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An interesting pattern has emerged in the last few weeks, as President Obama's ratings have started to come down to Earth: You can really see a type of Obama-hatred out there that really does cross over into a purely racial territory.

This has gotten especially worse in the aftermath of Obama's comments and subsequent mea culpa on the Henry Louis Gates arrest, but the pattern has been there all the same. You can look back to the 2008 campaign, with the Jeremiah Wright controversies, the phony rumors of a tape of Michelle Obama defaming whites, and the slow but steady emergence of the Birthers. And these days, the Birthers seem to be getting more and more bellicose.

So let's take a look at some of those recent racially-charged attacks that have circulated against Obama, both right before and after the Gates incident.

• Above all others, the real celebrity here has been Rush Limbaugh. He's done this kind of thing before -- remember the "Barack, The Magic Negro" song? But in the wake of the Gates incident, he's managed to become even more hard-edged about it. "Here you have a black president trying to destroy a white policeman," Limbaugh declared this past Friday. Yesterday, he shared a dream he's had about the dangers to capitalism: "I had a dream that I was a slave building a sphinx in a desert that looked like Obama." And he joked that food-safety advocates will go after all the unhealthy foods people like to eat, one by one -- but they'll have to wait until Obama is out of office to ban Oreos.

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President Obama poked fun today at people who want the government to stay out of Medicare.

"I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, 'I don't want government-run health care. I don't want socialized medicine. And don't touch my Medicare,'" Obama said at an AARP-hosted town hall on health care. The crowd laughed.

"I wanted to say, you know, that's what Medicare is: a government-run health care plan that people are very happy with," Obama said, smiling, as he made the case for a public option to compete with private insurance plans.



The Washington Post reported a similar anecdote from a recent town hall in rural South Carolina with Rep. Robert Inglis (R-SC). Someone reportedly told Inglis, "Keep your government hands off my Medicare."

"I had to politely explain that, 'Actually, sir, your health care is being provided by the government,' " Inglis told the Post. "But he wasn't having any of it."

A number of high profile Democrats are expressing public doubt that the House can pass health care in the next few days before it's set to adjourn for August recess. Chief among them is Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

"You understand that if we pass something out of committee this week, we've got to spend the month of August putting together the three bills," Hoyer told Roll Call. "Saturday and next week is available. Now whether or not there will be any productive reason to stay for that period of time remains to be seen over the next couple of days."

Part of the problem, as I suggested earlier, is that the news out of the Senate has widened a rift between House liberals and Blue Dogs. Rep. George MIller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and an author of House health care legislation, isn't at all pleased with the watered down reform bill the Senate Finance Committee is set to propose.

"I don't think that adds up to health care reform. It doesn't add up to insurance reform. It doesn't add up to keeping costs down. I don't know what the hell that adds up to," Miller said.

Meanwhile, Alpha Dog Bart Stupak says the Finance Committee's expected proposal is yet more evidence that the House needs to scale things back.

"The Senate's on a completely different agenda," Stupak said. "I've been here long enough, you do a bill and you get a plank sawed off behind you."

Stupak is one of the seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who's objected to the House's bill. He and his six allies are now trying to decide whether to back a compromise offered by chairman Henry Waxman--but the Finance Committee's on such a different--and less progressive--page that they're wary about striking any kind of deal.

In recent days, a new right-wing scare tactic on health-care has blossomed on conservative blogs and emails lists: the notion that the reform bill making its way through the House would lead to euthanasia by requiring senior citizens to submit to "end-of-life consultations."

It won't surprise you to learn this is a lie. But President Obama just got a question on it at a public event. And the idea has now made it into Politico, where a straight news story asks in its headline, all even-handed: "Will proposal promote euthanasia?" Since Politico thinks it'll be easier to "win the morning" by misleading readers into believing there's a legitimate debate over this issue, it's worth taking a minute to debunk it.

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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is asking the Congress to slow down the pace of health care negotiations, and to strip the public option and employer mandate provisions from various legislative proposals, according to a letter delivered today.

"The undersigned...wish to urge caution in addressing one of the most difficult problems facing our nation today - reforming the health care system," the letter reads.

The creation of a new government-run insurance plan is a step in the wrong direction. Employers currently suffer a significant cost-shift from existing public programs, and the program described in House legislation would significantly increase costs for every American who purchases private insurance. We do not believe that the government plan will be a fair competitor. Because of the increased costs and lack of competition caused by a government plan, employers will not be able to continue offering their current plans, which cover more than 170 million Americans.

