ThinkFast: November 10, 2010

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will file a friend-of-the-court brief in the multi-state lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of health care reform, Politico reports. McConnell argues in his brief that the reforms “dramatically oversteps the bounds of the Commerce [Clause] which has always been understood as a power to regulate, and not to compel, economic activity.”

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) said yesterday that he will challenge McConnell and other “old guard” Republicans over earmarks that DeMint and other Tea Party-backed Republicans campaigned to eliminate. “Americans want Congress to shut down the earmark favor factory, and next week I believe House and Senate Republicans will unite to stop pork barrel spending,” DeMint said.

As President Bush begins his public relations campaign for his new memoir, Gallup finds that his approval ratings have increased marginally. Bush receives a 44 percent favorable rating, up slightly from 40 percent in January 2009.

In a news conference in Indonesia yesterday, President Obama said that, even with the “earnest and sustained” efforts, the US must do “a lot more work” to improve ties with the Muslim World. “We don’t expect that we are going to completely eliminate some of the misunderstandings and mistrust that have developed over a long period of time, but we do think that we’re on the right path,” Obama said.

Middle East peace talks may be in jeopardy following a sharp dispute between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over expanded Israeli settlements in Jerusalem. After Israel announced the settlements yesterday, Obama said in Indonesia that such actions were “never helpful,” while Netanyahu later fired back that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.”

A special prosecutor “cleared the CIA’s former top clandestine officer and others Tuesday of any charges for destroying agency videotapes showing waterboarding of terror suspects but he continued to investigate whether the harsh questioning went beyond legal boundaries.” CIA Director Leon Panetta said the Agency welcomes the decision and will continue to cooperate with the Justice Department.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) yesterday called for “a full, independent investigation” in to the possible “criminal use of torture” under President Bush. “I am outraged by President Bush’s own admission in his newly released memoir that he personally authorized the use of waterboarding,” Nadler said. Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT) also said yesterday that he is willing to investigate Bush’s use of torture.

Senior GOP officials are “maneuvering” to pressure RNC Chair Michael Steele to not seek re-election when his term ends in January or, “failing that, to encourage a challenger to step forward to take him on.” Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephew, Henry Barbour, is “leading the effort” and House and Senate Minority Leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) both said they’d “prefer a new chairman as well.”

And finally: A spokesman for Alec Baldwin denied rumors that the actor is planning to run for Congress, but did leave the door open a bit, saying yesterday, “Alec is interested in politics and public service, but now is not the time.” Republican Randy Altschuler, who ran against Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) in Baldwin’s district, said he would look forward to running against Baldwin: “I actually like his TV show,” 30 Rock.

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