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Paging Keith Olbermann. You can call off the search...we've found your Worst Person in the World for tonight.

Meet Tennessee state senator Paul Stanley. He's a solid conservative Republican and married father of two, who according to his website is "a member of Christ United Methodist Church, where he serves as a Sunday school teacher and board member of their day school." (Check out the religious imagery on the site -- the sun poking through clouds, as if manifesting God's presence -- which of course shows Stanley's deeply pious nature.)

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It's looked unlikely for at least a couple weeks now, but unless events intercede to convince congressional leaders to delay August recess, today will likely be remembered as the day when Democrats admitted they'd be unable to pass health care reform bills in the House and Senate before August recess.

"We just heard today that, well, we may not be able to get the bill out of the Senate by the end of August, or the beginning of August," President Obama said. "That's OK. I just want people to keep on working. Just keep working."

He's reacting to today's news out of the Senate--and he sounds fairly sanguine about it. There's still a possibility of a House vote--but as I noted earlier today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely need to see progress out of the Senate if she's going to put her vulnerable members out on a limb.

President Obama is standing by his comments about the Henry Louis Gates case, which the Republicans have been attacking him on. From an interview with ABC News:

"I have to say I am surprised by the controversy surrounding my statement because I think it was a pretty straight forward commentary that you probably don't need to handcuff a guy, a middle-aged man who uses a cane, who's in his own home," Obama said.


"I think that I have extraordinary respect for the difficulties of the job that police officers do," the president told Moran. "And my suspicion is that words were exchanged between the police officer and Mr. Gates and that everybody should have just settled down and cooler heads should have prevailed. That's my suspicion."

The president said he understands the sergeant who arrested Gates is an "outstanding police officer." But he added that with all that's going on in the country with health care and the economy and the wars abroad, "it doesn't make sense to arrest a guy in his own home if he's not causing a serious disturbance."

Yesterday, we reported that we hadn't heard a clear story from the Pentagon about how Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan. We started looking after a Fox News analyst claimed the soldier deserted (and therefore should be executed by the Taliban).

But last night, an NBC News correspondent reported that Pentagon officials are certain Bergdahl is not a deserter.

"Senior military and Pentagon officials, not only in Washington but there on the ground in Afghanistan, say there's no question he's not a deserter," said Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent.

Video after the jump.

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The Democratic National Committee has launched this new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, warning against the high costs involved in the health care debate -- that is, the cost of not enacting reform:

"What's the cost of not reforming our health care system?" the announcer asks. "Premiums rising faster than your paycheck; insurance companies dictating more and more medical decisions; denying you coverage, while their profits soar."

This is continuing a line of argument that President Obama made last night at the press conference, presenting the continuing status quo as an alternative plan that is inferior to his own proposals -- thus shifting the burden of proof in the argument.

Also notice the cast of villains in this ad: Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- and the new star, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

The right is now mobilizing heavily against President Obama's comments last night about the Henry Louis Gates case.

The NRCC has sent out a press release, challenging individual House Dems about whether they agree with Obama that the police "acted stupidly":

The president was slow to point out any wrongdoing in the wake of the Iranian election and his administration was quick to force through a failed stimulus plan even though they 'misread' the economy. This is certainly a questionable rush to judgment coming from a president who hasn't exactly been quick to call out unconscionable behavior by a merciless foreign dictator or gotten his facts straight before advocating a trillion-dollar mistake to address our ailing economy. Is it really presidential for him to cast harsh judgment of a law enforcement official without all the facts?

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh is being much more blunt in a racial appeal:

"Last week, we saw white firefighters under assault by agents of Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor," said Limbaugh (emphasis his). He added: "Now, white policemen are under assault from the East Room of the White House, by the President of the United States, after admitting he had no -- he didn't know all the facts, what went on in there."

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery

Health Care Town Hall

Shaker Heights, Ohio

July 23, 2009

It's good to be back in the great state of Ohio. I know there are those who like to focus on the political back and forth in Washington. But my only concern is the people who sent us there: the families feeling the pain of this recession; the folks I've met across this country who have lost jobs and savings and health insurance, but haven't lost hope; the citizens who defied the cynics and the skeptics - who went to the polls to demand real and lasting change. This change was the cause of my campaign, and it is the cause of my presidency.

When my administration came into office, we were facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans have felt that painful loss first-hand. Our financial system was on the verge of collapse, meaning families and small businesses could not get the credit they need. And experts were warning that there was a serious chance that our economy could slip into a depression. But because of the action we took in those first weeks, we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink.

