Saturday, December 27, 2008

Minnesota Supremes Shoot Down Crucial Coleman Lawsuit, Making A Franken Win Nearly Certain

By Eric Kleefeld

Norm Coleman just got a Christmas present from the Minnesota Supreme Court: A giant lump of coal.

In a unanimous decision handed down just now, the state Supremes denied Coleman any relief in a lawsuit he was waging to deal with allegations of double-counted absentee ballots, which his campaign says have given an illegitimate edge to Al Franken. The Coleman campaign was seeking to switch 25 selected precincts back to their Election Night totals, which would undo all of Franken's recount gains in those areas and put Coleman back in the lead.

The court, however, sided with the Franken camp's lawyers in saying that a question like this should be reserved for a post-recount election contest proceeding, as the proper forum to discover evidence -- and which also has a burden of proof that heavily favors the certified winner.

Simply put, Coleman is in very big trouble right now. With Al Franken leading by 47 votes, this lawsuit was Coleman's best shot at coming from behind. And it just failed, making a Franken win nearly a foregone conclusion when this recount finishes up in early January.

Late Update: The Coleman campaign's lead lawyer Fritz Knaak says the court's decision today "virtually guarantees that this will be decided in an election contest." So say hello to some messy litigation. But at the point where we go into an election contest, the chances of a Coleman victory are really slim to none.

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Obama's Energy Plan Must Not Be A Sound Bite

So it looks like a copy of Barack Obama's inauguration speech has been leaked.

Here's an excerpt...

“Energy will be the immediate test of our ability to unite this nation, and it can also be the standard around which we rally. On the battlefield of energy we can win for our nation a new confidence, and we can seize control again of our common destiny. Our excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our economy and our people. It's a cause of the increased inflation and unemployment that we now face. This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic independence and the very security of our nation.

The energy crisis is real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation. These are facts and we simply must face them.”

Now for the truth...

What you just read is not an excerpt from a leaked version of Obama's inauguration speech. It's an excerpt from a speech made by President Jimmy Carter on July 15, 1979.

My friends, here we are almost three decades later, and we're just as reliant upon oil as the day Jimmy Carter spoke those words.

You see, four years after President Carter took office, many enjoyed mocking his failed energy policies and conservation attempts while The Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan rushed to rip solar panels off the roof of the White House.

It was a turning point and a very sad day, indeed.

Now I'm not saying all of President Carter's energy initiatives made sense. After all, he did champion oil shale and coal as ways to provide the nation with energy security. And if you look at the water, climate change and depletion issues associated with both oil shale and coal production, you'll see that these energy resources do not provide an ounce of energy security...but just prolong the inevitable, while destroying even more of our natural capital.

However, rallying the nation today to support a new energy infrastructure heavily weighted in renewable energy, efficiency and conservation cannot be a sound bite in the history books the way Jimmy Carter's energy plan was. We do not have that luxury today. If we don't get it right this time, we can officially chalk ourselves up as a second-rate nation, loyal only to the dwindling fossil fuel resources that crippled us to begin with.

Of course, we also have to be realistic about the difficult road ahead. After all, this transition to a new, cleaner energy economy is not going to be quick, and it's not going to be easy. But we must remain optimistic too. Because, as Albert Einstein once said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.”

The opportunity that we have today is to build a future that embraces clean energy, social justice, and the triple bottom line. It is an opportunity that will enable better living conditions for the global community while creating new wealth for those who invest in local communities, renewable energy and organic food markets. And my friends, this is an opportunity that will not likely repeat itself if we don't act on it now.

We stand at the threshold of a new way of life and a new generation of wealth.

Let's not blow it!

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millions of monkeys

By bacchus

Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and
announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys
for $10 each.

The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort. He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again. Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms. The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announce d that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf. In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: ‘Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.’ The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys for 700 billion dollars.

They never saw the man or his assistant again, only
lots and lots of monkeys!

Now you have a better understanding of how the

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Top 10 political scoops of 2008


Katie Couric in New York

In an interview with CBS 'Evening News' anchor Katie Couric, Gov. Sarah Palin was unable to answer such simple questions as what newspapers and magazines she regularly read.
Photo: AP

As the curtain comes down on 2008, it’s hard to let go. Political junkies couldn’t have asked for a better year — even news veteran David Broder dubbed the 2008 election the best he ever covered.

Game-changing moments came from mainstream and new media outlets, traditional newsmaker interviews, and off-the-cuff remarks captured by amateurs.

So herewith, Politico’s take on the top ten political scoops of 2008. There’s no accounting for tastes, so we welcome your picks, too. What stories turned your engine?

