In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As we're thinking about President Obama's quest for "post-partisanship," and discussing Congress' habit of legislating in a messy rush, it's worth asking: Has Washington always been plagued by feuds over access and transparency?

Here's one answer: Can you guess the year that this Senate coverage was published in the New York Times?

No conclusion of any kind regarding the tariff bill was reached, although the Republicans said they hoped to be able to report the bill to the full committee on Monday. ... [T]he Democrats would not agree to fix a date, saying they wanted a reasonable time to consider the bill, and there would be no undue delay. The Democrats were not shown a copy of the bill, nor did they receive any information regarding its character.

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During the first six years of the Bush administration, when Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress, they were rightly infamous for ramming through controversial bills without giving Democrats time to read the legislation -- let alone provide any input or offer amendments.

The tales of abusive and aggressive GOP behavior are legion, from one chairman cutting off Democrats' mikes when he grew tired of a hearing on the Patriot Act to another chairman's snide crack that House-Senate conference talks were only open to members of Bush's "coalition of the willing."

John Cole, at Balloon Juice, references the latter episode to argue that GOPers should stop complaining and be grateful that Democrats allowed them into a televised conference meeting yesterday. He misses the point entirely. Here's why the most loyal Democrat should be concerned -- not angry, not ready to write off the Obama administration, but concerned -- about what happened.

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So is it really just a fringe, loony-left view that the former Bush Administration should be investigated? Not at all, according to a new Gallup poll -- but there isn't a clear verdict on what exactly should be done.

A significant plurality favor outright criminal probes, though they are not a majority. Another portion prefer an independent investigation by a special panel:

Possible attempts to use Justice Dept. for political purposes:
Criminal investigation, 41%; Investigation by independent panel, 30%; Neither, 25%

Possible use of telephone wiretaps without a warrant:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 25%; Neither, 34%

Possible use of torture in terror interrogations:
Criminal investigation, 38%; Investigation by independent panel, 24%; Neither, 34%

As you would expect, majorities of Democrats favor criminal probes, Republicans largely oppose doing anything, and independents correspond pretty closely with the top-line numbers.

Gallup leads in their analysis with the criminal-probe response being a minority, but this seems to miss the larger point: A majority clearly favor doing something to investigate the Bush Administration -- though exactly what the something should be is a whole other argument. But if there is any kind of option that can be characterized as way out there, it's the position that we should do nothing.

(Via Greg Sargent)

Obama's Day: Promoting Stimulus And Paying Tribute To Lincoln President Obama is meeting with Hillary Clinton at 10:45 a.m. ET. Then at 11:30 a.m. he will be speaking at the Capitol Rotunda, honoring the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln. He will then be heading to Illinois, where he'll be meeting at 4:25 p.m. ET with workers at a Caterpillar Plant in East Peoria, promoting the stimulus plan. Then at 8 p.m. ET he will attend a dinner in Springfield, honoring Lincoln.

Joe Biden Visiting the Special Olympics Joe Biden is traveling today to Boise, Idaho, where he will attend a 3:45 p.m. ET reception for Special Olympics athletes and their families.

WaPo: Yes, Economists Say The New Deal Helped The Depression The Washington Post has a new article this morning, rebutting the Republican critique that the New Deal either failed to help or even caused the Great Depression. While the verdict is mixed on some particular aspects, most economists say the New Deal helped -- and if anything, the problem was Roosevelt didn't spend enough. Said Berkeley economics professor Barry Eichengreen: "Should we be surprised that it didn't end the Depression given its small size by the standards of the problem? No."

Karl Rove Praises House GOP On Stimulus, Denounces 'My Way or The Highway' Obama White House Karl Rove's latest column in the Wall St. Journal provides some interesting perspective into the stimulus spin war, making the case that Republicans -- especially the House leadership team -- have performed well in the stimulus debates. "House Republicans had the wisdom to continue to talk to the Obama White House," Rove says. "This made them look gracious, even as the president edged toward a 'my way or the highway' attitude."

Obama Honors Lincoln At Ford's Theatre President Obama also honored Lincoln last night, at the rededication of Ford's Theatre. "We know that Ford's Theatre will remain a place where Lincoln's legacy thrives," said Obama, "where his love of the humanities and belief in the power of education have a home, and where his generosity of spirit are reflected in all the work that takes place."

Poll: Crist The Early Favorite For 2010 Florida Senate Race A new Strategic Vision (R) poll of Florida shows that Republican Governor Charlie Crist would be the easy favorite to hold this seat, should he decide to run. Crist currently tops Dem Congressman Kendrick Meet by 60%-26%, beats state Senator Dan Gelber 58%-27%, and has similarly huge margins over other Dems -- though this is probably to some extent furthered by his higher name recognition. If Crist doesn't get in, the poll shows other Republicans with narrow leads, and very high undecided numbers.

LaHood Pushing House Republicans On Stimulus Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been making phone calls to his former colleagues in the House Republican caucus, asking them to support the stimulus plan. Republicans who have gotten his calls include Reps. John Mica (FL), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Steven LaTourette (OH), Shelly Moore Capito (WV), Charlie Dent (PA), and others.

Dem Candidate For Gillibrand's Seat Debuts New Ad Scott Murphy, a businessman and the Democratic candidate in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, is already up on the air with this new ad:

Murphy's challenge in this race is that the Republican candidate, Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco, starts off with much higher name recognition. So it's important for Murphy to get on the air as soon as possible.

Sometimes you have to wonder if there's a method to the madness of Joe Friedberg, Norm Coleman's top lawyer -- or whether he's just plain mad.

