In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Obama's Day Ahead: The First Speech To Congress President Obama is meeting at 10:30 a.m. ET with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, the first foreign leader to come to the United States to meet with Obama. At 4:30 p.m., Obama and Vice President Biden are meeting with Robert Gates. And then at 9 p.m. Obama will address a joint session of Congress to lay out his budget -- effectively his first State of the Union Address.

Biden Meeting With Hillary This Morning Vice President Biden is meeting with Hillary Clinton for breakfast at the Naval Observatory, probably to discuss Hillary's recent overseas trip to Asia. He will then head to the White House to attend Obama's morning meetings with advisors, and will be at the Capitol tonight for Obama's speech.

Polls Show Continued High Approval Before Speech The new CBS/New York Times poll gives President Obama a 63% approval rating and 22% disapproval, going into his first speech to Congress, and the new ABC/Washington Post poll put his approval at 68%-25%.

Poll: Public Expects Good Speech A new CNN poll says that 28% of Americans expect Obama's speech tonight to be excellent, 44% expect it to be good, 19% say it will be okay and only 8% believe it will be poor or terrible. These high expectation are down slightly from where they were for his inauguration speech -- and like his approval ratings themselves, the decline seems to be fueled by Republicans dropping off as the honeymoon effect wears off.

Jindal Giving GOP Response Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA), who has rejected a small portion of the stimulus money that was headed for his state, has been tapped to give the Republican response to Obama's address. As the Washington Post points out: "In picking a governor to deliver tonight's speech, GOP leaders are acknowledging that without a majority in Congress, the big ideas necessary to rebuild their party are likely to come from state capitols."

Ted Kennedy To Be Absent From Obama's Speech Ted Kennedy will not be attending Obama's speech to Congress tonight. A spokesperson told The Hill that Kennedy is staying involved in with health care policy, and is in "constant" contact with the White House and Congressional leaders and holding regular meeting on health reform.

NRCC To Members: We'll Help Those Who Help Themselves Roll Call reports that the NRCC is seriously retooling its program for endangered incumbents, with the message that members will have to actively raise money for themselves if they expect the national party to also help out. An NRCC source told the paper: "If we are serious about winning elections, then there needs to be a commitment to increasing the level of accountability and putting an end to political bailouts."

Utah GOP Governor: Republican Leadership In D.C. "Inconsequential" In an interview with the Washington Times, Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) ridiculed the Republican leadership in Washington: "I have not met them. I don't listen or read whatever it is they say because it is inconsequential - completely."

The Minnesota election court handed down two rulings tonight, one of which should be regarded as an unambiguous defeat for Norm Coleman -- and the other should probably leave Al Franken cautiously optimistic.

First, the court completely denied Coleman's motion to launch a class-action suit on behalf of all 11,000-plus voters whose absentee ballots have still not been counted. The court found that the state's election laws make clear that individuals may apply to have their ballots counted, but that groups cannot be created and represented for this purpose.

The court also handed down a summary judgment on Franken's efforts to get some of his own votes counted, and they've given him a go-ahead on 12 individuals to be accepted and counted at a later time. And to give you an idea of how strict a standard they're using here, there are 38 others on Franken's list they're refusing to count at this time.

That kind of stringency isn't very good news for Coleman, as he's trying to get a lot of his own votes in that the court hasn't ruled on yet. And considering he's the one who's actually behind right now, this question has a lot more urgency for him.

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Here's some provisionally good news from Minnesota. Coleman spokesman/attorney Ben Ginsberg told reporters at a press conference that they expect to be done presenting their case by the end of this week.

Ginsberg did add, however, that this announcement came "with all the caveats about -- heck, I don't know what'll end up happening."

They don't expect to be calling any more rejected voters, though -- probably a good move, considering the judges singled out one of their witnesses as an example of an illegal voter.

After Coleman rests, the ball will be in Franken's court. And after Franken rests, we'll get a decision. And then...the appeals!

(Ginsberg press conference via The Uptake.)

The Minnesota election trial centered on a major claim of the Coleman campaign, claiming that absentee ballots were accidentally double-counted and gave an illegitimate leg-up to Al Franken.

The problem for them, though, is that this possibility came about under procedures to which they had agreed.

This all goes back to a procedure in Minnesota to make duplicates of absentee ballots that were too damaged to run through the machines on Election Night. After discussions with the two campaigns, state Elections Director Gary Poser created a rule for how to sort them in the recount. Unfortunately, scattered cases of negligence in creating or labeling the duplicates and originals introduced a bunch of problems.

Lead Coleman lawyer Joe Friedberg questioned Poser about all of this, and even brought up an e-mail where Poser admitted to an unhappy county election official: "I don't disagree, I lost that battle."

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The scene was incredible really, a press conference with members of Congress and think tankers instead of reporters asking questions. I've really never seen anything like it and whether it and events like it can really change the tone in Washington, of course, remains to be seen. One indication it won't? This statement from Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare--the subject of much discussion at the Fiscal Responsibility Summit.

