TPM News

OK, just to put the nail in the coffin of any claims that the decision by the Justice Department to drop the pay-to-play investigation of New Mexico governor Bill Richardson was political:

The New York Times reports that the U.S. attorney's office sent an official letter to witnesses before the grand jury, informing them that charges would not be brought against Richardson or his aides. "Top Justice Department officials," added the Times, "concurred with Mr. Fouratt's decision to drop the inquiry."

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President Obama's approval rating has reached a new low in the Gallup daily tracking poll, with an even 50% approving of his performance as of yesterday, and 43% disapproving.

This actually brings Gallup into convergence with Rasmussen, which has tended to skew more negative, and has also put Obama at around 50% in recent weeks.

Gallup's Jeffrey M. Jones. pointed out two days ago that presidents inevitably fall to 50%, with the only real question being how long it takes to get there. However, Obama seems to have gotten there sooner than most, due to the controversial debates that have marked his term so far. "The recent further erosion in his public support -- perhaps a result of the push for healthcare reform and concern over the growth in government spending -- may result in one of the faster slides below majority approval for modern presidents."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants (you guessed it) yet more time to reach a health care compromise on the Senate Finance Committee.

Asked by reporters for Kaiser Health News if a mid-September deadline to unveil legislation was still in the works, Grassley said, "If you asked me that on Aug. 6, I would have said yes, I think so, September. But you're asking me on Aug. 27 and you've got the impact of democracy in America. Everybody's showing up at town meetings."

As ranking member on the committee, and chief Republican health care negotiator, Grassley has demanded a number of significant compromises, and set benchmarks--such as an 80 vote threshold for legislation--that most observers believe to be unreachable. Senate Minority Whip John Kyl (R-AZ) has said the GOP almost certainly won't support legislation out of that committee, triggering calls from a growing number of Democrats for Finance chairman Max Baucus to scrap the negotiations and proceed without (or with minimal) Republican support.

Democrats Scramble On Health Care Reforms, Post-Kennedy The Associated Press reports that Senate Democrats could end up being more forceful on the issue of health care reform, in the wake of Ted Kennedy's death -- but it's unclear whether they'll be more effective. "I think there is going to be a real rallying among Democrats 'to do this one for Teddy.' This was his life work," said Jim Kessler of the centrist Democratic think tank Third Way. "At the same time there is nobody in the caucus who would have been better at solving our internal disagreements."

Today: Private Funeral For Ted Kennedy The public viewing of Ted Kennedy's body will continue today until 3 p.m. ET. At 7 p.m. ET, a private memorial service will be held at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

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As a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) voted in favor of a health care reform bill with a public option. But she's also interested in a compromise that would scrap the public option in favor of system of private, state-based, non-profit health-care cooperatives. "Having been a state senator for 10 years," she said, "I think states can do a good job at that."

Kay Hagan's vote for the public option wasn't easily won, so it's little surprise that she's open to alternatives. But has her level of support dropped? I've placed a call to her office to check, but just last month, she defended her vote for the public option, describing it as "a back-stop option for those without access," that "competes with the private insurance companies."

A day after news came of Sen. Edward Kennedy's passing, mourners the country over paid tribute. New York City newspapers on the morning of Thursday, August 27.


The flag, at half-staff, above the Capitol building in Washington D.C. President Obama has ordered all federal buildings to fly their flags at half-staff through Sunday, August 30.

Jeff Malet /

A visitor pauses before a makeshift memorial at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Ted Kennedy's body will lie in repose at the library until the afternoon of Friday, August 28.


A woman leaves a message at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.


Flags at half-staff surrounding the Washington monument.


The White House.


President Obama approaches a podium in Chilmark, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, August 26, to deliver remarks on the passing of Ted Kennedy.


The Hyannis Port, Mass. post office.


A restaurant in Hyannis Port.

TPM reader photo

A Hyannis Port resident, resting next to an impromptu memorial near the Kennedy compound, holds a photograph of himself with the senator.


Mourners gather for a vigil at Washington D.C.'s Dupont Circle on the night of Wednesday, August 26.


At the Washington D.C. vigil for Ted Kennedy.


