TPM News

When Franklin Roosevelt appointed Joseph P. Kennedy as SEC chair, the president responded to concerns about Kennedy's unsavory reputation by declaring: "It takes a thief to catch a thief."

Over 70 years later, Bernard Madoff may have been hoping that President Bush agreed.

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President Obama will address the country before a joint session of Congress on September 9--a key element of his bid to take charge of the health care debate as Congress returns to session after a grueling August recess.

The event will occur two days after Obama appears at a Labor day event with the AFL-CIO, which is insisting on the inclusion of the public option.

It's not really news that the SEC screwed up big-time on Bernard Madoff. But the just released executive summary (pdf) of the agency's inspector general report really brings home just how far that failure went.

The summary, produced by SEC inspector general David Kotz, paints a picture of a series of botched investigations going back to 1992, in which inexperienced, unsophisticated and incurious agency examiners repeatedly failed to take seemingly obvious steps that would have uncovered Madoff's massive scam. And it shows how Madoff used his air of authority to confuse and intimidate the over-matched Feds in order to keep them at bay.

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As Josh notes here, President Obama will reportedly roll out his new health care reform strategy at the AFL-CIO's annual Labor Day picnic.

At that event will Richard Trumka, who's expected to be named AFL-CIO's new president and who's really gone out on a limb, insisting that AFL-CIO will not support congressional candidates who work against the public option and will oppose a health care bill that does not include one.

Today, Trumka says he's received no assurances from the White House that Obama will stand with him.



And, indeed, it seems very much like Obama will not be going all in for a public option. We'll see what happens...but that could be a teeny bit awkward.

Late update: An AFL-CIO source tells me that they've received no word from the White House one way or another on whether Obama will address health care reform or not. So it seems at least possible that he'll eschew all talk of health care until he address a joint session of Congress on the issue on September 9.

I just spoke with Florida Republican Party press secretary Katie Gordon, regarding state party chairman Jim Greer's denunciation of President Obama's upcoming national address to schoolchildren on Tuesday. Gordon stood by the party's press release -- and said that children should not be subjected to what she said is a clear attempt at political indoctrination by the Obama administration. Indeed, she said parents should be able to opt-out their kids from the speech.

The Department of Education's press release says about the address: "The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning. He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens."

But Gordon says there's a lot to be worried about. "I think that's certainly the concern, is that we don't know what this speech is about," said Gordon. "There's no advanced copy being given to parents, teachers or principals. I think that's certainly our concern, because if you look at the teaching tools that are being provided, it's certainly extremely biased."

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The Obama administration is sending out its strongest signs yet that it's willing to scrap a public option in order to move a health care bill forward. White House adviser David Axelrod tells ABC News that what remains of Obama's desire for a public option is largely theoretical. "The spirit that led him to support a public option is still very much at play here and so you know he wants competition. He wants choice."

And an anonymous White House official tells Politico "We have been saying all along that the most important part of this debate is not the public option, but rather ensuring choice and competition."

If the administration has concluded that a public option won't fly (or has at least decided not to fight for it) it will be implicitly siding with the Senate in the congressional fight over the direction health care reform should take.

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The SEC attorney who failed, despite numerous red flags, to catch Bernie Madoff's colossal fraud received the highest possible performance rating from the agency -- citing her "ability to understand and analyze the complex issues of the Madoff investigation" -- soon after the probe closed in 2006.

That's according to an SEC inspector general report on the Madoff fiasco, whose executive summary (pdf) was released this afternoon. The full report will be made available in the coming days.

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Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) has been tepidly supportive of a public option in the past, so her comments to reporters today come as a bit of a head-scratcher. "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that," Lincoln said.

This sounds to me like a hedge: there's a difference between a government-funded public option, and one that's financed by consumer premiums, which is what the House's health care reform bill will call for. Lincoln's office wasn't immediately available for comment to clarify this point, but we'll post her response when we get it.

Florida Republican chairman Jim Greer is warning of a new menacing initiative by President Obama: To indoctrinate our children into his grand socialist agenda!

The source of Greer's ire, as expressed in a new press release, is that the Department of Education has recently announced a September 8 national address by President Obama to America's students, in which the department says Obama "will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning." This would appear to be a pretty much non-partisan message on personal responsibility and character.

Greer sees it differently, though:

"As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology. The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power."

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The Arkansas News is reporting that Sen. Blanche Lincoln will not support health reform that demands a public option because it would be "too expensive."

In a speech at the University of Arkansas, Lincoln, in what may be something of a hedge, reportedly said that, "I would not support a solely government-funded public option. We can't afford that."

Lincoln's press office was not immediately available for comment. We'll keep trying.

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