In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Yesterday, Congressional Democrats denied President Obama, at least for now, the funds he needs to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were responding in part to scare tactics from Republicans, who have been insisting for months that Obama's plan will bring terrorists to American cities. But they were also upset that Obama hadn't used his bully pulpit to counter those charges. Today, Obama did just that:

Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and juries of our citizens are tough enough to convict terrorists, and the record makes that clear. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center - he was convicted in our courts, and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison. Zaccarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker - he was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.

For more on this point, read this primer written by the National Security Network. And as Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress told me yesterday, Obama can still take near-term steps to begin closing the facility, and then return to Congress for funding in July, when his task force completes its comprehensive report on everything that policy will entail.

Yesterday morning President Obama met with representatives of several human rights and civil liberties groups in the White House's cabinet room. Joining him were his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser David Axelrod, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder. They sat down with representatives of the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Human Rights Watch, among others.

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow reported that one of the attendees warned the President he was letting George Bush's policies become his own--and that Obama was not pleased by that characterization.

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Barack Obama's speech touches on just about every controversial Constitutional issue in the news, but it's also peppered with reminders that he's not the same as George W. Bush.

As Senator McCain once said, torture "serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us." And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his Administration - including a Secretary of State, other senior officials, and many in the military and intelligence community - that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate, and the wrong side of history. We must leave these methods where they belong - in the past. They are not who we are. They are not America.

[T]he problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.

For just two examples.

The following is the prepared text of President Obama's speech today on national security. You can also watch the speech live.

These are extraordinary times for our country. We are confronting an historic economic crisis. We are fighting two wars. We face a range of challenges that will define the way that Americans will live in the 21st century. There is no shortage of work to be done, or responsibilities to bear.

And we have begun to make progress. Just this week, we have taken steps to protect American consumers and homeowners, and to reform our system of government contracting so that we better protect our people while spending our money more wisely. The engines of our economy are slowly beginning to turn, and we are working toward historic reform of health care and energy. I welcome the hard work that has been done by the Congress on these and other issues.

In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe. That is the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It is the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.

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In the latest move by the Democratic leadership to embrace and promote Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Vice President Biden has sent out an e-mail to the DNC and Organizing for America supporter lists in Pennsylvania, encouraging Democrats to get to know Specter and support him.

"For more than 25 years, we've ridden the train together back to Wilmington and Philadelphia," Biden says of his old friend. "We've had some great debates and discussions on the train -- and gotten to know each other so well -- that it gives me great pleasure to be able to work even more closely with Arlen now."

Check out the full e-mail after the jump.

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It looks like the coast still isn't clear in the 2010 Republican primary for Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), with possible GOP opponents now eyeing the race because of his actions to delay the confirmation of President Obama's FEMA Director.

Former state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell, who ran for Senate in 2002 and narrowly lost to Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, is now looking at the race, and could potentially mount a strong campaign. Other possible primary challengers include Sec. of State Jay Dardenne and state Supreme Court Justice Chet Taylor.

As New Orleans City Business points out: "Women compose a majority of the Republican voters in Louisiana, and Terrell might be seen as a more palatable candidate than Vitter. While Vitter's wife forgave him for his escapades with the D.C. Madam call girl ring, Republican women throughout the state might not be so forgiving."

We're well aware, at this point, that the House Republican strategy for opposing the Waxman-Markey climate change bill is to make the legislative process take a very, very long time. That means heaps and heaps of irrelevant amendments, written by congressmen who warn of "Global Warming Gestapo." But so far they have eschewed a maneuver that would force the Democrats to read the bill aloud. All 900-plus pages of it.

In case the GOP decides to change course, though, Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats are prepared. With a speed reader.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new temp thinks he can plow through about one page every 34 seconds--a pretty impressive clip considering the nature of the reading material. And it means the entire stunt would only last about nine hours--significantly less than it would take if the committee's clerks were forced to do the job.

Ladies and gentlemen, your United States Congress.

Today: Obama's And Cheney's Big Speeches On National Security The big headline event will be a dueling pair of speeches from President Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney, each laying out their visions for national security. Obama will be discussing at 10:10 a.m. ET the steps his Administration is taking on such issues as Guantanamo Bay and fighting terrorism, while Cheney will be speaking at 10:45 a.m. ET from the American Enterprise Institute, laying out a thorough defense of the Bush Administration's policies and condemning Obama's approach.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will deliver his speech on national security at 10:10 a.m. ET, from the National Archives Museum Rotunda. At 1:30 p.m. ET, he will welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to the White House, at the South Portico. At 4:15 p.m. ET, he will meet with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

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A new SurveyUSA poll in Virginia finds yet more evidence that former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe is leading the pack for the June 9 Democratic primary for Governor.

The numbers: McAuliffe 37%, state Sen. Creigh Deeds 26%, and former state Del. Brian Moran 22%, with a ±4.5% margin of error. Three weeks ago, it was McAuliffe 38%, and Deeds and Moran tied at 22% each.

The pollster's analysis finds that 57% of likely primary voters could change their minds, so the race is still very much in a fluid condition, though McAuliffe sure seems to be the man to beat.

However, all three Dems currently trail the Republican candidate, former state Atty. Bob McDonnell, who leads McAuliffe 46%-40%, is ahead of Deeds 46%-40%, and beats Moran 47%-37%. Still, this formerly Republican state has officially become a swing state in the wake of Barack Obama's win last year, so there's no telling what will happen when the general election campaign really gets going after the primary.