In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Obama: I'm An Optimist -- But Not A Sap In an interview with National Journal, President Obama said he is open to reaching across the aisle, but policy results matter. "My bottom line is not how pretty the process was," he said. "My bottom line was: Am I getting help to people who need it?" He also added: "I am an eternal optimist [but] that doesn't mean I'm a sap."

Obama Heading To U. of Chicago Campus President Obama and Vice President Biden do not have any scheduled public events for today. However, Obama is visiting the University of Chicago campus today, where he formerly taught as a part-time law professor.

Obama To Sign Stimulus On Tuesday, Discuss Foreclosures Wednesday President Obama will sign the stimulus bill on Tuesday, in a special trip to Denver -- the city where he formally accepted the Democratic nomination. Then on Wednesday he will head to Phoenix, Arizona -- John McCain's home state -- to put forward a plan to fight home foreclosures.

Axelrod: Obama To Take Action On Stem Cells David Axelrod said on Fox News Sunday that President Obama will soon take action on stem-cell research, and is considering an order to formally lift the ban on federal funding that was put in place by George W. Bush.

Burris: Blagojevich's Brother Asked Me For Contribution Last November Senator Roland Burris (D-IL) has now admitted that Rod Blagojevich's brother asked him for campaign contributions last fall, which Burris says he declined to do. Burris didn't disclose this when asked by the state impeachment committee to name any contact he'd had with Blago's people about the Senate seat.

Cantor: I Get Advice From Gingrich In a new profile in the New York Times, Eric Cantor said he has regularly sought out the advice of a previous House Republican Whip who faced similar circumstances as he did, and then put his party in the majority: Newt Gingrich. Said Cantor: "I talk to Newt on a regular basis because he was in the position that we are in: in the extreme minority."

McCain: Stimulus Bill A 'Bad Beginning' For Obama Appearing on CNN today, John McCain lambasted President Obama's performance in passing the stimulus bill. "It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people - that we would sit down together," said McCain, adding that "almost all of our proposals went down on a party-line vote."

GOP Senator Graham: 'The Country's Screwed' Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) expressed his dissatisfaction today with the legislative process that led to the stimulus bill. Appearing on This Week, Graham had this to say about Democrats dominating the process: "If I may say, if this is going to be bipartisanship, the country's screwed."

Smart take from Ron Brownstein on where we stand now after the stimulus has passed. I think it's the right take.

Many on the left seem truly despairing after this week, feeling that Obama got rolled by the right on the stimulus and the Judd Gregg withdrawal, that Washington media is arrayed against them and that things are generally lousy. I think that's unduly pessimistic. I'm persuaded by the economists who say that a bigger stimulus would have been better and I think the cuts imposed by the centrist gang were more nonsensical than not. Still...This is a $14 trillion economy and the differnece between a stimulus package in the $700 billion range and the $800 billion range is not going to be the determining factor in the fate of the republic. The fact is that Obama remains incredibly popular and he just passed as mammoth a rescue package as we've seen in generations. There are many reasons for despair at the moment but the events of this week, it seems to me anyway, are not really deserving of them.

I think Obama's efforts at bipartisanship on the stimulus and in his cabinet appointments will work to his advantage in the long run. He's not a sucker. The president knows that there will be occasions when he can pick up Republican votes and it wills erve him well.

I'm not sure I buy my colleague Josh's assessment about Washington being arrayed against Obama. Obviously there are institutional impediments to change of any kind, whether it's Reagan's or Obama's. Ours isn't a system designed for dramatic shifts in power. But the White House was pleased with the way business lobbies supported the stimulus. K Street, far from being Tom DeLay's pet, was more in the Democratic camp than not. It won't always be so but to see the culture of lobbying as being irreversably and irrevocably opposed to Democratic or progressive goals is the stuff of lampoon and caricature. Does an on-one-hand-on-the-other media continue to turn out some lame copy about who's at fault when the parties split? Sure, but so what? The important thing is not the atmosphere but the results.

I don't underestimate what lies ahead but I'm pretty amazed by how despairing the tone on the left has been in the wake of what was a very significant passage of legislation.

