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And you wonder why people are confused about the health care debate.



What's particularly striking about this exchange is that, when offered the most clear and concise possible explanation for why 44-year old Anthony Weiner isn't on a government plan that's only open to people aged 65 and over, she just whoops it up as if she's caught him in some sort of damning contradiction.

Obviously, the real punchline is that many of the people criticizing the Democrats' health care plan don't have the foggiest idea how any of it works. And Bartiromo in particular reveals--however inadvertently--that she thinks elements of the proposal make perfect sense. Yes, she's wrong to assume Weiner could buy into Medicare, and she's wrong to assume that he chooses not to because the coverage is sub-par. But ironically, the idea that Weiner should be able to buy into Medicare seems totally uncontroversial to her. And that, of course, is the whole point of the public option.

During a Friday tele-town hall event, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told constituents that he doesn't think the public option ought to be a government run program like Medicare, but instead favors a "private entity that has direction from the federal government so people that don't fall within the parameters of being able to get insurance from their employers, they would have a place to go."

Today, a Reid spokesperson tells me, "[t]he idea is that [Department of Health and Human Services] could contract with a third-party administrator to do the administrative stuff. It would still be policies set by HHS."

Though this isn't the reform community's first preference, it is something they could get behind.

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President Obama gave brief remarks at the White House this afternoon, first lauding a report that U.S. manufacturing grew for the first time in 19 months, and then announcing the government's swine flu preparations.

Obama said there will be a vaccine program, which he said will be "voluntary, but it will be recommended."

He also said local governments, hospitals and schools are receiving information and guidance on how to prepare for a wave of swine flu cases that are expected this fall and winter. " He urged businesses and families to make a plan in case someone gets sick and has to stay home, and encouraged individuals to prevent the spread of the illness by staying home if they get sick, washing their hands and covering sneezes with their sleeve and not their hands.

"I know it sounds simple, but it works," he said.

"We do anticipate that there will be some issues over the next several months. The way it's moving is somewhat unpredictable," he said, but added that he's "absolutely confident that our team has done an extraordinary job in preparing for whatever may happen."

He thanked the task force, which includes Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and White House Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. He did not take questions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was asked by the Reno Gazette-Journal what effect Ted Kennedy's death will have on the health care bill -- and Reid said it would help.

"I think it's going to help us," said Reid. "He hasn't been around for some time," he added, seemingly in response to the (unstated) issue of Kennedy's vote getting lost. Reid also said the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will have a new chairman, either Chris Dodd or Tom Harkin.

"He's an inspiration for us," Reid said of Kennedy. "That was the issue of his life and he didn't get it done."

The Tea Party Express set off from California this weekend, starting a tour set to end in Washington, D.C., on Sept.12, holding protests against health care reform all along the way.

At a stop Sunday in the small city of Ely, Nev., the Tea Party Express got funky. Like lady-tea-partier-chorus-line funky. Note the sign that reads, "Elect Anyone Butt Harry Reid," and the woman in the American flag shirt who, at the end, tells the black emcee, "I don't care if you're pink with blue polka dots, as long as you're American and love America."



The emcee here is Lloyd Marcus, the spokesman for the political action committee behind the bus tour, "Our Country Deserves Better." The PAC is headed by Howard Kaloogian, who you may remember as the GOP-er who, when running for Duke Cunningham's seat in 2006, said a picture of a street corner in Istanbul was taken by his staff on a trip to Baghdad, in a claim that the city was doing well. His chief strategist on that campaign, Sal Russo, is now strategizing for the PAC.

The Tea Party Express is a caravan of buses, RVs and SUVs planning 33 rallies en route to D.C. Tea party groups from across the country are planning to gather in the capital Sept. 12 to protest health care reform. So far, the Express has found hundreds of supporters waiting for them at each stop.

Late Update: More on Kaloogian, Russo, and Our Country Deserves Better here from TPMmuckraker .

Eric Holder is getting support for his decision to announce a criminal probe of torture from an unlikely source: Alberto Gonzales.

The former Attorney General told a radio interviewer for the Washington Times:

We worked very hard to establish ground rules and parameters about how to deal with terrorists. And if people go beyond that, I think it is legitimate to question and examine that conduct to ensure people are held accountable for their actions, even if it's action in prosecuting the war on terror.

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The Boston Globe reports that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley picked up nomination papers for Senate this morning, from the Secretary of State's office -- launching a campaign for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

This would make Coakley the first candidate to officially get in the race since Kennedy's death..

TPM has placed requests for comment with Coakley's campaign committee and the state Attorney General's office.

As Senate leaders begin work on a Democrat-only health care bill, they're finding themselves confronted with an unexpected irony: Though the caucus has reached an uneasy consensus around a public option that's modeled in many ways after a private insurer, it may be necessary to make the public option more liberal, and thus, more politically radioactive, if it's to overcome a number of unique procedural hurdles.

This is the needle Democrats may have to thread if they want a public option, and at the same time, want to bypass a Republican filibuster. And the key for them will be keeping conservative Democrats on board.

"A very robust public option that scores significant savings would presumably be easy to justify doing through reconciliation," says a Senate Democratic aide. "But it is still being studied whether other, more moderate versions of a public option could pass parliamentary muster."

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President Obama will hold a dinner to celebrate Ramadan tonight at the White House.

During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours. The fast is broken after sunset with a dinner, or iftar, usually as a community. Tonight's dinner will be held at 8 p.m. ET.

The dinner will also "highlight the contributions of American Muslims," according to the White House. A guest list will be released later today.

Obama is not the first president to celebrate the Islamic holiday. President Clinton was the first to hold official iftars, and President Bush continued the tradition throughout his two terms.

Earlier this month, Obama taped a message wishing Muslims around the world a Ramadan Kareem. He said, in part, "These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

(Late update: Here's the guest list.)

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