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Jeb Bush is, for now, operating outside of politics. The former Florida governor and brother of the former president declined to run for a Senate seat in his state, and says he wasn't tempted to run for president last year.

Bush, whose party has seen better days, gave an interview to Tucker Carlson for Esquire with his thoughts on the GOP's future.

On intelligence, faux populism and Joe the Plumber:

I think it's okay to have a deeper understanding of things. I think it's okay to talk in three-syllable words. The world we're living in is incredibly complex. And simplifying things to the point where you're misunderstanding where we are as a nation isn't going to help people overcome their fears or give them hope that they can achieve great things. I don't get inspired by shameless populism.

After that, it's not surprising Bush didn't list Sarah Palin as a future GOP leader. When asked who is leading the Republicans, he said, "The next generation of leaders are going to be people we probably don't even know." But he did name Newt Gingrich, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Rick Baker, the mayor of St. Petersburg, Fla., as possibilities.

He lamented the Republican Party's loss of the last two national election cycles and urged his fellow conservatives to come up with new ideas and "find creative ways of expressing the principles."

We haven't upgraded our message. We haven't updated it. If you close your eyes and listen to most Republicans, most conservatives, the same speech could have been given in 1990. And you can't discount that. It's a pretty important point. If people think our message is outdated, our message is not relevant to the world we live in, and I think a growing number of people may feel that, you lose your relevance.

But he blamed the loss of power not on tired ideas or an overall change in public sentiment, but on the GOP's "tactics of politics."

In this interim period, we have to pay for our sins and show some humility.

[The interviewer:] What are those sins?

We didn't advocate our positions well enough to win.

We just told you about Doug Hampton's allegation that Sen. Tom Coburn urged his friend Sen. John Ensign to pay "restitution" money to the Hamptons on account of Ensign's affair with Hampton's wife. And now Coburn is denying the claim.

Roll Call reports:

Coburn repeatedly denied allegations that he urged Ensign to pay Doug Hampton, the husband of his mistress Cynthia, millions in hush money following a confrontation with Hampton. "I categorically deny everything he said," Coburn said.

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We just got the witness lists for Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing on July 13.

American Bar Association Witnesses

Kim Askew, Chair of Standing Committee Mary Boies, Primary Reviewer

Majority Witnesses

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor, City of New York Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police David Cone, former Major League Baseball pitcher JoAnne A. Epps, Dean, Temple University Beasley School of Law, on behalf of the National Association of Women Lawyers Louis Freeh, former Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation Michael J. Garcia, former U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Patricia Hynes, President, New York City Bar Association Dustin McDaniel, Attorney General, State of Arkansas Robert Morgenthau, former District Attorney, New York County, New York Ramona Romero, National President, Hispanic National Bar Association Congressman Jose E. Serrano, New York 16th District Theodore M. Shaw, Professor, Columbia Law School Kate Stith, Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law, Yale Law School Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Minority Witnesses

Linda Chavez, President, Center for Equal Opportunity Sandy Froman, Esq., Former President, National Rifle Association of America Dr. Stephen Halbrook, Attorney Tim Jeffries, Founder, P7 Enterprises Peter Kirsanow, Commissioner, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights David Kopel, Esq., Independence Institute John McGinnis, Professor, Northwestern University School of Law Neomi Rao, Professor, George Mason University School of Law Frank Ricci, Director of Fire Services, ConnectiCOSH (Connecticut Council on Occupational Safety and Health) David Rivkin, Esq., Partner, Baker Hostetler Nick Rosenkranz, Professor, Georgetown University School of Law Ilya Somin, Professor, George Mason University School of Law Lieutenant Ben Vargas, New Haven Fire Department Dr. Charmaine Yoest, Americans United for Life

The Hill reports that Senate Republicans will call two special witnesses in the Sotomayor confirmation hearings: Frank Ricci and Ben Vargas, two of the firefighters from New Haven, Connecticut, who recently won at the Supreme Court in their high-profile case.

That case, of course, involved a 5-4 Supreme Court overturning a three-judge appeals panel that included Sotomayor herself, and has become a centerpiece of Republican efforts to portray Sotomayor as biased in favor of minority groups.

After the Ricci decision was handed down, you had to know this kind of shoe would drop. Expect the firefighters to more or less testify that Sotomayor discriminated against them becuase of race, and for the GOP Senators to pitch them the kind of questions that will reinforce the point.