Now that the most immediate danger has passed, there are some who question those steps. So let me report to you on exactly what we've done.

We passed a two-year Recovery Act that meant an immediate tax cut for 95 percent of Americans and for small businesses. It extended unemployment insurance and health coverage for those who lost their jobs in this recession, and provided emergency assistance to the states to prevent even deeper layoffs of police, firefighters, teachers and other essential personnel. At the same time, we took needed steps to keep the banking system from collapsing, to get credit flowing again, and to help responsible homeowners - hurt by falling home prices - to stay in their homes.

In the second phase, we now are investing in projects to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, ports, and water systems - and in schools and clean energy initiatives throughout Ohio and the country. These are projects that are creating good jobs and bring lasting improvements to our communities and our country.

There is no doubt that the steps we have taken have helped stave off a much deeper disaster and even greater job loss. They have saved and helped create jobs and have begun to put the brakes on this devastating recession. But I know that for the millions of Americans who are looking for work, and all those who are struggling in this economy, full recovery can't come soon enough. I hear from you at town hall meetings like this. I read your letters. These stories are the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night - and the focus of my attention every day. The simple truth is that it took years for us to get into this mess, and it will take more than a few months to dig our way out of it. But we will get there, and we are doing everything within our power to get people back to work.

We also have to do more than just rescue this economy from recession; we need to address the fundamental problems that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place. Otherwise, we'd be guilty of the same short term thinking that got us into this mess. That's what Washington has done for decades. That's what we must change.

Now is the time to rebuild this economy stronger than before. Strong enough to compete in the 21st century. Strong enough to avoid the waves of boom and bust that have, time and again, unleashed a torrent of misfortune on middle class families across this country. That's why we are building a new, clean energy economy that will unleash the innovative potential of America's entrepreneurs - and create millions of new jobs - helping to end our dependence on foreign oil. We are transforming our education system, from cradle to college, so that this nation once again has the best-educated workforce in the world. And we are pursuing health insurance reform so that every American has access to quality, affordable health coverage.

I want to be clear: reform isn't just about the nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance. Though I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, "How does my family, or my business, stand to benefit from health insurance reform? What's in this for me?"

I want to answer those questions today.

If you already have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will give you more security. It will keep the government out of your health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your coverage if you're happy with it. And it will keep the insurance companies out of your health care decisions, too, by stopping insurers from cherry-picking who they cover, and holding insurers to higher standards for what they cover.

You won't have to worry about receiving a surprise bill in the mail, because we'll limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay out of your own pocket.

You won't have to worry about pre-existing conditions, because never again will anyone in America be denied coverage because of a previous illness or injury.

And you won't have to worry about losing coverage if you lose or leave your job, because every American who needs insurance will have access to affordable plans through a health insurance exchange - a marketplace where insurance companies will compete to cover you, not to deny you coverage.

If you run a small business and you're looking to provide insurance for your employees, you'll be able to choose a plan through this exchange as well. I've heard from small business owners across America trying to do the right thing, but year after year, premiums rise higher and choices grow more limited. That's certainly the case here in Ohio.

And if you are a taxpayer concerned about deficits, I want to reassure you, I am too In the eight years before we came to office, Washington enacted two large tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and funded two wars, without paying for any of it. The national debt doubled, and we were handed a $1.3 trillion deficit when we walked in the door - one we necessarily had to add to in the short term to help break the back of the recession. I believe we have to restore a sense of responsibility in Washington. We have to do what families and businesses do, cutting the things we don't need to pay for the things we do.

That is why I have pledged that I will not sign health insurance reform that adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade. And I mean it. We have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform to bring health care security to every American can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes more than one hundred billion dollars in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare - subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. We ought to take that money and use to actually treat people and cover people, not line the pockets of the insurers. I'm pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. And while they are currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.

In addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short-term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs, while improving care, in the long run. I just came from the Cleveland Clinic where I toured the cardiac surgery unit and met some of the doctors and nurses achieving incredible results for their patients; there's important work being done there as well as at University Hospitals and MetroHealth. Cleveland Clinic has one of the best health information technology systems in the country. This means that they can track patients and their progress. This means that they can see what treatments work and what treatments are unnecessary. And this means they can provide better care to patients with chronic disease like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and emphysema by coordinating with doctors and nurses both in the hospital and in the community.

And this is the remarkable thing: often better care produces lower, not higher, expenses. Because better care leads to fewer errors that cost money and lives. You, or your doctor, don't have to fill out the same form a dozen times. Medical professionals are free to treat people - not just illnesses. And patients are provided preventive care earlier - like mammograms and physicals - to avert more expensive and invasive treatment later.

