ThinkFast: October 15, 2008

Budget officials announced yesterday “that the federal deficit has soared to a record $455 billion. … The final accounting for fiscal 2008 produced a larger shortfall than had been projected, reflecting the start of federal efforts to address the economic emergency.” The previous record deficit had been $413 billion, reached in 2004.

The Bush administration “issued a pair of secret memos to the CIA in 2003 and 2004 that explicitly endorsed the agency’s use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding against al-Qaeda suspects.” CIA director George Tenet requested the memos “more than a year after” the program began because “senior CIA officials were troubled” that the White House had never endorsed it in writing.

Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), “who faces accusations that he had an affair with a former aide and paid her to keep quiet about it,” was also reportedly “having an affair with a second woman around the same time, a person close to his campaign told The Associated Press on Tuesday.”

The number of U.S. jobs paying a poverty-level wage increased by 4.7 million between 2002 and 2006, according to a new report by The Working Poor Families Project. “The alarming news is that both the number and percentage of low-income families increased during this period,” said Brandon Roberts, co-author of the report. “This was a time when we had solid and robust economic growth.”


20 days to go: John McCain and Barack Obama will engage in their third and final debate tonight at Hofstra University in New York. Sarah Palin is in Dover, NH, and Joe Biden campaigns at Ohio State University.

John Podesta suggests that if John McCain wants to change the dynamic of the race, he could consider pledging to serve only one term and announcing his picks for a bipartisan Cabinet. Such a long-shot gamble might help “restore the perception of seriousness that his campaign has been so desperately lacking in recent weeks.”

A soon-to-be completed U.S. intelligence assessment portrays the situation in Pakistan as “very bad,” “very bleak,” and “on the edge,” according to U.S. officials who spoke to McClatchy. One official summarized the estimate’s conclusions about the state of Pakistan as: “no money, no energy, no government.”

Bush administration officials, in their last weeks in office, “are pushing to rewrite a wide array of federal rules with changes or additions that could block product-safety lawsuits by consumers and states.” The language is “aimed at pre-empting product-liability litigation into 50 rules governing everything from motorcycle brakes to pain medicine.”

After Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) proposed a “spending freeze on everything but defense,” his campaign appears to be walking the promise back. Yesterday, aides to McCain said his budget also includes “a specific carve-out for spending on science.” “You’ll definitely see, under John McCain, more spending on research,” senior policy adviser Ike Brannon said.


And finally: Yesterday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued an unusual dissent that was more “Supreme Court noir” than traditional legalese. Roberts wrote a dissent from denial of review in Pennsylvania v. Dunlap, “a fairly routine drug arrest case raising ‘probable cause’ issues.” Mystery writer Paul Levine speculated on Roberts’s shift: “My guess is that the Chief lost a bet with Scalia on the baseball playoffs. If Roberts wins the next wager, Scalia will have to write an opinion in iambic pentameter.” Read Roberts’s writing here.

Sign up here to receive our daily e-newsletter, The Progress Report.