After Barack Obama wrapped up his big security and civil liberties speech last week, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) issued a strong statement of support for the President in which he drew a stark contrast between the new administration and the previous one.
But Feingold was either holding fire, or the words he'd just heard hadn't settled in immediately. Because by the end of the week, a reservation had emerged. In a gentle, but resolute, letter to Obama dated Friday, May 22, Feingold says a key aspect of Obama's outlined detention policy is likely unconstitutional.
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Obama: North Korea "Recklessly Challenging The International Community"
President Obama released a statement at about 2 a.m. ET, on North Korea's claimed nuclear test. "By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community," Obama said. "North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia. Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea's isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."
Obama's Day Ahead: Memorial Day Observance
President Obama is having breakfast with Gold Star Families this morning, at 9 a.m. ET in the State Dining Room. At 11 a.m. ET, he will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He will speak at 11:15 a.m. ET, from the Memorial Amphitheater.
Mullen: Gitmo Needs To Be Closed
Appearing on ABC's This Week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen reaffirmed his belief that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. "The concern I've had about Guantanamo in these wars is it has been a symbol, and one which has been a recruiting symbol for those extremists and jihadists who would fight us. So and I think that centers -- you know, that's the heart of the concern for Guantanamo's continued existence, in which I spoke to a few years ago, the need to close it."
Obama's Day: Camp David
President Obama has been spending the weekend at Camp David, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House tonight at 10 p.m. ET. He does not have any public events scheduled. Vice President Biden is in Wilmington, Delaware, and also does not have any scheduled public events.
Obama Thanks Troops In Memorial Day Weekend Address
In this weekend's Presidential YouTube address, President Obama recognized the troops on Memorial Day weekend -- and said that the public hasn't always fully support them, but he will change that:
"That is why I will send our servicemen and women into harm's way only when it is necessary, and ensure that they have the training and equipment they need when they enter the theater of war," said Obama. "That is why we are building a 21st century Department of Veterans Affairs with the largest single-year funding increase in three decades. It's a commitment that will help us provide our veterans with the support and benefits they have earned, and expand quality health care to a half million more veterans."
GOP Address: Barrasso Support "Red, White And Blue Jobs" For Energy
In this weekend's Republican YouTube, address Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) also thanked the troops on Memorial Day weekend -- and then proceeded to attack the Democrats on energy issues:
"Democrats have focused solely on what they call green jobs," said Barrasso. "Those are jobs from alternative energy. I support green jobs, but why discriminate? American energy means American jobs, which is why I support red, white, and blue jobs."
Norm Coleman's appeal of his defeat in the Minnesota election trial has not yet been argued before the Minnesota Supreme Court, but the two campaigns are busy litigating yet another point: How much Coleman's campaign will have to reimburse the Franken camp for legal costs under the loser-pays provision of the election law.
As of now, and as determined by the court clerk, Coleman will owe Franken about $94,000 for trial-related fees. Team Franken had asked for $161,000, which was then reduced by the clerk after the Coleman camp objected that some of these costs either didn't qualify or weren't sufficiently itemized.
This hardly begins to cover the millions that have been spent on legal fees, but it's one more thing for Coleman to worry about.
In documents that were filed by the opposing camps over the past two and a half weeks, but only just made available online, the legal teams argued over how much Coleman should have to pay -- and when he should have to pay it. Pending a hearing, which Coleman has ten days to request, that latter question is still up in the air.
Barack Obama will soon nominate a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, and the question of the month is whether that confirmation process will be smooth, or rough, or somewhere in between. The answer may depend in large part on who Obama picks, but as a proxy, many have pointed to Democrats ability (or lack thereof) to get Dawn Johnsen confirmed as the head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.
A better proxy, though, might be Obama's first federal court nominee. Obama tapped David Hamilton to fill a vacancy on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and, despite a moderate record on the bench, he's already running into some trouble.
While guest-hosting Bill Bennett's radio show today, RNC Chairman Michael Steele complained that President Obama was never thoroughly vetted by the media -- especially on the matter of his ideology and his connections to Jeremiah Wright -- because the media wanted the black candidate to win:
"He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office," said Steele. "Oh gee, wouldn't it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn't it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to live in an America with a black president."
At her weekly press briefing today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cited the bipartisan creation of a Pecora-like Financial Markets Commission as a signal achievement of the 111th Congress. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act--signed into law by the President this week--creates a 10-member panel to investigate the causes of the financial crisis. Crucially, two of those 10 members will be appointed by the Speaker and, this morning, Pelosi suggested she has her eyes on at least one Republican.
No word yet on who that Republican might be.
The restrictions on who can be appointed are actually fairly limited. The bill requires that members must be U.S. citizens with experience in fields like banking, market regulation, taxation, finance, economics, and housing; and further specifies that current members of Congress and and other government employees are automatically disqualified.
That leaves a great number of experts, frauds, and thieves eligible for service. So whether or not Pelosi picks a Republican, now might be a good time to place bets on whether GOP leaders will appoint this guy to be the commission's vice chair.
On Wednesday, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to deny President Obama the funds he needs to shutter the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The stall may be temporary, but many are convinced that it's yet another example of the tired political dynamic in post-9/11 Washington whereby Democrats cave to cowing Republicans the moment the conversation turns to terrorism.
Two weeks ago, though, the GOP got a little bit ahead of itself. "Do you know of any community in the United States of America that would welcome terrorists -- former terrorists, would-be terrorists, people trained as terrorists -- that have been incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay into any community in this country?" asked Sen. Richard Shelby (R-KY).
The question was directed at Attorney General Eric Holder, who basically punted. But it turns out there are at least a few communities in the country that might just welcome a suspected terrorist or two to stay for a while.