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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

I've gotten several emails in response to the earlier post on whether military action against Iran may happen before the election. Most have focused on the political dynamic, but I'm most interested in the nuts and bolts of whether we are in a position to pull such a thing off logistically.

TPM Reader GH thinks not:

Iranians have aced us in a major respect. The largest bunkerbuster we have is good for maybe 100 feet of compacted earth. Iranians have been burying sensitive installations, including about 45 nuclear processing sites, under 200 feet of layered dirt and concrete. We simply cannot, at this time, do a damn thing about it. But a much larger bomb is under development with a contract end date of about a year from now. Assume we can beat that, still leaves us somewhere next summer.

Our support capacity is stretched to breaking. All the airlift (C5 and C17) is pretty well engaged in Iraq and Iran. Can't insert troops you cannot support. Critical hardware (up armored humvees, Strykers, etc) all in use. Hard to scrape up the hardware, even if you activated all the reserves, etc. Shades of WWII, where guys trained with broomsticks, because we did not have enough rifles. This country's logistics capacity is awesome, but it is not "poof" overnight . . .

Still, we have been gearing up for this for a long time. Look at the federal authorization bill over the last few years. Many $ on intel assets in and around the area. We have so many satellites flying over, that there are traffic jams. There is the political drumbeat, which signals preparation of the populace, and the need for Repugs to be the party in control in time of war. Americans do not like to change horses in wars.

Such a war would be no fun, for sure, but I have no confidence these clowns will get it right. Likely they will start shooting just as soon as they can get it loaded. And that is about a year off, minimum.

Today's NYT report describing a U.S. intelligence assessment that the Iraq invasion has worsened global terrorism (no surprise there) is "not representative" of the entire assessment, the White House says.

So what does the entire asssessment say? The White House won't say exactly. The report is still classified. But Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte offers that the assessment concludes that if the U.S. succeeds in stabilizing Iraq "fewer jihadists will leave Iraq determined to carry on the fight elsewhere."

The implication of course is that regardless of whether we succeed in Iraq, jihadists will leave determined to carry on the fight. It's just that if we fail, more will leave determined to fight.

Excellent. Our strategic objective now is to demoralize some of the jihadists.

A nod to TPM alum Matt Yglesias:

Bush, Cheney, and those around them remind me of Nietzsche's line about staring too long into the abyss. They've become transfixed, hypnotized almost, by the evils they believe themselves to be fighting. Obsessed to the point where they've clearly developed an admiration for the brutal methods, ruthless dishonesty, and utter secrecy with which the enemies of liberalism conduct themselves.

Liberal democracy isn't a fluke occurrence that just so happens to have survived despite its drawbacks. It's actually a superior method of organizing a state. The idea that the country is being run by people who don't understand that is sad and frightening. The idea that the very same people claim to be embarked upon a grand mission to spread our system of government around the world is like a horrible tawdry joke . . .

Poor Mike Wallace. His son gets handed his hat by an ex-President, and 60 Minutes goes peppy (or is it "perky"?), all on the same day.

I don't know if it's because maybe fewer journalists these days are ex-military or what the reason, but not nearly enough attention has been paid to the degree to which our torture policy runs counter to decades of U.S. military doctrine and training.

So go read this piece about the views of retired brass on Bush's torture program, based in part on their first-hand combat experiences.

The Montana Senate race is obviously a key seat for both parties, but it's turning out to be a pretty colorful race to boot. Last night, Conrad Burns debated his Democratic challenger, state Senate President Jon Tester, who has been pounding on Burns for his connections to Jack Abramoff. Burns was repeatedly interrupted by catcalls at the last debate, so the Republicans were prepared this time. Well, sort of, according to the Great Falls Tribune:

The Abramoff issue, along with that of Iraq, has been raised in previous debates. But Saturday's confrontation covered new ground, including a who's-been-better-to-Butte discussion, and clear delineations on the Patriot Act.

Burns highlighted his history of bringing federal money to Butte; indeed, the debate was co-sponsored by the Resodyn Corp., the beneficiary of some of that federal largesse. When Burns was introduced, those in the roughly 60 seats reserved for Resodyn employees comprised the majority of those who stood and applauded him. Despite Republican appeals for Burns' supporters within 100 miles to attend the debate, the crowd seemed largely made up of Tester's backers, many of them wearing yellow "Fire Burns" T-shirts.


The incumbent U.S. Senator gets embarrassed in the prior debate, his party puts out the call for supporters, and they still get outnumbered this time around, despite stacking the audience with employees from a company beholden to Burns? I'd say Burns is in trouble.

There's a pretty good rundown on last night's debate and the race generally here, though the part about Burns helping to create the blogosphere is, well, a bit of a stretch.

News junkies will well remember former Congressman Bill McCollum, the Florida Republican who was a leader of the drive to impeach President Clinton. In what may be a sign of the trouble facing Republicans, the 10-term congressman and two-time U.S. Senate candidate is now struggling to separate himself from a relatively obscure Democrat in the race for Florida Attorney General.

I've been going back and forth in recent weeks with a good friend of mine over whether military action against Iran before the election is in the cards. I think it is a very real possibility. My friend says that despite the Administration's well-documented bad ideas, as played out in the Iraq invasion, for example, it doesn't act irrationally, and that military action against Iran now is not rational.

He points, among other things, to the lack of troops, the fact that the Administration itself would view limiting the action to airstrikes as a demonstration of its own weakeness, and the absence of political support for the move even among Republicans compared with the support for the Iraq invasion.

All good points, but I don't have the same degree of confidence in the Administration's rationality. And even if I grant the rationality argument, it strikes me that attacking Iran might be "rational" if it means the difference between the GOP winning or losing Congress. Gary Hart lays out what seems to me like a plausible scenario for pre-election military action.

Unfortunately, my friend and I agree that if the GOP retains control of Congress, all bets are off and everything up to and including a ground invasion will be on the table.

On the American Gulag, by Soviet history scholar Kate Brown:

Whether or not one agrees that American detention centers and secret prisons are the “Gulag of our time,” the comparison deserves serious consideration. It might help us shine a torch into the dark corners of repression, where the totalitarian qualities of our own society lurk, before the scale of violence ascends to Gulag dimensions.


See the complete interview with Brown at Harper's.

Thanks to crooksandliars.com, you don't have to watch Fox News Sunday to see the Wild Bill smackdown.

Update: You really ought to go watch this clip. Clinton is simply the most gifted politician of our times. I have my issues with Clinton, but I sometimes forget not just what a tremendously effective communicator he is but how much he just plain gets it. He understands politics at a level no one else does. He intuitively knows the subtext to questions and so not only answers the expressed question but in a very analytical way picks apart the subtext and answers the implied question, too. If you're a little younger and missed most of the Clinton years, it's something to watch.

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