TPM News

President Obama's first State of the Union address will touch on the Flight 253 incident, White House aides say.

Obama has been meeting with advisers and his speechwriting team for weeks to craft the speech. Even though he addressed Congress last winter, it will be his first official State of the Union.

It was expected that deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility would be major focus points in the speech, along with health care. The White House is aiming to schedule the address for after the final health care bill passes Congress and heads to Obama's desk.

But today reporters asked White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton if Flight 253 would consume the speech.

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Former Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), who lost his seat in 2006, will be trying to make a comeback from a neighboring, open GOP-held seat.

Pombo, who was first elected to the House in 1992, lost in 2006 to Democrat Jerry McNerney, thanks in part to Pombo's ties to Jack Abramoff. McNerney was re-elected in 2008 against a different Republican candidate, and Barack Obama even carried the historically-GOP district.

Now, Pombo is seeking the Republican nomination for the more Republican seat of GOP Rep. George Radanovich, who announced his retirement last week. When Radanovich made his announcement, he also said that he had recruited state Sen. Jeff Denham to be the new Republican candidate. As a result, Pombo won't have a clear path to the nomination, but will instead have to go through a primary, in which his opponent is supporting by the retiring incumbent, in order to get back to Congress.

Yet another organization with ties to prominent Democrats has received money from accused Ponzi scamster Hassan Nemazee. This time, it was the William J. Clinton Foundation that received a hefty donation from Nemazee, the New York financier and Democratic Party fundraiser.

Nemazee, who was charged with stealing $292 million from several banks, gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the former president's charity in 2009, according to a donor list released yesterday.

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On New Year's Eve, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was doing an interview with Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) about terrorism when Sanchez suddenly swung the conversation around to Ensign's sex/lobbying/pay-off scandal involving two of his former aides.

As TPM noted, the senator seemed caught off guard. But CNN tells us that Sanchez didn't violate any ground rules.

"There were no pre-conditions for the interview with Sen. Ensign," a spokesman for CNN wrote in an email.

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The First Family traveled to Hawaii for a low key holiday vacation. President Barack Obama chilled out New Year's Day in Kailua, Hawaii, with some 'Snowbama' shaved ice. You can see Part I of the First Family's vacation here.

Newscom/Cory Lum/CNP




The President spent New Year's Eve on the course with Mike Ramos, a close personal friend, at Mid Pacific Country Club, Kailua, Hawaii.

Newscom/Cory Lum/CNP




President Obama reacts to his putt on the ninth hole at Mid Pacific Country Club.

Newscom/Cory Lum/CNP




Sasha eats some 'Snowbama' shaved ice with her dad.

Newscom/Cory Lum/CNP




The First Family walks by the white-handed gibbon exhibit at the Honolulu Zoo.

Newscom/Kent Nishimura/CNP




President Obama and Sasha, 8, at the Honolulu Zoo.

Newscom/Kent Nishimura/CNP




President Obama waves to well-wishers as he and his family board Air Force One at Hickam Air Force Base on Jan. 3, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Newscom/Kent Nishimura/CNP

A Republican candidate for governor in Idaho who joked about hunting President Obama over the summer is calling for God to save the U.S. Constitution.

Rex Rammell said recently it is time for citizens to "rise up" and defend the Constitution. He said he will spread that message on the campaign trail.

"To think that we can save the Constitution without God's help when the government of the United States is corrupt is absurdity," he said. "We are in America's second Revolutionary War to save our freedom, which we paid for with blood. We need God's help and I'm not ashamed to ask for it."

The Idaho Statesman first reported the video where Rammell makes the remarks.

He and one other candidate are challenging Gov. Butch Otter in the May 26 Republican primary.

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Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele made a curious donation from the national party coffers in the last two months, the Hotline reports: $20,000 to the Republican Party in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, which has no electoral votes, no vote in Congress, and too small a population to even imagine statehood -- but where the party committee members did help him win the chairmanship a year ago.

Under the RNC's rules, territories are on the same footing as states in determining the party chairman, and each state/territory gets the same number of committee members. The CNMI's committee members had the same say in determining the party chairman as did states like Texas or California. The CNMI's votes had initially gone to former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis, which gave them a strong position as swing votes in the final ballot between Steele and former South Carolina GOP chairman Katon Dawson. Steele won that race by a vote of 91-77 -- a margin greater than the CNMI votes.

"Insiders said the islands sought a financial commitment from the eventual chair; Dawson refused, and the island votes went to Steele. Steele advisors have denied a deal was cut," the Hotline reports. "RNC spokesperson Gail Gitcho told Hotline OnCall the money was sent to the Northern Mariana Islands 'to help them win elections.'"

Regardless of whether there was a deal, just how useful is it to the party's national fortunes to spend money in a remote U.S. territory with less than 100,000 people? How important is a Northern Mariana election, beyond the people who live there?

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