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Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Armed Services Committee and the top Senate Democrat on military issues, will give a floor speech today urging the president to hold off on sending more U.S. troops to the war in Afghanistan, and instead focus on strengthening the Afghan army and police force.

Here's the full text of his speech as prepared for delivery, released by his office:


Today we mark a solemn anniversary. Eight years ago this morning, our nation was attacked by terrorist extremists motivated by hatred and bent on destruction. It is always appropriate to remember the shock of that day, the innocent lives lost, and the efforts our nation has made since that day to ensure that Afghanistan, the nation that hosted those terrorists, cannot again become a safe haven for terrorists seeking to attack us. But today is an especially appropriate occasion to take stock of those efforts, and consider how best to continue them.

I recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan, where I was joined by my colleagues Senators Jack Reed and Ted Kaufman. The situation in Afghanistan is serious. Security has deteriorated. But if we take the right steps, we can ensure that Afghanistan does not revert to a Taliban-friendly government that could once again provide a safe haven for al Qaeda to terrorize us and the world.

The Obama administration's new strategy, focusing on securing the Afghan population's safety and partnering with the Afghan security forces in that effort, is an important start at reversing the situation in Afghanistan. The change in strategy has led our forces, in the words of General McChrystal's Counterinsurgency Guidance, to "live, eat and train together [with the Afghan security forces], plan and operate together, depend on one another, and hold each other accountable....and treat them as equal partners in success." The Guidance goes on to say that the success of the Afghan security forces "is our goal."

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While the liberal policy community in Washington mostly acknowledges that the health care plan put forward by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) falls short of its counterparts in the House and Senate, they also believe it would be an improvement over the status quo. But at least one of the measures, reportedly supported by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), is so poorly designed that it has some critics downright worried.

"The Baucus plan is going to create all kinds of incentives to avoid hiring low income people," says Edwin Park of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Shortly after Baucus unveiled his proposal, CBPP--a respected policy shop that tilts liberal--released a report warning about this very possibility.

"It's the one [measure] that we've been worried about in the Finance Committee discusions or months now," Park warned.

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The online donations keep coming in for Rob Miller, an Iraq War veteran and Democratic candidate against Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), in the wake of Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during President Obama's speech to Congress on Wednesday night.

The DCCC announced that as of 6:30 a.m. ET this morning, Miller had received more than $750,000, from over 20,000 individual contributors, in the time since Wilson's interjection.

A new CBS poll finds that President Obama's speech to Congress has had an immediate, positive effect for him on health care.

CBS re-interviewed yesterday the same respondents from a poll in late August. In that previous poll, Obama's approval on his handling of health care was only 40%, with 47% disapproval. Now, he's at 52%-38% with those same people.

The surveys also asked whether Obama has clearly explained his plans for health care reform. Two weeks ago, he was at only 33% yes, 61% now. Now that number is much improved, but still less than spectacular: Yes 42%, No 43%. Among speech-watchers, the number is Yes 58%, No 39%

Obama's First 9/11 As President The Associated Press points out that today is President Obama's first September 11 as president, looking at the changes in policy that have occurred between him and the Bush administration, and the challenges Obama still has ahead: "Eight years later, Obama has the bullhorn. And the way forward in the fight against terrorism is anything but clear. Obama approaches his first 9-11 anniversary as president saddled with two wars that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks, and confronted at every turn by difficult leftovers from Bush's response to them."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. ET, remember the September 11 attacks. President Obama will deliver remarks at a 9:30 a.m. ET wreath-laying ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial.

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), a possible presidential candidate in 2012, is now indicating that he could invoke state sovereignty and prevent his home state of Minnesota from participating in a federal health care reform effort if one passes, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

"Depending on what the federal government comes out with here, asserting the 10th Amendment may be a viable option," Pawlenty said, when asked about it by a caller on a Republican Governors Association conference call. "But we don't know the details. As one of the other callers said, we can't get the President to outline what he does or doesn't support in any detail. So we'll have to see, I would have to say that it's a possibility."

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The White House released a readout of President Obama's meeting with Democratic senators yesterday on health care reform:

"The President and the Senators held a positive and constructive meeting for more than an hour in the Roosevelt Room this afternoon. There was unanimous agreement with the President's position that the health care reform bill must not add to the deficit and that provisions must be included to reduce long-term deficits.

