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President Obama will clarify his health care reform principles before a joint session of Congress Wednesday, and a number of White House officials have come forward to suggest that the public option will not be among them. If that's the case, it will devastate the large segment of the reform community that regards the public option as one of the most crucial elements of legislation.

"The question is what's he gonna do in a week," says Richard Kirsch, campaign director for Health Care for America Now. "He's giving his address next Wednesday. We have to see what the President says."

HCAN is an umbrella group for dozens of influential liberal interest groups supporting reform.

"A lot of people will be disappointed if he doesn't continue to show his commitment [to the public option], but hopefully he will," Kirsch tells me.

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Usually, historical revisionist arguments of the "Hitler Was Actually A Man Of Peace" variety are confined to the kind of poorly designed and little-read white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites that Holocaust Museum shooting suspect James Von Brunn patronized.

But that doesn't account for the mainstream media's token Hitler sympathizer, Pat Buchanan. To mark the 70th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, Buchanan, a frequent commentator on MSNBC, has written a syndicated column entitled "Did Hitler Want War?"

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Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's backpedaling book tour continues!

As we've reported, Ridge's new book, The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege, asserts that Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld "strongly urged" him to raise the terror alert level -- possibly for political reasons -- just before the 2004 election. Ridge has since backpedaled and contradicted himself about whether the terror alerts might have been politicized.

Just now on Hardball, Chris Matthews, calling Ridge's book "the Bible according to Tom Ridge" and "the Bible of truth," asked Ridge, "Should we believe every word in this book?"

Ridge: "I stand by the words that I wrote, Chris. I stand by the process that I helped design. I stand by the notion that nobody pressured anybody."

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Curt Schilling, the former baseball pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Boston Red Sox, appears to be considering a possible run as a Republican for Ted Kennedy's Senate seat. Schilling previously campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004 and John McCain in2 008.

Schilling told New England Cable News that he's been contacted about that race, but that as of today, he was "probably not" running. Nevertheless, the idea remains. "I do have some interest in the possibility," Schilling wrote. "That being said to get to there, from where I am today, many many things would have to align themselves for that to truly happen. I am not going to comment further on the matter since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation."

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The Republicans are already firing back at the news that President Obama will give a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress next week. NRCC communications director Ken Spain sent out this statement to reporters:

"The White House and Congressional Democrats lost the month of August, and with it public opinion. Lecturing members of the United States Congress is not the answer to the Democrats' growing political problems, dumping their plans for a healthcare takeover is. We know the President can give a great speech, the question is whether or not he can hold his own party together."

Bob McDonnell, the Republican nominee for Governor of Virginia, has been working hard lately to walk back from his 1989 thesis, in which the then-34-year-old McDonnell laid out a plan for a hard religious-right agenda. But does the walk-back have a price of its own?

The Washington Post has an interesting quote from Victoria Cobb, president of the Virginia-based Family Foundation. "Bob McDonnell got where he is because pro-family Virginians have seen him as a champion for their cause," Cobb said. "If he expects to motivate those same voters, they need to continue to see him as that champion."

So if McDonnell works too hard to prove that he's not a right-wing theocrat, maybe that could actually depress enthusiasm among the people who genuinely like that sort of thing.

In a press conference in Paris, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke downplayed the issue of fraud in the Afghanistan election -- even comparing it to the Minnesota Senate race!

"During that process there are going to be many claims of irregularities; that happens in every democracy," said Holbrooke. "We recently had a senatorial election in Minnesota which took seven months to determine the outcome, there were so many charges of irregularities. It certainly won't take that long in Afghanistan, but that happens in democracies, even when they are not in the middle of a war."

Two points immediately jump to mind. First, there is widely-documented mass fraud in Afghanistan, while the meticulousness of the Minnesota litigation in fact showed that, while the process had its imperfections and reasonable doubts, widespread fraud was not involved. And second, Holbrooke says how it won't take as long to sort out the situation in Afghanistan. Oh, if only Al Franken and Norm Coleman had guns!

The Democratic National Committee has a new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, firing back at former Vice President Dick Cheney's continued advocacy of torture techniques. The ad says that Cheney's insistence, "Enhanced interrogation techniques were absolutely essential," is about as reliable as his past pronouncements that the Iraq War would go well and that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction:



Note that the ad uses a TV clip of none other than John McCain, the 2008 Republican candidate for President, saying that the internal conventions against torture were violated. When was the last time we heard Democrats favorably citing him?

When Franklin Roosevelt appointed Joseph P. Kennedy as SEC chair, the president responded to concerns about Kennedy's unsavory reputation by declaring: "It takes a thief to catch a thief."

Over 70 years later, Bernard Madoff may have been hoping that President Bush agreed.

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