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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

Karl Rove, media critic, political scientist, and staunch democrat (small "d"):

Some decry the professional role of politics. They would like to see it disappear. Some argue political professionals are ruining American politics--trapping candidates in daily competition for the news cycle instead of long-term strategic thinking in the best interest of the country.

It's odd to me that most of these critics are journalists and columnists. Perhaps they don't like sharing the field of play. Perhaps they want to draw attention away from the corrosive role their coverage has played focusing attention on process and not substance.


It's not necessary to parse the substance of Rove's fatuous comments. We all know how preposterous any of this is coming from Rove. And it's certainly not the first time the GOP has attacked the media as a way of working the refs, which is exactly the purpose of those particular remarks.

But I am struck by Rove's remarks as another example, among many in recent months, that most of the reliable campaign themes the Republicans have employed in the last two decades are no longer viable. National security policy is in a shambles, the federal budget is a wreck, and the GOP's reputation for bringing mature and competent managers to government may take a generation to rebuild. Thematically, only social issues still resonate. That leaves the GOP with two main tactical weapons: demonizing opponents personally and shooting the messenger.

Over the next four months, we will see blistering negative attacks on Democrats of a ferocity and corrosiveness that will make Swift Boats look like the Love Boat. And we will see a continuation of what started in the spring, an unprecedented attack on journalists and journalism, using not only the rhetorical flourishes favored by Rove, but the powers of the state via investigations, subpoenas, and the invocation of state secrets.

The Republicans have amassed great power, arguably more power than any party since the Democrats under Roosevelt. But unlike the Roosevelt years, power today is much more centralized, in politics, in business, and in journalism. It is a concentration of power that is, and I hate to risk going overboard here, dangerous to democracy.

The vigor with which the GOP has attacked journalism in recent months is a reliable indicator of what conservatives see as the greatest threat to their power (and if journalism is the greatest threat, that's a sure sign that other democratic institutions have withered). The Administration has attacked then investigated journalists for disclosing illegal government activities, some authorized by the President. It has suggested that journalists play into the hands of terrorists by reporting on the strife in Iraq. And 24 hours a day, conservatives' Fox News makes a mockery of journalism.

You can disagree about what reality should be. That is the essence of democracy. But when the instruments of state power, including the President's bully pulpit, are used to attack the effort--within government, but especially without--to identify, describe, and analyze what reality is, then we have run right up against the limits of what democracy can withstand. It is the abandonment of the Enlightenment in favor of a dark and uncertain future.

A number of readers, in response to Josh's Mel Gibson post, have emailed to point out that the substance of Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks, as first reported by the website TMZ.com, have since been confirmed. This is true. According to the LA Times, "A source close to the investigation confirmed Saturday that the pages posted by the website were authentic."

Israel agrees to 48-hour cessation of the aerial bombardment of Lebanon to investigate today's bombing and to coordinate with the UN a 24-hour window for civilians to escape southern Lebanon safely.

Have Israel and the United States pushed the Lebanese government past the point of no return?

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuoad Siniora expressed his 'gratitude' to Hizbullah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah for "sacrificing their lives for the country."

During a press conference held in wake of the Qana village incident in which 55 Lebanese were killed, Siniora asked: "Is Israel's mission to wipe out the Lebanese? It seems they want to kill all of us. One of those killed today is a baby just one day old. With its aggression, Israel is encouraging extremism."

"Israel won't obtain a thing through the war," he added. "Does it believe that through war it will obtain goals? They won't obtain a thing, and the opposite is the truth. The entire Lebanese nation is united against the Israeli aggression," Siniora said.

As we mentioned earlier today, the New York Times has thrown its support to Ned Lamont in an editorial appearing in Sunday's paper. The editorial board, which has long favored Joe Lieberman, pulled no punches as it withdrew its support, calling Lieberman's well-known accommodations of the Bush Administration a "warped version of bipartisanship."

If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.


The significance of newspaper editorials is vastly overrated. But in withdrawing its longtime support of Lieberman and backing Lamont, a virtual unknown until just a few weeks ago, The Times has given Lamont all of the boost that an editorial can deliver. It validates a challenge that until very recently many observers considered more notable for Lamont's national support from liberal blogs than for the possibility that the incumbent might actually be unseated in his own party's primary. There must be at least a few people close to Lieberman who are wondering tonight whether he ought to step aside in favor of Lamont, rather than end his political career with a humiliating defeat.

Mission accomplished?

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared victory on Saturday after Israel announced it was withdrawing its forces from the southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbail where Israeli troops found unexpected difficulty in dislodging the guerrilla group from its strongholds.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev defended the decision to pull troops from Bint Jbeil, saying Israel had never intended to occupy the town, but Nasrallah's quick declaration of victory underscored the propaganda gains Hezbollah is reaping across the Muslim world as it battles Israel to a stalemate.


The last time I recall the U.S. seeming this ineffectual was following Jimmy Carter's failed attempt to rescue the American hostages in Tehran in 1980.

For those MZM-oholics among you, here's video of the grand opening of the MZM facility in Martinsville, Va., less than two years ago, complete with remarks from Richard Berglund, Rep. Virgil Goode, and Mitchell Wade himself. Oh, the heady days of ribbon-cuttings and campaign contributions. The MZM facility shuts its doors for good on Monday.

In a sign of election year desperation, the GOP House early today passed a $2.10 increase (over three years) in the minimum wage. But not to be completely outdone, they tacked on an estate tax cut to the same bill, along with some other tax reduction goodies.

As Kevin Drum noted, dryly: "Clearly, the Republican Party is the party of common sense. After all, if you give a few hundred dollars a month to the poorest of the working poor, it's only fair that you also give several million dollars to the richest of the idle rich."

“You have seen us outfox you on this issue tonight,” crowed Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) to Democrats on the House floor.

Those clever House Republicans. What will they think of next?

NYT endorses Ned Lamont . . .

More at TPMCafe's Election Central.

And here's how The Times first dropped the bombshell, in a straight news piece on the Lamont-Lieberman race:

[The New York Times, in an editorial published on Sunday, endorsed Mr. Lamont over Mr. Lieberman, arguing that the senator had offered the nation a “warped version of bipartisanship” in his dealings with President Bush on national security.]
More to come . . .

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