ThinkFast: January 19, 2011

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) will announce today that he will retire from the Senate at the conclusion of his current term, ending a career marked by a record of both promoting and abandoning progressive causes. The Connecticut Mirror says that a source told them Lieberman decided to retire after being told by senior staff that “re-election as an independent was nearly impossible.”

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) also announced yesterday he will retire at the end of his current term. It’s not the first time Conrad retired, however — he lived up to a 1986 campaign pledge by refusing to run in 1992 because the federal deficit was not under control. Within months, he announced he was running for the state’s other seat following the death of Sen. Quentin Burdick (D).

Alabama’s new GOP governor Robert Bentley told a church crowd this week that non-Christians are not his brothers and sisters. “Anybody here today who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, I’m telling you, you’re not my brother and you’re not my sister, and I want to be your brother,” Bentley said. The Anti-Defamation League called his comment “offensive.”

A new poll released Tuesday found that only 18 percent of Americans “are in favor of completely ejecting the health care overhaul passed last year.” Of the 50 percent that opposed the law, only 33 percent favored flat-out repeal, 35 percent favored a partial repeal, and 30 percent voted for a “wait-and-see approach.”

In search of themes for his State of the Union address on Jan. 25, President Obama held a series of meetings last month with his economic team, outside economists, labor leaders, and business CEOS to find both a “short-term patch” and “a durable system with a stronger set of rules” to improve the economy. Frustrated by failure to define the depth and solutions to the economic recession, Obama will “explain his new approach” and focus on “jobs and competitiveness” during his address.

President Obama is expected to announce today an agreement between the U.S. and China to establish a “Center of Excellence” in China to promote effective nuclear security and safeguards. The jointly funded project will reportedly allow technology sharing, offer training courses, and promote collaboration on nuclear security.

Sarah Palin’s unfavorable ratings are at an all-time high, according to a new CNN poll, with 56 percent of Americans expressing an unfavorable opinion of the former governor and current reality television star. Among women, Palin’s unfavorable rating has increased by 10 points, and it’s gone up a “whopping” 14 points among independents.

The FCC voted 4-1 to allow the NBC-Comcast merger, which will become one of the country’s largest media conglomerates. Democratic Commissioner “Michael Copps voted against the merger arguing that ‘it confers too much power into one company’s hand.'”

The EPA is “confident” that its upcoming regulations dealing with global warming will not be affected by President Obama’s newly-announced review of federal regulations. An EPA official said current and future rules under the Clean Air Act “comfortably pass muster under the sensible standards the president has laid out.”

And finally: Trying to understand Americans’ fascination with Sarah Palin, Donny Deutsch, a regular on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” had a compelling theory: Palin “is Snooki.” Deutsch noted the former Alaska governor and the Jersey Shore cast member share many traits. People “want to watch this character with big hair, who’s funny, you don’t know what she’s going to say.” “[S]he’s campy, she’s kitschy. It’s telegenic, it’s television, it’s entertainment.”

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