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Cheney Says GOP Shouldn't Moderate Itself, Stresses "Our Commitment To The Constitution" During an appearance on a right-wing talk radio show, former Vice President Dick Cheney said the Republican Party should not moderate itself. Cheney explained: "This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas ... what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be speaking at 11:30 a.m. ET from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, on the subjects of job creation and job training. At 3:15 p.m. ET, he will meet in the Oval Office with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA).

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Tom Ridge appeared on Hardball to discuss why he chose not to run for the Pennsylvania Senate seat currently held by party-switcher Arlen Specter, and at the end of the conversation there was a very strange exchange: Ridge, a former Republican governor and Bush cabinet member, not only wouldn't say that conservative former Rep. Pat Toomey can win -- but he wouldn't say he'd vote for him.



When Chris Matthews asked whether Toomey can win, Ridge paused and eventually had to say he didn't know. When asked who he would vote for, between Toomey the Republican or Specter the ex-Republican, Ridge replied: "Well, it's a wonderful country, this America -- it's called secret ballot."

Transcript after the jump.

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Finally, a fresh face to connect some dots in the evermore mind-numbingly convoluted state pension fund scandals!

Meet Lori Schiaffino. She is a former secretary of Revlon CEO Ron Perelman who gets invited to exclusive Oscar parties and lives some of the time in the Hamptons. According to records released by state investment authorities in New Mexico, Schiaffino also works as what is called a "placement agent," who helped secure a hedge fund called Optima a $50 million investment from the New Mexico teachers' retirement fund.

Placement agents, who are paid finders fees by hedge funds and other private money managers for securing investments from public pension funds, are at the heart of the expanding pension fund scandal. In March Hank Morris, the top adviser to former New York state comptroller Alan Hevesi, was indicted for running an elaborate scheme to collect $35 million in phony placement agent fees while he acted as an effective gatekeeper of the state pension fund in conjunction with Dan Loglisci, the fund's chief investment officer. A parallel -- and intertwined -- scandal is brewing in New Mexico, where a longtime associate of Gov. Bill Richardson named Marc Correra appears to have collected $13.5 million in finders' fees over the past few years -- including a whopping $2 million we told you about yesterday for directing a $90 million in the teachers' pension money to a "toxic waste" tranche of a mortgage-backed collateralized debt obligation that lost nearly all of its value within the space of a year.

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A new Rasmussen poll in Texas finds that Gov. Rick Perry -- the man who has suggested his state might secede from the United States -- is in a near-tie in his Republican primary against the popular U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: Perry 42%, Hutchison 38%, with a ±4% margin of error.

You might think it's bad for the incumbent to be under 50% in his primary, but this could actually be a big improvement for Perry. There isn't another recent Rasmussen poll for direct comparison, but a survey from Public Policy Polling (D) back in February put Hutchison ahead 56%-31%.

Since then, Perry has been hitting the hustings in a big way and putting himself forward as the true conservative. And of course, Daily Kos/Research 2000 polling shows a majority of Texas Republicans approve of his secessionist teasing.

We should probably be rooting for Hutchison in this one. The Union cause is on the line!

As if the situation with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) couldn't be a bigger mess, he is now disputing Harry Reid's contention that he'll be a solid procedural vote for the Democrats.

Yesterday, you'll recall, Reid said on MSNBC yesterday, "on procedural votes he'll be with us all the time."

Well, Fox News caught up with Specter today and asked him about that: "Specter merely smiled and repeated several times, 'I'm going to have to talk to Sen. Reid about that.'"

Reid told Fox in response: "I have talked since Monday night of last week on Specter. I'm not going to talk any more about it. I have explained and re-explained and the re-explaining is over with."

And Reid's spokesman Jim Manley said Reid was being "hopeful and optimistic" about Specter's vote, and reiterated what he told me yesterday about this: "Sen. Reid never takes any votes for granted."

Oh, brother.

(Via Think Progress.)

Last night Michelle Obama attended and gave remarks at the TIME 100 Most Influential People Awards at the Lincoln Center in New York City. She talked about public service and the budget, and wore Azzedine Alaïa.

