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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tweeted this morning on the disrupted town halls:

Town hall meetings are an American tradition - we should allow everyone to express their views without disruption - even if we disagree!


This seems to be directed at protesters, more or less telling them to cut the stunts. McCain has a pretty solid record of stopping during town halls and speeches to ask protesters to be more respectful, even of his opponents. Remember the campaign events (like the one where a woman called Obama "an Arab")?

For the record, a McCain spokeswoman tells us the tweet was "directed at everyone."

The new survey of Virginia by Public Policy Polling (D) finds that only 53% of likely voters in the state think that President Obama was born in the United States, compared to 24% who say he was not and another 24% who are not sure.

However, as we saw from yesterday's PPP numbers on the gubernatorial race, the likely-voter models this year skew seriously Republican, due to greater intensity of emotions right now among the GOP. For example, this same respondent set voted 52%-41% for John McCain last year (plus a remainder who wouldn't divulge how they voted), compared to a six-point win for Obama in Virginia in the actual election. So is this making the Birther threat look more severe than it really is?

I asked PPP communications director Tom Jensen about this factor, and he confirmed to me that it does indeed make a difference -- but as it turns out, the adjusted figures aren't much of an improvement. "If you reweight the numbers for an Obama 52-46 electorate you get 57 think he was born in the US, 21 think he wasn't, 22 not sure," Jensen said via e-mail. "So better than the numbers we're showing but still a little disturbing."

In the internals, we see these Southern McCain-voters heavily promoting Birtherism: Only 32% say Obama was born here, a 36% plurality say he was not, and 32% are not sure, compared to an 80%-8%-12% breakdown among Obama-voters.

President Obama delivered remarks today via video to the U.S.-Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, also known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is at the forum in Nairobi, Kenya, as part of her trip to Africa.

The White House released this transcript:

Hello everyone. I'm sorry I couldn't be there with you in person. But please know that for me and for my family, the memories from our recent trip to Ghana are still fresh--we will always remember the warmth of the Ghanaian people and the promise of Africa's potential.

I hope you're enjoying Kenya--and the hospitality of the Kenyan people--as much as I always have. When I first came in 1987, it was to discover the story of my father, who had grown up herding goats in the tiny village of Alego. When I visited as a Senator, I promised to work for a U.S. foreign policy that gives hope and opportunity to the people of this great continent.

Today, it is my privilege to address you as President. And I want to repeat what I said three weeks ago in Accra. I do not see the countries and the peoples of Africa as a world apart. I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. In our global economy, our economic fortunes are shared. And history shows that economic growth is among the greatest forces for progress in lifting people out of poverty.

That's why the African Growth and Opportunity Act is so important. That's why the AGOA Forum is so critical. By breaking down old barriers and opening new markets, we not only increase trade between our countries. We create powerful incentives for African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, to create jobs and build a brighter tomorrow for their children. That is what AGOA is all about.

So I thank President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga for hosting this Forum. And I pledge to you the full support and partnership of the United States. That is why my Administration is represented there today by outstanding members of my Cabinet.

Over the last decade, AGOA has transformed the U.S.-African trade relationship. Opening America's doors to your exports has been good for Africa--creating African jobs, bringing millions of dollars of investment to sub-Saharan Africa and sparking new trade across the continent. And it's been good for America--with African exporters seeking U.S. expertise, investments and joint-ventures. And today, we're your single largest trade partner.

At the same time, it's clear that U.S.-African trade has yet to realize its full potential. And if the current recession teaches us anything, it's that in a global economy not only the opportunities are shared. So are the risks. So there's so much more we can do together to plant the seeds of our economic recovery, and to achieve lasting prosperity.

Only Africans can unlock Africa's potential. It will take your entrepreneurship. Your innovation. And only Africans can ensure the good governance and strong institutions upon which development depends. Open markets alone are not enough. Development requires the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and an atmosphere that welcomes investment. And I encourage every country to set concrete goals for overcoming the obstacles to economic growth.

And to all Africans who are pursuing a future of hope and opportunity, know this: you have a partner and a friend in the United States. That's why we'll work with you to develop strong institutions, clear legal frameworks and the regulations and infrastructure that help bring new products to market. That's why we'll work together to harness Africa's vast natural resources to generate clean, renewable energy for export. That's why I've pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance--not simply to help people scrape by, but to unleash transformational change. And that's why we've joined with our international partners to promote food security by investing $20 billion in agricultural development--not simply to hand out American food, but to promote African self-sufficiency.

These are the things we can do together to unleash the skills and talents of our people. And to ensure our common prosperity in the 21st century. And if we do, I'm confident that Africans can live their dreams from Nairobi to Accra, from Lagos to Kigali, from Kinshasa to Cape Town.

Thank you for your work at this important Forum. Enjoy Nairobi.

Speaking outside the White House shortly after the journalists detained in North Korea landed in the U.S., President Obama thanked former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore for their work in negotiating the journalists' release.

"All Americans should be grateful...for their extraordinary work," said Obama, speaking briefly after a press conference with the journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

He added that the administration is "very pleased with the outcome" and said he hopes that Lee and Ling can spend time with their families over the next few days.