"The President expressed his appreciation for the Senators' support and encouragement, and he thanked them for the constructive suggestions they offered for making sure that legislation provides more stability to those with insurance, provides access to insurance for those who don't have it, and lowers the cost of health care for families, businesses, and governments. The President urged the Senators to continue to come to him with suggestions and feedback as the process moves forward."


Mad as hell and ain't going to take it anymore: people from across the country descended upon Washington D.C. today for a long weekend of Dick Armey-organized activism. Here's, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who hopes the country can avoid destruction under Obama, kicking off the Liberty Summit. See the agenda for the next few days of Tea Party madness.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Tea Party folk assemble in the DC Armory to listen to the likes of Sen. Inhofe, Dick Armey, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Sen. DeMint at the Liberty Summit. Missing from the picture is his partner in the fight against "Obamacare," Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN).

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




A 9/12 movement participant with appropriate flair.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Seated for a panel discussion is Dick Armey, chairman of FreedomWorks, Steve Milloy, founder of JunkScience.com (he may be discussing The Green Legacy Of Death), and Sen. Inhofe.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey chairs FreedomWorks.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




FreedomWorks and other groups, such as the Tea Party Express, are bussing in supporters from all over the country.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




House Minority Leader John Boehner spoke at the opening rally: "The American people can stop this nonsense in Washington. It's going to take the involvement of the American people to say, 'Enough is enough.'"

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




House Minority Whip Eric Cantor accompanied Boehner and a slew of other Congressional Republicans.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




Armey defended heckler Rep. Joe Wilson. "Give poor old Joe Wilson a break here," he said.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




About 800 people showed up at the kickoff rally. Organizers are expecting huge crowds at Saturday's "March on Washington."

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com






Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com




A proud tea partier. Stay tuned for more coverage (and photos!) of this weekend's rallies.

Jeff Malet/maletphoto.com

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has posted this YouTube address, as part of his new fundraising appeal to help defend him from liberal attacks in the wake of his "You lie!" outburst:



"On these issues, I will not be muzzled. I will speak up, and speak loudly, against this risky plan," Wilson proclaims. "The supporters of the government takeover of health care, and the liberals who want to give health care to illegals, are using my opposition as an excuse to distract from the critical questions being raised about this poorly-conceived plan. they want to silence anyone who speaks out against it. They made it clear they want to defeat me, and pass the plan."

"Health care is a matter of life and death for so many," he later adds. "I choose life, with health-insurance reform."


President Barack Obama enters the House of Representatives chamber to address a joint session of Congress on health care reform on Wednesday, September 9, 2009.

Newscom/Jason Reed/Reuters/MCT




"Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care."

Newscom/Kristoffer Tripplaar/ Sipa Press




Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA)

Newscom




Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) during the now infamous "You Lie!" heckle.

Getty




Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), holds up a copy of a Republican alternative bill during President Obama's address.

Newscom/Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly




A Representative holds a sign in his lap questioning the President's plan.

Newscom/Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly




Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), gives a thumbs up as President Obama refers to a proposal of McCain's, that provides care for high risk patients.

Newscom/Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly




"I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way."

Newscom/KRT




Vicki Kennedy, the wife of the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), was a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Newscom/UPI




Representative John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI) received a standing ovation as he and his late father were recognized for their efforts on health care reform.

Newscom/Sipa




Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaks with moderate Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

Newscom/CQ




Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) shares a joke with Senator Al Franken (D-MN).

Newscom/KRT




"Insurance executives don't do this because they're bad people; they do it because it's profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill, they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street's relentless profit expectations.""

Newscom/CQ




President Obama edits his health care speech aboard Marine One en route to the White House from Andrews Air Force Base.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Obama enters the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson




First Lady Michelle Obama greets Darlene Daniels, of Baltimore, Md., in the gallery of the House Chamber.

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton




"We are the only democracy -- the only advanced democracy on Earth -- the only wealthy nation -- that allows such hardship for millions of its people. There are now more than 30 million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two-year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone."

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Judd Gregg (R- NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




"But that is not what the moment calls for. That's not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it's hard. (Applause.) I still believe -- I still believe that we can act when it's hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history's test."

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




President Barack Obama looks towards the First Lady and guests seated in the gallery of the House Chamber.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza




First Lady Michelle Obama embraces Vicki Kennedy following President Barack Obama's health care address.

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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