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

Sen. Craig was familiar with this particular Minneapolis airport restroom:

Officer: You, you travel through here frequently correct?

Craig: I do.

Officer: Um,

Craig: Almost weekly.

Officer: Have you been successful in these bathrooms here before?

Craig: I go to that bathroom regularly.

Officer: I mean for any type of other activities?

Craig: No. Absolutely not. I don't seek activity in bathrooms.


We're going through the airport police audio tape of their interview with Sen. Larry Craig following his arrest. Among the highlights:

Officer: Well, you're not being truthful with me. You're not being truthful with me, Senator. I'm real disappointed in you right now. . . .

Then a little later:

Officer: Okay, sir. We deal with people who lie to us every day.

Craig: I'm sure you do.

Officer: I'm sure you do to [sic] sir.

Craig: And gentleman so do I.

By the end, it's hard to tell whether the officer's "disappointment" is the stuff of interrogation room tactics or genuine:

Officer: Okay. Then it was your left hand. I saw it with my own eyes.

Craig: All right, you saw something that didn't happen.

Officer: Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we're going down the tubes. Anything to add?

Craig: Uh, no.

Shortly thereafter, the interview concludes.

When my wife was in school in Louisiana, she had a teacher who began a sentence one day with, "When you leave Louisiana and go to America . . ."

Now, Louisiana has long been different from the rest of the country, its French and Spanish colonial roots long pre-dating Anglo influence. In south Louisiana in particular, where the geographic isolation of bayou country was not penetrated until the commercialization of oil and gas deposits well into the 20th century, the Anglo influence not only came late but often came as unwelcome.

So there is precedent for Louisiana to consider itself a land apart, but I'm not sure there is any precedent for a President of the United States to refer to contiguous U.S. territory as if it were a foreign land in quite the same way President Bush did yesterday while visiting New Orleans on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's landfall there:

"[T]he taxpayers and people from all around the country have got to understand the people of this part of the world really do appreciate the fact that the American citizens are supportive of the recovery effort."

"I come telling the folks in this part of the world that we still understand there's problems and we're still engaged."

"We care deeply about the folks in this part of the world."

He might as well have been talking to tsunami survivors in Indonesia.

Late Update: As a couple of readers have pointed out, there is a precedent for a U.S. President to refer to U.S. territory in this way: President Bush himself has done it consistently since shortly after the storm. On September 2, 2005, speaking in Mobile, Ala., the President said, "[N]ow we're going to go try to comfort people in that part of the world." And the pattern of oddly distancing the devastated Gulf Coast from the rest of the country has continued ever since, as ably documented by the blog "Right Hand Thief."

We'll know tomorrow whether Sen. John Warner (R-VA) will run for re-election next year. Warner is 80 years old. The race for his seat, if empty, would be a major flashpoint in 2008.

Almost as soon as Sen. Larry Craig issued a statement Monday afternoon saying he should not have pleaded guilty in the Minneapolis airport restroom case (his press flack told Roll Call it was all a “he said/he said misunderstanding”), speculation began swirling that Craig may face legal consequences for disavowing his guilty plea. That was only compounded by his public appearance the next day, in which he announced that he had finally retained legal counsel to review the case. The LA Times has a good overview of the possible consequences for Craig of trying to reopen his case--none of them good.

Sen. Larry Craig is not getting much love at home in Idaho either. The GOP governor and longtime Craig ally reiterated that Craig is a friend but is declining to say one way or the other whether Craig should resign.

TPM Reader RK:

Carlson beat up a man? A fully grown man? Please. Tucker Carlson could be beaten into submission with nothing more than a heavy thought.

So how will Senate Republicans square their calls for Sen. Larry Craig's resignation with their support for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)?

Let's put it this way: Vitter did more than slide his foot under a bathroom stall. He has as much as admitted to breaking the law by paying for prostitutes proffered by the D.C. Madam. He left precious little ambiguity in his public statements, though he didn't go quite as far as Craig's guilty plea.

But that is a slim reed of a difference. Is the only real difference for GOPers that Vitter was in for straight sex (though apparently pretty kinky straight sex, by one account) whereas Craig went in for gay sex in public places?

There's been considerable commentary on conservative commentators' double standard for Vitter and Craig. But it's a standard GOP senators are going to have to answer for, too. Let the squirming begin.

Late Update: I included the last link above, to Kevin Drum, because it specifically lays out one possible reason for the double standard: Craig's replacement would be appointed by a Republican governor, Vitter's by a Democratic governor.

In a sign of how toxic the political environment is for Senate Republicans, the GOP leadership in the Senate asked Sen. Larry Craig to give up his committee assignments--and then put out a public statement about it. The move is supposedly temporary, until the Ethics Committee sorts out the complaints against Craig over his conviction in the airport bathroom incident. One of those ethics complaints yesterday came from none other than the Senate GOP leadership itself.

Meanwhile, Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), one of the most vulnerable Republicans seeking re-election next year, this afternoon called publicly for Craig's resignation. Nearly simultaneously, Sen. John McCain, a presidential candidate, did so as well. No Democrats in the Senate have yet said Craig should resign.

While most Senate Republicans can't distance themselves from Craig fast enough, Trent Lott, having been through the wringer himself over the comments he made about Strom Thurmond that cost him his position as Senate majority leader, is more circumspect, telling Bloomberg TV's "Money & Politics":

I am shocked and I am disappointed at you know, this turn of events. . . but I also have learned the hard way that before you jump to conclusions or call on people to do one thing or another at least know all of the facts and you know take advantage of an opportunity to hear what, you know, really happened."

That's the sober assessment of a politician who has stared into the abyss.

Election Central has a rundown on what happens if Craig were to heed the calls to step down.