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

Poor Ted Stevens. The much-investigated senior senator from Alaska is so hamstrung by his own legal troubles that his lawyers have barred him from commenting on the Larry Craig bathroom imbroglio.

The Larry Franklin-AIPAC case--was it lobbying or espionage?--has been flying mostly under the radar of late. But arguments made in the case yesterday suggest this could get pretty interesting if the defendants have their way:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior intelligence officials should not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, federal prosecutors argued in a closed-door court hearing Thursday.

Two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists facing espionage charges have subpoenaed Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and several others to testify at their trial next year. . . .

Attorneys for lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman have argued that the Israeli interest group played an unofficial but sanctioned role in crafting foreign policy and that Rice and others can confirm it.

Trial is set for early next year.

This is deservedly getting a lot of attention this morning. From WaPo:

In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign. . . .

The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity.

Finally, we're getting more of a glimpse into the netherworld occupied by Thomas Kontogiannis, and it sure is murky.

Kontogiannis is the briber of Duke Cunningham who has pleaded guilty and will be a key witness in the upcoming trial of two other alleged Cunningham bribers, Brent Wilkes and Kontogiannis' own nephew, John Michael.

Kontogiannis' plea agreement and the legal proceedings surrounding it were originally kept secret, and he was not even fingerprinted at first, all of which, combined with his history of getting off pretty easy for serious felony convictions, gave rise to speculation about Kontogiannis' ties to U.S. intelligence.

The judge in the case has now unsealed some of the records of the legal proceedings, and sure enough, Kontogiannis says bribing Cunningham was basically just the cost of doing business: "My interest is (the) United States, basically. And (Cunningham) was in a position that I could reach and tell (the government) information that I was gathering from all over the world.”

It's hard to tell whether Kontogiannis fancies himself a real-life Jack Bauer, or if he just pulled the wool over the eyes of his presumed handlers. Spencer has the details.

CNN: Sources say Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) may resign as early as today.

Actually this is pretty remarkable if true:

A GOP source with knowledge of the situation told CNN's Dana Bash that the Republican National Committee was poised to take the extraordinary step of calling on Craig to resign.

However, that move was put on hold, the source said, because top party leaders have received indications that Craig himself is preparing to step down.

Sources have confirmed that high-level meetings on the matter were being conducted in Idaho on Thursday.

I don't recall a national party publicly calling for the resignation of a sitting senator of its own party ever before. Perhaps our Senate history buffs can help us here. More at TPM's Election Central.

White House "confident" it will win Iraq fight against Dems. In other news, salesman confident you will enjoy that used car.

Sen. Craig was familiar with this particular Minneapolis airport restroom:

Officer: You, you travel through here frequently correct?

Craig: I do.

Officer: Um,

Craig: Almost weekly.

Officer: Have you been successful in these bathrooms here before?

Craig: I go to that bathroom regularly.

Officer: I mean for any type of other activities?

Craig: No. Absolutely not. I don't seek activity in bathrooms.


We're going through the airport police audio tape of their interview with Sen. Larry Craig following his arrest. Among the highlights:

Officer: Well, you're not being truthful with me. You're not being truthful with me, Senator. I'm real disappointed in you right now. . . .

Then a little later:

Officer: Okay, sir. We deal with people who lie to us every day.

Craig: I'm sure you do.

Officer: I'm sure you do to [sic] sir.

Craig: And gentleman so do I.

By the end, it's hard to tell whether the officer's "disappointment" is the stuff of interrogation room tactics or genuine:

Officer: Okay. Then it was your left hand. I saw it with my own eyes.

Craig: All right, you saw something that didn't happen.

Officer: Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes. Anything to add?

Craig: Uh, no.

Shortly thereafter, the interview concludes.

When my wife was in school in Louisiana, she had a teacher who began a sentence one day with, "When you leave Louisiana and go to America . . ."

Now, Louisiana has long been different from the rest of the country, its French and Spanish colonial roots long pre-dating Anglo influence. In south Louisiana in particular, where the geographic isolation of bayou country was not penetrated until the commercialization of oil and gas deposits well into the 20th century, the Anglo influence not only came late but often came as unwelcome.

So there is precedent for Louisiana to consider itself a land apart, but I'm not sure there is any precedent for a President of the United States to refer to contiguous U.S. territory as if it were a foreign land in quite the same way President Bush did yesterday while visiting New Orleans on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall there:

"[T]he taxpayers and people from all around the country have got to understand the people of this part of the world really do appreciate the fact that the American citizens are supportive of the recovery effort."

"I come telling the folks in this part of the world that we still understand there's problems and we're still engaged."

"We care deeply about the folks in this part of the world."

He might as well have been talking to tsunami survivors in Indonesia.

Late Update: As a couple of readers have pointed out, there is a precedent for a U.S. President to refer to U.S. territory in this way: President Bush himself has done it consistently since shortly after the storm. On September 2, 2005, speaking in Mobile, Ala., the President said, "[N]ow we're going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world." And the pattern of oddly distancing the devastated Gulf Coast from the rest of the country has continued ever since, as ably documented by the blog "Right Hand Thief."

We'll know tomorrow whether Sen. John Warner (R-VA) will run for re-election next year. Warner is 80 years old. The race for his seat, if empty, would be a major flashpoint in 2008.