ThinkFast: July 14, 2009

On day 2 of the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, Republicans have indicated they “plan to confront Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor with her own words, taken from speeches dating back 15 years, as they try to raise doubts about her ability to judge fairly.” “Today will be the true test of how she handles tough questions,” Republicans tell Politico. The Wonk Room will be live-blogging.

President Obama vowed yesterday to veto a $680 billion defense spending bill “if lawmakers set aside funding for more F-22 warplanes than the Defense Department says it needs.” Many lawmakers who support the funding have F-22 contractors in their states. “We do not need these planes,” Obama said, adding, “I will veto any bill that supports acquisition of F-22s beyond the 187 already funded by Congress.”

Two former law intelligence officials told CNN that former Vice President Cheney is getting a “bum rap” over reports that he ordered the CIA to withhold information from Congress. While the covert program was reportedly an effort to assassinate al Qaeda leaders, Time reports, “The program could have required the Agency to spy on Americans.”

Yesterday, President Obama held a meeting with various Jewish leaders to assuage some lingering concerns that “he is being too tough on Israel and too soft on Iran.” Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street said Obama “did a masterful job of pushing while hugging” in the meeting. “He was very clear that this is a moment that has to be seized and he intends to seize it.’’

President Barack Obama said over the weekend that he would like to tackle the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy “sooner rather than later.” In an interview with CNN, the president signaled that he would be pushing to “change,” rather than “repeal” the ban.

House Democrats are expected to “unveil the details of a sweeping reform measure” today “that would drastically revamp the country’s health care system.” The introduction of the proposal was delayed last week, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said yesterday that “in order for us to be on schedule, we have to roll out our legislation this week.”

“In a rare burst of public frustration,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that “she could not announce a new director for the United States Agency for International Development because the candidate was stuck in a lengthy vetting process.” “It’s frustrating beyond words,” Clinton said, adding that the process is a “nightmare” and “ridiculous.”

Iraqis were jubilant yesterday as the country’s “itinerant national soccer team, displaced for years by war, finally returned to Baghdad on Monday night to play a home match at home.” The stadium was “filled past capacity and genuinely festive like nothing Baghdad had experienced in years,” as the team won a 4–0 victory over a Palestinian team.

Steve Rattner is stepping down “as President Obama’s chief adviser on the troubled automobile industry at a time when an investigation into his former Wall Street firm’s role in a scandal involving public pension funds has intensified.” But it is unclear if his departure “is directly connected to the inquiry, or whether he felt that it was time to leave because” his role had come to “its natural end.”

And finally: With all the important issues facing the country, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is on a crusade against…mermaids. Late last week, Brownback introduced the “Human-Animal Hybrid Prohibition Act of 2009,” banning “part-human, part-animal creatures, which are created in laboratories, and blur the line between species.” Chris Harris of Media Matters Action Network responds, “I can confidently say that the potential future existence of mermaids and Minotaurs are not a pressing concern… for anyone.”

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