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Earlier today, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) told me something somewhat unexpected. "I'm looking very much now at this opt out public option," he said, "not opt in but opt out--so you start out with a public option, and if you don't like it you can opt out....that has a sense of freedom."

Why unexpected? Because here's what he told me just last week: "I don't start out favoring that," he said. "You know, opt out is sort of like trigger. It sounds good, it makes people feel good, but the question is, Is it good? And I don't think it really is. If it's the only way you can get the votes, then that's a decision that will have to be made over my head."

That's a pretty notable change, and reflective of the political appeal of the opt-out proposal within the Democratic party. Rockefeller and other senators have come to believe that, in addition to being more likely to get the votes needed to pass in the Senate, it's also a policy fix that will have almost, if not the same, impact as a fully national public option.

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Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has released a letter he sent today to the Justice Department calling for an investigation into the possible politicization of the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey in the service of Chris Christie's campaign for governor.

In the letter to Mary Patrice Brown, who runs DOJ's internal ethics unit, Lautenberg, the chair of the Jon Corzine campaign, focuses on ties between Christie, a Republican, and his former top aide Michele Brown, which Lautenberg says raise "serious concerns." We laid out many of those ties here.

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On October 20, President Obama welcomed the entire Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry (known as the Blackhorse Unit) to the White House to honor the unit's service in Vietnam with the presentation of the Presidential Unit Citation. In March 1970, the Alpha Troop received a communication that another unit, Charlie Company, had come upon an underground bunker of North Vietnamese troops and were facing some 400 enemy fighters. The Alpha Troop's captain gave the order to "Saddle up and move out," and the Blackhorse Unit went on to rescue the 100 Charlie Company soldiers. In his remarks, President Obama said that "I cannot imagine a more fitting tribute to these men, who fought in what came to be called The Anonymous Battle. Troopers, you are not anonymous anymore. And with America's overdue recognition also comes responsibility -- our responsibility as citizens and as a nation, to always remain worthy of your service." Here, military uniform hats are checked in the White House before the presentation.

Official White House Photo By Samantha Appleton




Participants walk to the Rose Garden for the presentation.

Official White House Photo By Lawrence Jackson




President Obama makes his remarks before presenting the Blackhorse Unit with the Presidential Unit Citation.

Newscom/Zuma Red West




Members of the Blackhorse Unit stand behind President Barack Obama during the presentation. Eighty-six Alpha Troop veterans attended the ceremony.

Official White House Photo By Lawrence Jackson




President Barack Obama greets members of Alpha Troop.

Official White House Photo By Lawrence Jackson




Medals are displayed on Sgt. Earl W. Fleming's uniform during the ceremony. Fleming is a retired platoon sergeant from the Blackhorse Unit, and served in Vietnam from 1967-70.

Official White House Photo By Lawrence Jackson




Sgt. Fleming, left, and Sgt. Charles Ezell are reunited in the White House Rose Garden after 39 years.

Official White House Photo By Lawrence Jackson




The attendants applaud President Obama at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Official White House Photo By Pete Souza

Liz Cheney appeared on Sean Hannity's TV show last night, and had some very tough things to say about the Obama administration's public feuding with Fox News.

Cheney said that David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel were sending a "clear warning" against other networks: "It's clear censorship, and it's, in my view, abuse of power from the White House."

As for why the Obama administration has it in for Fox, Cheney said: "They became accustomed to an environment where they just got a lot of adoration, and they don't like to be challenged. And Fox News has sure been, you know, at the top of the list of those asking the hard questions."

She may have a point about a White House being accustomed to an environment of adoration and not being challenged. This would explain why the Bush-Cheney White House liked Fox News so much.

In a bitter internecine feud that is creating serious divisions in the Tea Party movement, David McKalip -- the Florida doctor and health-care reform foe who got in hot water this summer after forwarding a racist picture showing President Obama as a witch doctor -- appears to have sided with a group run by GOP consultants, rather than with his former grassroots allies.

In an email to fellow members of the Tea Party Patriots, sent yesterday and obtained by TPMmuckraker, Texas-based activist Gerald Merits wrote that he has been "approached by a neurosurgeon very active in the movement in Florida asking for me to get involved with the Tea Party Express because the Tea Party Patriots just don't seem to get it."

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I just spoke with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who had a bit of a fractured take on the current state of the public option. He took issue with the President Obama's aloof approach to the public option, and at the same time echoed one of the administration's most controversial lines.

"They're a little difficult to fathom sometimes, to keep up with what they're doing," Rockefeller said. "They're in these meetings, all of these meetings, that I don't get to go to so I can't tell you exactly what they're saying."

But he also said something that seems a bit at odds with his consistent, emphatic support for the measure, which he has described as a necessary element of reform. "You know, the public option--which I think in the end is going to prevail--is not actually the biggest thing in the entire bill," Rockefeller told me. "I hate to hear myself say that, but it's true."

Earlier today, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)--another ardent public option enthusiast--said much the same thing after an event heralding a plan to strip the health insurance industry of its anti-trust exemption.

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In an interview with NBC's Savannah Guthrie, President Obama said his administration may have a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan before the runoff election -- but he still may not announce it until after the results are determined.

"I think it is entirely possible that we have a strategy formulated before a runoff is determined. We may not announce it," he said.

"It is important to make sure that we understand the landscape and the partner we're gonna be dealing with," he said, because the strategy depends on civilian efforts and weeding out corruption, as well as military forces.

Part of his strategy decision includes whether to send more troops. The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has requested 40,000 more troops.

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Sen. David Vitter's office has finally offered a comment on the Louisiana justice of the peace who refuses to marry biracial couples.

Though other statewide officials including the governor and his fellow senator called for Keith Bardwell's resignation, Vitter (R-LA) was silent.

But today a Vitter spokesman told the Washington Post the senator's sentiment on the issue.

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