Monday, June 8, 2009

First Thouhts: National Single Payer Health Care NOW!


*** Health Care Heats Up: After returning from his long overseas trip (or was it short, considering he hit three continents in less than a week, four if you count North America?), President Obama turns his attention to domestic politics -- particularly health care.

Sunday's New York Times reported that Obama plans to take a greater role in drafting the legislation by giving speeches, holding town halls (first one is Thursday in Green Bay), and meeting more with congressional lawmakers. As we've written before, the two big issues to resolve: whether reform will contain a public option (a la Medicare and Medicaid), and how Washington will pay for it (taxing the rich or taxing health-benefit plans?). Obama devoted his Saturday radio address -- even while he was overseas -- to the topic of health care. "All across America, our families are making hard choices when it comes to health care," he said. "Now, it's time for Washington to make the right ones. It's time to deliver."

However, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R), the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee took offense to Obama's radio address. "Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us 'time to deliver' on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND," he said via Twitter, later adding: "Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said 'time to delivr on healthcare' When you are a 'hammer' u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL." and*** Winning Friends And Influencing Enemies? Obama has been working over Grassley hard, so this criticism from him must be very frustrating. While no one in the White House expects Grassley to be a Republican who will sign on to the entire Obama health-care agenda, they do have hopes he'll be someone Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus can work with to write a bill that can at least bring over a few moderate GOP senators.*** Stimulus Politics: Meanwhile, TODAY's real focus is on the stimulus. At 11:45 am ET, Obama meets with his cabinet to discuss the implementation of the stimulus. After months of being a bit too coy on its promise of job creation with its "save or create" spin on the stimulus plan (remember, three to four million jobs?), the administration is making a more straightforward push today, pledging to speed up the stimulus spending and creating 600,000 jobs this summer. "The administration had always viewed the summer as a peak for stimulus spending, as better weather permitted more public works construction and federal agencies had processed requests from states and others," the AP writes. "But Obama now promises an accelerated pace of federal spending over the next few months to boost the economy and produce jobs." Congressional Republicans have been very persistent in hitting the administration for its job-creation spin. The fact that the White House has decided it needed a harder number, which the public and press can fact-check in the next three months, shows you the GOP browbeating on this issue worked. Also, don't miss the new Gallup poll showing the president's job rating on spending and the deficit at a net-negative. It makes this summer push to prove the stimulus was good public policy that much more important. If this stimulus proves to be perceived by the public as a waste of taxpayer money, it's going to be a BIG political problem for ALL Democrats. Then again, what happens to the GOP if/when the economy begins to pick up steam in 2010/2011?*** Economic Team Tension: Is anyone else shocked, shocked that there is tension within Obama's economic team -- centered on Larry Summers? Among the things we learned from this C.W.-setting piece in the New York Times: Bernanke just might get reappointed as Fed chair after all. More: Summers' "argumentative style has contributed to delaying some actions, officials say, like the Treasury-led overhaul of the bank bailout program that was inherited from the Bush administration and an overhaul of the financial regulatory system, which is now expected later this month."*** North Korea, Interrupter: Things are getting hairy again with North Korea. The president ramped up rhetoric on North Korea Saturday, and that was BEFORE the two U.S. journalists were sentenced to hard labor there. The question is whether North Korea is somehow trying to use these journalists as leverage on other issues. This is going to be a tough diplomatic issue for this administration, over and above previous rescue missions to North Korea. NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports both Bill Richardson and Al Gore are being considered as potential envoys in negotiations to release the two journalists. But the larger issue here was touched on by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she said the administration was considering putting the country BACK on the terrorist sponsor list and with the U.S. contemplating intercepting North Korea ships to check for nuclear materials. It appears North Korea is going to be interrupting the president's agenda for most of this summer. By the way, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has a fascinating op-ed in the Washington Post, which makes the case that China has MUCH more to lose from a nuclear North Korea than the U.S does. Imagine if all of China's neighbors had nuclear weapons. that's the leverage the U.S. might have with China on this issue. and*** More Palin Drama: Tonight, the National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee hold their big joint fundraiser in DC, with Newt Gingrich as the keynote speaker. But First Read fans probably remember that Gingrich wasn't the original headliner. That was supposed to be Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but organizers decided to go with