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

In the earlier post about the NYT, Lamont and Lewinksy, I wrote: "Who cares? It's not as if Lamont is touring Connecticut talking about berets and cigars."

To which a TPM reader replies:

No. You're missing this pretty badly (as did Drum). Lamont has been talking about this all spring and summer.

And this is a reporter doing a good job.

Lamont is being asked about it repeatedly because L'affair Lewinsky has long been a standard part of Lamont's attack on Lieberman.

And since the Lamont camp has basically been repeatedly making a false charge, I don't blame a reporter for wanting to pin the candidate down on the precise basis of the attacks.

If L'affair Lewinsky has been a standard Lamont attack on Lieberman, then I would be wrong to say the NYT was ginning up news on this. So, have berets and cigars been a part of the Lamont repertoire (I mean that figuratively, folks)? Shoot me the links, and I'll eat some crow. Late update: However, as a number of readers have pointed, the NYT's characterization of the email that Lamont sent Lieberman way back when does seem a tad misleading. You be the judge.

Yesterday, we touched on the conservative evangelical credentials of the director of ABC's 9/11 hackumentary. But Max Blumenthal has a rundown on the full scope of the right-wing apparatus behind the production and marketing of the miniseries:

A week later, ABC hosted LFF co-founder Murty and several other conservative operatives at an advance screening of The Path to 9/11. (While ABC provided 900 DVDs of the film to conservatives, Clinton administration officials and objective reviewers from mainstream outlets were denied them.) Murty returned with a glowing review for FrontPageMag that emphasized the film's partisan nature. "'The Path to 9/11' is one of the best, most intelligent, most pro-American miniseries I've ever seen on TV, and conservatives should support it and promote it as vigorously as possible," Murty wrote. As a result of the special access granted by ABC, Murty's article was the first published review of The Path to 9/11, preceding those by the New York Times and LA Times by more than a week.

Murty followed her review with a blast email to conservative websites such as Liberty Post and Free Republic on September 1 urging their readers to throw their weight behind ABC's mini-series. "Please do everything you can to spread the word about this excellent miniseries," Murty wrote, "so that 'The Path to 9/11' gets the highest ratings possible when it airs on September 10 & 11! If this show gets huge ratings, then ABC will be more likely to produce pro-American movies and TV shows in the future!"

I figured ABC was mostly guilty of agreeing to air a boneheaded docudrama, but it's starting to look like ABC was also complicit in a right-wing PR campaign.

I was beaten to the punch in lamenting the NYT story yesterday about Ned Lamont criticizing Joe Lieberman for criticizing Bill Clinton's conduct with Monica Lewinksy. Tangential enough for you?

The initial NYT piece makes it clear that the paper steered its on-the-record dinner conversation with Lamont to the decade-old scandal. Who cares? It's not as if Lamont is touring Connecticut talking about berets and cigars.

But the pathetic gotcha journalism continues today with--help us all--a follow-up story that Lamont actually praised Lieberman at the time for his criticisms of Clinton.

Isn't this the sort of ginned-up news that was supposed to have been ushered out with Howell Raines?


Months before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from developing plans for securing a post-war Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said "he would fire the next person" who talked about the need for a post-war plan.

Via Political Wire

Kevin Drum has more here.

Alert reader LI pointed me towards this fun little Jeb Bush smack-down from this past week.

The backstory here is that Gov. Bush is opposing an incumbent state senator in the Republican primary. The falling out between Bush and Sen. Alex Villalobos came over tuition vouchers and a school class-size amendment.

Given that history, Bush sent out a fund-raising letter for Villalobos' opponent, writing that Villalobos "has abandoned our party's principles and lost his way."

That prompted a strong reaction from fellow Republican and Villalobos supporter Sen. Nancy Argenziano. The St. Pete Times takes it from there:

Argenziano: "The governor has a history reflecting accommodation of special interests as evidenced by the agencies' contracts, and his flexible Republicanism is at odds with both America and actual Republican principles. In his heart of hearts, the governor prefers dictatorship to democracy."

Carole Jean Jordan, Florida Republican Party chairwoman: "Personal attacks on the sitting governor of Florida questioning his character are far beyond the bounds of responsible dialogue. I sincerely hope that Senator Argenziano will reconsider her comments, especially in light of all that Governor Bush has done for the people of Florida and for the Republican Party."

Argenziano: "Carole Jean Jordan can kiss my ass."

If you listen carefully, you can hear the air hissing out of the GOP balloon.

New St. Louis Post-Dispatch poll shows incumbent Sen. Jim Talent neck and neck with Democrat Claire McCaskill:

The latest Research 2000 poll for the Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV (Channel 4) found that Talent, R-Mo., has chipped away the edge held by his Democratic rival, state Auditor Claire McCaskill.

With a little more than two months left before Election Day, the two are in a statistical dead heat.

The Maryland-based firm's latest poll of 800 likely voters, conducted Monday through Thursday, found that 47 percent backed McCaskill and 46 percent supported Talent. Two percent supported Libertarian Frank Gilmour, while the remaining 5 percent were undecided.

. . .

The firm's last poll, in June, had shown McCaskill with a lead of 6 percentage points.

Talent closed the gap with a six-week TV ad blitz in which he outspent McCaskill by a ratio of 10:1.

Good point:

A Republican strategist privy to much of the polling conducted in House districts said that, at this point, it is not difficult to count enough vulnerable districts to show how Democrats can take control. But he offered a cautionary point: "I don't know of a single target race," he said, where the Republican candidate "has spent more than 20 percent of what they intend to spend. The battle is just beginning. That's what people really forget."

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.