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

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.

I have to say these are the first national Democratic Party ads I've seen that strike me as sufficiently tough and hard-hitting. Not perfect. The Kyl ad is paced too slowly (is anyone under the age of 40 producing Democratic campaign ads these days?), and the Allen ad, while powerful, ends with a weak visual image. But overall this is much better than most of the earlier stuff.

So Ted Haggard has stepped aside temporarily as pastor of his mega-church and resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals. The Rocky Mountain News reports, "Some community leaders in the Colorado Springs had scheduled a rally this afternoon in support of Haggard but canceled the gathering at the request of the church."

So here we have an exploding (gay) sex scandal reminiscent of Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, yet no mention of it on Drudge. If an angel falls in the conservative forest and Drudge doesn't link to it, did it really happen?

Late update: Drudge relents. Provides 2 links on Haggard story. Nearly 24 hours after the story first broke.

Paul Kiel has more on the NRCC's efforts to help Mark Foley with damage control after ABC approached Foley about the overfriendly emails to pages.