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

Trent Lott (R-MS) won election to the Senate GOP leadership by one vote this morning. He defeated Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) for the post of minority whip.

More soon . . .

OK, so Lott is back.

Nice to see that the segregation wing of the Republican Party can still muster a majority of votes in the Senate GOP caucus. Or as Matt Ygelsias put it yesterday:

I'm confused. My recollection was that after Lott was exposed as a die-hard segregationist, the American conservative movement washed their hands of him and made him a committee chair banished him from the realm as a token of their commitment to the new rightwingery with twice the homophobia and half the racism. Now they're going back on all that? Didn't everyone love Michael Steele.

After running a race-baiting campaign against Harold Ford in Tennessee, the GOP bypasses the other senator from Tennessee to install a leader nostalgic for the Dixiecrats.

Hey, Ken Mehlman. How's that outreach to African-American voters going?

If you haven't already, go take a look at the internal Fox News memo obtained by the Huffington Post. It's a doozy.

Jack Abramoff behind bars this morning:

Abramoff arrived at about 6:30 a.m. EST at a relatively secluded prison facility in western Maryland and began to serve a nearly six-year prison sentence for a fraudulent deal to buy a fleet of casino ships in Florida.

Even with all we now know, part of me still shakes my head with wonderment that this is where Jack ended up.

In CT-02, "Landslide Joe" Courtney wins by 91 votes, ousting Republican incumbent Rob Simmons.

Juliette Kayyem:

I know we all should be eagerly awaiting the results of the Baker-Hamilton report, right? The press is giddy with the notion that this will be the cure for what ails us: an insolveable problem in Iraq, a way forward between the "stay the course" and "cut and run."

Let's be serious here, cause it is war. We, including Democrats, are setting ourselves up for some closure that doesn't exist. As Jim Zogby has written, we're all "waiting for godot." Remember, he never arrives.

Profile in courage:

Denver Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden resigned today amid chaos in the Denver Election Commission which he oversees.

Citing his belief "that accountability is the underpinning of honorable public service," Vaden said he was resigning from a "personal disappointment over my efforts" with the commission.

I don't know any of the backstory on this. But the election in Denver was a disaster, and I have long thought that the European model of falling on your sword when a disaster happens on your watch is noble, honorable, and should be emulated here in the States.

The New York Observer posted an interesting piece last night on Speaker-in-Waiting Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the leadership race between Jack Murtha (D-PA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

It raises some issues about how exactly the race for majority leader came down. So first, here's a sampling (but go read the whole thing), and then I want to place this in the larger context of what we've been hearing from up on the Hill:

If, as expected, Mr. Murtha does go down to defeat on Thursday, the press, and Ms. Pelosi’s political tormenters, will have all the ammunition they need to tell the world that she miscalculated and overreached—that the new House leader is in over her head and has a perilously weak hold on her flock.

No matter what they say, though, the internal fallout will be minimal for Ms. Pelosi. She spotted Mr. Murtha’s bid for the lost cause it was and shied away from investing any real capital in it. And it’s not like her personal loyalty to Mr. Murtha—or her distrust of Mr. Hoyer—is a secret among House Democrats.

The big secret here—at least outside the Capitol—is what an adept inside player the incoming Speaker actually is. Indeed, few seem to appreciate the singular position of dominance within the Democratic caucus into which she has masterfully maneuvered herself.

This account fits with what we've been hearing from multiple sources. Instead of pulling out all the stops to get Murtha elected, Pelosi had been content to sit on the sidelines, figuring that it was well known within the caucus that she preferred Murtha to Hoyer.

Then, apparently in response to Murtha's request, Pelosi sent out her letter of support over the weekend to newly elected Democratic House members. That letter set off a firestorm of news coverage, pegging the majority leader's race as the first test of Pelosi's leadership, all of which apparently came as a big surprise to Pelosi.

With the dynamics of the race suddenly shifted from simply Hoyer v. Murtha to a larger question of Pelosi's political strength and capabilities, she shifted her support for Murtha into overdrive, starting to make phone calls and twist arms. The problem is that it was probably too little, too late. (Actually, there are indications, as the Observer article suggests, that Murtha's candidacy had been a lost cause from the very beginning.)

Did Pelosi make a misjudgment?

Did she assume that her personal preference for Murtha and her long-standing personal rivalry with Hoyer was such common knowledge within the Democratic caucus that her letter for Murtha was only stating the obvious?

Did she not realize that, to a new crop of Democratic House members and to a public and press still getting acquainted with her, her support for Murtha would take on greater significance?

Few outside the Democratic caucus know of its inner workings, so all the public and press sees is Pelosi backing a losing candidate in her first act as Speaker. It's not a fatal misstep, but it does suggest that Pelosi is having to figure out that the talent she has for maneuvering inside the caucus, which has served her well, is a different skill set than the one required to lead the national Democratic Party, which is the position she is in now.

Here's hoping she gets that figured out soon.