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

TPM Reader JS wants in on the fun:

I feel so left out. I lived most of my life in a Boston suburb with no electoral hanky-panky tolerated, and now I'm in rural Vermont, scrupulously honest and fair-minded to the point of obsession, one polling place for my town in the volunteer fire department house, with old-fashioned hand-counted paper ballots, etc. Rich Tarrant, the typical sort of upstanding, moderate Republican millionaire businessman (basically Mitt Romney lite) who might have had a chance against Trotskyite Bernie Sanders in the Senate race, has so offended Vermonters with his comparatively mild negative advertising against Sanders that he sank in the polls almost as soon as he became known. Nobody does push-polling, nobody even does robo-calls.

I feel a great sense of pride in my newly adopted home state for that, but still, it's so boring! How I yearn to be able to write panicky conspiracy theory diaries on Kos, or report some juicy bit of Republican skullduggery to TPM. But alas, it's not to be.

And so dear readers in battleground districts and states, it is up to you. JS must live vicariously through the experiences of other TPM readers. Keep those tips coming.

Earlier in the week we reported on the robocall push-polls being conducted by Common Sense Ohio in five states. I understand the outfit is making calls in Missouri now, too. If you have received any of these calls, in Missouri or elsewhere, let us know what they're saying.

An editorial scheduled to appear Monday in the Army Times, the Air Force Times, the Navy Times and the Marine Corps Times calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

An excerpt:

Rumsfeld has lost credibility with the uniformed leadership, with the troops, with Congress and with the public at large. His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised. And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt.

This is not about the midterm elections. Regardless of which party wins Nov. 7, the time has come, Mr. President, to face the hard bruising truth:

Donald Rumsfeld must go.

I wouldn't let the blame for Iraq stop at the Secretary of Defense, of course. The Vice President and President bear the ultimate responsibility. Nor do I think it's accurate to say this is not about the midterm elections. It has everything to do with the midterms, as does, I am sure, the timing of the publication of these editorials. My only other complaint would be, what took so long?

Wow, in one of the all-time great "denials" Ted Haggard admits that a hotel referred him to his male escort accuser for a massage, but denies having sex with the man; admits to having purchased crystal meth from the accuser, but denies actually using the drug.

Makes that Clinton fella look like a rank amateur for his "I didn't inhale" defense.

Late Update: Video of the Haggard denial here.

From the bizarre to the surreal. Last night Ted Haggard's successor sent an email to his congregation admitting that some of the gay former prostitute's allegations against Haggard are true. This morning the accuser failed a lie detector test administered on talk radio.

Is Vito in trouble?

New York City's only Republican congressman, Vito Fossella, has held five debates against his underfunded opponent, Democrat Steve Harrison, and is now running Dick Morris-inspired radio ads that claim Harrison cares more about protecting terrorists than New Yorkers:

The scare ad features a phone call between two terrorists that suddenly goes dead. An announcer says Democrat Steve Harrison wants to stop wiretapping terrorists who are planning new attacks.

"Steve Harrison: putting terrorist rights above the safety of you and your family," the spot says.

CQ Politics rates this race as "Republican Favored," a shift toward the Democrat from "Safe Republican."

Not looking so good for Ted Haggard:

Haggard, 50, initially denied the allegations, telling 9News Wednesday night that "I've never had a gay relationship with anybody, and I'm steady with my wife. I'm faithful to my wife."

But KKTV in Colorado Springs reported that New Life Associate Senior Pastor Ross Parsley told a meeting of church elders Thursday night that Haggard had met with the church's overseers earlier in the day and "had admitted to some indiscretions."

Parsley told the elders that Haggard had said some of the allegations were true, but not all of them.

I'm guessing that to most readers Ted Haggard is barely known. But this is the conservative equivalent of Jesse Jackson getting caught wearing a hood at a Klan cross burning. The political implications are enormous.

While evangelical Christians have been a force in national politics for the last two decades, most evangelicals still harbor a deep disaffection with politics. It remains a predominately secular endeavour, in their view, and for many evangelicals there is a strongly held sense that politics, like other aspects of the pop culture, corrupts those who come in contact with it. That has always been the headwind facing Republicans seeking to rally evangelicals to political purpose.

Foley and Haggard are turning the headwind into a full-blown gale for the GOP.

These are the kinds of local reports we're looking for here in the final stretch (thanks to TPM Reader BR):

Early voters in the heart of the heated race to succeed former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay were greeted Wednesday with red and white signs that read: "Want more illegals? Vote Democrat" and "Encourage Terrorists. Vote Democrat."

The GOP paid for the signs.


Last March, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war. The Bush administration did so under pressure from Congressional Republicans who said they hoped to “leverage the Internet” to find new evidence of the prewar dangers posed by Saddam Hussein.

But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.

Last night, the government shut down the Web site after The New York Times asked about complaints from weapons experts and arms-control officials. A spokesman for the director of national intelligence said access to the site had been suspended “pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.”

Had enough?

Here's where we are heading into the final weekend:

Democrats expressed growing optimism that their long season out of power might soon end. Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senate campaign organization, claimed strong early voting in a long-shot race in Arizona and said it was "harbinger of a wave" that would benefit his party.

Five days before the election, Democratic strategists said none of their incumbents in either house of Congress was trailing — and Republicans did not disagree.

Republicans disputed Schumer's claim about Arizona, but even so, the GOP side of the political ledger was far less positive. Strategists already have written off the re-election prospects of incumbent Sens. Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Mike DeWine in Ohio, as well as six or more seats in GOP hands in the House. Dozens more Republican lawmakers — powerbrokers and backbenchers, conservatives and moderates — struggled to survive in a campaign shadowed by the war in Iraq and scandal at home.

A few thoughts before the whirlwind sweeps away all perspective.

Not to rain on the parade but all the talk of dramatic Democratic gains in the House has a tendency to downplay a serious underlying structural problem. Even under the rosiest scenarios, the Democrats only pick up somewhere around 50 seats. Realistically, it looks like 25-35 pickups. The House was designed to be the national political institution most politically responsive to the people. I would venture to say that given the massive train wreck that the GOP has created in public affairs, the founders would be stunned to see so few seats change hands. If these are the kinds of political conditions it takes to move 50 House seats, then we're in trouble.

GOP losses of whatever size are going to trigger a wave of internal backbiting and fingerpointing. No surprise there. But I suspect there is going to emerge a common theme among Republicans, a declaration that the political environment was so toxic that no incumbent party could expect to emerge unscathed. The more brash will declare that the GOP did quite well given the circumstances. What will be missing is any sense that the Republicans made their own bed and were forced to lay in it. The 2006 "political environment" will be treated like a weather phenomenon, something beyond our control, a freak of nature, instead of what it is: a reaction to the GOP's man-made calamity.

I hope that when the political history of the last half century is written it will show, as it should, that the Republicans engaged in a brand of divisive electoral politics that pitted Americans against each other: white against black, men against women, rich against poor, native born against immigrant, straight against gay. Republicans deserve to be tarred by history for exploiting our weaknesses, our prejudices, and our lesser selves for their own political gain. But those are still our weaknesses and our prejudices. We own them. And it is our lesser selves that have succumbed to the Republican political pitch and been willing to be exploited. Removing the Republicans from power will only be a temporary fix unless we fundamentally fix ourselves so that no one, no party, no movement can exploit those same weaknesses again.