1. Couric and Palin (CBS News): Charlie Gibson scored the first Sarah Palin interview, now remembered mostly for the ABC anchor’s professorial manner and his question about the 6-year-old “Bush Doctrine” of military preemption, on which Palin effectively drew a blank. But rival anchor Katie Couric proved even tougher for the vice presidential candidate, who was unable to answer such simple questions as what newspapers and magazines she regularly read. Palin’s stumbling responses were spoofed verbatim by her comedic doppelganger, Tina Fey.

2. McCain’s houses (Politico): John McCain answered several questions from Politico’s Mike Allen and Jonathan Martin in an August interview, but it was the one he couldn’t answer that grabbed the headlines — how many houses he owned. Not surprisingly, Democrats pounced on the notion that the Republican nominee was out of touch, and Obama supporters donned buttons at the Denver Democratic convention reading: “Ask me how many houses I own.”

3. Obama on “bitter” small-town Americans (Huffington Post): Obama committed few major gaffes during his nearly two-year run for president, and his worst verbal misstep wasn’t caught by a big-time media outlet, but by citizen journalist Mayhill Fowler. At a San Francisco fundraiser, Obama talked about small-town voters who “get bitter” and “cling to guns or religion.” Aside from the political fallout, the Huffington Post report showed how citizen journalists — using their own cell phones, cameras and laptops — can scoop the boys on the bus.

4) Palin’s shopping spree (Politico): Palin’s folksy public persona was put to the test when Politico’s Jeanne Cummings reported that the Republican National Committee had shelled out $150,000 to upgrade her and her family’s wardrobe. The campaign tried to brush off the Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus tabs by claiming the clothes would be given to charity after the campaign. But by that time, late-night talk show hosts and "Saturday Night Live" writers were already busy at work.

5) Clinton camp turmoil (Washington Post and The Atlantic): Just two days after Hillary Rodham Clinton chalked up wins in Ohio and Texas, the Washington Post's Peter Baker and Anne Kornblut revealed bitter squabbling among her top advisers, including Harold Ickes and Mark Penn. The behind-the-scenes tension was captured by the reporters in one memorable exchange: "'[Expletive] you!' Ickes shouted. '[Expletive] you!' Penn replied. '[Expletive] you!' Ickes shouted again." Months later, The Atlantic’s Joshua Green returned to the theme armed with a treasure trove of top staffer memos.

6) Jeremiah Wright tapes (ABC News): ABC’s Brian Ross first aired snippets of the fiery sermons by Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, that became YouTube staples, including his “God Damn America!” outbursts and his post-9/11 comments about how “America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Dogged by Wright’s remarks, Obama — who until then had avoided openly discussing race — was forced to give a major speech on the subject. Although McCain refused to exploit Wright’s comments in advertisements, the sermons continued as hot topics through Election Day on right-wing radio and blogs.

7) Network TV’s military analysts (New York Times): The Times’ David Barstow exhaustively reported on lucrative ties between TV’s military analysts, the Pentagon and lobbying firms. While broadcast and cable news networks largely ignored the front-page scoop, bloggers kept on the story. Last month, in a story headlined “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” Barstow followed up with a lengthy look at NBC analyst and retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who’s profited from deals with private military contractors.

8) McCain’s inner circle (New York Times Magazine): Although it was published before Election Day, Robert Draper’s deeply reported profile of McCain’s inner circle read more like a post-mortem. In “The Making (and Remaking) of John McCain,” Draper used his extraordinary access to provide both a tick-tock of events and overall portrait of a campaign struggling relentlessly, and often fruitlessly, to craft an effective message against Obama.

9) Edwards’ extramarital affair (National Enquirer): Even after mainstream outlets ignored the National Enquirer’s initial reports on John Edwards’ affair, the tabloid kept digging. Their efforts culminated in July with a successful stakeout of the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles — where Edwards met with the woman — and Edwards’ subsequent admission of an affair in an interview with ABC’s Bob Woodruff. Of course, the news would have been bigger if Edwards had still been in the race, but the story likely kept the former senator off short lists for top jobs in Obama’s administration.

10) Powell’s endorsement (NBC): Despite the absence of Tim Russert, who passed away in June, “Meet the Press” and other Sunday shows continued to be the favored weekly pit stop for candidates, supporters, and public figures needing to get an announcement off their chests. With the campaign winding down, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose support would benefit either candidate, told Tom Brokaw on Oct. 19 that was he was bucking the Republican Party and backing Obama.

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Top 10 people we'll miss in 2009

Alexander Burns

With control of the White House turning over in January and the impossibly long election of 2008 slipping into memory, there's a collection of political personalities we'll be hearing less from in the coming year — and whose frequent presence in the news cycle will be sorely missed.

We'll miss their unpredictability, their tell-it-like-it-is TV appearances, or their predilection for conflict and controversy. A few of them are political throwbacks, the likes of which may never be seen again in Washington.

