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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

Katrina has become a post-apocalyptic American nightmare for those living in the disaster zone, or dying there, or neither living nor dying but stumbling through the carnage like zombies.

Chris Rose is a columnist for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. His columns since Katrina and the ensuing flood of New Orleans have been an unblinking look at what passes for life in the Crescent City. At times angry, bitter, and despondent, yet still mustering occassional hopefulness, Rose, through his column, has been a lifeline for those who want to know what is really happening in the city beyond the narrow frame of TV cameras.

The personal toll on those covering the storm and its aftermath has been too little documented. The Times-Pic, whose main office was flooded in the storm, forcing its temporary evacuation, has faced challenges that no modern American newspaper has ever endured. A few weeks ago, one its photographers attempted suicide by cop. Fortunately for all involved, he was well-known and respected by the police, and they showed a level of restraint that was heroic, even as he tried to provoke them into killing him by using his car as a weapon.

Today, Chris Rose has a column that describes in agonizing detail his own descent into depression last fall as the days after the storm turned to weeks and months. Like most of us would, he resisted entreaties from his family and co-workers to get help. He went a year without treatment, 360 straight days of crying. It is, as such things are, a very personal tale. One man. One family. One city.

It breaks your heart. But it also makes me mad as hell. Mad that this slow-motion disaster of broken levees and shattered lives happened in the first place. Mad that the disaster is still happening, a feckless governmental response dragging out the misery and the suffering just as if the fetid water were still pouring through the levee breaches. Mad that in the face of this overwhelming catastrophe at home we are spending by some estimates $246 million a day to create a catastrophe in Iraq. Mad that in light of all of this ineptitude and indifference the party in power has a chance, a very real chance, of retaining some or even all of its power in the first national election since Katrina.

But Chris Rose did not intend for his column today to be a springboard to a political rant. It is just his personal story. You ought to go read it.

This guy better get his resume polished up:

A senior U.S. State Department diplomat told Arab satellite network Al Jazeera that there is a strong possibility history will show the United States displayed "arrogance" and "stupidity" in its handling of the Iraq war.

Alberto Fernandez, director of the Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Bureau of Near East Affairs, made his comments on Saturday to the Qatar-based network.

"History will decide what role the United States played," he told Al Jazeera in Arabic, based on CNN translations. "And God willing, we tried to do our best in Iraq."

"But I think there is a big possibility ... for extreme criticism and because undoubtedly there was arrogance and stupidity from the United States in Iraq," the diplomat told Al Jazeera. . . .

"I can only assume his remarks must have been mistranslated. Those comments obviously don't reflect our policy," a senior Bush administration official said.

Fernandez told CNN that he was "not dissing U.S. policy."

"I know what the policy is and what the red lines are, and nothing I said hasn't been said before by senior officials."


Poor guy. He mistook recent Administration softening of its denials that there is a problem with Iraq as a sign of an American glasnost. What equivalent of Siberia will he be sent to on his next diplomatic posting?

The LA Times has a lengthy piece on the use of No Child Left Behind Act funds to buy educational programs from presidential brother Neil Bush's company Ignite!:

Most of Ignite's business has been obtained through sole-source contracts without competitive bidding. Neil Bush has been directly involved in marketing the product.

In addition to federal or state funds, foundations and corporations have helped buy Ignite products. The Washington Times Foundation, backed by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the South Korea-based Unification Church, has peppered classrooms throughout Virginia with Ignite's COWs under a $1-million grant.

Oil companies and Middle East interests with long political ties to the Bush family have made similar bequests. Aramco Services Co., an arm of the Saudi-owned oil company, has donated COWs to schools, as have Apache Corp., BP and Shell Oil Co.

Neil Bush said he is a businessman who does not attempt to exert political influence, and he called The Times' inquiries about his venture — made just before the election — "entirely political."


Earlier this year, a TPM reader offered a first-person account of the Neil Bush sales pitch.

For TPM readers who enjoy an occasional dose of snark, TPM's Election Central offers "Midterm Roundup," a daily early morning jolt of political caffeine. It's as frothy as steamed milk, as referential as Dennis Miller, and speaks of itself in the third person as often as a pro athlete. Today, Midterm Roundup makes a special weekend appearance.

Reading the tea leaves on whether the Bush Administration is considering a partition of Iraq:

[T]here are signs—slightly cryptic, but still worth noting—that the Bush Administration may be leaning towards partitioning Iraq. The main exhibit is an October 6 AP photograph of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President of Iraqi Kurdistan Massoud Barzani meeting in Irbil, the provincial seat. Rice and Barzani stood at a podium, flanked by a red, white, and green Kurdish tricolor flag. Neither the Iraqi flag, nor any other indication that the Secretary of State was in Iraq, was in view.

. . .

Given that in September, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a declaration that the Iraqi flag must be flown in all regions (Kurdish nationalists call the Iraqi flag “the flag of Ba'ath”), it's hard to believe that Rice's protocol people could let this one slip by accidentally. Imagine a foreign prime minister visiting America in 1861 and giving a speech while standing in front of a confederate flag—it's hard to imagine a Secretary of State could have missed such symbolism—and the Kurdish press certainly didn't.

Matt Yglesias, in response to an earlier post today, uses my reference to Republican attack ads against Max Cleland in the 2002 Senate campaign as a jumping off point to harangue Democrats for whining instead of playing hardball politics in return.

While I don't disagree with the underlying point that whining is an ineffective political response to political attacks, especially on national security issues, Matt's assertion that the 2002 attack ads didn't question Cleland's personal bravery is simply not correct.

Go look at the ad that I linked to. It begins and ends with courage. Personal courage is the entire theme of the ad. The sarcastic narrator concludes by saying, "Max Cleland says he has the courage to lead, but the record proves Max Cleland is just misleading."

Matt asks "what does Cleland's triple-amputee status have to do with it?" I'd say everything. I mean that quite literally. While attacking the personal courage of a triple amputee wounded in combat who perseveres to become a U.S. senator was a disgrace, it is the very fact of his courage that led to the GOP attack. Personal courage was perhaps Cleland's greatest political strength, hence the attack. In the same way, John Kerry was swiftboated specifically because of his stellar swiftboat record.

I agree that a good biography ought not immunize a candidate from attack on the issues. But Matt is being blindingly naive when he says the ads merely offered a "seriously distorted and underhanded view of the issues at hand." These ads weren't about the issues; they were about the person. They seriously distorted Max Cleland. That is not how it should work.

Whatever you do today, watch this ad. I initially thought it was a joke, but, no, it appears to be an actual ad the RNC is running against Democrat Harold Ford in the Tennessee Senate race.

My, oh, my.

Late Update: Here's more on the ad and Republican Senate candidate Bob Corker's attempt to distance himself from the RNC's pitch.

Newsweek:

If the elections for Congress were held today, according to the new NEWSWEEK poll, 60 percent of white Evangelicals would support the Republican candidate in their district, compared to just 31 percent who would back the Democrat. To the uninitiated, that may sound like heartening news for Republicans in the autumn of their discontent. But if you’re a pundit, a pol, or a preacher, you know better. White Evangelicals are a cornerstone of the GOP’s base; in 2004, exit polls found Republicans carried white Evangelicals 3 to 1 over Democrats, winning 74 percent of their votes. In turn, Evangelicals carried the GOP to victory. But with a little more than two weeks before the crucial midterms, the Republican base may be cracking.

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