We are further concerned with a proposal to mandate that employers either provide health insurance or pay huge fines or payroll taxes. This "pay or play" mandate is especially bad because employers are also required to pay the majority of employee premiums. Even with some exemptions, this provision will kill many jobs. Market forces and employer autonomy should determine what benefits employers provide, rather than Congress.
You can read the entire letter below the fold. If there's something familiar to you about the idea of a health care plan without a public option, and without an employer mandate: congratulations. You've been paying attention.

That's basically the plan Max Baucus' Senate Finance Committee is set to propose--the sort of plan that a wellspring of progressivism like the Chamber of Commerce could get behind. And it should come as no surprise. Yesterday, the Chamber delivered a letter to the Finance Committee, praising its work, and taking swipes at the House's efforts.

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The new survey of the New Jersey gubernatorial race from Public Policy Polling (D) finds Republican nominee Chris Christie, a former U.S. Attorney, leading Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine by 50%-36%.

This is even a bit better for Christie than a month ago, when he led 51%-41%.

The internals show Corzine only leading 64%-20% among Democrats in this heavily blue state, with Christie up 86%-6% among Republicans and 54%-26% among independents.

"A visit from Barack Obama and negative ads against Chris Christie haven't gotten Jon Corzine any momentum so far," said PPP president Dean Debnam, in the polling memo. "The key to his chances of getting reelected is going to be moving that 64% of the Democratic vote he's earning right now closer to the 90% mark."

After meeting to discuss an unspecified health care compromise offered by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Blue Dogs have agreed that...they need to have more meetings.

"The bottom line of the Blue Dogs has not been met yet," said Rep. Earl Pomeroy inauspiciously (D-ND) according to The Hill.

But the fate of health care reform in the House is now back in the hands of the seven Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee who've been holding things up all along--and Pomeroy isn't one of them. Waxman wants to continue marking up his health care reform bill tomorrow--but these seven conservative Democrats will have to decide one way or another whether they're in or out before that can happen.

Tea Party activists are reacting to the David McKalip setback with defiance and redoubled resolve -- as well as by comparing President Obama's health-care reform plans to slavery, and by attacking TPMmuckraker.

McKalip, a prominent Florida neurosurgeon and conservative activist, announced last week that he would withdraw from the public debate over health-care reform and step down from several medical leadership posts after TPMmuckraker revealed that he had forwarded to other Tea Partiers a racist email showing Obama as a witch doctor.

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In a 13-6 vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee today approved the nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court. The full list of senators who voted for and against is below.

Sotomayor's nomination will now come before the full Senate, most likely early next week, according to AP reports.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the only Republican to vote yes for Sotomayor, an interesting turn of events given his tone of questioning during the confirmation hearings. He announced he would vote for her on July 22.

As for those who voted against her confirmation, the favored Republican talking points about her "wise Latina" quote and alleged bias in judging seemed to be the major issues. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) once again said that some of Sotomayor's speeches "bug the hell out of" him, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) said she didn't explain her more controversial statements satisfactorily during the hearings.

Here's the vote breakdown:

Yes

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) Sen. Edward Kaufman (D-DE) Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

No or No by proxy

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)

In the wake of last night's vote by the House to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hawaii's statehood -- and its status as the birthplace of President Obama -- the Florida Democrats have put out a statement challenging Rep. Bill Posey (R-FL) to drop his proposed legislation to require birth certificates from presidential candidates.

The Florida Dems' statement cites Posey's own vote in favor of the Hawaii resolution, contrasting that with his being the lead sponsor of the widely-ridiculed "Birther Bill":

Now that Rep. Bill Posey not only allowed the House of Representatives to certify the Presidential Election in January, but he also voted last night in Congress to declare President Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, the question he needs to answer today is: Will Bill Posey withdraw his crazy bill questioning President Obama's citizenship?

Because the people of Florida's 15th District need a Congressman focused on creating jobs and fighting for NASA, hopefully last night's vote shows that Posey has finally taken off his tinfoil hat and will finally get to work on the issues that matter.


Late Update: Posey spokesman George Cecala told me that Posey will not withdraw the bill, and it is not a personal slight against President Obama -- citing Posey's vote for the Hawaii resolution as evidence. Instead, it's about ensuring transparency and disclosure as a general principle for an issue that has come up multiple times throughout American history for politicians like Chester Arthur, Charles Curtis, John McCain and others.

"Quite honestly, the bill was never about Barack Obama and Mr. Posey, and I think that's true as to what our original statement was back when we introduced the bill," said Cecala. "The bill is simply about implementing the Constitution through legislation, and Mr. Posey is not going to withdraw the bill."

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