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First thoughts: Snookered

Learning the lesson -- again -- how Breitbart and his protégés are more interested in liberal scalps than the truth… Why no one looks good in this story, especially the media… Liberals’ numerical disadvantage to conservatives… Obama signs yet another domestic achievement into law at 11:30 am ET… What happens when the GOP co-opts the Tea Party?... RNC having to deal with more damage control… In Georgia, it’s Handel vs. Deal in the GOP run-off for governor, while Roy Barnes cruises to victory in the Dem primary… Profiling AL-5… And Ellsworth out with his second TV ad.

From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Snookered: After conservative activist James O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for entering a federal building under false pretenses, you would have thought that all of us in the ACTUAL news business would have learned this lesson about Andrew Breitbart and his protégés: They’re not out for the truth; they’re out for scalps. So once again, we find out that Breitbart has distributed an EDITED video that gets wide play on Drudge and cable TV; that the target of the video is embarrassed, forced to resign, or stripped of federal funding; and that -- surprise, surprise -- the video didn’t tell the whole truth.

*** No one looks good here: The most recent example -- an Agriculture Department employee apparently giving a racist speech before the NAACP, the Obama administration firing this employee, but it turns out that the speech was actually a positive one -- doesn’t make anyone look good. The Ag Department (which dismissed the employee, but is now reexamining the matter), the White House (which is always quick to jettison anyone under conservative fire, especially when it comes to race), or the NAACP (which, after its spat with the Tea Party over race, condemned her speech but has taken it back). But those who look the worst here are the news media. Any credible journalist or journalistic organization given an edited video would want to see the full context, right? Especially if you know the source has an agenda, right? Yet the same questions could be asked of the White House. How did an administration that complains so much about the 24-7 media culture -- often correctly, we might add -- act without knowing all the facts?

*** Beware of the shiny metal object: Breitbart and other conservatives used race as the bait to guilt the so-called MSM and the Obama administration. Is this a story about race? Is it a story about the media? It's both, but let's not let race be the shiny metal object that distracts from the conversation about today's media culture and Washington's addiction to it.

*** Liberals’ numerical disadvantage: From the conservative blogosphere to the liberal one… When the liberal blogosphere confab, Netroots Nation, kicks off tomorrow in Las Vegas, it will inevitably further the "Why are progressives disappointed in Obama?" storyline. In the past few months, liberal commentators have bemoaned that the public option wasn’t included in the health care law, that the financial reform legislation -- which President Obama will sign into law today -- isn’t strong enough, and that Gitmo still isn't closed. The Nation's Eric Alterman even penned a widely discussed essay explaining these disappointments on a system that's stacked against progressives. But here is something to consider: It's the country -- not the system -- that's stacked against liberals and progressives.

*** For Democrats, it’s all about the center: From 1989 (after Reagan's presidency) to now, the most stable data in the NBC/WSJ poll has been that roughly one-fifth of the country identifies as being liberal, while one-third identifies being conservative. Even in 2008, when Obama decisively won the presidency, the average in the poll was 25% liberal, 36% conservative. And in 1996, when Bill Clinton easily won re-election, it was 22% liberal, 34% conservative. For Democrats, this means that if they want to win national elections, they need to win about 60% of the self-described moderate vote -- which Obama did in '08 and congressional Dems did in '06, per the exit polls. By comparison, however, John Kerry got 54% of the moderate vote in 2004.

*** Changing the trajectory: So the bigger question for Democrats and liberals shouldn't be: "Why isn't Obama's presidency more progressive?" Instead, it should be: "Why isn't the country more progressive?" During the '08 presidential campaign, Obama declared (controversially at the time): "Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not." He was correct. And progressives -- as well as historians -- might better judge Obama 10 to 15 years from now, whether his administration was able to bend the trajectory of American politics like Reagan did after '88.

