Thousands of right-wing activists across this country rang in the Independence Day holiday with yet another round of tea-party protests against President Obama, inadvertently highlighting an interesting divide in the Republican Party. On the one hand are the hard-line activists who attend these things, versus the more mainstream politicians who want to win elections and are looking for their votes -- and are running into all manner of conflicts as a result, or finding themselves taking on some rather interesting policy stances along the way.
Most notably, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, was booed at the event in Austin -- on the grounds that he's part of the problem in Washington, having voted for the Wall St. bailout last fall. "I'm not part of Washington," Cornyn said in his own defense. "I happen to work there, but on behalf of Texas, and I can vote 'no' on these reckless spending bills, on the refusal to cut taxes."
Gov. Rick Perry -- who famously seemed to raise the specter of Texas seceding from the union during the April Tax Day protests -- was also booed at the same Austin event as Cornyn. Attendees saw him as yet another tax-hiking tyrant, because he supports toll roads in order to relieve traffic congestion.
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At least two of the key senators writing health care reform legislation seem to think a pre-August recess deadline for passing a bill in the Senate is too ambitious. Speaking on Face the Nation on Sunday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, said a completed Senate bill might have to wait until September. "If we can reach a compromise, we can get this done by Aug. 8 or at least get it out of committee by Aug. 8," Grassley said.
Likewise, Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT)--who has taken the lead on health care reform efforts in the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, doesn't sound terribly optimistic. According to Roll Call, Dodd "signaled late last week that Democratic leaders do not expect a bill to clear the Senate in the next five weeks." Instead, Dodd thinks a more realistic goal is to merge the HELP and Finance committee bills before recess and debate the bill on the floor after Labor Day--a process that, if all goes smoothly, may still take two weeks.
All of which calls into doubt whether a final bill will reach President Obama's desk by mid-October, as he's requested.
Rep. Pete King (R-NY), a potential Senate candidate in 2010 against either incumbent Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand or Rep. Carolyn Maloney -- it depends on who wins that primary -- has taken to YouTube to send a strong message about media coverage of Michael Jackson, as opposed to coverage of real heroes like our servicemen and women, teachers in rough neighborhoods, policemen, firefighters, doctors and nurses, etc.:
"Let's knock out the psychobabble, this guy was a pervert, he was a child molester, he was a pedophile, and to be giving this much coverage to him day in and day out, what does it say about us and our country?" said King. "I just think it's too - we're too politically correct. No one wants to stand up and say, 'We don't need Michael Jackson.' You know, he died, he had some talent. Fine. But people are dying everyday. There's men and women are dying in Afghanistan. Let's give them the credit they deserve."
FBI: Palin Not Under InvestigationThe Anchorage Daily Newsreports that the FBI has taken the unusual step of affirmatively declaring that Sarah Palin is not under investigation. "We are not investigating her," said FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez. "Normally we don't confirm or deny those kind of allegations out there, but by not doing so it just casts her in a very bad light. There is just no truth to those rumors out there in the blogosphere."
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama arrived in Moscow this morning. At 6 a.m. ET (2 p.m. local time), Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Russian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. At 6:50 a.m. ET, he met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, with an expanded working meeting at 7:25 a.m. ET. At 10:30 a.m. ET, they will hold a joint press conference. At 11:30 a.m. ET, Obama and the First Lady will meet with U.S. Embassy personnel. At 12:35 p.m. ET, the Obamas will have dinner with President Medvedev and Russian First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva.
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) has now all but officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate. Over the holiday weekend, the retired Rear Admiral--who's been dancing around the question for weeks now--continued a listening tour of every county in Pennsylvania.
At a stop in Northampton County yesterday, he spoke of his candidacy as a fait accompli. "This isn't something I wanted to do four months ago, but it has to be done," Sestak told Lehigh Valley Live. "Someone has to be in this race that's credible."
