In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Yesterday, the Service Employees International Union ran an ad in The Times-Picayune hitting Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) for his record on issues important to workers. You can see the ad here, but the gist is that Vitter has voted against an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the Obama budget, and the stimulus package.

In response (and without addressing the votes cited in the ad) Vitter seems to have protested a bit too much,"When it comes to attempting to buy elections and strong arm conservatives to accept outrageous bailouts and anti-business legislation, the SEIU is one of the most effective weapons the liberals have at their disposal," Vitter wrote in a fundraising email to supporters obtained by TPMDC. "I will not stand for this outrageous disposal of Louisiana's worker and employer rights, and I'm fighting against it with everything I've got."

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), in his role as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is now reaching out to right-wing activists upset with the national party's endorsement of moderate Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida, who supported the stimulus bill, against a more conservative candidate in the primary for the open GOP-held Senate seat.

In a new post at, Cornyn sets out to explain that Crist represents the strongest chance for Republicans to hold this seat -- and to give a basic political science lesson in how the American two-party system works:

Some believe that we should be a monolithic Party; I disagree. While we all might wish for a Party comprised only of people who agree with us 100 percent of the time, this is a pipedream. Each Party is fundamentally a coalition of individuals rallying around core principles with some variations along the way. My job as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is to recruit candidates who have the best chance of winning and holding seats - and to do so in as many states as possible.

"To supporters, Judge Sotomayor's vigorous questioning of the Bush administration's position in the [torture case of Canadian Maher Arar], showcases some of her strengths," write the New York Times' Adam Liptak and Jo Becker, "But to detractors, Judge Sotomayor's sharp-tongued and occasionally combative manner -- some lawyers have described her as "difficult" and "nasty" -- raises questions about her judicial temperament and willingness to listen."

Late last month, in a case which may ultimately result in the elimination of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which requires certain, mostly southern jurisdictions to pre-clear changes in electoral policy with the Justice Department), Justices Roberts and Kennedy went on quite a tear.

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As if to magnify what are already major differences between elected Republicans and conservative activists on the question of Sonia Sotomayor, check out what conservative senator (and chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Judiciary Comittee member and former Texas State Supreme Court Justice) had to say on NPR yesterday.

"I think it's terrible. This is not the kind of tone that any of us want to set when it comes to performing our constitutional responsibilities of advice and consent."

Republican leaders may not have as much sway over their own interest groups as Democratic leaders do over their, so don't expect the attacks to stop. But it's a bold statement. He even lashed out at Newt Gingrich and the unassailable Rush Limbaugh.

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Bush: "The Information We Got Saved Lives" Former President George W. Bush spoke last night in Michigan, defending the legality of his administration's interrogation methods. "I made the decision, within the law," Bush explained, "to get information so I can say to myself, 'I've done what it takes to do my duty to protect the American people.' I can tell you that the information we got saved lives." He later added that nothing he was saying was meant to criticize his successor: "I wish him all the best."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be meeting with Vice President Biden at 9:45 a.m. ET, in addition to his regular daily meetings with advisers. He will be speaking on securing the country's cyber-infrastructure, where he is expected to announce the appointment of a new "cyber czar," at 10:55 a.m. ET from the East Room. At 2:30 p.m. ET, he will attend a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA Headquarters.

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Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) spoke last night at a dinner of the Foreign Policy Association, where he lambasted former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech last week for dishonestly claiming that the interrogation techniques he approved were not torture, and were not connected to Abu Ghraib -- saying that Cheney "bore false witness":

"I do so as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which recently completed an 18-month investigation into the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody, and produced a 200-page bipartisan report, which gives the lie to Mr. Cheney's claims," said Levin. "I do so because if the abusive interrogation techniques that he champions, the face of which were the pictures of abuse at Abu Ghraib, if they are once more seen as representative of America, our security will be severely set back."

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Let's begin this post with the caveat that Sonia Sotomayor is overwhelmingly likely to be confirmed as the Supreme Court's next Associate Justice.

That said, it'll still be fun--and possibly educational--to watch those few conservative Democrats (particularly Democrats from states with small Hispanic populations) who often tack right for electoral reasons, or who seem, from time to time, to take great joy in their own obstinance.

Here's what they've said so far, in official statements:

  • Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK): Nothing.

  • Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT): Nothing.

  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT): Nothing.

  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN): Nothing.

  • Sen. Blanch Lincoln (D-AR): Amid a mostly positive statement, "I believe the people of Arkansas and our nation deserve a Supreme Court Justice who is able to interpret and apply the law fairly without political favor or bias."

  • Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR): Judge Sonia Sotomayor has impeccable credentials and an extraordinary American story. It is also critically important that she possess the proper judicial temperament and the ability to be fair and impartial. I believe this criterion is essential; activist judges have no place on the highest court of the land. That's why I plan to carefully review Judge Sotomayor's judicial record and philosophy as the Senate confirmation process advances."

  • Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND): After praising her credentials and her intellect, Conrad added, for unclear reasons, "We need justices who will impartially interpret the law and the Constitution and have a record of sound judgment."

  • Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE): Nelson--who's been a bit...curmudgeonly about another Obama nominee, says he seeks judicial nominees who, "follow the law, rather than manipulate the law to promote an activist agenda." He says, "My main test has always been and remains: Will the nominee follow the law and not make law to fit his or her views?"

Of the senators on this list, only Baucus and Conrad were around to vote on Sotomayor last time she was a judicial nominee--and both supported her. We'll pay attention as their views evolve.

I just got off the phone with Lisa Navarrete, vice president of the National Council of La Raza, getting her take on Tom Tancredo's assertion that the longstanding Hispanic civil rights group is the "Latino KKK" and that their slogan is "All for the race, nothing for the rest."

"It's not the first time for Mr. Tancredo when he doesn't know what the heck he's talking about," said Navarrete. "I don't know what he bases the assertion on, since he didn't provide any facts or evidence to that effect, as to why he calls us the Latino KKK. But I can assure you our motto or logo as he phrased it, is not what he says it is. It's not the motto of any Latino group."

"We've urged the [Republican] party to not allow people like Tom Tancredo to dominate the debate, as he has on the immigration issue," she added. "And he has, and it's cost them."

According to Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) told a gathering of labor and health care advocates that he's now open to the idea of a public health insurance option.

"The good news for all sides involved is that he's open minded," said Barry Rubin, the former Executive Director for the Nebraska Democratic Party, who was in the meeting. "He's not closed minded about a public option."

Jane Kleeb, a top Democratic powerbroker in Nebraska, said Nelson's openness to a public option was the biggest takeaway from the meeting.

"He made it clear that he is open to the public option. That's not a line in the sand where he says it must be off the table for him to move forward on health care reform," she said.

That's a pretty abrupt about face. Just a couple weeks ago, he was perhaps the only member of the Democratic caucus who said he outright opposed the idea, calling it a "deal breaker."

Of course, it would've been difficult for Nelson to say he'd foreclosed on the issue in front of this particular audience. But that doesn't mean he hasn't genuinely changed his position.

The right-wing fear-mongering against Sonia Sotomayor just keeps getting more and more comical. The latest grievance is her membership in the National Council of La Raza, a large national organization that bills itself as "the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States."

Former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), who spent his career in Congress calling for a moratorium on immigration, appeared on CNN to lambaste Sotomayor for belonging to a group whose name would translate as "The Race," made the false claim that La Raza has the motto, "All for the race, nothing for the rest," and bashed it as being "a Latino KKK without the hoods or the nooses."

The KKK without the hoods or the nooses? Um, those hoods and nooses do make a really important difference!

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