TPM News

We're learning more details about the Washington Times layoffs that will fundamentally change the mission and daily makeup of the conservative newspaper.

The Washington Post has an interview with Publisher Jonathan Slevin today. He told the Post, "Having a print newspaper in Washington, D.C., is something that we did not at all consider giving up, unless it became absolutely necessary."

Echoing the company statement yesterday, Slevin said the paper would focus on its national political coverage, at the expense of sports and local stories. And in a sign that the newspaper will continue its commitment to news coverage from a conservative perspective, Slevin told the New York Times: "The new Washington Times will continue to report Washington-focused news that other journalistic enterprises often overlook."

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Bernanke To Testify Today On His Re-Nomination To The Fed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify today before the Senate Banking Committee, at a hearing on his re-nomination for another term at the central bank. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has placed a hold on the nomination, potentially delaying the process, arguing that Bernanke has not done enough for average Americans, and been too lenient with the big banks.

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and Vice President Biden will receive the presidential daily briefing at 9:30 a.m. ET, and the economic daily briefing at 10 a.m. ET. Obama will deliver remarks at 1:30 p.m. ET, at the opening session of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum, and he will deliver remarks again at the 3:45 p.m. ET closing session. At 5 p.m. ET, the First Family will attend the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony.

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Congress just found the one spotlight the Salahis would rather stay out of. The AP is reporting that the couple known for crashing the White House state dinner Nov. 24 has decided against accepting the House Homeland Security Committee's invitation to the hearings being held on the state dinner incident tomorrow.

They may not have a choice, however. FishbowlDC reported that Homeland Security Committee chair Rep. Bernie Thompson (D-MS) said he'd subpoena the Salahis should they decline his invitation to appear.

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November 24: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the Administration's first official state visit. The state dinner was intended to be a shining moment for the first couple and social secretary. But the aftermath has been dominated by discussion of the now-infamous "party crashers," Michaele and Tareq Salahi, who stole the headlines of the state dinner. You can find our earlier galleries on the state visit here and here.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Brian Mosteller, deputy director of Oval Office operations, peers in on a closed door bilateral meeting between President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Also pictured, from left, are personal secretary Katie Johnson, Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall, Huma Abedin, adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama await the Indian first couple. The always-quotable vice president called Prime Minister Singh the "hottest ticket in town."

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Prior to the evening's state dinner, Secretary of State Clinton talks with the first couple.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

In the State Dining Room, President Obama greets CEOs from American and Indian companies. During their joint press conference, the leaders of the world's largest democracies discussed trading partnerships and innovation in environmental technology.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The two leaders proceed together as the East Room ceremonies begin.

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

First Lady Michelle Obama, seated next to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, applauds one of the evening's many performances.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Indian dancers perform.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

An aide to the first lady, wearing a radio on the back of her dress, watches as the first couple greets guests in the Blue Room of the White House. After the story of a couple that arrived uninvited broke, the White House faced a barrage of criticism for its apparently flawed security.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

The now-infamous "party crashers" greet President Obama at the Blue Room reception.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

The president, according to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, is angry about the security breach at the state dinner. The "party crashers" were also captured with senior officials in the White House, like Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. If the typically serene president is upset, one can only guess at the reaction from the acerbic Emanuel.

Photo by Newscom

President Obama and Chief of Protocol Capricia Marshall send off the state visitors. Although he did not include India in his recent Asia tour, Obama pledged to visit the country soon.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and key health care principals met with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Nancy-Ann DeParle, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and other officials to discuss, among other things, the GOP logjam preventing progress on a reform bill.

After the meeting, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Max Baucus (D-MT) said there would likely be many votes tomorrow--the first of the debate.

Republicans, who have a long menu of obstructive options before them, have been blocking amendments for several days now, provoking the ire of Democratic leaders.

Reporters couldn't stop asking White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses if holiday visitors take bites out of the gingerbread and white chocolate replica of the South Portico.

He confessed that in his three years of helping craft the traditional White House gingerbread house he sometimes sees little nibbles taken out of it.

But once he explained the process - letting more than 100 pounds of overcooked, crunchy gingerbread go stale, and making sure to dust the house in the weeks it sits in the State Dining Room - everyone realized it was better as a decoration than as a snack.

After First Lady Michelle Obama announced the theme of this year's White House Christmas, Yosses laid out in great detail for reporters how he made the home, from hand carving the white chocolate steps to shrinking a computer printout of Abraham Lincoln for the photo on the wall in the dollhouse-sized state dining room replica.

Yosses and his team spent six weeks crafting and designing the gingerbread house, which has new additions this year with a new First Family at the helm.

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Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) appeared on Hardball tonight and claimed that the U.S. will have more troops in Afghanistan than the Soviets did during their invasion in the 1980s.

"This is a very complicated thing and a very costly operation ... We got a lot of problems facing us. 104,000 contractors already in Afghanistan in addition to the 68,000 troops. We're gonna have more troops, Chris, than the Russian had in Afghanistan," he said. (See TPMmuckraker's story on those 104,000 contractors.)

Murtha told Chris Matthews that he has misgivings about President Obama's new strategy for the war, including focusing on Afghanistan instead of Pakistan.

But his point made us wonder -- will the U.S. really have more troops in Afghanistan than the Soviets did?

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Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform emerged from a closed-door briefing on the White House party crashers this afternoon placing blame for the security breach squarely on the shoulders of a single, unnamed Secret Service officer.

"It's very clear that there was one person who allowed these two individuals to go from Station 1 to Station 2," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the ranking member on the committee, told reporters. "One person's error appears to have led to a person having literally hand-to-hand contact with the Vice President."

Committee chair Edolphus Towns (D-NY) didn't confirm Issa's take on the closed-door briefing with Secret Service officials, but expressed his confidence that an internal investigation into the party crashing by the Secret Service will find a solution to the problem.

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Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who switched from the Republicans to the Democrats earlier this year, is now trying to seize the left ground against his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter's campaign is accusing Sestak of flip-flopping by supporting the Afghanistan surge, when he'd previously wanted a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq -- and Sestak is firing back that Specter supported George W. Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan.

Specter's campaign has posted this on their Web site:

Not only does Joe Sestak support expanding the war in Afghanistan, he also opposes a timetable for withdrawal, a clear flip flop from his 2006 Congressional campaign when he strongly urged the use of a timetable in Iraq.

Advocating "an exit strategy of measurements," on MSNBC last night, Sestak said of President Obama's commitment to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan in 18 months: "I wish he hadn't set a definitive timetable."

That plea comes in stark contrast to Sestak's 2006 support for a strict timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

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Worth a read this evening is Vanity Fair's new 6,000-word profile of Blackwater Xe chief Erik Prince, which comes complete with man-of-action photo spread and a shot of a Blackwater facility near the Pakistani border.

Perhaps the biggest revelation in the story, written with Prince's full cooperation, are the unprecedented levels of collaboration between Prince and the CIA -- to the point, according to Vanity Fair, that he was "a full-blown asset."

It's worth noting that the author of the piece, Adam Ciralsky, was himself a lawyer for the CIA before leaving in the 1990s amid a controversy about allegations he was wrongly suspended on suspicions of unauthorized contact with Israel.

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