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Forty years ago today, on July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to land on the moon. This photograph shows the Apollo 11 crew--Aldrin (left), Armstrong (center), and Michael Collins (right)--relaxing during training.

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The Apollo 11 rocket launches on July 16, 1969.

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The lunar module, housing two moon-bound astronauts (Aldrin and Armstrong), undocks from the command module.

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Buzz Aldrin piloted the lunar module.

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NASA flight controllers watch their computer terminals as the lunar module descends.

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Neil Armstrong stands on the moon as part of the first EVA (extravehicular activity) of the lunar mission.

Newscom




Buzz Aldrin oversees a lunar wind experiment.

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Aldrin stands next to the U.S. flag.

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Buzz Aldrin

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Neil Armstrong poses in the lunar module after his historic moonwalk.

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The returning crew took this photograph of Earth.

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NASA mission control celebrates after the Apollo 11 crew splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

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President Nixon watches as the Apollo 11 astronauts are recovered from their splashdown point.

Newscom / NASA / CNP




Apollo 11 astronauts, still in their quarantine van, are greeted by their wives upon arrival at Ellington Air Force Base.

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Neil Armstrong (center), Michael Collins (left), and Buzz Aldrin (right) address a joint session of Congress on September 16, 1969.

Newscom / NASA / CNP

In a hypothetical 2012 general election contest between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Obama, the vote would be tied at 45 percent each, according to a new Rasmussen phone survey.

Rasmussen tends to skew Republican. Conversely, a May survey by Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling had Romney losing to Obama, 35 to 53 percent.

Romney ended his last bid for the presidency in February 2008.

The new Rasmussen poll also said that in a 2012 matchup against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Obama would win 48 percent to 42 percent.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) doesn't sit on either of the committees with jurisdiction over health care, but that hasn't stopped him from stepping into the middle of the reform debate to try and slow things down:



Last week, Lieberman joined three Democrats and two Republicans in a call to slow down the pace of reform efforts--though it's not clear why the exhortation was necessary if passing a health care bill by August is, as Lieberman suggested today, "impossible." And, for what it's worth number of Republicans and conservatives have been quite explicit about the fact that they think they can kill health care reform by doing as Lieberman suggests and slowing things down a bit.

In a speech at Children's National Medical Center this afternoon, President Obama lashed out at health care reform opponents and committed to signing a bill by year's end.



"If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." That unusually blunt assessment of Republican thinking on health care came from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). It may have been a bit too blunt, though. The White House is latching on to it to paint the opponents of reform as political animals, unconcerned with the welfare of the uninsured.

But, just as last week, Obama seems stopped short of insisting upon an August deadline for House and Senate votes--or even an October deadline for finishing work altogether, saying only "let's pass a bill by the end of this year." If the deadline is the end of the year, though, the strong implication is that the House and Senate won't have completed work on their bills by the time they adjourn for August recess--and that would damage the prospects for comprehensive reform in a number of ways.

A little creative re-branding has worked wonders for the likes of Diddy (now back to Puff Daddy), Joe Lieberman, and the Volkswagen Beetle. So why not for C Street?

In recent weeks, the secretive Christian fellowship group, whose red-brick townhouse on Capitol Hill has for years served as an in-session dorm for religious lawmakers, has been getting some unwanted publicity. Thanks to its ties to three recent Republican sex scandals -- those of Nevada senator John Ensign, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, and former congressman Chip Pickering -- C Street has started to get a reputation as somewhere between a halfway house and frat house for conservative politicians looking to cheat on their wives while convincing themselves they're still upstanding guys.

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America's Health Insurance Plans--the insurance industry's main professional association--with a seven-figure ad-buy, putting themselves on the side of reform. Sort of.



"Last December, we proposed reforms that would cover all Americans, guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions, and bend the health care cost curve," said AHIP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.

One thing that would help bend the health care cost curve, of course, is a public option, which AHIP still opposes. But it is, perhaps, significant, that this ad is silent on the issue, even as three congressional committees have endorsed the proposal. Compared to the Harry and Louise ads of 1994, this stuff is downright mild.

