TPM News

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, said today in an interview it was time for the policy banning gays in the military to end.

"It's time for it to end," she told TPMDC. "The joint chiefs, certainly the chairman of the joint chiefs, has been clear about that and I think that the country really is at a place now where it's time for it to end."

Cheney also left the door open a crack to run for president down the line, though she said it's not her focus. She said the "Draft Cheney" movement here at the Conservative Political Action Conference proves that conservatives have injected fresh energy into the 2012 field.

TPMDC caught up with Cheney this afternoon following her speech to CPAC. We chatted briefly about President Obama's new offensive in Afghanistan terrorism - which she's been talking about through her new Keep America Safe group and the political landscape of 2010.

She said it might have been the wrong decision to mirandize the shoe bomber in 2001, but that she still vehemently opposed Obama's national security policies.

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has signed a letter urging Democratic leadership to pass the public option via reconciliation.

In a fund-raising email to supporters, Schumer announced that he had signed the letter, becoming the 17th senator to do so. He lauded the "tenacity" of the four senators who originally signed the letter.

"This is far from a done deal, but it's an opportunity to break through the obstructionism Republicans have pushed for the past year," he wrote.

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Appearing on the Fox Business Network last night, Rep. Michele Bachmann agreed that Social Security is a "tremendous fraud" -- for a very interesting reason.

Fox Business host David Asman complained that Social Security should have been treated as a "lockbox," and not have its tax revenues raided for other federal programs -- exactly the sort of thing for which Al Gore was made fun of by Republicans in 2000, when they were pushing privatization. "Social Security, I think, it is one of the biggest frauds ever perpetrated on the American public. It is supposed to be a lockbox -- a personal safety deposit box for our savings," said Asman. (Much of this is not true, see fact-check below.) "That's how it was designed, that's what it was promised to be. Instead, that box is empty, it's full of these empty IOUs that politicians have put into it, and they've taken the money out and used it for other things."

"You're right, it's a tremendous fraud. No company could get away with this, they'd be thrown in jail if they ever tried to do what the federal government did with people's Social Security money. What we need to do very quickly is take the money that is coming in for Social Security, and truly lock it up so that we aren't putting it out the door anymore," said Bachmann -- who then transitioned to promoting privatization.

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February 18, 2010: "Welcome to the vast right-wing conspiracy!" With these words, Cleta Mitchell of the American Conservative Union kicked off the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). The annual gathering delivered some predictable results. Rising political star Marco Rubio was showcased. Although she didn't show up in person, Sarah Palin made an appearance. There were also some delightful surprises, including a surprise cameo by former Vice President Dick Cheney, who joined his daughter Liz onstage.

Follow the latest updates at the TPM's CPAC Wire.

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Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX).

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Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

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On sale at the Townhall.com table.

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Sumo wrestlers demonstrate "Janet Napolitano's bloated budget."

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Rubio's keynote speech.

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DeMint introduces Rubio.

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David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

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Liz Cheney

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter.

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Meet the new Mitt, same as the old Mitt. The first of the 2012 presidential contenders to speak at CPAC, Mitt Romney just finished a fiery, soundbitey, (red) meaty stump speech that should erase the remaining doubts from anyone's mind that he's running for president in two years.

Romney got a huge ovation when he took the stage this afternoon. That's no surprise -- Romney "gets" CPAC, having won the vaunted presidential straw poll at the conference three times in a row. The crowd welcomed Romney, and he made it clear he was happy to see them, too.

"It's good to be back with you," he said to cheers. "I love to be back at CPAC."

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Joe Stack, the Texas man who this morning, say law enforcement officials, flew a plane into an Austin building that houses a local IRS office, appears to be the author of a lengthy online screed, lashing out at the IRS, the federal government, and big corporations, and referring to his coming death.

The rant reflects many of the same populist, anti-government, anti-tax, and anti-corporate themes that have surfaced around the country over the last year. It is entitled, and concludes: "Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let's try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well."

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Despite reports that Congressional Republicans may boycott President Obama's bipartisan debt commission, it seems that the minority leaders likely will participate by appointing members to the group.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's office confirmed to TPM that he will make appointments to the 18-member commission. (Congressional Republicans are allowed to appoint six members to the panel.) McConnell also released a statement today on what he hopes will be the goals of the panel.

"After trillions in new and proposed spending, Americans know our problem is not that we tax too little, but that Washington spends too much -- that should be the focus of this commission," he said.

House Minority Leader John Boehner's office would not confirm that he will appoint anyone, but a statement from his press secretary makes a point of saying Boehner hasn't ruled it out.

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A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not think Sarah Palin is qualified to be president -- but a significant number of those people would still vote for her against Barack Obama.

The poll asked "Do you think Sarah Palin is or is not qualified to serve as President?" The answer was only 30% qualified, 59% not qualified, 11% undecided. However, in a direct match-up against President Obama, Palin attracts 43% of the vote to Obama's 50%. This means that there are 13% of Americans who either do not think Palin is qualified to be president, or are undecided on the matter, and would nevertheless vote for her.

"I guess there's easy spin for both sides on that number," writes PPP communications director Tom Jensen. "From my perspective it's astounding that such a significant portion of Americans are willing to vote for someone they don't think is qualified- this is the White House, not American Idol. But I guess Republicans could make the argument that Obama's just so bad that any Republican would be better than him, whether they consider that Republican to be qualified or not."

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney just made a surprise appearance at CPAC after his daughter, Liz Cheney, finished her speech.

The crowd went wild, standing up and cheering for several minutes before he began talking. One man yelled, "Four more years!"

"Knock it off!" Cheney said. "A welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office again. But I'm not gonna do it."

He spoke briefly and offered his predictions for the November mid-terms.

"2010 is going to be a phenomenal year, and I think Barack Obama is a one-term president," he said to wild applause.

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