The Night Beat: What Can Brown Do for You? Stick You With $19 Billion

Good evening.

BREAKING NEWS: What used to be known in warfighting as "psychological operations" -- or "psyops" -- will formally be known to the Pentagon as "Military Information Support Operations" -- or MISO -- pronounced,  Miso, as in the soup. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has told deputies that he is comfortable with the name change.  It's an effort to reduce the stigma of the term. Good luck!

FIN-REG: The financial regulatory reform conference is over, again. The $19 billion tax on big banks and hedge funds has been replaced with money from the bank bailout and higher FDIC assessments on all banks. This essentially leaves taxpayers with the bill. More info here.

The upshot: Sen. Scott Brown now has no excuse to oppose the bill, and the two senators from Maine (Collins and Snowe) should be back in the fold. That leaves the Democrats one vote short of 60 for cloture. Which means that President Obama might be giving Sen. Russ Feingold the Dennis Kucinich treatment shortly ...

LESS HEAT: The news out of the bipartisan meeting on climate today is best contained in Sen. Olympia Snowe's statement upon its conclusion that an economy-wide carbon pricing scheme is untenable, which is why she believes "that one possibility is to more narrowly target a carbon pricing program through a uniform nationwide system solely on the power sector, which is the sector with the most to lose from the EPA regulations and it's also the sector in which businesses actually make decisions today based on prices 20 to 30 years in the future."

That happens to be the melded approach that the White House and Sen. Harry Reid are proposing. Start with the utility sector and some stationary sources of power and go from there.  Snowe is a signaler: if she's on board with a bill, then Sen. Susan Collins, Scott Brown, and George Voinovich would be inclined to vote for it, as would Florida's George LeMieux, who doesn't want to vote against a climate bill.

TWO-STEP: Expect the ol' Obama two-step when he speaks on immigration reform on Thursday. False choice between enforcement and integration ... a need to secure the border and make it easier for employers to adjust to a tougher enforcement system ... the need for fair and proportionate enforcement (a signal to the business community), especially in a time of economic duress ... and 1,200 troops to the border, with more on the way if necessary.

WILD BILL: President Clinton's decision to endorse Andrew Romanoff, who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Colorado Democratic senate primary, provoked quite a bit of anger among Democrats. The endorsement will pop large in the media, where Romanoff has no money to pop himself. And it'll help Romanoff end his fundraising quarter on a higher note. Why did Clinton endorse Romanoff? Simple answer: Romanoff endorsed Hillary Clinton in the presidential primaries. Clinton was returning the favor. He did not consult the White House or tip them in advance as to his actions.

OVERLOOKED: Now we know what the political dynamic will be after the midterms. At the G-20 summit, President Obama promised to present "some very difficult choices to the country. I hope some of these folks who are hollering about deficits and debt step up because I'm calling their bluff. We'll see how much of that, how much of the political arguments that they're making right now, are real and how much of it was just politics."

White House officials say he means it. He will offer concrete proposals to significantly reduce the deficit in several years and the national debt over the long-term. This will include (potentially) changes to Social Security, Medicare, and the tax structure. The White House anticipates a low-simmering but year-long battle with the activist left and anticipates that Republicans won't be able to come up with politically palatable alternatives.

DAY TWO OF KAGAN: Unscathed, responsive. Confirmation on track.

VRWC UPDATE: What the conservative media machine -- "vast right-wing conspiracy" -- is talking about: how much of a disaster Elena Kagan will be, particularly on her views of international law; why the mainstream media is ignoring the McDonald gun case. The machine is also taking potshots at its own: Redstate is very angry that the NRA took the carve-out deal in the DISCLOSE Act and wonders if the deal included a secret promise that the NRA would stay silent on Kagan. (A highly unlikely theory, and yet ... )
THE SPY RING: There's little chance that any single Russian intelligence officer -- and maybe not even the Rezident (the U.S.'s chief of station himself) -- had the names of every illegal arrested yesterday on a sheet of paper. The Russians have traditionally compartmentalized their espionage operations and continue to do so today. So how did the FBI get tipped off to the whole lot of the bunch? Just finding the individual agents wouldn't have unraveled the entire network, and they weren't generating enough message traffic for the NSA to assemble the picture. The FBI doesn't have enough warm bodies to track down a cohesive group like this de novo. So my guess is that the FBI got a tip from someone.
A final question: how many other sleeper agents are out there? In the New York Times, former KGB spymaster  Oleg Kalugin said that  "[e]ven in the worst years of the Cold War, I think there were no more than 10 illegals in the U.S." In Britain, during the years of the Magnificent 5, there were about a dozen illegals. It's much easier these days to pick up and move somewhere. It's easier to find clandestine ways of communicating, but it's also much more difficult to establish a fake paper trail, especially one aimed at fooling trained counterintelligence investigators.

INHOFE: Republicans have been largely silent about the START follow-on treaty. But Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe is clear that he opposes it, and not for political reasons: he does not believe that true nuclear security requires cooperation and thinks that the U.S. needs a maximum degree of freedom to unilaterally arm itself to deter potential enemy states or actors.

Fine -- but it's an interesting position to hold to when the treaty itself is approaching universal support in the Senate, and when Inhofe hasn't bothered to attend hearings featuring the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, and the commander in chief of STRATCOM, which controls all nuclear weapons.

If Inhofe has concerns, he had ample opportunity to voice them to these decision makers. But he hasn't. He's announced that he'll only attend hearings that include opponents of the treaty. Some skeptics have testified, but the truth is that even Republicans are having a hard time coming up with enough credible skeptics. And Inhofe would seem to be implying that Admiral Michael Mullen, Secretary Gates, and others aren't worth his time because they support the treaty.


-- A public meeting of the bipartisan deficit reduction commission will take place tomorrow in Dirksen 608.

-- Talk about General James Mattis becoming the next commander in chief of Central Command appears to be just talk at this stage, although the position will be filled very soon, according to a Pentagon official.