The ad is called "Illness," and the narrator insists: "illness doesn't care where you live...or if you're already sick...or if you lose your job. Your health insurance shouldn't either." By the same token, I suppose, illness doesn't care whether reform legislation is bipartisan--but one step at a time.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele took to the airwaves today looking to attack President Obama's health care plan and prove Republicans aren't just the "party of no" on reform. His strategy? List a bunch of vague "common sense reforms" and dodge any questions about concrete legislation coming from his party.

Some of his ideas are simply baffling. "Don't you agree that companies like Target are best suited to bring costs down than any politician in Washington?" Steele asked. "So let's use consumer-buying power and group buying power, not Washington price-controls, to bring health care costs down."

During his speech to the National Press Club this morning, he listed several other "common sense reforms" such as "cut[ting] out the Washington middle man," implementing a tax credit for health care premiums and enforcing penalties for anyone who "rips off" the system.

But for all his party's ideas, he fumbled when asked why Republicans didn't put these into motion when they controlled Congress. After citing Medicare Part D as important legislation, he blamed a lack of will.

"The other reality is the will to do it. The pressure (has) been mounting over the past few years...The will is there now for the people to be involved in this," he said. "There was a general lack of focus on this issue by many in both parties."

He was then asked when the GOP would propose alternative legislation.

"Republicans can get up tomorrow" and propose a bill, he said. "But we all know how Congress works. The only bill that matters is the one the leadership puts in place."

He also appeared to have never heard about individually mandated health insurance, claiming "I don't do policy." When asked why Republicans haven't formed a united front, he said, "I don't make that play call."

As for his ideas, several fall in line with some of President Obama's desired policies, such as focusing on prevention and supporting a computerized system to reduce paperwork.

The party's other reforms are pretty vague. Steele said an undefined "we" should "make insurance companies compete with each other" with simpler contracts and one-page reimbursement forms; let Americans get the cheapest insurance no matter where they live or whom they work for; and create "bold new incentives" for companies to cure diseases.

Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) are officially trading blows in the opening rounds of what promises to be a bruising primary fight over Specter's Senate seat. And now conservative Pat Toomey, the winner's likely general-election opponent, is weighing in...against Specter.



This comes via pa2010, which concludes that Toomey "still considers Senator Arlen Specter to be his eventual general election opponent."

That's a perfectly plausible interpretation. But, as always, politics can be a hall of mirrors, and this is just as likely a sign that Toomey wants Specter to lose the primary, because he thinks he'd have an easier time defeating Sestak in the general.

Whatever the logic here, though, it should be perfectly clear, if it wasn't already, that Specter will be contending with his abrupt party switch and mad dash from right to left for the duration of his candidacy.

RNC Chairman Michael Steele thinks "all of us should be scared to death" of President Obama's health care plan.

Steele tried to take a bite out of Obama's big push to get health care reform legislation before the August recess by calling it a "reckless experiment" in the "laboratory" of Congress.

He especially took issue with Obama's timeline.

"If we screw this up, it could last a generation. And Congress is trying to do this in the next two weeks," he said in remarks this morning to the National Press Club. "All of us should be scared to death."

His speechwriters, though, wanted him to use a gentler phrase. In his prepared remarks, the sentence reads, "This reckless approach to an ill-conceived experiment should scare the living daylights out of all of us."

Other fear-mongering in the speech included warning that 119 million people could lose their coverage under Obama's plan. Steele also said that "much about our health care system is in good shape."

While we're talking health care reform: In his weekly radio address on Saturday, President Obama did what he's refused to do all along--he said the public option isn't an option at all.



[A]ny plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans - including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest - and choose what's best for your family.


That's a first. In the recent past, the White House has only demanded that health care reform expand and improve coverage while lowering costs. But Blue Dogs and conservative Senate Democrats have been raising noises about the public option, while citing concerns that the reform proposals on the table won't cut costs. And with the debate reaching its crescendo, Obama's letting them know they can't have it both ways.

He has a point--introducing a robust public option would be an extremely effective way to retard the growth in health care spending. And those who are both demanding a bill that bends the spending curve downward, but also opposing any measures that would accomplish that goal, are being pretty nakedly inconsistent.

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