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

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.

Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) has finally released his schedule and phone records in response to allegations from a former aide that Porter illegally made campaign fundraising calls from his Washington and district offices.

Funny thing is the records don't exactly disprove the allegation. If anything, they seem to support the allegations, at least in part:

The records show that on one day, Porter made calls to donors and others at a time when his schedule says he was in his district office.

But Porter said he wasn't actually at the office the entire time. At times, he would step out of the office to make the calls or leave to go to lunch or for other reasons, he said. He provided a receipt from a restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes where he said he and his chief of staff, Mike Hesse, had lunch during the hours in question.

. . .

The call time on April 18 is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Porter's call records indicate he called seven people during those hours, including his daughter, his brother and several friends and donors. He said fundraising may have been discussed in some of those calls but, if so, he was not in the office; it was that day he says he dined at Sweet Tomatoes.

The Sweet Tomatoes defense? A new addition to the political scandal lexicon.

I caught the tail end of the O'Reilly v. Letterman slugfest last night. Pretty entertaining. Crooks and Liars has the whole segment.

How 'bout them Cards!

Update: We have some sour Tigers fans out there. From a TPM reader:

I don't want to hear about the Cards or any other baseball team on TPM. Let's keep the topics related to politics and skip your sports boosterism. It's annoying and guaranteed to bother all the Tiger fans, like me. I'll tune into a sports website for stuff like this. Thanks.

Always interesting poking through the FEC independent expenditure reports filed late on Fridays.

The NRCC, spending like a drunk sailor, reported laying out another $7 million.

Let me hit some of the highlights. These aren't the biggest buys from that $7 million pot, but the NRCC is spending money in places you don't expect to see the GOP having to marshall its resources:

CO-5: The NRCC has made what appears to be its first expenditure in this race, almost $150,000 for a seat which Democrats have never held. A SurveyUSA poll released October 19 showed Democrat Jay Fawcett down by 13 percentage points, but a Mason-Dixon poll released October 10 showed him tied with Republican candidate Doug Lamborn. If the spread were still 13, you wouldn't see the NRCC spending that kind of money here. The race is to fill the seat by the retiring moderate Republican Joel Hefley, who has refused to endorse Lamborn.

NV-3: In yet another sign that GOP incumbent Jon Porter is in trouble, the NRCC has just put almost $400,000 into this race to attack Tessa Hafen.

NV-2: For every dime the GOP spends here, say a little prayer for Chrissy Mazzeo, the cocktail waitress who has accused Jim Gibbons, the GOP incumbent, of propositioning/accosting her in a Vegas parking garage on Friday the 13th. Gibbons is running for governor of Nevada, but before the Mazzeo encounter, the NRCC had not spent a cent on this open-seat race. Since then, it just spent almost half a million dollars, about $230,000 of that coming in the last couple of days.

Wyoming: Yes, Wyoming! Friday the NRCC made its first foray into the race for the lone House seat in blood-red Wyoming, with a $241,000 ad buy against Democrat Gary Trauner, who is challenging Rep. Barbara Cubin. A Mason-Dixon poll about 10 days ago showed Cubin up by 7 percentage points. But that was before she threatened to slap a man in a wheelchair. Shoot a man in the face. Threaten to slap a wheelchair-bound man in the face. It's been a tough year for Wyoming Republicans.

One other race that is reported to be tightening is the Nebraska 3rd in western Nebraska, where Coach Tom Osborne is retiring. The Dems have not held a congressional seat in central or western Nebraska since 1958, but there are indications that the NRCC is poised to put money into this race.

TPM readers on the ground in any of these districts, let us hear from you.

More outside money is flowing into the NV-03, where Tessa Hafen is mounting an unexpectedly stiff challenge to Republican incumbent Jon Porter. The Democratic 527 group, VoteVets, whose ads this year include this one about insufficient body armor in Iraq, spent a quarter of a million dollars this week for attack ads on Porter, according to FEC reports filed yesterday.