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We're starting to get a rich picture of the four hapless Jihadis who were arrested Wednesday night for plotting to bomb two New York synagogues, as well as the FBI informant who deceived them. And the overall portrait that's emerging is that of a group of struggling, disaffected petty criminals, who bonded at a Newburgh, NY mosque over having spent time in prison, before being taken in by a Pakistani immigrant looking to win leniency for a crime of his own.

There's little doubt the bumbling would-be bombers went far enough with the plot to demonstrate that they had the intention to commit terror, and for that they'll pay the price. But the whole tale comes off perhaps more as a sad glimpse into the lives of a loose group of aimless and obscurely embittered Americans than as a dire illustration of the threat of home-grown terrorism.

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It's been a fun week for Sen. Vitter (R-LA), the Christian-right champion whose career became bogged down in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal in 2007. Here's what happened:

• It was briefly floated that former state Elections Commissioner Suzanne Terrell (R), who narrowly lost the 2002 Senate race to Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu, was considering a GOP primary challenge after Vitter had delayed the confirmation of the new head of FEMA.

• Just as quickly as she'd put her name out, Terrell put out a statement endorsing Vitter -- just as previous potential primary challengers like Tony Perkins or John Cooksey have done before her.

• Porn star Stormy Daniels formed an exploratory committee to run against Vitter. Daniels has said in the past that people are looking for honesty and integrity in their leaders -- meaning that her campaign would likely be a platform to remind voters about Vitter's indiscretions and hypocrisy.

A Republican source told me that they're feeling fine about Vitter. "We're confident he's gonna be fine, we're confident that he's gonna win," the source said. "He still enjoys high approval ratings, he spends a lot of time in the state talking about what's important to his constituents."

The Republican National Committee has put out this new Web ad, borrowing from the Democrats' infamous "Daisy" attack ad against Barry Goldwater in 1964 -- and likening the danger of Guantanamo detainees being brought on to U.S. soil to the 1960s threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union:



Interestingly, this Web ad uses audio of the nuclear explosion from the Daisy ad, but the RNC wasn't daring enough to incorporate the full visual of a mushroom cloud. The ad also uses audio of Lyndon Johnson saying "These are the stakes!" but cuts off the full statement: "These are the stakes! To make a world in which all of God's children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die." That kind of aspiration for a world of love isn't exactly a GOP slogan these days.

The message of original Daisy spot, by the way, was that Goldwater would recklessly get us all killed. So it would logically follow that the message of this ad, of course, is that Obama will recklessly get us all killed.

It may be further evidence of the Republican Party's current doldrums that a top party spokesman, who will appear on Meet The Press this Sunday to debate a high-ranking Democrat, is none other than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich will be facing off against Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), to discuss national security issues and the controversy surrounding Nancy Pelosi's claims against the CIA.

Consider the fact that Durbin is a top-ranking elected Democrat -- while Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House a little over ten years ago.

Michael Calderone at Politico has gotten comment from the New York Times Washington bureau chief, Dean Baquet, about the paper's changes -- sans correction -- to the online version of a story on freed Guantanamo detainees engaging in terrorism that was on the front page of the print paper Thursday.

At issue were changes to the headline and lead of the story that amounted to a walk back of its original claim that one in seven Gitmo detainees "returned" to terrorism. The headline shifted from "1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds" to "Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees."

The difference is between a story about the government blundering by letting hardened terrorists free, only to rejoin the fight against America, and a more complicated story in which some Gitmo detainees may have become radicalized while imprisoned.

Baquet thinks the changes, which would seem to speak to basic assumptions about the nature of Guantanamo, were no big deal, and therefore did not warrant notifying Times readers in a correction or editor's note.

Here's what he told Calderone:

Reading some of the criticism it seems that people are saying it undercut the story. It did not. The story was about the estimate of the number of people who ended up, by DOD"s account, as being engaged in terrorism or militant activity after leaving Gitmo. That still stands. The change was an acknowledgment that some assert that not everyone in Gitmo is truly a terrorist. Some critics have said that Gitmo is also filled with people who aren't truly terrorists.

Anyone who is reading a significant retreat in the story, or as us somehow saying the story is wrong is looking for politics where it ain't.


The problem here is that the use of variations on the word "return" throughout the original story was wrong and significant. And keep in mind that the story was pounced on by right-wing media and picked up on cable, where the "returned to jihad" phrasing was endlessly parroted. (Others have pointed out the credulousness of the piece on other fronts.) As we said above, the use of this phrasing speaks to important assumptions about what happened at Guantanamo -- and, potentially, how we deal with detainees there in the present. Which is presumably the same reason why the Times rewrote the headline and lead of the piece.

WaPo: White House To Steer G.M. Into Bankruptcy The Washington Post reports that the Obama Administration is preparing to send General Motors into a planned bankruptcy as the end of next week, with the intention to give the company nearly $30 billion more in aid to help them restructure.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will sign the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act, at 9 a.m. ET in the Rose Garden. At 10 a.m. ET, he will deliver the commencement at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. At 3 p.m. ET, he will return to the Rose Garden to sign the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act.

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The American Clean Energy and Security Act--also known as the Waxman-Markey bill--was reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee last night. The vote was split almost perfectly down party lines, with 33 in favor and 24 opposed.

Now Democratic leaders faces a dilemma. Normally they would move the bill on to the floor of the House and it would receive an up or down vote (subject to various stall tactics, and so forth). But yesterday, The Hill reported that Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN)--House Agriculture chairman--is threatening to whip all of the Democrats on his panel into voting no on passage unless that committee is given equal jurisdiction over the legislation and is allowed to mark it up on its own. If he gets his way, the legislation could lose yet more of its teeth. If he doesn't (and if he's able to make good on his threat) then it may not pass at all.

We'll see how this shakes out.

President Obama talks with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward at a community service event on the South Lawn of the White House with the Superbowl champions, May 21, 2009.

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Steelers President Art Rooney II presents President Obama with a team jersey.

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President Obama joined the team to fill care packages for soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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May 21, 2009

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