TPM News

The soft-on-defense spending cuts meme is spreading today, both in the media and among Congressional Republicans--and now even a Blue Dog Democrat is picking it up.

Politico, again, reports that "Defense Secretary Robert Gates is steeling himself against blowback from Congress over his sweeping defense cuts, but he's also girding for a fight within the Pentagon's five walls."

But while there is some evidence that there is early opposition within the Pentagon to some specific cuts, Gates has, once again, proposed a budget whose bottom line is higher than last year's.

That's not stopping Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee from piling on, though.

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A Congressional ethics board opened an investigation last week into Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) to probe the Congressman's role in the scandal of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's vacant senate seat. Investigators have asked parties related to the ex-governor to release documents showing correspondence with Jackson. The head of the Office of Congressional Ethics said that Jackson has not been accused of wrongdoing, and that the probe is only a fact-gathering entity that does not have subpoena power. (Chicago Sun-Times)

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NYT: Obama Promoting "Anti-Bush Doctrine" The New York Times takes a look at President Obama's now-concluded overseas trip: "Pragmatic, conciliatory, legalistic and incremental, he pushed what might be called, with a notable exception or two, an anti-Bush doctrine." Whereas Bush eschewed broad international alliances and promoted America as a force to push democracy around the world, Obama is instead focusing on broad cooperation to deal with immediate problems such as nuclear weapons or the economy, without a single grand strategy as of yet.

Biden: Cheney Is "Dead Wrong," And He Made U.S. Weaker Vice President Biden told CNN that Dick Cheney is "dead wrong" in his denouncements of the Obama White House's national security policies: "This administration -- the last administration left us in a weaker posture than we've been any time since World War II: less regarded in the world, stretched more thinly than we ever have been in the past, two wars under way, virtually no respect in entire parts of the world."

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Are senior officials at the Pentagon construing Defense Secretary Robert Gates' budget as a proposed defense spending cut?

Earlier today, I noted that the ranking member on that committee, John McHugh, had told Reuters that the Gates proposal would amount to an $8 billion slash in spending. But the numbers tell a different story: Not counting supplementals, Congress last year appropriated $513 billion to the Pentagon. This year, Gates is asking for $534 billion. If he gets everything he asks for, that's an increase of $21 billion, and Congress could always increase the total beyond that.

I asked McHugh's staff where the notion of an overall spending cut came from, and, when pressed, they had a hard time standing by the idea of a decrease in total dollars.

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Leaders of the G20 nations gather for a photograph in London.

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President Obama is joined by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a joint news conference on April 1, 2009.

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace.

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President Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during their bilateral meeting in London.

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President Barack Obama answers questions during a press conference following the G20 Summit.

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President Obama and French President Sarkozy emerge to address the media prior to Obama's town hall event in Strasbourg.

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President Obama and French President Sarkozy are greeted by an honor guard.

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First Lady Michelle Obama and Hayrunnisa Gul, right, the wife of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, listen to a French interpreter during a tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg.

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First Lady Michelle Obama is joined by fellow spouses of NATO Summit leaders as they conclude their tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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President Obama records his weekly video address aboard Air Force One.

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President Barack Obama confers with U.S.Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during the NATO summit in Strasbourg.

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President Obama addresses the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

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President Obama meets with, left to right, Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian, Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, Turkish undersecretary of the foreign ministry Ertugul Apakan, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan at a reception in Istanbul.

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President Obama addresses the Turkish Grand National Assembly.

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A television displays President Obama's student town hall meeting in Istanbul.

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President Obama addresses students at a town hall meeting at the Tophane Cultural Center in Istanbul.

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President Obama visited Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory, Iraq April 7. This was Obama's first trip to Iraq as Commander in Chief.

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President Obama meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, Iraq on April 7, 2009.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), who is facing a likely primary rematch with his 2004 opponent Pat Toomey, has picked up a high-profile endorsement: Howard Stern, The Hill reports, after Specter appeared on the Stern show. Howard offered to write Specter a check, which Specter accepted, and then the two of them encouraged all the listeners to contribute, too.

