John McCain, Lindsey Graham Take a Stand at The Citadel

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Charleston, S.C. — South Carolina can never escape its ghosts, not that it wants to. And you can’t change the rules for town halls, even if you do want to.
The crowd at Monday morning’s town hall meeting at The Citadel – featuring the marquee duo of senators and good buddies John McCain and Lindsey Graham — sat quietly for a while. But total decorum was not possible.

Someone even questioned why such a crucial gathering was scheduled early on a weekday. Because “I decided to come to The Citadel and I’m the senator,” said Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He later amended his answer to, he “knew we’d have cadets here” and “the war is important to me.” (When you’ve started the meeting asking for civility – “being mad doesn’t solve the problem,” Graham had said — it looks bad when you get snippy with constituents.)


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GOP Research: Indep. Obama Voters Still Like Him, But Not His Spending

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Leading Republican strategists say they’re confident they can make gains in Congress next year — if they focus on issues and train their fire on congressional Democrats as opposed to President Obama.

Resurgent Republic, a conservative research and strategy group, conducted 10 focus groups in five cities with independent voters who supported Obama last year and are undecided about the congressional elections next year. The participants were uneasy about the economy and the huge deficits that Obama’s plans are expected to create, and harsh in their assessment of Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.


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Rick Lazio to Launch New York Gubernatorial Bid

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Former Republican representative Rick Lazio is preparing to launch his campaign for New York governor after conducting extensive research and fundraising around the state. Advisors say Lazio called former New York City mayor Rudy Guliani, a potential challenger, to inform him of the announcement. An announcement event in Albany is in the works, aides said Monday.


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Color U.S. Politics ‘Dorian Gray’

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Why don’t we dial it down? Today, political anger too often manifests in outrageous behavior that violates the values we say we hold dear. Some of us behave as if our outbursts are atoned by muttering a mea culpa or distancing ourselves from an act of violence, even though our rage helped to create an atmosphere for that violence. Will American politics ever again play more respectfully, or have we entered the Era of Ceaseless Anger?

Civic protest and sharp disagreement in the public square are as American as the NFL, apple pie and SUVs. But as we continue our political rituals and wave the flag of free speech, why do we increasingly accommodate the intrusion of incessant anger in our public debates? We exchange hate-filled words as if we can outrun the consequences of doing so. It reminds me of the main character in Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Gray.” A new adaption of the Victorian classic about the young Mr. Gray, whose sins never seem to catch up with him, is now playing in the United Kingdom. Ben Barnes, who played Prince Caspian in the world of Narnia, is now the handsome Mr. Gray, whose shameful acts never mar his handsome looks but infest his portrait.

Some segments of American politics are gaining Dorian Gray’s creepy patina because of an unabashed reveling in the loud and the profane. The wells of fury emerging from this fringe are startling. The decay their anger generates may not be immediately detected, and calls to stop its poisonous influence may be mocked, but the consequences of permitting unrestrained anger to infiltrate our national dialogue will tear us apart nonetheless. Our tolerance for perpetual antagonism triggers the memory of another classic: William Wilder’s 1958 film, “The Big Country.” In the western, two powerful men, Major Terrill (Charles Bickford) and Rufus Hannassey (Burl Ives), fight until they kill each other. Their families and everyone around them suffer because peace is not the goal. The last thing the men want is negotiation, although James McKay (Gregory Peck) offers them that option. Mutual destruction is the intent because Terrill and Hannassey would rather live like the Hatfields and the McCoys than civilized men.

The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression will not magically take a sabbath while thinking, reasoning people allow an angry and contentious fringe to grow more powerful and escalate rage to violent levels. How can we combat the grind of poverty in the U.S. — now at an 11-year high — with self-serving belligerence? How can we wisely combat new terrorist threats from al-Qaida if we are collapsing from within? From the “Holocaust denier” who allegedly gunned down a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to town hall meetings on health care that led to episodes like the finger-biting incident in California to the “You lie!” moment in the U.S. Congress to the shooting of a pro-life protester — the din of American politics and the dangerous turn of our disagreements are gradually making public life feel slimier, backward and barbaric.

Our deepening inability to resolve conflicts, to lead with accountability in elected office, to acknowledge misjudgments with humility, to respect our leaders and institutions, to disagree without violence, to avoid spreading misinformation like arsonists, and to recognize our mutual problems puts us at great peril. Hostility has become an ominous national distraction. f we are not careful, if we are not diligent, the underbelly of our democratic society will become as horrifying as Dorian’s Gray sickening portrait.


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Charlie Rangel Slams New York Post for Investigating Finances

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Asked about his failure to disclose some $700,000 in assets, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) said that there is “nothing to discuss,” and blamed the New York Post for launching a smear campaign against him. “I think it’s totally unfair for the New York Post to send investigative reporters to my family’s homes and to do that type of thing,” Rangel said at a rally in Harlem. “I guess it’s all selling papers.”


