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

CNN anchor Tony Harris: "We have to take the president at his word when he says that the problem with Common Article 3, which prohibits outrages against personal dignity, is that it is unclear. And we can't have our interrogators trying to get information that we need to protect this country under a bit of language here that is this vague. We can do better than this."

Late update: TPM Reader JS says Harris was simply playing devil's advocate here, and that the video makes it clear, in a way the transcript does not, that "We have to take the president at his word" was not declarative.

A new report out this evening from McClatchy on the Bush Administration's Iran machinations:

Some officials at the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department said they're concerned that the offices of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney may be receiving a stream of questionable information that originates with Iranian exiles, including a discredited arms dealer, Manucher Ghorbanifar, who played a role in the 1980s Iran-Contra scandal.

Officials at all three agencies said they suspect that the dubious information may include claims that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July; that Iran's nuclear program is moving faster than generally believed; and that the Iranian people are eager to join foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers.

The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those assertions and some that contradicts all three.

The officials said they fear a replay of the administration's mishandling of what turned out to be bogus information from Iraqi exiles in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, documented earlier this month in a Senate intelligence committee report.

The article also reports that former defense officials have been told airstrike plans for Iran are being updated and that the leader of a Persian Gulf country failed to get the assurances he was seeking, during a recent visit to Washington, that the military option was off the table.

There was also this nugget:

Adding to the unease, Rumsfeld's office earlier this year set up a new Iranian directorate, reported to be under the leadership of neoconservatives who played a role in planning the Iraq war.

Current and former officials said the Pentagon's Iranian directorate has been headed by Abram Shulsky. Shulsky also was the head of the now-defunct Office of Special Plans, whose role in allegedly manipulating Iraq intelligence is under investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general.

Some officials say they fear the office, whose existence was first reported by the Los Angeles Times, is being used to funnel intelligence from Ghorbanifar, the arms dealer, and an Iranian exile group known as the Mujahedeen Khalq.

You may recall that after Republican gains in the 2002 mid-term elections, Vice President Cheney declared privately that more tax cuts were "our due." If the GOP retains control of Congress in November, will military action in Iran be their due?

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