TPM News

Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown, the underdog Republican candidate in the special election for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat, has a new ad that ties him to the Kennedy legacy. To be specific, Brown is linking himself to the John F. Kennedy legacy, using the common depiction by modern Republicans of President Kennedy as a supply-side conservative.

The ad opens with footage of Kennedy proposing a tax cut in 1963 1962, and then fades into Brown reciting the words of Kennedy's speech about how tax cuts will spur growth:



Besides the obvious joke that Scott Brown is no Jack Kennedy, it should be noted that any tax cut being proposed today is no Kennedy tax cut (or more properly a "Kennedy-Johnson" tax cut, since it was proposed by Kennedy but not enacted into law until LBJ came into office), and the circumstances are wildly different. At the time of the Kennedy-Johnson tax cuts, the top marginal income tax rate was over 90%, which was then lowered to 70 percent. By modern conservative standards, this would be considered a tyrannical socialist regime plotting to confiscate all private property.

Today, the current top federal income tax rate is 36%. If the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire for the upper brackets, the top rate will be 39%. Even if the Democrats were to propose increasing the top income taxes beyond that, it's hard to imagine them going anywhere near the tax rates of the Kennedy-Johnson era.

George W. Bush, you say? Never heard of him.

That's the tack that Torture Memo author John Yoo seems to take in a new interview with Deborah Solomon of The New York Times Magazine.

The parley was to promote Yoo's new book, Crisis and Command, which the Times describes as "an eloquent, fact-laden history of audacious power grabs by American presidents going back to George Washington" -- a subject with which Yoo, who was a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, has some familiarity.

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Sen. Ben Nelson will defend his support for the health care bill to Nebraska voters in a new political television ad tonight - even though he won't face them again until November 2012.

Nelson says the health care plan will not create a government-run system and lowers the deficit, and boasted of his role in improving the bill, saying he did so because "I listened to you."

The Lincoln Journal-Star got a look at Nelson's 30-second ad, which will air tonight during the Holiday Bowl game between the Nebraska Cornhuskers and the Arizona Wildcats.

The newspaper reported that he speaks straight to the camera and says he wanted voters to hear from him instead of listen to "distortions" about the debate.

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich went on something of a Twitter frenzy today, criticizing the Obama administration's terrorism policies via a series of angry Tweets that slam "government failure and incompetence," and call for for an "aggressive practical strategy" of "explicit profiling and explicit discrimination" against suspected terrorists.

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Karl Rove will be hitting the political trail again, with an upcoming fundraiser for Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).

Rove will headline the fundraiser in Raleigh on January 28. Back when Rove was a top adviser to then-President George W. Bush, he helped recruit Burr to run for the Senate seat that John Edwards vacated in 2004 when he ran for the presidency. Look for the North Carolina Democrats to use this Rove appearance to tie Burr to the unpopular Bush administration.

Burr is expected to be a top Democratic target in 2010. Burr's state has become a swing state after years as a Southern Republican area. It was narrowly carried by Barack Obama in 2008, and in another key election that year, Democrat Kay Hagan unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole with a nine-point victory. Burr's approval ratings have been low in recent polls, but so have his disapproval ratings. It's not that he's unpopular, but many voters don't have an opinion at all about him, which will make his fate largely dependent on the overall political climate.

The halls of Capitol Hill may be quiet for the holiday break, but the health care merger calls started this week.

Senate sources tell TPMDC that nothing formal has happened but after a short respite for team health care, the White House and Congressional leadership tasked with negotiating a final plan have gotten back to work.

Staff and members have started discussions but meetings won't start until next week, an aide says. The real talks between lawmakers are likely to start the second week of January.

Meanwhile, the White House is using the slow time to sell the health care plan in a less traditional way.

Jen Cannistra of the administration's health care team blogged on the White House Web site a long timeline with photos of the "road" to health care reform.

From community talks on health care one year ago to House and Senate passage of a bill, Cannistra's narrative was used as a tool to explain in detail the basics of what will be in the bill President Obama signs next year. (The sticking points aren't mentioned.)

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On December 22, 2009, the Illinois Department of Corrections hosted a guided media tour of Thomson Correctional Center's cellblock 4D. The Obama administration announced seven days earlier that the federal government purchased the center, which is 50 miles northeast of the Davenport, Iowa and planned to move 1,600 to 2,000 federal prisoners there, along with a "limited number" of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (A spokesperson also stated that in the event detainees don't qualify for a federal trial or military review, they would be held at the facility.) As many as 100 Gitmo detainees may eventually be moved to the supermax prison facility, according to estimates. The exterior of the facility in Thomson, Illinois is seen in this photo taken November 17, 2009.

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Cell block 4D.

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The visitation area.

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An overall view of a typical inmate's cell, unoccupied.

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An aerial view of the Thomson Correctional Center taken November 17, 2009.

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