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Obama agenda: Yesterday's town hall

"As demonstrators waved signs and shouted across police tape outside, Obama tried to dispel the emotional argument foes have voiced over the airwaves and in local meetings across the country," The Boston Globe writes. "He also fought back on points about costs and fears of a government takeover of the healthcare system. And he argued forcefully that a healthcare overhaul would benefit Americans with insurance as well as those without it by cracking down on insurers and offering alternatives to people who lose their coverage. The campaign-style forum was the first of three town hall meetings the White House has scheduled in upcoming days to hammer back at critics, who have put Democrats on the defensive with demonstrations around the country."

The Washington Post: "As the president spoke, demonstrators outside held posters declaring him a socialist and dubbing him 'Obamahdinejad,' in reference to Iran's president. People screamed into bullhorns to protest a bigger government role in health care. 'Nobama Deathcare!' one sign read. A young girl held up a sign that said: 'Obama Lies, Grandma Dies.' Images of a protester wearing what appeared to be a gun were shown on television." 

The New York Daily News: "If President Obama wanted to hear from hard-core 'skeptics' of his health care plan here on Tuesday, he could have just stepped outside his town hall meeting. One man carried a sign that read 'Obama Pelosi = Mein Kampf,' a reference to Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic political treatise. 'Government Healthcare = Death Warrant for Seniors,' read another. Both sides of the health care debate faced off Tuesday outside the Portsmouth High School, site of the town hall. Its main driveway became a loud demilitarized zone: some 250 screaming opponents of Obama's plan on one side, a quieter but equally large group of supporters on the other and a small platoon of cops in between."

The Washington Post's Balz does the "what does it all mean?" analysis today, and ge focuses on the issue of government's size and delves into the need for the president to unveil more of what he supports. "The issue of how much government is too much has crystallized in the health-care debate around the proposal for a public insurance option. Advocates say such a government-run plan would give people more choices and would hold down costs by providing stiffer competition for private insurance companies. Opponents argue that it represents a step toward a government takeover of the health-care system that will limit choice and affect quality of care." 

Also: "[F]or Obama, the choice at this moment may be starker than his Democratic friends anticipated. Has the health-care debate reached a point at which he must make clearer what he regards as essential in a final bill, including the public option? That is likely to become a topic for debate inside the administration in coming weeks." 

The Wall Street Journal sees Obama as a micro-manager. 

A new Gallup poll shows the president has made no progress on his health care ratings. "Americans rate President Barack Obama's handling of healthcare policy essentially the same as they did roughly three weeks ago, remaining slightly more likely to disapprove than approve."

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is now running TV ads against Obama on health care. Per the AP, "The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will begin airing 30-second ads in about 20 states Wednesday criticizing the Democratic proposal to offer optional government health coverage. R. Bruce Josten, who is the chamber's executive vice president, said the multimillion-dollar ad buy would be one of the largest so far critical of President Barack Obama's effort. Opponents this year have been heavily outspent by supporters of Obama's plan. The ads show a balloon being inflated until it bursts. The ad says, 'Big tax increases, huge deficits, expanded government control of health care. Call Congress.' The commercials will be broadcast in Arkansas, Colorado, Nebraska and other states with lawmakers whose votes are still considered uncertain."

The L.A. Times tries to sift through the fact and fiction of the health-care debate. It breaks down the following:
-- Does the legislation include provisions to encourage senior citizens to commit suicide? (Answer: No.)
-- Will the government start paying for abortions? (Answer: Unclear -- though "Neither House nor Senate versions of the healthcare legislation contains any requirement that federal funding be made available for abortions.")
-- Will illegal immigrants receive free healthcare benefits? (Answer: No.)
-- Will the government ration care? (Answer: "This is almost impossible to say, although if the legislation passes there may be less 'rationing' than there is now.)

Obama for President … of Afghanistan? Afghan challengers are channeling Obama. One -- Dr. Abdullah Abdullah -- has created a Web site called www.change-hope.com and another -- Ashraf Ghani -- created a campaign Web video "not only promises 'hope for change,' but features an image and quote of President Barack Obama opposing a Karzai policy."