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President Obama has a message for Sarah Palin, and other conservatives who have claimed, falsely, that Democratic health care reforms would create "death panels" for old people: Stop lying.

"Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost," Obama said. "The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple."

That's the clearest denunciation from the President of those who've engaged in the death panel smear, which was floated by Palin once again as recently as this week.

President Obama just reached out to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), his Republican opponent in the 2008 general election -- by borrowing one of his ideas as part of the health care package:

"For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can't get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it's a good idea now, and we should embrace it."

The cameras then showed a close-up on McCain, smiling and giving a double thumbs-up. McCain certainly seemed impressed and grateful. So what's the chance that McCain actually votes for the final bill?

House health care legislation is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $1 trillion over 10 years. So is the Senate HELP Committee's bill. The Senate Finance Committee's bill, by contrast, will likely cost around $900 billion--and it looks like President Obama's siding with Baucus et al.

"Add it all up, and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years - less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration," Obama says. "Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent - but spent badly - in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term."

Some experts are concerned that a bill that costs $900 billion will not be enough to provide sufficient subsidies to middle class, uninsured consumers to purchase health care. But it appears to be the consensus price tag in Washington.

Here's a funny sign that President Obama could still have trouble taming the left.

Obama set out to place himself in the center of the debate. "There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's," he began -- and was then interrupted by scattered applause from some unidentified progressives. He continued: "--where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone."

He then presented the conservative approach: "On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own."

Curiously, no Republicans applauded -- perhaps not wanting to acknowledge that this is their position, or maybe just not wanting to clap for Obama in any context.

President Obama may be frustrated with the slow pace of progress in the Senate Finance Committee, and the political head aches it's triggered. But he's citing the news that the panel is on the cusp of marking up its bill to make the point that health care reform is on its way.

"We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform," Obama said. "Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before."

As expected, President Obama's speech contains a clear defense of the public option--noting for the first time that the public option has popular with voters. But it also leaves him plenty of wiggle room to accept compromises.

"[A]n additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange," Obama will say. "Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up."

It's worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I've proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn't be exaggerated - by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end - and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can't find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.

This is a pretty clear explication of the public option proposals on offer in both the House and the Senate. It's also a fairly clear sign that Obama's quite willing to sign off on something that falls short of the public option progressives are demanding. Loosely translated, it suggests that Obama is demanding that health care reform include...something: a public option, a triggered public option, or a co-op. But he'll draw the line if it doesn't call for some sort of alternative option, triggered or otherwise.

You can read the entire public-option excerpt below the fold.

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After working out a deal to weaken it, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)--chairman of the Blue Dogs' health care task force--has now publicly stated that he'll oppose any health care bill with a public option. The news rankled progressives, who believe the public option in the House is already compromised enough. But is Ross' statement indicative of a larger post-August shift in Blue Dog sentiment.

The short answer is yes--at least to some extent.

According to one Blue Dog aide, skepticism rose among members of the coalition not as a result of wacked-out tea baggers, but because, toward the end of the month, they had heard a different kind of skepticism.

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President Barack Obama delivered a speech to students around the country at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 8, 2009, which was also the first school day after summer break. Conservative critics spent much of the last week fear mongering about socialist propaganda and decrying Obama's access to millions of malleable minds. Obama told students to work hard, stay in school and take responsibility of their own education. Check out TPM's coverage of this non-controversy.

Newscom/zumawire/Jiang Guopeng

Students wait for President Obama to speak to them on the first day of school at Wakefield High School. Obama's remarks were broadcast live to schools around the country. After the conservative hysteria however, school districts in 6 states opted not to show the president's address. Read the full speech here.

Newscom/UPI/Kevin Dietsch

President Obama delivers his national address directed to students across the nation.


Fourth graders watch President Obama's speech via internet at Reinberg Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois.

Newscom/Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune

Students at the Nap Ford Charter School in Orlando, Florida watch a webcast on a classroom computer of President Barack Obama as he delivers remarks from a school in Arlington, Virginia.

Newscom/Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel

President Obama delivers his national address directed to students across the nation.


Elsa Guenther, 17, a Wheaton-Warrenville South High School senior, watches President Obama's speech at Arrowhead Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois. When the school district opted not to broadcast the president's message on Tuesday, a group of high school students and their parents organized their own private viewing of the speech.

Newscom/Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune

Third grader Elizabeth Bahlhorn watches President Obama's speech at Sequoia Elementary in Sacramento, California.

Newscom/Bryan Patrick/Sacramento Bee

President Obama greets Tim Spicer, a student at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/Michael Reynolds/ABACAUSA

President Obama greets audience members after speaking to students on the first day of school at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/UPI/Kevin Dietsch

President Obama shakes hands with students after delivering his national address at Wakefield High School.


President Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan host a group discussion with ninth-graders students at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/UPI/Michael Reynolds

President Obama and US Education Secretary Arne Duncan at Wakefield High School.

Newscom/Michael Reynolds/ABACAUSA

The Weekly Standard is firing back at Democrats and the Washington Post for hammering away at Bob McDonnell, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, over his hard-right thesis/political manifesto that he wrote at age 34.

The Standard has now unearthed some campaign literature from Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds, published in a 1999 legislative campaign, in which Deeds defended his qualifications as a social conservative, after his opponent accused him of supporting "special rights" for gays:

I don't believe in discrimination, but I don't believe in special rights for anyone. I have never voted to allow gay partners to receive medical insurance -- or any other benefit -- from the state. It's sad that Mr. Collins has to resort to bigotry and hate-mongering.

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The White House has released a list of the guests who will be in Michelle Obama's box tonight, for the President's speech on health care before a joint session of Congress.

From a press release:

Below is a list of Americans who will be seated in the First Lady's box during the President's remarks. Some of these guests are featured in web videos on the blog:

See the full list, which includes Dr. Jill Biden and Vicki Kennedy, after the jump.

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