TPM News

by Marian Wang, ProPublica

The nighttime attack on Osama Bin Laden's compound by the elite Joint Special Operations Command isn't the first time U.S. troops have entered Pakistan for covert raids. In the past, such incidents have drawn protests from the Pakistani government, though it has a history of condemning in public actions that it has endorsed in private.

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With the world's eyes focused on the late Osama Bin Laden and Congress largely quiet, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) ended his tumultuous political career with a farewell speech from the Senate floor on Monday afternoon.

Ensign, who announced his resignation last month almost two years after revealing an extramarital affair with a staffer, issued an apology to his family and fellow lawmakers -- and a warning to avoid his path to ruin.

In his remarks, Ensign lamented how he had grown "blind to how arrogant and self-centered that I had become" en route to his scandal, even as he saw the same self-centeredness exhibited in his Senate colleagues.

"My caution to all of my colleagues is to surround yourself with people who will be honest with you about how you really are and what you are becoming, and then make them promise to not hold back, no matter how much you may try to prevent them, from telling you the truth," Ensign said. "I wish that I had done this sooner, but this is one of the hardest lessons that I've had to learn."

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So far, it appears that the most effusive praise of President Obama's job performance in the killing of Osama bin Laden from a potential Republican presidential candidate, is coming from an unexpected place: New York businessman Donald Trump, who has made his name over the last couple months questioning whether Obama was even born in this country and eligible to be president at all.

"I want to personally congratulate President Obama and the men and women of the Armed Forces for a job well done," Trump said in a statement, NewsMax reports. "I am so proud to see Americans standing shoulder to shoulder, waving the American flag in celebration of this great victory.

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New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at a press conference Monday afternoon at Ground Zero, in response to the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed. In his remarks, Bloomberg congratulated President Obama and proclaimed that bin Laden's death shows that "the forces of freedom and justice have once again prevailed over those who use terror to pursue tyranny."

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Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) has announced that the special election to replace Republican Rep. Dean Heller, who has been appointed to the Senate, will feature a single-round, potentially multi-candidate race in which anybody can file -- a development that could potentially hurt Republican efforts to hold on to the seat if they were to split their votes.

The initial expectation had been that party leaders would select nominees for the race, without a primary -- a scenario that would likely hurt the chances of unsuccessful 2010 Senate nominee Sharron Angle -- but that there was also the possibility of a wide-open race.

A similar election took place in Hawaii last year, in which Democrats split the vote between two candidates against one Republican in a normally very blue district. This helped to elect Republican candidate Charles Djou, who later narrowly lost re-election to a full term in November 2010, when he faced only a single Democrat.

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Given that President Obama's not going to bring the war in Afghanistan to an early end as the result of Osama bin Laden's death, a key question is whether his administration will green light a robust troop drawdown starting in July, or whether the withdrawal will happen more slowly, as some in his administration would like.

That's the pivot, and there will be increasing pressure on Obama from Democrats to use bin Laden's death in Pakistan to make the case for a swifter reduction.

TPM SLIDESHOW: Osama Bin Laden: 9/11 Mastermind, Longtime U.S. Enemy Killed In Pakistan

"I think there's going to be a lot of strong feeling on the part of most Democrats and many, I think many independents, and even some Republicans that the decision of the President to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan should be a robust reduction," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) told reporters on a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon. "I don't think that's going to change, and I don't expect the decision of the President -- his instinct to have a reduction, and I believe a robust reduction following conversations with him -- that that instinct would be reinforced."

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[Late Update: The White House has backed off some of the details of John Brennan's account. More here.]

The President and his national security team spent Sunday afternoon and evening huddling in the West Wing of the White House filled with anxiety while they followed in real time the covert operations of an elite team of Navy Seals penetrating Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan and killing him with shots to the head.

"It was probably the most anxiety-filled periods of times," John Brennan, a chief counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, told reporters Monday in a White House briefing. "The minutes passed like days, and the President was very concerned about the security of our personnel."

TPM SLIDESHOW: Behind The Scenes As Operation Against Bin Laden Unfolded

"It was clearly very tense with a lot of people holding their breath," Brennan recalled, obviously still soaking in the full weight of the raid and the impact of bin Laden's death on the global war on terror. "There was a great degree of silence as we would get the updates. We were finally informed, and there was a tremendous sigh of relief -- that what we believed about the compound and who we believed was in the compound" were in fact true.

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Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is exploring a run for president, released a statement this afternoon on the killing of Osama bin Laden, calling it a "significant victory in the long struggle between radical Islamists and modern civilization."

"I commend both President George W. Bush who led the campaign against our enemies through seven long years and President Obama who continued and intensified the campaign in both Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Gingrich. "We should remember to thank those who made this possible. Without the courage and professionalism of our men and women in uniform and in the intelligence services, this victory would not have been achieved."

Gingrich also added, however, that the battle against terrorism is not over: "As long as there are schools teaching children to hate; as long as there are state-supported terrorist systems; as long as several countries actively recruit children to be suicide bombers; this war will continue."

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Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum -- who's been running hard lately as the foreign policy guy in the prospective 2012 Republican presidential field -- told a reporter in Iowa today that when you really think about it, taking out Osama Bin Laden's not really that big a deal in the scheme of things.

"Congratulations, well done, well orchestrated," Santorum told the Des Moines Register before an event with voters. "That's one isolated area as opposed to the president's foreign policy and how it's affecting our security. The president's foreign policy with respect to our security is to make our allies less confident in us and has resulted in them in distancing themselves from us."

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