Some of these figures may be back at some point: In politics, goodbye doesn't always mean goodbye. But there's no doubt this cast of characters won't be as ubiquitous in 2009 as it was in 2008, and the world of political theater will be the poorer for it.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.): The famously off-message Rendell became a cable news fixture during the 2008 cycle, particularly in the six-week run-up to the Keystone State's Democratic presidential primary.

He's a reporter's dream: a powerful, plugged-in pol who actually speaks his mind. A staunch backer of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Rendell famously caused a stir when he told local media that "there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate" in Pennsylvania. Later, at the Democratic National Convention, Rendell soured the kickoff to his party's unity-fest when he complained about what he called the "embarrassing" pro-Obama tilt in the media.

He's the first to admit that his loose-lipped ways make him a liability in national politics.

We'll surely be hearing from Rendell again — he's already drawn post-election fire for saying homeland security appointee Janet Napolitano has "no life" — but he won't be a daily presence in our lives anymore. One more reason to look forward to 2012, or a Cabinet appointment that will catapult him back into the national spotlight.

Carly Fiorina: The former Hewlett-Packard CEO reinvented herself this year as a spokeswoman and adviser for the McCain campaign. By the end of the cycle, she'd carved out a role for herself that might be called "mavericky" — sometimes too much so for her candidate's comfort.

Fiorina was a valuable surrogate, on television and on the campaign trail, selling John McCain's economic proposals. But more than once she indulged in what might be called excessive straight talk, first voicing opinions on birth control that clashed with McCain's and later telling MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell that Sarah Palin was not qualified to run a major corporation.

Fiorina has already taken steps to maintain an active role in public life, appearing on "Meet the Press" during David Gregory's first turn as the show's host. It remains to be seen how her performance on the campaign trail will affect her future political ambitions.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean: Initially seen as a risky choice for chairman of the Democratic National Committee due to his volatile personality, Dean morphed into something of a bland partisan character during his time in Washington. His committee's fundraising numbers were often disappointing, but his 50-state strategy for party development is now seen as a success following the results of 2008.

Dean's departure from the DNC signals a fading of the personalities and debates of the 2004 election cycle, and underscores the sense that a new phase is starting for the Democratic Party. Still, there will always be a place in national politics for a smart, tart-tongued pol like Dean and it's hard to imagine that after a trailblazing presidential campaign and a term as DNC chair Dean will be content to return to a medical practice in Vermont.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska): When he lost reelection on Nov. 4, Stevens wasn't just the longest-serving Republican in Senate history and one of the GOP's most powerful members of Congress. He was also one of Capitol Hill's most colorful personalities, prone to public displays of emotion — usually anger.

In 2005, when Congress moved to strip Alaska of its beloved bridge to nowhere funding, Stevens vowed to resign from the Senate. In 2006, Stevens took to the Senate floor after Congress defeated an attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, wearing an Incredible Hulk tie and threatening his colleagues: "I'm going to go to every one of your states and I'm going to tell them what you've done."

When Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) rose to counter Stevens, it resulted in what "The Daily Show" called a "coot-off." But with Stevens convicted of corruption and cast out by the voters of Alaska, it might be a while before Americans see another.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden: Once he's sworn into national office, the loquacious senator from Delaware will have to exercise a level of self-restraint that will not come easy to a man who has spent 36 of his 66 years in the United States Senate. He's off to a good start though, waiting 47 days before giving his first post-election interview.

That kind of discipline will be something new for Biden, whose proclivity for off-color and off-the-cuff remarks have led to his reputation as a gaffe machine. Anybody remember that "articulate and bright and clean" comment? How about "generated crisis"? Or "Barack America"?

We certainly do and, God love ya, we're going to miss the improvisations and spontaneity enabled by a safe Senate seat.

Vice President Dick Cheney: How many politicians, in either party, would respond to a tough question about public disapproval of foreign policy by asking, "So what?"?

And how many would tell a senior senator to "go f***" himself," as Cheney notoriously did to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in 2004? Proving his old-school ways, just last weekend the vice president said Leahy "merited it at the time." Now that's what we call straight talk.

For better or worse, Cheney has personified the cold-blooded, do-whatever-it-takes side of the Bush administration. Loathed by liberals and largely hidden from public view, the secretive Cheney's influence over the policies of the past eight years may never be fully understood.

He may not miss the political arena, but it will miss him, since it will likely be a long time before we have another vice president so seemingly insouciant about his public image.

Alan Colmes: After more than a decade as Sean Hannity's sparring partner on Fox News, Colmes is throwing in the towel. The "Hannity and Colmes" co-host has taken more than a few blows in his day, becoming an object of scorn not only for conservatives, but also for liberals who have called him a flimsy counterpart to his hard-hitting conservative rival.

