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 story of Hillary Clinton possibly opting out of the 2008 presidential race in order to be Senate Majority Leader has made it from The Washington Note to the LA Times and now across the pond to London. There are so many ifs, ands, and buts to this story that you would think this was a non-election year and people were desperate for political stories.

TPM Reader MD responds to my post below:

In response to your question, "Which press outlets have agreed to those conditions?" I think there are actually a fair number that would take those terms if it meant an interview with Rove -- or any number of good sources of information within the administration or in Congress. Granted, you need to be someone close to power -- a special assistant to the President would qualify of course, but also any number of press secretaries for the more powerful members of Congress, because agreeing to those terms largely means you're going to get a background interview with the person in question. Which can be worth it, if they have good enough information to share.

In many cases, it may make perfect sense for a reporter to have a conversation on background so that the person being interviewed will feel more at ease and won't have to constantly be on guard. Speaking on the record is a pretty big pain in the ass actually, since one slip and you've said the phrase that will be the headline. So this allows the interviewer to actually get substantive information, and if there's a great quote that he'd love to print -- either attached to the actual person or sourced to an anonymous official -- he can ask afterwards and will often get what he wants. So this technique serves to grease the wheels of the reporter-source transaction.

That said, in this case it's obvious that this was too big of a demand since Rove was actually the SUBJECT of the story, rather than a press flack who can give some good background and maybe even serve up a juicy quote. I can see why the Times would refuse his demand, but it is interesting that it would call him out on this in the article: this is something that happens in DC; by devoting a whole paragraph to explaining their refusal, it serves to embarrass Rove. Maybe this says something about Rove's weakening ability to intimidate journalists into agreeing to whatever set of demands he dictates to them?

I suppose I mostly agree with MD as to when such ground rules would be acceptable, but I took the White House claim to mean that those ground rules had been successfully applied before when Rove was the subject of the piece.

Rove & Company have narrowed the battlefield (or at least that's what they're saying for public consumption):

They have determined that control of Congress is likely to be settled in as few as six states and have decided to focus most of the party’s resources there, said Republican officials who did not want to be identified discussing internal deliberations. Those states will likely include Connecticut, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington, though officials said the battle lines could shift in coming weeks.

What is this about?

The White House said that Mr. Rove would consider an interview for this article if it were conducted off the record, with the provision that quotations could be put on the record with White House approval, a condition it said was set for other interviews with Mr. Rove. The New York Times declined.

Which press outlets have agreed to those conditions?

Worth a look:

The Pakistani regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf has been negotiating truces - with the Bush administration's encouragement - with Islamic separatists in North Waziristan and South Waziristan, mountainous tribal areas along the Afghan border where U.S. officials think bin Laden may be hiding.

In return, Pakistani officials are promising to restrict the country's troops in the area to major bases and towns and to pour huge amounts of aid - much of it from the United States and other nations - into the destitute region, according to American officials.

But as the truces take hold, separatists have been crossing into Afghanistan to fight alongside Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, according to Western and Afghan officials.

I was alerted to another gem from Bush in the Brian Williams interview. When asked about reading The Stranger, Bush explained: "I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus, I also read three Shakespeare's."

Three Shakespeare's?

It's as if Jethro from The Beverly Hillbillies were President--not a real hillbilly, which I wouldn't much begrudge someone, but a Hollywood spoof of a hillbilly.

Who says Bush ever linked Iraq and 9/11? Why just this week he very carefully distinguished between the two in an interview with NBC's Brian Williams:

WILLIAMS: Do you have any moments of doubt that we fought a wrong war? Or that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?

BUSH: Well those are two different questions, did we fight the wrong war, and absolutely -- I have no doubt -- the war came to our shores, remember that. We had a foreign policy that basically said, let's hope calm works. And we were attacked.

WILLIAMS: But those weren't Iraqis.

BUSH : They weren’t, no, I agree, they weren't Iraqis, nor did I ever say Iraq ordered that attack, but they're a part of, Iraq is part of the struggle against the terrorists.


Update: From Reader AS:

You left out the best part: "Now in terms of image, of course I worry about American image. We are great at TV, and yet we are getting crushed on the PR front. I personally do not believe that Saddam Hussein picked up the phone and said, 'al-Qaida, attack America.'"

After denying that Iraq ordered the attack, it seems to occur to Bush that he wasn't quite specific enough in describing his straw man -- or that he didn't quite nail this week's talking point -- and so he comes back around to take a firm stand against something that exactly zero people believe.

The unfortunate part of that interview, though, was that Williams had Bush right in the crosshairs when he began to ask him what led him to read "The Stranger". Bush says that Laura recommended it, but then Williams unfortunately wanders where Bush wants -- into a discussion of the other books he's read, low expectations, etc. If only Williams had given Bush some more room to talk -- or asked a followup like "What about the book made her think you'd like it?" -- he might have gotten closer to what people really want to know, which is whether Bush actually read Camus. Sigh.

As we noted here earlier today, a new front has opened in the war on Republican corruption--Alaska. (If we don't fight them there, we'll have to fight them here.)

Some 20 search warrants were executed in a series of raids Thursday across Alaska. Not all of the locations searched have yet been identified, but the offices of six state lawmakers were among those searched, including the office of Ben Stevens, son of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), himself already in the news this week after being unveiled as the senator who put a secret hold on a bipartisan bill that would create a publicly available database of all federal grants and contracts.

Already the Alaska Affair has contributed one of this new Gilded Age's most memorable episodes. Among the items federal agents were looking for in state lawmakers' offices were garments, including hats, with the logo "Corrupt Bastards Club" or "Corrupt Bastards Caucus."

Used to be that it was the coverup that got you. Now it's the bragging.

Greg Sargent and the folks over at TPMCafe's Election Central have been doing a bang-up job covering the mid-term elections--and, with Labor Day now upon us, things are set to really get rolling.

If you haven't yet ventured over to Election Central, check it out. All the latest polling is featured on the front page, along with a convenient drop-down window towards the top of the page that lets you scroll through the various races they're covering. If you want to keep tabs on the political horse races, Election Central is your spot. And if you have scoop on any races in your neck of the woods, pass it on. Election Central will be TPM's clearinghouse for election year 2006. What a whacky campaign season it has been already--thanks in no small part to Florida. Greg has a new post up this evening about Florida's 24th, where the Republican incumbent, Tom Feeney, is touting Democrat Clint Curtis as his likely challenger even before the Democratic primary, claiming that Curtis' primary opponent is MIA.