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.

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More on those push-poll calls about medical experiments on the unborn. Several TPM readers in Maryland have reported robocalls from Michael Steele's Senate campaign with a "poll" question along the lines of "do you believe that medical research should be allowed on unborn babies?"

TPM Reader PR, in Maryland:

I got the same "polling" call. It starts out asking who you are going to vote for, then has a series of questions, including the medical experiment question. Also asked whether you supported marriage as being between a man and a woman, do you want your taxes raised and then asks at the end, based on what you now know do you support Michael Steele. . . .

A slightly different version of the script is reported by TPM Reader JA:

After asking you who you're going to vote for, it asks "do you want your own taxes raised or lowered?" Then it tells you that Cardin has voted to raise your taxes and will do so again. It follows with "do you believe the words 'under God' should be in the pledge of allegiance?" It tells you Cardin voted to remove them, which I assume is false. Then it goes straight to the gutter and asks "do you support medical research experiments on unborn babies?" Of course, it then tells you Cardin is for this. It finishes by asking again who you're going to vote for.

At least one Maryland reader says his call did not include any reference to medical experiments on the unborn. Some reports we've gotten say the call was the Steele campaign; others say it was a group called "Common Sense Maryland." Still others say the sponsor was "Common Sense Ohio."

In Tennessee, TPM Reader LK reports that a group called "Common Sense Tennessee," which appears to be an outgrowth of "Common Sense Ohio," is making robocalls on behalf of Republican Bob Corker in the Senate race:

It starts off asking are you for Corker for for Ford, then it runs thru a list of push poll questions; not verbatim but the substance below: -- do you favor giving the same rights to terrorists as to americans? -- are you pro life? -- do you support the NRA and how it lets us have all the guns we want to? -- do you think we have a problem with illegal aliens? Asks again are you for Corker or for Ford.

A TPM reader in Virginia says that the George Allen campaign is using a a similar question in its push-poll calls: "Do you favor carrying out medical experiments on a dead fetus?"

Then there's TPM Reader LH:

Yes, there are other campaigns doing push polls asking that question. I have received a poll asking if I agreed with medical experiments on unborn babies. The call was in support of Dick DeVos. I live in Michigan's 2nd Congressional District. I simply told the woman that as a person living with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma since the age of eight, I fully support medical experiments on cells that were artificially created in a lab for the sole purpose of curing disease and saving millions of lives. I also told her I personally found the pro-lifer's stance offensive because I am alive, and why do they think an artificially created lump of cells more important that me? My parent's were married for years before they had me. I WAS a planned pregnancy, my parent's created me naturally, just the way God intended. Why shouldn't I be saved? Why do they feel MY life is unimportant? I finished the call by informing her that my parent's love me, they have already lost one child to murder, real murder, the kind that involved a criminal investigation and would take serious umbrage with anyone who would want me to die too. I asked her why didn't she believe my parent's have suffered enough, why she felt my parent's need to lose another child and hung up the phone.

A lot of money is being spent on robocalls in these last days of the campaign, so keep us posted on what you're hearing.

LA Times: Even if Dems win both Houses, Rove will still have given "virtuoso" performance.

Fields of Fire, one of James Webb's books that George Allen has been attacking as obscene, is actually on the Marine Corps' reading list for professional development.

Joe Galloway:

The president declared himself confident that Republicans would sweep to victory and maintain their stranglehold on both houses of a Congress that's done nothing but rubberstamp Bush's war policies and Republican efforts to enrich their fat-cat donors and themselves, of course.

If he's right and that's the result of the Nov. 7 elections, then the American people will finally have fulfilled H.L. Mencken's prophecy that we'd continue choosing the lowest common denominator until, in the end, we get precisely the government we deserve.

Meantime, Vice President Dick Cheney confirmed that some of the senior al-Qaeda terrorists in our custody have been subjected to "water-boarding," a torture that brings the victim within a hair of drowning and suffocation. Cheney declared that it was a "no-brainer." My thoughts exactly: Only people with no brains opt to torture a captive in violation of domestic and international law.

This unseemly circus and its clowns in Congress can't go away fast enough and with enough dishonor and disgrace to suit the circumstances. Their place in America's history is secure: They will go down as the worst administration and the worst Congress we've ever had. Period.

They deserve to lose both the House and the Senate on Nov. 7, and the White House in 2008. They bullied their way into a war that they thought would be a slam-dunk and then so bungled things that the only superpower left in the world has been humbled and hobbled in a world that they've made more dangerous for us.

Thanks, guys. You've done a heckuva job. We won't forget it.

That about sums it up.

TPM Reader RC, in Maryland:

Just got off the phone from a push poll for Michael Steele. My favorite question was (paraphrasing) "Do you favor carrying out medical experiments on unborn babies?" A close second was "Do you want to have your taxes raised?"

Anyone else hearing the "medical experiments on unborn babies" charge?

We're darn near six years into this nonsense, but still the White House can beat the press corps like a drum. I'm referring to Cheney's comment that waterboarding detainees was a "no brainer," which the White House has managed to turn into a story about what Cheney really said or what he really meant by what he said.

There's no legitimate doubt about what Cheney said and what he meant. Cheney knows it. The President knows it. So do Tony Snow and the whole White House press corps. Yet we have this spectacularly silly dance--clever people being too clever by half: Snow and Cheney's staff cleverly parsing the interview, and the press cleverly trying to trip up the parsers.

The whole episode has been converted from a story about torture to another in the endless series of stories about the strange relationship between the press and this White House.

The Vice President's comments came in a radio interview on Tuesday. Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers was the first to report its significance in a story late Wednesday that was straightforward and direct, unburdened by the clever word games that would come later.

The Washington Post didn't run its first story on the interview until its Friday edition. Its follow-up piece today is headlined "Cheney Defends 'Dunk the Water' Comment." I don't know how denying he meant what he said constitutes defending his own comment, unless running fast and far in the opposite direction no longer constitutes a retreat. The story also describes what it calls "ambiguities in the waterboarding debate." The "debate" referred to is not about whether torture is moral or lawful, but whether Cheney actually meant waterboarding or merely a "dunk in the water."

The New York Times' first report on the interview didn't appear until today, in a story that deals almost exclusively with Snow's Friday press conference and the fallout associated with Cheney's remarks. It's a story about the White House "fending off" questions, as if the center of gravity in this historic departure from democratic norms were the White House press room instead of the dank corners of secret prisons or the solemn enclaves of our courts.

No thinking person believes Cheney was referring to anything other than waterboarding. The White House is unable to explain what else Cheney could have been referring to. Yet the leading papers are unable to cut through the malarkey.

I suppose the only thing we work harder at being in denial about than Cheney's comments is the fact that we have used waterboarding and other forms of torture. Every thinking person knows that to be true, too, and it shouldn't take Cheney's slip of the tongue to convince us.

No Foley report before the election--even though all witnesses have now testified before the House Ethics Committee.