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Obama Reappoints Bernanke To The Fed President Obama took a moment out of his vacation to deliver a statement to the press this morning, announcing that he is reappointing Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Federal Reserve. "As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another," said Obama.

Cheney Blasts Obama, Says Interrogators "Deserve Our Gratitude" Former Vice President Dick Cheney has released a statement condemning the new investigation of Bush-era interrogation practices. "The people involved deserve our gratitude. They do not deserve to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions," said Cheney. "President Obama's decision to allow the Justice Department to investigate and possibly prosecute CIA personnel, and his decision to remove authority for interrogation from the CIA to the White House, serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security."

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President Obama is nominating Ben Bernanke to a second term as Federal Reserve chairman today, saying Bernanke has "led the Fed through the one of the worst financial crises that this nation and this world have ever faced." Here are Obama's prepared remarks, released by the White House:

Good morning everyone. I apologize for interrupting the relaxing I told you all to do, but I have an important announcement to make concerning the Federal Reserve.

The man next to me, Ben Bernanke, has led the Fed through the one of the worst financial crises that this nation and this world have ever faced. As an expert on the causes of the Great Depression, I'm sure Ben never imagined that he would be part of a team responsible for preventing another. But because of his background, his temperament, his courage, and his creativity, that's exactly what he has helped to achieve. And that is why I am re-appointing him to another term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Ben approached a financial system on the verge of collapse with calm and wisdom; with bold action and outside-the-box thinking that has helped put the brakes on our economic freefall. Almost none of the decisions he or any of us made have been easy. The actions we have taken to stabilize our financial system, repair our credit markets, restructure our auto industry, and pass a recovery package have all been steps of necessity, not choice. They have faced plenty of critics, some of whom argued that we should stay the course or do nothing at all. But taken together, this "bold, persistent experimentation" has brought our economy back from the brink. They are steps that are working. Our recovery plan has put tax cuts in people's pockets, extended health care and unemployment insurance to those who have borne the brunt of this recession, and is continuing to save and create jobs that otherwise would have been lost. Our auto industry is showing signs of life. Business investment is showing signs of stabilizing. Our housing market and credit markets have been saved from collapse.

Of course, as I have said before, we are a long way away from a completely healthy financial system and a full economic recovery. And I will not let up until those Americans who are looking for jobs can find them; until qualified businesses, large and small, who need capital to grow can find loans at a rate they can afford; and until all responsible mortgage-holders can stay in their homes. That is why we need Ben to continue the work he's doing, and that is why I've said that we cannot go back to an economy based on overleveraged banks, inflated profits, and maxed-out credit cards.

For even as we have taken steps to rescue our financial system and our economy, we must now work to rebuild a new foundation for growth and prosperity. We must build an economy that works for every American, and one that leads the world in innovation, investments, and exports.

Part of that foundation has to be a financial regulatory system that ensures we never face a crisis like this again. We have already seen how lax enforcement and weak regulation can lead to enormous wealth for a few and enormous pain for everyone else. And that's why even though there is some resistance on Wall Street from those who prefer things the way they are, we will pass the reforms necessary to protect consumers, investors, and the entire financial system. And we will continue to maintain a strong and independent Federal Reserve.

We will also keep working towards the reform of a health insurance system whose costs and discriminatory practices are bankrupting our families, our businesses, and our government. We will continue to build a clean energy economy that creates the jobs and industries of the future within our borders. And we will give our children and our workers the skills and training they need to compete for these jobs in the 21st century.

Much like the decisions we've made so far, the steps we take to build this new foundation will not be easy. Change never is. As Ben and I both know, it comes with debate and disagreement and resistance from those who prefer the status quo. And that's ok, because that's how democracy is supposed to work. But no matter how difficult change is, we will pursue it relentlessly because it is absolutely necessary to lift this country up and create an economy that leads to good jobs, broad growth, and a future our children can count on. That is what we are here to do, and that's what we will continue to do in the months ahead. I want to congratulate Ben on the work he's done this far, and wish him continued success in the hard work ahead. Thank you.

A new poll of New Jersey from conservative strategist Rick Shaftan finds that the New Jersey gubernatorial race, where Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie has held a strong lead over Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine in most surveys, could now actually be a dead heat.

While most polls have shown Christie with roughly a ten point lead, the new poll shows he takes 39% support to Corzine's 36%, plus independent candidate Chris Daggett at 6%, with a margin of error of ±5.49%. A key finding is that both major candidates have negative net favorable ratings -- Corzine is at 23% favorable to 46% unfavorable, but Christie is also at only 20% favorable to 27% unfavorable.

"Yeah, I was really surprised at it myself," Shaftan, who most recently worked for Christie's primary opponent, told TPM. "The Corzine people have managed to convince people that Christie is dirty."

Shaftan expects that liberal voters, who currently have fairly high negative views of Corzine, will come home to him in the end. Corzine is himself a big liberal, after all. In addition, Christie's recent troubles -- involving newly-revealed conversations with Karl Rove, which have tied him to the 2007 US Attorney firing scandal and separately about an undisclosed loan he made to Michele Brown, a subordinate in the U.S. Attorney's office -- appear to be taking a toll.

