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

Worth a look:

The Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been negotiating truces - with the Bush administration's encouragement - with Islamic separatists in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border where U.S. officials think bin Laden may be hiding.

In return, Pakistani officials are promising to restrict the country's troops in the area to major bases and towns and to pour huge amounts of aid - much of it from the United States and other nations - into the destitute region, according to American officials.

But as the truces take hold, separatists have been crossing into Afghanistan to fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, according to Western and Afghan officials.

I was alerted to another gem from Bush in the Brian Williams interview. When asked about reading The Stranger, Bush explained: "I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus, I also read three Shakespeare's."

Three Shakespeare's?

It's as if Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies were President--not a real hillbilly, which I wouldn't much begrudge someone, but a Hollywood spoof of a hillbilly.

Who says Bush ever linked Iraq and 9/11? Why just this week he very carefully distinguished between the two in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought a wrong war? Or that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists.


Update: From Reader AS:

You left out the best part: "Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. I personally do not believe that Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, 'al-Qaida, attack America.'"

After denying that Iraq ordered the attack, it seems to occur to Bush that he wasn't quite specific enough in describing his straw man -- or that he didn't quite nail this week's talking point -- and so he comes back around to take a firm stand against something that exactly zero people believe.

The unfortunate part of that interview, though, was that Williams had Bush right in the crosshairs when he began to ask him what led him to read "The Stranger". Bush says that Laura recommended it, but then Williams unfortunately wanders where Bush wants -- into a discussion of the other books he's read, low expectations, etc. If only Williams had given Bush some more room to talk -- or asked a followup like "What about the book made her think you'd like it?" -- he might have gotten closer to what people really want to know, which is whether Bush actually read Camus. Sigh.

As we noted here earlier today, a new front has opened in the war on Republican corruption--Alaska. (If we don't fight them there, we'll have to fight them here.)

Some 20 search warrants were executed in a series of raids Thursday across Alaska. Not all of the locations searched have yet been identified, but the offices of six state lawmakers were among those searched, including the office of Ben Stevens, son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), himself already in the news this week after being unveiled as the senator who put a secret hold on a bipartisan bill that would create a publicly available database of all federal grants and contracts.

Already the Alaska Affair has contributed one of this new Gilded Age's most memorable episodes. Among the items federal agents were looking for in state lawmakers' offices were garments, including hats, with the logo "Corrupt Bastards Club" or "Corrupt Bastards Caucus."

Used to be that it was the coverup that got you. Now it's the bragging.

Greg Sargent and the folks over at TPMCafe's Election Central have been doing a bang-up job covering the mid-term elections--and, with Labor Day now upon us, things are set to really get rolling.

If you haven't yet ventured over to Election Central, check it out. All the latest polling is featured on the front page, along with a convenient drop-down window towards the top of the page that lets you scroll through the various races they're covering. If you want to keep tabs on the political horse races, Election Central is your spot. And if you have scoop on any races in your neck of the woods, pass it on. Election Central will be TPM's clearinghouse for election year 2006. What a whacky campaign season it has been already--thanks in no small part to Florida. Greg has a new post up this evening about Florida's 24th, where the Republican incumbent, Tom Feeney, is touting Democrat Clint Curtis as his likely challenger even before the Democratic primary, claiming that Curtis' primary opponent is MIA.

We've spent a lot of time on Katrina this weekend. I appreciate your indulgence. Usually, the media hype associated with one of these kinds of anniversaries is more than I can stomach. But in this instance, unfortunately, the attention is deserved, not merely because of the initial severity of the disaster but because each day the disaster along the Gulf Coast continues to unfold.

Two additional points:

(1) The people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast have suffered greatly, too. I will always remember the chill that ran down my spine late in the day the storm hit when I heard a local describe the storm surge as "worse than Camille." For those who had lived for a generation with Camille as the benchmark against which all hurricanes would forever be measured, the notion of a hurricane worse than Camille was as surreal as watching the Twin Towers collapse.

(2) Had Hurricane Rita hit a more densely populated region, we would speak her name with the same reverence as Katrina's. She was an awesome storm and wiped the landscape clean in Southwest Louisiana at least as thoroughly as Katrina did in the southeast part of the state. The impact on individual lives was no less disastrous for those in Rita's path; the only difference is that there were fewer lives affected.

People often ask why New Orleans has benefitted from so much of the attention given to the Gulf Coast. The cavalier answer is, what benefit exactly? Whether the complaint is New Orleans getting more network TV anchor visits than Mississippi or the Ninth Ward getting more coverage than Lakeview, I have not seen any evidence that this allegedly undue media coverage has made a real difference on the ground. New Orleans has half of its pre-storm population. The Ninth Ward is merely uninhabitable. I wish the problem was as simple as an inequitable allocation of resources.

The real answer to why New Orleans is the focus is twofold.

First and most obvious, significantly more people lived in and around New Orleans than anywhere else affected by the hurricanes of the past two seasons. Naturally that makes New Orleans more newsworthy.

Second, nothing could have been done to prevent the impact of Katrina on Mississippi or of Rita on the Louisiana/Texas border region. But were it not for the failure of the levee system, New Orleans would have survived with a few bumps and bruises. Hundreds of lives, a culture, and a way of life would have been spared. It was preventable. Not only that, decades of toil and treasure had been expended specifically to prevent this precise disaster. American taxpayers were sold on the Cadillac of flood control systems but were delivered a Yugo.

Disasters happen. But what happened to New Orleans is different.

A reminder that TPM continues to provide first-hand accounts from New Orleans at its Katrina blog, After the Levees.

A miscalculation? Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah: "We did not think, even 1 percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude. You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."

Update: From TPM Reader JG: "I read his statement more like a PR maneuver: all the destruction is a result of Israel's unreasonable reaction. He would never, ever have dreamt that the kidnapping might have brought that kind of harm to his poor, beloved Lebanon."

Rumsfeld: "I think the real threat that North Korea poses in the immediate future is more one of proliferation than a danger to South Korea. . . . I don't see them, frankly, as an immediate military threat to South Korea."

More bigotry from our enlightened Republican friends. This time it is Steve Laffey, candidate for U.S. Senator from Rhode Island, whose white sheet is showing, in columns he penned while in college in the early 1980s:

In one column, Laffey said he has never seen a happy homosexual.

"This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet," he wrote. "All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

In another column he wrote that pop music was turning the children of America into sissies, and criticized the singer Boy George, referring to him as "it."

"It wears girl's clothes and puts on makeup," he wrote. "When I hear it sing, 'Do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry,' I say to myself, YES, I want to punch your lights out, pal, and break your ribs."

Laffey called the writings "sophomoric political satire" and said they do not represent his views.

"Not now, nor then, or ever," he said. "Do I regret some of these things? Sure. But at the time, we were just having fun. We thought it was funny."

Funny as in "Ha, ha"?