McCaskill: DeMint ‘Nuts’ To Block TSA Nominee Over Benefits (VIDEO)

On CNN Sunday morning, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said it was “nuts” for a Republican senator to hold up the confirmation of a Transportation Security Administration chief over concerns about letting employees join a union.

“With all due respect, this is nuts holding him up over whether somebody’s going to be able to bargain for a better benefit,” McCaskill said. “Playing games with the process — all it’s doing is hurting the traveling public, because the most important front-line agency to protect Americans right now on flights is being held up over political stuff.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has been blocking the confirmation of Erroll Southers, demanding a debate and floor vote, because he fears the nominee will let workers bargain collectively. Southers has the approval of two bipartisan committees.

DeMint has defended his block even after the attempted terror attack on Christmas, saying the unionization issue is a valid security concern. He’s complained that Democrats are rushing the process.

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Fox News Satellite Cuts Off Dem Rep. Sestak’s ‘Final Word’ (VIDEO)

On Fox News Saturday, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) was allowed to have the final word on health care in a debate with Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) — but he never got to deliver it.

After Franks argued that the health care bill was creating a “socialist government-run system,” Sestak was given twenty seconds to respond — only to have the screen go black in the middle of his first sentence. The satellite feed cut out before the Democratic congressman could actually make his case. A flustered anchor apologized for the technical difficulties.

Watch, via Mediaite:

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Washington Post Defends Obama: ‘Soft On Terror? Not This President’

THERE IS, it seems evident, more than enough blame to go around in the botched handling of the botched Christmas bombing. Not for some Republicans. With former vice president Richard B. Cheney in the lead, they have embarked on an ugly course to use the incident to inflict maximum political damage on President Obama. That’s bad enough, but their scurrilous line of attack is even worse. The claim that the incident shows the president’s fecklessness in the war on terror is unfounded — no matter how often it is repeated.

2009: Tracking The Year In Politics

With 2009 now in the rear-view mirror, the weekly tracking poll offered to the readers of Daily Kos allows for an interesting graphical look at the political winds of the year that was.

One thing becomes evident almost immediately: the pivotal month of the year in the realm of politics was the month of August. This is perhaps most evident in the favorability ratings for President Barack Obama:

While the graph shows downward movement throughout the first eight months of the year, it is worth noting that the initial slide was predictable, and in line with pretty much every president as their inaugural honeymoon dissipates.

No one (not even Obama, one presumes) believed his favorabilities would stay north of 65% forever.

But, in the heat of the August recess, that downward shift became more sharp. The president’s net favorability went from +26 on July 30th (62/36) to a mere +9 on September 3rd (52/43).

While his well-received address on health care the following week (and the absurd GOP flap over his speech to the schoolchildren of America) staunched the bleeding, the President’s numbers have basically plateaued since then. He has never recovered the favorability that he had before the month of August.

What might be most alarming for Obama, and by extension the Democratic Party, is that while the President has recovered the adoration of his base (his favorables have actually ticked up a few points since July with Democrats, from 88% to 90%), his numbers with Independents have dipped palpably. What was 70% favorability prior to the August recess now sits at just 54%.

There could be a couple of reasons for this. The right-wing analysis, predictably, is that Independents are appalled by the super-scary socialist stuff, and are repelled by it. That would not explain, however, why only 26% of Independents want a Republican Congress, while the majority are still on the fence about their voting intentions for 2010.

A second explanation is that Independents, since they are not married to either political party, are more about results than they are about particular political positions. The remedy, in that scenario, is simple for Democrats: get things done.

As it stands, Independents have consistently expressed a lower degree of favorability for Republicans in Congress and in the Congressional leadership, which is why the GOP’s Congressional entities have consistently polled lower than their Democratic counterparts this year:

What was once a wide gap has tightened somewhat (helped especially by a surge of support for the GOP from its Republican base in that pivotal month of August), but there is still a pretty substantial gap between the two parties.

There is one other unique trend in these numbers. Notice how, as the health care fight escalated through the latter half of the year, the numbers for Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid diverged noticeably.

Reid, it must be noted, did make something of a comeback in the final few weeks of 2009.

Does this divergence between the two parties mean that the conventional wisdom forecasting gloomy 2010 prospects for Democrats are unjustified? The simple answer, unfortunately for Democrats, is: no.

For one thing, as we have tracked over the last month, there is a substantial gap in the relative levels of voting enthusiasm in 2010. This reached an alarming level at the close of the year, where the final tracking poll of the year showed that 45% of Democrats now say that they are either unlikely to vote or certain not to do it.

For another thing, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said in November that he suspects that people who hold neither political party in esteem will be more likely to vote Republican. His logic: if they are dissatisfied with the course of the country, they’ll vote for the party that offers the greatest likelihood of change from the present circumstance.

