In it, but not of it. TPM DC

The DCCC is now upping the ante in its special raffle -- the one they began last week, in which people who donate only $5 or more are given a chance to win a free trip to Washington for the Dem committees' big fundraising dinner in June, and get their picture taken with President Obama.

In an e-mail that was just sent out, Speaker Nancy Pelosi offers this extra incentive: "If you enter today, you and your guest will sit at my table should you be the lucky winner who is chosen."

Meanwhile, the NRCC is getting in on the act, too, with a contest to come to the GOP's own big June dinner -- and the winner and their guest will get to sit at Newt Gingrich's table: "If you've ever watched Newt on TV and thought 'I'd like to meet this guy,' this is your chance!"

Interestingly, the NRCC's raffle tickets start at $50, compared to only $5 for the DCCC and the similar contest from the DSCC. In all three cases, the obvious wager is that the sweepstakes will bring in more money than the cost of airfare and hotels for the winners.

Check out the fundraising letters, after the jump.

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Adult film actress Stormy Daniels has officially announced that she has formed an exploratory committee for the 2010 Senate race, in which she is widely expected to run in the Republican primary against Sen. David Vitter -- the Christian right conservative whose career became mired in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal of 2007.

"I do not take this step lightly," Daniels said in a statement. "While I have been humbled by the overwhelmingly positive response my potential candidacy has generated thus far, my decision to run for United States Senate will only be made after I have had the opportunity to discuss this prospect with as many people across the state as possible. Too many in government ignore the voices of those whom they claim to represent. I promise you that I will not."

If she does run, Daniels' campaign would be widely viewed as an effort to remind the state's conservative voters about Vitter's own indiscretions.

Full statement after the jump.

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A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) finds President Obama leading several potential 2012 opponents by substantial margins.

The numbers: Obama leads Newt Gingrich 53%-36%; he's ahead of Mike Huckabee 52%-39%; he leads Sarah Palin 56%-37%; and he beats Mitt Romney 53%-35%.

Obama's approval rating is 55% in this poll, to a disapproval of 38%. By contrast, Gingrich's favorable rating is only 30% against 47% unfavorable; Huckabee's is 44%-32%; Palin's is 42%-50%; and Romney's rating is 40%-36%.

Of course, it's only May 2009, and Iowa Republicans presumably won't be voting until January 2012. So take this all with a heap of salt.

Human Rights Watch--which was represented at the big White House national security meeting yesterday--thinks the Obama speech was a bunch of window dressing.

"President Obama is absolutely right to emphasize that ignoring our values undermines rather than enhances America's security," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. "But allowing detention without trial creates a dangerous loophole in our justice system that mimics the Bush administration's abusive approach to fighting terrorism."

That's strikingly similar to language used by the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, after yesterday's meeting, declared, "I don't see meaningful differences between these detention policies and those erected by President Bush."

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who is now running for the open GOP-held Senate seat in this perennial swing state, has a new op-ed piece in the Tampa Tribune, explaining that he did support the stimulus bill as a necessary measure, but is still at the end of the day a fiscal conservative -- and he opposes President Obama's current tax and spending proposals:

But let there be no doubt - I am a fiscal conservative. Since I took office two years ago, we have cut state spending by $7 billion, lowered property taxes by an estimated $25 billion over five years and created innovative no-cost solutions like the Florida Discount Drug Card and Cover Florida Health Care Plan.

I oppose the president's budget proposals, in particular his willingness to increase the top tax rate on personal income from 35 to 39.6 percent. I am publicly asking him to withdraw these tax increase proposals, considering the structural damage higher tax rates will do to the long-term growth potential of our nation's economy.

In addition, the president's plan will severely increase our national debt. Even with the increase in federal revenues resulting from higher taxes and a planned military withdrawal from Iraq, the smallest annual deficit we will see in the next 10 years is $533 billion in 2013. At the rate projected in the president's budget, the national debt will increase by $3.7 trillion by 2014. Two years ago the annual budget deficit was $162 billion.

(Via John J. Miller.)

Civil libertarians may have concluded that President Obama's plans for State Secrets reform are inadequate. But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sees them as a good starting point--for getting the president to support his legislation.

I am encouraged by this new President's willingness to work with Congress, the refusal to do so is one of the reasons that the policies of the last administration were such a failure. I support the President's vow to "deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government" and I stand ready and willing to work with him on this issue. I believe that the State Secrets Protection Act that I reintroduced this Congress is a good starting point. This legislation codifies the privilege in an effective way that balances the protection of national security with appropriate judicial review. I look forward to working with the administration and others in Congress on how best to move this important legislation forward.

That bill is cosponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI,) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

President Obama's speech touched on a number of significant and controversial national security policies--but perhaps the two most important were his proposed plan for dealing with Guantanamo detainees and his outline for reforming the State Secrets privilege, which may well become an issue when some of those detainees are tried in U.S. courts.

Civil libertarians and human rights activists won't necessarily be pleased. Shayana Kadidal is the senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He says the administration's plan to maintain a system of military commissions is deeply troubling.

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Here's Bill Kristol's take on today's dueling speeches:

Cheney vs. Obama: A Mismatch

I've read both speeches.

Obama's is the speech of a young senator who was once a part-time law professor--platitudinous and preachy, vague and pseudo-thoughtful in an abstract kind of way. This sentence was revealing: "On the other hand, I recently opposed the release of certain photographs that were taken of detainees by U.S. personnel between 2002 and 2004." "Opposed the release"? Doesn't he mean "decided not to permit the release"? He's president. He's not just a guy participating in a debate. But he's more comfortable as a debater, not as someone who takes responsibility for decisions.

Cheney's is the speech of a grownup, of a chief executive, of a statesman. He's sober, realistic and concrete, stands up for his country and its public officials, and has an acute awareness of the consequences of the choices one makes as a public official and a willingness to take responsibility for those choices.

In response to charges that the Obama White House has, to perhaps a greater extent than the Bush administration, abused its powers to get controversial cases thrown out of court, the President announced the following reform of the State Secrets privilege:

We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the State Secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following a formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. Finally, each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why, because there must be proper oversight of our actions.

Later, Obama cautioned the same critics that his policies would still leave them wanting. "There are those," he said, "who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency."

Which stands somewhat in contrast to one memorable line from his inaugural address, when he said "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

The following is the prepared text of former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech today on national security, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:

Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It's good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I'm looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.

I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don't think I missed much.

Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I'm an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen - a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.

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