TPM News

At a press conference this afternoon, President Obama touted the accomplishments of the past several weeks, and sought to rebut any impression that he had been diminished as president after the midterm election results.

"A lot of folks in this town predicted that after the midterm elections, Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock," said Obama. "And instead this has been a season of progress for the American people."

It was a very different Obama compared to his press conference two weeks ago, when he tongue-lashed liberals he described as "purist" and "sanctimonious" for criticizing him for making too many compromises with Republicans.

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By a vote of 71-26 this afternoon, the Senate ratified the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), exceeding the two-thirds majority required for passage.

The vote brings to an end a long, winding and at times hostile debate over the arms agreement, which enjoyed broad support among one-time GOP influence peddlers, but was held up for much of the lame-duck session by several Republican senators who raised a series of procedural and policy objections to the treaty.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl led the opposition, and at times appeared to have rounded up the 34 votes he would have needed to block START. Kyl made a name for himself in the GOP in 1999 when he shocked American and international diplomats and handily blocked President Clinton's Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

This time, his efforts fell well short.

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This morning, President Obama spoke emotionally about the gay men and women who serve in the military before signing a law that will repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

"There will never be a full accounting of the heroism demonstrated by gay Americans in service to this country," Obama said. "As the first generation to serve openly in our armed services, you will stand for all those who came before you, and you will serve as role models for all those who will come after you."

Watch the full speech:

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has made a name for himself over his first year in office by vocally opposing the Obama administration's signature initiatives -- and according to a recent poll, his constituents seem to like it.

In a new Roanoke College poll, 57% of Virginia voters said they approve of the way McDonnell is handling his job as governor, versus 26% who said they disapprove. In the same poll, just 36% of respondents approved of President Obama's job performance, while 52% said they disapproved.

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A conservative reporter from right-leaning CNS News thought he would play gotcha journalist and ask gay Congressman Barney Frank about gay and straight soldiers showering together. Big mistake. Huge. Barney totally eviscerates the guy and exposes him as a fool.

Now that "don't ask, don't tell" is as much as repealed, conservatives are going back to their silly old defense that gay men and straight men can't possibly be naked together without everyone being turned into pillars of salt and the moon exploding or something. The Distinguished Gentleman from Massachusetts, our favorite defender of the "radical homosexual agenda," immediately goes on the offensive and dismisses the question with mock horror and then says that gay men and straight men have already been showering together for years, including when "don't ask, don't tell" was in effect. Can we finally put this lame defense to rest for good now?

It really is amazing to watch the fearless and witty Frank completely dismantle an opponent. The only thing that's missing is him snapping his fingers and saying, "You got served!" Still good on CNS for putting this up on its website for the rest of us to enjoy. Since Barney's too classy to say it, we're gonna going to. You got served, Mary!

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The Family Research Council and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) both spent a lot of energy this year fighting the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. But that doesn't mean they'll be working together to un-repeal it.

FRC claimed in a blog post yesterday that McCain (R-AZ) will continue to lead the fight.

"We'll be spending the next couple of weeks reassessing the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' debate. In fact, I've already been in conversations with Hill leaders about holding hearings in the New Year, as well as statutory and legislative oversight steps that can be taken to turn back aspects of the repeal and slow down--if not stop--the rest," the post reads.

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Update 2:31 p.m.: By voice vote, the Senate passed the newly-trimmed 9/11 first responders bill. It now goes to the House for expedited passage.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has dropped his objections to the 9/11 first responders bill, allowing Dems to circumvent procedural roadblocks and pass it quickly this afternoon.

Dems rounded up the votes they needed to break Coburn's filibuster earlier this week, and spent much of the morning and early afternoon negotiating with him to prevent him from delaying passage of the legislation by several days.

Coburn's price: a reduction of the price tag from $6.2 billion to $4.2 billion.

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According to a new PPP poll of North Carolina voters, President Obama's standing has improved over the past month in theoretical 2012 matchups with four possible Republican candidates for the GOP presidential nomination. He now leads each prospective challenger except Mike Huckabee in head-to-head matches.

In the poll, Huckabee led Obama 46% to 45%. One month ago, a PPP poll showed Huckabee ahead 48% to 44%. Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney were tied last month at 44%, though Obama now leads in that contest 46% to 43%. Against Newt Gingrich, Obama's lead grew from one point a month ago to six points in the latest poll, with the president now on top 48% to 42%.

Sarah Palin dropped furthest of the four Republicans since the last poll, with the spread in that race ballooning from just five points last month to 14 points this month.

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In the initial fallout over Gov. Haley Barbour's (R-MS) praise of the segregationist Citizens Council groups from the Civil Rights movement era, one conservative media outlet seems to have really bungled their attempts to back up the potential White House candidate: Fox Nation.

In a profile in the Weekly Standard, Barbour had recalled the group -- which was founded to oppose school desegregation, and launched economic boycotts to cut off employment and business for African-Americans who sought out civil rights (including a famous incident in Barbour's hometown) -- in positive terms:

"You heard of the Citizens Councils? Up north they think it was like the KKK. Where I come from it was an organization of town leaders. In Yazoo City they passed a resolution that said anybody who started a chapter of the Klan would get their ass run out of town. If you had a job, you'd lose it. If you had a store, they'd see nobody shopped there. We didn't have a problem with the Klan in Yazoo City."

Fox News came to the rescue, with a posting on their unabashedly right-wing Fox Nation website:

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When President Obama signed a bill repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell today, he wasn't actually repealing the 17-year-old policy. The law directs the Pentagon to drop the policy -- but only after Obama, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all certify that the military is ready for it.

And the question has been how long that may take. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been purposely tight-lipped about a time line, refusing to publicly make even vague estimates.

Obama, though, gave a ballpark to The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld.

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