In it, but not of it. TPM DC

In 2007 and 2008, when George Bush was still President, Democrats took a lot of heat from their supporters for their inability or unwillingness to end the war in Iraq. To the extent that they tried, though, the challenge within the party fell to leaders to convince their right flank to sign on to the efforts.

Now that a Democrat is president and the war in Iraq is (or at least seems to be) coming to an end, the situation's somewhat flipped. Obama wants to ramp up U.S. efforts in a different war and--with most Democrats in support, but without an exit strategy--the new challenge may lie in convincing their left flank to play along.

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They just can't help themselves! In a live Q&A session today, a reader asked Washington Post Congressional reporter Paul Kane a question that's been on our minds for days now. "I keep hearing the term 'budget cuts,' but the defense budget isn't being cut at all," the reader writes. "Money is being redirected to other defense priorities, but the overall budget is increasing by 4%.... So why is it that certain pols are allowed to spout this inane lie with impunity."

Kane didn't respond to that question, but he did explain that Gates is trying to spend money more wisely...albeit amid a four percent budget cut that's not actually happening.

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Here's what we know about the politics of the Pentagon budget proposal so far.

  1. Very few politicians have spoken up in support of it.
  2. Many of the people speaking out against it are portraying it inaccurately as a "soft-on-defense" spending cut.
  3. This meme has found a fairly strong foothold in the media, which has
  4. Given me quite a bit of work to do this week.


But what do experts (those people who make the defense budget and other Pentagon arcana their stock and trade) have to say?

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Earlier today, my colleague Eric Kleefeld flagged an RNC fundraising letter, written by our old friend Michael Steele, in which he floats the possibility that Barack Obama, in concert with ACORN, will try to rig the 2010 Census in order to rob Republicans of electoral votes and Congressional seats in 2012. Eric dispatched with that...thinking...very nicely, but now ACORN has weighed in for itself. "I am disappointed in Mr. Steele's repetition of lies and distortions about our work for crass fundraising purposes." Full response is below the fold.

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As you probably know, the new popular meme from the right is that President Obama is a polarizing figure, dividing the country against itself. The latest example is Karl Rove's latest column in the Wall Street Journal, "The President Has Become a Divisive Figure," and Nancy Pfotenhauer pushed it this morning on MSNBC.

The number depends on recent polls -- Rove mentions the Pew Poll specifically -- showing an enormous gap between the very high number of Democrats who approve of President Obama and the very low number of Republicans who approve.

As Greg Sargent points out, Pew's own polling director doesn't think this is the right interpretation of the numbers. And another theory has made the rounds, too, that this is because the ranks of Republicans are shrinking, leaving a much more conservative base.

I spoke to Jeffrey M. Jones, Gallup's managing editor for the poll, for some perspective on this in light of their own survey with a similar result. Jones' bottom line take on it is that Obama's policies -- which are very Democratic, in a Dem-dominated Congress -- is contributing to the polarization, but at the same time there are long-run trends in partisanship at work here, which are playing a significant role.

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Freshman Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) has told the Orlando Sentinel just how he felt about the negative reaction he experienced to a bill he introduced: A bill to require presidential candidates to submit birth certificates to the federal government.

"I expected there would be some civil debate about it, but it wasn't civil," Posey said. "Just a bunch of name-calling and personal denigration ... There is no reason to say that I'm the illegitimate grandson of an alligator."

When he first introduced his bill -- which to date has not picked up even one cosponsor -- Posey said it was about dispelling from the get-go in future campaigns the sort of rumors that were spread about President Obama, and was not aimed at denigrating the president. However, the Sentinel does point out that while Posey now says he has "no reason to question" Obama's citizenship, he did tell them at the beginning of this controversy that he wouldn't "swear on a stack of Bibles whether he is or isn't" an American.

It's been pretty obvious for a while that Democrats will continue running against George W. Bush for years to come, in both presidential and Congressional races. But how about doing it for a state Senate seat?

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that the state Democrats are running a radio ad against former Congressman Jeb Bradley, who lost re-election in a big upset in 2006 and then lost a comeback bid in 2008, and is now running in a special election for state Senator. "Haven't we had enough of George W. Bush and Jeb Bradley?" the announcer says. "On April 21, say 'no' to Jeb Bradley and the mess he and Bush made."

State GOP chairman John H. Sununu, a former governor and ex-White House Chief of Staff under George H.W. Bush, declared that it was "amazing that the Democrats again, in a race for a state Senate seat in New Hampshire, are pulling out the George Bush boogie man to run a campaign on."

A few more data points are coming in from NY-20 -- not nearly enough to give us a definite answer as to who won this thing, but definitely something to chew over. So far, the answer for Democratic candidate Scott Murphy is a definite maybe.

On the one hand, the machine recanvass is now completed in the state's official numbers, with Scott Murphy having lost some more votes and Jim Tedisco gaining. That's right -- it looks like Tedisco actually won the machine count on Election Night by 68 votes, not Murphy and his original 65-vote margin, but it took us this long to find out.

On the other hand, early hints coming in are that the absentees look quite nice for Murphy -- enough that he could very well win the race, after the nearly 7,000 absentees are counted. Some further numbers and analysis, after the jump.

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Here's a really interesting moment in state-level politics: A GOP state Representative in Texas, Betty Brown, asked a representative from a Chinese-American group if they could just adopt new names that would be "easier for Americans to deal with."

The Houston Chronicle reports that during a committee hearing on a voter-identification bill, a representative from the Organization of Chinese Americans complained that there can be confusion because many Asian-Americans will have their legal, transliterated names as well as common English names that can appear on driver's licenses and school registrations.

"Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers," said Brown, "if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?"

Um, the difficulty as it was explained here is that many Asian-Americans do just exactly that -- and that's the problem when it comes to Voter ID.

The state Dems pounced on Brown's comments, calling them "disrespectful." Brown's spokesman, meanwhile, accused the Dems of whipping up partisan feelings with racial rhetoric: "They want this to just be about race."

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