White House

From left to right: John Huey, Oprah Winfrey, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Richard Stengel.

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Among the other recipients of the award: Michelle's husband, Sarah Palin, TPM blogger Elizabeth Warren and Zac Efron.

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Cambodian author and human rights advocate Somaly Mam and First Lady Michelle Obama.

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When it became clear that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was poised to become ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, we recalled this 2002 article by Sarah Wildman which addresses some of the controversies that kept Sessions from being confirmed in 1986 as a U.S. District Court judge in Alabama.

Wildman writes in particular that the testimonies of two witnesses--a Justice Department employee named J. Gerald Hebert, and a black Sessions subordinate named Thomas Figures--helped to doom Sessions, then a U.S. Attorney, at his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. According to Wildman, Hebert testified reluctantly "that in a conversation between the two men Sessions had labeled the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) "un-American" and "Communist-inspired." And Figures--then an assistant U.S. Attorney--told the committee that "during a 1981 murder investigation involving the Ku Klux Klan, Sessions was heard by several colleagues commenting that he 'used to think they [the Klan] were OK' until he found out some of them were 'pot smokers.'"

Today we obtained a copy of the transcript of the Sessions hearings--over 500-pages worth--and it turns out there's quite a bit more. We're still going through it, of course, but the Figures testimony alone contains some damning details.

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A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll finds Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) in good overall shape to win re-election in 2010 -- though there just might be an opening for a Democratic primary challenger.

In a Democratic primary against the lesser-known Rep. Joe Sestak, Specter has 56% to Sestak's 11%, and Specter also leads current challenger Joe Torsella by 60%-5%. However, a separate question shows that only 37% of Dem primary voters say they would definitely vote for Specter, while 23% would consider someone else, 16% are definitely for someone else, and 24% are undecideds. This would indicate that some of Specter's support is soft, and a challenger could have a plausible (though definitely uphill) chance.

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As promised, over at The New Republic Jeffrey Rosen has responded to critics of an article he wrote earlier this week calling into question the fitness of appellate court judge Sonia Sotomayor to serve on the Supreme Court.

Rosen defends all aspects of his piece beyond its title, which he says was assigned without his knowledge by TNR's editors, and which he regrets. He makes a number of the same points he made to me yesterday when I asked him about the controversy, but adds a few more.

He writes, "I was satisfied that my sources's concerns were widely shared when I read Sotomayor's entry in the Almanac of the Federal Judiciary, which includes the rating of judges based on the collective opinions of the lawyers who work with them. Usually lawyers provide fairly positive comments."

That Almanac entry is here. Rosen himself acknowledges that, according to the report, "most of lawyers interviewed said Sotomayor has good legal ability," and "lawyers said Sotomayor is very active and well-prepared at oral argument."

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Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA), whose conservative primary challenge against Sen. Arlen Specter caused the incumbent to switch parties, released this statement on the news that former Gov. Tom Ridge won't run for the GOP nomination:

"Tom Ridge is a true patriot and a leader. In his eloquent statement today, he said: 'My belief is that those in my home state can best be served by the principles of limited government, less taxes, competent governance and shared responsibility.' I agree with Governor Ridge's statement 100%. That is exactly the message I will carry to the people of Pennsylvania in my campaign for the U.S. Senate. It is a message that will not only unite the Republican Party, but more importantly, it is one that a majority of our fellow citizens can rally around, regardless of their party affiliation."

The Toomey campaign is off to a very fast start. In only three weeks since Pat Toomey declared his candidacy, the campaign has raised over $500,000 from over 4,000 contributors, signed up thousands more grassroots supporters, and brought on board many leading Republican elected officials and state party leaders.

Despite not being widely known throughout the entire state, two polls out this week show Toomey within a single digit margin of 30-year incumbent Senator Arlen Specter in the general election. This is in keeping with former Congressman Toomey's record of running and winning three general elections in the Democratic-leaning 15th Congressional District. By all accounts, Pat Toomey is the candidate who can unite Republicans and defeat the Democratic nominee in the general election.

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