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Check out this new video from Fire Dog Lake's Mike Stark, in which he asks multiple House Republicans -- including a high-ranking member of the GOP leadership -- whether they believe President Obama is a natural-born citizen.

The most interesting non-answer came from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who happens to be the Vice-Chair of the House Republican Conference -- the fourth-highest position in the leadership -- and also gave the Republican YouTube address this past weekend. "We're all going to find out," said McMorris Rodgers. When asked again, she said: "Oh, I'd like to see the documents."

And by the way, some thanks are due to Reps. Mike Coffman (R-CO), Dave Reichert (R-WA) and Trent Franks (R-AZ) for affirming that they believe Obama is a natural-born citizen, ranging from Coffman's short and simple "Yeah" to Franks' detailed statement that his office researched the matter and concluded that the facts are clear.

We've asked McMorris Rodgers' office for further clarification, and are waiting for them to get back to us.

This is just part of the reason reformers wanted the House and Senate to wrap up their work on health care legislation before recess:

The Republican National Committee will spend nearly $1 million on campaign activities over the next month in an effort to cast doubt on President Obama's proposal to reform health care, a GOP official tells CNN.

The Republican campaign will include television commercials already running in Arkansas, Nevada and North Dakota and new radio ads announced Friday that will air in 33 states.

The RNC did not reveal Friday who the radio ads would target, but CNN has learned the 60 second commercials will run against 60 House Democrats.

The prevailing assumption at the RNC seems to be that the House--like the Senate--will adjourn without voting on legislation. But either way, with cheap media markets in these states, senators like Kent Conrad, Harry Reid, and Blanche Lincoln can look forward to a lot of jockeying along these lines.

Via CNN, you can read the entire list of targeted House Democrats below the fold.

Read More →

Check out Rush Limbaugh's latest dire warning about the state of America right now: That the people have been tricked into voting for torture, tyranny and dictatorship, and we can see it slowly encroaching upon us:

"And there are people in this country, who are Americans, and have the same view of totalitarianism that all the worst regimes in the world have had. They just are a minority -- or have been a minority," said Limbaugh. "And they have to be stealth to get anywhere, because who's gonna vote for torture, who's gonna vote for tyranny, who's gonna vote for dictatorship? But we did. We did, and you see it slowly encroaching. And if they could move faster on this, they would."

On the subject of torture, let's take a trip back in time to a little over five years ago, when Limbaugh said this in defense of Abu Ghraib: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Former Florida state House Speaker Marco Rubio is having a rough time in his campaign for Senate, in which he's running as an insurgent conservative challenger against moderate Gov. Charlie Crist -- but he's claiming credit for pushing Crist to the right.

Crist recently came out against the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court -- putting himself to the right of retiring GOP Sen. Mel Martinez, the man that Crist and Rubio are aiming to succeed, who supports Sotomayor. Rubio sees this as a sign of Crist reaching out to conservatives.

"A few months ago he appointed a judge to the Florida Supreme Court that is much more liberal than (Sotomayor) is in terms of his views," Rubio said told Bay News 9. "We agree on it, but it's curious how he got there."

At a noon press conference today, Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy announced the formation of a committee to evaluate the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"Today is the day to move forward," said Healy. "And the city has taken significant steps toward that end. Last Thursday, [it was] announced that a group of nationally recognized experts would be organized to help us determine what lessons could be learned from that incident."

Healy went into more detail on the committee, which "will not be conducting an internal investigation, nor will it make an official judgment on any of the conduct of the officers in the department...the mission of this committee is larger than a mere investigation into the events of July 16th. [Its purpose is] to develop recommendations that the department can use as guidance in the future."

Chuck Wexler, Executive Director of the D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum and who Healy described as "no stranger to Cambridge," is going to chair the committee.

Healy also said that the city "can't move forward if there's any lingering doubt that anything is being hidden," giving the basis for releasing the 911 telephone call that sent the police to Gates' house as well as radio dispatches made during the event.

New information released today raises questions about whether the 911 call was racially motivated or not. The caller was a Portuguese woman who allegedly did not identify the race of the two men at Gates' house in her call. Her lawyer, Wendy Murphy, was asked by a Fox News anchor this morning if the client herself is white. "It depends on how you define white," Murphy responded. "Her skin is olive. She is of Portuguese descent."