Gingrich after Palin's people wouldn't officially confirm her appearance, even though organizers had issued a press release announcing Palin as the main attraction. Well, Politico's Martin reports that Palin was invited to speak -- again -- at tonight's fundraiser, but then uninvited after NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions was concerned that Palin might upstage Gingrich. Martin adds that Palin now may not attend tonight's dinner altogether. This drama comes as Palin was in New York this weekend, where she attended a Yankees game and where a reported 20,000 people came to see her lead a parade in Auburn, NY and raise money for a museum honoring William Seward, Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state. It also comes after a Huffington Post blogger accused Palin of recently lifting lines, without attribution, from an article by Gingrich and GOP strategist Craig Shirley.,, and*** Palin vs. GOP Establishment: Perhaps the best way to sum up the Palin-vs.-NRCC/NRSC drama: Washington and Alaska apparently just don't mix. The GOP establishment here in DC is struggling how to deal with her. Granted, Palin doesn't make things easy, but she also seems peeved that she doesn't get the respect she believes she earned with her popularity. Of course, the establishment wing of the GOP thinks that she's part of the party's perception problem, and that the more attention she gets, the more she moves the party away from the middle. Still, there needs to be some reconciliation here. Palin is too popular with the base for the NRSC and NRCC and others in the establishment of the party to play too many public games with her. However, she's brought this on herself with some of her miscommunications (if you can't get the scheduling right, how can you get the big stuff right?). But the public Palin-vs.GOP sideshow needs to end, because the two need each other -- for now.*** One Day Out: With one day until Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe has a brand-new TV ad that touts his electability and ties him to Barack Obama and former Virginia Gov. (and current Sen.) Mark Warner. As we noted last week, electability could very well be the issue that swings tomorrow's tight contest. Who is the Democrat that matches up the best against Republican Bob McDonnell, who is leading in all the general election polls? McAuliffe, who has deep pockets and plenty of energy? Creigh Deeds, who lost to McDonnell in the 2005 attorney general's race by just about 300 votes? Or Brian Moran, who has his base in vote-rich Northern Virginia?*** More On Electability: Virginia Democrats don't have a history of voting in primaries. For years, the nominees for statewide office were done in a caucus/convention process. Only recently has the party shifted to primaries. What does this mean? Turnout for these primaries is abysmal, and the only voters are sophisticated followers of the process. It means that "electability" actually matters. And it may explain why Deeds is suddenly surging in the polls. Watch his totals in Northern Virginia on Tuesday. If Deeds wins, it won't be because Moran and McAuliffe split NoVA, and Deeds won everywhere else. If Deeds wins now, it'll be because plenty of Northern Virginia voters are familiar enough with McAuliffe and Moran to believe neither can win statewide. McAuliffe has no choice but to start in on the electability issue (see his TV ad above), because it's his biggest liability. (Does anyone really believe McAuliffe can do well in a general election in Southwest Virginia?) So he has to try and create an atmosphere claiming it's Deeds' problem (Try and somehow claim that a non-Northern Virginia Dem will underperform in this important region.) This past weekend, McAuliffe also has pushed in two different ideological directions against Deeds. On the one hand, he's tried to question Deeds' Democratic bona-fides (on guns in particular), and then he's also tried to push the electability argument, which to some seems like an attempt to question his moderate credentials. Look, the GOP nominee Bob McDonnell is the best gubernatorial nominee the party has had since the 1993 version of George Allen. Northern Virginia Democrats may be recognizing it. And after all the time and money McAuliffe has spent, if he's still stuck in the high 20s, low 30s, it says the very small primary electorate may be convinced that neither Northern Virginia Dem can win.*** The Pen Mightier Than The Sword? By the way, if Deeds wins, it's also a reminder that newspapers aren't as irrelevant -- at least in local news -- as the rest of the media world is trying to claim. Deeds' Washington Post endorsement is the moment that the rest of the Virginia press corps (and perhaps the wannabe pundits of the Northern Virginia electorate) woke up to the idea that Deeds might be the strongest Dem the party could put up in November.Countdown to VA Dem primary: 1 dayCountdown to Election Day 2009: 148 daysCountdown to Election Day 2010: 512 daysClick here to sign up for First Read emails. FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.OBAMA AGENDA: Taking health care reinsThe Sunday New York Times front-paged that President Obama plans to take a greater role in crafting the health-care reform and "is preparing an intense push for legislation that will include speeches, town-hall-style meetings and much deeper engagement with lawmakers. Mindful of the failures of former President Bill Clinton, whose intricate proposal for universal care collapsed on Capitol Hill 15 years ago, Mr. Obama until now had charted a different course, setting forth broad principles and concentrating on bringing disparate factions - doctors, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, labor unions - to the negotiating table.""But Mr. Obama has grown concerned that he is losing the debate over certain policy prescriptions he favors, like a government-run insurance plan to compete with the private sector, said one Democrat familiar with his thinking. With Congress beginning a burst of work on the measure, top advisers say, the president is determined to make certain the final bill bears his stamp. 