In late May, TPMDC broke the news that Sestak had been raising money from supporters for an intended Senate primary run against freshly minted Democrat Arlen Specter. Sestak has been critical of Specter since Specter switched parties earlier this spring, calling him an unreliable Democrat and questioning his fitness to serve another term.
Palin Attacks "Main Stream Media" Not Understanding Her Resignation
Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) released a statement yesterday to comment further on her decision to resign -- and again, she attacks the media for going after her. "The response in the main stream media has been most predictable, ironic, and as always, detached from the lives of ordinary Americans who are sick of the 'politics of personal destruction,'" Palin writes. "How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."
Obama's Day Ahead
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will depart from the White House tonight at 8:15 p.m. ET, leaving for Obama's overseas trip this week starting with Moscow, Russia.
Obama Recognizes Fourth Of July -- And Goes After His Naysayers
In this weekend's Presidential YouTube Address, President Obama paid tribute to the Independence Day Holiday, and the spirit of those who built America. Furthermore, he tied this into his own agenda on energy, health care and other issues, and against his critics who say he's doing too much:
"These naysayers have short memories," said Obama. "They forget that we, as a people, did not get here by standing pat in a time of change. We did not get here by doing what was easy. That is not how a cluster of 13 colonies became the United States of America. We are not a people who fear the future. We are a people who make it. And on this July 4th, we need to summon that spirit once more."
McCain Stands With Iranians In GOP's Independence Day Address
In this week's Republican Address we have President Obama's rival in last year's general election, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who also paid tribute to the founding ideals of the United States. For his part, McCain took the opportunity to stand with the dissidents of Iran
"They do not ask us to arm them or come to their assistance with anything other than public declarations of solidarity, and public denunciations of the tyrants who oppress them. We have a moral obligation to do so," said McCain. "There are those among us who warn that a strong and unequivocal declaration of moral support for Iranians would be used by the cruel regime in power there to convince their subject people that the United States is behind the civil unrest they have attempted to hide from the world. But the regime will make that claim no matter what we say or do."
The Senate Judiciary Committee has posted documents to its website relating to Judge Sonia Sotomayor's tenure on the board of a group called LatinoJustice PRLDEF (formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund).
The release comes on a holiday Friday after the committee's ranking member, Sen Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called the group "extreme" and demanded the White House release them.
Yesterday, White House Counsel Greg Craig sent a letter to Sessions, calling his demands out of line. "You have now individually sought from a third party, LatinoJustice PRLDEF...documents that were not written, edited, reviewed, or approved by Judge Sotomayor," Craig wrote.
The documents you are now seeking are not relevant to her nomination, just as similar documents not written, edited, or approved by past nominees have not been viewed as relevant to the Committee's consideration of those nominees.
Anti-Sotomayor groups are no doubt poring over the memos, looking for controversial details, and, though the White House is quick to point out that Sotomayor isn't responsible for them, their timing and defensiveness indicates they may be concerned that some of the papers will be politically embarrassing.
Sotomayor's supporters and the White House have compared LatinoJustice PRLDEF to the NAACP Legal Fund and similar groups. For his part, Sessions once called the NAACP "un-American."
If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It's an enormous gamble - but it could be a shrewd one.
After all, she's freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues - and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska. I suppose she'll take a hit for leaving the governorship early - but how much of one? She's probably accomplished most of what she was going to get done as governor, and is leaving a sympatico lieutenant governor in charge.
And haven't conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she'll try to be that. She may not succeed. Everything rests on her talents, and on her performance. She'll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she'll have to perform well.
All in all, it's going to be a high-wire act. The odds are against her pulling it off. But I wouldn't bet against it.
The Alaska Democratic Party has released this statement on Sarah Palin's resignation:
"Alaskans are dismayed yet not surprised that Governor Palin is abandoning her obligations to our great state. Sarah Palin's decision to step down as governor is a shock to Alaskans, coming at a time when leadership is needed secure a gas pipeline and address rising unemployment. Palin's lack of commitment to her sworn obligation to serve her term to the best of her ability is a betrayal to all Alaskans," said Patti Higgins, Chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.