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President Obama, in a conference call with faith leaders yesterday, said "some folks out there ... are, frankly, bearing false witness" on health care reform.

Obama called the idea of "death panels" an "extraordinary lie" on the call.

He urged people of faith to help the health care reform effort, telling them to "knock on doors, talk to neighbors ... spread the truth." "Men and women of faith have showed us what's possible when we follow our hopes and not our fears," he said.

He also, as expected, framed reform as a moral obligation. As a society, he said, we have an obligation to "look out for one another ... We are neglecting to live up to that call."

The White House released a statement this morning saying "the United States deeply regrets" the release of Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, one of the Pam-Am 103 bombers. Megrahi was released early from a life sentence by Scottish authorities because he has terminal prostate cancer, over objections by American officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi. Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Scotland on December 21, 1988. As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland. On this day, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones. We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever.


On Tuesday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak traveled to Washington for the first time in five years to meet with President Obama. Among other things, the two discussed Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Egypt's democracy.

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Mubarak said that President Obama's June speech in Cairo left no doubt about relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world.

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At President Obama's Oval Office meeting with Mubarak, Vice President Joe Biden speaks to Secretary of State Clinton. Middle East envoy George Mitchell stands in the background.

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Presidents Mubarak and Obama.

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From left to right: Secretary of State Clinton, National Economic Council head Larry Summers, Vice President Joe Biden, National Security Advisor Jim Jones, and Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

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President Obama meets with former President Bill Clinton in the Situation Room of the White House. The two discussed the former president's recent trip to North Korea, where he successfully negotiated the return of two American journalists.

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Television legend Don Hewitt, who worked at CBS for over 50 years and created the television show "60 Minutes," died of pancreatic cancer on August 19, 2009. He was 86 years old.

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As a television director and producer in the medium's early days, Hewitt helped shape the broadcasts of newsmen Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. He also produced the televised debate between presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon -- the first of its kind.

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Hewitt in 1995. From the CBS obituary: "Even when CBS lost its NFL contract in 1994, putting its former lead-in audience on another network to compete against it, 60 Minutes was still a huge hit, finishing number six for the 1994-95 season."

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In the 1999 film "The Insider," actor Philip Baker Hall (second from right) portayed Hewitt, who served as the executive producer of "60 Minutes" until 2004. The film was a critique of the show's handling of a tobacco industry expose.

From CBS: "60 Minutes' lowest point, said Hewitt, was the Jeffrey Wigand story, the interview with the highest-ranking tobacco executive to turn whistleblower that was held back by CBS management in fear of a $10 billion lawsuit that could have bankrupted the company."

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Hewitt with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft in 2003.

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Hewitt and wife Marilyn Berger in 2003.

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Hewitt "changed the course of broadcast news...by fusing journalism and show business as never before." (from The New York Times)

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CBS journalist Bob Schieffer and Hewitt attended Walter Cronkite's funeral in July.

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Hewitt and wife Marilyn at Cronkite's funeral.

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Hewitt in 1995.

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From left to right: Peggy Siegal, Hewitt, Barbara Walters, and George Clooney.

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Hewitt with George Stephanopoulos and Connie Chung in 1999.

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Hewitt, Dina Merrill, and Candice Bergen at the 20th Annual Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Awards Gala.

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On a conference call between Gov. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and progressive bloggers, I just asked Corzine a key question about the reported investigation of acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, for having potentially helped out his predecessor and now-Republican gubernatorial nominee Chris Christie through his public comments about the recent big federal corruption raid.

The question is: Did Corzine, or anyone connected to his administration or campaign, speak to the Justice Department and ask for or encourage that investigation of Marra?

"No," Corzine replied. "Pure, simple, no."

Corzine generally spoke of Christie as having politicized the U.S. Attorney's office, through a pursuit of mainly corrupt Democrats in the state. He also reiterated his point that Christie's recently revealed past conversations with Karl Rove, in which a future run for governor was discussed, were a potential violation of the Hatch Act. Corzine said that the potential legal violation by Christie "has undermined at least the stated reputation of being a corruption fighter in the public's mind."

