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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

There is another thing I would point out about the importance of a Democratic-led confirmation hearing on Bob Gates. The point of such a hearing would not be to torpedo his nomination, but rather to put down some markers on Iraq and attempt to define the parameters within which the Administration will operate going forward.

I'm talking about big picture items. What is victory? What is the strategic objective? Are we spread too thin militarily and how do we address that? What will troop rotations look like going forward? What should our force strength be? How much repair and replenishment of materiel is required and what will it cost? What resources do we need to commit in Afghanistan? What are the relative priorities?

I don't have much confidence that those questions will be addressed in GOP-led hearings. The thrust of Republican questioning will be, You're not Don Rumsfeld, right? End of story.

The temptation will be--already is--to dump the Iraq disaster in Rumsfeld's lap and be satisfied that just about anything and anyone will be better than Rumsfeld. First, that ignores the continuing role of the President and Vice President. Second, it seems to me that we are at a crossroads, with many options before us. Simply saying any road is better than the one we just came down is irresponsible. There are real choices to be made at this juncture. After the 1968 elections, not many Americans would probably have guessed that we would be in Vietnam for another six and a half years. We're at a similarly decisive moment now.

From TPM Reader CL:

I used to think the major reason why the Dem response has been muted on Gates was because if they put up a fight over Gates, the administration would withdraw Gates, and put in Joe Lieberman. Then CT's Republican governor appoints an R and the Senate switches--until last night, however, when I finally got a look at the next round of 2008 Senate seats. Barring an orgy of retirings to run for President, there is a real liklihood that the Dems could hold their numbers . . . and pick up a number of R seats as well . . .

I think Joe sees this and realizes sure, he could switch parties - but in two years, he'll be back in the minoity, and just like that - not only would he be completely irrelevant, but Meet the Press would stop calling.

He's got us by balls? Not at all. And I'm willing to bet he knows it more than we do.


Precisely.

Update: That certainly explains why Joe is unlikely to switch parties. It's less helpful in explaining why he would decline to be Secretary of Defense. But capping your public service career by presiding over the mess in Iraq, for which you are already in part blamed, seems very unappealing by any standard.

Let me return, briefly, to the post I did yesterday on Republican Michael Steele's effort to bamboozle Maryland voters into thinking he was the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate there.

A number of Maryland readers have rightly pointed out that way I wrote "Steele Democrat" in the post doesn't do it justice. On C-SPAN, Steele defended his campaign's use of the phrase "Steele Democrat" as a play on "Reagan Democrats."

The way the phrase appeared in the field was:

STEELE DEMOCRAT

A couple of examples are here and here.

OK, carry on.

An update on our call for questions to pose in our interview with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). The interview, originally scheduled for this morning, has been postponed until tomorrow. So keep the questions coming. We hope also to interview Hoyer's opponent in the majority leader race, John Murtha (D-PA), so stay tuned.

The excruciating recount in the CT-02 should be finished later today. After multiple swings yesterday, Democrat Joe Courtney leads incumbent Rob Simmons by 82 votes.

Democrat Darcy Burner has conceded in her race for Congress in the Washington State 8th District. That seemed like a pretty likely outcome since election night, even though the tally was close.

Burner has nothing to hang her head about in that one. She ran a very good race, surprising a lot of people (including some national Democrats).

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to begin hearings the week of December 4 on the nomination of Bob Gates for secretary of defense.

One reason the President may be trying to get the Gates nomination through the lame-duck Republican Senate before Democrats take control of the Senate in January is old animosity between Gates and Senator-elect Jim Webb (D-VA), according to Bob Novak:

During President Ronald Reagan's second term, Gates and Webb clashed as colleagues. Webb as secretary of the Navy objected to plans by Gates, then deputy national security adviser, for U.S. warships to protect oil platforms in the Persian Gulf. The hot-tempered Webb made clear his irritation with the soft-spoken Gates.


Whatever. In Novak's world, all politics is petty paybacks and trifling personal slights.

What I don't completely understand, quite frankly, is why Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and other Senate Democrats are not demanding full hearings on the Gates nomination after the first of the year. No one is eager for Rumsfeld to hold the post for a minute longer than necessary, but what better way for Democrats to begin to exert control over Iraq policy.

You want to do oversight on Iraq? Start there.

Not to quibble, but this sentence from The Hill piece on Trent Lott's bid for minority whip seems a bit off:

Lott was forced to step down as Senate majority leader in 2002 after comments he made at former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) birthday party touched off a racially charged controversy and the White House threw its backing to now-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
That makes it sound like a bunch of folks were just whipping up trouble instead of Lott planting his foot squarely in the doo-doo. Wasn't it the comments that were "racially charged," as opposed to the controversy?

He's baaack.

Trent Lott is making a bid for Senate minority whip, according to The Hill.

I don't know about you, but that makes me nostalgic for those halcyon days of 1948.

With a final dyspeptic, pox-on-all-your-houses column, John Tierney leaves the NYT op-ed page and retreats to the safety of the laboratory.

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