-rights work, most of it outside Iran. Since U.S. fears Iranian meddling, “don’t expect a lot of transparency” on who gets awards, a State official says.


Yes, but for those meddling Iranians we would have the otherwise high level of transparency from this Administration that we have come to know and love.

ABC has its own congressional staff source confirming what the Post reported in today's edition: that Hastert Chief of Staff Scott Palmer did meet with Mark Foley about his conduct with pages months before the "overfriendly" emails emerged last fall.

ABC reports that its source first became aware last fall of the earlier Foley-Palmer meeting, around the time Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL), head of the House Page Board, and then-House Clerk Jeff Trandahl confronted Foley about those emails.

Reporting the news always safer than predicting it. From the AP, last Saturday:

This time there were no tortured explanations, no heels dug in, no long, slow drip of revelation or fight for redemption. Rep. Mark Foley, R-Fla., just up and quit after his e-mails expressing undue interest in a 16-year-old male page were exposed to the nation. Less than six weeks from a tough election for Republicans who control an already ethically tainted Congress, the more common stick-it-out approach to scandal was cast aside.

"Resigning leaves your attackers nowhere to go," said Eric Dezenhall, a crisis-management consultant. "If this had dragged on, it could have sucked Republicans into the vortex of scandal."


Hmmm, is that a giant sucking sound I hear?

Of all the leading players in the Mark Foley saga, Rep. Tom Reynolds is the only one in a close race for re-election. That means that while others can hunker down and try to ride out the storm, Reynolds can't avoid it. He has to keep talking, and the more he talks, the deeper the hole he digs. Greg Sargent has the details.

Bam! Just like that, Duke Cunningham is back in the news.

He writes a scathing letter to the reporter who took him down (and who won a Pulitzer for doing so).

His wife concedes her own wrongdoing, but avoids prosecution if she applies her share of the proceeds of the sale of their ill-gotten home toward the hefty tax bill associated with all those bribes.

And, to top it off, apparently House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra has been in direct contact with the imprisoned former member of his committee, much to the alarm of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the committee's ranking member.

Some background: The Intel Committee is investigating what other misdeeds, if any, Duke may have committed while on the committee, focusing specifically on whether and to what extent he was able to use the committee, its staff, and its cloak of secrecy to dispense favors to his bribers, and perhaps others.

The report of the investigation has been held up by a dispute over whether to subpoena Cunningham to testify. Harman is demanding it; Hoeksta says, unconvincingly, that there's no point in that because Cunningham will merely take the 5th.

Given that background, Harman is livid that Hoekstra has had direct contact with Cunningham without her knowledge, reports the NYT. And in a letter to Hoekstra this week she demands that Hoekstra not visit Duke in prison! “I believe this would be highly inappropriate,” Harman writes.

Now there's a scene for you. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee visiting his former colleague in federal prison. Then again, that's what retirement might look like for a lot of Republicans.

More on Susan Ralston's resignation. I don't want to paint her as an innocent bystander in all this. She was, as I understand it, The Brain's brain. You don't work as an assistant to Karl Rove and to Jack Abramoff without knowing your way around the block. She's a big girl.

That being said, you start to wonder if Republicans understand "The buck stops here" only in some literal sense. Accountability stops way down the chain of command, but the perks of office flow all the way to the top.

Karl Rove, at this point, looks untouched. But his assistant, well, we just can't stand for that kind of conduct, now can we? Here's a sampling of how the Bush White House ferrets out and punishes alleged ethical improprieties, according to the WP:

The White House counsel's office conducted a review of the report, but with Ralston's departure it closed its inquiry yesterday. "Nothing more will come from the report, no further fallout from the report," Perino said.

A senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the counsel's office reached no conclusion about whether Ralston violated gift limits because her resignation made the point moot. But the official said there were "mitigating circumstances" in her case because she had a preexisting relationship with Abramoff, for whom she worked before joining the White House. The official said the White House made no criminal referral in her case. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.


Given the number of Bush Administration appointees with "preexisting relationships" in business and industry (and on K Street) that's a mitigating circumstance wide enough to drive a Brink's truck through.

The resignation of Susan Ralston late yesterday may have overshadowed National Journal's report on the failure of Karl Rove to pay for a bash at Jack Abramoff's restaurant, Signatures, for 50 of Rove's staffers until this year, more than two years after the fact--and well after Abramoff entered his guilty plea on corruption charges. Paul Kiel has more details on the NJ piece.

TPM Reader BC suggests a "meme neutralizer":

Don't you think that Republicans attacking Pelosi and CREW and bloggers over Foley is just like attacking Iraq when you know the crime was done by bin Laden? There they go again, Republicans attacking the wrong people when everyone knows who did the crime.


Not bad.

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