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First thoughts: A productive day

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** A productive day: President Obama today finished up his most important and productive day of his trip. A day-long summit with the Chinese led to some new concessions from both countries on climate issues ("We are creating a joint clean energy research center, and have achieved agreements on energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner uses of coal, electric vehicles, and shale gas," Obama said), on the economy and America's $800 billion debt to the Chinese in financing the stimulus ("China's partnership has proved critical in our effort to pull ourselves out of the worst recession in generations," Obama added), and on North Korea ("The two sides will work with other parties concerned to continue the denuclearization process of the Korean Peninsula," Hu said). But splits remained on human rights (yet simply getting the Chinese president to acknowledge U.S. concerns was seen by the White House as a big step) and potentially on Iran. President Obama remains in China and leaves tomorrow for South Korea.

*** A quick programming note: Chuck, who has been covering Obama on his Asia trip, sits down with the president for an interview tomorrow. Be sure to watch TODAY, Nightly News and MSNBC, as well as click on to First Read, to see what Obama has to say about his trip and also what's been happening in the U.S. while he's been away.

*** Showdown with Iran? On the topic of Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency has "voiced strong suspicions in a report on Monday that the country was concealing other atomic facilities," the New York Times front-pages. And Jeffrey Bader, the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security who's traveling with the president, came awfully close to admitting the Iranians would probably reject the current deal on the table, paving the way for a showdown at the UN over sanctions. "The president did talk to President Hu about the possibility -- indeed, at this point, when -- well, let's say -- I won't characterize -- let's just say the possibility that we will not reach resolution of this issue and we may have to go to track two and greater pressure. I would not say that we got an answer today from the Chinese, nor did we expect one on the subject. I'm confident that whatever direction we choose to go -- we need to go towards the end of the year, that the Chinese will remain part of the unified P5-plus-1 front."

*** Battle over the judiciary: Today, the full Senate is expected to take up David Hamilton's nomination to serve on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. GOP Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has threatened to filibuster Hamilton's nomination and other Republicans are opposing it as well -- which has surprised the White House, given Hamilton's easy confirmation as federal district judge and the fact that he's endorsed by his home state GOP senator, Dick Lugar. The Hamilton vote comes as liberals say they're disappointed at the Obama administration's pace of nominating judges. The New York Times editorial page writes, "President Bush … made his nominations quickly and pushed hard to have them confirmed. By the end of his first year, according to a report by the liberal group Alliance for Justice, he had nominated 65 federal judges and 28 were confirmed." But: "Mr. Obama has moved slowly. As of Nov. 4, he had nominated just 26 appellate and district court judges, and only four of them had been confirmed."

*** Palin-palooza, Day Six (by our count): Today, Palin's book, "Going Rogue," officially hits bookstores… In an interview with ABC, Palin criticized Obama's presidency, praised the Tea Party protests, and didn't rule out a 2012 bid. "My ambition if you will, my desire, is to help our country in whatever role that may be, and I cannot predict what that will be, what doors would be open in the year 2012."… On her Facebook page, she calls the Newsweek cover photo of her (which had previously appeared in Runner's World) "unfortunate" and "sexist"… Per NBC's Adam Verdugo, Palin's SarahPAC has sent out an e-mail to supporters late Monday night offering to send a signed copy of her memoir to anyone who donates $100 or more (the Republican Governors Association also is raising money this way from Palin's book)… And in that SarahPAC email, Palin says that Ronald Reagan "entered office during an economic recession even worse than our current one, but he left office after overseeing the largest peacetime economic expansion in American history." (Economists and Bill Clinton would probably take issue with both claims.)

*** Would Reagan have passed today's conservative litmus test? Evan Thomas' piece on Palin in the latest issue of Newsweek raises this provocative question, especially for conservatives who are targeting Charlie Crist in Florida, Bob Bennett in Utah, and even Lindsey Graham in South Carolina: Would Ronald Reagan -- just looking at his record as president -- be a target for conservatives today? After all, he raised taxes; his policies increased the size of the deficit; he reached out, through diplomatic channels, to Russia to end the Cold War; he had a pragmatist like James Baker serve as his chief of staff; and he picked the moderate George H.W. Bush as his running mate.

*** "It's a good time to be in Beijing": By the way, when one of us asked ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a Republican serving as Obama's ambassador to China, about the current ideological fight in the GOP, he answered, "It's a good time to be in Beijing." He seemed genuinely bemused by Palin-palooza, and said every time he gets sucked into paying a tiny bit of attention, he throws himself back into work on China issues. Do remember that Huntsman, a moderate who at one time was seen as a possible 2012 GOP candidate, saw a local Michigan GOP chapter cancel an event with Huntsman due to his centrist views (like his support for civil unions).

*** Cheney stumps for KBH: Former Vice President Dick Cheney will officially endorse Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) in her gubernatorial primary bid against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry (R). The event takes place in Houston at 5:00 pm ET, and it comes after Hutchison announced that she would remain in the Senate through the primary. Previously, the understanding was that Hutchison would resign her Senate seat this November to concentrate on the race full time.

*** More 2010 watch: In his column in CongressDaily, Charlie Cook writes that Republicans are poised to pick up House seats this cycle. But he notes that three factors could keep the GOP gains well below the level they need to take back Congress: 1) the Republican Party's poor brand; 2) it's ideological civil war; and 3) the lack of Democratic retirements (as of now). "Keep in mind that 40 percent of the 52 House seats Demo­crats lost in 1994 were open. As it stands, there seems to be little chance that 30 to 35 or more Democratic incumbents will lose next year." Cook concludes, "Democrats certainly have the most challenges, but there are enough potentially offsetting factors that this might not be the Category 4 or 5 hur­ricane Republicans fervently hope for."

*** And now … your moment of Zen: Finally today, Vice President Biden tapes an appearance for Comedy Central's "Daily Show."

Countdown to MA Special Primary: 21 days
Countdown to MA Special Election: 63 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 350 days

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