Politics Today: Obama Takes on Town Halls

Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

**Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of Special Olympics, dies at 88...

**President Obama takes health care reform debate to N.H. today...

**Immigration is on the table, it's just going to be a while before he gets to it, Mr. Obama says...

EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER: Shriver, the founder of the Special Olympics and the sister of former President John F. Kennedy and current Sen. Ted Kennedy, died at 2am today after a long illness, according to her family. She was 88.

Click here for the Boston Globe obituary.

5192100HEALTH CARE: Today, President Obama heads to Portsmouth, N.H., to continue laying out – and continue defending – his health care reform proposal. He will hold a town meeting-style event at 1pm ET at Portsmouth High School; 1,800 tickets have been distributed and, as is happening at these types of events with members of Congress, protestors are expected to show up.

"A White House official said participants wouldn't be screened to keep out opponents," points out the Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy.

"Mr. Obama, who has previously focused on cutting overall health spending, will now emphasize how the legislation would fix three specific problems, according to the White House official. An overhaul would end the practice of denying insurance coverage to people with a pre-existing illness; keep people from losing their coverage if they get sick; and protect Americans who face high out-of-pocket medical costs, the official said Mr. Obama would say. ...

"Republican lawmakers in general support two of the three changes Mr. Obama plans to emphasize: ending denials of coverage based on pre-existing illness and protecting the sick from losing their insurance. Insurers also have agreed to abandon these practices as long as lawmakers pass a new law requiring most people to carry insurance."

"The White House is retooling its message amid polling that shows Americans — especially those who already have coverage — skeptical of the Democratic proposals to expand coverage to millions," adds the Associated Press' Philip Elliott. "Instead, Obama will use a potentially boisterous town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire to highlight how his proposals would affect workers whose employers provide their health insurance.

"The shift also is a potential blueprint for lawmakers' August recess. Critics of the president's plan have grabbed headlines by disrupting town hall meetings, and the White House expects that Tuesday's event may be bumpy. ...

"In Portsmouth, N.H., Obama will speak directly about his proposal to ban insurance companies from denying individuals coverage because of pre-existing conditions. During a Friday trip to Bozeman, Mont., he will talk about how his plan would block companies from dropping an individual's coverage if he or she becomes ill. And in Grand Junction, Colo., the president will talk about how the Democrats' plan would end high out-of-pocket costs in some policies."

"For some of Mr. Obama's supporters, the newly galvanized opposition to his proposed policies provided a troubling flashback to the successful effort to stop President Bill Clinton's similarly ambitious plans 16 years ago — a fight Mr. Obama's aides had studied carefully to avoid making the same fatal mistakes," write the New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Jackie Calmes. "White House officials say such fears are unwarranted, arguing that the conservative protests are getting outsize coverage on cable news.

"'Don't associate loud with effective,' Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, said in an interview, adding that he detected no anxiety from supportive lawmakers in politically vulnerable districts. 'What is coming across is a lot of noise and a lot of heat without a lot of light.'

"And White House officials say their August counteroffensive is a break from the Clinton approach, which is now viewed as having failed to adequately address critics…

"New television commercials disputing the conservative attacks are in the works, [DNC Communications Director Brad] Woodhouse said, and allied members of Congress have been sent home for the August break with a set of poll-tested talking points intended to shift the focus to the administration's advertised benefits of the plan from the scary situations opponents have laid out."

The new DNC ad out today will run on national cable TV and in New Hampshire, Montana and Colorado and attempts to lay out "what's in [health care reform] for you."

"What's in it for you? ... President Obama's plan will end unfair insurance practices. ...like denying coverage for a pre-existing condition ...outrageous out of pocket expenses ...and dropping coverage when you get too sick. Health insurance reform means your family's care comes first, not insurance industry profits. Call Congress. Tell them when it comes to health insurance reform, there's something in it for all of us."

5225587"Republicans say the heated debate is a sign of widespread public dissatisfaction with Obama's ideas," writes the Associated Press' Jennifer Loven. But with some of the anxieties spilling into angry disruptions and even threats, Democrats have accused Republicans of orchestrating the events to sabotage legislation. In an article published Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer wrote: 'Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.'

"Obama stayed away from such provocative language.

"'We are having a vigorous debate in the United States, and I think that's a healthy thing,' he said, repeating that thought three times. But, he said, the dynamic will change once the recess ends and the lawmakers — and the debate — return to Washington.

"'I suspect that once we get into the fall and people look at the actual legislation that's being proposed, that more sensible and reasoned arguments will emerge. And we're going to get this passed,' he said."

In Portsmouth today, "Supporters and opponents are expected to be on hand en masse, though not all will be inside with the president, and those who came to pick up tickets Monday at the high school and at Portsmouth's City Hall were from all over the region," reports the Portsmouth Herald's Elizabeth Dinan and Dave Choate. "While the feedback from the small groups waiting for tickets was mostly positive, others expressed concern with the reform plans, most notably with cost and scope. Jim Forsythe of Strafford said he was 'skeptical of' and 'nervous' about the plan, saying that a lot of money is already tied up in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and drew parallels to government-run care in the former Soviet Union, where he studied in college.

"The last thing the country needs is a government that is running more programs and aspects of American life, he added. 'We're in bad shape because of government involvement,' Forsythe said."

The Hill's Michael Soraghan, "Democrats fight back on health care, town halls"

Los Angeles Times' Christi Parsons, "In healthcare debate, 'reality' is in dispute"

Associated Press' Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Fact Check: No 'death panel' in health care bill"

***On today's'Washington Unplugged': myth-busting health care reform claims. LIVE at 12:30pm ET:

IMMIGRATION: "Locked in a healthcare debate that is claiming much of his energy, President Obama acknowledged that a push to overhaul the nation's immigration system will have to wait until 2010 and even then will prove a major political test," report the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Tracy Wilkinson. "Obama suggested it would be too ambitious to aim for passage of new immigration laws before the end of the year, at a time when he will be confronting 'a pretty big stack of bills.'

