TPM News

Mother Jones has advanced the story of an alleged bid by the Bushies to destroy a memo, written by a top state department lawyer, that offered an alternative view on the legality of torture.

Last month, as we noted, Philip Zelikow, a top lawyer for Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, wrote that the Bush White House "attempted to collect and destroy all copies" of the memo. But he hadn't said who at the White House he suspected of being behind that effort.

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Michael Steele has given in to his RNC critics who were seeking to curtail his power, the Washington Times reports, agreeing on a set of rules for Steele's spending as chairman.

Steele has agreed to restore "good governance" rules for contracts and other expenditures, which were instituted after 2004 and were scrapped after the 2008 primary season. In addition, he has agreed to bring in former long-time RNC financial officer Jay Banning -- who was fired by Steele last month -- to serve as an on-call adviser to the treasurer. Other staffers are also being kept on either payroll or retainer, as well.

As the Washington Times points out: "It represents the first time in memory that rebel members of the Republican Party's national governing body have successfully taken on the party's historically powerful national chairman and his loyalists."

The new Quinnipiac poll of Ohio shows that the 2010 Senate race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. George Voinovich is wide open, with the Democrats appearing to start out with an early advantage.

In the Democratic primary, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher has 20% to Sec. of State Jennifer Brunner's 16%, followed by state Rep. Tyrone Yates at 4%. In the Republican primary, former Rep. Rob Portman has 29%, with his potential major opponent, state Auditor Mary Taylor, at 8%, and auto dealer Tom Ganley at 8%.

In the general election match-ups, Fisher leads Portman by 42%-31%, and he leads Taylor by 41%-29%. Brunner leads Portman by 40%-32%, and she's ahead of Taylor by 38%-29%. The undecideds are clearly very high, and anything could happen in the next year and a half, but for now the Dems have an advantage.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)--who, it's important to note, will probably be the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee next Congress--is on the record saying the President should be given deference when selecting his nominees. In a 2005 New Yorker article, he told Jeffrey Toobin, "Filibusters are designed so that the minority can bring about compromise on legislation. But you can't compromise a Presidential nomination. It's yes or no. So filibusters on nominations are an abuse of our function under the Constitution to advise and consent."

A number of Republicans have been quoted over the years laying out a similar philosophy, and that's led many to suspect that even conservative betes noir like Dawn Johnsen will be able to avoid a filibuster and sail to confirmation. But, as it turns out, that principle is an artifact of an era when the filibuster was about the only lever of power the Democrats held. Today the situation is more than reversed, and Republicans like Grassley are discovering not-so-subtle ways to abandon their old beliefs. "I will not vote for Dawn Johnsen and I will support a filibuster because she is so extreme in her views on that point," Grassley told one blogger.

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Specter Loses Seniority On Committees The Senate Democratic Conference voted unanimously last night to deny seniority to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), putting him near or at the very bottom of the Democratic rankings in each of his five committees during this Congress. He will be the last Senator to ask questions during the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation hearings. This matter could potentially be revisited after the 2010 elections.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will meet with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) at 11:30 a.m. ET. Obama and Vice President Biden will then meet at 12 p.m. ET with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-MT). At 2 p.m. ET, Obama and Biden will meet with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and then at 2:40 p.m. ET with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, followed by a 3:30 p.m. trilateral meeting with both Karzai and Zardari. Obama will then deliver public remarks at 4:15 p.m. ET.

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This afternoon, Barack and Joe embarked on a spontaneous trip to Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, VA. POTUS and VPOTUS waited in line together.


According to the Pool Report, Obama treated reporters: "Who's taking orders here? My treat to the pool." Then, to Caren Bohan of Reuters: "You're in charge of taking everybody's orders."


From the Pool Report: "He [POTUS] definitely had a burger. I heard him say "basic cheeseburger, medium well." But someone else heard him say "Swiss mushroom burger." He definitely asked Mr. Murray for "spicy mustard, if you have it." There may have also been talk of tater tots."


Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has backed off from his rather interesting comment: "There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."

Specter explained to CQ that it was all a mistake:

"In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates," he said. "I'm ordinarily pretty correct in what I say. I've made a career of being precise. I conclusively misspoke."

Asked who he's backing now in elections, Specter said, "I'm looking for more Democratic members. Nothing personal."

As I've posted, I asked the New York Times' Deborah Solomon, who conducted the interview, whether Specter seemed like he meant it -- and she says he did.

So was Arlen Specter joking, when he seemed to say he wanted Norm Coleman to win in Minnesota? That's what some people have been wondering after Specter said this: "There's still time for the Minnesota courts to do justice and declare Norm Coleman the winner."

So I asked New York Times reporter Deborah Solomon, who conducted the interview, what her impression was of Specter's actual tone of voice and overall expression.

"I trust he meant what he said," Solomon wrote to me. "If he had been joking, surely he could have come up with a wittier line."

Late Update: Specter has backed off of the comments, explaining: "In the swirl of moving from one caucus to another, I have to get used to my new teammates."

Ralph Reed, Christian Boy King.
Reader MC suggests that Neil Patrick Harris should get the role because, "it would be delicious to have the openly gay, eternally Doogie, actor play the Christian right's boyish smarm king." Cheers.


Grover Norquist, The Front Man.
Multiple readers rightly suggested Philip Seymour Hoffman to play Norquist, whose non-profit organization was a front for Abramoff lobbying activity.


Michael Scanlon, the "Evil Elf."
Reader JL suggested Aaron Eckhart of Batman fame -- an inspired choice.

Newscom/Roll Call/Wenn

Tom Delay, The Enabler.
Chris Cooper received the plurality of reader support for this role. Reader JW said that Cooper is the obvious choice because he is "always excellent, always playing those creepy government guys."


Conrad Burns, The Tainted.
Reader BF suggested Robert Duval. Yes.

Newscom/Roll Call/MRP

Bob Ney, The Casino Bandit.
John Goodman could capture the drama and comedy of Ney, who once got caught stuffing his pockets with gambling chips.


John Doolittle, The Hero.
A number of readers suggested Steven Root (of Newsradio and Office Space) for Doolittle, who Abramoff once referred to as a "Hero."


Steven Griles, The Inside Man.
Brian Dennehy was the reader favorite for old man Griles.

Newscom/Roll Call/Zuma

Kevin Ring, The Middleman.
If you've seen Arrested Development or 30 Rock, you'll surely agree with Reader MJ that Will Arnett would play an outstanding crooked lobbyist.


Italia Federici, The Cooperator.
Laura Linney was the favorite.

Newscom/Roll Call/PHL

Jack Abramoff, Big Spender.
Keyser Söze actor has already signed on for this roll.

Newscom/Roll Call/Zuma