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

Been there, done that?

November 2006: "President Bush said Monday that he has made no decisions about altering the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, and he refused to discuss the pros and cons that would accompany such a decision."

August 2005: President Bush said Thursday no decision has been made on increasing or decreasing U.S. troop levels in Iraq, saying that as "Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" and that only conditions on the ground will dictate when it is time for a reduction in U.S. forces.

April 2004: "Gen. John P. Abizaid, the senior commander in the Middle East, has asked for contingency plans for increasing the number of troops in Iraq. No decision has been made to supplement the 134,000 troops now there, and White House officials said it was unclear whether such a move would help the situation."

November 2003: "The President is going to do what is most effective in Iraq, and he gets recommendations from his commanders on troop levels and what is needed. No decisions have been made about future troops levels," said National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

This could get rather interesting. The decision on who won the race to represent Florida's 13th Congressional District could wind up in the House itself.

Look for congressional hearings in January on the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and whether gays should be allowed to serve openly in the armed forces.

Commentary in recent days from two retired Army generals, Barry McCaffrey and William Odom, gives an even greater sense of urgency to the need to change course in Iraq.

McCaffrey says the U.S. needs to bring home five brigades from Iraq before Christmas to keep the Army from breaking, a redeployment he concedes is not feasible, according to the Army Times:

“The country is not at war. The United States armed forces and the CIA are at war. So we are asking our military to sustain a level of effort that we have not resourced,” he told Army Times.

“That’s how to break the Army is to keep it deployed above the rate at which it can be sustained,” he said. “There’s no free lunch here. The Army and the Marine Corps and Special Operations Command are too small and badly resourced to carry out this national security strategy.”

Odom is equally gloomy:

Our leaders do not act because their reputations are at stake. The public does not force them to act because it is blinded by the president's conjured set of illusions: that we are reducing terrorism by fighting in Iraq, creating democracy there, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, making Israel more secure, not allowing our fallen soldiers to have died in vain, and others.

But reality no longer can be avoided. It is beyond U.S. power to prevent sectarian violence in Iraq, the growing influence of Iran throughout the region, the probable spread of Sunni-Shiite strife to neighboring Arab states, the eventual rise to power of the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr or some other anti-American leader in Baghdad, and the spread of instability beyond Iraq.

These realities get worse every day that our forces remain in Iraq. They can't be wished away by clever diplomacy or by leaving our forces in Iraq for several more years.

Meanwhile the President is focused on mislearning the lessons of Vietnam.

House Intel Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) demoted a Democratic committee staffer just before the elections as political payback. A senior House Republican admitted as much. But if you needed further proof--the staffer has been reinstated.

Sore winner watch? GOP Rep. Jim Walsh won re-election, but is "disappointed" in the voters of his hometown.

Democrat Christine Jennings has filed an official contest of the election results in Florida's 13th Congressional District.

What did the President know specifically about U.S. torture practices and when did he know it?

Democrats in Congress want to know; and, in an interview with Spiegel Online that was largely eclipsed by the frenetic last days of the midterm election campaigns, reporter and author Ron Suskind said the President knew more and knew it earlier than you might think:

The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.

This is a President who I suspect has a hard time with the concept of plausible deniability.

Our three options for Iraq, in Pentagon-speak: "Go Big," "Go Long," and "Go Home."

Late Update: Regular TPM Reader MB registers a complaint of mock-outrage: "How you could post a link to that WaPo article without letting loyal readers know that our defense officials are likening potential war strategies to the dance moves of a boy touching, blanket dangling, plastic surgery disaster is truly beyond me."

Fair enough. Here's the sentence from the WaPo story: "That combination plan, which one defense official called "Go Big but Short While Transitioning to Go Long," could backfire if Iraqis suspect it is really a way for the United States to moonwalk out of Iraq -- that is, to imitate singer Michael Jackson's trademark move of appearing to move forward while actually sliding backward."