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Over at TPMDC, we posted video of a speech given Wednesday night by Sen. Carl Levin, in which he pushed back against Dick Cheney's no-middle-ground approach to torture.

But one specific rebuttal of Levin's that particularly stood out, in part because not enough people have challenged Cheney's claim, comes at the 3:53 mark.

Says Levin:

When former Vice President Cheney said last week that what happened at Abu Ghraib was the work of a quote few sadistic prison guards acting on their own, he bore false witness.

And when he said last week there was no link between the techniques at Abu Ghraib and those approved for use in the CIA's secret prisons, he again strayed from the truth.

The seeds of Abu Ghraib's rotten fruit were sown by civilians at the highest levels of our government.

Hard to put it better than that.


The Sotomayor nomination has become an occasion for Pat Buchanan to refocus on his main political cause: The endangered, persecuted white male.

On MSNBC today, Buchanan sad that Sonia Sotomayor believes in advancing minorities at the expense of white men -- and so does President Obama:

"But I do agree that Sonia Sotomayor, she does believe in race-based justice -- basically at the expense of white males, to advance people of color," said Buchanan. "But the truth is, that's what Barack Obama believes, as well."

Later on, the discussion about the New Haven firefighters case got pretty heated. "And these firefighters are gonna win it," Buchanan exclaimed, "and that woman was takin' away their rights because they were white!"

So let's try and keep track. First Barack Obama said he wanted his Supreme Court nominee to bring a quality of empathy to the bench. Then he picked Sonia Sotomayor, who claimed to embody this quality. Then Republicans and movement conservatives alike launched a possibly ill-advised war on empathy (at least as it applies to Supreme Court nominees).

Now, though, it seems most recent Republican Supreme Court picks are, or claim to be, pretty empathic creatures themselves. There's Samuel Alito, and Sandra Day O'Connor, and now, it turns out, Clarence Thomas.

And I believe, Senator, that I can make a contribution, that I can bring something different to the Court, that I can walk in the shoes of the people who are affected by what the Court does. You know, on my current court I have occasion to look out the window that faces C Street, and there are converted buses that bring in the criminal defendants to our criminal justice system, bus load after bus load. And you look out and you say to yourself, and I say to myself almost every day, "But for the grace of God there go I."

Unfortunately for conservatives, though, this laughably transparent double standards has forced many on the right to up the ante, calling Sotomayor a racist, while making an issue of her race and gender. And it's creating some problems for them.

Rush Limbaugh is now comparing the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the idea of nominating David Duke:

"She brings a form of bigotry or racism to the court," Limbaugh said, later adding: "How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive."

Late Update: At the White House press briefing just now, Robert Gibbs was asked about the David Duke comparison and what Sotomayor would think of it. Gibbs searched for the words to answer the absurdity of it: "I don't think you have to be the nominee to -- (laughs) -- I don't think you have to be the nominee to find what's said today offensive." After noting that other Republicans have been condemning this kind of rhetoric, he said of the Ku Klux Klan comparisons: "It's amazing."

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

• CNN, State Of The Union: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX).

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-AL); Caterpillar CEO Jim Owens, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy.

As my colleague Eric Kleefeld and I have been documenting this, there's a real split on the right between elected officials, particularly in the Senate, who have jobs to keep, and radical figureheads in the conservative movement who want to push the Republican party closer to the fringe. Sotomayor's nomination has unveiled, and widened, that divide. On one side of it, are conservative Republicans like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). And on the other, are people like G. Gordon Liddy, who took to the radio yesterday with this sentiment, "Let's hope that the key conferences aren't when [Sotomayor]'s menstruating or something, or just before she's going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then."

He also said she--an American born New Yorker whose parents came from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico--"is a member of La Raza, which means in illegal alien, 'the race.'"

This comes via ThinkProgress.

Earlier today, key Sotomayor opponent Wendy Long, who's never gone that far in her criticisms, was positively gobsmacked about the fact that Sotomayor's nomination has touched off an argument about race and identity politics. She was not immediately available for comment, but we've left a message with the Judicial Confirmation Network, and we'll let you know if she gets back to us.

Is the federal probe into the PMA Group -- the heavy-hitting lobby shop with ties to several Demcoratic powerbrokers, that folded earlier this year after being raided by the FBI -- finally coming to a boil?

Rep. Pete Visclosky of Indiana, has acknowledged in a statement that he's been subpoenaed by a grand jury in connection with the investigaiton, reports The Politico.

Read More →

Here's the new TV ad from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), one of the most vulnerable Congressional Democrats going into the 2010 elections, featuring President Obama praising Dodd's work on the credit card bill:

"I want to give a special shout-out to Chris Dodd," we hear Obama saying during the bill-signing, "who has been a relentless fighter to get this done."

The latest Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut gives Dodd an approval rating of only 38%, with 53% disapproval. By contrast, Obama's numbers are currently at 71%-22%. So clearly, Obama was doing Dodd a big favor with the shout-out -- and Dodd is taking the obvious next step to repair his own brand with the help of a much stronger one.

On Wednesday, Glenn Greenwald posted a key part of the transcript of Justice Samuel Alito's 2006 confirmation hearing, which suggests that, just three and a half years ago, Republicans thought empathy was a pretty righteous quality in a Supreme Court nominee. Well, we've dug up the footage of that portion of the hearing and, as it turns out, he sells the empathy pretty well.

Now either Alito believed what he told the Judiciary Committee, or he believed that the then-Republican led panel wanted to hear that sentiment. But either way it makes the recent Republican insistence that Supreme Court nominees sit bereft of empathy on the bench a little bit hard to believe.

Earlier today, Greg Sargent dug up an old interview in Ladies Home Journal in which Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (a now-retired Reagan nominee) suggested that her experience as a woman impacted her jurisprudence.

Earlier today, MSNBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie got an email about the fight over Sonia Sotomayor from a shocked Wendy Long of the Judicial Confirmation Network. "Somehow," she wrote, "this important debate is turning into an argument about race and identity politics."

How ever could that have happened!? Maybe it had something to do with statements like this by...Wendy Long: "[Sotomayor] herself has said that she thinks it's appropriate for her to make decisions as a Latina woman, from that perspective, bringing to bear those demographics on her decision-making. And that she thinks if she applies her personal views and her personal demographics to the case before her, she's going to make a better decision than a white man."

That was three days ago on Anderson Cooper. And there's, of course, much more. Baffling, though, that this could have somehow become an argument about race and identity politics.