'Ultimately, as happened with the recovery act, it will become President Obama's plan,' the White House budget director, Peter R. Orszag, said in an interview. 'I think you will see that evolution occurring over the next few weeks. We will be weighing in more definitively, and you will see him out there.'" Twitter, the AP says, Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley criticized Obama for urging Congress (in his weekly radio address, from France) to pass health-care reform this year. "Sen. Grassley's first tweet: 'Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us "time to deliver" on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.'""A short time later: 'Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said "time to delivr on healthcare" When you are a "hammer" u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL.'" said, in an interview with John Harwood, Grassley seemed open to working with Obama on health-care reform.'s Allen writes, "President Barack Obama is announcing Monday that he is ramping up stimulus spending exponentially in the next three months, allowing the administration to "save or create" 600,00 jobs - four times as many as during the first 100 days since he signed the bill. The spending plans include National Parks, summer youth jobs, veterans' medical centers, police and teachers. Obama will make the announcement during a late-morning Cabinet meeting, when Vice President Joe Biden will present a Roadmap to Recovery, which the White House calls 'an Administration-wide effort to accelerate implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in its second 100 days.'", per the AP: "An activist who worked alongside slain gay rights leader Harvey Milk announced plans yesterday for a march on Washington this fall to demand that Congress establish equality and marriage rights for the lesbian, gay, and transgender community. Cleve Jones said the march planned for Oct. 11 will coincide with National Coming Out Day and launch a new chapter in the gay rights movement. He made the announcement during a rally at the annual Utah Pride Festival." AGENDA: Great expectationsThe Wall Street Journal reports that Obama's well-received Cairo speech has increased expectations for Middle East peace. "President Barack Obama returned home from abroad Sunday to find that his own oratory laying out an ever-more-ambitious agenda, both in foreign and domestic policy, is ratcheting up demands for concrete achievements. 'Expectations are rising with every speech,' said Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland, who was consulted by White House aides on the president's speech to Muslims in Cairo on Thursday. 'And the more issues you articulate, the more pressure you create to produce actual policies and achievements.'""President Barack Obama spent a few hours as a tourist this weekend, seeing Paris with his wife and two young girls after his trip to the Middle East, Germany and the beaches of Normandy," the AP writes, adding: "The Obama family was up early on a cool and overcast Sunday morning. Shortly after 9 a.m., they arrived at the Pompidou Center, a modern art museum constructed of color-coded ducts that has become a famous landmark since it opened in 1977. Obama and his family went to the top of the Pompidou Center, which has one of the best views of the whole city. Crowds lined the streets in patches, with gawkers taking pictures of the motorcade. The whirlwind tour of Paris began early Saturday evening at the 12th century Notre Dame cathedral, where Obama lit a candle and listened to a children's choir. Thousands of tourists lined the streets." Boston Globe: "As part of a new strategy to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, President Obama plans to seek the creation of the first-ever international supply of uranium that would allow nations to obtain fuel for civilian nuclear reactors but limit the capacity to make bombs, according to senior administration officials.""Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast Sunday that failing to take aggressive and effective action against North Korea could spark an arms race in northeast Asia. 'We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money,' Clinton said." She also said the U.S. is considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism."Bill Richardson on Monday called the detention and sentencing of two young women journalists in North Korea part of 'a high-stakes poker game.' But at the same time, the New Mexico governor said in a nationally broadcast interview that the time might be right for the United States to work out the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee with the country's leaders in Pyongyang." Targeting Pelosi in IA"The National Republican Congressional Committee prepped for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Saturday visit to Iowa by lobbing a round of robocalls into the state, designed to highlight the House's climate legislation," Politico writes. "The calls asked Democrats in Iowa's congressional delegation to stop the California Democrat's push for a 'national energy tax,' the GOP's term for the climate change bill, which is opposed by a number of farm groups in the Midwest. The agenda for the speaker's weekend trip included a private Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser in Des Moines -- hosted by Democratic Reps. Leonard Boswell, whose district includes Iowa's capital city; Dave Loebsack; and Bruce Braley -- and a public, open-to-the-press event focusing on the stimulus, according to Democratic aides."
