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It sounds like we could soon be getting a look at a few more of those Bush administration legal opinions justifying the use of water-boarding and other "harsh interrogation techniques" for use in the War on Terror.

Newsweek reports that the White House is moving to declassify and release three of those memos, written by Justice Department lawyers in May 2005. In doing so, President Obama is siding with his attorney general, Eric Holder, over the objections of current and former CIA officials, who argue the disclosure could compromise "sources and methods". Ex CIA director Michael Hayden is said to be "furious" about the decision, and to have tried unsuccessfully to intervene directly with Obama officials.

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN): Foreign corespondent on enemy lines, helping to keep the folks back home armed and dangerous.

Bachmann appeared over the weekend on the First Team radio show with John Hinderaker and Brian Ward, speaking about the horrible stuff that the Democrats are doing: "I'm a foreign correspondent on enemy lines and I try to let everyone back here in Minnesota know exactly the nefarious activities that are taking place in Washington."

Bachmann also spoke out against the cap-and-trade proposals currently making their way through Washington, and how she'll be distributing information against it at an upcoming event in the district. "I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax, because we need to fight back," said Bachmann. "Thomas Jefferson told us, having a revolution every now and then is a good thing. And the people - we the people - are going to have to fight back hard if we're not going to lose our country."

On the one hand, it seems clear that Bachmann was speaking figuratively. On the other hand, is it appropriate for a member of Congress to speak in any context about being armed for revolution?

(Via the University of Minnesota and the Dump Bachmann blog.)

In the aftermath of the AIG bonus scandal, most media outlets are focusing on Congress' resistance to any more requests for bailout money from President Obama. But the nation's newfound populism is forcing another political sea change on Washington: the push to turn the Federal Reserve into the next financial super-regulator, which I wrote about on Friday, is losing steam fast.

Here's what we know so far ... Congress plans to take up a dense and politically charged reform of financial rules later this year, and among the biggest questions is which agency should become the overall "systemic risk regulator" for Wall Street and the banks.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) has said in no uncertain terms that the Federal Reserve should have the job, but Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) has long doubted whether the Fed is up to the task given its mishandling of the government's AIG bailout.

What remains unknown is whether Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and White House economic adviser Larry Summers -- the former a Fed veteran and the latter a possible Fed-chairman-in-waiting -- also agree that the Fed should become the super-regulator. Reuters reported earlier this month that Geithner would "likely" suggest expanding the Fed's powers, but the AIG bonus scandal has severely eroded support for that move in Congress.

Even Frank is cooling to the idea he once embraced, as Bloomberg noted over the weekend:

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Remember how, during his big prime-time speech last month, Lousiana's Republican governor Bobby Jindal, in addition to making stuff up about what he did during Hurricane Katrina, also found time to mock the Obama administration for "wasteful spending" in the stimulus bill, including "$140 million for something called 'volcano monitoring'"?

That line immediately drew criticism from just about everyone who understands what volcano monitoring involves. And now, it's looking even dumber.

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With a number of major agenda items in the pipeline, will the Senate leadership and outside progressive groups fight the new moderate Democratic caucus in the Senate? Or does the group wield enough power that they're essentially immune to push back?

You may recall that last week, Evan Bayh paid a visit to Joe Scarborough to announce he would lead a working group of conservative Senate Democrats, modeled in some ways after the Blue Dog caucus in the House. At the time, Bayh joked that three or four of the group's fifteen members were in the "witness protection program," too intimidated for some reason or other to publicly align themselves with Bayh et al.

The new coalition could wield tremendous power. Its 15 members comprise just over a quarter of the Democratic caucus, which makes them bigger than the House Blue Dogs whose 49 members make up just under one-fifth of all House Democrats. (And, of course, in the Senate, Democratic votes are more crucial than they are in the House because every major piece of legislation is susceptible to a filibuster).

Many saw the move as the crystallization of the power of Senate moderates, a few of whom famously (or, perhaps, infamously) took control of the stimulus bill and watered it down until it met their approval. At the time, Harry Reid said, "they cannot hold the President of the United States hostage.

But now that several conservative Democrats are aligning to influence legislation on a regular basis, Harry Reid doesn't seem to care at all. In fact, he contributed a quote to Bayh's official press release, saying "If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work," he said. "New ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing."

This may be filtering down through the Democratic establishment where, for the most part, there's been complete silence about the working group. The notable exception is the Campaign for America's Future, which has set up an initiative called "Dog the Blue Dogs", encouraging people to "call conservative Democrats in the House and Senate and tell them to not be lapdogs for the...right who want to obstruct the administration's common-sense agenda."

