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

American taxpayers paid for Halliburton executives in Iraq to watch the Super Bowl on a big-screen TV and eat their favorite comfort foods.

I yield the floor to TPM Reader WC:

I don't think anyone of any political stripe could seriously argue that Tim Russert pulled punches in this morning's interview of the vice president. But even in such an unrelenting interview, he neglected an angle of inquiry that I believe is uniformly neglected in all questions posed to the vice president about his statements in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

There's a long, long litany (and Mr. Russert did a very representative job summarizing it this morning) of public statements that Mr. Cheney made during this period that were verifiably wrong. And these statements weren't just wrong, they were, in almost every case, forceful and unquivocal, and finger-waggingly certain.

Now, there are essentially two, if you'll permit the oversimplification, responses to this record: 1) He was intentionally deceptive (to whatever varying degree) in the service of marketing an invasion he favored (for whatever varying reason); and 2) He was unintentionally deceptive and in each case repeated incorrect assessments he had been given and genuinely believed.

Whenever an interviewer confronts Mr. Cheney with any portion of this litany of forcefully incorrect assertions, he is permitted to reply as though he were addressing the concerns exclusively of the first group (i.e. that he was deliberately deceptive.) And he manages in this vain to acquit himself fairly capably in an intricately-parsed technical sense. . . . But, granting him that then, I would like to see an interviewer seriously call him to task on behalf of the second camp.

Is the vice-president seriously allowed to express no remorse for the fact that he was so forcefully wrong. In public. So often. On so many matters. As they pertained to pre-emptively invading a sovereign nation?

The connotation of this morning's interview (and several others) is that because he has (to his satisfaction) demonstrated that he wasn't lying, criticisms of his statements are without merit. Does he consider it perfectly fine to receive and repeat (and make epic policy decisions based on) incorrect advice from clearly incapable advisors over and over and, well, 'That's what the pros we all trust told me, so: their fault, not mine?'

I would love to hear an interviewer ask him whether or not he considers himself sufficiently capable to gather diverging assesments from sources with various agendas and arrive at actionably accurate conclusions. And furthermore what he blames for his failure to do so so frequently in the past.


From Powerline:

First the Senate Democrats browbeat a television network into changing a program so it won't reflect badly on a Democratic administration. Then a Senate committee puts out a report that airbrushes history, leaving out the most important evidence of links between Iraq and al Qaeda, for the sole purpose of making a Republican administration look bad. I think it's really important to work hard to get a Republican majority in the Senate, so the Dems won't be able to pull stunts like these!

I've been going back and forth on whether this is the sarcastic post of a conservative irritated with Republicans on the Senate Intel Committee--or some bizarre new GOP meme that the Dems really control the Senate.

If it's the former, it's lame humor. If it's the latter, well, where to even begin?

I referred to Cheney's appearance today on Meet the Press as an artificat that historians will be puzzling over for years to come. Not so, says TPM Reader JL:

Speaking as a historian, no historians won't be puzzling, not at all. A future historian might state, matter of factly, "Vice President Cheney, one of the administration's most ardent advocates of war with Iraq, continued to maintain that there was a connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda long after the existence of such a connection had been disproved. Critics at the time noted that the Bush administration was unable to respond to changing circumstances in the Middle East because, instead of responding to new information, it simply reasserted its ideological premises. Subsequently historians have concluded this approach to problems was the chief reason for the Bush administration's multiple failures, of which the debacle in Iraq is the most stunning - and, because of its lasting impact on America's standing in the world - unfortunate example."

Crooks and Liars has the video up of Cheney being Cheney this morning on Meet the Press:

VICE PRES. CHENEY: So you’ve got Iraq and 9/11, no evidence that there’s a connection. You’ve got Iraq and al-Qaeda, testimony from the director of CIA that there was indeed a relationship, Zarqawi in Baghdad, etc. Then the third...

MR. RUSSERT: The committee said that there was no relationship. In fact...

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I haven’t seen the report; I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but the fact is...

The "report" he hasn't bothered to read is the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released Friday, which revealed publicly for the first time the existence of an October 2005 CIA assessment which concluded that Saddam Hussein's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates."

Go read the transcript. Historians will be puzzling over this artifact for the rest of our lives and beyond.

Some readers took my post about a Dutch TV network airing "Farenheit 9/11" and "Loose Change" tonight--as opposed to "The Path to 9/11"--as an endorsement of one or both of those films. It wasn't intended as such. The post was really about the Netherlands, and its sometimes deliberate cultural funkiness, which I find endearing.

Wild Bill's still got it:

"They've trotted that dog out for the last three elections - and it's got mange all over it."

--Bill Clinton, on Republican efforts to make national security the top campaign issue

OK, I'll admit to a bias here. I think the Netherlands is one of the best places on the planet. They have our entrepreneurial spirit, but with good taste. Like us, they have completely altered much of their natural environment, but to aesthetically pleasing effect. They have their own exotic language, but nearly everyone speaks English better than we do.

So chalk this up as just another reason to love the Dutch: While Britain, Australia and New Zealand are broadcasting "The Path to 9/11" on Sunday evening, one Dutch network is airing Michael Moore's "Farenheit 9/11" and the conspiracy flick "Loose Change." Thanks to Dutch reader JWK.

One of the assurances ABC has given to placate critics of the docudrama "The Path to 9/11" is that a disclaimer would run "throughout" the airing of the miniseries.

Apparently only in U.S. broadcasts.

Reports from a couple of TPM readers in New Zealand, where the first installment of the miniseries has now aired, are that the disclaimer ran once, at the beginning of the broadcast.

One last takeaway from the WP story on the search for bin Laden. Remember how one of the key breakdowns leading to the failure to prevent 9/11 was institutional resistance to sharing intelligence across agencies?

Looks like things have really improved:

Bureaucratic battles slowed down the hunt for bin Laden for the first two or three years, according to officials in several agencies, with both the Pentagon and the CIA accusing each other of withholding information. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's sense of territoriality has become legendary, according to these officials.

In early November 2002, for example, a CIA drone armed with a Hellfire missile killed a top al-Qaeda leader traveling through the Yemeni desert. About a week later, Rumsfeld expressed anger that it was the CIA, not the Defense Department, that had carried out the successful strike.

"How did they get the intel?" he demanded of the intelligence and other military personnel in a high-level meeting, recalled one person knowledgeable about the meeting.

Gen. Michael V. Hayden, then director of the National Security Agency and technically part of the Defense Department, said he had given it to them.

"Why aren't you giving it to us?" Rumsfeld wanted to know.

Hayden, according to this source, told Rumsfeld that the information-sharing mechanism with the CIA was working well. Rumsfeld said it would have to stop.

A CIA spokesman said Hayden, now the CIA director, does not recall this conversation. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "The notion that the department would do anything that would jeopardize the success of an operation to kill or capture bin Laden is ridiculous." The NSA continues to share intelligence with the CIA and the Defense Department.

. . .

Today, however, no one person is in charge of the overall hunt for bin Laden with the authority to direct covert CIA operations to collect intelligence and to dispatch JSOC units. Some counterterrorism officials find this absurd. "There's nobody in the United States government whose job it is to find Osama bin Laden!" one frustrated counterterrorism official shouted. "Nobody!"

If Republicans don't pay a steep price politically this November for this kind of malfeasance, I really don't know what it will take to convince voters it's time for a change of course.