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President Obama just made a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing, taking over the podium from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to make a few comments about the hullabaloo over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"These are two decent people," Obama said. He said he spoke by phone with Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, which he said confirmed his impression of Crowley as "an outstanding police officer, and a good man."

He said both parties overreacted.

But, he said, "African-Americans are sensitive to these issues, and even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding."

"My hope is that, as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment," Obama said.



...where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other, and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.


As for those who criticized the president for getting involved:

There are some who say as president I shouldn't have stepped into this at all, (which) I disagree with. The fact that this has become such big issue is indicative of fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society.


"Whether I were black or white, I think me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, not negative, (discussion) ... is part of my portfolio," Obama said.

As for the teachable moment, he said we need to spend "a little more time listening to each other, and focus on how we can generally improve relationships between police officers and minority communities."

He also said Crowley suggested that he, the president and Gates meet over a beer in the White House. Obama said it hasn't been scheduled, but seemed open to the idea.

Crowley apparently asked Obama how to get reporters off his lawn.

"I informed him I can't get the press off my lawn. He pointed out my lawn is bigger than his lawn," he said, to laughter from the press corps. "Sgt. Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass."

Obama also joked that no one's been paying much attention to health care because of this story.

David McKalip is resigning as president-elect of the Pinellas County Medical Association.

In a resignation letter reported on by the St. Petersburg Times, McKalip wrote:

I believe that it would be in the best interests of the Pinellas County Medical Association and its mission to serve patients, if I step down from the association at this time.

Read More →


On Sunday, July 26, Sarah Palin's resignation becomes effective, ending her two-year stint as governor of Alaska. To commemorate the end of a political era, TPM takes a look at some of her most memorable moments as VP candidate and AK governor. In 1984, Palin, then Sarah Heath, was crowned as Miss Wasilla.

Newscom / Anchorage Daily News / MCT




Palin was sworn in as Alaska's governor on December 4, 2006. Palin had previously served as the chairwoman and ethics supervisor of Alaska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees drilling and production. Ironically, Palin, who has seen her fair share of ethics allegations as governor, stepped down from that post after alleging that Randy Ruedrich, a fellow oil commissioner, was guilty of conducting political business on state time.

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Palin helps out with 2007's "Bye Bye Birdie" eagle release program for the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

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Palin stands with Haines Mayor Jan Hill and John Orr, the grandfather of a soldier killed in Iraq, in front of a Hummer H3 detailed to honor fallen Marines. "The rolling memorial is a humbling reminder - to us all - of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom," Palin said at the Hummer's unveiling.

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From left to right: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Sarah Palin, USPS Alaska District Manager Dianne Horbochuk, and photographer Jeff Schultz admire a stamp honoring Alaska.

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Palin, whose hunting experience endeared her to social conservatives during the 2008 campaign, has been a lifelong member of the NRA.

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Palin at an ice sculpture competition in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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On August 29, 2008, presidential candidate John McCain introduced Palin as his running mate in Dayton, Ohio. In her first speech to the nation, she infamously claimed that she told Congress "Thanks, but no thanks" on Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere, a claim that later was shown to be patently untrue.

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Palin and her husband Todd don flight suits in preparation for their participation in an Air Force training exercise over Alaska.

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On September 3, 2008, Palin delivered an energetic speech to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she introduced herself as "just your average hockey mom."

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Palin's speech to the GOP convention included this dig at then-candidate Obama: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Newscom / Ramin Talaie




Palin's family couldn't avoid becoming characters in the drama that was last year's election. From left to right: Track (named after, well, a track), Bristol (named after Bristol Bay), Bristol's boyfriend Levi Johnston, Willow (named after a town in Alaska), Piper (just "a cool name"), Palin's husband Todd, and baby Trig (which is Norse for "strength"). John McCain and Sarah Palin stand to the side.

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Governor Palin answers questions from students at Hunter Elementary in Fairbanks, Alaska.

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Governor Palin and ExxonMobil executive Craig Haymes discuss plans for a new drilling rig in Point Thomson, Alaska.

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Palin speaks before state leaders and Marge Byrd of the Stikine Native Dancers (in regalia).

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Palin visits soldiers from the Alaska National Guard stationed in Kuwait.

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The McCain campaign's roll-out of Palin didn't go as smoothly as they had hoped. During a much-hyped interview with CBS's Katie Couric, a visibly nervous Palin frequently stumbled over her answers. To wit: in a response to a question about the government's bank bailout, Palin answered, in part: "Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

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Tina Fey and Amy Poehler portray Palin and Hillary Clinton on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Palin's folksy mannerisms and habitual bumbling made her popular fodder for late night television. Fey, who left SNL in 2006, returned to the show to portray her.

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Aided by a fresh round of media training, Palin was all smiles and winks during her debate with Biden.

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Some raved over the new act; The National Review's Rich Lowry gushed that Palin's perky performance "sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America."

