TPM News

Karl Rove, who has previously called Obama "wobbly" on Afghanistan, told Matt Lauer on The Today Show that he'll be "among the first to stand up and applaud" the President for a troop increase. Watch the video below.

Though Obama has not officially announced the decision yet, a White House official told TPMDC that 30,000 more troops will be going to Afghanistan.

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Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced today that he will introduce an amendment to the Senate health care reform bill that will repeal the anti-trust exemption granted to health insurers.

"This amendment will prohibit the most egregious anticompetitive conduct - price fixing, bid rigging and market allocations - conduct that harms consumers, raises health care costs, and for which there is no justification," Leahy said in a statement. Leahy had also introduced a separate bill repealing the exemption in September.

The House version of the bill also has a provision to end the exemption.

In primaries next Tuesday, Massachusetts voters will choose the Democratic and Republican nominees to run in January's special election for the late Ted Kennedy's Senate seat.

Four Democrats and two Republicans have taken the field. Of the Democrats -- Attorney General Martha Coakley, U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Boston Celtics co-owner Stephen Pagliuca -- Coakley is the clear front-runner, up 15 points over her closest opponent in a recent Rasmussen poll.

The poll showed Coakley 36 percent of the vote compared to Capuano's 21 percent. Khazei and Pagliuca each had 14 percent.

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Suddenly, it's 2008 all over again. The DNC has a longer memory than Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) would like.

"John McCain's hypocrisy highlights the hollowness of Republicans labeling savings in Medicare from eliminating waste, fraud and abuse under the reform bills as 'cuts.' By the same definition, McCain wanted to 'cut' Medicare nearly three times as much from Medicare," reads a statement from DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan.  "While Democrats are proposing reforms which will strengthen Medicare for the long haul by eliminating wasteful subsidies to the health insurance industry and eliminating over payments to providers and other waste in the system, Senate Republicans continue to lob erroneous and - in this case - hypocritical attacks on legislation that will improve the quality of life for millions of Americans."

As I noted earlier today, Democrats are jumping all over McCain, whose proposed amendment to the Senate health care bill would strip it of its cuts to Medicare. During the campaign, and in the years before that, though, McCain sought much deeper 'cuts.' According to the Wall Street Journal, McCain intended to pay for his campaign health plan "with major reductions to Medicare and a move that independent analysts estimate could result in cuts of $1.3 trillion over 10 years to the government programs."

In an open letter to President Obama, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue expressed support for the administration's job initiative. Donohue said that over the next decade the economy must create more than 20 million new jobs to replace those lost in this recession and keep up with our growing population. Here's the complete text of the letter:

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In a profile piece for the Winston-Salem Journal, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) made an interesting declaration about Democrats -- that without ideas, all they have to use against the conservative opposition is character assassination.

"I'm a small-government conservative, and that's not very fashionable in Washington," said Foxx. "The liberals have no new ideas, and so they're reduced to character assassination."

The accusation of character assassination seems a bit peculiar, coming from Foxx. She has previously said of the health care bill: "I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country." And she's also implied that the Dems' health care plans would "put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government."

The recent Vanity Fair/60 Minutes poll finds that Rush Limbaugh is widely seen as the single most influential conservative in America -- but the poll internals, provided to TPM by Vanity Fair and the CBS polling department, also suggests that Democrats could be seriously underestimating the pull of Glenn Beck.

The poll had asked: "Who among the following do you think is currently the most influential conservative voice in America?" The top-line result was Rush Limbaugh 26%, Glenn Beck 11%, Sarah Palin 10%, Dick Cheney 10%, Sean Hannity 8%, and John Boehner (the only current elected official in the poll) at 4%.

My honest expectation, before receiving the internal data, was that Democrats would be overestimating the pull of Limbaugh, while self-identified Republicans and conservatives -- the best people to ask if you want an answer for who is the most influential conservative -- would shy away. But not so at all.

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Yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) went on quite a tear on the Senate floor. McCain is the author of the first proposed Republican amendment to the Senate health care bill, which, if passed, would send the legislation back to the Finance Committee and have it stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare savings, most of which come from ending over-payments to private insurers under Medicare Advantage.

"I will eagerly look forward to hearing from the authors of this legislation as to how they can possibly achieve a half a trillion dollars in cuts without impacting existing Medicare programs negatively and eventually lead to rationing of health care in this country," McCain said.

In all likelihood, his amendment would kill the bill. But in any case, it's peculiar that he finds cuts to Medicare so anathema--after all McCain himself proposed larger cuts many times in the past, including during the 2008 presidential campaign.

So much for that! Now, obviously, insurance companies are all for these over-payments, and Democratic leadership isn't letting McCain off the hook for doing their bidding. Jim Manley, senior spokesman to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, tells me, "the self-described foe of all earmarks is with one single amendment providing a big fat wet kiss for his friends in the insurance industry. All at the expense of millions of senior citizens."

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Talking to a friendly Bill O'Reilly on Fox last night, Mike Huckabee said he was responsible for commuting the sentence of Maurice Clemmons, the suspect in the killings of four Washington State police who was shot to death this morning.

"It's not something that I'm happy about at this particular moment," said the former Arkansas governor, who is taking heat for the 2000 decision from both left and right.

We took a close look at Clemmons' route through the criminal justice system, and Huckabee's role, in this post yesterday.

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