Each side has raised concerns about precincts where fewer ballots ended up getting tallied during the recount than were recorded as cast on election night. The reason why is a bit complicated, but it has to do with how the campaigns and election officials dealt with damaged absentee ballots that had been duplicated -- and which the Coleman campaign wants to undo in places where it hurt him. Naturally, both campaigns have focused on precincts where the loss of votes created a net "gain" for the other guy, in protest of what seems like an obvious disenfranchisement -- though as the Franken campaign notes, it was under a set of rules that everyone agreed to going in, and it cut both ways.

Friedberg had a very odd alternative explanation for a precinct that created a net gain of four votes for Coleman. "Well," he asked Dakota County elections manager Kevin Boyle, "Couldn't a dishonest person have picked up 24 ballots, run them through the machine, and then made them disappear?"

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As my colleague Matt reported, Labor Secretary nominee Hilda Solis got her long-awaited approval this afternoon in the Senate labor committee.

This means that her nomination is now before the full Senate for final approval -- but unfortunately, it also means that any GOPer can place one of those annoying anonymous "holds" that could create another delay. And given Republican eagerness to turn Solis' confirmation into a referendum on the Employee Free Choice Act, there's always the danger of another roadblock being thrown up.

Matt reports that Sens. Tom Coburn (OK) and Pat Roberts (KS) were the two Republicans who requested that their "no" votes on Solis be recorded today, so we'll keep an eye to see whether they take their opposition to the next level.

No matter what, however, this was a step forward for the Obama administration as well as major labor unions that mounted a full-court press for Solis this week. They deserve a victory lap.

Congressional Democrats have just begun a public meeting to bless the already-agreed-upon details of their $789 billion stimulus bill, pushing past an awkward first step that saw House negotiators fail to show up for an earlier sitdown on the economic recovery plan.

The House discontent, as many outlets are reporting, stems from the House's $16 billion in school-building aid. As I reported this afternoon, a senior Democratic chairman was appearing with the New York City mayor to declare himself "cautiously optimistic" about the school-building money -- while senators were zeroing out that cash behind closed doors.

Democrats are bouncing back with promises to that the stimulus money given to stabilize state budgets ($39 billion in the Senate compromise, $79 billion in the House bill, now boosted to $54 billion) could also be used for school repairs. But that's unlikely to be enough for House members, and we could see targeted school-building aid put back in before the first votes on the stimulus package occur tomorrow.

Why was this less than a complete victory for Democrats?

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The Republican Party's embrace of technology, which many inside and outside the party see as essential to a political recovery, so far is working out like...well, it's not working out at all.

Yesterday the Virginia GOP came very close to taking control of the state Senate, nearly luring a Democratic Senator to switch parties and put them at a 20-20 tie, which would have been broken by the Republican Lt. Governor. Then Jeff Frederick, a state legislator and the party chairman, ruined it all by Twittering this:

Big news coming out of Senate: Apparently one dem is either switching or leaving the dem caucus. Negotiations for power sharing underway.

The Dems then read the message, quickly mobilized to talk the renegade out of it, and stopped the GOP coup before it could happen.

We usually don't cover state-level politics, but this is just too much. Really, Mr. Frederick, you don't live-blog about ongoing secret negotiations!

(Via the Not Larry Sabato blog, and National Review.)

Well, it's a new era in Washington. A little bit, at least. The administration just finished their first event for bloggers and progressive media, a conference call with, appropriately enough, Jared Bernstein, one of the more liberal leaning members of the president's economic team. He's the top economic policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and he spoke for about 45 minutes with the likes of and yours truly.

A veteran of think tanks and a trained TV pundit, Bernstein, who has written for TPM, seemed a bit cautious and not at all eager to make news. The highlights were that he praised the stimulus package while noting that it doesn't have everything the administration and others would have liked. He noted, too, that just because something was excised from the stimulus package that in now way means the administration won't come back and try it again at a later point. He wouldn't get into specifics on what they might come back to but it's in keeping with a larger point I've tried to make (but that he refrained from explicitly making): This probably isn't the last stimulus.

I asked him how much good the bill could really do while the bank bailout plan remains so sketchy. Bernstein used a medical analogy saying that the stimulus plan was designed to "get the patient's heart beating again" while the bank stabilization plan was about getting the patient's arteries cleaned out.

Another interesting point he made was that the stimulus package could probably shave a couple of points off of the unemployment rate but with the rate heading towards double digits you might well find the rate at 7.5 percent or so by the end of 2010. It's a sobering thought. We'll be coming out of this thing when the unemployment rate is what it is now. In other words, the roller coaster still has farther to go down.

But the biggest headline was probably the meeting itself. Jesse Lee, the online director at Casa Blanca, introduced Bernstein on the call and said he hoped that the progressive media call would be "the first in a newly sustained tradition." Let's hope.

We now have the first poll of the Senate seat in New Hampshire, which will be an open GOP-held seat in 2010 because of the appointment of Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary and the selection of a caretaker Republican to hold the seat for now. And it's a close race.

Public Policy Polling (D) has close results in all four trial runs. Democratic Congressman Paul Hodes leads former Congressman Charlie Bass 40%-37%, and edges edges former Senator John Sununu 46%-44%. The Republicans have statistically insignificant leads over Dem Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter: Bass leads 43%-42%, and Sununu is up 46%-45%. The margin of error is ±2.7%.

Hodes is currently the only announced candidate. You might have noticed that the two Republicans above are both ex-officeholders who were defeated. There is a reason for this: New Hampshire has swung drastically from the Republicans to the Democrats in recent years, and there simply isn't a bench of elected Republicans who already have enough statewide recognition to be included in a poll. That fact alone could lead one to believe this race leans slightly Dem.