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White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked today about former President Carter's comments on race, said, "The President does not believe that criticism comes based on the color of his skin."

Carter asserted yesterday that the recent animosity toward President Obama is based on his race.

Gibbs also said that Obama hasn't watched the video of Carter's comments or spoken with Carter about it.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) says that the Finance Committee's health care draft represents a step "in the right direction," but warns that "a number of issues still need to be addressed -- including cost assumptions and ultimate affordability to both consumers and the government as well as ensuring appropriate competition in the health insurance exchange."

What she ultimately decides to do will likely depend on how the bill changes during hearings next week. But for now, Democrats aren't particularly optimistic. You can read her entire statement below the fold.

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The circus down in Texas surrounding new history textbook standards continues.

Now, a panel of experts appointed by the GOP-controlled State Board of Education has released reviews of the proposed curriculum, which, as we noted recently, would require students to be conversant in Reaganomics and the heroes of movement conservatism.

The group of six experts is "extremely influential" in the curriculum writing process, says Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network, which closely tracks the activist board of education. And they can be broken into two groups: mainstream academics and right-wing ideologues.

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U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land delivered a stinging rebuke to unofficial Birther leader Orly Taitz in a tour de force order throwing out yet another of Taitz's lawsuits today. And he warned Taitz that she could face sanctions if she submits any "similarly frivolous" (read: birther-motivated) filing.

Taitz has filed multiple "birther soldier" lawsuits, in which a member of the military claims he or she does not have to follow deployment orders because President Obama is illegitimate.

The 14-page order, which you can read in full here, throws out a complaint by Army Capt. Connie Rhodes, who cited "conscientious objections" to serving under the "de facto president," Barack Obama. It was first reported by the Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, Georgia.

Land, of the Middle District of Georgia, begins his order by outlining Taitz's MO, noting that "counsel has managed to fuel this 'birther movement' with her litigation and press conferences, she does not appear to have prevailed on a single claim."

Then he turns to tearing apart the complaint of the moment:

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After months of bipartisan negotiations, and significant concessions intended to win Republican support, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has unveiled a draft of his health care reform bill, and, for now, no Republicans on the Senate Fiance Committee are endorsing it, even tentatively. Not even Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME). And one Senate Democratic aide says it's highly unlikely that she'll support the bill at the finance committee stage.

But that won't deter Democrats from wooing her anyhow.

One of Snowe's main concerns is that the financing scheme Baucus proposed, which involves taxes on high end insurance plans, could disproportionately harm Maine consumers, who pay some of the highest health insurance rates in the country.

Calls to Snowe's office asking if she plans to offer amendments to alleviate that and other concerns--and whether the adoption of such amendments would win her support--have thus far gone unanswered.

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During a House floor speech on Monday night, Rep. Michele Bachmann gave a dire warning: That President Obama has already begun efforts to limit our energy usage from cars and home heating and air conditioning -- and our food consumption is next:

"President Obama said we can't eat as much food as we want and think the rest of the world will be okay about that -- as if that matters to freedom-loving Americans," said Bachmann. "Well, we just heard last week that the Federal Government now under the Obama administration is calling for a re-ordering of America's food supply. What's that going to mean? Now will the White House decide how many calories we consume, or what types of food we consume?"

She spoke to Rep. Steve King (R-IA): "You're from an agriculture State, I'm from an agriculture state. My farmers are very concerned about this."

During a press conference today, Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who released his proposal for a health care reform bill this morning, said, "This is a good bill. This is a balanced bill. This can pass the Senate."

The "chairman's mark," as it's called, will now go to the full committee for debate, and will likely emerge with many changes.

"I'm looking forward to having an even better bill that can pass with a larger margin," he said.

He brushed off signs that Republicans have all but abandoned the reform effort.

"I worked very hard to get bipartisan support, and I think we'll get it," he said. "By the time the finance committee votes on this bill, there will be Republican support."

Linda McMahon, the CEO of Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, has now officially resigned her position in order to run for Senate in 2010 against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) -- joining a crowded Republican field, despite the NRSC's efforts to rally behind former Rep. Rob Simmons.

In her announcement video, McMahon introduces herself, touts her long experience in business, and pledges to run an unconventional campaign: "For starters, I won't be accepting campaign contributions from PAC's or other special interest groups -- and I will limit all contributions from individuals to $100. I think Connecticut deserves a Senator that isn't bought and paid for by the banks and Washington special interests."



To her credit, this is a pretty good video. Then again, another video of her has been making the rounds -- the sort of thing that might detract from her efforts to be taken seriously.

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she hopes the Senate Finance Committee health care bill improves over time. But she's also glad that it's finally been unveiled.

"The fifth and final Congressional committee is now putting forward a product that will move this historic debate forward," Pelosi said.

But, she added, "The House bill clearly does more to make coverage affordable for more Americans and provides more competition to drive insurance companies to charge lower premiums and improve coverage."

"[W]e hope to see modifications that result in the Senate bill better reflecting the work of the House to make health care more affordable for all Americans and promote competition that is key to keeping costs lower. I believe the public option is the best way to achieve that goal," Pelosi said.

You can read the entire statement below the fold. Note that earlier this month, Pelosi said a bill without a public option--like Baucus' bill, for instance--could not pass the House. But she seems recently to have backed away from such an absolute position.

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Last week, when Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) circulated an outline of the bill he released today, the reform campaign Health Care for America Now pointed me to letters they'd written to leading Democrats urging Baucus to include a public option in his legislation. Ultimately, he didn't.

Now, HCAN says the Baucus bill is a "failure."

"The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford," says HCAN's campaign director Richard Kirsch.

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