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Kurtz: Glenn Beck Dominating Conversation Without Mainstream Media

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In his column in Monday’s paper, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz observes that Fox News personality Glenn Beck is dominating the media conversation — even to the point of forcing a White House official to resign — without a bit of help from newspapers, television or other mainstream news sources. “It has become a familiar chain reaction: Talk-show hosts whip up a noisy controversy, which hits higher decibels as it spreads to the establishment media, which costs some unfortunate soul his job,” Kurtz writes. “But now the middleman — the journalistic gatekeepers of yore — may no longer be necessary.”


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On Wall Street, Obama Calls for Tougher Rules, Consumer Watchdog Agency

A year after the collapse of Lehman Bros., President Obama is calling on Wall Street to accept proposals to close the regulatory loopholes that paved the way for the nation’s economic meltdown, the biggest financial crisis in history.

While there has been some recovery, Obama used his speech at New York’s Federal Hall this afternoon to urge Congress to pass his package of reforms to make sure the crisis does not happen again and to create a consumer-oriented agency to regulate financial products.

“That’s why we need strong rules of the road to guard against the kind of systemic risks we have seen. And we have a responsibility to write and enforce these rules to protect consumers of financial products, taxpayers and our economy as a whole,” Obama said. “Yes, these rules must be developed in a way that does not stifle innovation and enterprise. . . . And we want to work with the financial industry to achieve that end.

“But the old ways that led to this crisis cannot stand. And to the extent that some have so readily returned to them underscores the need for change and change now. History cannot be allowed to repeat itself.”

Obama also told Wall Street not to count on sweet bailout deals from the federal government.

“And if taxpayers ever have to step in again to prevent a second Great Depression, the financial industry will have to pay the taxpayer back – every cent.”


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Obama Visits Wall Street to Push for Financial Regulation

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President Obama will visit Wall Street on Monday to refocus attention on his call for new financial regulations, which has disappeared from public consciousness as the health care debate rages. Obama will encourage financial leaders to “take responsibility” and avoid the sketchy dealings that led to the current financial crisis, aides said. Prior to the visit, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner reinforced the urgency of the president’s reforms, saying that “fundamental change is necessary.”


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Pigskins and Politics: Let the Super Bowl Predictions Begin!

Are you ready for some football?

The NFL season kicked off Thursday night when Pittsburgh beat Tennessee. With the other teams launching their seasons yesterday and tonight, the time seemed ripe to ask some political insiders and opinion leaders for their predictions about the year ahead. Here are their choices for the next Super Bowl champ, along with some observations on the ties that bind politics and football.


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David Axelrod on Mall Protesters: ‘They’re Wrong’

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David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, told CBS’ Bob Schieffer Sunday that the health care protests around the country, including the “9/12 Project” rally on the National Mall in Washington on Saturday, were “the angriest and most strident” voices, and not representative of the feelings of a majority of Americans.

“One of the great things about our country is people can express themselves even if they’re not representative of the majority,” Axelrod said on “Face the Nation.” So, I don’t think we ought to be distracted by that.”

He explained his view that President Obama wants only to fix the broken health care system to make care more accessible and affordable for Americans, and called recent characterizations of his efforts “distortions.”

“My message to [the protesters] is they’re wrong,” Axelrod said.

Video below:

Watch CBS Videos Online


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Democrats Sense Racism Is Driving Obama Critics

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As public outrage in some parts of the country against President Obama seems to grow louder by the week, some Democrats believe that his sharpest critics are driven by racism. At a fall gathering of the Democratic National Committee in Austin, several Democrats expressed dismay with the anger exploding mostly from white Americans, such as the tens of thousands who marched on the nation’s capital Saturday. African-American lawmakers like Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson say the tone of the president’s critics increasingly suggests what is motivating their vitriol.


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Osama bin Laden Addresses Americans in New Tape

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Two days after the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, Osama bin Laden released a new audio recording titled “Message to the American People,” news agencies reported Monday. The 11-minute 20-second message appeared on the Arabic Web site As-Sahab and offered justifications for al-Qaeda’s attacks eight years ago. “Amongst some other injustices,” Bin Laden says on the tape, U.S. support for Israel motivated the terrorist attacks. He criticized Barack Obama, saying that the new president has sowed new seeds of hatred in the Muslim world.


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Washington in 60 Seconds: Glenn Beck, Joe Wilson and ‘Hot Tub Tom’ Delay

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Good morning, Capitolists! It’s the terrible economy’s first birthday and the president goes to New York City to mark the occasion. He’ll tell the hedge-fund fathers of our jaundiced financial system that he’s giving them new regulations to help their baby grow up to be strong and healthy.

Here’s what else is making news in Washington today:

* Is Glenn Beck a loud-mouthed, wild-eyed rabble-rouser or modern day, right-of-center muckraker? The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz reports; you decide.

* Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) is sorry for his “You lie!” moment on the House floor last week, but not sorry enough to apologize twice. That sets the stage for a Tuesday vote in the House for Wilson’s co-workers to reprimand the congressman. Asked for his thoughts last night on “60 Minutes,” President Obama called the whole thing “a big circus.”

* Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is preparing to testify tomorrow at his reconfirmation hearing in the Senate. The Armed Services Committee hearing is expected to be a preview of the full, and likely contentious, Senate debate on plans for the U.S. war in Afghanistan later this fall.

