TPM News

"Christmas at the White House: An Oprah Primetime Special" will be light on news, but heavy on holiday cuteness, if the excerpts are any indication.

Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions just released a few choice bits of her exclusive interview.

She tells viewers in a preview:

"The President gave himself a grade. This was not about grilling the President, this was really about me wanting to come and experience Christmas at the White House - their first Christmas with them. So I wasn't here to grill him, I was curious as to what he thought he had done, what kind of job he thought he had done and ask him for his grade. You'll see what the grade is. The grade might surprise you."

(Obama graded himself as "passing" after he hit his first 100 days mark.)

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South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford released a statement this morning after his wife announced she is filing for divorce.

"I want to take full responsibility for the moral failure that led us to this tragic point," Sanford said. "I will join with her in asking the press to respect our shared desire for privacy as we quietly move forward. We respectively ask for your prayers."

Jenny Sanford said this morning that her decision to divorce "came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation."

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A Senate committee has approved the nomination of an openly gay lawyer to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee yesterday approved Chai Feldblum, who specializes in workplace equality and helped write the Americans with Disabilities Act, to serve on the commission.

Feldblum is one of two homosexual Obama nominees who've stirred up opposition by some right-wingers. Most of the opposition to Feldblum focuses on her speaking approvingly of gay sex. She also had signed a petition that pushed for recognition of, among other things, households that include "more than one conjugal partner." Before her hearing before the HELP committee, she asked that her signature be removed to avoid perceptions that she supports polygamy.

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If and when health care passes, the White House and the Congress will be tugged in two seemingly different directions. On the one hand, with unemployment in the double digits (and an election around the corner), Democrats will have to do something about jobs--and that means another spending bill. The House has already begun its work and the Senate will have to follow suit if the economy is to improve, and if Democrats want to avoid a political blood bath. But the White House, and a bipartisan bloc in the Senate, have made very clear that they'll pay equal, or greater, attention to addressing the country's perilous fiscal situation. And that could touch off yet another tug of war between liberal Democrats and centrist legislators over the country's priorities.

Last month, liberals were taken by surprise when a number of senators--including several Democrats--issued a chilling ultimatum: let us tinker with entitlement programs and taxes, they said, or we'll block raising the amount of debt the government can take on. According to Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), 11 or 12 senators have said they will not vote for must-pass legislation to raise the country's debt ceiling unless they are authorized to create an external commission with extraordinary power over Medicare, Social Security and so on.

This week, Conrad and several of his supporters unveiled their proposal, and it turns out, liberals may have had less to worry about than it seemed at first blush. Not because the members of the commission would like to be gentle to American welfare programs, but because its authors seem to have set it up to fail.

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Once a health care bill is finalized, the White House and Congressional Democrats will be swiftly transitioning to cutting the deficit.

Top aides on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say 2010 will be the year of fiscal responsibility, even if President Obama has to battle with progressive Democrats to make cuts they won't like.

"Next year the focus will be jobs and fiscal responsibility," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told TPMDC in a briefing with two reporters Thursday.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) denounced the Obama administration yesterday, citing a lack of private-sector experience.

"These people are not connected to reality," Bachmann said on a conference call hosted by the Republican National Committee, the Minnesota Independent reports.

"We're going to kill socialism," Bachmann also said on the call, adding: "They can't have our country. We're not going to let them win."

Sen. Max Baucus' girlfriend withdrew from consideration to be Montana's U.S. attorney in March only after a newspaper told Baucus' office it was about to publish a story on the senator's nomination of Melodee Hanes. The revelation appears to belie Baucus' original explanation -- that Hanes withdrew "after much reflection ... because [the two] wanted to live together in Washington, D.C."

That Baucus, a Montana Democrat, recommended Hanes to the White House to be U.S. Attorney was revealed last week by Main Justice. A former Baucus staffer, Hanes explained her withdrawal in March by saying she had "been presented with other opportunities that I felt I could not bypass."

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South Carolina's first lady, Jenny Sanford, announced today that she will file for divorce from Gov. Mark Sanford.

"This came after many unsuccessful efforts at reconciliation," Jenny Sanford said in a statement.

She also pleaded for some measure of privacy.

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