TPM News

Civil libertarians are criticizing the Obama administration's new policy limiting the government's ability to claim state secrets, saying it doesn't go nearly far enough in reversing the expansion of executive power.

Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the ACLU, told TPMmuckraker that the new Justice Department policy, announced this morning in a memo by Attorney General Eric Holder, "falls far short" of what's needed.

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The White House issued the following release Wednesday about Vice President Joe Biden's and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius' new report on seniors and health insurance reform, which they presented at a town hall meeting in Maryland this morning. Here's the full text:

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The latest ad from Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) openly accuses his Republican opponent, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, of pulling rank in order to get out of serious trouble in his multiple traffic violations -- and quite possibly takes a jab at Christie's weight.

"If you drove the wrong way down a one-way street, causing an accident and putting the victim in a trauma center, would you get away without a ticket? Chris Christie did," the announcer says. "If you were caught speeding in an unregistered car- would you get away without points? Chris Christie did."

"In both cases, Christie threw his weight around as US Attorney and got off easy," the announcer adds, later adding a slogan that's popped up lately in Corzine's ads: "Chris Christie. One set of rules for himself. Another for everyone else."

The folks at Real Clear Politics think the line about how Christie "threw his weight around" is an obvious reference to Christie's personal bulk. Requests for comment to the Corzine and Christie camps were not immediately returned.

Late Update: Corzine campaign communications director Sean Darcy has just told us that this is not a reference to Christie's weight. "No," said Darcy in an e-mail.

The Associated Press reports that two of Ted Kennedy's sons, Ted Kennedy Jr. and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), have asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint former DNC chairman Paul Kirk as interim Senator, once a bill providing for an appointment is signed into law.

Kirk is a long-time Kennedy family friend, who served on Ted Kennedy's staff from 1969-1977 and regularly visited the late Senator before he died. He is currently the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

A lot of press speculation has centered around former Gov. Mike Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for president. But this development is a sign that a Dukakis appointment isn't necessarily a foregone conclusion.

In her first speech outside the United States, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told a CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets event that "death panels" is a "serious term."

"Recently I seem to have acquired some notoriety in an area of national debate, and all because of two words: death panels. And this is a serious term that was intended to sound a warning about the rationing that is sure to follow if big government tries to simultaneously increase health-care coverage while also claiming to decrease costs," she said, according to a recording obtained by Bloomberg. (The speech was closed to media.)

"It's just common sense to realize that government's attempts to solve large problems, like the health-care challenges that we have, more often create new ones," she continued.

The Wall Street Journal reported similar death panel comments, but sources for the New York Times said she did not repeat the attack.

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Fox News caught up with Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) at the Values Voters Summit, where she praised Fox News and slammed the competition over at MSNBC -- and even coined a new slogan for Bill O'Reilly.

Bachmann couldn't even bring herself to say the competition's name. "Whoever these guys are on MS-- they aren't a factor. The Factor is the factor," said Bachmann, in the midst of an epiphany. "You know, that's it - the Factor is the factor. That's what's important."

She also heaped praise on Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, for being sources of truth: "People vote with their feet, and they love Bill O'Reilly, they love Glenn Beck, they love the shows that are on Fox. That's what matters, because people want to go where they can find truth. They obviously aren't finding truth over on some of these other channels."

(Via Think Progress.)

Over the last few months, we've given voice to concerns that the Obama administration has been mimicking its predecessor in its approach to executive power and the war on terror -- in particular by invoking the states secrets privilege in seeking to hide information relating to national security tactics.

But today brings news that may represent a sharp break with the Bushies' failed policy on that issue. In a memo signed by Attorney General Eric Holder, the Justice Department has announced new limits on the government's ability to assert the privilege. (You can read the memo here.)

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A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) has the firm asking a question: "Is extremism becoming mainstream in 21st century American politics?"

The poll finds that numerous fringe views are either accepted outright or are open questions among significant portions of the party bases opposed to the politicians who are targeted by them.

The poll found that only 59% of voters believe that President Obama was born in the United States, with 23% saying he was not, and 18% undecided. Among Republicans only, a 42% Birther plurality say he was not born here, 37% say he was, and 22% are undecided.

As for the left, check out this question: "Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?" The top-line response is 14% yes, 78% no, and 8% undecided. But among Democrats, it's a somewhat larger Truther contingent, at 25%-63%-12%.

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The Senate Finance Committee continues to tussle over the question of whether to delay a panel vote on health care reform legislation by two weeks. But whatever happens, White House budget directer Peter Orszag says health care reform will be done in about six weeks.

"The goal would be, yes, over the next six weeks or so, maybe sooner," Orszag told Bloomberg.

That would leave plenty of time for the Congressional Budget Office to analyze the final bill--a hybrid of the Finance bill and the HELP committee's bill--before it goes to the floor of the Senate for a full debate. Of course, Republicans will do what they can to slow the process down.

Speaking for the first time to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama attempted to distance himself from the policies of his predecessor and pushed for more international cooperation.

"Democracy cannot be imposed on any nation from the outside," Obama said, in a significant turnaround from the policies of President George W. Bush. "I admit that American has often been too selective in its promotion of democracy."

Each nation must find its own path, rooted in its own culture, Obama said, but lauded democracy as "essential." "Governments of the people and by the people are more likely to act in the broader interests of their own people, rather than the narrow interest of those in power," he said.

He also called for more cooperation across borders. "When our destiny is shared, power is not a zero-sum game ... The time has come for the walls to come down," he said.

He outlined four "pillars" on which countries must work together: nuclear non-proliferation, the pursuit of peace, environmental preservation and a strong global economy.

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