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A new Mason-Dixon poll suggests that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is in real danger for his own re-election battle in 2010, with him trailing two potential Republican nominees.

Against former UNLV basketball player Danny Tarkanian, who has previously lost races for state Senate and Secretary of State, Tarkanian has 49% to Reid's 38%. Against state GOP chair Sue Lowden, Reid trails with 40% to Lowden's 45%.

A Democratic source put a positive face on the numbers, but even then still acknowledged that Reid has a serious fight ahead: "Harry Reid has caught a few breaks since all of the A-list or even B-list candidates have declined to challenge him. That said, he's got a lot of work to do and must spend the next few months proving to Nevadans he is one of them."

Michael Steele has an interesting (and mostly bad) verbal habit of trying to defuse a situation by making bizarre and damaging statements: When someone vigorously insults him and the Republican Party, he agrees with the accusations, then tries to talk about what people can do together to fix the problems. And people remember the former rather than the latter. For example, he just said that Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the party's likely nominee for Senate in a top-tier 2010 Senate race, is like a clog in a toilet that needs to be cleaned out: "When stuff gets in the crapper, you gotta clean it out."

As first reported by, Steele appeared this past Friday on the radio show of right-wing Missouri talker Vincent David Jericho, who had a lot to say about Roy Blunt and his son, former Gov. Matt Blunt:

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With the Obama administration set later today to release an internal CIA report on torture, director Leon Panetta is preemptively defending his agency, claiming that CIA personnel simply followed the legal guidelines they were given.

In a message to agency employees -- but in fact intended for the reporters to whom it was sent moments ago -- Panetta called the information contained in the 2004 report "old news." He pointed out that the CIA referred cases of abuse to DOJ for prosecution. And he noted: "The Agency sought and received multiple written assurances that its methods were lawful."

Panetta's preemptive message may signal that the report contains even more damaging information than anticipated about Bush-era abuses.

Meanwhile, is reporting that Panetta last month was involved in a "profanity-laced screaming match" at the White House over DOJ plans to probe whether CIA officers broke the law in carrying out the harsh interrogation techniques.

[Late Update: Greg Sargent adds that in addition to the report itself...

The CIA today will release the two documents Dick Cheney requested this spring that he claims will prove torture worked.

I've also confirmed that the CIA will release a declassified version of the chapter in the CIA Inspector General's 2004 report that's widely expected to conclude that there's no proof torture foiled any attacks.

That jibes with Panetta's statement in his message that "the CIA materials include the 2004 report from our Office of Inspector General and two papers--one from 2004 and the other from 2005--that discuss the value of intelligence acquired from high-level detainees."]

The full message from Panetta follows...

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Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of National Review Online, went on Fox News today to fan the flames of the latest fabricated "death panel" controversy.

Goldberg equated a Veterans Affairs pamphlet -- one that's reportedly no longer being used -- with Nazi eugenics, saying "death panels may not be too far off the horizon."

The pamphlet in question is one that, Fox reported this weekend, encourages disabled veterans to decide whether their lives are worth living. Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary of the VA, told Fox on Sunday that the department instructed VA doctors to stop using the pamphlet in 2007.

But Fox has ignored that insistence, saying soldiers returning from Iraq are given the pamphlet.

"This goes into the realm of valuing whether life is worthy of life, as the Germans used to say," Goldberg said today.

"This goes into the idea that somehow if you're in a wheelchair, if you're handicapped, if you're just too melancholy to contribute to society, well then maybe those are circumstances where you ... need to be culled from the tribe. That is the sort of thing that emanates up from this document," he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has backtracked on comments that the government "would decide when to pull the plug on Grandma," saying yesterday on Face the Nation, "It won't do that."

Grassley also said, as he has in the past, that it "scares the devil out of people" that doctors will have financial incentives to discuss advance directives such as living wills, and that the provision "oughta be dropped."

Grassley said he only used the phrase "pull the plug on Grandma," because President Obama had used it the day before at a town hall in Portsmouth, N.H.

RNC Chairman Michael Steel now seems to be fully embracing the death panel talk, with a new column in the Washington Post promoting a Republican proposal called a "Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights," which will prevent the government from killing grandma:

Third, we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age. Obama has promoted a program of "comparative effectiveness research" that he claims will be used only to study competing medical treatments. But this program could actually lead to government boards rationing treatments based on age. For example, if there are going to be only so many heart surgeries in a given year, the Democrats figure government will get more bang for its buck if more young and middle-aged people get them.

Fourth, we need to prevent government from dictating the terms of end-of-life care. Many of the most significant costs of care come in the last six months of a patient's life, and every American household must consider how to treat their loved ones. Obama's government-run health "reform" would pay for seniors' meetings with a doctor to discuss end-of-life care. While nonthreatening at first, something that is quite normal for a family to do becomes troublesome when the government gets involved. Seniors know that government programs that seem benign at first can become anything but. The government should simply butt out of conversations about end-of-life care and leave them to seniors, their families and their doctors.

Late Update: For more on the GOP's Seniors' Health Care Bill of Rights, click here for the RNC's official release.

After fruitlessly seeking a bipartisan compromise on health care reform for months, the White House seems to have finally realized that Republicans have no interest in compromising and that progressives are fed up with making nice. Now, the administration is preparing to go it alone, even if that means passing reform on a straight party-line vote.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, and even President Obama himself have all suggested that they don't think the GOP is serious about reaching a bipartisan health care reform compromise--and with key Republicans suggesting that they'll vote against a bill that doesn't also have the support of a majority of their own party, it's only one logical step to the conclusion that the administration has accepted that health care reform will be the latest initiative to move forward along party lines.

Over the weekend an anonymous source told Bloomberg that the White House is "devising a strategy to pass a measure by relying only on the Democratic majority in each house of Congress."

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On Meet the Press yesterday, Sen. Chuck Schumer contradicted his colleague Kent Conrad (D-ND), saying he believes there are 60 Democratic votes to pass a health care bill with a public option. And he confirmed that, with a bipartisan solution seeming unlikely, Democratic party leaders are indeed prepared to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation bill to pass at least some parts of health care reform.

"I believe we could get a public option that could be passed with the 60 Democratic votes," Schumer said. Conrad has repeatedly said the opposite--that the public option doesn't have the votes. But he famously hasn't explained who in the party would support a health reform filibuster over the issue.

Schumer went on to address the possibility that Democrats might circumvent the filibuster altogether. "[W]e are considering alternatives," he said in an appearance with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

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Roll Call: Hope For Bipartisanship Lingers, But Reconciliation Talk Increases Roll Call says that while Senators are holding out hope for a bipartisan deal on health care, the talk of using budget reconciliation to produce a Democrats-only bill is rising: "With bipartisan talks yielding no results, Democrats have urged President Barack Obama to abandon efforts to win Republican support and instead push a bill through on party-line votes."

Obama On Vacation President Obama and his family are spending the week at Martha's Vineyard, and do not have ay public events scheduled. Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said Obama is hoping for a quiet time: "He wants you to relax and have a good time. Take some walks on the beaches. Nobody's looking to make any news."

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