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Joe Lieberman believes that investigating clear evidence of torture will put Americans at risk of another terror attack.

In a statement, the deeply conservative Connecticut senator, who has in the past expressed his support for waterboarding, said that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision -- which already has drawn criticism for not going far enough -- "will have a chilling effect on the men and women agents of our intelligence community whose uninhibited bravery and skill we depend on every day to protect our homeland from the next terrorist attack."

What a responsible centrist.

The full statement follows after the jump...

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Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele responded to the announcement of the DOJ's torture investigation today on Fox News, saying that the timing is a stunt to distract from the health care debate.

"The timing of this is always very interesting," Steele said, the announcement coming "while we try to deal with their failure to deal with, sufficiently and I think smartly, the health care issue that the nation is currently confronted with."

The anchor, Neil Cavuto, asked if Steele thinks it's politically motivated.

"Just a pinch, not a whole lot," Steele said sarcastically. "You think? I mean, absolutely." He added that the Democrats are trying to use it to influence the upcoming gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

"Every time they find themselves against a wall on a policy issue ... they found a boogeyman," he said, saying that "boogeyman" is former President Bush and his administration.

Steele also said the investigation into the CIA is "unfortunate."

"The attorney general did not get the memo from the president ... to look forward and not backward," he said. (The White House has said repeatedly that it is entirely up to the attorney general, Eric Holder, to make decisions about investigations.)

Steele said it's a mistake to be "second guessing decisions you're making on war and peace and terrorism," saying President Obama doesn't know what sort of decisions he'll have to make.

"He doesn't know what lies ahead of him," he said.

CIA interrogators racked an unloaded handgun close to the head of a high-value detainee, and revved a power drill while the detainee stood naked and hooded, according to the just-released CIA IG report. They also threatened to bring in the mother and family of the detainee, al Nashiri, as well as using a stiff brush to induce pain, and standing on Nashiri's shackles, causing cuts and bruises.

And interrogators threatened another detainee, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, that they would kill his children if another attack occurred in the US.

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Right after President Obama was elected in November, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released a fairly ambitious health care reform policy white paper and held a series of events rolling out his vision for health care reform. Then, in negotiations with his colleagues on the committee, Baucus spent the intervening months chipping away at the key provisions of his plan, including the public option, which has reportedly been dropped and replaced by controversial, private, non-profit co-ops.

Now Baucus says that's all a matter of political necessity. "I want a public option too!" Baucus reportedly told about 40 Montana Democrats a week ago, adding that he also doesn't trust private insurance companies to police themselves and rein in profits and other excesses.

Though the call took place last Monday, the details weren't reported until yesterday, and were quickly picked up by online media outlets including Politico and Huffington Post.

Baucus' staff says that the apparent disconnect between what he's telling party members back home and what he's doing in Washington isn't particularly significant--it's all about the politics. "Senator Baucus included a public option in his November 2008 White Paper, which is essentially his blueprint for reform. A public option has always been on the table," a Finance Committee aide says. "He's said all along that he wants to hold the insurance companies' feet to the fire and there are a lot of ways to do that. The key is putting together a bill that will hold insurance companies accountable and - most importantly - that will pass the Senate."

What exactly does that mean? It's impossible to know what's in Baucus' heart of hearts. But whether he truly supports a public option or not, the aide says that the bill the Finance Committee eventually unveils will represent "what he thinks can pass the Senate."

And given that almost all reports suggest the committee will not endorse a public option, this may well cause reformers some heartburn.

Ed. note: This is an edited version of the original post.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, released this statement on the DOJ torture probe:

I applaud Attorney General Holder's decision to appoint a prosecutor to review the shocking violations of law that took place under the Bush administration. We cannot simply sweep these abuses under the rug. This investigation should not be limited to those who carried out interrogations or to whether the abuses they engaged in were officially sanctioned. The abuses that were officially sanctioned amounted to torture and those at the very top who authorized, ordered or sought to provide legal cover for them should be held accountable.

A good catch by McClatchy on the CIA torture report...

The 2004 report, by CIA Inspector General John Helgerson, contains ten recommendations for action on the part of the agency. But all ten are redacted. So we still don't know what the CIA's internal watchdog urged be done about torture -- including whether it recommended prosecutions.

Of course, the report had been released previously, but in an even more redacted form.

Late Update: Helgerson has issued a statement expressing disappointment that his recommendations were redacted.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement on Attorney General Eric Holder's investigation into torture:

I recognize how difficult this decision has been for Attorney General Holder, and I am grateful that the Justice Department is finally being led by an independent Attorney General who is willing to begin investigating this dark chapter in our country's history. I had no doubt that he would put the interests of the law ahead of politics, and he has demonstrated that. While I still believe that a nonpartisan, independent review is the best way to get the full picture of how our laws were applied or broken, I hope this investigation will also bring a measure of accountability to the American people in holding responsible those whose decisions may have undermined our values and our laws.








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