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First thoughts: Conserv. vs. conserv.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, and Domenico Montanaro
*** Conservative vs. conservative: After Rush, Newt, and Tancredo called Sonia Sotomayor a racist, a bigot, and an "angry woman," Charles Krauthammer today fires off this warning to his fellow conservatives: stop the personal attacks. "What should a principled conservative do? Use the upcoming hearings not to deny her the seat, but to illuminate her views. No magazine gossip from anonymous court clerks. No 'temperament' insinuations. Nothing ad hominem. The argument should be elevated, respectful and entirely about judicial philosophy." In today's Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan offers similar advice. Republicans, she says, should act like grown-ups. The Krauthammer/Noonan message to Republicans is this: fight Sotomayor respectfully and then confirm her. Of course, that advice is easier said than done. Just asking, but did Rush really hurt himself among Republicans and conservatives this week? John Cornyn -- nobody's liberal Republican in the Senate -- seemed to very coherently send a message to the unelected conservatives when he also chimed in and said the tone wasn't helpful. Could this week actually help the GOP if it means it gets the elected establishment to unite against the unelected leaders? Or will this week divide the party even further? It may be in Rush's court now.

*** A successful rollout so far: Given this conservative divide over Sotomayor, could this week have gone any better for the Obama White House? Yesterday, we couldn't find a single elected Republican serving in Washington issuing any press release on Sotomayor. (Sure, Pat Roberts went on the record against her, but he's not the household name that should fire up the troops.)  Instead, all of their focus was on debating the Obama stimulus package. (That stimulus debate is one the White House wants, and yet we'd argue they were better off that it was overshadowed by Sotomayor. The reason: The economic numbers don't look good, and the White House doesn't easily have anything to point to -- yet -- when it comes to the stimulus package and whether it's definitely helped soften the economic blows many are still feeling. But we digress...) The Sotomayor pick has just devastated the Republicans, split them worse than anything so far the Obama White House has done.

*** Obama's day: At 10:55 am ET from the White House, Obama delivers remarks on cyber security and announces the creation of a "cyber czar" to protect the nation's computer networks. Then, at 2:30 pm, he attends a hurricane preparedness meeting at FEMA. But this relatively slow Friday appears to be the quiet before the storm that's brewing for this summer. Indeed, consider all that will be happening in the coming weeks. Obama's Cairo speech and Europe trip. The Sotomayor confirmation hearings. The battle over health care. The fight over the energy bill. And those are just the things we already know about…

*** Two questions on health care: Speaking of health care, Obama told his supporters over the phone yesterday that it's now or never on the issue. "If we don't get it done this year, we're not going to get it done," he said. That is a HUGE drop of the gauntlet. There are two big policy debates about health care right now: Will the reform offer a public insurance option? And how will you pay for it? On the first question, liberal MoveOn is airing radio ads targeting Sens. Kent Conrad, Maria Cantwell, Bill Nelson, Tom Carper, Olympia Snowe, and Ron Wyden that urges them to support a public option. And on the second question, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page issues this reminder at Democrats who may be thinking about taxing employer-based health care benefits to finance reform: "Last year liberals mauled John McCain for daring to touch the employer-based exclusion to finance more coverage for the individually uninsured. He was proposing 'a multitrillion-dollar tax hike -- the largest middle-class tax hike in history,' said Barack Obama, whose TV ads were brutal." Meanwhile, don't miss the leak of Sen. Ted Kennedy's health-care reform outline (apparently based a lot on the Massachusetts model, mandate everyone to have it etc.). Senate watchers will want to know, are Kennedy and Senate Finance Cmte Chair Max Baucus working together yet or not? 

*** Gitmo politics: Here's another issue that the Obama White House will have to be working on this summer: what to do about those Gitmo detainees. The Washington Post reports that European leaders are saying that if the U.S. won't take Gitmo prisoners, then they won't either. "Rising opposition in the U.S. Congress to allowing Guantanamo prisoners on American soil has not gone over well in Europe. Officials from countries that previously indicated they were willing to accept inmates now say it may be politically impossible for them to do so if the United States does not reciprocate… Interior ministers from the 27-member European Union are pressing the Obama administration to agree to a joint declaration that would commit the United States to accept some prisoners, something Congress has been highly reluctant to do." Isn't this the argument some Republicans have been making on GITMO -- that no amount of kind words in Europe will help change their minds? 

*** Bush speaks: The former president did an impromptu Q&A last night after a speech in Michigan, and he spoke about the interrogation debate. Despite some speculation to the contrary, Bush ended up, sort of, siding with Cheney. Then again, he couches things to a point that it seems as if he's defending his policy AT THAT MOMENT IN TIME, and then leaves himself some wiggle room for how he changed the policy later. "I made the decision within the law to keep the American people safe," the 43rd president told a large crowd in Benton Harbor, according to WSBT TV. "The information we gained saved lives. And, as for Saddam Hussein--the world is better without that man in power." But Bush also made clear, "Nothing I'm saying is meant to criticize my successor. I wish him all the best." Meanwhile, Bush and Bill Clinton today appear together in Canada.

*** Elsewhere today: Education Secretary Arne Duncan speaks at the National Press Club; HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan speaks to the National Association of Homebuilders; First Lady Michelle Obama visits an elementary school in DC; and Howard Dean announces the publication of his new book on health-care reform, "Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform." 

Countdown to NJ GOP primary: 4 days
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