Politics Today: Obama's Coalition of the Swilling

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:

**President Obama talks race over beers...

**Health care reform inches forward on Capitol Hill...

**Giuliani for New York governor?

**RNC meets; Pawlenty to criticize Obama's health care plan...

PRESIDENT OBAMA TODAY: At 6 p.m. ET, the president will sit down for beers with his own coalition of the swilling – Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley – to try to defuse the controversy over Gates' arrest and turn it into a "teachable moment."

While most of the discussion over the past 24 hours has been about what beers the men will drink (Bud Light for the president, Blue Moon for Crowley and Red Stripe for Gates), it's important to remember the serious reasons for this sit down at a picnic table outside the Oval Office: the arrest itself and the implications of Mr. Obama's initial reaction to it last Wednesday.

"Obama invited the two men to the White House on Friday, the same day he publicly expressed regret for saying July 22 at a nationally televised news conference that Cambridge police had 'acted stupidly' by arresting Gates at his home," report the Washington Post's Michael A. Fletcher and Krissah Thompson.

"The remark ignited a backlash from conservative commentators and law enforcement officials, who accused Obama of speaking rashly and being anti-police."

"That controversy caught the White House by surprise, and initially the president, a friend of Gates's, stuck by his words. But as objections continued to build, Obama discussed it briefly with friends while at his Chicago home on Thursday, a White House official said. Later, he also discussed the issue with his wife -- who was said to be as outraged by the arrest as he was -- before deciding to step back from his original stand. Obama told reporters that both Crowley and Gates, who reportedly berated the officer, overreacted."

Meantime, the Associated Press' Jesse Washington points out, "Obama stabbed a raw nerve when he said Crowley acted 'stupidly' in arresting Gates at his own home. Gates was charged with disorderly conduct for protesting Crowley's actions during a burglary investigation; the charge was dropped.

"Obama quickly realized his mistake and sought to calm a national outburst of anger and avoid political repercussions. He praised Crowley, said both men had overreacted and invited them to share a beer at the White House.

"Now, after mostly avoiding race issues, Obama may have stumbled into a role he was destined to play."

Boston Herald's Jessica Van Sack, "E-mail fuels rage over race uproar"

USA Today's Marisol Bello, "911 caller in Gates case says she's glad truth is out"

CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli, "Poll: Many Blacks Say Police Treat Them Unfairly"

Associated Press' Steven R. Hurst, "'Beer diplomacy' shows race still a flashpoint"

5192100HEALTH CARE: "The drive to enact health legislation gained momentum, as top House Democrats on Wednesday brokered a deal with White House backing to ease the impact on small business and pare back the cost of the sweeping bill," report the Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt and Janet Adamy.

"Democrats agreed to resume long-stalled deliberations in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with prospects strong for the committee to approve the bill later this week. At the same time, they agreed to postpone any vote in the full House until September.

"In the Senate, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) said his effort to build a bipartisan bill is advancing. He cited an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office that the bill in the Senate Finance Committee would cost less than $900 billion over a decade -- less than other versions of the health legislation in the House and Senate -- and ensure insurance coverage for 95% of Americans.

"Together, the developments suggested that Democrats are likely to avoid their worst-case scenario -- a breakdown of talks before the August recess. But they are still far from agreement on the final contours of the legislation."

The Washington Post's Paul Kane and Shailagh Murray add, "House Democrats reached a deal with conservatives in their caucus that would reduce the overall cost of the package and ensure more funding for rural hospitals, concessions that could allow the Energy and Commerce Committee to finish its consideration of the legislation.

"Bipartisan negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile, announced that a draft of their reform package would come with a lower-than-expected price tag of less than $900 billion over 10 years, which would be slightly less expensive than the new target for the House bill.

"But the twin movements toward compromise were not well received by all lawmakers.

"As Senate conservatives pressured their Republican colleagues to back away from the emerging finance panel's package, House Democratic leaders tried to tamp down an uprising from liberals who complained that the plan's central plank -- a government-financed 'public option' for insurance -- had been watered down by the deal with party moderates."

"[S]ome of the concessions to Blue Dogs set off a revolt among members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who said they feared that the public insurance plan was being weakened," write the New York Times' Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn.

"'We do not support this,' said Representative Lynn Woolsey, Democrat of California, co-chairwoman of the progressive caucus. 'It's a nonstarter.'

"In the Senate, negotiations in the Finance Committee were also moving forward — to such a degree that Senate Republican leaders became worried that a deal might be near. One Republican negotiator, Senator Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, tried to quash that idea, saying the group was 'nowhere near a deal.'"

Los Angeles Times' Noam N. Levey and Janet Hook, "House Democrats make a healthcare deal"

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Meantime, former Bush political strategist Karl Rove counters in the Wall Street Journal today, writing that facing sagging poll numbers, "Mr. Obama is dropping his high-minded rhetoric and instead trying to scare voters. During last week's news conference, for example, he said that doctors routinely perform unnecessary tonsillectomies on children simply to fatten their wallets. All that was missing was the suggestion that the operations were conducted without anesthesia.

