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

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.


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.

There's really no way to calculate the monetary cost to the GOP of the recent sex-related scandals involving GOP congressmen, but you get hints of the toll here and there.

I already touched on the $271,000 the NRCC spent yesterday to boost Joe Negron, the sacrificial lamb in the race for Mark Foley's seat, who doesn't even get to have his own name on the ballot. That's money that clearly would have been used elsewhere were it not for the page eruption.

A couple of days ago, the NRCC suddenly plowed $225,000 into the NV-2, an open seat that heretofore had not garnered much attention. Why the sudden interest? Well, that's Jim Gibbons' seat, and while Gibbons is running for governor of Nevada, his late night carousing and alleged assault on a cocktail waitress are probably not leaving voters in that district with a warm fuzzy GOP feeling.

A quarter million here and a quarter million there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.