TPM News

Ben Bernanke got an earful today when he appeared at the Senate Banking Committee hearing. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) lambasted the Fed chairman, telling him: "You are the definition of moral hazard." Bunning faulted Bernanke for hewing too closely to the policies of his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, and said his tenure has been a disaster.

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A local reporter attempting to cover President Obama's speech at West Point this week was not allowed in when he told security officials he had a hunting gun in the trunk of his car.

West Point spokesman Jim Fox tells TPM that the reporter volunteered the fact that he had the firearm in his car, saying he left it there inadvertently.

He was interviewed by both the Secret Service and West Point's military police. The Secret Service determined he didn't pose a threat to the President, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the incident. But the reporter was asked to leave.

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Appearing on Fox News today, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao -- who is also the wife of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) -- said that the economy is entirely the Democrats' fault, not the Bush administrations, by citing the low unemployment in 2007.

Chao dismissed Democratic objections that the Bush administration was responsible for the bad economy, through the costs of war spending and other issues. "You know it's pretty audacious of them to still claim that. Basically, this is their economy," said Chao. "In 2007, the unemployment rate was about 4.7%, and now with all this massive government spending the unemployment rate is 10.2%."

The recession began in 2008, while George W. Bush was still president (and Chao was still Labor Secretary). The large Democratic spending that Chao refers to, presumably the stimulus, did not begin until 2009, when the recession was already well underway.

Also, Fox News introduced Chao as "a former Labor Secretary under President George W. Bush and a Fox News contributor." Fox never identified Chao for viewers as also being the wife of the Senate Republican leader.

President Obama spoke today about the state dinner security breach, admitting that "the system didn't work the way it was supposed to."

But Obama also told USA Today and the Detroit Free Press that he has full confidence in the Secret Service and feels safe in the White House.

"I could not have more confidence in the Secret Service," he said. "I trust them 100%, not just with me but with my wife and my children."

Key Democrats in the Senate, accompanied by party leadership, are bearing down on a solution to the public option problem that has dogged the caucus for months now. They're holding a constant series of meetings, bringing liberals and conservatives together to reach a compromise--seemingly modeled on a trigger--that can garner 60 votes. And interestingly, one key public option supporter seems pleased.

"There's sort of a new initiative on the public option, which is highly useful, without saying anything more about it," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). "There's going to be a group of people representing various points of view who are going to just closet themselves and try and resolve this so we can have something on the floor that can pass," he said.

"It's been taking place, it's ongoing, several different rooms, several different groups," said Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin.

Included in the meeting, according to Durbin, are the well-known public option skeptics, and, on the other side of the party, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

"I'm doing my best to do what I can do," Sanders said.

"It's one of the two, i think, really critical issues remaining, with the issue of abortion," Durbin said.

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America's Health Insurance Plans CEO Karen Ignagni is speaking today about health care at the Detroit Economic Club and says the bills being debated do not sufficiently address cost containment.

"As far as cost containment is concerned, it's as though the house is on fire and the strategy is to rush to the scene with an eight-ounce glass of water," she said.

Readers will recall that in October AHIP commissioned PriceWaterhouse Coopers to do a report showing that insurance premiums would rise under the bills being considered on Capitol Hill.

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Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has withdrawn its support from Lou Dobbs because he's not anti-immigration enough for them.

Citing his shift in stance on immigration policy shown by recent comments that suggest he supports "some kind of path to citizenship for illegal immigrants," ALIPAC says that's "inconsistent with positions of ALIPAC and the views of most American citizens."

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A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of Arkansas finds that Sen. Blanche Lincoln could be vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenge -- potentially putting her between a rock and a hard place as she fights for re-election in a conservative-trending Southern state.

In a match-up against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who is not a candidate at this time but has been rumored as a possible challenger, Lincoln has only 42% support to Halter's 26%. The margin of error is ±5%.

Democratic voters were also asked: "If Senator Blanche Lincoln joins a Republican filibuster of the Democratic health care reform plan, for whom would you vote for in the Democratic Primary for U.S. Senate if the choices were between Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln?" The answer here is Lincoln 37%, Halter 27%.

Both Lincoln and the lesser-known Halter would be in for a tough race against the Republicans. Lincoln edges state Sen. Gilbert Baker by 42%-41%, while Baker leads Halter by 42%-34%. Lincoln is ahead of businessman Curtis Coleman by 44%-39%, while Coleman leads Halter by 40%-35%. Lincoln leads Tom Cox by 45%-31%, and Halter is ahead of Cox by 36%-32%. Lincoln leads state Sen. Kim Hendren by 46%-30%, and Halter leads Hendren by 36%-31%. The margin of error is ±4%.

So, what to make of those emails, stolen from a top climate research center in Britain, that conservatives are excitedly touting to argue that the science of climate change is fatally flawed?

The Wall Street Journal's Daniel Henninger calls the episode "an epochal event" that shows "science is dying." But underneath the bombast, the key question is whether the emails -- hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU), and indexed here -- actually undermine the case, now settled, that man-made warming is happening. And despite the claims of the New York Post, among others, they don't come close to doing so.

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