TPM News

This story is changing so quickly, it's all but impossible to stay on top of--but here are a few key issues--cribbed from conversations and my own observations--to keep you moored.

First of all, because everything's moving so fast, just about anything's possible.

Second, it really does seem as if the Blue Dog negotiations are dead. Differences are irreconcilable and time is basically up.

Earlier today, Waxman struck a deal with rural Democrats, concerned with Medicare reimbursement rates in their districts. It's unclear whether he thought that deal meant he'd shored up enough support for the bill that he no longer needed acquiescence of the Blue Dogs on his committee, but once that deal was struck he told them, basically, to play ball or go home. So they went home.

Democrats seem to have entered regroup mode, after mixed messages flew across the Capitol. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on the floor that a vote on a bill before recess is unlikely (though he added that the House might stay in session past next Friday if success was in reach). House Whip James Clyburn, was more hopeful, saying that all decisions would be made after Waxman and Speaker Pelosi sit down and take stock of where things stand. And within the last hour or so there's been something of a lock down on new, verifiable information as Democratic leaders figure out what to do next.

An interesting situation just might be going on in New York's 23rd District, which will have a special election some time this year after GOP Rep. John McHugh is presumably confirmed by the Senate to be President Obama's Secretary of the Army: The Republicans actually have their act together, while Democrats are still sorting things out.

State Sen. Darrel Aubertine, who had been a favorite of national Democrats, announced that he would not make the race. "My commitment is to the people of the 48th Senate District and has been all along," Aubertine said in his statement. Keep in mind that if Aubertine had won, the state Senate could have been flung right back into the chaotic situation we saw over the past several weeks, due to the fact that Democrats have only a two-seat margin and the Republicans would have had a plausible shot of winning a special election for his seat.

Republicans, meanwhile, already have a candidate who seems like a good fit for a Democratic-leaning district: State Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, a social liberal who is not only pro-choice, but has voted in favor of gay marriage. It's not often you see Republicans who favor that in any context, much less a high-profile race.

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The Republican National Committee has launched a new radio campaign, targeting House Democrats and trying to mobilize opposition to the Dems' health care proposals:

Voice: "Most Americans agree. It's time to take action to reform our healthcare system. But the dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can't be the right answer. The question is what [Congressman/Congresswoman NAME] will do."

Voice: "Look at their record. The stimulus package cost us hundreds of billions without creating new jobs. The national debt has more than doubled."

Voice: "If Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way, the Federal Government will make the decisions about your health care. And, their plan costs a trillion dollars we don't have. You have to pay a new tax to keep your private insurance. It's too much, too fast."

Voice: "Call [Congressman/Congresswoman NAME] at 202-225-3121, that's 202-225-3121 and tell him/her to say no to this dangerous experiment."

On Air Disclaimer: The Republican National Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. Paid for by the Republican National Committee. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

The RNC press release says the ad will begin running today in 33 states, though it has not been specified exactly which states those are.

CNN President Jon Klein wrote an email last night to "Lou Dobbs Tonight" staffers telling them the Obama birth certificate story is "dead," TVNewser reports.

"It seems this story is dead," Klein wrote, "because anyone who still is not convinced doesn't really have a legitimate beef."

He sent the email just before Lou Dobbs went on the air. He included information CNN's political researchers had gotten from the Hawaii Health Department -- information which "seems to definitively answer the question."

"Since the show's mission is for Lou to be the explainer and enlightener, he should be sure to cite this during your segment tonite," Klein wrote.

This is what he sent:

*In 2001 - the state of Hawaii Health Department went paperless.*Paper documents were discarded*The official record of Obama's birth is now an official ELECTRONIC record Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department told the Honolulu Star Bulletin, "At that time, all information for births from 1908 (on) was put into electronic files for consistent reporting," she said.

This is what Dobbs then said during his show:

The state of Hawaii says it can't release a paper copy of the president's original birth certificate because they say the state government discarded the original document when the health department records went electronic some eight years ago. That explanation, however, has not satisfied some critics.

He then continued with a segment about the birth certificate.

Dobbs, who's said he believes the president was born in the U.S., has nonetheless given airtime (and a measure of validity) to "birthers," people who question Obama's right to be president and argue that he's hiding his real birth certificate.

Late Update: In an interview today with Greg Sargent, Klein said CNN wouldn't take action against Dobbs if he continues pursuing the birther story, saying it's "his editorial decision to make."

When pressed about the fact that CNN has debunked the birthers' argument, Klein said, "We respect our viewers enough to present them the facts and let them make up their own minds."

