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

Wait just one doggone minute. All you people are so worked up about the Republican-controlled lame-duck Congress punting all of this year's spending bills to the next Congress. Lookee here. Republicans are people, too. They've been under a lot of strain and pressure:

"There is a lot of battle fatigue among members, probably on both sides of the aisle," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), usually a reliable conservative firebrand. "Contrary to popular belief, members of Congress are human beings. They have a certain shelf life and a certain amount of energy to be drawn on. We're tired."

As the President would say, "This is hard work!"

So little if anything will get done in this final session of the 109th Congress. Don't worry though. The GOP is going to try to suck it up and gut it out. In the House they have scheduled a vote on a bill to require require abortion providers to inform patients that abortion may cause pain to the fetus.

Now about the time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Here's what Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, a top commander on the ground in Iraq said Friday in a Pentagon press briefing:

I think we have to keep this in perspective. We spent about 10 years in Bosnia-Herzegovina setting the stage for those elements to be successful. We need to allow the Iraqis the same time to get their security forces on the ground, to get their government working, and then have a gradual withdrawal of American security forces, but continue to partner with them over the long term.

10 years?

How are things going in New Orleans? Not so good.

Citing the status of the rebuilding of the levee system, the largest commercial insurer in Louisiana, St. Paul Travelers, has announced it will cancel all commercial property insurance policies it has underwritten in the New Orleans area next year as existing policies come up for renewal.

What does this mean? For a region struggling to resurrect its economic base, it's a huge impediment to commerce.

"This is sending a shock wave through the business community," said Mark Drennen, president and chief executive officer of Greater New Orleans Inc., a public-private partnership that seeks to promote economic development in the area. "If one company has come to that conclusion, you would anticipate that others would come to that conclusion. Without insurance, we have a calamity. We cannot exist as a business community without insurance."

It'd be nice to hear the White House press corps asking how the Bush Administration's much touted rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going if the insurance companies don't trust the Army Corps' newly reconstructed levees, the centerpiece of the President's plan to help New Orleans recover.

Andrew Sullivan, addressing his former comrades-at-arms, on Iraq:

It's over, guys. Your beloved Bush administration botched this so badly it's irrecoverable. You enabled them. You never fully took them on when it would have counted - and you trashed those of us who did. You knew this before the 2004 election and still cynically played the anti-Kerry card for all it was worth, telling yourselves you could sway Rummy after the election. Well, you couldn't and you didn't. Your policy was sabotaged by a defense secretary who never believed in it and by a president too weak and out-of-it to rein him in. Get over yourselves and recognize that this dream has died. And we have to fight the nightmare we now face rather than pretend your dream is still even on life-support. That's the patriotic responsibility at this point. And no, I'm not impugning your patriotism. I'm asking you to place it before your shattered dreams.

This morning we noted that the civil suit arising from the GOP's 2002 phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire had been settled yesterday, but there was no immediate word on the terms of the settlement. Since then, the terms have been disclosed. The New Hampshire Republican Party will pay $125,000 over five years. The RNC and NRSC will each kick in $5,000, for a settlement total of $135,000. The proceeds will go to two charitable organizations, not the Democratic Party.

Update: Actually the $125,000 will go to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, while the $10,000 ponied up by the RNC and the NRSC will go to two other organizations. More here.

For my money the most troubling thing about Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Nancy Pelosi's choice to head up the House Intelligence Committee, is his frequent travels with GOP loose cannon extraordinaire Curt Weldon.

Today the Wall Street Journal offers conflicting accounts of whether Reyes was present at a now notorious Paris meeting between Weldon and Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Zelig of American foreign policy scandals:

As a member of Armed Services, [Reyes] has frequently traveled overseas as part of delegations led by one of the panel's most senior and controversial Republicans, Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon.

Mr. Weldon, who was defeated in last month's midterm elections, has made high-profile stops in North Korea, Libya and Russia in recent years, and has been outspoken about the threat posed by Iran. An August 2003 trip included a stopover in Paris that drew the ire of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to two recently retired members of the agency's Directorate of Operations.

Included was a meeting at a Paris hotel with group of Iranian exiles to discuss Iran's alleged role in terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. Among the leaders of the Iranian delegation was Manucher Ghorbanifar, a central figure in the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal and a man the CIA had accused of providing bogus intelligence to the Americans.

In an interview Friday, William Murray, who was the CIA's station chief in Paris at the time, said he tried to prevent the lawmakers from going to the meeting after he learned that Mr. Ghorbanifar would be attending. But he said that his advice went unheeded. "Reyes was one of the guys who met with Ghorbanifar," Mr. Murray said.

Mr. Reyes's office said Friday that he has never met with Mr. Ghorbanifar, and didn't attend the hotel meeting during the Paris stopover.

The significance of the trip, in any case, is a matter of dispute. Some critics argue that going against the advice of a CIA station chief is naive. Others say Democrats on a Republican-led delegation have a responsibility to attend all meetings, and going against a local CIA officer's advice isn't without precedent for traveling lawmakers.

Laura Rozen has done a lot of good reporting on this subject. You might start here for a refresher.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party has settled its lawsuit against the GOP for the 2002 phone-jamming scandal. No details yet on the terms of the settlement. The case was scheduled to go to trial Monday. If you're late to this story, we've covered it extensively here and at Muckraker.


The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.

Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. . . .

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes.

Although the Post story doesn't mention it, you might recall that David Safavian, the chief of staff at the GSA earlier in the Bush presidency, was convicted for, among other things, lying to the GSA inspector general about his connections to Jack Abramoff. So of course we need less oversight.