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 haven't had much to add to the mind-numbing story about the UCLA student who was tasered by university police while studying in the library Tuesday night. Frankly, until this morning I hadn't been able to force myself to watch past the first blood-curdling screams on the video.

Reading the LA Times today I see that the officers involved have not even been put on administrative leave pending completion of the internal and external reviews of the incident. Why not? It's not clear from the article.

But to hear UCLA's acting chancellor talk, it looks like the university is managing the perception of a problem rather than the problem itself: "Norman Abrams said he ordered the probe after the university received numerous calls and e-mails from parents and alumni raising concerns about the officers' actions during the videotaped Tuesday night arrest, which has been widely seen on TV news and the YouTube website."

The video itself apparently didn't prompt an outside review, but concerns from alum (i.e., donors) and parents did. Nice.

Former Attorney General Ed Meese is interviewed in the latest issue of GQ--and not for his sartorial splendor. This is as depressing a statement on American liberty and justice as anything I have read these last six years.

Here are some highlights from the Q&A:

Let's move to the Geneva Conventions. A lot of people are concerned that terrorism suspects don't have any kind of habeas corpus. In order to be covered by the Geneva Convention, you have to fulfill certain requirements. . . . So there are a number of criteria in the Geneva Convention that are not met by everyone on the battlefield. Then there's another category of people going back to the Revolutionary War—people who were in those days called spies. If they were not in uniform, they were subject to being summarily executed.

You mean they were executed without even a military tribunal? I think there were some. Also, a "tribunal" could be a military commander ordering the hanging. I think that's what happened to some of them.

You're advocating summary execution. Well, yeah, that happens in the military. Illegal combatants are not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

Summary executions? But wait, there's more:

Jefferson wrote, "All men are created equal," not "all Americans." He said that men are "endowed by their Creator" with these rights, not endowed by "the Constitution." But that doesn't have to do with enemy soldiers.

No surprise then that Meese is hard to nail down on whether waterboarding is torture.

It seems like some of these techniques, like waterboarding, are a long way from humane. Well, again, I have a great deal of confidence that the administration would not engage in torture.

Would you call that torture? I don't know. I don't know about waterboarding.

It's putting a wet rag over someone's mouth and making them think that they're going to drown. Yeah, I don't know. As I said, I don't know enough about it to give a firm determination.

That doesn't necessarily sound like torture to you? I don't know whether they're doing that.

And if they are? I don't know, because I don't know enough about it.

I'm asking, if that is what they're doing, does that sound like torture? Well, I'd have to find out how long they do it and whether it does create the impression of drowning. I've never heard of this using a washcloth in their mouth before.

Meese is not a has-been from the Reagan years. He has been a key advisor to the current White House on the nominations and confirmations of Supreme Court Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito. This is a man who is widely considered to be at the pinnacle of the powerful conservative legal movement. This is what we have come to.

Update: Meese is also a member of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group, readers have reminded me.

In the wake of massive robocalling by the GOP and pro-GOP groups during the midterm elections, three more states have joined Missouri in considering legislation to ban robocalls to people on state Do Not Call lists.

I missed this yesterday, but it deserves mention. Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), incoming chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security is dead. "Don't waste our time," Baucus said. "It's off the table."

Turns out Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) was tipped off to the "brainwashing" going at on the UN conference on global warming by his press flack, a former producer for Rush Limbaugh.

Lots of good nominees have come in for which historical figure most closely resembles the good Senator. More on that later.

I'm trying to think which historical figure Sen. Jame Inhofe (R-OK) is comparable to. Go take a look at this video of his appearance this morning on FOX, discussing global warming. Any suggestions?

From a statement this morning by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), on his election as House minority whip:

“For twelve years, the Democrats have gotten away without leading, without offering an agenda, and without saying what they’re actually for. Now they will be forced to govern.

“Under this Republican leadership, the job of the Minority Whip will no longer be to go to the House floor every day and lose. Instead, each time we hold our team together and force the Democrats to vote like Democrats, we’ll be taking one more step toward recapturing our majority in 2008.

“One-hundred-forty-nine Democrats demonstrated yesterday that they are willing to buck Nancy Pelosi. We’ll work each day to give those Democrats a viable alternative to her liberal, San Francisco agenda."

Bring it on.

Uh-oh. There's more news out this morning on the alleged domestic violence incident involving Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY)--something about New York State Police creating a scrubbed version of the police report. TPMMuckraker has the details.

The House GOP is content to dance with the girls it brought.

House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has defeated Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) 168-27 for the post of minority leader, and Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) has won 137-57 over Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) for the post of minority whip, according to Roll Call.

Outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert declined to seek a leadership post after his party lost its majority.