In it, but not of it. TPM DC

I won't claim to have sorted through the whole Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg-David Paterson mess---how could two smart people have let things get so out of hand?--but I'll pass along what I heard tonite from a New York Democrat who is close to the situation. This person did not know why Caroline pulled out of the running but insisted that John Kennedy's daughter was under the impression that she was still very much a contender from Wednesday afternoon when she decided to withdraw, according to the source, through Wednesday night right until 12:00 AM in the wee hours of Thursday morning when she officially wrote the governor and pulled the plug on her short-lived bid to be appointed senator to replace Hillary Clinton. "I don't know why she did," said this source, referring to her withdrawal and adding that she'd made the decision in the afternoon on Wednesday and spent most of the rest of the day mulling it over.

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Al Franken just had his first real legal setback in a while, with the special three-judge panel handling Norm Coleman's legal contest denying his legal team's motion to dismiss the case.

The court rejected the Franken team's legal arguments that they didn't have the constitutional authority to conduct a far-reaching election contest over a race for federal office, ruling that they do in fact have the authority and that Franken's team hadn't met the very high burden of proof necessary to throw out the lawsuit on its face.

This wasn't all that surprising, as Franken's arguments seemed a little too ambitious to succeed so easily. Next up is a hearing on motions for summary judgment, scheduled for 1 p.m. ET tomorrow, at which the court might be able to work its way through some of Norm Coleman's various legal claims.

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It looks like Senate Democrats are poised to try again on Lisa Jackson and Nancy Sutley, the Obama environmental nominees whose confirmations were slowed down by Republicans signaling their frustration over White House climate adviser Carol Browner.

As Senate environment committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) put it to TPM today, "Once we go public with [the GOP delay], it should go away."

And sure enough, drawing attention to the Republican objections did the trick. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) clarified what Boxer termed his initial opposition to the environmental nominations, deeming it nothing but a misunderstanding. We won't know for sure until Democrats call up Jackson and Sutley again, but if no objection is heard, consider it further proof that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

President Obama's isn't just coming into office with really highly popularity nationwide -- he's apparently coming into office with really high popularity in states he lost by landslides last November.

Here are his approval ratings in two deep-red states, from Rasmussen:

• Texas: Approve 62%, Disapprove 35%. This includes 41% strong approval, and 19% strong disapproval.

• Tennessee: Approve 60%, Disapprove 35%. This includes 39% strong approval, and 21% strong disapproval.

For reference, John McCain carried Texas by a 55%-44% margin, and won Tennessee by 57%-42%.

The full complement of congressional leaders, from both parties in both the House and Senate, are meeting with President Obama tomorrow to discuss the coming economic stimulus bill, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today.

Obama's first meeting as president with his former Capitol colleagues is destined to be a photo opportunity. But it's also a chance to test whether Obama can still assemble the bipartisan coalition that his team once hoped would help pass the stimulus measure.

Achieving 80 votes in the Senate may be out of reach given the pre-inaugural pushback from Republicans in the upper chamber, and House conservatives have already offered their own tax-cut-centric recovery plan.

But the biggest roadbloack of all for Obama could be a non-partisan budget report released yesterday that said the stimulus bill's transportation projects might not be as effective in the short term as some had hoped. Suffice to say, Obama and the lawmakers will have much to discuss.

Now that friends of Caroline Kennedy and the office of New York Governor David Patterson seem to be in open warfare, it's worth looking back at this skirmish on the Hudson and asking what went wrong and who's at fault.

First, I think Teddy Kennedy -- and everyone wishes him the best -- seems to have been way too encouraging about getting another Kennedy in the Senate. Poor health or not, should he not have seen that this was not the right niece for the job?

Second, Caroline Schlossberg herself should have asked herself whether this was really the right job for her. Can someone so preternatually press averse plunge into electoral politics in the toughest of arenas? A reporter from a New York paper and I joked, shortly after her name was floated, about the kinds of questions the Gotham press corps would have no trouble shouting: "Do you want to reopen the Warren Commission?"

Maureen Dowd had a point that Caroline was no worse qualified than the other 99 chuckleheads. But while I believe in citizen legislators as much as the next David McCullough fan, she lacked the self awareness to know that this wasn't the right fit. Not all public service is created equal and a senator calls for qualities -- knowledge of one's state, an appetite for, or at least not an aversion to, the spotlight, etc.

Caroline would have been an excellent ambassador to the Court of St. James in London -- nice symmetry with her grandfather who held the post and a good face to Europe. Maybe a good head of an agency. There were any number of jobs she could have held and engaged in public service short of being a United States Senator.

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Will the Republican senator who objects to confirming Barack Obama's two top environmental nominees please stand up?

We've been looking all day at the mysterious delay in the confirmations of Lisa Jackson, nominated to lead the EPA, and Nancy Sutley, who will head the Council on Environmental Quality. Two Republican senators, John Barrasso (R-WY) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), had been making noise about the appointment of White House climate adviser Carol Browner -- a forceful advocate for tackling climate change who will not require Senate confirmation.

Raising questions about Browner's role in Obama's environmental chain of command is certainly a clever way to presage Republican opposition to any future regulation of carbon emissions. The environment committee chairman, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), also told us she believed Barrasso was gumming up the works.

The only problem? Barrasso says his objection is all a big misunderstanding.

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Here's something we haven't seen in a while -- a White House statement praising Roe v. Wade:

Statement of President Obama on the 36th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we are reminded that this decision not only protects women's health and reproductive freedom, but stands for a broader principle: that government should not intrude on our most private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose.

While this is a sensitive and often divisive issue, no matter what our views, we are united in our determination to prevent unintended pregnancies, reduce the need for abortion, and support women and families in the choices they make. To accomplish these goals, we must work to find common ground to expand access to affordable contraception, accurate health information, and preventative services.

On this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work; and to have no limits on their dreams. That is what I want for women everywhere.

Assuming that Al Franken is finally declared the winner of the Minnesota Senate race after the current litigation, exactly which committees could he end up serving on?

Harry Reid's office last night released the "final" list of Democratic committee assignments. They couldn't have been truly final, though, because there are currently three Dem vacancies: Minnesota, Colorado and New York. And so several committees had some "To Be Announced" slots still open:

• Special Committee on Aging - 3

• Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry - 2

• Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs - 1

• Environment and Public Works - 1

• Foreign Relations - 1

• Health, Education, Labor and Pensions - 1

• Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs - 1

• Indian Affairs - 1

It would appear that all three incoming Senators could end up being put on the Aging Committee. After that there will be eight slots to go around.

Reid's office told TPMDC that no decisions have yet been made on specific committees for either Franken, Senator-designate Michael Bennet from Colorado, or Senator TBD (D-NY).

Franken spokesperson Jess McIntosh told TPMDC that she wasn't there for Franken's conversation with Harry Reid yesterday about committee assignments, and wasn't aware of the specific details. Said McIntosh: "Given his wide range of interests, I'm sure he'll be thrilled with whatever the selection is."

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