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New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie's spotty driving record is one thing. But what's worse is that he may have violated clear Justice Department guidelines by pulling rank with cops on the scene.

Today we learned about a 2002 episode in which Christie hit a motorcyclist after making a wrong-turn that had him briefly going the wrong way down a one-way street in Elizabeth. The motorcyclist ended up in hospital, but Christie didn't get so much as a ticket. And a police official told the Star Ledger that Christie "did identify himself as U.S. attorney."

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A variety of reports suggest that, during a conference call this afternoon, President Obama probed House progressives to see just how flexible their demands are.

A source familiar with the call tells TPM that Obama asked the group to define their red line when they talk about a "robust public option."

NBC reports that Obama reminded the group that they enjoy the security of representing safely Democratic districts.

And progressive caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told Greg Sargent that Obama outright asked the participants how far they're willing to compromise on the public option.

All in all it appears very much as if the President is feeling out how willing House Democrats will be to support a bill that falls short of meeting their earlier demands for a Medicare-like public option available to consumers nation-wide, without any triggers. As I reported earlier today, Obama's set to meet with progressive House leaders Tuesday ahead of his big health care speech before Congress. That's shaping up to be an extremely crucial meeting.

Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, currently a candidate for Governor of New Jersey, was just caught in an apparent lie about a 2002 car accident in which he struck a motorcyclist after turning the wrong way onto a one-way street.

New Jersey public television's Zachary Fink reports:

We asked Christie about the accident in Atlantic City Friday and he was very curt with his answers. NJN South Jersey Bureau Chief Kent St. John asked if there was a lawsuit. Christie said "no" then "nope."

But actually there was. According to the Superior Court Record Center in Trenton, Mendonca filed suit in 2004. The complaint filed in Essex County was later dismissed, indicating (according to the Clerk) an out of court settlement.


As we've reported, Christie was on the way to an official function in 2002 when he turned the wrong way onto the one-way street. He then hit the motorcyclist, who was taken to a hospital. Before the revelations of the lawsuit, the incident had gained attention because Christie was not ticketed for the incident despite turning onto the one-way street.

Christie did identify himself as the U.S. attorney to the officer at the scene.

I have now reviewed the police report from Republican former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie's car accident in 2002, when the then-U.S. Attorney and current nominee for Governor of New Jersey struck a motorcyclist while going the wrong direction on a one-way street in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

As the Star-Ledger reported, the accident happened when Christie was on his way to attend the swearing-in of the Union County prosecutor in Elizabeth, when he hit motorcyclist Andrew Mendonca.

From the police report:

Veh #1 [Christie] states he was traveling west on Murray St. and was lost. He reached Chilton St. The light was red so he inched forward attempting to make a right on red but never saw the one-way traffic sign. He then stopped upon observing oncoming traffic, Veh #2 [Mendonca] also braked. The motorcycle fell on its side and slid into his vehicle. Veh #2 states he was traveling on Chilton St. when Veh #1 turned in front of him.

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Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs; Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD), former Senate Majority Leader Bob dole (R-KS), Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA).

• CBS, Face The Nation: Sec. of Education Arne Duncan.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE); Center for Disease Control Director Thomas Friedan; Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN).

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), former DNC Chairman Howard Dean, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Center for American Progress CEO John Podesta.

• NBC, Meet The Press: White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), former Rep. Harold Ford (D-TN), Tom Brokaw, Tom Friedman.

At a health care town hall earlier this week, RNC Chairman Michael Steele decided to turn the tables on protesters -- by heckling a woman after she told him her mother had died of cancer because she couldn't afford her chemotherapy.

Steele was talking to students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Tuesday night, saying a large number of the uninsured are young people who choose not to enroll in health insurance. A woman interrupted him, screaming, "She died of cancer! Everyone in this room should have good health care!"

Other people joined the shouting, and a moderator had to step in before Steele could regain control of the floor. When he did, he said, "I understand there's a difference of opinion ... but this is a part of the discussion."

He began calmly enough, talking about the difference between shouting opinions and "engaging." Then, his tone turned nasty.

"When people go to town halls, they go out in the community, and they're like this," he said, shaking his fists, "it makes for great TV." Then he turned to the woman who interrupted him. "You'll probably make it tonight. Enjoy it."

We know that the White House has been in deep health care negotiations with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who they hope will be the 60th vote needed to overcome a filibuster. Now, it seems, the administration is drafting its own legislation--presumably influenced by those negotiations--to be introduced sometime after the President's health care speech, to be delivered Wednesday before a joint session of Congress.

According to CNN:

Multiple sources close to the process [say] that while the plan is uncertain, they are preparing for the possibility they could deliver their own legislation to Capitol Hill sometime after the President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress Wednesday.


As always, it's worth cautioning that the situation is fluid. But as I noted earlier, the White House's preference seems to be to work with Snowe to craft a bill that can squeak by in the Senate. That package--which will presumably lack a robust public option, or will attach it to a trigger--will have to be sold to House progressives, who have loudly objected to the idea of compromising on that point.

For more on the menu of options before the White House, see here.

The influential House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) says Democrats should accept a compromise--perhaps temporarily--over the public option.

"We ought to set up some pilot programs regionally around the country," Clyburn told McClatchy. "What you're trying to do is find out what works and what doesn't work."

According to McClatchy, "After a four-year limited trial run, Clyburn said, the federal health-care coverage would be expanded only if it doesn't drive up costs and prompt companies to stop providing private insurance, as Republican opponents have claimed a nationwide public option would do."

The idea, which Clyburn has proposed to the White House, would serve as something of a compromise between a public option and a public option affixed to a trigger--to plant the seeds of a public option in regions around the country, but not take it nation-wide until a later date, if cost savings and coverage expansions went unrealized.

Looks like we'll have to wait a few more days before we know whether House liberals will make peace with the Obama administration. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey appeared on MSNBC moments ago and reported that, in an afternoon conference call with the President, members reiterated their insistence on including a public option as part of health care reform.

However, she said, Obama didn't signal one way or another if he will ultimately get behind that position, and instead invited the co-chairs of the progressive caucus to a meeting at the Tuesday ahead of his big Wednesday health care speech before a joint session of Congress. By then, or perhaps sooner, we should have a clearer sense for where the White House stands.

We'll have video for you shortly.

Late update: Video below.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today took a shot at opposition to President Obama's planned speech to students next week. "We've reached a little bit of the silly season when the president of the United States can't tell kids to study hard and stay in school," Gibbs said.

Obama is scheduled to address students across the country on Tuesday, urging them to stay in school and emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility. This week, conservative pundits such as Michelle Malkin began drumming up opposition to the address, saying Obama is trying to push liberal propaganda on school children.

The White House will release the text of the speech on Monday for parents to read. But some parents have said their children will be staying home from school that day, and some school districts have said they won't show the address to students.

Gibbs brushed off the opposition when talking to reporters today.

"Look, there are some school districts that won't let you read 'Huckleberry Finn,' " Gibbs said.

"If staying in school is a political message, then somebody should tell the NBA," he said.

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