America will miss Alan Colmes for a number of reasons. Like Cheney and Howard Dean, he seems tied up in a political moment that's passing. And after a dozen years with a prominent platform on national television, Colmes's personality still seems so undefined. Will we ever get a chance to know this man?

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.): After teasing the media with musings on a possible 2008 presidential campaign (remember the incomprehensible Omaha press conference where he announced that he would later announce something?), Hagel passed on a bid and retired from his Senate seat at the end of his second term. Then, after a trip to Iraq with Barack Obama fueled speculation about a cross-party presidential endorsement, Hagel kept silent in the general election (though his wife, Lilibet, endorsed the Democratic ticket).

Hagel, whose friendship with McCain deteriorated as a result of disagreements on the Iraq war, may have one or two more political strip-teases in store for us. But by leaving the Senate, he's depriving the chamber of a true maverick, the rare pol who could draw mention as a vice presidential prospect for George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg.

Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.): We'll miss Jefferson, though not nearly as much as congressional Republicans will. No matter how many of their own were under an ethical cloud, they could always point to Bill Jefferson as an example of how corruption was a bipartisan pastime.

And let's face it — his case was a doozy, something even Nancy Pelosi once acknowledged. "Anybody with $90,000 in their freezer has a problem," she said in 2006.

Still, Jefferson soldiered on, winning reelection in 2006 and nearly pulling it off again in 2008. While the long shot who defeated him in Louisiana's 2nd District, Anh "Joseph" Cao, is himself a compelling story, it's hard to see how Cao could keep us as mesmerized as Jefferson.

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.): This was the year that Charlie Brown finally kicked the football. Ahab caught the white whale. Sisyphus got to the top of the hill. The impossible finally happened: After years of targeting him, Democrats defeated Chris Shays, the last Republican House member from New England.

With Shays gone from Connecticut's 4th District, the press will have to find a new token Republican moderate. And the media will need to look elsewhere for agonized public statements about contentious legislation and angst-filled pronouncements about the future of the Republican Party.

Speculation has already started about a possible Senate bid down the line, but Shays has said he doesn't "see [himself] running for any office." If we know Shays, he'll reconsider that statement — publicly — but unfortunately for now, the thoughful veteran legislator will be dropping out of public view.

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Poll: 75% glad Bush is done

By Paul Steinhauser
CNN Deputy Political Director

-- A new national poll suggests that three out of four Americans feel President Bush's departure from office is coming not a moment too soon.
Twenty-eight percent of those polled say President Bush is the worst president in U.S. history.

Twenty-eight percent of those polled say President Bush is the worst president in U.S. history.

Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Friday said they're glad Bush is going; 23 percent indicated they'll miss him.

"Earlier this year, Bush scored some of the lowest presidential approval ratings we've seen in half a century, so it's understandable that the public is eager for a new president to step in," said Keating Holland, CNN polling director.

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider added, "As President Bush prepares to leave office, the American public has a parting thought: Good riddance. At least that's the way three-quarters feel."
The portion who say they won't miss Bush is 24 percentage points higher than the 51 percent who said they wouldn't miss President Bill Clinton when he left office in January 2001. Forty-five percent of those questioned at that time said they would miss Clinton.

The poll indicates that Bush compares poorly with his presidential predecessors, with 28 percent saying that he's the worst ever. Forty percent rate Bush's presidency as poor, and 31 percent say he's been a good president.

Only a third of those polled said they want Bush to remain active in public life after he leaves the White House. That 33 percent figure is 22 points lower than those in 2001 who wanted Bill Clinton to retain a public role.

"It's been like a failed marriage," Schneider said.

"Things started out well. When President Bush first took office in 2001, more than 60 percent saw him as strong and decisive. That impression was confirmed after the September 11th attacks. The public still saw Bush as strong and decisive when he took office a second time in 2005.

"But no more. The public has completely lost confidence in this president," Schneider said.

Bush has dropped on a number of measures, but possibly the biggest is that only 20 percent say he inspires confidence, Holland said.

"That's an important figure when the country is facing its biggest economic crisis in a generation," he added.

When running for the White House in the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush promised to be a uniter and not a divider. But 82 percent of poll respondents felt that Bush did not unite the country, compared with 17 percent who said he did.

"The vast majority of Americans believe he betrayed his promise to unite the country," Schneider said. "He took a country that was divided under President Clinton and he divided it worse."

Only 27 percent of those questioned in the poll approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president; 72 percent disapprove.

"President Bush's job approval rating has been at or below freezing since the beginning of the year," Schneider said. "The current 27 percent approval rating is one of the lowest ratings for any president, ever."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll was conducted December 19-21, with 1,013 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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