That's why our proposals include a variety of reforms that would both save money and improve care - and why the nation's largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are finally free to give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care. We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare - a proposal that could save even more money. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.

The fact is, lowering costs is essential for families and businesses - and our economy. Here in Ohio, for example, over the past few years premiums have risen nearly nine times as fast as wages. That's something Rick and his wife are very familiar with. As we meet today, we're seeing double-digit rate increases on insurance premiums all over America. There are reports of insurers raising rates by 28 percent in California; seeking a 23 percent increase in Connecticut; and proposing as much as a 56 percent increase in Michigan. If we don't act, these premium hikes will be just a preview of coming attractions. That's a future you can't afford. That's a future America can't afford.

We spend one of every six of our dollars on health care in America, and that's on track to double in the next three decades. The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Small businesses struggle to cover workers while competing with large businesses. Large businesses struggle to cover workers while competing in the global economy. And we will never know the full cost of the dreams put on hold, the entrepreneurial ideas allowed to languish, the small businesses never founded - because of the fear of being without insurance, or having to pay for a policy on your own.

That is why we seek reform. And in pursuit of this reform we have forged a consensus that has never before been reached in the history of this country. Senators and Representatives in five committees are working on legislation and three have already produced bills. Health care providers have agreed to do their part to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending. Hospitals have agreed to bring down costs. The drug companies have agreed to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. And the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association, which represent the millions of nurses and doctors who know our health care system best, have announced their support for reform.

We have never been closer to achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans. But at the same time, there are those who seek to delay and defeat reform. I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me - when it's really the American people who are being broken by rising health care costs and declining coverage. And the Republican Party chair, seeking to stall our efforts, recently went so far as to say that health insurance reform was happening "too soon."

I thought that was a little odd. We've been talking about health reform since the days of Harry Truman, and he's saying reform is coming too soon. Too soon?

I don't think it's too soon for the families who've seen their premiums rise faster than wages year after year.

It's not too soon for the businesses forced to drop coverage or shed workers because of mounting health care expenses.

It's not too soon for taxpayers asked to close widening deficits that stem from rising health care costs, costs that threaten to leave our children with a mountain of debt.

Reform may be coming too soon for some in Washington, but it's not soon enough for the American people.

We can do this. For this nation never shrinks from a challenge. And we were reminded of that earlier this week, when Americans - and people all over the world - marked the fortieth anniversary of the moment that the astronauts of Apollo 11 walked upon the surface of the moon. It was the realization of a goal President Kennedy had set nearly a decade earlier. There were those at that time who said it was foolish, even impossible. But President Kennedy understood, and the American people set about proving, what this nation was capable of doing when we set our minds to doing it.

Today, there are those who see our failure to address stubborn problems as a sign that our best days are behind us; that somehow we've lost that sense of purpose, that toughness, that capacity to lead. Well I believe that this generation, like generations past, stands ready to defy the naysayers and the skeptics. That we can once again summon this American spirit. That we can rescue our economy and rebuild it stronger than before. And that, yes, we can achieve quality, affordable health care for every single American. That is what we are called upon to do. And that is what we will do.

When Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was originally running for Senate, a lot of people doubted that he would be able to effectively reach across the other side of the aisle and work with Republicans. But, as we can see from his first major initiative, he's already getting a start on that.

In the last few days, Franken announced a proposal to fund service dogs for disabled veterans. And it turns out, from a press release his office put out yesterday, that his main co-sponsor is a Republican Senator, Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Franken really has come a long way since 2003, when he wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. "But, you know what, I don't want to get into a whole partisan politics thing here," he wrote at the time. "Not in this book, anyway. We'll leave that for my next book, I F------ Hate Those Right-Wing Motherf-----s!, due out in October 2004."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be no health care vote before August recess. According to the Associated Press, Reid says the Finance Committee will finish its legislation soon, and its bill will be merged with the HELP Committee's bill, before the Senate adjourns in two weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Thursday the Finance Committee will act on its portion of the bill before Congress' monthlong break. Then Reid will merge that bill with separate legislation already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The Nevada Democrat says the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bipartisan bill.

\Reid also veered off the President's script. "The Republicans have asked for more time, and I don't think it's unreasonable," Reid said.

President Obama has been pretty clear in recent days that Republican calls for more time are rooted in a desire to kill the legislation--a gambit which he characterizes as an endorsement of the status quo. But, for now, they appear to be getting their way.