Obama Celebrates Stimulus Passage In New Web Address In his newest YouTube address, President Obama praises the passage of the economic stimulus bill, while also telling the public that this is only the start of a long road to economic reform and recovery:

Obama did take a bit of a shot at his Republican critics: "Now, some fear we won't be able to effectively implement a plan of this size and scope, and I understand their skepticism. Washington hasn't set a very good example in recent years. And with so much on the line, it's time to begin doing things differently."

No Obama Or Biden Events This Weekend President Obama is spending the weekend with his family in Chicago, while Vice President Biden will be in New York City and Wilmington, Delaware. They do not have any scheduled public events today or tomorrow.

Coleman Campaign: We're Still In It -- And It'll Take A Long Time The Coleman campaign says yesterday's court ruling -- which forbade the counting of various categories of rejected absentee ballots -- has only reduced them to a pool of 3,500 remaining envelopes out of their original set of 4,800. Coleman attorney/spokesman Ben Ginsberg also said the court's imposition of strict requirements for newly-admitted ballots could lengthen the trial: "There may be fewer ballots to look at, but proving them up may take longer."

NYT: Obama Finds Out Bipartisanship Isn't So Easy The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has discovered in the stimulus debates just how difficult it will be to craft bipartisan legislation with the Republican opposition. David Axelrod said the White House has "learned some lessons from this," but is happy with the result, while former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta predicted that Republican support was "wishful thinking" that won't be coming to pass: "If you're going to do this at the moment of greatest need, at the height of his popularity, what sort of thing would get you to change?"

House GOP: We Are Not The Party Of 'No' House Republicans are denying the assertion that they are simply a party opposed to the Democrats' agenda -- instead, they are offering better ideas that aren't being adopted. "I said on the opening day that we wouldn't be the party of 'no' and we haven't been," John Boehner told reporters yesterday. He later added: "If they are not willing to take any of our ideas to work with us in any way - you can't blame us, they are the majority."

Poll: Public Approves Direct Negotiations With Iran A new Gallup poll shows large public support for direct diplomacy with Iran: 56% for it, to 38% against it -- and with even 48% of Republicans supporting it. This is not to say that Americans view Iran favorably, with only 12% favorable and 80% unfavorable, but it does show a large majority in favor of Obama's position of direct engagement with adversaries.

Obama Web Strategist Advising Australian Labor Party Former Obama Web guru Ben Self, founder of Blue State Digital, is following in the footsteps of other American political advisers who break through in a big way. Self is now consulting for an ideologically-aligned party in another county, the Australian Labor Party. (Note that whenever he will be working in Australian politics, Self won't be doing anything to advance liberal policies.)

The Franken campaign just held a conference call with reporters -- quite understandably celebrating a huge win in tonight's ruling by the Minnesota election court, which rejected out of hand counting a large number of absentee ballots that Norm Coleman had been seeking to put into play.

Lead Franken lawyer Marc Elias said that the court has essentially ruled on all 19 disputed categories of rejected absentee ballots -- explicitly against Coleman on 13 of them, and the others are revealed between the lines. "There are four additional categories that the court didn't address either way, but the reasoning of the court would suggest that we also prevailed on those," Elias said. "So there are a total of 17 of the 19 that it appears we've prevailed on, either explicitly or implicitly in the reasoning."

Elias said the Franken campaign appears to have lost on two categories where they wanted some permissiveness, relating to registration issues -- but those rulings were consistent with the others. All in all, he counts this as an extraordinary victory, making Coleman's job of putting additional ballots into the count immensely more difficult.

Read More →

The Minnesota election court has just handed down a very important ruling that will determine the entire course of the rest of this trial -- and it's very bad news for Norm Coleman, cutting off multiple avenues he was pursuing in order to get more votes for himself thrown into the count.

Yesterday the court heard arguments regarding the campaigns' positions on 19 categories of rejected absentee ballot envelopes, and whether the voters should be cut sufficient slack as to allow the ballot in. The court has now handed down a ruling on 13 of those categories -- and it's an emphatic No.

Coleman has currently been allowed to argue for the inclusion of about 4,800 ballots, which were selected from the total pool of over 11,000 rejected votes and just so happen to come largely from his own strongholds. What this ruling means is that he is going to have to significantly chop that list down for the remainder of this trial.

