TPM News

President Obama, continuing his efforts to rally his base around health care reform, spoke at the University of Maryland today to a loud and sometimes rowdy crowd of students.

"Health care is more than details on a policy, it's about what country you want to be," he said. "We don't fear the future, we shape the future."

As Obama told stories about patients getting shafted by insurance companies -- a common tactic in his speeches -- the crowd booed so loudly Obama had to pause and ask what was going on.

"We're doing OK, everyone's doing OK," he said, and the boos turned to cheers.

The audience booed again when Obama mentioned the proposed bill released yesterday by Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus. The President replied, "Each bill has its strengths."

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In a new fundraising e-mail from the DCCC, Speaker Nancy Pelosi sought to mobilize supporters by giving them a serious warning: That 2010 is the toughest midterm election for Democrats ever.

"The Republican defenders of the status quo are shouting because they understand that this is the toughest Midterm Election that Democrats have ever faced," Pelosi writes. "They also understand that this is a critical month for health insurance reform and they are trying to deal a serious blow to President Obama's agenda for moving America forward."

Of course, most people would say the toughest midterm cycle for Democrats in modern memory was 1994, when the Dems lost eight Senate seats and 54 House seats -- and which also followed a failed attempt to guarantee universal health care.

Check out the full e-mail after the jump.

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Did Gale Norton, President Bush's far-right interior secretary, illegally use her position to benefit an oil company that later hired her? Justice Department investigators want to know, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In a nutshell, here's what DOJ is looking into:

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At the Virginia gubernatorial debate just now, Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds just agreed that some of the opposition to President Obama is motivated by racism -- and he included Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) outburst during Obama's speech as an example.

After moderator David Gregory asked Deeds about the subject of racism, he responded: "I'd like to think in this country that we are beyond some things. But clearly, there is a hint of racism in some of the opposition to President Obama. That is crystal clear. I was very disturbed the other night at the outburst on the floor of the House. I thought that was unprecedented, and would not have occurred under past president -- and did not occur. I would hope we are broad enough as a people to be able to discuss our differences civilly."

As we told you yesterday, the Texas State Board of Education is meeting in Austin today for the first public discussion of new history textbook standards, which include a controversial section that would require knowledge of Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly, et al.

Before the board turned to social studies, the hearing got to an odd start when an animated member of the public testifying about the importance of health education declared, "I'm 56 years old and I'm a virgin." The chair promptly warned her to stay on topic.

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The administration will tackle malpractice reform -- which many conservatives have been calling for in the health care debate -- away from the legislative process, with President Obama asking Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today to give grants to governments and organizations that develop alternatives to the current system.

"The President thinks we should do this right now," Sebelius told reporters this morning, adding that reform can get done faster if it's not part of the larger health care reform debate in Congress.

Sebelius has 30 days to announce grants to states, local governments and health care organizations for developing, practicing and evaluating alternatives to the current medical liability system, according to a memo the President sent today.

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The Virginia gubernatorial debate is going on (a live stream is available here) and moderator David Gregory kicked off the questions by asking Republican nominee Bob McDonnell about his single worst Achilles' heel: The thesis he wrote in grad school, in which the 34-year old McDonnell denounced working women.

McDonnell responded by citing his own personal family life: His wife has been a working woman and mother for his whole political career, and he encouraged all three of his daughters to pursue master's degrees. He especially cited his oldest daughter, Jeanine, who has served in the Army in Iraq.

"I would say that's the ultimate working woman," said McDonnell. "I supported her going into the military and being able to defend this nation, and I'm proud of her."

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Greg Sargent reports that PhRMA "has unleashed a massive wave of mailers in four dozen House districts that warns seniors that their Medicare costs will soar if the House doesn't back the controversial health care deal that the lobby reportedly cut with the White House and Senate negotiators."

That deal reportedly puts an $80 billion ceiling on the industry profits that Congress can target -- and it seems the drug lobby is starting to push it, hard.

Can't imagine advocates of health care reform in the House will be too happy about this one -- especially the ones whose districts are targeted, like Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI). Check out the mailer targeting her here.

President Obama spoke this morning on the administration's change to a planned European missile defense system, saying the new strategy "will provide stronger, smarter and swifter defenses of American's forces and American allies."

Obama said he made the change after an assessment of the missile defense strategy and unanimous recommendations from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said the new plan is based around changing intelligence about the threat from Iran's ballistic missile program and developing defense technology.

The new architecture "best responds to the threats we face and utilizes technology that is both proven and cost-effective," Obama said in brief remarks in the White House.

Gates also spoke from the Pentagon, along with Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

The system will "enhance our ability to respond to the most immediate threats to the Continent as well as future threats," Gates said. He said the plan would be implemented in phases. The first will involve missile defense systems placed on ships; the second, starting around 2015, will move to land-based versions in the Czech Republic and Poland.