ThinkFast: May 19, 2011

President Obama is set to deliver a much-anticipated speech on U.S. aims in the Middle East at the State Department today. He is expected to announce a $2 billion aid package for Egypt and Tunisia, the two countries that have seen dictators step down this year, and administration officials say he may “formally endorse Israel’s pre-1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state” — a clear signal he expects concessions from Israel.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is leaving the House GOP budget plan “twisting in the wind” by “not whipping his GOP colleagues on the vote.” “Republican senators say McConnell has made it clear he will vote for the House Budget Committee chairman’s plan, but has said rank-and-file members should vote as they want on the 2012 budget proposal.”

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank writes today that “default denier” politicians who think a default on the debt would not cause economic peril are like those who deny global warming or who think the moon landing was a hoax. Milbank also asked Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) if he would ever increase taxes to reduce the deficit, and the senator said he’s not “interested” in raising taxes.

Embattled I.M.F. Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn resigned yesterday, four days after he was arrested on charges that he sexually assaulted a maid in a Manhattan hotel room. In his statement, Strauss Kahn vigorously denied the rape allegations and said he was stepping down to focus on his defense. The resignation will spur the search for his successor.


Richard Painter, a former lawyer in the Bush White House, argues that the GOP should give Obama judicial nominee Goodwin Liu an up-or-down vote. “He’s an excellent choice, and should be confirmed,” Painter said of Liu. “Most important, the seat should not remain vacant because the Senate refuses to fulfill its constitutional mandate and vote on this.” Read more on the Liu nomination here.

“U.S. officials have ‘no evidence’ that current Pakistani leaders knew Osama bin Laden” was hiding near their capital city,” with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying he had seen “no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew.” Still, they suspect a retired official knew about or aided Bin Laden.

A suicide of Guantanamo Bay detainee Wednesday marks the 8th death at the prison camp. The detainee who committed suicide was an Afghan known as Inayatullah, who while being an admitted Al Qaeda member never had any charges filed against him.

And finally: President Obama’s reelection campaign is selling T-shirts and mugs touting that Obama was “made in America,” and featuring the president’s long-form birth certificate on its back. Joking about the birther conspiracy, ABC News’ Jake Tapper Tweeted about the shirts, “Obama campaign refuses to release long-sleeve birth certificate shirt.”

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