Just about an hour ago, negotiations between Blue Dogs on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and chairman Henry Waxman broke down, perhaps irreconcilably.

Earlier today, Waxman lashed out at the conservative Democrats for trying to "eviscerate" house health care legislation, and threatened to bypass their concerns completely in order to get a timely floor vote on a healthy bill. That seems to have sent tempers flaring.

"It pretty much fell apart this afternoon," said key Blue Dog Mike Ross (D-AR), who called Waxman's rhetoric "not helpful," according to Congressional Quarterly.

"It's my understanding that will be the last meeting we have," Ross said.

Now the ball is in Waxman's court. Will he try to mark the bill up anyhow? Or will he freeze them out completely. Democratic leaders will host a caucus meeting on Monday to address all members' concerns about the bill--a sign, perhaps, that they aren't going to wait for this intra-panel tiff to be resolved. If that's the case, all eyes will return again to the Blue Dogs to see whether they'll revolt against the bill. Showdown!

President Obama just made a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing, taking over the podium from Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to make a few comments about the hullabaloo over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

"These are two decent people," Obama said. He said he spoke by phone with Sgt. James Crowley, the arresting officer, which he said confirmed his impression of Crowley as "an outstanding police officer, and a good man."

He said both parties overreacted.

But, he said, "African-Americans are sensitive to these issues, and even when you've got a police officer who has a fine track record on racial sensitivity, interactions between police officers and the African-American community can sometimes be fraught with misunderstanding."

"My hope is that, as a consequence of this event, this ends up being what's called a teachable moment," Obama said.

...where all of us, instead of pumping up the volume, spend a little more time listening to each other, and try to focus on how we can generally improve relations between police officers and minority communities, and that instead of flinging accusations we can all be a little more reflective in terms of what we can do to contribute to more unity.

As for those who criticized the president for getting involved:

There are some who say as president I shouldn't have stepped into this at all, (which) I disagree with. The fact that this has become such big issue is indicative of fact that race is still a troubling aspect of our society.

"Whether I were black or white, I think me commenting on this and hopefully contributing to constructive, not negative, (discussion) ... is part of my portfolio," Obama said.

As for the teachable moment, he said we need to spend "a little more time listening to each other, and focus on how we can generally improve relationships between police officers and minority communities."

He also said Crowley suggested that he, the president and Gates meet over a beer in the White House. Obama said it hasn't been scheduled, but seemed open to the idea.

Crowley apparently asked Obama how to get reporters off his lawn.

"I informed him I can't get the press off my lawn. He pointed out my lawn is bigger than his lawn," he said, to laughter from the press corps. "Sgt. Crowley would be happy for you to stop trampling his grass."

Obama also joked that no one's been paying much attention to health care because of this story.

David McKalip is resigning as president-elect of the Pinellas County Medical Association.

In a resignation letter reported on by the St. Petersburg Times, McKalip wrote:

I believe that it would be in the best interests of the Pinellas County Medical Association and its mission to serve patients, if I step down from the association at this time.

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On Sunday, July 26, Sarah Palin's resignation becomes effective, ending her two-year stint as governor of Alaska. To commemorate the end of a political era, TPM takes a look at some of her most memorable moments as VP candidate and AK governor. In 1984, Palin, then Sarah Heath, was crowned as Miss Wasilla.

Newscom / Anchorage Daily News / MCT

Palin was sworn in as Alaska's governor on December 4, 2006. Palin had previously served as the chairwoman and ethics supervisor of Alaska's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which oversees drilling and production. Ironically, Palin, who has seen her fair share of ethics allegations as governor, stepped down from that post after alleging that Randy Ruedrich, a fellow oil commissioner, was guilty of conducting political business on state time.

Palin helps out with 2007's "Bye Bye Birdie" eagle release program for the Anchorage Bird Treatment and Learning Center.

Palin stands with Haines Mayor Jan Hill and John Orr, the grandfather of a soldier killed in Iraq, in front of a Hummer H3 detailed to honor fallen Marines. "The rolling memorial is a humbling reminder - to us all - of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom," Palin said at the Hummer's unveiling.

From left to right: U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Sarah Palin, USPS Alaska District Manager Dianne Horbochuk, and photographer Jeff Schultz admire a stamp honoring Alaska.

Palin, whose hunting experience endeared her to social conservatives during the 2008 campaign, has been a lifelong member of the NRA.


Palin at an ice sculpture competition in Fairbanks, Alaska.

