The GOP seems to be consolidating around a message of contrition for calling Sonia Sotomayor a racist, recognizing just how politically self-defeating it's been -- even if the retractions aren't exactly genuine.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) spoke to CNN's Dana Bash, who asked him about the alleged walk-back by Newt Gingrich:
"I'm very glad he backed off. I think that's unusual, that commentators do that, and I think it was very good that he did," said Sessions. "I think that will help - help us. I think that will help us have a real good discussion about the serious issues that the nation faces and that the court faces. And there's some disagreements about that."
The thing is, as I've pointed out, Gingrich is very clearly not backing off, if one simply reads his new post beyond the first few paragraphs. Instead, he's talking out of both sides of his mouth by saying he shouldn't have called Sotomayor a racist -- and then haranguing her for making decisions based on race, and repeating this refrain: "You Read, You Decide."
In April, my colleague Zack Roth described Pat Buchanan as Washington's "crazy political uncle"--the guy who the establishment indulges, and even enjoys, despite a oeuvre that runs the gamut from aspersions on "New York Jewish money" to a rousing defense of the South Carolinian wise men who raised a confederate flag over the state capitol.
In order to get away with it though, his enablers have to overlook much of the work he does in the extremely right wing magazine Human Events. That's where "crazy Uncle Pat" often turns nasty.
"In her world," Buchanan wrote yesterday of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, "equal justice takes a back seat to tribal justice."
The Minneapolis Star Tribunereports that an interesting name has popped up among the people being speculated about as Republican candidates for governor of Minnesota, now that incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty isn't running again: Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman -- the man who is still litigating his defeat against Al Franken in the photo-finish 2008 Senate race.
David Strom, a senior fellow at the state's conservative Minnesota Free Market Institute think tank, seemed to take the idea seriously and said that running for governor could be an "attractive prospect" for Coleman. If Norm Coleman had not come out ahead on the first [vote tally] ... I think the political fallout would have been quite significant," said Strom -- but since Coleman had at some point been seen as the likely winner, he could potentially be able to salvage the situation.
If this sounds absurd, consider just how many phases this man has had in his political life. In college, he was a left-wing campus radical. He went on to become a liberal Democratic politician -- then became a Republican, and lost the 1998 gubernatorial race to a pro-wrestler. He came back in 2002, by getting elected to the Senate over Walter Mondale after the death of Paul Wellstone. And if his lawsuit against the Senate election results proves nothing else, it shows just how persistent he has always been.
The group Keystone Progress will have it's eye on Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA). Today, the online progressive network launched Specter Scorecard, with two key purposes. One is forward looking: "We'll keep you informed about key upcoming votes where Sen. Specter's vote will be vital to the success of the progressive position. We'll give you accurate information about the issue and we'll provide you with the opportunity to take action to help persuade Arlen to do the right thing."
And the other, a bit retrospective "We'll let you know how Sen. Specter has voted on important progressive issues since he made the switch. We'll display his 'progressive batting average' and keep it updated when he takes votes on those issues." Right now, based on his vote for the confirmation of Kathleen Sebelius and his vote against the 2010 budget, Specter's batting .500.
"We decided to create this page because on almost every issue we are working on at the federal level, Senator Specter was a key vote," said Michael Morrill, the Executive Director of Keystone Progress. "We thought it would be fun and informative to put all of the issues in one place."
In a sign that the Republican Party's right wing could now be attempting to walk back the over-the-top rhetoric that has been used against Sonia Sotomayor, Newt Gingrich has put up a new post on his Web site saying he shouldn't have called her a racist -- and then proceeds to go into detail about how she's a racist!
"The word 'racist' should not have been applied to Judge Sotomayor as a person," Gingrich says, "even if her words themselves are unacceptable (a fact which both President Obama and his Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, have since admitted)."
Then he goes into all sorts of details about the "wise Latina" comment, the intricacies of the New Haven firefighters case, and other objections he has to Sotomayor. At each juncture, he borrows a line from Fox News: "You Read, You Decide."
Obama Visiting Muslim World; Bin Laden Puts Out New Message Against Him
President Obama has arrived in Saudi Arabia for a multi-nation tour in the Arab world, most notably including a speech addressed to all Muslims tomorrow in Egypt. And just in time for Obama's arrival, Osama bin Laden has released a new recording, saying Obama was following in the steps of George W. Bush, and planting the seeds for "revenge and hatred."
Obama's Day: Saudi Arabia
President Obama arrived this morning in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. At 8:10 a.m. ET, he attended a welcome reception with King Abdullah at the King's farm. At 9:20 a.m. ET, he will hold a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah.
Did George W. Bush really summon his African-American secretary of state for a lesson on junior-high-level racial politics?
So reports Newsweek's Richard Wolffe in his new book on Obama, Renegade: The Making Of A President.
Bush found himself perplexed by the flap over Joe Biden describing Obama as "articulate and bright and clean" in January 2007. So, naturally, the president turned to the top U.S. diplomat, the trusted Condi Rice, to explain what the heck this was all about.
Here's the tidbit from the first chapter of Wolffe's book:
Earlier today we brought you a letter signed by conservative Manuel Miranda and dozens of other activists calling for Republicans to consider a filibuster of Sonia Sotomayor. On Hardball tonight, though, Manuel Miranda characterized things a bit differently.
A "great debate" (followed by a sixty vote requirement for confirmation. Cough.) Chris Matthews insisted that what Miranda and other Sotomayor critics really want is to slow her confirmation process down, but Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, said he'd speed the confirmation process up if the unfair attacks continue.
A new polling analysis from Gallup shows that as President Obama prepares to tour the Middle East, the Arab world now has significantly higher approval of the U.S. leadership than they did last year under George W. Bush -- though it's still far from being a thumbs-up.
In Egypt, the approval rating of the American leadership rating last year was only six percent, to 74% disapproval -- a number that has now gone up to 25%-52%. Saudi Arabia has gone from 12%-81% last to 29%-52% now; and Syria from 4%-91% to 15%-71%, among others.
It hasn't been all positive, though. In the Palestinian Territories -- which have seen a lot of political strife thanks to the recent war with Israel -- things have gone from 13%-81% to 7%-80%.
From the pollster's analysis: "Gallup Polls show that Obama will deliver his message Thursday with an arguably stronger basis of support than his predecessor ever had in many Arab countries. Nonetheless, approval remains low and underscores the work that remains as Obama seeks to pave a new, more positive way forward."
So with the Minnesota Supreme Court having heard arguments yesterday in Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the Senate election trial (check out our coverage here, here, here and here), what comes next?
I spoke today with Prof. Larry Jacobs of the University of Minnesota, and he predicts that the state Supreme Court will likely put out a ruling by the end of the month -- and that this ruling will be for Franken, based on their very sharp questioning of Coleman's lawyer yesterday. "I would take from that session that the judges may have already written a good part of their decision," said Jacobs, "because their thinking was very far along, and there were a number of them on the same page."
At that point, the outcome here really hinges on one man: Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced today that he is not running for a third term in 2010.