This makes sense in many ways, really. Stern's own politics match up pretty well with Specter, as Stern is an economic conservative and cultural liberal (okay, make that cultural libertine). That, and Howard has a proven record of endorsing politicians who have the nerve to come on his show, and those pols have usually been northeastern Republicans like Specter, Christie Whitman and George Pataki, among others.

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FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair has been under attack recently in various quarters of the crisis blogosphere in a campaign that culminated this morning in a critical New York Times column today by Andrew Ross "Let Those AIG 'Brainiacs' Keep Their Bonuses" Sorkin, who takes issue with her agency's agreement to guarantee all the non-recourse loans Treasury's toxic asset buyout plan is promising private investors to leverage their bets.

So how much does the F.D.I.C. think it might lose?

"We project no losses," Sheila Bair, the chairwoman, told me in an interview. Zero? Really? "Our accountants have signed off on no net losses," she said. (Well, that's one way to stay under the borrowing cap.)

By this logic, though, the F.D.I.C. appears to have determined it can lend an unlimited amount of money to anyone so long as it believes, at least at the moment, that it won't lose any money.

Here's the F.D.I.C.'s explanation: It says it plans to carefully vet every loan that gets made and it will receive fees and collateral in exchange. And then there's the safety net: If it loses money from insuring those investments, it will assess the financial industry a fee to pay the agency back.
So what's the problem here? It's not as if Bair is afraid to project a loss for her agency. The biggest concern about the plan is that it will enrich Wall Street at the expense of real prices -- especially if banks use the funds to bid up each other's bad loans as envisioned by this blogger we read on Felix Salmon's blog:

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NRSC Chairman John Cornyn released this statement, regarding Norm Coleman's continued legal fight after Al Franken's lead grew by 87 net votes today:

"Events today do not address the main issue that remains unresolved: over 4,000 Minnesotans were disenfranchised by this three-judge panel. That's why it's so critical for this process to move forward before the Minnesota Supreme Court and why Senate Republicans fully support Senator Coleman's efforts.

"The message from our side has remained consistent throughout this process: we want this election to resolve itself as quickly, but not at the expense of Minnesota's laws or voters.

"In contrast, the criticisms from the Democrat side as recently as today have expressed the opposite viewpoint. It's blatant hypocrisy that many of the same Democrats who so loudly complained about voter disenfranchisement during the 2000 Florida recount are now willing to compromise this fundamental principle of our democracy when it no longer fits their political agenda. Senate Democrats should stand down, set partisan politics aside, and respect Minnesota's laws and voters."

The latest results from the NY-20 special election now have Republican candidate Jim Tedisco up by 17 votes, out of over 150,000 votes.

Yesterday, Democrat Scott Murphy had been ahead by 83 votes, but that has now shifted -- an official at Saratoga County told PolitickerNY that they caught a mistake in their spreadsheet, having accidentally dropped 100 votes for Tedisco.

One county, Greene, told TPM today that they still haven't re-checked their totals, which should be done tomorrow.

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Yesterday I reported that NARAL is mobilizing in support of three Obama nominees--David Hamilton, Kathleen Sebelius, and Dawn Johnsen--who've been targeted by the right, at least in part, for their pro-life views.

Today, I spoke with NARAL's policy director Donna Crane, who gave me a bit more detail about the nature of their campaign. "We have emails going out [to members of Congress] almost every day," Crane said, "[and] we're doing phone banking for targeted senators."

Those targets won't come as much surprise. Crane says, "in general the senators we look at for these kinds of issues are the two senators from Maine, [Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins] pulled one way by their party and another by their values." She adds that "Sen. Specter...is somebody we're looking at very closely."

NARAL's reportedly also targeting some pro-life Democrats, though there's considerably less concern that they'll oppose any of these nominees.

Below the fold, a copy of a direct mailer NARAL issued as part of their efforts.

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