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

Lots of readers have emailed about the Executive Order issued by the President on Tuesday, which broadly empowers the federal government to freeze the assets of Iraqi insurgents and those seeking to destabilize the Iraqi government, including U.S. citizens. Spencer Ackerman has looked into the implications of this new order and has two reports (here and here).

Things continue to look gloomy for Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA). The governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Benigno R. Fitial, announced today that he is cooperating with the federal investigation related to Jack Abramoff:

The Justice Department's interest in Doolittle appears to focus on payments Doolittle's wife, Julie, received from Abramoff for fundraising work unrelated to the Marianas. But Doolittle was also heavily involved in Abramoff's advocacy for the Marianas, endorsing Fitial for governor and pushing federal funding on his behalf.

Doolittle was lobbied on the issue by his own former legislative director, Kevin Ring, who went on to work with Abramoff and now is himself under investigation.

"Doolittle, he's also a friend," said Fitial.

Fitial spoke to reporters after testifying against a Senate bill that would impose U.S. immigration laws on the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a chain of 14 islands just north of Guam in the Pacific. A similar bill passed the Senate in 2000 but Abramoff helped block it from advancing in the House.

I suppose Doolittle will cheer this latest development, too.

No enemy of the U.S. in the last 40 years has had as dim a view of American willpower as neo-conservatives do. To hear them tell the tale, U.S. foreign policy has been one long series of impotent withdrawals.

Here, for example, is Under Secretary of Defense Eric Edelman, in a letter, obtained by the AP, responding to questions from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) about Pentagon contingency planning for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq:

Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia.

Haunted by this dark narrative of failure, the neo-cons are bound and determined not to repeat the weak-willed mistakes of the recent past. Why, even the very discussion of how to get out of this mess will embolden our enemies and undermine our own resolve. Instead, we must march in lockstep forward, chins jutting ahead, ignoring all of the distractions which could so easily turn us into quivering Jello.

How thankful we should be to have brave men like Eric Edelman to stifle debate, to lash us in our moments of weakness, and to encourage us to be oblivious to the reality all around us. Then and only then can we achieve America's true greatness.

If, god forbid, we were to fail, it will not be on account of such noble examples as Eric Edleman. No, it will be the fault of the weak-minded among us, besotted by our culture of tolerance and permissiveness. Men like Eric Edelman can lead, but they cannot make us follow (at least not quite yet--they're working on that). In this, we must do our duty, following without question or reason, without reflection or pause.

Ultimately, as Eric Edelman knows all too well, our own worst enemy is ourselves.

Update: Here's a copy of the letter.

Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is still the Southern regional chairman of the Giuliani for President camapign, and the DC Madam still wants to call Vitter as a witness at her trial.

If Vitter is forced to testify, he would have three options, the Times-Picayune observes:

A subpoena would present Vitter with an awkward choice, legal experts said. He could say he hired a prostitute. He could assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and say nothing. Or he could acknowledge that he hired an escort but that nothing illegal happened.

Fun choices.

Late update: CREW has filed an complaint against Vitter with the Senate Ethics Committee.

Sidney Blumenthal previews the next scene of the Iraq debacle:

Gen. Petraeus is promised as the dramatic hero who will stride to triumph in the last act. The author of a recent study of counterinsurgency who has not previously fought such a war, he has been thrust into the spotlight partly because his halo is yet untarnished. Bush's unpopularity disqualifies him from the "Mission Accomplished" moment. So he pushes out his handpicked general and walks behind his chariot, hoping the cheering of the crowd will be also for him. In his July 12 press conference, Bush mentioned Petraeus 11 times, his name flourished as a talisman for "victory." The generals with the greatest experience with the Iraq insurgency, who opposed Bush's surge, such as Gen. John Abizaid, an Arabic speaker, have been discharged or reassigned. The burden on the ambitious general to produce a military solution is unbearable and his breaking inevitable. But for now, Petraeus' tragedy foretold is being cast as the first dawn of a happy ending.

As Josh mentioned a few days ago, Bush still wants his parade.

Laura McGann has the rundown on the breaking news from Alaska regarding the sweetheart land deal for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

Short version: Murkowski bought riverfront property on the Kenai River from a politically connected developer for $179,400, which just happened to be the assessed value of the property for property tax purposes. There are indications that the fair market value of the property may be nearly twice what Murkowski paid.

If only I could pick up real estate for the assessed value. Guess you have to be a U.S. senator for that kind of score.

Update: I've gotten a couple of emails--from readers in Massachusetts and Virginia, respectively--who would be happy to sell me property at the assessed value, saying that FMV is actually lower than their assessments. I'd be curious to know where else in the country this is the case.

In any event, our reporting shows that assessed value does trail FMV in the area where Murkowski's property is located.

That land deal involving Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that TPMmuckraker's Laura McGann broke on Monday just got a whole lot more interesting.

More shortly . . .

From Maria Bartiromo's interview of Condi Rice in the current issue of BusinessWeek:

MB: Would you consider a position in business or on Wall Street?

CR: I don't know what I'll do long-term. I'm a terrible long-term planner.

The award for most misleading headline on today's Iraq vote goes to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, whose website leads with "Filibuster Fails to Force Iraq Vote."

Whoa. Wrong on so many levels.

We were just kicking that one around amongst ourselves. Greg Sargent pointed out that it's a twofer: "The Dems filibustered, and they failed at it. They are filibustering losers."

Just in case all the bamboozling has you confused, it was the Republicans who were threatening to filibuster to thwart a vote on withdrawing from Iraq. Rinse and repeat.

Today, we find Dick Cheney comfortably ensconced in the Executive Branch, which offers him the advantage of being able to assert executive privilege in the face of congressional subpoenas. (The specter of Cheney raising executive privilege came in this letter from the Vice President's counsel to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT). This, of course, is in contrast to Cheney's position a few weeks ago that he was part of the Legislative Branch and thus not subject to an Executive Order on the handling of classified documents.

I used to think that Cheney's undisclosed location was an underground bunker somewhere in the wilds of Maryland. Perhaps it was really this strange new netherworld between the Executive and Legislative branches, an imaginary place of the Vice President's own making.