TPM News

The Obama administration's plans for Don't Ask, Don't Tell are pretty clear at this point. They will call on Congress to repeal the some some point in time. And not a day sooner.

Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he is working on an assessment of what -- if any -- impact overturning "don't ask, don't tell" policies would mean for the military and its culture. In the meantime, the Pentagon plans to follow the existing rules, which say gays and lesbians can serve in the military if they do not disclose their sexuality or engage in homosexual behavior.

"The president has made his strategic intent very clear, that it's his intent at some point in time to ask Congress to change this law," Mullen said. "I think it's important to also know that this is the law, this isn't a policy. And for the rules to change, a law has to be changed."
Got that?

Meanwhile, the Associated Press breathlessly headlines their article "Mullen: Military to comply if gay ban law changes". Good to know they're not considering mutiny.

Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin -- the former Bush campaign opposition researcher whose appointment was at the center of the U.S. Attorney controversy of 2007 -- is not running for Senate after all.

Griffin had been eyeing a possible Senate bid in his native Arkansas, against Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln. But as the Arkansas News reports, Griffin is choosing instead to focus on other priorities: He has a growing family, he's making his way up in the Army Reserve, and he's advising a bunch of political campaigns.

So that's one lingering piece of muck from the Bush years that we can probably lay to rest -- at least for the immediate future.

We wondered earlier, in reference to the Newburgh Four: is sending a government mole out to scrounge up a few dim-witted ex-cons who can be talked -- and perhaps bribed -- into getting involved in a fictitious bomb plot really the best way to use our limited terror-fighting resources?

The picture is still a long way from being clear, but a prominent counter-terrorism expert we spoke to confirms there are legitimate questions about the wisdom of the approach.

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If you read this site fairly regularly, you might be thinking that President Obama is having some issues with the Senate. And you'd be correct. Here's an abbreviated list of hurdles: Dawn Johnsen can't be confirmed to head the Office of Legal Counsel; health care reform may have to do without a public option--if it happens at all; and Obama's goal of shuttering the Guantanamo Bay detention center by early 2010 is suddenly imperiled by the common cousins of conservative demagoguery and Democratic sheepishness.

The examples are manifold. And the voices of opposition are united.

"No way I can vote for her," says a senator of Dawn Johnsen.

Seeking to protect health insurance companies, which would be hard pressed to compete with a government provider, one senator called the idea of a publicly run insurance option a "deal breaker."

And on Guantanamo, the voice of the opposition in the Senate can be summed up thusly: "I think they need to be kept elsewhere, wherever that is. I don't want to see them come on American soil."

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The White House has been pretty clear for weeks now that they want Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) to sail smoothly to re-election in 2010. But now, apparently, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is getting in on the act.

Word out of Washington, D.C., is that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the political wiseguys from the Obama administration plan on "visiting with" Pennsylvania Democrat Rep. Joe Sestak.

Their objective is clear: Get him off the stage and out of a primary race against incumbent (and now Democrat) Sen. Arlen Specter.
Sestak seems to have scaled back his attacks on Specter in the last week or two, and he suggested he approves of Specter's efforts to reach a compromise on the Employee Free Choice Act with the bill's sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (R-IA). But he's also said he'd likely get into the race unless Specter came into line with the Democrats on a whole host of issues. Does this change his calculus?

It's strange to think that a guy who served as Speaker of the House for a mere four years, ending his stint more than a decade ago, has now been able to command such a loyal following in the DC media types that he is making regular national TV appearances and is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate. But that's what Newt Gingrich -- whose name was last on a ballot in 1998, when he won re-election to his House seat from Georgia and then soon after resigned as both Speaker and a member of Congress -- has managed to pull off.

Just look at his Speaker Gingrich Web hub for his views on the issues -- its full heading is "The Office of Speaker Newt Gingrich," a decade after he left an office he held for four years. He's also become an expert adviser with House Minority Whip Eric Cantor's National Council for a New America, which is widely seen as a GOP rebranding effort.

Some recent Newt pronouncements include:

• Calling on the current Speaker Nancy Pelosi to resign, after she said the CIA lied to her about torture: "She's made America less secure by sending a signal to the men and women defending our country that they can't count on their leaders to defend them."

• Declaring that President Obama is endangering Israel: "There's almost an eagerness to take on the Israeli government to make a point with the Arab world."

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Reports last week suggested that the Newburgh four -- the men arrested Wednesday for plotting to bomb two New York synagogues -- perhaps weren't the swiftest ships in her majesty's fleet. But over the weekend, people close to the four came forward to describe how the government informant at the center of the case against them -- the man known to the suspects as Maqsood -- aggressively courted the men before luring them into an imagined jihad.

Here's what the New York Daily News, Post, and Times reported about how "Maqsood" (identified as a Pakistani immigrant named Shahed Hussain) won the men's loyalty:

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After Barack Obama wrapped up his big security and civil liberties speech last week, Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) issued a strong statement of support for the President in which he drew a stark contrast between the new administration and the previous one.

But Feingold was either holding fire, or the words he'd just heard hadn't settled in immediately. Because by the end of the week, a reservation had emerged. In a gentle, but resolute, letter to Obama dated Friday, May 22, Feingold says a key aspect of Obama's outlined detention policy is likely unconstitutional.

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Obama: North Korea "Recklessly Challenging The International Community" President Obama released a statement at about 2 a.m. ET, on North Korea's claimed nuclear test. "By acting in blatant defiance of the United Nations Security Council, North Korea is directly and recklessly challenging the international community," Obama said. "North Korea's behavior increases tensions and undermines stability in Northeast Asia. Such provocations will only serve to deepen North Korea's isolation. It will not find international acceptance unless it abandons its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery."

Obama's Day Ahead: Memorial Day Observance President Obama is having breakfast with Gold Star Families this morning, at 9 a.m. ET in the State Dining Room. At 11 a.m. ET, he will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He will speak at 11:15 a.m. ET, from the Memorial Amphitheater.

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Mullen: Gitmo Needs To Be Closed Appearing on ABC's This Week, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen reaffirmed his belief that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. "The concern I've had about Guantanamo in these wars is it has been a symbol, and one which has been a recruiting symbol for those extremists and jihadists who would fight us. So and I think that centers -- you know, that's the heart of the concern for Guantanamo's continued existence, in which I spoke to a few years ago, the need to close it."

Obama's Day: Camp David President Obama has been spending the weekend at Camp David, and is scheduled to arrive back at the White House tonight at 10 p.m. ET. He does not have any public events scheduled. Vice President Biden is in Wilmington, Delaware, and also does not have any scheduled public events.

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