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

The LA Times interviews former White House political director and current GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman on his role in the Abramoff scandal:

"I was a gateway," Mehlman said in an interview. "It was my job to talk to political supporters, to hear their requests, and hand them on to policymakers."

Mehlman said he had known Abramoff since the mid-1990s and would listen to his requests along with those of other influential Republicans.

"I know Jack," Mehlman said. "I certainly recall that if he and others wanted to meet I would have met with them, as I would have met with lots of people."

Contrast that with Mehlman's "Jack who?" defense earlier this year in Vanity Fair: "Abramoff is someone who we don't know a lot about. We know what we read in the paper."

Remember the good old days when someone like Mehlman could get busted for such a baldfaced lie and there would be serious adverse consequences, personally and politically?

Bob J. Perry strikes again. The GOP stalwart and financier of 527 groups like Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in 2004 and the Economic Freedom Fund this year has donated $2 million to a 527 group called Americans for Honesty on Issues, according to a recently filed FEC report.

According to the New York Times:

The leader of Americans for Honesty on Issues is Sue Walden, a close ally of Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who left Congress amid questions on ethics and fund-raising. Ms. Walden has also raised money for President Bush and served as an adviser to Kenneth L. Lay, the former chief executive of Enron who died in July.

The group has already spent almost $1.5 million in attack ads on Democratic candidates. MyDD has the rundown on which districts Americans for Honesty on Issues has targeted.

Update: FEC reports this past week show that Bob Perry has also contributed $1 million to the Free Enterprise Fund, which has begun running TV ads against Ned Lamont in Connecticut.

GOP grumblings about the White House not being prepared for a loss in November:

"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing. If Democrats win control of the House, as many analysts expect, Republicans predict that Bush's final two years in office will be marked by multiple congressional investigations and gridlock.

"The Bush White House has had no relationship with Congress," said a Bush ally. "Beyond the Democrats, wait till they see how the Republicans–the ones that survive–treat them if they lose next month."

A Democratic victory of any kind will be a rude welcome back to the reality-based world for Bush. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Rep. Chris "that ain't torture, it's sex" Shays (R-CT) has suddenly found his moral compass, blasting his own party's campaign committee for distributing a flyer claiming his opponent wants to have coffee with the Taliban.

The plot thicks yet again.

Korenna Kline, spokesperson for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), abruptly resigned yesterday.

This comes just a few days after Kolbe issued a written statement about the Foley matter that contradicted in key respects comments Kline had already made about Kolbe's knowledge of Foley's problem with pages.

A staffer for a retiring congressman finding new employment before the term ends is not terribly unusual, but there is more going on here than simply new employment opportunities.

I wanted to go back to that excellent Washington Post piece on the increasing frequency with which the President declares world events "unacceptable," because it raises another issue, one which has been irking me since the North Korean nuclear test last weekend.

The issue, which Josh has raised in part, is this: Why do commentators continue to describe the President as a "hard-liner" on North Korea? That seems to me to be a disservice to the hardliners and to give the President far too much credit.

Just yesterday in the Wall Street Journal (no link), no less a Bush critic than Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as Colin Powell's chief of staff at the State Department, asserted that Bush's hardline on North Korea has failed.

I have no doubt that there are genuine hardliners within the Administration who urged covert and overt military action against North Korea early in the President's first term, and certainly in response to the breakdown of the Agreed Framework. Every Republican Administration is going to have its share of Curtis LeMays.

But those true hardliners have not prevailed in the internal Administration struggle over whether the U.S. should lead with the carrot or with the stick. What has emerged as U.S. "policy" is inertia. No carrot. No stick. No nothing, unless cheap rhetoric about what is "unacceptable" counts for something.

There are quite reputable people in foreign policy circles, like former Defense Secretary William Perry, who have advocated much tougher measures against North Korea than Bush has adopted. Perry, for instance, proposed publicly earlier this year that the U.S. hit the DPRK's new ICBM with a U.S. cruise missile while it was still on the launch pad, before a test flight could be conducted.

The sad truth is that we have virtually no good options for putting the North Korean nuclear genie back in the bottle, and I am quite convinced that our military options at the moment range from bad to worse (and that the current Administration would be unable to competently execute any military option).

But in the same way that it is a mistake to conclude that the Clinton Administration offer of a carrot was a failure, it is a mistake to conclude that the stick has failed, too. Both may be needed in the future.

All that we can say with any certainty is that paralysis has failed to achieve our objective of a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. And paralysis, if I may say, is unacceptable.

Former Rep. Gerry Studds (D-MA), the first openly gay member of Congress, whose name has been in the news lately because, like Mark Foley, Studds had his own "page problem," died Saturday.

This is good stuff:

President Bush finds the world around him increasingly "unacceptable."

. . .

[A] survey of transcripts from Bush's public remarks over the past seven years shows the president's worsening political predicament has actually stoked, rather than diminished, his desire to proclaim what he cannot abide. Some presidential scholars and psychologists describe the trend as a signpost of Bush's rising frustration with his declining influence.

In the first nine months of this year, Bush declared more than twice as many events or outcomes "unacceptable" or "not acceptable" as he did in all of 2005, and nearly four times as many as he did in 2004. He is, in fact, at a presidential career high in denouncing events he considers intolerable. They number 37 so far this year, as opposed to five in 2003, 18 in 2002 and 14 in 2001.

More on this later . . .