We asked readers to send in their photos of and with Ted Kennedy in honor of his memory. Here are the submissions, with the occasional personal remembrance in accompaniment.

Senator Kennedy campaigning for Barack Obama in New Jersey the Monday before Super Tuesday 2008.

Gene Forfar

"This photo from my family's trip to Washington in summer of 1990 was taken just outside the Capitol building and followed a lengthy exchange between Senator Kennedy and my mother over whether the lens cap was on her camera."

Chris Galdieri

"In March of '04, a few friends and I slept on the steps of the Supreme Court to see arguments for Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow -- the "under god" in the pledge of allegiance case. After oral arguments, a number of VIPs spoke on the steps of the Court. Here's Kennedy speaking to the press."


Kennedy at a rally for ACORN at a church on Capitol Hill on March 24, 2003.

Linda Swanson

Kennedy endorsing Obama at a rally in January 2008. From TPM reader J: "I skipped work that day, like many of the people there, and managed to get a good spot on the floor. We were all used to Obama being the great orator, but on that day Kennedy's fire, mixed with Obama's intense humility in the face of what was happening (in essence being passed the Kennedy mantle at a critical point in the primary), was overwhelming."


Kennedy at a rally for Obama in Pasadena, shortly before the California primary in February 2008.

Brian Finifter

Kennedy at a rally for Obama in Pasadena, shortly before the California primary in February 2008.

Brian Finifter

Sen. Kennedy at an Employee Free Choice Act Rally in DC's Upper Senate Park on June 19, 2007.


A minister who screamed at tea partiers protesting health care reform in Brunswick, Ga., was arrested Wednesday for not having a permit to demonstrate.

In video of the protest, Zack Lyde was loudly arguing with protesters when a police officer approached him and asked if he had a permit to protest.

"I'm not gonna move and you're not gonna arrest me!" Lyde yelled. Backup officers arrived and ordered Lyde to leave.

When he refused, two officers pointed Tasers at him.

"Put your hands behind your back or I'll shoot you with a Taser!" one yelled. Lyde got onto his knees and put his hands behind his back, and the officers pushed him to the ground.

He was charged with disorderly conduct and released on his own recognizance.

About 25 protesters with the Golden Isle Tea Party had gathered outside a federal building that houses the post office and a district office of Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA). (Kingston reportedly wasn't there at the time.) The protesters held up signs with slogans such as, "Obama lies, Granny dies," and some were dressed in colonial garb.

Some of the demonstrators were upset police arrested Lyde.

"That is the wrong thing to do," one woman told officers as they handcuffed Lyde. Later, she said Lyde should have been allowed to stay. "We're about liberty."

Nine days ago, Jim Towey, the former director of President Bush's Office of Faith Based Initiatives, and founder of the non-profit group Aging with Dignity, entered the health care debate by throwing gasoline on the dying death panel embers with a Wall Street Journal op-ed called "The Death Book for Veterans."

What is "The Death Book for Veterans"? Towey reports that, under President Obama, the Department of Veterans Affairs is reviving a 52-page end-of-life planning document called "Your Life, Your Choices", which Bush had scrapped because, allegedly, it "presents end-of-life choices in a way aimed at steering users toward predetermined conclusions." Namely, it urges ailing veterans to choose death over life.

Facts are tricky things, though. For instance, the document Towey cites was created over 10 years ago. And though the VA did indeed stop distributing it, the department has been in the process of updating the document for months now, following plans developed during the Bush administration. Curiously, among the panelists involved in updating "Your Life, Your Choices" was the president of Aging with Dignity.

The new version should be completed next year.

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The Club For Growth now has official government permission to bedevil Arlen Specter in a very creative way.

The Federal Election Commission has granted the Club permission to send letters out to previous donors to Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican-turned-Democrat who has been a huge enemy of the group ever since they helped organize a primary challenge against him by Pat Toomey in 2004.

The letters will remind donors that Specter promised he would return donations from before his party switch to anyone who asked, and include a preprinted form and envelope for making just that request. The Club will use the information from campaign finance reports to make their mailing list -- which normally cannot be used for fundraising, but is being allowed here because the Club isn't actually raising money for itself or for anybody else.

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