This might explain the relatively narrow advantage for Democrats over the last few months of the year on our variation of the Generic Ballot test for the 2010 elections (note: this question did not make its debut in our tracking poll until May):

When the Democrats swept to their large majority in November of 2008, they led the GOP by just over seven percentage points in the aggregate national House vote. More often than not, Democrats have led the GOP by margins less than seven points since the late summer. This would imply, at least on the surface, that the goal for Democrats will be to minimize the number of seats they shed in the 2010 midterms.

Of course, there are still more than ten months to go in the 2010 campaign cycle. Anyone interested in the predictive value of polling might want to look at one statistic that is highlighted weekly in the Daily Kos tracking poll:

It is worth noting that the right track/wrong track metric is not an inviolable predictor of political fortune. After all, Democrats padded their majorities in 2008, despite that particular metric resting at its most pessimistic point in recent history.

The difference between then and now, however, is that there were several places for voters to direct their anger. By virtue of having a deeply unpopular President in the White House, the Republican Party bore the overwhelming brunt of voter disdain.

In 2010, of course, voter anger is likely to be concentrated on the party-in-power. And, unlike 2008, there is only one party in power.

Therefore, Democrats need to see a dramatic shift in the right track/wrong track metric. And the sooner, the better. If they can succeed in raising voter optimism about the state of the nation, their majority will be considerably more comfortable than it is at present.

Al-Qaeda Benefited From Decade Of U.S. Missteps In Yemen

Nearly a decade after the bombing of the USS Cole, a combination of U.S. and Yemeni missteps, deep mistrust and a lack of political will have allowed al-Qaeda militants here to regroup and pose a major threat to the United States, according to Yemeni and U.S. officials, diplomats and analysts.

The U.S. failures have included a lack of focus on al-Qaeda’s growing stature, insufficient funding to and cooperation with Yemen, and a misunderstanding of the Middle Eastern country’s complex political terrain, Yemeni officials and analysts said. U.S. policies in the region, they said, often alienated top Yemeni officials and did little to address the root causes of militancy.

Rick Warren Takes In $2.4 Million After Donations Plea

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — Evangelical pastor Rick Warren’s plea for donations to fill a $900,000 deficit at his Southern California megachurch brought in $2.4 million, Warren announced to cheers during a sermon at the church on Saturday.

Warren said the amount raised after the appeal was posted online Wednesday included only money parishioners brought in person to Saddleback Church by New Year’s Eve. More was arriving by hand and by mail, he said.

“This is pretty amazing,” said Warren, who made the announcement by bringing out 24 volunteers each holding a sign for $100,000. “I don’t think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter.”

The pastor said he planned to talk about what he called his church’s “radical generosity” in the rest of the weekend’s sermons. He said the total came from members, and the donations were all under $100.

“We’re starting the new decade with a surplus,” he said. “It came from thousands of ordinary people. This was not one big fat cat.”

The posting on Warren’s Web site read: “With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated.”

Warren said the church had largely managed to stay within its budget during the year, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations were down.

The letter cited the church’s accomplishments in 2009 and detailed how the donations would be used, including the church’s food pantry, homeless ministry, counseling and support groups.

Warren made similar pleas after Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami, raising $1.7 million and $1.6 million from Saddleback parishioners.

Warren is the author of numerous books, including the best-selling “The Purpose Driven Life.” He was named the top newsmaker of the year for 2009 by the Religion Newswriters Association, gaining attention with his invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama and comments in the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage.

He founded Saddleback Church in 1980 in Lake Forest, about 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

John Brennan: Cheney ‘Ignorant’ Or Distorting Terror Facts (VIDEO)

Another Obama administration official is pushing back against Dick Cheney’s attacks on the White House over the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack.

On Fox News Sunday, senior counterterrorism adviser John Brennan — who also served under President Bush — responded to Cheneys comment that Obama thinks the war on terror is over.

“It’s disappointing to me that either the vice president or others have willfully mischaracterized President Obama’s position and actions or they’re just ignorant of the facts,” he said. “I think in either case, it doesn’t speak well to sort of the reasons why they sort of went out and said these things.”

“I’m neither Republican nor Democrat,” he added. “I’ve worked for five previous administrations, and this president … says we’re at war with Al Qaeda. We’re going to destroy Al Qaeda.”

Watch, via ThinkProgress:

On NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Bush CIA director Michael Hayden agreed, saying, “: I — I am heartened by the fact that the President consistently says, “We are at war with Al Qaeda and its affiliates … We should not overly politicize things that are essentially security in nature.”

In a blog post the previous week, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said Cheney’s “bellicose rhetoric” didn’t interest about and called the former VP’s national security critique “strangely off-key.”

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