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

We learned this week from Robert Draper's new book that the Decider remained convinced until as late as 2006 that Iraq had had WMD right up until the U.S. invasion:

Though it was not the sort of thing one could say publicly anymore, the president still believed that Saddam had possessed weapons of mass destruction. He repeated this conviction to Andy Card all the way up until Card’s departure in April 2006, almost exactly three years after the Coalition had begun its fruitless search for WMDs.

Compare and contrast that point of view (article of faith) with what we learned today from Sidney Blumenthal about what President Bush had been told about Iraqi WMD by then-CIA Director George Tenet in the fall of 2002:

On Sept. 18, 2002, CIA director George Tenet briefed President Bush in the Oval Office on top-secret intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, according to two former senior CIA officers. Bush dismissed as worthless this information from the Iraqi foreign minister, a member of Saddam's inner circle, although it turned out to be accurate in every detail. Tenet never brought it up again.

Nor was the intelligence included in the National Intelligence Estimate of October 2002, which stated categorically that Iraq possessed WMD. No one in Congress was aware of the secret intelligence that Saddam had no WMD as the House of Representatives and the Senate voted, a week after the submission of the NIE, on the Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq. The information, moreover, was not circulated within the CIA among those agents involved in operations to prove whether Saddam had WMD.

Blumenthal talked to "two former senior CIA officers" who provided accounts of what Tenent briefed to Bush:

"Tenet told me he briefed the president personally," said one of the former CIA officers. According to Tenet, Bush's response was to call the information "the same old thing." Bush insisted it was simply what Saddam wanted him to think. "The president had no interest in the intelligence," said the CIA officer. The other officer said, "Bush didn't give a fuck about the intelligence. He had his mind made up."

It's no surprise that this President is not one to test his beliefs and conclusions against the facts, neither the old facts nor the newly emerging facts. In the strange twilight of the Bush Presidency, the new revelation about what the President was briefed on and when about WMD falls into that category of things we thought we knew but for which we lacked all of the hard evidence.

The rumored short list of potential attorney general nominees doesn't include DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff any longer.

Apparently the push-back from the Senate GOP leadership has convinced Larry Craig to soften his stance about staying in the Senate--but he hasn't completely given up retaining his seat. It would take a confluence of unlikely events--successful withdrawal of his guilty plea and a quick dismissal of the case--for Craig to be able to resolve (or would that be re-resolve?) his legal case by September 30, a reality that Craig's spokesman is now acknowledging.

The Hill explores the relationship between Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Alaska businessman Bob Penney. An earmark here. A sweetheart land deal there. Pretty soon you're talking real muck.

Passed on without comment:

Supporters of Sen. Larry Craig with the American Land Rights Association are calling for a boycott of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Airport.

The Battle Ground (Washington) based association says airport police who arrested the senator in a men's room sex sting are responsible for weakening private property rights in the West. Craig is a Republican member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Late Update: More on the boycott from the website of the American Land Rights Association (.pdf):

By ambushing Senator Larry Craig, the Minneapolis St Paul Airport Police have effectively declared war on the West. They are primarily responsible for greatly weakening private property rights and Federal land use advocates in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and in Congress. We are urging you to make all your flight arrangements avoiding the Minneapolis-St Paul Airport for at least the next year and probably longer. We’ll keep you posted as the boycott develops. Urge your friends, neighbors and fellow workers to try to avoid any flights that take them through Minneapolis St Paul Airport. We must inflict economic pain on the airport authorities to get them to change their behavior. -----And they must apologize to Senator Larry Craig.

Ted Stevens, Republican Senator from Alaska and noted climate specialist:

Stevens, while acknowledging the impact of global climate change, said he believes the worst may be over.

"We're at the end of a long, long term of warming. 700 to 900 years of increased temperature, a very slow increase. We think we're close to the end of that. If we're close to the end of that, that means that we'll starting getting cooler gradually, not very rapidly, but cooler once again and stability might come to this region for a period of another 900 years," Stevens said.

In explaining to KTUU why he had softened his previous hard-line stance on global warming, Stevens said:

"Evolved to the point, I think there is a contribution of mankind to the warming cycle. But I've also been convinced now by our scientists that that the basic cycle itself is a natural one that been going on as I said for 700 to 900 years and we have to learn to live with that," Stevens said.

Thanks to Uncle Ted, Alaskans who feared bearing the brunt of some of the most dramatic climate changes can rest easy now. (Thanks to TPM Reader TM for the link).

In a swipe at the GOP Senate leadership, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) sent one of his attorneys, Stan Brand, onto the Today show this morning to call for the complaint against Craig filed with the Senate Ethics Committee by the GOP leadership to be dismissed.

Late Update: Craig's lawyers have followed up now with a letter to the Ethics Committee:

Lawyers for Senator Larry Craig of Idaho delivered a letter to the Senate ethics committee Wednesday asking the committee to reject a complaint relating to his guilty plea in an airport sex sting operation. The move opens a potentially ugly battle between Craig and the Republican leadership, as Craig reconsiders his plans to resign from the Senate.

Citing a Republican leadership aide says, the AP is reporting that Rep. Paul Gillmor (R-OH) was found dead in his apartment Wednesday (via CNN).

Late Update: The Hill has sources who say the cause of death was an apparent heart attack.