Late update: Here's the full statement from the White House:

Good morning, everybody. I want to just make a brief comment about the fact that the two young journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, are safely back with their families. We are obviously extraordinarily relieved. I had an opportunity to speak with the families yesterday once we knew that they were on the plane.

The reunion that we've all seen on television I think is a source of happiness not only for the families but for the entire country.

I want to thank President Bill Clinton -- I had a chance to talk to him -- for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists. I want to thank Vice President Al Gore who worked tirelessly in order to achieve a positive outcome.

I think that not only is this White House obviously extraordinarily happy, but all Americans should be grateful to both former President Clinton and Vice President Gore for their extraordinary work. And my hope is, is that the families that have been reunited can enjoy the next several days and weeks, understanding that because of the efforts of President Clinton and Gore, they are able to be with each other once again.

So we are very pleased with the outcome, and I'm hopeful that the families are going to be able to get some good time together in the next few days.

Thank you very much.






We can now add House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to the list of Democratic leaders who have denounced and dismissed the rowdy protesters who've disrupted health care town hall events across the country. "During the August district work period, Democrats are meeting with their constituents about the health insurance reform and America's Affordable Health Choices Act," reads a post on the Speaker's blog.

Unfortunately, those not interested in health insurance reform are disrupting public meetings and not allowing concerned constituents to ask questions and express their views. Many of these opponents who are shutting down civil discussion are organized by out-of-district, extremist political groups, and industry-supported lobbying firms.


So that's the message: those who attempt to shout down and disrupt town hall events are extremists, supported by special interests. And as our reporting has shown, that appears to be roughly accurate.

President Obama's political outfit, Organizing for America, is now trying to entice supporters to show up at health care events in order to make sure tea party protesters are outnumbered.

Today, Vice President Joe Biden will be speaking in Michigan, and OFA wants to make sure he can. "Organized mobs across the country are intimidating lawmakers, disrupting events, and silencing discussions about the change our country needs," reads a letter from OFA's Michigan State Director to Obama allies. "The challenges our country faces are simply too great to let these debates be overrun by those angrily shouting down change"

You can read the entire letter below the fold. OFA joins its kissing cousin the DNC, along with Democratic party leaders in strongly denouncing the shout downs. Republicans, meanwhile, continue to (at least) tacitly endorse these activities.

Read More →

DNC Web Ad Blasts Republican "Angry Mobs" The Democratic National Committee is expanding its public relations push against the Tea Party crowds that are interrupting town hall meetings, with this new Web ad tying the right-wing base to the GOP establishment:



"Now, desperate Republicans and their well funded allies are organizing angry mobs -- just like they did during the election," the announcer says. "Their goal? Destroy President Obama, and stop the change Americans voted for overwhelmingly in November."

Obama's Day Ahead President Obama will be traveling today to Warakusa, Indiana. He will arrive at South Bend Regional Airport at 11:10 a.m. ET, and will deliver remarks on the economy at Monaco RV in Warakusa at 11:55 a.m. ET. He will depart from South Bend at 1:35 p.m. ET, and will arrive back at the White House at 3:20 p.m. ET.

Read More →


On Tuesday, former President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of two American journalists arrested in North Korea in March. Here, Clinton arrives in Pyongyang.

Newscom/SIPA




Yang Hyong Sop, vice president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, greets the former President upon his arrival.

Newscom/SIPA




A young girl presents Clinton with flowers. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwa (second from left) and Yang Hyong Sop (third from left) stand nearby.

Newscom/Kyodo




North Korean leader Kim Jong-il meets with former President Clinton.

Newscom




Clinton and Kim Jong-il pose for a photo released by North Korea's state news agency.

Newscom/SIPA




During Clinton's visit, Kim Jong-il announced a "special pardon" for the two journalists. Keep checking TPM for the latest updates on Clinton's visit and the journalists' release.

Newscom/SIPA

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was booed along with Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) at a forum in Philadelphia this weekend, said today that it seems the protests are part of a "nationally driven campaign."

Sebelius said the protesters in Philly were "similar folks" with "very similar statements and very similar arguments" to protesters who came to a town hall held in Reserve, La., July 20. What was different this weekend, she said, was that the audience started booing as soon as they were welcomed by the director of Constitution Hall.

"What was clear at the outset was some folks intended to just disrupt the entire meeting and yell or shout or jeer over any kind of conversation," she told Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC.



But, she said, most of the people at the meeting wanted to have a civil discussion.

"I think the supporters of health reform and people who had honest questions and real concerns...persuaded the disruptive element of the audience to allow the conversation to go on," she said.

"The majority of people who were there in Constitution Hall, who were with us in Reserve, La., actually wanted to have a dialogue, wanted to get information," she said.

This will warm the cockles of your heart. An anti-union group has launched a campaign against Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) for his past support for labor, and urging him to oppose Employee Free Choice Act. They're hitting him with radio ads, and 117 billboards, scattered across the state of Indiana, telling passersby "Don't let Evan Bayh kill jobs."

What's interesting about this particular campaign, though, is that it's sponsor--the Economic Freedom Alliance--is paying Karl Rove a pretty penny. In the first half of 2009, the group raised about $520,000, and spent about $550,000--$100,000 of which went to Rove's consulting firm.

See Think Progress for more. You'll be unsurprised to learn that a group that teams up with Karl Rove isn't exactly playing it straight when it comes to EFCA.

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