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

More troops to Iraq? The idea is gaining favor, reports the Los Angeles Times:

As President Bush weighs new policy options for Iraq, strong support has coalesced in the Pentagon behind a military plan to "double down" in the country with a substantial buildup in American troops, an increase in industrial aid and a major combat offensive against Muqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite leader impeding development of the Iraqi government.

But as TPM Reader AH remarks, "double down" is the wrong phrase:

Since the Pentagon has decided to discuss its new strategy in gambling parlance, it should at least use the proper terminology. Today's LA Times article says that a Pentagon official has referred to the option of sending more troops in to Iraq as a "double down" strategy. The reference is to a bet in blackjack when, based on the cards that have been dealt, the player seeks to maximize a payoff that is more likely to occur in that hand, given the probabilities. The double down is a calculated bet, made from a position of strength when the odds are favorable to the bettor.

In Iraq, we are certainly not in a situation where the odds are favorable to winning. Our bet is not a double down. Let's call it what it is: double or nothing. This is is more like the gambler who has been on a bad losing streak deciding to empty the savings account and put all of his chips on red, hoping that the roulette wheel will spin his way and bring him back close to even. Double or nothing is a desperation play. It is an ill-advised way to gamble, with chips or human lives, and such a strategy inevitably leads to another appropriate gambling term. Gambler's ruin: winding up completely broke.

The New York Times today gives us what I think is the first good read of what Vice President Cheney's trip to Saudi Arabia two weeks ago was all about: King Abdullah told Cheney that if the U.S. pulls out of Iraq, the Kingdom might have to give financial backing to Iraq's Sunni minority in the civil war against the Shiite majority. But I think CNN captures the flavor of the exchange, quoting a senior U.S. official as saying that the King "read the riot act" to Cheney. That sounds about right.

Democrats' decision to forgo earmarks this year is making for strange bedfellows:

Surprisingly, some Republican conservatives agree with the do-nothing approach, because Democrats have decided to rule out any 'earmarks,' otherwise known as 'pork' for local areas and special interests, while the continuing resolution is in effect.

These earmarks became a huge political issue in the midterm elections as Democrats pointed to expensive GOP-sponsored projects, such as a 'bridge to nowhere' in a remote area of Alaska, as a sign that pork had gotten out of control.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), one of the Senate's most conservative members, said in a statement that 'my hat is off to Reid and the Democrats for making this decision. By agreeing to do a yearlong spending resolution for 2007, we will effectively take a time-out on pork-barrel spending.'

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the Republican Study Committee's Budget and Spending Task Force, said that 'it is somewhat refreshing' that Democratic leaders have adopted a strategy that for weeks has been favored by conservative Republicans.

FEC slaps Swift Boat Veterans for Truth with a $300,000 fine and knocks around some liberal 527 groups, too, all for activities from the 2004 election cycle.

CNN's resident funny man, Jeff Greenfield, protests that he was just making a joke when he compared Barack Obama's jacket-but-no-tie attire to the fashion choices of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

"Talking Point Memo," the home of Joshua Micah Marshall, pronounced the observation "weird." "The Daily Howler" saw it as party of the same media instinct that ridiculed Al Gore for his "earth tones" clothing choices back in 2000. The Columbia Journalism Review Web site weighed in with "character assassination." (It acknowledged that the effort might have been a weak attempt at humor).

Is some of this my fault? It has to be, for the same reason famed Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach liked to say that when someone misses a pass, 90 per cent of the time it's the fault of the passer.

I figured there was no way on planet Earth that anyone could possibly take such a presentation at face value. I was wrong.

Most of what happened here, I think, is a demonstration of the hair-trigger instincts that have grown up among some of the bloggers (not to mention the need to fill all that space every day, or hour, or 15 minutes).

Sigh. Of course, it was a joke. Just a weird joke, poorly executed. Watch the clip (the link is on the left in the middle of the page) and decide for yourself. Then check out this second CNN clip, about Obama's name.

So is the joke on the media? Or on Obama?

(By the way, it's cable news that has space to fill, 24-7. We can write as much--or as little--as we want.)

Just about everyone is holding their collective breath to see how serious Democrats are about earmark reform. So when Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), the man who put the pork in "pork barrel," announces he's going to forgo this year's earmarks for his beloved West Virginia, that's a huge symbolic gesture.

Huge immigration raid at Swift meatpacking plants in six states Tuesday. The union for the plant workers tells TPMmuckraker that legal immigrants were caught up in the sweep.

The Listener-in-Chief:

The challenge for Bush's team was to make the president appear as though he were taking the release of the [ISG] report seriously, without necessarily embracing its conclusions. In the days following the report's release, Bush the Decider transformed himself into Bush the Listener. Usually prickly with war critics—on the rare occasions he spoke to them at all—the president now invited them in from the cold and kept quiet.

. . .

The results of that effort will be unveiled next week, when Bush is expected to announce what he calls "The New Way Forward," his latest plan to salvage the mission in Iraq.

The New Way Forward? How very Mao.