12:35 p.m. ET: Cross-posted from 44, by Robert Barnes
A Gathering of Justices
There are present, past, soon-to-be-past and perhaps future Supreme Court justices at the Georgetown University Law Center today as the law school hosts the Sandra Day O'Connor Project on the State of the Judiciary.
O'Connor's here, of course, along with Justices Stephen G. Breyer. Retiring Justice David H. Souter is scheduled to give the luncheon address.
But much of the buzz was about two others in the room -- Solicitor General Elena Kagan and Judge Diane P. Wood of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit -- who are said to be on President Obama's short list of candidates to take Souter's seat.
Wood, of Chicago, said she had long planned to attend the conference, which examines the independence of the judiciary. But she ended the chat when asked whether she would be meeting with anyone from the White House on her trip here.
"No, no, I'm not answering any questions on that," she said with a laugh before moving on.
Kagan, who Obama recently picked to become the nation's first solicitor general, addressed the group about the independence of her office, which represents the government before the Supreme Court.
Kagan said it is obvious that she is part of the executive branch and the president has an appropriate role in the office's decision-making. But she said she also has an obligation to defend the work of Congress even if the administration disagrees with it, as well as being "scrupulous in every representation to the court."
While the solicitor general is often referred to as the "10th justice," she is more often like "the 35th clerk," Kagan said.
7:30 a.m. ET: Cross-posted from The Fix, by Chris Cillizza
White House Cheat Sheet: Obama's Gitmo Gambit
When President Obama announced just days into his presidency that the prison at Guantanamo Bay would be closed within one year, it was touted as symbolic of the broader break that the new administration was seeking to make with eight years of Republican rule.
The practical execution of that closure, however, has run into a number of political hurdles.
Republicans, led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), have used the Gitmo closure as evidence that Obama is not fundamentally serious about the defense of the homeland.
And, Senate Democrats revolted against Obama on Tuesday -- refusing to provide funding for the closure of the prison until a specific plan on how to shutter the prison and move its 240 detainees is presented to Congress.
The political complexity of the issue is displayed in voters' uncertain attitudes about next steps in terms of Gitmo.
In a January poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, a majority of voters (53 percent) said the U.S. should find another way (other than holding them at Gitmo) to deal with terrorist suspects while 40 percent preferred the detainees be kept at Gitmo.
Data from a CBS News/New York Times poll in late April shows an even more conflicted American public with 47 percent saying the government should continue to "operate" Gitmo while 44 percent said the prison should be closed and the prisoners transferred somewhere else.
It's that "somewhere else" that is proving to be the rub so far for the Obama administration with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle voicing considerable trepidation over housing suspected terrorists within the United States.
Of Senate Democrats' decision not to include funding for Gitmo's closure on Tuesday, McConnell said that "the American people, who are concerned about their own security and safety, ought to be pleased that our friends on the other side of the aisle are showing some flexibility on this issue and heading in our direction." He added that he hoped that President Obama would display that same "flexibility" in changing what McConnell called an "arbitrary deadline" for shuttering the prison.
The White House expressed no such willingness. For the second straight day, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that Obama would hew to the one-year timeline. "There's been no change in the date from the executive order," Gibbs said Tuesday.
One senior administration official noted that "if you don't set a date there will always be those who find excuses for why the 'time isn't right'," adding: "A year is reasonable."
Where the issue goes from here depends largely on which side wins the perception game. The White House will make the case that Guantanamo Bay is a sign of everything that went wrong during the eight years of the Bush administration and the best way to put things right is to close it.
Republicans will counter that Obama is putting symbolism over security, noting, as McConnell did yesterday, that not a single prisoner has escaped from Gitmo since it was created, and that it is the best and safest way to keep these detainees from doing harm within the United States.
What's clear from the ongoing debate about Gitmo is that the political complexities of closing the prison are many and varied. Republicans don't seem likely to back down on the issue any time soon -- they believe it is one of the rare areas where they have scored political points on Obama -- and so it will almost certainly come down to whether the administration can keep its own party members in line as the date for closure nears.
Wednesday's Fix Picks: Now that "Dancing With The Stars" is over, is there any reason to go on?
