POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 11/18

Civilian Trials for Detainees Face Major Test

CNN reports that Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, standing trial in civilian court on 285 counts of conspiracy and terrorism-related charges in connection to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, “was acquitted Wednesday of all but one count of conspiracy-related charges, in a landmark civilian trial involving the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court.”

“The trial had been widely considered a testing ground for the Obama administration, which has said that it could try some terrorism suspects outside military tribunals and in civilian courts.”

The Washington Post notes the verdict was “a blow to administration officials, who were quietly confident that Ghailani would be found guilty on all charges. For some, a conviction on only one count amounted to a close call. Had he been cleared of all charges, the administration would probably have been forced to take Ghailani back into military custody rather than see him released.”

Extra Bonus Quote of the Day

“Sometimes dictators have good ideas.”

— Nevada U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle (R), quoted by Jon Ralston, referring to Augusto Pinochet’s privatization of Social Security in Chile.

“Her staff fretted the line would get out. It did not. Until now.”

Majority Skeptical of Deficit Cutting Measures

President Obama and many lawmakers say they will work to cut the federal deficit, but a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey underscores the challenges they may face in taking specific steps that could help reduce the red ink.

Key findings: 57% said they were uncomfortable with gradually raising the Social Security retirement age to 69 over the next 60 years, 70% were uncomfortable with making cuts to Medicare, Social Security and defense in order to reduce the deficit, 60% said they were uncomfortable with increasing tax revenue through measures such as raising the gasoline tax, limiting tax deductions on many home mortgages and altering corporate taxation.

Said pollster Peter Hart: “Everybody wants to cut the deficit and cut the spending. But at the end of the day, everybody wants a choice that doesn’t affect their well-being.”

Palin Says She Could Beat Obama

Sarah Palin told ABC News that she is seriously considering a White House bid and believes she could beat President Obama in 2012.

Asked Barbara Walters: “If you ran for president, could you beat Barack Obama?”

“I believe so,” Palin said.

 

GOP Lawmakers Asked to Turn Down Health Care

“A group of House Democrats has released a letter to Republican congressional leaders calling on them to announce which of their members will be forgoing their congressional benefit health insurance (which is subsidized by the government) in light of their party’s opposition to health care reform overhaul legislation,” CBS News reports.

“The Democrats say they were spurred to press Republicans to announce their position by news that Andy Harris, a conservative incoming Republican House freshman, had complained that he would not receive his government-subsidized health care coverage until Feb. 1, a month after he is sworn into office.”

Most Republicans Now Question Climate Change

A new Pew Research poll finds 53% of Republicans say there is no solid evidence the earth is warming. Among Tea Party Republicans, 70% say there is no evidence.

Key finding: “Disbelief in global warming in the GOP is a recent occurrence. Just a few years ago, in 2007, a 62%-majority of Republicans said there is solid evidence of global warming, while less than a third (31%) said there is no solid evidence. Currently, just 38% of Republicans say there is solid evidence the earth is warming, and only 16% say that warming is caused by human activity.”

Murkowski Wins Historic Election

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has become the first U.S. Senate candidate in more than 50 years to win a write-in campaign, the AP reports.

Murkowski’s victory became clear when election officials confirmed they had just 700 votes left to count, putting Murkowski in safe territory to win re-election. She has a lead of about 10,000 votes, a total that includes 8,153 ballots in which Joe Miller’s (R) campaign challenged over things like misspellings, extra words or legibility issues.

House Democrats Keep Pelosi as Leader

Democrats elected Nancy Pelosi as their minority leader, “but only after a brutal two days of arguing behind closed doors and a 150-43 vote that revealed a bloc of disgruntled Democrats to be firmly in the anti-Pelosi camp,” Politico reports.

“Pelosi’s victory all but assures that the Democratic leadership team will remain intact despite a historic loss of at least 61 seats in the Nov. 2 election. Several moderate lawmakers in the anti-Pelosi camp used two days of private meetings to vent their frustrations, and in some cases blame Pelosi for the heavy Democratic losses.”

Birther Bill Introduced in Texas

Dave Weigel notes that “one side effect of the GOP’s historic gains in state legislative elections this year will be an uptick in legislation demanding proof of Barack Obama’s citizenship,” and points to Texas, where a Republican state representative has filed legislation that would require candidates for president to provide their birth certificate to the Texas secretary of state.

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal quotes state Rep. Leo Berman (R): “This bill is necessary because we have a president whom the American people don’t know whether he was born in Kenya or some other place. If you are running for president or vice president, you’ve got to show here in Texas that you were born in the United States and the birth certificate is your proof.”

Bloomberg Says Independent Can’t Win

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg told Bloomberg News he doesn’t believe an independent candidate can win the presidency.

The reason: “A candidate running outside the two-party system couldn’t get a majority of the 538 votes in the Electoral College, which would trigger a provision in the U.S. Constitution giving the House of Representatives power to decide the election.”

Said Bloomberg: “Unless you get a majority, it goes to the House. It’s going to go to the Republicans because the Republicans have just taken over the House.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“What Todd and I learned was that the view inside the bus was much better than underneath it.”

— Sarah Palin, quoted by the New York Times, on certain McCain presidential campaign aides “who weren’t principled.”