"This is not a healthy way to wage a policy debate. It also risks making the president look desperate at a time when his proposals are looking increasingly too expensive for Americans to accept."

CBS News Poll, "Public Conflicted Over Health Reform"

Washington Post's Scott Wilson, "Obama Makes a Populist Pitch"

Los Angeles Times' James Oliphant, "Obama changes healthcare tack to win over the insured"

Wall Street Journal's Janet Adamy, "Despite Making Concessions, Insurers Face Renewed Attacks"

Politico's Victoria McGrane and Lisa Lerer, "Is health bill too complex to grasp?"

Boston Globe's Lisa Wangsness, "On both sides, healthcare ads target emotions"

CBS News' Mark Knoller, "Obama Health Care Push Echoes Clinton (Supermarket Edition)"

GIULIANI FOR NY GOVERNOR?: Former New York City Mayor – and 2008 Republican presidential candidate – Rudy Giuliani gives a speech on the economy at a Crain's Business Breakfast in Manhattan this morning.

Giuliani, who's been rumored to be thinking about a run for governor, is not being so coy anymore. Per the press release for this morning's event, Giuliani definitely "is considering a run for governor [and] will also be asked about his own future plans."

Current Gov. David Paterson, D-N.Y., is suffering from anemic poll numbers and only one Republican has entered the race so far: former U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, who incidentally ran for Senate against Hillary Clinton in 2000 after Giuliani dropped out of that race.

PAWLENTY AT RNC: Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn., who is widely considered a potential 2012 presidential candidate, is in San Diego today to speak to the Republican National Committee's summer meeting.

An advisor to Pawlenty tells CBS News that "Governor Pawlenty will introduce himself to an important group of Republican leaders and lay out the case for why President Obama's policies are taking America in the wrong direction."

He'll focus on three major topics, the advisor adds: the federal budget, health care and foreign affairs.

On health care, he'll hit President Obama directly, per the advisor: "The health care debate in Washington is more than a difference between the two parties. Obamacare replaces independence with dependence, and increase costs with the false excuse of reducing costs. Reform must include incentives for citizens to be wise health care consumers. That's what Governor Pawlenty did in Minnesota, successfully savings costs."

"The two-term fiscal and social conservative is taking necessary steps toward a possible presidential bid — headlining GOP fundraisers, taking an influential job at the Republican Governors Association, mulling his own political action committee," writes the Associated Press' Brian Bakst. "But Pawlenty says he's focused on the party, not 2012.

"'Anybody who is out focusing on (2012) instead of working toward getting the party moving forward or back in a better position in 2010 is really doing us a disservice,' Pawlenty told The Associated Press."

Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Pugmire, "Gov. Pawlenty's speech to RNC continues 2012 speculation"

The Hill's Reid Wilson, "GOP optimistic as it gathers for RNC summer conference"

Associated Press' Michael R. Blood, "GOP looks to future after stinging losses in 2008"


NY Times' Elisabeth Bumiller and Peter Baker, "Gates Sees Faster Iraq Troop Pullout"


CBS News Poll: "Obama Not Blamed For Economy"

Bloomberg News' Nicholas Johnston and Edwin Chen, "Obama Says Recession Nears End as Data Improve While Polls Fall"

Bloomberg News' Todd Shields, "Obama Web Site Falters as U.S. Stimulus Trackers Turn to Onvia"


Associated Press' Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "Dems warn GOP of backlash for opposing Sotomayor"


NY Times' Matt Richtel, "Senators Seek Ban on Texting and Driving"

Washington Post's R. Jeffrey Smith, "House Seems To Be Set on Pork-Padded Defense Bill"


McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma, "Palin's more popular than Pelosi (but only one is in office)"


McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma, "Poll: Dissatisfaction growing with Obama, Democrats"

2009 NJ Governor: Newark Star-Ledger's John P. Martin, "Whistleblower lawsuit targets Chris Christie's role in federal fraud plea"

2009 VA Governor: Washington Times' Sarah Abruzzese, "Va.'s Wilder praises GOP's McDonnell"

2009 NY-23 Special Election: CQ Politics' Emily Cadei, "Democrats Mull Rookies For Special Election"

2010 CA Governor: San Francisco Chronicle's Carla Marinucci, "Jerry Brown's favorite charities get millions"

2010 MA Governor: Boston Globe's Matt Viser, "For starters, Baker jabs at Patrick"

2010 TX Governor: Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Dave Montgomery and Aman Batheja, "Hutchison says she'll resign from Senate in fall to seek Texas governor's office"

2010 CT Senate: Politico's John Bresnahan and Manu Raju, "Dodd, Conrad cry foul"

2010 IL Senate: Kane County Chronicle, "Aurora man to seek U.S. Senate seat"

2010 TX Senate: Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Anna M. Tinsley, "Texas Sen. Hutchison sets stage for special election for her seat"

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.