*** Another domestic achievement: Here’s one consequence of the USDA/race/NAACP/Breitbart story: The media is going to pay more attention to it than to President Obama’s second-biggest domestic achievement so far this year. At 11:30 am ET, President Obama signs the financial reform legislation into law. Obama also will sign the extension of unemployment benefits into law -- but he’ll have to wait. NBC’s Ken Strickland and Shawna Thomas reported yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Republicans are making him burn the 30 hours that is required, but often waived, after a filibuster is broken. "We just passed badly needed legislation to help two-and-a-half million unemployed," Reid said on the Senate floor. "To show the lack of understanding and feeling and compassion of the Republicans, they're making us waste 30 hours."

*** What happens when the GOP co-opts the Tea Party? Per NBC’s Luke Russert and Shawna Thomas, the brand-new Tea Party caucus will hold its first meeting today at 9:00 am ET, and then holds a press conference at 10:00 am. And here are those who have RSVPed to attend: Michele Bachmann (MN), Paul Broun (R-GA), Dan Burton (R-IN), John Carter (R-TX), John Culberson (R-TX), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), Steve King (R-IA), Mike Pence (R-IN), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Todd Tiahrt (R-KS). Do note that at least two of these members -- Sessions and Pence -- are part of the GOP leadership. What’s more, as MSNBC.com Carrie Dann notes, all of these members come from VERY safe GOP districts. In fact, they won on average 62% of the vote in their 2008 elections. The decision by Sessions to join the Tea Party caucus might be comfortable to him as Congressman Sessions, but is it the right thing for NRCC Chairman Sessions, especially since there are moderates in places like New Hampshire or New York or Massachusetts who probably will NOT join the Tea Party caucus?

*** More damage control for the RNC: The Washington Times reports, “The Republican National Committee failed to report more than $7 million in debt to the Federal Election Commission in recent months - a move that made its bottom line appear healthier than it is heading into the midterm elections and that also raises the prospect of a hefty fine. In a memo to RNC budget committee members, RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen on Tuesday accused Chairman Michael S. Steele and his chief of staff, Michael Leavitt, of trying to conceal the information from him by ordering staff not to communicate with the treasurer - a charge RNC officials deny. Mr. Pullen told the members that he had discovered $3.3 million in debt from April and $3.8 million from May, which he said had led him to file erroneous reports with the FEC. He amended the FEC filings Tuesday.” The RNC denies to First Read that it has any debt, and says every invoice Pullen used was already paid for. But it can’t be dismissed: The RNC’s treasurer and chairman are at odds here, and this news only helps groups like Karl Rove’s that are trying to raise money outside the RNC.

*** The Georgia results: In Georgia last night, Karen Handel -- boosted by her Palin endorsement -- got a plurality (34%) in the GOP gubernatorial primary, and will compete in an Aug. 10 run-off against second-place finisher Nathan Deal, who got 23%. And in the Democratic primary, former Gov. Roy Barnes easily won his primary, getting 66% -- an impressive feat considering that he was competing against (among others) the state’s top African-American elected official (two-term Attorney General Thurbert Baker). It is worth noting how the Republican Governors Association, which wasn’t too fond of seeing onetime-frontrunner John Oxendine (who finished fourth) winning, has benefited from Palin’s endorsements. They were more than happy to see Nikki Haley win in South Carolina. Ditto Handel in Georgia… In many ways, the RGA has been clever about using Palin late to dispatch with problem potential nominees in New Mexico, South Carolina and, now, Georgia.

*** 75 House races to watch: Previewing AL-5: Today, we look at the race in AL-5, where incumbent Parker Griffith (R) lost his primary after switching from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. The Democratic nominee is Steve Raby, who won his primary with 62%. And the GOP nominee is Mo Brooks, who won with 51%. John McCain won 61% of the vote in this district in ’08, and George W. Bush won 60% in ’04.

*** More midterm news: In June, the DSCC outraised the NRSC, Politico writes… In Arkansas, a new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows John Boozman (R) leading Blanche Lincoln (D) by 19 points… And in Indiana, Brad Ellsworth (D) has unveiled his second TV ad.

Countdown to OK primary: 6 days
Countdown to KS and MO primaries: 13 days
Countdown to CO and CT primaries: 20 days
Countdown to Election Day 2010: 104 days

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