TPM News

Last week, when Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) circulated an outline of the bill he released today, the reform campaign Health Care for America Now pointed me to letters they'd written to leading Democrats urging Baucus to include a public option in his legislation. Ultimately, he didn't.

Now, HCAN says the Baucus bill is a "failure."

"The Baucus bill is a gift to the insurance industry that fails to meet the most basic promise of health care reform: a guarantee that Americans will have good health care that they can afford," says HCAN's campaign director Richard Kirsch.

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Taking questions with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today, President Obama said there is "no immediate decision pending" on troop increases for the war in Afghanistan. He emphasized that such decisions won't come until he determines a strategy.

"We have lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objective, which is to dismantle and disrupt and destroy al-Qadea," Obama said. He intends to get that strategy right, he said.

"There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things I'm absolutely clear about is, you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources," he said. "Certainly you don't make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without have absolute clarity about what the strategy is gonna be."

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The House Ethics committee has revealed that it's conducting separate inquiries into three lawmakers: Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Sam Graves (R-MO).

• In the case of Jackson, the committee said in a statement that it's looking into "whether Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., or an agent of Representative Jackson, may have offered to raise funds for then-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in return for the appointment of Representative Jackson to the Illinois Senate seat." In a phone conversation that was recorded by prosecutors, Blago said that a staff person for Jackson offered $1 million in campaign contributions in return for appointing Jackson to the seat.

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My home state of New Jersey is one crazy place, according to the new survey of the state by Public Policy Polling (D).

Dave Weigel points out that one out of every three New Jersey conservatives think that Obama could be the anti-Christ. To be precise, 18% of self-identified conservatives affirmatively say that Obama is the anti-Christ, with 17% not sure. Among the self-identified Republican label, it's 14% who say Obama has the number 666 hidden underneath his hair, plus 15% who aren't sure.

But oh it gets even worse on some other questions -- among both the right and the left.

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As we've reported before, former Bush adviser Karl Rove will be playing himself in an upcoming episode of Family Guy. And he had some thoughts on both the script and the show's creator, Seth MacFarlane.

"I had a telephone conversation with the creator of the program, who is a completely mindless liberal who had an incredibly tasteless joke in the script which I talked him out of," Rove said. "But it was a sign of how much help he needed from a conservative in order to make this program succeed."

Rove went to the Washington, D.C., Fox affiliate to record his lines last week.

Rove and Rush Limbaugh are appearing in an episode where Brian, the liberal family dog, gets bored with Democrats in power and decides to become a conservative.

"I play myself, meaning the son of Satan, the spawn of evil," Rove said.

Video after the jump.

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We weren't aware that Glenn Beck's unique brand of conservative messianic zeal and conspiracy-minded racial paranoia required any particular intellectual underpinning.

But a fascinating article in Salon reveals that a book by a Mormon "historian" deemed too extreme even by the modern conservative movement -- which argues that the U.S. constitution is based primarily on natural law -- has played a major role in Beck's "thinking."

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) issued a statement Wednesday morning regarding Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' draft health care reform bill. Here's the full text:

"This partisan proposal cuts Medicare by nearly a half-trillion dollars, and puts massive new tax burdens on families and small businesses, to create yet another thousand-page, trillion-dollar government program. Only in Washington would anyone think that makes sense, especially in this economy."

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) issued the following statement around 11:20 a.m. Wednesday regarding Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' draft health care reform bill. Here's the full text:

"Seldom have so many waited so long for so little. This isn't negotiation; it is capitulation to the insurance industry.

To those who keep declaring a voluntary Medicare-type public option dead on arrival, I say today's proposal represents no option whatsoever for the genuine health insurance reform that President Obama promised last year and that Americans deserve."

An interesting new pattern has emerged from some Republicans. Both during and after yesterday's House admonishment of Rep. Joe Wilson's (R-SC) outburst of "You lie!" during President Obama's speech to Congress, GOP House members have been emerging to say that it was Obama who started the breach of decorum.

• After the vote was taken, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) declared on the House floor that Obama had insulted Congress, by saying that his opponents were lying about his health care proposals. "He comes in here talking about a lie ... He says we're making wild claims," said Gohmert. "That's no way to act when you're invited into somebody else's house."

It's interesting to see Gohmert take such a sudden interest in the gentlemanly etiquette of the House, considering how he too was heckling Obama during the speech -- albeit through the silent display of a sign, rather than shouting out:

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele issued the following statement regarding former President Jimmy Carter's comments on race-based opposition to President Obama around 10 a.m. Wednesday. Here's the full text: "President Carter is flat out wrong. This isn't about race. It is about policy.

This is a pathetic distraction by Democrats to shift attention away from the president's wildly unpopular government-run health care plan that the American people simply oppose. Injecting race into the debate over critical issues facing American families doesn't create jobs, reform our health care system or reduce the growing deficit. It only divides Americans rather than uniting us to find solutions to challenges facing our nation.

Characterizing Americans' disapproval of President Obama's policies as being based on race is an outrage and a troubling sign about the lengths Democrats will go to disparage all who disagree with them. Playing the race card shows that Democrats are willing to deal from the bottom of the deck. Our political system has no place for this type of rhetoric.

As the leader of the Democratic Party President Obama should flatly reject efforts by those in his Party, including Jimmy Carter and Tim Kaine, to inject race into our civil discourse in ways that divide, not unite, Americans."