For more than a week now, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has been publicly calling on his colleagues in the Democratic Caucus to vote their conscience on issues--but to vote with the party if and when Republicans filibuster agenda items like health care.

And, as I reported yesterday, with Senate leaders now on his side, Sanders seems confident his message is getting across.

In political terms, the Senate Majority Leader and his whip have little leverage over individual members. But this growing push--to make it clear that a procedural vote for cloture does not imply support for the underlying bill, and to force conservative Democrats to explain their decisions when they support GOP obstruction--is almost certainly necessary if the goal of party unity is to be met.

Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), the big frontrunner for this perennial swing state's open Senate seat in 2010, has announced an astonishingly good fundraising quarter: $4.3 million raised in the time since he got into the race in early May.

Cash-on-hand figures won't be available until the campaign officially files its quarterly report, which is due July 15. It's also not known how much of that can be spent in the Republican primary, versus what must be reserved for the general election from maxed-out donors.

The initial reports had been that Crist would raise $3 million, about nine times more than his conservative primary challenger Marco Rubio's. As it turns out, the actual advantage is more like a 12.6-1 ratio, further solidifying Crist's momentum in this race.


Doug Hampton's TV interview about his wife's affair with Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) is hardly a model of clarity. Hampton meanders away from some questions, jumps forwards and back in time, and seems, perhaps understandably, still to have trouble viewing the situation dispassionately.

But there's one point on which Hampton is particularly lucid. He clearly says that when Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) confronted Ensign over the affair in February 2008, the Oklahoma senator urged Ensign to pay "restitution" to the Hamptons, including helping them to pay the mortgage on their $1.2 million house and to move out of state. And Coburn isn't denying it.

Read More →

The jury in the trial of former Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) saw photos yesterday of the $90,000 in cash he allegedly hid in his freezer. Apparently it wasn't too well hidden, as FBI agents said it took about 30 minutes for them to find the money, stashed in $10,000 increments in boxes of pie crusts and veggie burgers.

Check out our slideshow of the photos.

These bribery charges have been dragging on for years, so if you're just tuning in: After "Dollar Bill" Jefferson accepted a briefcase with $100,000 in it from an FBI informant, the feds searched his home in August 2005 and found most of the money in his freezer.

The prosecution says he was seeking bribes for using his status as a U.S. congressman to secure business deals in Nigeria. His lawyers argue that it was perfectly legal for him to accept money for private consulting services.

Despite his indictment, he was re-elected in 2006. He lost his seat to Republican Anh Cao in 2008 after serving nine terms.

The Senate Finance Committee's negotiations over the public option have been marked by predictable moments of egotism, chaos, and various other forms of legislative melodrama. But if at the end of the (much delayed) process, the panel chooses to include a public option of any kind in its bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will deserve most--if not all--of the thanks.

Back to Schumer in a moment, but it's worth considering just how important the difference between the two possible outcomes is. As it stands, the other two health care bills working their way through Congress both call for the creation of a public option, but neither is likely to win much, if any, Republican support. If the Finance Committee--more conservative, and more bipartisan--endorses a public option, then it will become a standard feature of the reform landscape, and will live or die with the final reform package. But if it eschews a public option, then the politics change dramatically. Suddenly the public option becomes the province of congressional liberals while the "sensible" centrist position is to delay a public option, or forego it altogether. That's a tough sell.

And that's at least part of the reason Schumer's been so insistent on including a public option--or something very close to it--in the bill the committee eventually unveils. Finance chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) tasked Schumer with being the point man on the public option from the outset of negotiations, but Schumer's gone above and beyond in that role, putting himself on the line very publicly at times when the momentum on the committee wasn't really on his side.

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A new national survey from Public Policy Polling (D) finds that the American public has a pretty solid verdict on Sarah Palin: A full majority, 55% of voters, say she is not fit to be president, compared to just 37% who say she is fit for it.

In addition, respondents were asked whether Palin's announcement that she will resign as Governor of Alaska makes them more or less likely to support her for president. Only 30% say more likely, with 57% saying less likely, and 14% not sure.

Oddly enough, though, her personal favorable ratings might have gone up slightly, to 46% favorable and 45% unfavorable, compared to a 43%-49% rating last month.

From the pollster's analysis: "It's not surprising Palin's overall favorability numbers haven't declined since most folks inclined to dislike her already did before she announced she was resigning as Governor," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "But even among people with a positive opinion of her this move seems to have raised some questions about her judgment such that a majority of Americans don't think she's fit to be President."