This is not the final word on this question -- Coleman will almost certainly appeal it -- but it's been a very rough day.

Read More →

I understand that you must stand for re-election as a Democrat in the very conservative state of Oklahoma. But when you said this week that the stimulus bill

became a Democrat bill and not an American bill, because [Obama] didn't use any of the Republican ideas

what were you talking about? In addition to your fondness for using the offensive, GOP-created term for your own party, you appear to believe that "American" bills are only those that Republicans help write.

SEIU National Political Director Jon Youngdahl makes a good point, saying in a statement today that you "apparently [need] a dictionary lesson in what's 'American,' and what's just 'hypocritical,'" but he may be too kind in this case. You voted this afternoon to approve the very stimulus bill you believe is un-American.

Please take some time to re-think this. And while you're doing so, repeat after me: "Democrat-IC, Democrat-IC..."

Love, Elana

In an interview with, Norm Coleman bemoaned the political limbo status created by the Minnesota election trial. That is, he lamented that he is unable to take his seat and serve in the Senate right now.

"It's frustrating," said Coleman, "because you would hope as I humbly do that you have something to add to the debate and be apart of the discussion, both back in DC and also back home."

Remember that Minnesota is currently short one Senator, as the seat is vacant because of Coleman's lawsuit and a threatened filibuster by Republicans against provisionally seating Al Franken.

If you need proof of how obsessive the right-wing media gets about Democratic congressional recess, look at the "story" that was leading the Drudge Report for most of the day.

Oh, that Speaker Pelosi and her high-class, jet-setting habits! She's just the Antoinette-ish type who would oppose health care for disadvantaged kids or leave the middle class in the dust. The headline of "Hurry, Fellas, Let's Vote..." adds a nice ring of subtle sexism.

Yes, Pelosi is spending the recess meeting with Italian officials about the global financial crisis and addressing the nation's legislature. But three Republican officials are taking their own weekend trip to discuss NATO issues in Italy and Austria, as the WaPo reported. Congressional delegations abroad are a fact of recess life, and both parties embark on them.

If you want to see an extreme example of a lawmaker racing out of town after the stimulus vote, try Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN). She could be heard by reporters outside the House chamber trying to book a flight out of D.C. before 3pm.

Whenever the Democratic Congress leaves town for a recess, GOPers like to take potshots based on the false notion that lawmakers are headed off for "vacations." (This past August's bizarre House Republican protest over high gas prices, in which the empty chamber floor was commandeered for the cameras was a perfect example.)

But in reality, lawmakers from both parties will use next week's recess to promote their policy goals, meet with constituents, raise money for their re-elections, and generally work their tails off. For anyone wondering what Democrats will be up to, here's an inside peek at caucus chairman Rep. John Larson's (D-CT) suggestions for promoting the stimulus bill.

The unstated goal of documents like these: generating positive news coverage of the economic recovery plan on a local level.

Looking through the vote tally at the seven House Democrats who opposed the final stimulus bill today, you see reliably right-leaning members of the party's Blue Dog Coalition: Reps. Heath Shuler (D-NC), Bobby Bright (D-AL), Walt Minnick (D-ID), Pete DeFazio (D-OR) ... hold on.

DeFazio is a stalwart liberal and member of the Progressive Caucus. Why would he vote against the bill his party and president backed so strongly?

As DeFazio explained following the vote, he believed in the bill's education and transportation goals -- though he has long decried the stimulus' shortchanging of infrastructure relative to highways. "I couldn't justify borrowing money for tax cuts," he said. Tax breaks make up more than 35% of the final stimulus bill.

"Come on, school construction?" he asked, visibly frustrated that money for that goal had been sliced from the bill. "Why did that have to come out for more tax cuts?"

When asked about the need to bridge the gap between the House and Senate bills in order to win over the three GOP votes needed to prevent a filibuster, DeFazio was as blunt as can be: "We all know that's a convenient artifice from the Senate ... do away with the filibuster or have a real filibuster. It's convenient for [the Senate]. It gives them clout to push around the House and the president."

Whether you agree with DeFazio or not, liberal Democrats have rarely felt free to buck their party on major votes in recent years. It remains to be seen how the Obama administration and DeFazio's leadership will view his stance.