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Harry Reid spokesman Jim Manley tells CNN that Democrats are determined to pass a bill, even if it means circumventing the filibuster and ramming as much of the package as possible through the filibuster-proof reconciliation process.

The White House still prefers a bipartisan bill, and neither the White House nor the Democratic leadership has made a decision to pursue reconciliation...We will not make a decision to pursue reconciliation until we have exhausted efforts to produce a bipartisan bill. However, patience is not unlimited and we are determined to get something done this year by any legislative means necessary

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) today claimed that at one of his town halls in the 1980s, protesters "brought quadriplegics in on gurneys and dumped them on the floor in front of my podium."

DeLay's claim came in response to a question from Chris Matthews on MSNBC's Hardball about whether DeLay was surprised by the hostile tone at recent health care town halls.

"This has been going on forever. When I did my town hall meetings -- I'll never forget one back in the 80s, on health care, by the way. They brought in quadriplegics on gurneys and dumped them on the floor in front of my podium. This is not new. What's new is the people who came into disrupt my town meetings, we just let them go on," DeLay said.

Matthews did not ask a follow-up question on this incident. A Lexis-Nexis search didn't immediately turn up accounts of such an event, and DeLay's office did not immediately return a request for more information.

Although DeLay downplayed the hostility of recent town halls, he did agree that bringing guns into presidential events is going too far.

"That's not a law, that's a security matter. The Secret Service has every right to ... make sure nobody has a gun on them," he said.

That's not a violation of the right to bear arms, he said, adding that he's experienced real infringements on that right himself.

"I'm really mad. Since I got indicted, they took my concealed carry license away from me. I think that's a violation of the Second Amendment," he said.

DeLay also proudly displayed his birther cred.

"I would like the president to produce his birth certificate," DeLay said. "I can do it, most illegal aliens can do it. Why can't the president of the United States produce his birth certificate?"

"Would you ask the president to show me his gift certificate -- uh -- birth certificate?" DeLay asked. Matthews declined.

DeLay has been on TV this week plugging his upcoming appearance on Dancing With The Stars. On Hardball tonight, he proudly showed off his dancing shoes.

"It's a little pump with high heels!" he exclaimed.

John Velleco, chief lobbyist for Gun Owners Of America, said on Hardball With Chris Matthews today that he would be 'fine' with the entire audience at a presidential event being armed with guns. Watch the video below.

"If it's legal to carry guns in that location, absolutely," he told Matthews, who pressed him on the issue. "It would be fine with you if everyone comes in with a gun? They should be allowed to sit in the first row with a gun?" the MSNBC host asked. Velleco responded that gun-owners in the U.S. are "the most law-abiding citizens."

When Matthews asked how close armed people should be allowed to get to the President, the gun rights advocate said "as close as the Secret Service will allow." Velleco also does not think the federal ban on assault weapons should be renewed.

Velleco is the Director of Federal Affairs for Gun Owners of America, a gun rights organization with over 300,000 members.

Earlier today, at a White House ceremony honoring NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson President Obama said he's "absolutely confident that we are going to get a [health care] bill, and I hope it's bipartisan."

That hope is truly audacious, given that he's also apparently concluded that Republicans don't have any interest in being good faith health care negotiators.

Via Greg Sargent comes an internal memo--written by disgraced hospital CEO Rick Scott and sent to employees of his group Conservatives for Patients Righs--which brings to light part of the right's game plan for the rest of August recess.

"All CPR communications will continue to focus on the President's public option plan," the memo reads, "and the quagmire in Congress that has resulted from the White House's colossal misjudgment of public opinion plays directly into our hands."

We will continue to carry this message forward into next week with our Martha's Vineyard ad strategy--even on vacation, the President will get no quarter on the public option from Conservatives for Patients' Rights.


See the entire memo here. Whatever the administration's position on the public option--and that remains unclear--one of the largest reform opponents in the country is sticking with an anti-public option (or, more likely, anti-government health care) message. And they'll likely have some strong institutional support. Earlier this week the Republican National Committee issued a memo noting that, even if private co-operatives win out over the public option, the GOP keep hammering away with the message that the Democrats plan a government takeover of the health care system.

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