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For weeks now, the health care debate has largely centered around the public option and its political feasibility. But some policy experts are concerned that a separate shortcoming of the health care plans under consideration could be damaging to working- and middle-class people. It's a substantive problem only gets worse if there's no public option, and could become a political disaster for Democrats.

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Via Greg Sargent, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE)--one of the Senate's perennial "centrists"--is staking clearer ground on the question of the public option. Asked by the Lincoln Journal-Star to look into the future a bit, Nelson said "I see two endings. One is we find areas we can agree upon and we begin to do things incrementally, taking more of an insurance approach, not a government approach. Or it implodes."

In the days leading up to the President's big Wednesday health care reform speech it will be crucial to keep an eye on how conservative Dems position, or reposition themselves. House progressives are renewing their insistence on a public option, and pressuring on the White House to stand with them. Democratic opponents of the public option, however, have yet to take such a firm stance.

The plot just keep getting thicker and thicker for former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the Republican nominee for Governor of New Jersey this year, and his bad driving record: In 2002, the Star-Ledger reports, Christie hit a motorcyclist while driving his car the wrong way on a one-way street -- but was not ticketed.

"This was an unfortunate accident and just like a lot of us, Chris knows he can always be a better driver," campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella told the paper.

Elizabeth Police Director James Cosgrove confirmed to the paper that Christie did identify himself as the U.S. Attorney. The Star-Ledger asked whether Christie's position factored into the officer's decision to not ticket him: "I don't think I want to make that kind of deduction, but I think the facts speak for themselves."

President Obama announced today that the White House will release the names of visitors. The visitor logs will be posted online three to four months after the visit, with exceptions made for matters of national security, extreme confidentiality and personal visits to the First Family. The decision should put an end to four lawsuits filed by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a group which Obama thanks in his statement.

Full text of the statement after the jump.

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While Republicans are busy gnashing their teeth over President Obama's imminent indoctrination of the nation's schoolchildren, there's an education story bubbling up in Texas that could have considerably more far-reaching consequences.

The GOP-controlled State Board of Education is working on a new set of statewide textbook standards for, among other subjects, U.S. History Studies Since Reconstruction. And it turns out what the board decides may end up having implications far beyond the Lone Star State.

The first draft of the standards, released at the end of July, is a doozy. It lays out a kind of Human Events version of U.S. history.

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Axelrod: Obama To Lay Out Health Care Specifics The Washington Post reports that President Obama will use next week's speech to Congress on health care to deliver a detailed policy on health care. "I don't think that there will be any ambiguity about where he thinks we have to go from here," said White House senior adviser David Axelrod.

Biden's Day Ahead Vice President is spending the day in Washington, receiving the Presidential Daily Briefing and meeting with senior staff. At 12 p.m. Et, he will deliver remarks via satellite to an event in Fremont, California, hosted by Sec. of Energy Steven Chu, where the two of them will make a major funding announcement regarding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

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Most observers--including the White House--consider the bipartisan Gang of Six health care discussions in the Senate Finance Committee to be a lost cause. But nonetheless, the group still plans to meet today to take stock of the (many) developments that have transpired in the two weeks since they last spoke two weeks ago.

Just yesterday, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) released a statement insisting his voice was still relevant to the health care debate. But he also said he expects health care reform to fail, and he recently affirmed the validity of the false "death panel" smear, which dogged the cause of health care reform for much of August.

Assuming the group dissolves--or that Democratic leaders take control of health care legislation out of its hands--the Democrats will have to either win over Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and pass health care reform on her terms (which would likely mean putting the public option on a "trigger") or they'll have pass what reforms they can via the budget reconciliation process, which involves different procedural hurdles, but which, crucially, can't be filibustered.

Two weeks ago, International Brotherhood of Teamsters leader James Hoffa warned Blue Dog Democrats they were making a big mistake by opposing the President's health care reform proposal--and in particular, the public option.

"A lot of these people we supported, and I think they're making a big mistake by not supporting the president," Hoffa told Bill Press

Yesterday, he made a big concession to them, telling Bloomberg that dropping the public option is "not a deal killer."

"We've got to find out what's doable," Hoffa said.

The Teamsters are affiliated with the labor federation Change to Win, which has taken a less aggressive approach to the public option in recent days. AFL-CIO's incoming president Richard Trumka has said his group will oppose health care reform legislation that does not include a public option, and will not support Democrats who oppose the measure.

If you weren't already convinced that the House and the Obama administration are on a collision course, you might be now.

The latest statement out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office is unequivocal: "A bill without a strong public option will not pass the House," Pelosi said.

Pelosi has said the same thing in the past, but with the fight over the public option reaching a fever pitch--and the White House signaling left and right that they're walking away from it--her renewed insistence is telling, and will no doubt come as encouraging news to progressives.

"If someone has a better idea for promoting competition and reducing health care costs, they should put it on the table," Pelosi said. "Eliminating the public option would be a major victory for the insurance companies who have rationed care, increased premiums and denied coverage."

Earlier today, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY)--a leading public option surrogate--said a health care bill with a public option "trigger" might pass the House. But perhaps he spoke too soon.

You can read the entire statement below the fold.

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Levi Johnston spills all about Sarah Palin in a feature spread in next month's Vanity Fair. Read TPMDC's take on the piece's juiciest bits, including what Johnston had to say about Palin's hunting and parenting skills.

Johnston and Kathy Griffin arrive at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, as part of an ongoing schtick that the two were dating.

Photo Credit: Krista Kennell/Sipa Press.

The 19-year-old has made the media rounds since last November, with notable appearances on The Larry King Show and Tyra. Here, he holds son Tripp for a feature with GQ.

Johnston during the Vanity Fair photo shoot. According to Gawker, Levi will go even further and bare all for Playgirl.

Bristol Palin and Johnston at the last day of the Republican National Convention on Sept. 4, 2008. Bristol was five months pregnant. The couple broke their engagement a few months after Tripp's birth.

Photo Credit: UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg

Sarah Palin, holding her son Trig, greets Johnston at the Republican National Convention.

Photo Credit: UPI Photo/Brian Kersey

In a memorably awkward moment, John McCain hugs Bristol Palin and Johnston after arriving at the airport in Minneapolis for the RNC convention last year.

Photo Credit: Jerry Holt/Star Tribune

In November 2007, Johnston (15) faces off against Palmer High school at the Palmer Ice Arena.

Photo Credit: Evan R. Steinhauser/Anchorage Daily News/MCT

The whole family, together on stage at the RNC.

Photo Credit: UPI Photo/Brian Kersey