TPM News

1||After a busy lame duck session of Congress, President Barack Obama and his family headed to his home state of Hawaii to celebrate the holidays. During the trip, Obama hit the links, read a biography of Ronald Reagan and enjoyed some shaved ice. After extending the trip an extra day, the Obamas are scheduled to return to Washington on January 4.||newscom/Cory Lum/phlphotos&&

2||Barack and Michelle Obama paid a Christmas Day visit to a Marine base in Kaneohe to greet troops and their families.||newscom/Kent Nishimura/phlphotos&&

3||||newscom/Kent Nishimura/UPI&&

4||||newscom/Kent Nishimura/UPI&&

5||||newscom/Kent Nishimura/phlphotos&&

6||Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden also visited with troops and their families on Christmas Day at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.||Official White House Photo by David Lienemann&&

7||The Obamas sing during services on December 26 at St. Michael's Chapel at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kailua.||Official White House Photo by Pete Souza&&

8||The Obamas, along with friends and family, stopped for shaved ice on December 27 at Kailua Beach.||Kent Nishimura/UPI/Newscom&&

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11||Obama on December 28 after sinking a putt on the 9th hole at Mid-Pacific Country Club in Honolulu.||newscom/Cory Lum/UPI&&

12||Obama with friend Mike Ramos before starting their round of golf.||newscom/Cory Lum/CNP&&

James Cole, the man whom President Barack Obama announced yesterday will be given a recess appoint to the Justice Department's No. 2 position, is quickly emerging as a top target of Republican members of Congress due to his support for the use of civilian courts in terrorism trials.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Eric Holder and DOJ staffers are gearing up for onslaught of criticism from the GOP on political hot topics like terrorism, immigration and what Holder called a "made-up controversy" over the department's handling of a two-year-old voter intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party.

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FoxNews.com reporter Jana Winter published a story last week claiming that Fox News had "learned" of a federal investigation into the alleged terrorist ties of Kathie Smith, a "46-year-old, blue-eyed grandmother and U.S. citizen from Indiana." The story was quickly pulled down and scrubbed from the website, but not before TPM grabbed a copy.

FoxNews.com posted a revised version of the story on Tuesday. Fox's story glosses over the role that its own reporter had in alerting Indiana authorities to Smith and what can only be called her unique brand of "jihadism."

As for the investigation, it's unclear if the feds are probing Smith, and the Indiana State Police -- the recipient of Fox's tip -- tells TPM they have no active investigation.

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Outgoing Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) is catching a break just in time for the new year, after the Senate Ethics Panel dismissed a complaint against him.

Judicial Watch -- a conservative public interest group -- filed the complaint against Dodd, saying he "assisted a longtime friend and associate to obtain a reduced sentence and ultimately a full presidential pardon from President Clinton for tax and securities crimes, in exchange for gifts."

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Ex-MSNBC host David Shuster emerged after months off the air, and came out firing at Fox News and Glenn Beck.


Shuster, who explained his sudden departure from MSNBC as amicable and caused by his interest in "looking around" for other work (Shuster was widely believed to have been auditioning for an anchor role at CNN) and "we had a disagreement about what happened."

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It's well known that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann really hates Fox News, the right-leaning cable news network he often attacks on his own nightly show. But last night, Olbermann encapsulated his loathing in perhaps his most concise criticism yet, taking to Twitter to declare that "Fox News is 100% bullshit."

Then he said it again. And again.

Olbermann's Internet assault began when another Twitter user questioned his support for the liberal blog DailyKos despite his frequent disparagement of Fox News for its overt bias. To that, Olbermman unleashed the first tweet in his salvo:

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Gore Vidal, what have you done?

At a speech to Michigan Republicans on Tuesday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) -- the darling of the Tea Party right -- told an amazing story about how she shed her youthful Democratic roots and became a Republican. As she told the tale, her political conversion was because of her disgust at a "snotty" Gore Vidal novel that satirized the Founding Fathers.

"Until I was reading this snotty novel called 'Burr,' by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers," Bachmann told the crowd. "And as a reasonable, decent, fair-minded person who happened to be a Democrat, I thought, 'You know what? What he's writing about, this mocking of people that I revere, and the country that I love, and that I would lay my life down to defend -- just like every one of you in this room would, and as many of you in this room have when you wore the uniform of this great country -- I knew that that was not representative of my country."

"And at that point I put the book down and I laughed. I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, 'You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don't think I'm a Democrat.'"

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A handful of junior Democrats, including Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), have done an impressive job building momentum for a package of modest, but meaningful, changes to the Senate's filibuster rules. But their plan could be completely upended and replaced by even more modest reforms, if Democratic and Republican leaders successfully negotiate a bipartisan rules reform compromise.

In a phone interview with me Wednesday, Udall described negotiations between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) as a "separate track" from his own efforts.

A Senate Democratic aide confirms that those discussions are ongoing, and haven't yet yielded consensus. But if they do, that consensus would serve as a stand-in for Udall's approach, not as an endorsement of it, as previous reporting has suggested.

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