TPM News

Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) has clarified his comments from the How to Take Back America conference, where he called President Obama an "enemy of humanity" -- with his spokesperson saying that he should have made it clear that he was referring to Obama's abortion policies.

As the Associated Press reports:

Trent Franks of Arizona said in a speech to conservatives Saturday in St. Louis that Obama's decision to fund international family planning organizations that support legal abortion shows "he has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an enemy of humanity."

Bethany Haley, spokeswoman for Franks, said the congressman was referring to "unborn humanity" and should have clarified his statement.

Yesterday, two Republicans, Karl Rove and Sen. Kit Bond (MO), accused President Obama of being out of touch with Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Asked about it today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs defended President Obama. Gibbs said Obama reads McChrystal's weekly memos, and meets every week with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen (or vice-chair Gen. James Cartwright, if Mullen is traveling).

"The President receives tremendous input from the commanders on the ground and receives input from regional commanders like Gen. Petraeus," Gibbs said.

Rove and Bond were attacking Obama for McChrystal's recent comments on 60 Minutes, when he said he had talked to Obama once in the last 70 days.

The Senate Finance Committee is back from lunch and picking up where it left off--debating an amendment by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that would add a public option to Max Baucus' health care proposal.

1:55 p.m.: Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) doesn't like the public option...but he thinks all government officials and their staffs should be on it if the Democrats create one. A lot of Democrats oppose this ("it's a public option, including for us). But for what it's worth, the Senate HELP committee adopted an amendment that institutes this requirement, but only to members of Congress and their staffs.

2:03 p.m. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) notes smartly that any public option tied to Medicare will be tied to a newer, better Medicare that will correct for rural disparities, and reward providers that provide cost-effective care, and move away from fee for service. That undermines Kent Conrad's objection to a pretty significant extent. More on this soon.

2:09 p.m.Cantwell also says she'll be offering an amendment that will allow private insurers to team with the government to negotiate lower rates. Your move, Kent!

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The Department of Justice issued the following press release Tuesday regarding the National Security Division Leadership Team. Here's the full text.

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In the Senate Finance Committee debate on health care reform this afternoon, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) brought up what he thought was a very good point: If you don't count injuries from guns or car accidents, the U.S. health care system actually provides better outcomes than those in European and other industrialized countries.

"Are you aware that if you take out gun accidents and auto accidents, that the United States actually is better than those other countries?" Ensign said. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) had been citing the health care systems of France, Germany, Japan and Canada as more effective, but with lower costs.

Conrad responded that one can bend statistics in all sorts of ways.

"But that doesn't have anything to do with health care. Auto accidents don't have anything to do with h--," Ensign said, cutting himself off. "I mean we're just a much more mobile society. ... We drive our cars a lot more, they do public transportation. So you have to compare health care system with health care system."

Video after the jump.

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The latest poll of Virginia by Public Policy Polling (D) has Republican gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell continuing to lead Democrat Creigh Deeds -- but there is a potential for a Deeds surge, as Democrats become more motivated and tuned into the race.

The numbers: McDonnell 48%, Deeds 43%, with a ±4.1% margin of error. On the surface this doesn't seem to different from PPP's number from a month ago, which was a 49%-42% lead for McDonnell.

Underneath the surface, Democratic voters are starting to get more motivated. A month ago, the likely voter pool had gone 49%-45% for McCain in 2008 (plus respondents who didn't divulge their vote), in a state that actually voted 53%-47% for Obama last year. The new poll shows a voter pool that went 48%-45% for Obama, a step in the right direction. McDonnell has maintained his lead by locking down a greater percentage of self-identified Republicans, with 96% support, while Deeds is still at only an 82%-5% lead with Democrats, plus 12% of Democrats who are undecided.

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President Obama and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen addressed the press after their meeting today. Both tried to cast the war in Afghanistan as a NATO responsibility rather than one American will shoulder alone -- and also suggested that victory there is still achievable.

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A strange thing seems to be happening in California. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the former governor from 1975-1983, recent mayor of Oakland from 1999-2007, and three-time presidential candidate, appears to actually be the favorite to be the next governor -- making for a whole new act for one of the most colorful political personalities that state has had in the last 50 years.

As a new profile in the American Prospect explains, Brown has been known for his eccentric mix of progressive cultural values and fiscally conservative governance. When he was governor, he was strongly supportive of civil rights, the environment and labor unions, but was also very tight with money. He once famously declared: "I am going to starve the schools financially until I get some educational reforms." And when he ran for president in 1992, he supported the traditionally right-wing flat tax.

Beyond that, Brown is best known for his colorful personal life when he was governor -- he picked up the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" for his practice of Zen meditation, and he dated singer Linda Ronstadt while he was in office. There also the matter of his rather unconventional official state portrait, shown above. This all contributed to a somewhat inaccurate caricature of him as a left-winger. But now, he's been emerging as the well-known, safe choice for governor, to succeed the term-limited Republican Arnold Schwarzengger -- himself a colorful personality for obvious reasons.

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Angry town hall outbursts have officially wound their way into pop culture as Starbucks, which is pushing a new instant coffee, references the town hallers in a couple of new ads out this week.

The theme of the ads is that no one -- not priests, rabbis and jockeys, not people who look like their pets, not Civil War re-enactors -- can taste the difference between their fresh and instant coffees.

In this one, a narrator says, "People who yell at town hall meetings can't taste the difference."

Watch:

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) issued the following prepared remarks Tuesday morning regarding the "level playing field" public option amendment. Here's the full text:

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TPMLivewire