(And who else was speaking in Iowa? Jeremiah Wright. "The retired pastor from Chicago who spoke Saturday in Ames was markedly different from the Jeremiah Wright of the sound bites from the 2008 presidential election campaign. In front of a crowd of 400 people, Wright spoke passionately about the need for acceptance of all people and the importance of social action. There was very little mention of his brief stint in the national spotlight, although he did say that much of what he said during Barack Obama's bid for the presidency was taken out of context and manipulated by the media." And: "Obama's name again came up in the question-and-answer session after Saturday's speech. Wright said that the president has made mistakes but was 'like my child' and that he would always love him."
Pelosi was also in Minneapolis, raising money for Rep. Tim Walz, the Star Tribune writes. She also "said a Minneapolis education center for American Indians is an example of how to ensure long-term job growth."
The Hill: "Former Rep. William Jefferson's (D-La.) corruption trial is set to begin Tuesday after two years of intense legal wrangling that at one point involved evidence gathered during an FBI raid of his congressional office." WATCH: Palin -- on again, off again"Sarah Palin's on-again, off-again appearance at Monday night's gala GOP fundraising dinner is off - again," Politico's Martin writes. "After being invited - for a second time - to speak to the annual joint fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Palin was told abruptly Saturday night that she would not be allowed to address the thousands of Republicans there after all. The Alaska governor may now skip the dinner altogether, and her allies are miffed at what they see as a slight from the congressional wing of the Republican Party.", the Yankee fan? "Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose presidential aspirations collapsed in humiliating defeat in Florida last year, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the failed GOP veep pick, enjoyed a game at Yankee Stadium on Sunday," the New York Daily News says. "The GOP political duo and their spouses exchanged laughs, smiles and small talk as they watched the Yanks take on Tampa Bay. At one point, Giuliani snapped a photo of his wife, Judith, with Alaska's First Couple."
Palin, meanwhile, "drew a crowd of 20,000, who watched her lead a parade through downtown Auburn and sign a proclamation honoring Seward," The Hill writes. But not all of them were fans. They were just there for the spectacle, the AP says. "Local resident Chris Stone, with his wife and three children, said he didn't care for Palin's politics but didn't want to miss the chance to see her in person. 'You can see by the turnout, she's become a personality and a historical figure,' said Stone, who voted for Obama. 'I know all these people aren't Republicans. This is a chance to see someone who has had a big impact on history.'" Still running against Bush?Pegged to November's gubernatorial contest between incumbent Jon Corzine (D) and challenger Chris Christie (R), USA Today writes that Democrats like Corzine will once again look to campaign against . George W. Bush. "Other Democratic candidates will likely bash Bush throughout the 2010 election season, predicts Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of a non-partisan political newsletter. 'You'll hear Democrats say, President Obama is still trying to clean up the mess of the Bush years,' he says.""Possible Democratic targets with Bush ties include: Former budget director Rob Portman of Ohio, who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat, Republican Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, a key Bush ally in legislative battles, also running for the Senate, former Republican congressman Rob Simmons, who is challenging Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut." Good news for Chris Kennedy's IL SEN bid? Rep. Jan Schakowsky is out of IL SEN.
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