Echoing Obama's remark that the episode could be a "teachable moment," Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons said at the press conference that "this has been a trying time for hope and expectation is that these events will serve as a catalyst for important discussion." She went on to say that she has "sincere hope that the people of Cambridge will ultimately walk away from this experience healthier and more empathetic as a city."

Cambridge Police Commissioner Robert Haas said that "this matter is not resolved. If you listen to the city manager, if you listen to the mayor, we have a long way to go."

"We always reassess what we did," said Haas. "And the first question I always ask myself is if I had to do it over again, what would I have done differently?" He did not give an indication whether this is one of those cases where he would have acted diffferently, however. In the past, he said that arresting officer Sergeant James Crowley acted in a manner "consistent" with his training and department rules.

As for the possible impending meeting of Obama, Crowley, and Gates at the White House, Healy said "I hope they enjoy their beer." When a reporter asked when that might happen, Healy responded, "I'm not involved in scheduling the President."

Last week, I noted that a number of progressive interest groups were urging House health care leaders to reject a compromise that would limit subsidies to the uninsured in order to push down the cost of reform legislation.

Blue Dogs have objected to the idea of taxing high-income earners to pay for about half the price of the Democrats' health care bill, and have instead proposed eliminating a proposal to partially subsidize the cost of health insurance for uninsured Americans living between 300 and 400 percent of the poverty line.

But how many people is that? According to this paper (PDF) by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, the answer is a startling 2.7 million people. Note, these people--now uninsured--would be required under the terms of the legislation to buy insurance on the individual market, which averages over $12,000 a year per family nationwide. That figure would presumably decrease over time as a number of other price-controlling provisions kicked into high gear. But in the meantime, Blue Dogs are talking about forcing a great number of middle class American families to take on a significant expenditure in order to spare families making over $350,000 from suffering a small increase in marginal rates.

Late update: For more on this, check out this piece by Robert Pear in the New York Times

Memo to Birthers: Even Ann Coulter calls you a bunch of "cranks."

Appearing on Fox News this past Friday, Coulter further blamed the liberal media for using the Birthers to smear the political right, saying that multiple conservative publications looked at this issue last year and concluded that there's nothing there:

"So for CNN or MSNBC, or you Geraldo, the liberal on Fox, to be bringing this out as if it's an issue, you know, it's just a few cranks out there," said Coulter. "It's like when networks bring on the three remaining Klanners in America, on TV."

Hmm... so what does this say about Jim Inhofe?

Check out this statement we just got from the Louisiana Democratic Party, responding to Republican Sen. David Vitter's recent Web ad going after his potential opponent, Blue Dog Congressman Charlie Melancon, for attending a Democratic fundraising event in Massachusetts. What was so notable about it is that Vitter, who was linked to a prostitution scandal in 2007 and apologized for committing a "serious sin," attacked Melancon for going to a "Liberal LuvFest."

"In contrast to the kind of luvfest David Vitter is used to, this trip was legal, public and no money changed hands'" said Louisiana Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Franck.

"As we all remember, the last time David Vitter made public comments about a 'luvfest' he end up begging for forgiveness. I am anticipating an apology from him for this web ad in the near future."

Franck also said that Melancon himself did not take campaign contributions at the event, which if true would further undercut the whole message of Vitter's Web ad.

If you're following the ins and outs of the health care reform fight on Capitol Hill, Friday was brimming with drama, but was also, seemingly, of little particular consequence. One can only speculate about what was said behind closed doors, but in the end, the trajectory of the day's events is best captured by a chronological reading of its headlines, which began blandly enough with the news that health care negotiations would continue behind closed doors between Blue Dogs and Democratic leaders; followed by puzzling news of a complete breakdown in those negotiations; and rounded out, mercifully, with the news that the warring factions had made peace and that the process would pick up again on Monday or Tuesday.

Unless tensions boil over once again (unlikely, but never impossible) things are basically right back where they were on Friday morning. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will finish marking up its health care package this week, and, depending on a number of issues--timing, progress in the Senate--that bill could come to a vote before the House adjourns for recess at week's end.

Whether that happens, or whether a vote waits until September, Speaker Pelosi continues to sound notes of confidence. "When I take this bill to the floor, it will win," Pelosi said over the weekend. "This will happen."