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First thoughts: Brennan's shot

Brennan's security shot at congressional Republicans… GOP returns the fire… Is Obama's Feb. 25 meeting on health care political cover for reconciliation?... Sarah Palin talks about 2012… Democrats appear to be throwing the kitchen sink at Dan Coats… And Scott Lee Cohen, in tearful news conference, ends his Lt. Gov. bid in Illinois.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Brennan's shot: On a Sunday already filled with plenty of news -- the Saints' Super Bowl win, the D.C. area shoveling out of Snowmaggedon, and the aftermath of Sarah Palin's speech at the Tea Party convention -- the biggest political shot might have come from White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan. "I'm tiring of politicians using national security issues such as terrorism as a political football," said Brennan, who has worked for both Democratic and GOP administrations, said on "Meet the Press." "They are going out there, they're, they're unknowing of the facts, and they're making charges and allegations that are not anchored in reality." He added, "On Christmas night, I called a number of senior members of Congress. I spoke to Senators McConnell and Bond; I spoke to Representative Boehner and Hoekstra. I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point. They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point." 

*** GOP returns the fire: Those Republicans naturally fired back at Brennan. "Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber -- if he had I would have told him the Administration was making a mistake," GOP Sen. Kit Bond said in a statement. "The truth is that the Administration did not even consult our intelligence chiefs, as DNI Blair testified, so its absurd to try to blame Congressional leaders for this dangerous decision that gave terrorists a five week head start to cover their tracks." President Obama also got into the fray. "The most important thing for the public to understand is we're not handling any of these cases any different than the Bush administration handled them all through 9/11," the president said in an interview with CBS. "They prosecuted 190 folks in these Article Three courts," referring to civilian courts. "Got convictions. And those folks are in maximum security prisons right now. And there have been no escapes." 

*** Is the White House re-thinking how it proceeds? Largely missed in this security back-and-forth was the administration's suggestion that it's rethinking how it proceeds with future terrorist apprehensions. The Washington Post: "During the 'Meet the Press' interview, Brennan said the right thing had been done on Christmas, but he made clear that the administration may be rethinking that decision. He said the president had ordered a new look at the processes "and whether or not we can enhance and strengthen them, and that's what we're looking at right now." And in his CBS interview, Obama said that the practice of reading terrorists Miranda rights is being reviewed. "Absolutely, everything should be reviewed," he said. So while the White House has decided to fight back big time on this issue of whether reading Miranda rights was the right thing to do with the Christmas bomber, they are also hinting that the next terrorist may NOT get Miranda rights so quickly.

*** Cover for reconciliation? The other political news that Obama made yesterday was his announcement that he's convening a half-day, bipartisan meeting on health care on Feb. 25. And get this: It's going to be televised. "I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward," he said. Some Democrats are seeing -- or perhaps hoping -- this bipartisan summit as the president's final attempt to gain political cover to go the reconciliation route. This goes to the latest White House political strategy on ALL things of late, and that is attempt to include the Republicans in more policy debates in an attempt to create a "choice" election for 2010 rather than facing simply a referendum (see Plouffe's interview from the weekend).

*** Palin and 2012: Is Sarah Palin truly considering a presidential run in 2012? You be the judge. "I think it would be absurd to not consider what I can do for my country," she said yesterday on FOX News Sunday, per NBC's Andrea Mitchell. "I won't close a door that perhaps could be opened for me in the future." Don't forget that as long as Palin flirts with a 2012 bid, 1) the political press will always be more interested in what she has to say, and 2) she'll command top-dollar speaking fees. So why shut that door? But it also doesn't mean that she's running… In fact, it seems like many a headline writer went out of their ways to interpret her comments as "SHE MIGHT RUN, SHE MIGHT RUN; THE SKY IS FALLING, THE SKY IS FALLING!!!"

*** Regarding those Todd e-mails…: Also in her FOX interview, Palin also responded on camera for the first time to a specific question about an MSNBC.com/NBC report on emails showing husband Todd's involvement in key matters while Palin was Alaska governor, NBC's Mitchell adds. Sarah Palin said it was "absolutely" appropriate for Todd to be so involved. "There are so few people in the political world that I can trust," adding that "he's my husband; he's my closest adviser. And she said, "Todd helped as Alaska's First Dude with no staff, with no office" and that he helped with workplace development issues for the state. "He helped with workplace development issues, he never got into the minutia of politics; he hates this political bull-dot that we go through."

*** Coats gets the kitchen sink: The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seems to be throwing the kitchen sink at ex-Sen. Dan Coats (R), perhaps in an effort to persuade him not to challenge Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh (D) in November. The latest revelation/oppo dump is that Coats was a foreign lobbyist for India, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. The Hill writes, "Yemen isn't exactly a country you want your name tied to right now, and the lobbying documentation provides Democrats with a ready-made attack ad to use against Coats. Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said the foreign lobbying brings things to a whole new level for Coats. 'It's one thing to be a lobbyist; it's another to be lobbying for Yemen,' she said. 'He'll have that hung around his neck day in and day out.'" After all of these revelations about Coats -- former lobbyist, a voter registration in Virginia (not Indiana), a reported desire to retire to North Carolina -- do we think he's definitely in the race? The Democrats are hoping this oppo dump creates doubt in Coats' mind. Filing deadline is Feb. 19.

*** Scott Lee, you are a madman … when you stole that cow: The craziest Illinois political story since Blago/Jack Ryan/Blair Hull came to an end last night, when Democratic Lt. Gov. nominee Scott Lee Cohen announced he was quitting the race. Cohen -- who we found out AFTER his primary win Tuesday has allegedly abused his ex-wife, used steroids, didn't pay child support, and placed a knife to the neck of an ex-girlfriend who was a prostitute -- said at a teary news conference during the halftime of the Super Bowl, "For the good of the people … I will resign." Per the Chicago Tribune, it's now up to the 38-member Democratic State Central Committee to pick a replacement. "The Democratic panel is scheduled to meet March 17, though a meeting could be held sooner," the Tribune adds. "The state central committee is not bound to select any of the candidates who lost to Cohen in last week's primary." 

*** More midterm news: In Arizona, John McCain's campaign announced that Scott Brown will stump for the Arizona senator next month, March 5-6… In Florida, Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio are dueling over whether illegal immigrants should be counted in the 2010 Census… And in Texas, Palin campaigned for Rick Perry in that gubernatorial primary taking place less than a month from now.
 
Countdown to TX primary: 24 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 269 days

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