The Night Beat: Specter Comes Back; Paul Comes Down to Earth

DeMint's Not Running For Leader
White House supports ROK's Defense
Specter Expected Back In DC
Rand Paul Falls To Earth

Sen. Arlen Specter is expected back in Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

At 2:30 pm, the Senate will proceed to a vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the Dodd-Lincoln substitute amendment #3739. Roll call votes are possible prior to the cloture vote.  With a Republican vote or 2 and one or more of the wayward Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid should be able to get cloture. Democrats are upset at the way Republicans have handled the process. They want to get votes on their amendments, even if those amendments don't get into the bill

Note:  despite what  you may be reading, Sen. Jim DeMint is not running for Senate minority leader, does not threaten Sen. Mitch McConnell's position and has, in fact, endorsed McConnell for another two years as Leader. Joe Mazzafro has a hunch the 5/21 dinner speech to the Intelligence and National Security Alliance by SecDef Robert Gates will set tongues wagging in the intelligence community.  But reliably, know that Gates's speech isn't going to make much news. INSA, a privately funded think tank to the intelligence community (IC),  is giving Gates its Baker award on Friday. Everyone who's anyone in the IC will be there.

Amid the state dinner for President Calderon, the White House managed to issue this statement on the formal finding that North Korea torpedoed the Cheonan, a South Korean Navy ship. Strong words: "The report issued today by the team of international investigators reflects an objective and scientific review of the evidence. It points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that North Korea was responsible for this attack. This act of aggression is one more instance of North Korea's unacceptable behavior and defiance of international law. This attack constitutes a challenge to international peace and security and is a violation of the Armistice Agreement.

Key line: the White House "fully supports" Korea in "both in the effort to secure justice for the 46 service members killed in this attack and in its defense against further acts of aggression."

It took less than 18 hours for Rand Paul to come down to earth. Thanks to the apt prodding of new Democratic Senate nominee Jack Conway's campaign, the political world spent the day studying Paul's series of remarks on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It didn't help matters that Paul had defended hosting his election night soiree at a country club. Conway spent the day talking about "standing up for Kentucky," and Paul spent the day talking about the Tea Party.

A side note: Democrats Dan Mongiardo and Conway EACH got more votes than Rand Paul did. There is something stirring among Democrats in Kentucky.

From the Louisville Courier Journal, here's video of Paul describing his opposition to AFDC and, seemingly, parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Q: You want to be a senator from Kentucky, which is a relatively poor and unhealthy state. What do you propose to do to enrich the lives of Kentuckians, if you are elected senator?

A: Well, I think Kentucky would do better, and we all would do better, if we sent less money to Washington. So I'm for keeping more money at home, and spending less in Washington. It's more efficiently spent, and makes us better as a people and a country. I think that there are certain pockets of poverty in our state and it amazes me how long this has been going on.  ...  I think in some ways the culture of dependency on government destroys people's spirits. Maybe we lift people up in eastern Kentucky by giving them a tax holiday for a year, you know. You have to have jobs coming from businessmen and women. And maybe have no taxes in counties that have fifteen percent unemployment. See if you can get people working again. But also maybe welfare should have a local person, a man or woman who sits down across the counter from them and says "What are you doing to find work?" and gives them some tough love and says "Go to work!" It can work, you know. We've tried the other way, just cobbling people and giving people everything. Why don't we try just getting them to work? 

Q: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

A: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that in ended discrimination in all public domains, and I'm all in favor of that.

Q: But?

A: Ha ha ha. You had to ask me the "but." I don't like the idea of telling private business owners. I abhor racism. I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership. But I think that there should be absolutely no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding and that's most of what the Civil Rights Act was about, to my mind.

Kind of brutal: On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow asked Paul whether Walgreens ought to re-segregate its lunch counter. And Paul didn't really answer. Paul is fearless -- sometimes to a fault -- too freewheeling -- he should have either canceled today and come on a couple days later, after he let someone from his staff litigate him like Maddow did.

In a memo to RNC members, RNC chairman Michael Steele reviews polling on health care and concludes that "Republican campaigns and surrogates can be confident that we emerged on the right side of this debate."  Still, there's this:

In the RNC survey, even though a majority (51%) of likely voters favored efforts to repeal the new law, when asked whether Congress should "revisit and revise health care reform" or "focus on efforts to create jobs and get our economy moving again," voters overwhelmingly preferred the latter with 68% of voters saying that Congress should focus on creating jobs and helping the economy.  

The Hartford Courant, the Columbia School of Journalism, and what looks like the entire blogosphere are taking on the New York Times' claims that AG / SEN candidate Dick Blumenthal had a regular habit of misleading voters about his military service. The AP found video of the speech in Norwalk, CT, that produced the key quote in the Times's argument. Apparently, elsewhere in the speech, Blumenthal accurately described his service record.

Does this statement read to you as if it came from a press person or an editor? "The New York Times in its reporting uncovered Mr. Blumenthal's long and well established pattern of misleading his constituents about his Vietnam War service, which he acknowledged in an interview with The Times. Mr. Blumenthal needs to be candid with his constituents about whether he went to Vietnam or not, since his official military records clearly indicate he did not. The video doesn't change our story. Saying that he served 'during Vietnam' doesn't indicate one way or the other whether he went to Vietnam."

Democrats are learning what Republicans have long known: making the story about the New York Times often deflects attention from the original story. However, in this case, the Times is intent on digging in ... in ways that tend to corroborate Blumenthal's narrative. Ed Patru, Linda McMahon's campaign manager, said in a statement that "Blumenthal isn't leveling. And people are tired of elected officials not leveling." Meanwhile, the McMahon campaign leveled with us: the candidate admitted that her team's research prompted the Times to begin an investigation.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) will say whether he plans to mount a write-in bid, having been ousted by his party. No intel one way or the other here, but it's a safe to assume that Bennett wouldn't have borrowed space from the National Republican Senatorial Committee if he intended to say yes.