On August 29, 2008, presidential candidate John McCain introduced Palin as his running mate in Dayton, Ohio. In her first speech to the nation, she infamously claimed that she told Congress "Thanks, but no thanks" on Alaska's Bridge to Nowhere, a claim that later was shown to be patently untrue.

Newscom / Doral Chenoweth III / Rapport Press

Palin and her husband Todd don flight suits in preparation for their participation in an Air Force training exercise over Alaska.

On September 3, 2008, Palin delivered an energetic speech to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she introduced herself as "just your average hockey mom."

Newscom / Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly

Palin's speech to the GOP convention included this dig at then-candidate Obama: "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a 'community organizer,' except that you have actual responsibilities."

Newscom / Ramin Talaie

Palin's family couldn't avoid becoming characters in the drama that was last year's election. From left to right: Track (named after, well, a track), Bristol (named after Bristol Bay), Bristol's boyfriend Levi Johnston, Willow (named after a town in Alaska), Piper (just "a cool name"), Palin's husband Todd, and baby Trig (which is Norse for "strength"). John McCain and Sarah Palin stand to the side.

Newscom / UPI /Roger L. Wollenberg

Governor Palin answers questions from students at Hunter Elementary in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Governor Palin and ExxonMobil executive Craig Haymes discuss plans for a new drilling rig in Point Thomson, Alaska.

Palin speaks before state leaders and Marge Byrd of the Stikine Native Dancers (in regalia).

Palin visits soldiers from the Alaska National Guard stationed in Kuwait.

The McCain campaign's roll-out of Palin didn't go as smoothly as they had hoped. During a much-hyped interview with CBS's Katie Couric, a visibly nervous Palin frequently stumbled over her answers. To wit: in a response to a question about the government's bank bailout, Palin answered, in part: "Ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the healthcare reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh -- it's got to be all about job creation too. Shoring up our economy, and putting it back on the right track. So healthcare reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, um, scary thing, but 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that."

CBS News

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler portray Palin and Hillary Clinton on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Palin's folksy mannerisms and habitual bumbling made her popular fodder for late night television. Fey, who left SNL in 2006, returned to the show to portray her.

Newscom / Dana Edelson / NBC / MCT

Aided by a fresh round of media training, Palin was all smiles and winks during her debate with Biden.


Some raved over the new act; The National Review's Rich Lowry gushed that Palin's perky performance "sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America."


During the presidential campaign's home stretch, when the McCain-Palin ticket was down in the polls, Palin resorted to increasingly desperate attacks. Referring to her opponent's relationship to former Weatherman Bill Ayers, Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists" in a speech to supporters in California.


After the incoming election night results made it clear that McCain and Palin would lose, Palin planned to give her own concession speech to the ticket's disappointed followers. Despite there being no tradition of an address being delivered by a losing vice presidential candidate, a speech was written. After Palin refused to listen to McCain advisors Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter, who didn't like the idea of Palin's breaking custom, McCain himself had to tell Palin that only he, and not she, would be speaking that night.

Newscom / Giulio Marcocchi / SIPA

Even after the election, Palin couldn't catch a break. On November 20, a chipper Palin gave an interview to an Alaskan television station while standing in front of a man slaughtering a turkey. The incident soon became a cable news and YouTube sensation.

Newscom / Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News / MCT

On July 3, Palin announced that she would step down as Alaska's governor, saying that she was not seeking re-election, did not want to be lame duck governor and that "only dead fish go with the flow." Read the full text of Palin's resignation speech here.

After signaling her intention to resign as governor, Palin, along with her family, spent time fishing on Bristol Bay.


Farewell, Governor Palin. You may be leaving elected office for the moment, but we look forward to your future appearances on the national political stage -- and more of your trademark Alaskan flair.

Newscom / Stephen Nowers / Anchorage Daily News/MCT

Not an unmitigated disaster--especially considering this has been coming down the pipe for some time. And, I should add, things could get much worse if the House also doesn't vote on a bill before adjourning.

But now that it's official, the concerns reformers have had all along about going into August recess without floor votes on legislation will leave the realm of supposition and begin to truly materialize. Assuming the Senate Finance Committee approves legislation before adjourning, Senate leaders will spend the summer months finalizing a piece of legislation that members won't see until they return. In the meantime, they'll have few answers for their constituents about the prospects for, and specifics of reform, who will regard the situation as a poor harbinger.

To those constituents, the very concept of "reform" will become hopelessly entangled with reports of procedural wrangling and ugly Washington politics--and polls will reflect that linkage. The popularity of reform as a general proposition will begin to sink.

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