Emanuel Twice Purged from Voter Rolls

Rahm Emanuel was twice purged from Chicago voter rolls in the last 13 months “but was reinstated by election officials, who allowed him to vote absentee in the February primary even though he did not live at his North Side address,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

At issue is whether Emanuel is a legally qualified mayoral candidate because of a state law “that has been in effect since 1871: In order to run for mayor of Chicago, a candidate must live in the city for a year prior to the election.”

Webb Leads in Possible Rematch with Allen

A new Public Policy Polling survey in Virginia shows Sen. James Webb (D-VA) with a slight lead over former Sen. George Allen (R), 49% to 45%, in a hypothetical rematch of their 2006 race.

If Tim Kaine (D) was the Democratic nominee instead of Webb he would actually do slightly better, leading Allen 50% to 44%.

Half in Congress are Millionaires

new study finds that of 535 members of Congress, nearly half of them — 261 — are millionaires. And of these congressional millionaires, 55 have an average calculated wealth in 2009 of $10 million or more, with eight in the $100 million-plus range.

The median wealth of a U.S. House member was $765,010 last year and the median wealth of a U.S. Senator was $2.38 million.

No GOP Frontrunner

Gallup: “Rank-and-file Republicans have no clear favorite for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination when asked to choose among a large field of potential candidates. Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee are essentially tied for the lead, with Newt Gingrich close behind. Preferences have been largely stable since September, though Gingrich and Huckabee have seen modest increases.”

Quote of the Day

“You’re the main reason we lost!”

— Defeated Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL), quoted by National Journal, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The More Things Change…

The Los Angeles Times notes that after yet another change election, the same four people — John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid — who were leading their parties in Congress are still leading their parties in Congress.

More Proof Health Care Vote Hurt Democrats

Nate Silver finds what others have found: The health care reform vote earlier this year hurt Democrats in the midterm elections.

“One thing that is reasonably clear is that Democrats performed a little worse than might be expected based on the performance of the economy alone… Democratic losses were also a little higher than what you might have expected based on President Obama’s mediocre-but-not-terrible approval rating, suggesting that voters may have been focused on the actions of the Democratic Congress in particular.”

Two State Party?

Smart Politics notes that when the 112th Congress convenes in January, 28.1% of the Democratic caucus will hail from California (34 members) and New York (20 members).

Altman Eyed to Replace Summers

Roger Altman, who was a top Treasury official in the Clinton administration, is a leading candidate to replace Lawrence Summers as director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

Altman met with Obama yesterday afternoon to talk to him about the job as head of the White House group that coordinates policy-making and economic advice for the president.

Insurers Spent Big to Oppose Health Care Reform

Health insurers last year gave the U.S. Chamber of Commerce $86.2 million that was used to oppose the health-care overhaul law, Bloomberg reports.

“The Chamber of Commerce received the money from the Washington-based America’s Health Insurance Plans when the industry was urging Congress to drop a plan to create a competing public insurance option. The spending exceeded the insurer group’s entire budget from a year earlier and accounted for 40 percent of the Chamber’s $214.6 million in 2009 spending.”

Bipartisanship Delayed (Again)

CNN: “So much for getting things off on a post-election bipartisan note. President Obama’s plan to have a meeting with bipartisan congressional leaders at the White House on Thursday has been postponed. The White House released a statement saying the delay is due to scheduling conflicts and will now take place on November 30th. But others on Capitol Hill are saying the plan fell apart late Tuesday amid finger-pointing about who’s to blame for delaying what had become informally known as the ‘Slurpee Summit.'”

Meanwhile, a new Quinnipiac survey finds 73% of Americans think little will come of meeting.

Palin’s Planning

Mike Allen takes a look at a New York Times Magazine cover story on Sarah Palin in which she admits she’s engaged in “internal deliberations” about making a White House bid in 2012.

Palin says there aren’t meaningful policy differences among the field of GOP hopefuls “but that in fact there’s more to the presidency than that.”

Said Palin: “I’d have to bring in more people — more people who are trustworthy… I know that a hurdle I would have to cross, that some other potential candidates wouldn’t have to cross right out of the chute, is proving my record. That’s the most frustrating thing for me — the warped and perverted description of my record and what I’ve accomplished over the last two decades. It’s been much more perplexing to me than where the lamestream media has wanted to go about my personal life. And other candidates haven’t faced these criticisms the way I have… I’m on television nearly every single day with reporters… Now granted, that’s mainly through my job at Fox News, and I’m very proud to be associated with them, but I’m not avoiding anything or anybody. I’m on Facebook and Twitter. I’m out there. I want to talk about my record, though.”

Ailes Defends Fox News

The Daily Beast sits down for an interview with Fox News chairman Roger Ailes to let him defend the network against critics who attack it as an “unabashed cheerleader for the Republican Party, an evil media empire spewing propaganda and misinformation at a gullible audience.”

On President Obama: “The president has not been very successful… He had to be told by the French and the Germans that his socialism was too far left for them to deal with… He just has a different belief system than most Americans.”

On George W. Bush: “This poor guy, sitting down on his ranch clearing brush, gained a lot of respect for keeping his mouth shut. I literally never heard an Obama speech that didn’t blame Bush.”

On Glenn Beck: “He and I have had conversations and lunches where I say, ‘What the hell are you doing, man?'”

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