In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Stopped by the National Governors Association meeting yesterday.

I don't want to sound like a bad David Broder parody, but you are impressed at these things by the earnest, bipartisan tone. By the time I got there, a lot of the bigger names with presidential ambitions had cleared out leaving those who wanted to sit through the Danish Energy and Climate Minister's talk on cap-and-trade. At the conference, I spoke on camera with Hawaii's Linda Lingle, Indiana's Mitch Daniels, South Dakota's Mike Rounds, Vermont's Jim Douglas and Montana's Brian Schweitzer.

My interview with Lingle should be available later. She cited an interesting exchange with Obama over those TARP recipient junkets. My videotalks with Douglas and Rounds look like something out of Cloverfield and could lead to nausea so we won't post those but I'll sum them up later.

Meanwhile, here's Daniels. I thought it interesting that the Indiana Governor, who served as George W. Bush's Director of the Office of Management and Budget, was hopeful about Obama being able to fix entitlements and was, at first blush, supportive of the "health reform is entitlement reform" concept.

Montana's Brian Schweitzer discusses a behind-the-scenes moment at the White House with President Obama as well as why the Santelli effect isn't quite catching on in Montana.

The race to find new ballots in Minnesota just keeps getting funnier.

A few weeks ago, Norm Coleman came up with a list of 4,800 rejected absentee ballots for review and possible counting, the majority of which the local newspapers noted came mostly from areas that voted for himself.

Now the Franken camp has submitted just under 1,600 ballots of their own -- to be more exact, about half the list are newly-selected ballots, mostly from pro-Franken areas, and the other half is an agreement with some ballots from Coleman's list.

And as the Star Tribune has discovered, the Franken camp has managed to pick ballots from the pro-Franken parts of the state that happened to be within Coleman's tilted list.

Is this what Minnesota has come to -- cherry-picking from the cherry-picking?

A new pair of seemingly contradictory polls show that Rahm Emanuel might just be right in his pronouncements about bipartisanship -- the public wants the Obama Administration to try, but isn't placing too high a premium on success at it.

Check out this number from the new ABC/Washington Post poll:

What's more important to you - that political leaders (stick with their positions on important issues, even if it means a lack of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans); or that political leaders (try to cooperate across party lines, even if it means compromising on important issues)?

Stick with their position 31% Try to cooperate across party lines 66%

And now take a look at this CBS/New York Times poll, as noted by Greg Sargent:

Which do you think should be a higher priority for Barack Obama right now -- working in a bipartisan way with Republicans in Congress or sticking to the policies he promised he would during the campaign?

Bipartisan 39% Sticking to his policies 56%

The same question was asked about Republicans working with Obama, and it was a pretty lopsided result: Bipartisanship with Obama 79%, versus Sticking to Policies 17%.

As with many seeming variations in the polls, this comes down to how the question is asked. People like bipartisanship as an ideal, no doubt about it. But when faced with the facts of these specific politicians, pitting the popular Obama against the unpopular Republicans, the verdict is very clear.

Chuck Schumer is calling for a crack-down on Republican governors who want to turn down part, but not all, of their state's stimulus funds -- for example, Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour refusing increased unemployment benefits -- releasing a new letter to the White House arguing that the law doesn't allow this, and asking the Obama Administration to tell governors that it's all-or-nothing:

As you know, Section 1607(a) of the economic recovery legislation provides that the Governor of each state must certify a request for stimulus funds before any money can flow. No language in this provision, however, permits the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others. To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation. It would also undermine the overall success of the bill, as the components most singled out for criticism by these governors are among the most productive measures in terms of stimulating the economy.

Schumer also takes a shot at the governors who are turning down parts of the package, accusing them of having political motives:

No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice. The composition of the package was rightly dictated by economic considerations; we should not let the implementation of the package be dictated by political considerations.

It should be noted that it would be politically untenable for a governor to turn down all of their state's haul. So if the White House were to adopt Schumer's interpretation, they would really be making these governors an offer they can't refuse.

I reported yesterday that the Democrats' new $410 billion government spending bill fails to restore the Medicaid family-planning aid provision that got unceremoniously sliced from the stimulus bill last month.

But while the spending bill -- which increases spending levels between now and October by $20.5 billion -- includes a flurry of provisions reversing controversial Bush-era policies on abstinence-based sex education.

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Washington has been dominated for weeks by the debate over forming an independent "truth and reconciliation commission" to uncover details about human rights and civil liberties abuses committed during the Bush administration. Prominent Democrats from Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT) to Rep. John Conyers (MI) to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA) have indicated their support for the concept.

But one day after Barack Obama's Pentagon was lambasted by human rights groups for reporting that conditions are humane, a coalition of liberal advocacy groups is done with taking it slow. In a statement released this morning, the 20-plus groups ask Attorney General Eric Holder to directly appoint a special prosecutor to probe former Bush administration officials.

It remains to be seen whether today's statement will move minds in Congress, where the "truth commission" plan remains controversial. Still, this call is a perfect illustration of John Judis' recent message to the American left: Expand the playing field, and do not let the White House be the most left-leaning force in the capital.

The full statement is after the jump:

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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.)