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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

I wanted to go back to that excellent Washington Post piece on the increasing frequency with which the President declares world events "unacceptable," because it raises another issue, one which has been irking me since the North Korean nuclear test last weekend.

The issue, which Josh has raised in part, is this: Why do commentators continue to describe the President as a "hard-liner" on North Korea? That seems to me to be a disservice to the hardliners and to give the President far too much credit.

Just yesterday in the Wall Street Journal (no link), no less a Bush critic than Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, asserted that Bush's hardline on North Korea has failed.

I have no doubt that there are genuine hardliners within the Administration who urged covert and overt military action against North Korea early in the President's first term, and certainly in response to the breakdown of the Agreed Framework. Every Republican Administration is going to have its share of Curtis LeMays.

But those true hardliners have not prevailed in the internal Administration struggle over whether the U.S. should lead with the carrot or with the stick. What has emerged as U.S. "policy" is inertia. No carrot. No stick. No nothing, unless cheap rhetoric about what is "unacceptable" counts for something.

There are quite reputable people in foreign policy circles, like former Defense Secretary William Perry, who have advocated much tougher measures against North Korea than Bush has adopted. Perry, for instance, proposed publicly earlier this year that the U.S. hit the DPRK's new ICBM with a U.S. cruise missile while it was still on the launch pad, before a test flight could be conducted.

The sad truth is that we have virtually no good options for putting the North Korean nuclear genie back in the bottle, and I am quite convinced that our military options at the moment range from bad to worse (and that the current Administration would be unable to competently execute any military option).

But in the same way that it is a mistake to conclude that the Clinton Administration offer of a carrot was a failure, it is a mistake to conclude that the stick has failed, too. Both may be needed in the future.

All that we can say with any certainty is that paralysis has failed to achieve our objective of a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. And paralysis, if I may say, is unacceptable.

Former Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA), the first openly gay member of Congress, whose name has been in the news lately because, like Mark Foley, Studds had his own "page problem," died Saturday.

This is good stuff:

President Bush finds the world around him increasingly "unacceptable."

. . .

[A] survey of transcripts from Bush's public remarks over the past seven years shows the president's worsening political predicament has actually stoked, rather than diminished, his desire to proclaim what he cannot abide. Some presidential scholars and psychologists describe the trend as a signpost of Bush's rising frustration with his declining influence.

In the first nine months of this year, Bush declared more than twice as many events or outcomes "unacceptable" or "not acceptable" as he did in all of 2005, and nearly four times as many as he did in 2004. He is, in fact, at a presidential career high in denouncing events he considers intolerable. They number 37 so far this year, as opposed to five in 2003, 18 in 2002 and 14 in 2001.


More on this later . . .

As long as the Washington Post is talking about the beautiful Democratic faces to watch, we might as well give equal time to the GOP beautiful people.

For those of you who don't keep up with these things (I don't either, but some of our fearless readers do), here's the background. Country music star Sara Evans has filed for divorce, and it has gotten pretty nasty. I'll spare our more tender readers the allegations (porn) Evans is making (adultery) about her husband (a former GOP candidate for Congress).

Wait, former GOP candidate for Congress?

Yep. Ran for Congress in Oregon in 2002.

Funny thing is, his campaign website is still up--at least until this post it was. So you can see some of your GOP faves (President Bush) with the happy couple. There's even a photo touting the beauty of GOP women.

See what that WP front page has done? Now we're all wallowing in the gutter.

Caution: The front page of the Washington Post will make you hurl your Cheerios this morning:

Attractive politicians have an edge over not-so-attractive ones. The phenomenon is resonating especially this year. By a combination of luck and design, Democrats seem to be fielding an uncommonly high number of uncommonly good-looking candidates.

The beauty gap between the parties, some on Capitol Hill muse, could even be a factor in who controls Congress after Election Day.


I know, it's no more hackneyed than the analysis Broder regularly churns out, but Page 1? Maybe I'm just grumpy today.

Huge amount of independent expenditures today by the NRCC: $9.3 million.

Here are the biggest hits:

$424,948.80 against Democratic challenger Darcy Burner in the WA-8;

$571,073.60 against Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in PA-8;

$657,276.80 against Democratic challenger Joe Sestak in PA-7;

$652,884.80 against Democratic challenger Lois Murphy in PA-6;

$579,187.60 against Democrat Zack Space in the race for Bob Ney's open OH-18 seat;

$521,985.88 against Democratic incumbent Rep. Melissa Bean in IL-8;

$436,881.00 against Democratic challenger Ron Klein in FL-22;

$417,933.39 against Democratic challenger Ken Lucas in KY-4;

A whopping 99% of today's expenditure was for negative advertising.

All indications at this point are that the North Koreans have conducted a nuclear weapons test. According to CNN:

Late Sunday in Washington, the U.S. military told CNN it believed the report to be true, but was working to fully confirm it.

Senior U.S. officials said they also believed the test took place.


This is a strategic disaster of the first order.

Well, Foley may get pushed off the front page.

North Korea claims it has successfully completed its first nuclear test.

And some South Korean officials say there are signs it's true.

Developing . . .

Update: From the AP:

North Korea said Monday it has performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test. The country's official Korean Central News Agency said the test was performed successfully and there was no radioactive leakage from the site.

"The nuclear test is a historic event that brought happiness to the our military and people," KCNA said.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency is reporting that government officials said North Korea performed its first-ever nuclear weapons test Monday.

South Korean officials could not immediately confirm the report.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun convened an urgent meeting of security advisers over the issue, Yonhap reported.


Late update: AP reporting that the test occurred 9:36 p.m. EDT Sunday. You can't very well hide a nuclear test, so American officials already know whether it occurred. Any unusual activity at State or Pentagon tonight?

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