TPM News

Despite a lot of complaining by conservatives, the American people don't actually have any problem with President Obama bowing to the Emperor of Japan -- and that's according to the new Fox News poll.

Respondents were asked: "When the president of the United States is traveling overseas, do you think it is appropriate for him to bow to a foreign leader if that is the country's custom or is it never appropriate for the president to bow to another leader?"

The numbers: Appropriate 67%, Never appropriate 26%. Even a majority of Republican respondents were okay with the bow, by a 53%-40% margin. Democrats weigh in at 84%-9%, and independents 62%-30%.

It's very interesting that Fox actually gave the full context of the bow, telling respondents that it would be the country's custom. There's still no verdict, however, on Joe Biden bowing to Jon Stewart.

Bill McCollum, the likely GOP nominee in the Florida gubernatorial race, is calling on the Republican Governors Association to give back a $200,000 donation from accused fraudster attorney Scott Rothstein, whose political support has become a hot issue in the race.

The statement from McCollum, who is in Austin for the RGA conference this week, comes on the heels of a demand from the Democratic Governors Association that McCollum ask the RGA to give the money back.

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On the heels of a New York Times report that Rudy Giuliani won't be running for Governor of New York, the New York Daily News now reports that Rudy will instead run for Senate against appointed Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand -- and that if elected, he'll use it as a stepping stone to make another run for President!

The Daily News cites a source close to Rudy:

If elected, the source said, he would use that as a stepping stone to run for President in 2012 - and would not run for re-election to the Senate. A Giuliani spokeswoman downplayed the reports.

The New York Senate seat is up for a special election in 2010, due to the appointments of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and Kirsten Gillibrand as Senator, but would then be up again for its regularly-scheduled election in 2012. Recent polls have actually given Rudy a lead over the lesser-known Gillibrand, though this would quickly be put to test in an actual campaign in a heavily Democratic state. For one thing, Rudy would face a lot of questioning about whether he's just using the Senate seat as a temporary stepping stone to the presidency.

Rudy's spokesperson downplayed the report: "When Mayor Giuliani makes a decision about serving in public office, he will inform New Yorkers on his own."

Late Update: Giuliani's spokeswoman is denying the story.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) better have a chat with his friends on the other side of the aisle.

At a press event this afternoon, Republicans lambasted the Senate health care bill for not adopting the language in the House's Stupak amendment, and reiterated their point that a vote to proceed to debate may as well be a vote for abortion.

"This first vote is the key vote," Nelson's Nebraska colleague, Sen. Mike Johanns, told reporters today.

That statehood camaraderie isn't likely to be lost on Nelson, who will soon have to decide whether to vote to allow the bill to proceed to debate. Nelson has gone to great lengths to distinguish this early procedural votes for more consequential votes down the line. But he says he still hasn't decided what his next move is, and isn't too pleased with the abortion provision in the Senate health care package.

House Minority Leader John Boehner's office has posted a long statement blasting the Senate health care plan, specifically targeting the abortion provisions with an accusation it levies an "abortion premium fee."

As we have been reporting, abortion has been a major negotiating point, though the Senate version of the health care bill seems to be winning approval from pro-choice lawmakers today.

Boehner (R-OH) claims on his blog that "a monthly abortion premium will be charged of all enrollees in the government-run health plan" under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan.

The GOP office says:

"It's right there beginning on line 11, page 122, section 1303, under 'Actuarial Value of Optional Service Coverage.' The premium will be paid into a U.S. Treasury account - and these federal funds will be used to pay for the abortion services. ... The Commissioner must charge at a minimum $1 per enrollee per month.

We've asked senate officials for a response and will update when we hear back.

After the jump, the language from page 122 (and more) of the bill related to abortion. Read the bill in full here.

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One of the authors of the Bush Justice Department's notorious memos approving torture has set up a legal defense fund to help pay anticipated lawyers' fees in connection with the episode.

A website for the Bybee Legal Defense Fund "explains how contributions may be made to help Judge Jay S. Bybee pay costs and expenses he is incurring or may incur in connection with claims, investigations or proceedings relating to his service as Assistant Attorney General for the Office Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice or his service on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit."

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The new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of the Florida Republican Senate primary finds conservative former state House Speaker Marco Rubio catching up on moderate Gov. Charlie Crist.

The numbers: Crist 47%, Rubio 37%. Way back in January, Crist was ahead by 57%-11%.

Crist became vulnerable to a conservative primary challenge when he endorsed the stimulus package, and even hugged President Obama. He has since denied that he endorsed it, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Kos thinks Rubio will easily win the race: "Crist's only chance for political survival is a party switch, to either (I) or (D)." The poll also finds that the likely Democratic nominee, Rep. Kendrick Meek, is currently a non-player against either Crist and Rubio, and only becomes relevant in a three-way race with an independent Crist, which is roughly tied (full numbers not yet released).

(Via Dave Weigel)

We now have much more clarity on how the abortion provision in the Senate health care bill will work, and it's won the support of both senior administration officials, pro-choice Senators, and the co-chair of the House pro-choice caucus.

"I am pleased that the U.S. Senate has maintained current law when addressing the abortion issue," says Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) in a statement to reporters. "By adopting a common-sense abortion provision, the U.S. Senate ensures that no federal funds will be spent on abortion coverage while not further restricting a woman's right to choose. The health care bill is about providing access to quality health care to over 36 million Americans. I encourage the U.S. Senate to work towards producing a bill that works for everyone."

DeGette included a breakdown of the Senate's abortion provision, which I've included below the fold. One of the key sections reads, "Issuers of health insurance plans that offer coverage for abortion beyond those permitted by the Hyde amendment must segregate from any premium and cost-sharing credits an amount of each enrollee's private premium dollars that is determined by the Secretary to be sufficient to cover the provision of those services."

Which is a fancy way of saying insurers will have to set up an accounting system to keep private money separate from federal money, and only draw upon the private money when paying providers for abortion. Compare that to the Stupak amendment to the House bill, which both requires separation of funds, but also prevents women who receive federal premium assistance from purchasing policies that cover abortion, and it's no wonder Harry Reid's compromise is being met with praise by pro-choice members.

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Yesterday afternoon, Fox News used footage from 2008 McCain-Palin rallies when talking about the "crowds" coming out to see Sarah Palin on her book tour, which started yesterday.

Today, they issued an on-air apology for the mistake.

"We mistakenly aired what's called file tape of Sarah Palin. We didn't mean to mislead anybody in that tease. It was a mistake, and for that we apologize," said a host of Happening Now.

Watch after the jump.

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The New York Times reports that Rudy Giuliani will not run for Governor of New York, a serious blow to Republican hopes of winning this big governorship in 2010:

It was not clear what prompted the decision, but the prospect of potentially facing Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo, who is quietly planning his own run for governor, may not have appealed to Mr. Giuliani, who suffered a bruising defeat in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. While many political analysts believe Mr. Giuliani would have comfortably beaten Gov. David A. Paterson, he would likely have faced an uphill battle against Mr. Cuomo, one of the most popular politicians in the state.

It remains unclear if the former mayor is considering any other political race in 2010. Some have urged him to take on the newly-installed Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, who has never run statewide and is still introducing herself to voters in parts of the state.