"Fixing America's long-term fiscal problems is a major issue, so I very much appreciate attention being paid to finding solutions. I hope today's summit marks the beginning of the kind of dialog, education and cooperation it will take to achieve a sustainable budget policy.

"I'll be working in the Senate as the Ranking Member of the Finance Committee and a senior member of the Budget Committee for fiscal responsibility and an honest accounting of how Congress and the administration tax and spend. The current administration inherited a $1 trillion deficit, and in just the first few weeks it added another $1 trillion to the debt with its economic stimulus bill. The bill included new and expanded entitlement programs, and if they're made permanent, they'll add at least another $2 trillion to the deficit.

"Looking ahead, we're hearing from some people that we can't reform government entitlement programs until we reform the entire health care system. The problems with our health care system need fixing, but for a lot of people, health care reform is code for spending more, not less. American taxpayers are being asked to swallow a lot right now, and it brings to mind the old joke about Wimpy's hamburgers. Wimpy said, 'I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.' There's too much of that kind of attitude in Congress and the White House today."

Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) has issued a statement apologizing for his public pronouncement at a local GOP dinner in Kentucky, that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be dead in nine months:

"I apologize if my comments offended Justice Ginsburg," said Bunning. "That certainly was not my intent. It is great to see her back at the Supreme Court today and I hope she recovers quickly. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."


The Louisville Courier-Journal reported over the weekend that Bunning had told the Hardin County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner that he supports the appointment of conservative judges -- an issue that will be even more important because of Ginsburg's cancer. "Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after (being diagnosed) with pancreatic cancer," Bunning said.

Late Update: Here's the audio from Saturday night, courtesy of the Courier-Journal:

The White House fiscal responsibility summit and the recently passed economic stimulus law continue to take up much of the capital's attention today -- but don't forget the $410 billion spending bill that the House is slated to approve by Thursday. The government is technically only funded until the first week of March, meaning that time is short to wind up the 2009 appropriations cycle.

Want to know what's in the massive spending measure? You can download each section of the bill right here.

But a more important question might be what's not in the 2009 spending bill. The Medicaid family-planning aid that was removed from the stimulus amid Republican attacks, for one, is nowhere to be found in the Health and Human Services title of the 2009 spending measure.

One wonders if that absence will draw fire from women's health advocates, some of whom believed the family-planning provision could make a quick comeback after it got dumped earlier this month. When GOP governors such as Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty are using Medicaid family-planning money as an excuse to cut their budgets, how can congressional conservatives get away with slamming the program as taxpayer-funded abortions?

Five years after that whole mess over forged documents about then-President Bush's service in the National Guard, CBS News sure seems to be trying awfully hard to convince the GOP that they aren't a Dem outlet.

Here's a very interesting piece of information about Jeff Ballabon, the Republican lobbyist and political strategist who was just hired by CBS News to be the new CBS News senior vice president for communications. During the 2008 election, Ballabon wasn't shy about courting Jewish voters and telling them just how dangerous Barack Obama is when it comes to Israel.

Here's what he told the Orthodox paper Hamodia:

Obama is incredibly dangerous. Not because he is evil, but because he is naive. Agreeing to meet -- without any pre-conditions -- with the terror-supporting president of Iran shows his naivete. And even his Jewish advisors want to pressure Israel to divide Yerushalayim and to make sacrifices of defensive positions against the will of the military and security experts in Israel. They want desperately to appease the UN, the Europeans, the Arabs.


On the bright side, Ballabon is denying an allegation that he called Democrats evil. Greg Sargent reports:

"I never said Democrats are evil," he told me by phone just now. "My mother is a Democrat."

Asked whether he would have any impact at all on editorial content at CBS, Ballabon said: "No."

But Ballabon wouldn't comment further, and he declined to say whether he still thinks Obama is "incredibly dangerous."

When an early copy of the agenda for today's White House fiscal summit leaked out on Friday, I half-jokingly questioned the wisdom of choosing Bill Lynn -- a former senior lobbyist for defense giant Raytheon who had to get a waiver from administration ethics rules to join the Pentagon -- to help lead a session on responsibility in contracting and procurement.

Now the final list of speakers at today's summit has been released, and guess who mysteriously disappeared from the list? Instead of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Transportation Secretary (and earmark fan) Ray LaHood, and Lynn, the Procurement session will now be led by Napolitano, Rahm Emanuel, and Jacob Lew.

Lew, incidentally, comes to the administration from Citigroup, where he headed an alternative investments unit that "ran up hundreds of millions of dollars in losses last year on [an] esoteric collection of investments ... even as they collected seven-figure salaries and bonuses," as the New York Times reported earlier this month.

I hate to ask the same question twice, but on a day when Citigroup is generating headlines like this one, is Lew the best choice to replace Lynn on this "fiscal responsibility" panel?

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