Robert Borosage, co-director for Campaign for America's Future, says "We pushed early and hard because we were alarmed that Bayh et al were publicly opposing the president a majority vote on health care and energy that could be done under reconciliation. This struck us as much more destructive than simply working hard to amend or change the president's program. This is empowering the Republican minority that has made obstruction their signature posture."

The group USAction has joined the Campaign for America's Future in circulating the "Dog the Blue Dogs" request. I have some calls out to other organizations to see whether or not they'll be taking an official position, but early signs suggest they will follow Reid's lead and won't be particularly vocal opponents of the so-called Moderate Dems Working Group.

While official Washington remains publicly preoccupied with executive compensation and the bailout, labor and business interests continue jockeying for position on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) ahead of its likely congressional consideration in the summer.

The latest round came this weekend, when the CEOs of Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks offered an EFCA compromise that would deny workers the right to arbitration with employers who resist union organizing efforts.

Backers of the EFCA "alternative" have enlisted Lanny Davis, the former Clinton White House adviser turned supporter of Joe Lieberman's 2006 re-election bid, to plead their case on the Hill. And it's not going well so far, to say the least -- senior Democrats are pushing back hard at the compromise offer with a series of talking points that blast the EFCA "alternative" as "written by CEOs, for CEOs."

TPMDC has obtained a copy of the complete memo on the business-friendly deal, which is available after the jump. The takeaway is clear: Senior Democrats aren't buying what Davis is helping Costco, Whole Foods, and Starbucks try to sell.

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A new Rasmussen poll finds solid approval for the proposed 90% bonus tax: 57% in favor, to only 35% against.

And the AIG bonuses have now left the company in a very precarious position, with 67% agreeing that the federal government should refuse to provide the company with any further financial support.

At the same time, 81% say Congress does not have the right to raise taxes on all Americans retroactively -- though clearly, there's an exception to this general rule.

Since TPMDC first noted on Friday that the Senate was putting the brakes on the AIG-inspired bonus taxation bill, the signs of a further slowdown are piling up.

As more banks warn that a broad bonus tax would drive them out of the open arms of the Treasury Department, even senior figures in the Obama administration are suggesting that the House's 90% levy on this year's bailout bonuses might not reach the president's desk.

But where does that leave the Senate, which aims to take up the bonus tax plan in the coming days? In a potential pickle, with must-get centrists such as Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Susan Collins (ME) cool to the idea and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already facing a huge challenge in marshaling support for the White House budget -- which is scheduled for floor consideration starting next week.

Even House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) -- who is supporting a bonus tax bill that would impact far more companies than last week's AIG-inspired measure -- took a mushy line on the 90% tax yesterday, telling CBS: "I voted for the bill. I was not a major advocate for it."

If senior lawmakers keep coming down from last week's woozy, angry anti-AIG high, look for tomorrow's testimony from Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to be more of a test of political capital for Geithner than an AIG frustration-fest.

The latest corporate disasters have become the big thing in the March 31 special election for Kirsten Gillibrand's old House seat, with the Dems now firing back after the Republicans attacked Democratic candidate Scott Murphy's support for the stimulus bill as tantamount to support for the AIG bonuses.

The DCCC has this new attack ad, going after Republican Jim Tedisco for having written a letter in support of leniency against a businessman convicted in a mortgage-company scandal back in 2003:



"But Tedisco did help a wealthy mortgage executive convicted of millions in fraud -- asking the judge to go easy on him," the announcer says. "Then the convicted felon's company became one of Tedisco's top campaign contributors."

Late Update: A statement from Tedisco spokesman Adam Kramer hits the Democrats right back by pointing to Murphy's recently-stated total opposition to the death penalty -- even if it includes the 9/11 terrorists -- and continues to press the attack that Murphy is for the AIG bonuses:

"Discredited attacks will do nothing to reverse the spiral of Wall Street executive Scott Murphy's campaign. It's ironic that Washington Democrats would bring up the issue of leniency just days after Murphy made clear that he is opposed to the death penalty for 9/11 terrorists but fine with rewarding failed executives at companies like AIG."


There is a certain irony in this campaign -- the Republican is running as a populist, and the Democrat is being attacked as an out of touch Wall Street executive.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said Friday that she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees to her Anchorage-based lawyer Thomas van Flein for work defending her on ten lawsuits, which she did not name. But Palin specified that the lawsuits start with "the politically motivated Troopergate probe," in which Palin was accused of pressuring a state official to fire a state trooper embroiled in a personal dispute with the Palin family. Palin also said that she could not use public funds to pay her lawyer because "to do so could itself violate state law," but she might establish a legal fund to help pay the debt. (Anchorage Daily News)

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