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During the presidential campaign's home stretch, when the McCain-Palin ticket was down in the polls, Palin resorted to increasingly desperate attacks. Referring to her opponent's relationship to former Weatherman Bill Ayers, Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists" in a speech to supporters in California.

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After the incoming election night results made it clear that McCain and Palin would lose, Palin planned to give her own concession speech to the ticket's disappointed followers. Despite there being no tradition of an address being delivered by a losing vice presidential candidate, a speech was written. After Palin refused to listen to McCain advisors Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, who didn't like the idea of Palin's breaking custom, McCain himself had to tell Palin that only he, and not she, would be speaking that night.

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Even after the election, Palin couldn't catch a break. On November 20, a chipper Palin gave an interview to an Alaskan television station while standing in front of a man slaughtering a turkey. The incident soon became a cable news and YouTube sensation.

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On July 3, Palin announced that she would step down as Alaska's governor, saying that she was not seeking re-election, did not want to be lame duck governor and that "only dead fish go with the flow." Read the full text of Palin's resignation speech here.

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After signaling her intention to resign as governor, Palin, along with her family, spent time fishing on Bristol Bay.

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Farewell, Governor Palin. You may be leaving elected office for the moment, but we look forward to your future appearances on the national political stage -- and more of your trademark Alaskan flair.

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Not an unmitigated disaster--especially considering this has been coming down the pipe for some time. And, I should add, things could get much worse if the House also doesn't vote on a bill before adjourning.

But now that it's official, the concerns reformers have had all along about going into August recess without floor votes on legislation will leave the realm of supposition and begin to truly materialize. Assuming the Senate Finance Committee approves legislation before adjourning, Senate leaders will spend the summer months finalizing a piece of legislation that members won't see until they return. In the meantime, they'll have few answers for their constituents about the prospects for, and specifics of reform, who will regard the situation as a poor harbinger.

To those constituents, the very concept of "reform" will become hopelessly entangled with reports of procedural wrangling and ugly Washington politics--and polls will reflect that linkage. The popularity of reform as a general proposition will begin to sink.

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Marco Rubio, the insurgent conservative candidate in the Florida Republican Senate primary, seems to be having some trouble building up momentum -- and now comes a new wave of staff shake-ups.

Rubio's campaign manager is now leaving, and his chief fundraiser is also out of the picture. "At this point, Speaker Rubio believes it is necessary to click the reset button in certain areas of the campaign," the campaign said.

Polls have Rubio far behind moderate Gov. Charlie Crist, who has also built up an overwhelming fundraising advantage. Rubio has also had to shoot down reports that he might drop out of the race and run for something else.

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND); Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

• CBS, Face The Nation: White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod; Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA); Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN); Historian and author Douglas Brinkley.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY); and White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod.

• Fox News Sunday: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs; Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ).

• NBC, Meet The Press: Sec. of State Hillary Clinton.



Dr. David McKalip has told fellow conservative activists that thanks to the flap over his racist email showing President Obama as a witch doctor, he will no longer appear publicly in opposition to health-care reform.

"For now, in the interest of protecting this movement from any collateral damage, I am withdrawing from making media appearances on health system reform," McKalip wrote this morning in an email -- obtained by TPMmuckraker -- to fellow members of an online health-care discussion group affiliated with the Tea Party movement. The email went to the same recipients to which McKalip sent the original racist email.

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Hmmm... this is interesting! I've obtained a copy of White House talking points laying out just how members of the administration will publicly reckon with the delay in health care legislation.

"We are closer to real health insurance reform today than ever before," the memo reads.

Key committees in Congress have reached a striking degree of consensus about how to control costs, guarantee coverage, and provide more choices for every American....

President Obama remains committed to and confident about signing health insurance reform into law by the end of this year.


You can read the entire memo below the fold. It provides a small window into the President's playbook when he's confronted with disspiriting news and unfriendly headlines.

Read More →

We've made a bit of a habit here of lampooning House Republican efforts to defeat Democratic legislation by creating brightly colored, though ultimately meaningless charts. And, it seems, the joke's caught on. Here, for instance, is a slightly NSFW segment from last night's Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
White House M.D.
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJoke of the Day

A second senior staffer for Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has resigned, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Ensign's office announced yesterday the departure of his communications director, Tony Mazzola.

The press release also announced the departure of chief of staff John Lopez, which we first heard about yesterday. He'll be replaced by Aaron Cohen, a health policy lobbyist with Kimbell & Associates and former Ensign staffer. Lopez will stay on through August as he "weighs options in the public sector," according to the release.

Mazzola will be replaced by Rebecca Fisher, who was Ensign's communications director at the Republican Policy Committee. Mazzola is leaving to be Northeast region press secretary for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He's from New England, the release said, and wants to return as he and his wife expect their first child.

Ensign's office also announced the return of Pam Thiessen, the senator's former policy director who left in January to work for the Republican Policy Committee. She will be returning as a senior policy adviser.

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