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 have posted the email Bud Cummins sent to the other canned U.S. Attorneys after he received what he perceived as a threatening phone call from Deputy AG Paul McNulty's chief of staff. A must-read . . .

Update: Video of Cummins' testimony here.

The canard that the canned U.S. Attorneys were not following DOJ priorities has been pretty much exploded by their testimony. David Iglesias read a letter to him from Michael Battle dated January 2006, praising him for his leadership in pursuing DOJ priorities. John McKay said much the same thing. None of them ever received any indication from DOJ that they were not following those priorities.

More bombshells: Rep. Doc Hastings' (R-WA) then chief of staff called Seattle U.S. Attorney John McKay to inquire about whether the feds were investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington governor's race, McKay testified. McKay said he stopped the chief of staff before he went too far with his questions, but was troubled enough by the call to discuss it with his top assistant.

Developing . . .

Update: Paul is providing updates on the hearings at Muckraker.

Late Update: We have the video here.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are turning out to be even more explosive than expected.

David Iglesias says Pete Domenici called him at home to specifically ask about the New Mexico public corruption investigation of a Democrat and whether the indictments would be filed before November.

When Iglesias said no, Domenici said he was very sorry to hear that and hung up the phone, according to Iglesias.

Iglesias said he felt pressured by Domenici and "leaned on." The call made him "sick," Iglesias told the committee, noting that it was "unprecedented" for him to get a call from a member of Congress at home.

Two weeks earlier, Iglesias had received a call from Rep. Heather Wilson while he was in a DC hotel room on DOJ business. That call was also brief, and Iglesias said Wilson asked whether there were any "sealed indictments." Iglesias demurred, and the call ended with Wilson saying she guessed she would have to take his word for it and the call ended, according to Iglesias.

Video up soon . . .

Late update: Here's the video.

A busy news day here at TPM, especially for a Sunday. Let me sign off with a comment from TPM Reader BG that I think captures an important historical and political dynamic at play in any number of Bush Administration disasters, scandals, and foul ups. BG is responding specifically to this post on the conditions at Walter Reed, but the larger point resonates far beyond that single sorry case:

What's really at issue here is the extent to which problems with the military, specifically, and the government, generally, are a result of policy. The common explanation for the catastrophic results of many of the Bush administration's initiatives (from Iraq to New Orleans and back again) is that they are the result of "incompetence."

Incompetence, the lack of capacity or skill, is ultimately an exculpating trope. It insinuates that the plan, or effort, was sound and could have succeeded had it been competently carried out. Moreover, the incompetent are in way less liable: their lack of ability lets them off the hook. Thus, "incompetence" insulates the actors from accountability and leaves the policy itself unscathed.

My personal opinion, which has recently been reinforced by much of what I read in Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City, is that the Bush disasters are a result of the administration's policies and not of some failure to effectively carry them out.

No one says, retrospectively, that Calvin Coolidge's failure to help the victims of 1927's Mississippi River flood was a result of incompetence. No one says that Mellon, with his inaction and insistence that the Great Depression would burn itself out through 'liquidation,' was incompetent. Both of these positions were wholly in keeping with the policies of the Coolidge and Hoover presidencies, policies that were not discredited until Roosevelt's victories and the institution of the New Deal.

The problem, a problem that Waxman seems to be keenly aware of, is that as long as the government retains the same kind of policies, the nation will continue to suffer the same hardships. It is not until the beliefs that inform the ways in which the Bush administration runs the government are firmly linked to their consequences that the nation will stop voting for politicians who promulgate, and enact legislation based on, those creeds.

These policies will not (again) be discredited until they are tied to their reprehensible results. Insisting on the 'incompetence' of the Bush administration turns attention away from this linkage between policy and result. In fact, it insulates the policies while discrediting the men who are trying to implement them. It, thus, sets the stage for those policies to be enacted again.


A breaking prior restraint case in Kansas City, where on Friday a state court judge ordered the Kansas City Star and the local alternative newsweekly, The Pitch (owned by Village Voice Media), to remove articles about the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities from their websites and barred them from publishing certain articles about the BPU in their print editions.

At issue was a confidential letter, upon which the articles were based, written to BPU officials by the board's attorney about BPU power plants. (h/t to Scatablog).

As if the prior restraint were not egregious enough, the judge didn't schedule the next hearing on the matter until next Friday.

Late update: As a couple readers have pointed out, the stories in question weren't pulled from the newspaper websites before they were cached by the search engines, a fact that may often make such prior restraint orders moot in this day and age, in addition to all of the other constitutional problems. The Pitch story is in Google's cache, and the KC Star story is cached in Google as well. Thanks to TPM Readers PK and MD for the links.

TPM Reader DJ, on Ann Coulter's remarks:

I've been wondering why no one has pointed out that among the conservatives it isn't saying the word 'faggot' that gets you chucked into rehab, but actually turning out to be one.

Good one. Why didn't I think of that.