In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The CIA is now walking back Director Leon Panetta's comments that former Vice President Dick Cheney may be hoping for the country to be attacked by terrorists again.

"The Director does not believe the former Vice President wants an attack," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said in a statement to CNN. "He did not say that. He was simply expressing his profound disagreement with the assertion that President Obama's security policies have made our country less safe. Nor did he question anyone's motives."

For the record, here's what Panetta said to the New Yorker about Cheney's recent speeches. "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue," said Panetta. "It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."

After the New York Republicans won a state Senate majority in a fantastic feat of party-switching last week. they have now lost it. And now...nobody has the majority. It's a 31-31 tie.

State Sen. Hiram Monserrate, one of two Democrats who switched his organization vote to the Republicans, has now switched back to the Democrats -- and the old Democratic leader Malcolm Smith is now out of his leadership office, and has been replaced by a more amenable choice, state Sen. John Sampson.

At the same time the other Democrat who switched, Pedro Espada, insists that he is still Senate president -- the office that he, Monserrate and the 30 Republicans voted him into -- and that Monserrate still supports him.

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Indigo Journal, a liberal blog in South Carolina, reports that GOP operative Mike Green posted a racist joke about President Obama on his Twitter account over the weekend -- and in a brief conversation with TPM, Green did not deny it. (Late Update: Green has now admitted it in a new set of Tweets, and apologized. See new section after the jump.)

Green posted this, then deleted it some time later:


That post is not currently on Green's actual Twitter page, but Indigo Journal has what purports to be a screenshot, documenting it from when it was still up. I called Green to ask if this was true. "I don't know," said Green. "Let me give you a call back." I also asked Green if anyone else writes on his Twitter account, or if it's just him. Again, he said he would have to call back. He has not yet called back.

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Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich made a special public appearance over the weekend -- at the Second City production about himself, "Rod Blagojevich, Superstar":

"What they say to you before you go out on stage I thought is very interesting and that is 'we got your back,'" Blagojevich told the audience. "I've been in politics and that's not anything anybody said to me."

This sort of thing does have a precedent. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating would often attend performances of a comedic opera about himself, which was a tribute both to his policies and his monumental ego and vanity -- and he'd even get up and dance during the curtain call.

After an initial wave of blistering attacks on Sonia Sotomayor that went so far as to call her a "racist," it's now become apparent that the leading Republicans have reined in the more ferocious barbs -- if only, perhaps, because they recognize the political peril of alienating Hispanics and independents.

While most elected Republicans, especially Senators, had eschewed the harsh language coming from the party's right, even some of the more vocal opponents, like Newt Gingrich, seem to have acknowledged at least implicitly the political damage the attacks were doing to the GOP.

It's worth noting that a recent Ipsos/McClatchy poll suggested that Republicans could end up doing themselves a lot of harm among Hispanic voters if they overwhelmingly oppose Sotomayor.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appears to not be ruling out a potential bid for Governor of Minnesota. An aide had previously said Bachmann wasn't interested, but apparently that door is still open.

"It would have to be if I felt like I was supposed to do it and right now I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be," Bachmann told Minnesota Public Radio. "If my heart moved in the other direction and I had the tug, I'd do it. I wouldn't be afraid to run for office. I just don't feel the tug."

What might that tug look like? Well, Bachmann did say back in 2006 that God called her to run for Congress, and that she and her husband fasted for three days to ask God if this was indeed His will.

The following is the prepared text of President Obama's speech today to the American Medical Association:

From the moment I took office as President, the central challenge we have confronted as a nation has been the need to lift ourselves out of the worst recession since World War II. In recent months, we have taken a series of extraordinary steps, not just to repair the immediate damage to our economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting and sustained growth. We are creating new jobs. We are unfreezing our credit markets. And we are stemming the loss of homes and the decline of home values.

But even as we have made progress, we know that the road to prosperity remains long and difficult. We also know that one essential step on our journey is to control the spiraling cost of health care in America.

Today, we are spending over $2 trillion a year on health care - almost 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nation. And yet, for all this spending, more of our citizens are uninsured; the quality of our care is often lower; and we aren't any healthier. In fact, citizens in some countries that spend less than we do are actually living longer than we do.

Make no mistake: the cost of our health care is a threat to our economy. It is an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It is a ticking time-bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America.

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Rusty DePass, a prominent South Carolina Republican activist, is now apologizing for making a racist joke about Michelle Obama, and taken down the Facebook page where he made it -- though he does make sure to shift the blame and say that Michelle started it.

DePass commented on a story about a gorilla escaping from a local zoo: "I'm sure it's just one of Michelle's ancestors - probably harmless."

"I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone," said DePass. "The comment was clearly in jest."

But, he said, "The comment was hers, not mine," referring to Michelle having said that man has descended from apes. The New York Daily News says they could find no such comment from Michelle -- but even if they could, it's not like that would make it any better.

It's worth noting that Michelle's ancestors came from South Carolina. So why did they leave, again?

Former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) spoke to the Minnesota state Republican convention this past weekend -- explaining that his disputed Senate race is not just about him, but the issues that matter to the country.

Norm broke the ice with a joke. "People ask, how are you doing -- you know, the race, it never ends," he said. "And I tell them I've been counting and recounting my blessings since November."

He got serious, too:

"But winning isn't about me. You know, it's not about me or even us as Republicans. It really is about this country. And about the future of the country," said Coleman. "The one vote in the United States Senate, the one vote is a difference between possibly people losing the right to a secret ballot in a union election, or not ... One vote, one vote between the potentiality of a slippery slide into the path of government-controlled health care. If I am in the U.S. Senate, we're not gonna have a government-controlled health care. It's not gonna happen."

Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose conservative primary challenge spurred Sen. Arlen Specter into switching to the Democrats, has announced that he's raised $1 million in the past 60 days since he declared his candidacy -- a sign that he's building up the momentum to potentially nail down the GOP nomination.

In a fun side-note, the Toomey campaign's press release also announces that he's signed on long-time Pennsylvania Republican fundraisers Amy Petraglia and Carey Dunn: "Petraglia and Dunn have helped raised money for a number of statewide Pennsylvania candidates, including Rick Santorum, Lynn Swann, and Arlen Specter." (Emphasis added.)

Toomey has also signed up Specter's former finance director, Louisa Boyd, to be his own top fundraiser.