ThinkFast: December 4, 2008

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said yesterday that he sees “no reason for prosecutions or for pardons for those who gave legal advice on the Bush administration’s terrorism policies. “There is absolutely no evidence” that legal opinions on surveillance or interrogation policy were issued “for any reason other than to protect the security of the country,” claimed Mukasey.

House and Senate leaders are taking up legislation to cut the pay of Sen. Hillary Clinton and other members of Congress nominated by President-elect Barack Obama. The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits new appointees from “serving in a confirmable position within the executive branch if that position has had its pay increased while they were serving in Congress.”

Chris Matthews is being advised to resign his post at MSNBC as soon as possible if he is serious about running for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania. Despite the fact that Matthews is currently looking for a house in the state, some at NBC believe Matthews’s potential candidacy is simply a “negotiating ploy to jack up his contract.”

While the auto industry is arguing to Congress that it needs a financial bailout to avoid recession, CBS News reports that automakers spent nearly $50 million lobbying lawmakers in the first nine months of the year, along with another $15 million in campaign contributions.


In a surprise move, the United Auto Workers announced yesterday that the union would make major concessions in its contracts with the big three auto companies to help them lobby Congress for federal aid. The union said “members were willing to sacrifice job security provisions and financing for retiree health care” to keep GM and Chrysler out of bankruptcy.Environmentalists began an online campaign yesterday “urging President-elect Barack Obama to undo a new federal rule that clarifies when coal companies can dump mining waste in streams.” The group Appalachian Voices and others say that the EPA’s endorsement of the rule on Tuesday will be “the death of freshwater streams and the probable start of a new surge in mountaintop removal surface mining.”

President-elect Obama “is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months.” Obama has not publicly set a firm number for how large the “residual force” will be.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates “said the federal government must increase deficit spending to stimulate the economy and help the country’s most vulnerable residents.” We should have a bigger goal than getting the economy growing again,” Gates said in a speech at George Washington University. “I think we should expand the number of people who are contributing to the economy and benefiting from it.”

Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner “is seeking to push Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair out of office.” Geithner argues that “Bair isn’t a team player and is too focused on protecting her agency rather than the financial system as a whole.” The Obama team says Bair “won’t play a central role in policy.”

And finally: After Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-AK) embarrassing conversation with a radio host pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) wasn’t going to take any chances after someone called her saying he was Barack Obama. Ros-Lehtinen said, “I’m sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks,” and hung up. When Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called, Ros-Lehtinen again hung up. Only after a call from her friend Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) did Ros-Lehtinen finally realize her mistake. When Obama finally reached the congresswoman, he told her that he thought the whole incident was “funny.”

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