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At a health care town hall today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) broke out some of his campaigning skills, not the least of which is calming an angry crowd.

McCain spoke to a group of mostly older citizens opposed to health care reform. When he said President Obama respects the Constitution, the crowd booed. They booed again when he said, "I am convinced the president is absolutely sincere in his beliefs."

"Wait a minute," McCain said, putting his hand up to stop the boos, in a flashback to rowdy campaign rallies last fall. "He is sincere in his beliefs, we just happen to disagree. He is the president of the United States and let's be respectful."

Later, he said, "We don't shout at my town hall meetings."

But, McCain said, what he's been seeing at town halls across the country is "the beginning of a peaceful -- and I emphasize peaceful -- revolt in America."

In another flashback, McCain dusted off an old campaign joke about the fate of presidential candidates from Arizona.

"I still want your sympathy for the mothers of Arizona, because Arizona is still the only state in America where mothers can't tell their children that some day they can grow up and be president of the United States," he said, chuckling.

Sen. Jeff Binagaman (D-NM)--one of the six members of the Senate Finance Committee who have been hashing out a health care reform bill for months--says that if bipartisan negotiations go nowhere, he'd support an effort to circumvent a filibuster and pass legislation without any Republicans.

"If we are unable to do it any other way, that is an option. It is a very difficult option," Bingaman told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall event in Albuquerque yesterday. He was referring to the possibility that Democrats will pass health care reform through the so-called budget reconciliation process.

The acknowledgment signals that even those members of Congress most invested in passing bipartisan health care reform are well aware that those efforts might not bear fruit.

"I don't think that that effort [at bipartisanship] is what is stymying progress," Bingaman said.

"It may well not succeed, but it has been worth the effort, and we are continuing with it."

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Mike Ensign, casino magnate and father of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), has dropped out of plans to develop a casino in Kansas.

Ensign's firm was one of three with vying proposals before the Kansas Lottery until last week, when it dropped its proposal in order to back another one presented by Foxwoods.

But now, according to lottery officials, Ensign and a fellow former executive of the Mandalay Group have left the project entirely.

Mike Ensign's involvement came under public scrutiny after he and his wife admitted to paying $96,000 to his son's mistress and her husband, both of whom worked for the senator.

Lottery officials at first said they would investigate the payment, but later said it wasn't an issue.

Mike Ensign was an executive at the Mandalay Group, which owned the Mandalay Casino in Las Vegas. Ensign sold his shares for around $300 million at the beginning of the decade.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told CNN today that former Vice President Cheney's statements about the DOJ's investigation into interrogation techniques "are kind of pathetic."

"He should know that the Obama administration is doing everything they can to keep American secure," Albright said. "That is the major job of the president of the United States and his appointees, and I feel very confident that is taking place."

Albright is apparently referring to Cheney's response to the investigation. The decision "serves as a reminder, if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this Administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security," he said last night.

Albright also said she's not an expert on interrogation, but cited experts, included Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who say torture doesn't produce results. She said we need "to operate in a way that's reflective of America's values and our rule of law."

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is quite up in arms about the investigation of CIA interrogation techniques, airing his objections in an interview with the Politico. Indeed, he wonders which side the Obama administration is on:

"It's bulls***. It's disgraceful. You wonder which side they're on," he said of the Attorney General's move, which he described as a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense."

...

"You're talking about threatening to kill a guy, threatening to attack his family, threatening to use an electric drill on him - but never doing it," King said. "You have that on the one hand - and on the other you have the [interrogator's] attempt to prevent thousands of Americans from being killed."

"When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something - or that they actually used the power drill," he said.


King also asked this question: "Why is it OK to waterboard someone, which causes physical pain, but not threaten someone and not cause pain?"

And as we all know, it's okay to waterboard someone, since that has not in any way been the subject of arguments or controversy.

If we're going to have a discussion about torture and the CIA memos -- and it's not at all clear that we are -- it's worth reporting the positions of the interlocutors accurately.

Unfortunately, Politico today fell into a semantic trap set by Dick Cheney in his response to the declassification of the memos, which Cheney himself had sought.

Here's what Cheney said in a statement:

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How much chance does health care reform have in Arkansas if Arkansans trust Rush Limbaugh more than Barack Obama?

The new survey of Arkansas from Public Policy Polling (D) finds the state to be very conservative, very Birtherist, and very much opposed to President Obama on health care -- despite the fact that the state's Democrats are typically dominant and hold all major offices right now.

Only 40% approve of President Obama's job performance, with 56% disapproving -- matching up pretty closely with John McCain's 59%-39% victory here in 2008. In addition, only 45% say Obama was born in the United States, with a strong 31% saying he was not, and 24% unsure. Among Republicans in Arkansas, the Birther question comes up as 23%-49%-28%.

On health care, only 29% support Obama's plan, with 60% against it. In addition, respondents were asked whether Rush Limbaugh or Barack Obama has the better vision for America: Limbaugh 55%, Obama 45%. And keep in mind that this is a state where Dems have both Senate seats and three out of four House members

Statistics like this can have a real impact on politics. From the pollster's analysis: "These numbers, taken together, show why Blanche Lincoln's Senate seat is becoming an enticing target for Republicans in spite of their candidate recruitment issues," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "There are few states that have an electorate more conservative than Arkansas' and if the GOP can effectively nationalize the race it'll be close."

Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for Governor of Virginia, has a new radio ad using audio of President Obama at a campaign rally for him a few weeks ago, targeted at black radio media markets.

To listen to the ad, click here.

Recent polling has shown that Deeds is having a big problem from Democratic-leaning voters being less motivated and less likely to vote, which is contributing to his deficit against Republican nominee Bob McDonnell. For example, the recent survey from Public Policy Polling (D) had African-Americans making up only 16% of respondents, compared to 20% in the 2008 exit poll, when Barack Obama carried the state.

As such, an appeal to the Democratic base could make some sense, to get some of those voters re-energized. The question for Deeds is whether it will work sufficiently, and if he can successfully mobilize other Democrats and swing voters in time for November.

As hope wanes that Congress will be able to reach a bipartisan health care reform compromise, key figures have slowly trickled forward to endorse, or at least nod at, the idea that Democrats should pass health care reform on their own, and the man leading the push appears to be Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

But is he having an impact behind the scenes?

The media began focusing on the issue a week ago after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesman Jim Manley announced that Democrats were committed to passing a bill "by any legislative means necessary." But two weeks before that, Schumer surprised some colleagues by declaring, on a conference call with reporters, that Democrats "will have contingencies in place" in the event that bipartisan negotiations go nowhere.

He was referring to budget reconciliation legislation, which can not be filibustered, and can in theory be used to pass certain health care reforms.

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It's hardly news that Dick Cheney isn't likely to win any prizes for honesty any time soon. But yesterday offered yet another exhibit in the case.

During the debate over torture this spring, Cheney claimed that CIA memos, which he had asked to be declassified, would prove that torture proved effective in obtaining actionable intelligence.

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