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

Is the D.C. Madam attempting to raise the graymail defense? Or is it the throw-everything-against-a-wall-and-see-what sticks defense? From the WaPo:

The woman accused of being the D.C. Madam now argues that the fact that Muslim men used her elite, Washington-based escort service before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks might have played a role in the government's effort to prosecute her.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey says she might need to divulge classified information that has sensitive national security implications -- perhaps including the identities of Middle Eastern customers -- to defend herself against the charges. She is asking a federal judge for a hearing behind closed doors to discuss the information as it relates to the government's charges.

I'm not sure where this is going. A grand unified theory of scandal, perhaps? Warrantless wiretapping of Muslim men after 9/11 led to the interception of information indicating some Muslim men used a D.C. escort service, which led to the investigation of Palfrey, which led her to divulge that Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) was a client of her escort service. Therein may be a defense for Vitter: If I resign, the terrorists have won.

We've become so desensitized to Bush Administration bamboozlement that it's almost easy to overlook the ironic juxtaposition of the White House pumping up claims of improvement in Iraq while the President makes yet another secret trip there this weekend in which he is unable to leave the confines of a U.S. base.

That's not to say that once American officials start publicly announcing their trips in advance and venturing into Iraqi-controlled territory we can conclude that Iraq has improved. These guys would not hesitate to stage such trips just to drive home the point that Iraq is now safe and stable. But the fact that the Administration cannot engage in those kinds of theatrical stunts tells you all you need to know about how bad the situation in Iraq really is.

Last month, the White House argued in federal court that its own Office of Administration was not subject to FOIA, even though the White House website said otherwise. The White House website has now been changed.

The Iraq War is spawning its own lexicon, and just as in Vietnam some of the richest new terms are euphemisms which unintentionally highlight the absurdity of the situation. Today we are introduced to the "mini-benchmark."

Signaling a major change in negotiation strategy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says his demands for a firm commencement date for troop withdrawals from Iraq this coming spring has become an "obstacle" and that he is willing to compromise with Republicans on the issue.

Late Update: Reid's spokesman responds to our query about his remarks, leaving little doubt that he's open to the possibility of funding the war this fall without withdrawal timelines. --gs

It was just earlier this month that Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) was defending Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) from FBI tactics that Craig called "a bit Gestapo-like." (Too bad Stevens can't return the favor.) Here's the full quote, as reported by The Politico:

"I think some people say, 'Ah, but for the grace of God go I.' Especially when you have the allegations, you have the judicial segment of our government, the executive branch, out raiding the homes of senators, that is a very frightening proposition. It is a bit Gestapo-like in its style and tactics ... When the FBI was offered a key and invited into the home, they chose publicize it to make sure the media was there first, and they broke in. That is gamesmanship. That makes senators very, very angry when they attempt to cooperate when for reason they are caught in these webs and yet they are denied that for the sake of the judiciary’s publicity. That is wrong.’’

"Caught in these webs"?

We posted on Craig's comments at the time, but they take on a whole new flavor now, don't they?

[Great catch by TPM intern Will Thomas.]

The investigation of the politicization of hiring practices at the Department of Justice appears to be broader than first believed. Among the practices that the DOJ inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility are looking into are what kinds of questions were asked of job applicants. As part of the investigation, they have sent a survey to DOJ hires inquiring whether they were asked things such as, Should gays be allowed to marry? Have you contributed to Republican candidates? What kind of conservative are you? More here.

Poor Ted Stevens. The much-investigated senior senator from Alaska is so hamstrung by his own legal troubles that his lawyers have barred him from commenting on the Larry Craig bathroom imbroglio.

The Larry Franklin-AIPAC case--was it lobbying or espionage?--has been flying mostly under the radar of late. But arguments made in the case yesterday suggest this could get pretty interesting if the defendants have their way:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other senior intelligence officials should not be forced to testify about whether they discussed classified information with pro-Israel lobbyists, federal prosecutors argued in a closed-door court hearing Thursday.

Two former American Israel Public Affairs Committee lobbyists facing espionage charges have subpoenaed Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and several others to testify at their trial next year. . . .

Attorneys for lobbyists Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman have argued that the Israeli interest group played an unofficial but sanctioned role in crafting foreign policy and that Rice and others can confirm it.

Trial is set for early next year.