* The “gang of six” meets again on health care today, when Bloomberg says the bipartisan group of Senate negotiators will talk about Medicare, Medicaid, how abortion is funded (or not funded) with federal dollars, and the future of tort reform.

* And for those counting the days, “Dancing With the Stars” kicks off a week from tonight, complete with Tom Delay in heels and sparkles. If that’s not enough to get you to set your TiVo, maybe this Politico exposé will convince you that the man who once went by “Hot Tub Tom” is worth five minutes of your undivided attention.


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China Strikes Back Against U.S. Tire Tariff

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Unexpectedly retaliating against a punitive new U.S. tariff on tires, which President Obama levied last week to combat the outsourcing of American jobs, China has taken steps to slap tariffs on American exports of automotive products and chicken meat. China’s move came after a week of nationalist vitriol that followed word of the tire tariff and increased tensions between two nations trying to work together on the global economy and the North Korean nuclear threat.


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In South Carolina, Support for Joe Wilson’s America

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WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. — “Where do you stand?” Art Durazzi asked me. He wasn’t belligerent or angry when he looked me in the eye. He just wanted to know, could he trust me?

I told him I stand for my country, which I do, and I have relatives who’ve served in the military, also true. He relaxed.
That’s where we — we meaning Americans – are right now. The 50 or so Joe Wilson supporters who gathered outside the now famous South Carolina congressman’s office here on Friday evening don’t trust many things, certainly not the Democrats’ health-care reform plan. They may take issue with Wilson’s manners but agree with his message that illegal immigrants would benefit, a claim Democrats dispute.


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Will Obama Go Soft on Wall Street?

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Is Barack Obama–and everyone else–going soft on Wall Street?

To mark the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers–which kicked-off a historic meltdown within the banking system–the president on Monday was scheduled to give a mid-day speech at Federal Hall in New York’s financial district. Before he headed to the other Ground Zero, what Obama would say was predictable. He would hail his administration’s economic record, contend that its handling of the various bailouts and the stimulus package prevented further economic disaster, and outline his various proposals for financial re-regulation. But how hard was he really going to whack the financial wizards who waltzed the US economy into a ditch while lining their own pockets? It’s darn easy to decry this bunch in vague, abstract terms. But going after the speculators and money-manipulators for real is not so easy.


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Obama, on Anniversary of Wall Street Collapse, Kicks Up Drive to Prevent More Meltdowns

President Obama makes a quick visit to Wall Street on Monday for a lunch-hour speech on the economy. A day short of the one-year anniversary of the fall of financial giant Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy Sept. 15, 2008, Obama will tell the nation that he believes we are back from the brink.

But America is far from economically healthy again, and even with an enormous focus on pending health care legislation, the president wants to keep pressure on Congress to pass his package of financial system reforms while the memory of how close the nation was to another Depression is still fresh in voters’ minds.


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Would You Lose Weight to Save Money? Reformers Eye Rewards for Healthy Living

What if unhealthy Americans could reap financial rewards for losing weight or quitting their cigarette habits? Would they do it? Congress wants to know, and may be on track to require insurance companies to offer premium discounts to people who take care of themselves.

This latest wrinkle in health reform comes from Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Pa., a dietician who looked at the health insurance-related bills coming out of various House committees and found something missing – namely personal responsibility. “What about the individual and our own responsibility?” she asked in a phone interview with Politics Daily. “How can we encourage people to make better lifestyle choices so that we bring down the cost of health care for the long term?”
The operative word is “encourage.” This is all about carrots and not about sticks – kind of like an automobile insurance policy that gives you a break for safe driving but doesn’t raise your rates if you cause accidents.
Dahlkemper’s bill would require insurance companies to offer “premium discounts for healthy behavior and improvements toward healthy behavior,” in an amount to be set by the secretary of Health and Human Services. The discounts would apply to six indicators of health: smoking, blood pressure, weight or body mass index, blood sugar levels (in diabetics), LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol.


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Joe Wilson: ‘I Am Not Going to Apologize Again’

Rep. Joe Wilson told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” he will not apologize again for shouting “you lie” during President Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

“I have apologized one time. The apology was accepted by the president, by the vice president, who I know. I am not apologizing again,” said the South Carolina Republican.

Wilson told Wallace he’d had a “town hall” moment.

Wilson noted that he had apologized to the president on Wednesday, adding, “That is sufficient.” The apology was delivered over the telephone to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and was accepted publicly by Obama.

That means Wilson will likely be brought to the well of the House floor this upcoming week so House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can sanction him with a resolution of “disapproval.”

“My view is that the apology to the president, to the White House, his acceptance, the vice president’s acceptance — people know my civility. They know that this was a one-time event, and it was out of frustration.”


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Where Are the Condemnations of Abortion Protester James Pouillon’s Murder?

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James Pouillon, aka “the sign guy” was the abortion rights opponent gunned down in suburban Owosso, Michigan, early Friday morning. Shortly after his murder, a Facebook Friend of mine with a conservative political outlook posted the question: “Where is the outrage?”


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