1. Democrats rush to Nancy Pelosi's defense on the CIA flap.
2. And, her biographer believes she is telling the truth.
3. Harry Reid says Ted Kennedy will return to the Senate.
4. And, Kennedy's nephew is gearing up for a Senate bid in Illinois.
5. A great piece on the art of Twitter.
NRSC Aids Coleman Recount Effort: The National Republican Senatorial Committee has transferred $750,000 to former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman's recount fund to help cover the vast legal expenses incurred during the former incumbent's lengthy challenge to the election results of his race against Democrat Al Franken. Sources familiar with the transfer said it should not be read as a down payment for a prolonged Coleman legal battle at the federal level if he loses his ongoing challenge before the Minnesota Supreme Court but rather a good faith effort to keep him from going into massive debt.
Speaking of Minnesota Senate...Kaine Ups Pawlenty Pressure: Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine (Va.) has sent a letter to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) urging him to call on Coleman to concede the race against Franken. "I urge you to use your influence to bring this process to an end by asking Norm Coleman to allow his neighbors and yours, their full representation in Congress," writes Kaine, pointing out that New York state Assemblyman Joe Tedisco (R) stepped aside soon after a re-canvassing showed him coming up just short in a special election for the state's 20th congressional district. Barring an immediate call by Pawlenty for Coleman to end his legal challenge, which ain't happening, Kaine urged the Minnesota governor to agree to signing the election certificate for Franken if Coleman's ongoing appeal at the state Supreme Court level falls short. "To allow this to process to continue into the federal courts for no other reason than to deny for as long as possible the seating of another Democratic Senator would make what has been a bad situation for Minnesotans even worse," writes Kaine. This letter is part of a coordinated effort to pressure Pawlenty into taking sides rather than sitting on the sidelines. Pawlenty continues to debate whether to run for a third term as governor or to retire and begin planning for a presidential bid but either way he has an eye on his political future and Democrats want to his life as difficult as possible in the short run.
Moran, McAuliffe Spar on TV: After a spirited debate on Tuesday afternoon, former state Del. Brian Moran and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe took their disagreements in the gubernatorial primary to the airwaves. Moran hit first with his inaugural TV ad of the campaign -- casting McAuliffe as wheeler-dealer businessman, cutting "insider" deals that hurt the average Virginian. "Barack Obama ran against exactly the kind of big money politics McAuliffe represents," says the ad's narrator. McAuliffe's campaign was ready, issuing a response ad within an hour of Moran's commercial hitting the airwaves. The ad features two testimonials from people associated with the Federal City National Bank, a company that McAuliffe claims to have saved. "False attacks won't create jobs," says McAuliffe in the ad. With 20 days left before the Democratic primary concludes on June 9, expect significant slings and arrows to be aimed McAuliffe's way as polling suggests he leads both Moran and state Sen. Creigh Deeds. Can the former DNC Chairman hang on?
Spies to Hoekstra: Charlie Spies, who served as general counsel to former governor Mitt Romney's (Mass.) 2008 presidential campaign, will do the same for the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of Rep. Pete Hoekstra. "As a Michigander, this race is personal for me, and I'm confident Pete can turn Michigan around," Spies said of his new post. Hoekstra is one of a number of Republican running for the office, a field that includes state Attorney General Mike Cox, Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and businessman Rick Snyder. Michigan is among Republicans' best pickup opportunities in 2010, a combination of eight years of Democratic control and the state's badly faltering economy.
Crist Holds Large Lead in Senate Race: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist held a 53 percent to 18 percent edge over former state House Speaker Marco Rubio in a hypothetical Republican primary matchup for Senate, according to a new poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. Crist was, not surprisingly, far better known than Rubio with a favorable rating of 49 percent and an unfavorable score of just 15 percent. (Rubio by contrast had a favorable/unfavorable rating of 13 percent/five percent.) Crist also held a wide lead over either of the two Democrats in the race: Rep. Kendrick Meek and state Sen. Dan Gelber. Crist led Meek 55 percent to 24 percent and held a 57 percent to 22 percent edge over Gelber. Numbers like those make clear why the National Republican Senatorial Committee was so quick to endorse Crist when he entered the race last week.
Click It!: Nomadic GOP campaign operative Bill Pascoe has settled down long enough to start a blog on politics at Congressional Quarterly. It's called "In the Right" and is worth a bookmark.
Say What?: "If Mitch McConnell doesn't endorse me, it could be the best thing that ever happened to me in Kentucky." -- Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning(R) on his home state colleague during his weekly conference call with local reporters.
May 20, 2009; 12:35 PM ET
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