TPM News

Marco Rubio, the conservative Republican Senate candidate who is challenging the establishment-backed moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, just announced the endorsement of a member of the Bush family: Jeb Bush, Jr.

Rubio posted this Tweet: "Proud to announce the endorsement of Jeb Bush Jr. He will be a great asset in our efforts to reach the next generation of GOP leadership."

Bear in mind that while the Bush family name is now generally garbage in the rest of the country, the relatively more competent Jeb Bush, Sr., still retains popularity in Florida -- especially among the conservative GOP base. The question is whether the son's support will have enough credibility with those same activists who might hearken back to his father's two terms as governor.

Conservatives have curiously decided that one of the best ways to battle Obama's first Supreme Court nominee is by declaring a war on empathy. When he described his criteria for selecting a replacement for Justice David Souter, Obama said, "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook, it is also about how are laws effect the daily realities of peoples lives.... I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with peoples' hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes."

This is, apparently, a bridge too far for conservatives, and, at least in the minds of some on the right, political gold. But while they continue to mock the idea--and while the media by and large passes their objections along uncritically--they seem to have forgotten that one conservative Justice was also sold to the public as a man of great empathy.

"I have followed this man's career for some time," said President George H.W. Bush of Clarence Thomas in July 1991. "He is a delightful and warm, intelligent person who has great empathy and a wonderful sense of humor."

The Thomas confirmations ultimately became the stuff of legend--but not because Democrats decided to go all in on attacking Thomas' "empathy."

The new Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut shows Chris Dodd continuing to struggle in his 2010 re-election bid -- though he might actually be improving from his previous doldrums.

Dodd trails former GOP Congressman Rob Simmons by a margin of 45%-39%, and Dodd edges out state Sen. Sam Caligiuri by 41%-39%, within the ±2.5% margin of error. In early April, Simmons led Dodd by 50%-34%, and Caligiuri was ahead by 41%-37%.

One number shows that Dodd still has a lot of weakness among the Democratic base: Against his primary challenger, businessman and first-time candidate Merrick Alpert, Dodd only has a lead of 44%-24%, with the incumbent below 50% against an unknown.

From the pollster's analysis: "Sen. Christopher Dodd's numbers are getting better but they are still lousy. He still has high negatives: About half of the voters don't trust Dodd and disapprove of the job he is doing. And he is still behind Simmons in a general election matchup."

Liberal Group Launches Pro-Sotomayor Ad A new group called the Coalition for Constitutional Values, a joint venture of the the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way, is going up on the air today with this new six-figure ad buy on national network news and cable news to promote Sonia Sotomayor:



The ad uses on-screen text to go into Sotomayor's background and rise from humble roots, while using audio of President Obama from a few weeks ago, discussing what he would seek in a Justice: "Someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory -- it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of peoples' lives."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be touring the solar photovoltaic array at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, at 2 p.m. ET. He will deliver remarks on the progress made in the first 100 days of the stimulus act, at 2:40 p.m. ET. He will depart from Vegas for Los Angeles at 3:30 p.m. ET, and will attend a DNC fundraiser at 10:05 p.m. ET at the Beverly Hills Hilton.

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Yet more evidence that the CIA may not have been totally up front with Nancy Pelosi during that contested torture briefing from 2002...

A former "deep-cover" CIA operative tells CQ's Jeff Stein that agency briefers often hide facts or shade the truth. "They mumble, they dissemble, and there's a lot of 'on the one hand... '" said the operative, who has written harsh critiques of the CIA, under the pen-name Ishmael Jones.

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We've gotten our hands on the Pentagon report on which the New York Times based its front-pager last week asserting that 1 in 7 Guantanamo detainees "returned" to terrorism.

You can read the document, which the DOD made available to reporters today, here.

The bottom line: Those who have counseled skepticism about the DOD numbers would seem to be vindicated by the actual report.

The report does indeed use the formulation "reengaged" in terrorism. This was the same formulation the Times' Elisabeth Bumiller used in her front-page story -- until the online version of it was changed.

But the Pentagon report does not attempt to establish the original status of the detainees it claims "reengaged" in terrorism. It seems to simply not consider the possibility that, as has been reported by McClatchy, innocent men ended up in Gitmo, and some were radicalized during their imprisonment.

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When Republicans and conservatives aren't on television suggesting Sonia Sotomayor isn't fit to serve on the Supreme Court (or just outright insulting her)--when they go home at night and seriously consider what's best for them and their movement--they should keep a couple things in mind:

First, that retiring Justice David Souter isn't really all that conservative. Second, that, notwithstanding her upbringing and all the cable chatter, Sotomayor isn't unusually liberal--which is to say, the political makeup of the court won't be radically altered when she replaces him. Third, that if they lock arms and pull out all the stops and somehow block her nomination, there are plenty of other liberal jurists--some more liberal than she is--to take her place.

Technically, Republicans come into the Sotomayor confirmation process in an extremely weak position. Their caucus is only 40 members large. Four of those members are women. One is hispanic. And their ranks are teeming with people who've loudly decried the idea of filibustering judicial nominees in the recent past.

Now that same crew is faced with the prospect of playing the opposition (loyal or otherwise) to a 54 year old Hispanic female with honors degrees from Princeton and Yale and heaps of experience on the bench. Not exactly ideal circumstances.

At the same time, though, they've proven perfectly willing to stand athwart other, similarly qualified Obama nominees, most of whom serve (or will serve) in the executive branch for only a few years at the most.

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The Blago-Burris affair has been simmering away quietly in the background for the last few months. And today brought some interesting news, via the Chicago Sun-Times.

Burris' lawyer said that last November -- about a month before Blagojevich picked him to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat -- Burris promised Blago's brother he'd write a check to the then-governor's campaign.

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TPMmuckraker favorite Alberto Gonzales went on CNN this afternoon to talk Sotomayor.

But Wolf Blitzer also asked him about the ongoing torture debate. And it was interesting to see that Gonzo -- who was White House counsel at the time the torture policies were first formulated -- seemed eager to shift any blame onto the Justice Department he would later go on to lead.

Pressed by Blitzer about his role in approving torture, he first clarified that he wasn't at the Justice Department at the key time, and said "It's the responsibility of the Department of Justice to provide legal guidance on behalf of the executive branch."

In other words: blame Ashcroft, Yoo, and Bybee.

Of course, it's unclear how that stance lines up with a report that Gonzo, while at the White House, personally signed off on CIA requests to conduct torture.

Gonzo also assured Blitzer: "I stand by my record," and "I did my best to defend our country."

Watch:

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) released this statement today on the Sotomayor nomination, reminding us all that he voted against her confirmation to the appeals court in 1998 -- and apparently questioning whether she can make rulings independent of her race and gender:

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) made the following statement regarding President Obama's nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Inhofe was one of 29 U.S. Senators that voted against Sotomayor's nomination to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in 1998.

"Without doubt, Judge Sotomayor's personal life story is truly inspiring. I congratulate her on being nominated. As the U.S. Senate begins the confirmation process, I look forward to looking closer at her recent rulings and her judicial philosophy.

"Of primary concern to me is whether or not Judge Sotomayor follows the proper role of judges and refrains from legislating from the bench. Some of her recent comments on this matter have given me cause for great concern. In the months ahead, it will be important for those of us in the U.S. Senate to weigh her qualifications and character as well as her ability to rule fairly without undue influence from her own personal race, gender, or political preferences."


As Dana Goldstein points out, this does raise the question of whether Inhofe thinks the seven white men on the court are immune from any similar questions.

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