TPM News

For a while now, there's been plenty of evidence of Sheriff Joe Arpaio abusing his law enforcement powers to target political enemies. Indeed, Justice Department investigators are said to have been looking into the issue for the last year.

But Arpaio may now have taken things into a whole new realm. This week, the top cop for Maricopa County, Arizona, who has used media-friendly stunts to gain a national reputation as a law-and-order zealot and bete noir of illegal immigrants, announced the filing of a criminal complaint against his latest target: a judge who's involved in several of the controversial cases Sheriff Joe has helped bring.

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Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has high praise for President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech, in which he detailed his personal philosophies on war and peace.

"I liked what he said. In fact, I thumbed through my book quickly this morning to say, 'Wow, that really sounded familiar,'" she said in an interview with USA Today.

"I talked in my book too about the fallen nature of man and why war is necessary at times, and history's lessons when it comes to knowing when it is that we engage in warfare. And a couple of the other things he said were, I thought, wow, good, those are nice, a broad message, so broad that I just wrote about those. A lot of Americans right now are getting to read also my take on when war is necessary," she continued.

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In an interview with 60 Minutes, set to air this Sunday, President Obama explains why he is setting a timetable for withdrawal in Afghanistan: That he will not make Afghanistan a "protectorate" of the United States -- and he says that there are Afghans who would like to see this happen, with the United States taking up their defense expenses.

"The answer is that in the absence of a deadline, the message we are sending to the Afghans is, it's business as usual, this is an open-ended commitment," said Obama. "And very frankly, I think there are elements in Afghanistan who would be perfectly satisfied to make Afghanistan a permanent protectorate of the United States -- in which they carry no burden, in which we are paying for a military in Afghanistan that preserves their security and their prerogatives. That's not what the American people signed off for when they went to Afghanistan in 2001. They signed up to go after al-Qaeda."

Democrats better hope for a good CBO report on a public option compromise, and agreement among party members, to take shape quickly. Because if everything doesn't fall into place almost precisely as planned, they'll blow right through Christmas without passing a health care bill.

Here's what Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said yesterday: "The scenario could be...if we reach the point where we want to move forward with the manager's package, there will be three cloture votes before final package: Manager's, substitute, and the original bill."

That's a lot of Senate jargon, but here's what it means. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will offer one last big change to the bill as soon as the CBO weighs in on a public option alternative. That "manager's amendment" will be subject to a cloture vote, in order to be added to the health care package being debated on the Senate floor.

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Before the Senate can vote on health care legislation, Democratic leaders have to make sure they have 60 votes lined up to end the filibuster, and that means dealing with the concerns of a number of swing voters, including Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). The vehicle for addressing those concerns will be a manager's amendment, which will include the final version of a public option compromise that's taken shape in the last several days.

But will it also include abortion? Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) suggests very strongly that it will.

After a press conference yesterday afternoon, another reporter asked Durbin how wide the scope of that managers amendment would be: "[I]s the scope of that just going to be to deal with the public option...or is it going to be broader than that--is it going to include abortion language?"

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A party planning side business run by three current and former congressional staffers raked in over $20,000 last year from lobbyists holding events to honor Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) -- whose own communications director is co-founder of the firm.

The apparent arrangement between Thompson and the business, Chic Productions, at once allows private interests to get closer to the congressman's office and gives the staffers a way to dip a straw into the river of outside money flowing through Capitol Hill.

Chic Productions offers "high style events with simple elegance" and advertises its previous work executing "congressional events and fundraising parties." One of Chic's principals was quoted in 2007 saying congressional events make up roughly 90 percent of the firm's business.

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"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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