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

We all know intuitively that Dick Cheney is delusional when he says that the British partial withdrawal in southern Iraq is a sign of success in stabilizing the region; but, for a more concrete sense of how badly the British have failed and how cowardly Tony Blair has become, you can't do better than Patrick Cockburn's piece yesterday in The Independent.

From the conservative Daily Telegraph:

Israel is negotiating with the United States for permission to fly over Iraq as part of a plan to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

To conduct surgical air strikes against Iran's nuclear programme, Israeli war planes would need to fly across Iraq. But to do so the Israeli military authorities in Tel Aviv need permission from the Pentagon.

A senior Israeli defence official said negotiations were now underway between the two countries for the US-led coalition in Iraq to provide an "air corridor" in the event of the Israeli government deciding on unilateral military action to prevent Teheran developing nuclear weapons.

I suppose the Iraqis themselves--a sovereign country, we are reminded by the Bush Administration when it's convenient--would be militarily helpless to stop Israeli overflights, but one can imagine that the backlash against U.S. troops by Iraqi Shiites would be swift and fierce. We might find ourselves longing for the days when we were merely caught in a civil war.

Update: Then again, the Israelis may need help just to find Iran.

Late update: Reuters reports that Israel is denying the report in the Telegraph. More here.

As Paul noted yesterday, another U.S. attorney has resigned, this one in Michigan. The Washington Post today confirms that "Margaret Chiara, the 63-year-old U.S. attorney in Grand Rapids, Mich., . . . was among a larger group of prosecutors who were first asked to resign Dec. 7."

That brings to eight the number of U.S. attorneys pushed out in the post-mid-term-election purge. DOJ has said the total was less than 10, but has declined to be specific. Were there others we still don't know about?

NRA crazies and their corporate sponsors cannibalize one of their brethren--'cause who wouldn't want the right to vaporize prairie dogs with military-style assault rifles.

Washington Post:

Two senior officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives who opposed many questionable management and spending decisions by the agency's former director are being moved to lower-ranking positions effective Thursday, officials said. . . .

The transfers are widely seen within ATF as demotions. They come seven months after the sudden departure of Carl J. Truscott, the former director, who clashed with Domenech and other senior executives over spending and management practices.

An inspector general's report issued after his departure showed that Truscott -- who previously served as head of President Bush's security detail at the Secret Service -- engaged in a wide-ranging pattern of questionable expenditures on a new ATF headquarters, personal security and other items. The report also said that he violated ethics rules by forcing employees to help his nephew prepare a high school video project.

Domenech took over for Truscott after he resigned and reversed a decision to include a costly engraved quotation from Bush's speech to Congress after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the new headquarters entrance.

SOP for the Bush Administration.

OK, class. Today's homework assignment is reading Gen. William Odom's op-ed in the Washington Post. I've highlighted Odom's analysis in the past, and he remains possibly the most cogent observer of the Iraq disaster.

Greg Sargent has pulled up Sen. Clinton's floor speech on the Iraq War resolution from October 10, 2002. It's worth a refresher as Clinton tries to finesse her vote now.

Which brings me to another point.

Why is she trying to finesse her vote?


On the substance of it, would she really cast the same vote today knowing what we know now? I can't believe she would. Does she regret, therefore, casting that vote? She won't say that exactly, which leads one to conclude that she has political reasons for not saying so.

But what political reasons?

Again, seriously.

Here Clinton finds herself where many if not most Americans do: supported the war initially and are now dubious. So what political backlash would she suffer for traveling the same arc as a significant percentage of voters? Arguably, very little.

The backlash she is getting is from the left, which remains angry about her vote. But does holding fast to that position now deflect criticism from the left? No, just the opposite. It invites more criticism.

Maybe I'm oversimplifying this, but since I can't figure out why she would hew to this position for political reasons, I circle back to the substance of the issue. Would she cast that vote again knowing what she knows now? Maybe she would. But, again, I doubt it. She's too smart for that.

I'm left with thoroughly unsatisfying explanations; such as, she's too stubborn to admit a mistake. Thoughts?

Adam Liptak has a nice piece today based on Dick Cheney's handwritten notes from the Ford Administration:

RETURNING to the White House after the Memorial Day weekend in 1975, the young aide Dick Cheney found himself handling a First Amendment showdown. The New York Times had published an article by Seymour M. Hersh about an espionage program, and the White House chief of staff, Donald H. Rumsfeld, was demanding action.

Out came the yellow legal pad, and in his distinctively neat, deliberate hand, Mr. Cheney laid out the “problem,” “goals” while addressing it, and “options.” These last included “Start FBI investigation — with or w/o public announcement. As targets include NYT, Sy Hersh, potential gov’t sources.”

Another option was immediate grand jury indictments of the New York Times and Hersh.

The more things change . . .

Barack Obama takes a hit from, of all places, down under:

PRIME Minister John Howard has launched a broadside against US presidential hopeful Barack Obama, warning his victory could destroy Iraq and prospects for peace in the Middle East.

Mr Howard's stinging attack against the popular Democrat, who formally launched his bid for the Democratic candidacy overnight, also appears to commit Australian troops to staying in Iraq well into 2008.

Only days after saying Australia's alliance with the US was about more than his personal friendship with US President George W Bush, Mr Howard warned that an Obama victory would be a boost for the terrorists.

The man who wants to be the first black US president has pledged to withdraw US troops from Iraq by March 2008, a timetable Mr Howard believes is dangerous.

"I think that would just encourage those who wanted completely to destabilise and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for (an) Obama victory," Mr Howard told the Nine Network.

"If I was running al-Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008, and pray, as many times as possible, for a victory not only for Obama, but also for the Democrats."

Wow. What do our Aussie readers make of this?

Thanks to TPM Reader TD from Sydney for the tip.

Update: Some commentary on John Howard's remarks from Tim Dunlop:

It’s one thing to be feeling the pressure at home about his own unpopular policy on Iraq; it is quite another to let that pressure get to him to the extent that he felt it necessary to publicly smear a United States Senator, the entire party who currently control the Congress of the United States, and the American people themselves. And all this fresh off him telling us all that we couldn’t expect to withdraw troops from Iraq without suffering some consequences for the alliance. Does he seriously think this will go unremarked in Washington?

Late Update: From TPM Reader AB:

Speaking as an Australian: Howard's comments were largely for domestic consumption. He's floundering lately - the opposition ALP has a new leadership team that's making him look very very small. He's been caught out on the wrong side of a pile of issues, including climate change and the Australian David Hicks (who's still in Gitmo after 5 years, still no trial). Add to this the Iraq war, which had majority opposition from day one, and he's feeling the pressure. There's an election due later this year.