"Speaking at the end of a two-day summit meeting of fellow North American leaders, Obama said, 'Now, I've got a lot on my plate, and it's very important for us to sequence these big initiatives in a way where they don't all just crash at the same time.'

"Obama said he won't ignore immigration. His administration is meeting with lawmakers and coming up with a bill that would enjoy bipartisan support, so that 'when we come back next year . . . we should be in a position to start acting.'"

The Washington Post's Cheryl W. Thompson and William Booth add, "Obama said that there needs to be 'a pathway to citizenship' for millions of illegal immigrants in the United States, and that the system must be reworked to avoid tensions with Mexico. Without it, he said, Mexicans will keep crossing the border in dangerous ways and employers will continue exploiting workers.

"'We can create a system in which you have . . . an orderly process for people to come in, but we're also giving an opportunity for those who are already in the United States to be able to achieve a pathway to citizenship so that they don't have to live in the shadows,' Obama said during an hour-long news conference at the Cabañas Cultural Center in downtown Guadalajara. 'Am I going to be able to snap my fingers and get this done? No. This is going to be difficult.' ...

"Immigration is among the most controversial items on Obama's legislative agenda, with critics opposing what they call an amnesty for illegal workers and businesses concerned about reductions in their labor force. President George W. Bush twice attempted immigration reform during his second term, without success."

(CBS/Mandy Clark)
AFGHANISTAN: "In addition to requesting some 45,000 additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the country's top American military commander will ask the Obama administration to double the number of U.S. government civilian workers who are in the country," report McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel. "The proposed civilian 'surge' is the fourth leg of Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal's emerging strategy to rebuild Afghanistan's economy and government, along with more American troops, vastly expanded Afghan security forces and closer cooperation between U.S. and Afghan troops, including posting troops from both countries at the same bases.

"The request for additional civilian resources will be part of a 60-day assessment of the strategy in Afghanistan. McChrystal's plan also will outline how the military wants to revamp the relationship between civilians and the military so that soldiers shift economic and political development work to civilians.

"It's not clear, however, whether the State Department can deploy enough civilians fast enough to make progress in an economically backward nation that remains plagued by an Islamist insurgency, internal rivalries, inadequate infrastructure, official corruption and a booming opium trade. What's more, nearly eight years after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan, one thing that many of its people have in common is growing discontent with the presence of foreign forces."

CBS News' Lara Logan, "Is The Taliban Winning in Afghanistan?"

Washington Post's Joshua Partlow, "U.S. Officials See Karzai Rival Ghani as Potential Chief Executive"

New York Times' Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall, "Taliban Seize Building for Attack on Afghan Government Offices"

PRESIDENT'S UPCOMING SCHEDULE: Per the White House, "On Wednesday morning, the President will host a reception for Justice Sonia Sotomayor at the White House. In the afternoon, the President will host the Medal of Freedom ceremony at the White House.

On Thursday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Friday, August 14th, the First Family will visit the Bozeman area of Montana. On August 15th, they will travel to Yellowstone, Wyoming and Grand Junction, Colorado. They will then travel to the Grand Canyon and Phoenix, Arizona on August 16th. They will return to Washington, DC on Monday, August 17th."

Politico's Josh Gerstein, "Israel invite clouds President Obama's nuclear summit"

Washington Post's Joshua Partlow, "U.S. Officials See Karzai Rival Ghani as Potential Chief Executive"

Bloomberg News' Janine Zacharia, "Clinton Travels to Eastern Congo to Focus on Violence"

Washington Post's Spencer S. Hsu and Cecilia Kang, "U.S. Web-Tracking Plan Stirs Privacy Fears"

Washington Post's Kate Kilpatrick and Ruth McCann, "White House Objects to Poster That Invokes Obama Children"

Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins and T.W. Farnam, "Congress Retreats Over Jet Purchase"

Washington Post's Keith B. Richburg and Ashley Surdin, "Stimulus Funds Bring Relief to States, But What About 2010?"

The State's John O'Connor, "Dems seeking Sanford probe"

Politico's Patrick O'Connor, "GOP rebranding effort flames out"

2009 NJ Governor: PolitickerNJ.com, "Quinnipiac: Christie leads Corzine 51%-42%"

2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger's Josh Margolin and Claire Heininger, "Gov. Corzine shuffles campaign staff, bringing in two high-powered political strategists"

2009 VA Governor: Richmond Times-Dispatch's Jeff E. Schapiro, "Economy, abortion rights focus of gubernatorial race"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Post's Anita Kumar, "McDonnell Unveils Plan; Dems Criticize Him"

2009 NY-23 Special Election: Syracuse Post-Standard's Mark Weiner, "Democrats nominate Bill Owens to run for Rep. John McHugh's seat in Congress"

2010 NY Governor: NY Times' Raymond Hernandez, "State Democrats Fear That Paterson Is Liability"

2010 TX Governor: Dallas Morning News' Robert T. Garrett, "Democrat Schieffer fends questions about Bush ties"

2010 IL Senate: Chicago Sun-Times, "Cheryle Jackson jumps in Senate race"

2010 NY Senate: NY Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin, "Serrano Won't Challenge Gillibrand, But Isn't Ready To Endorse Her"

NY Times' Adam Nagourney, "Bill Clinton Celebrates His 63rd in Las Vegas"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.