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Obama agenda: No public option?

"Racing to regain control of the health-care debate, two top administration officials signaled Sunday that the White House may be willing to jettison a controversial government-run insurance plan favored by liberals," The Washington Post front-pages. "As President Obama finishes a western swing intended to bolster support for his signature policy initiative, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius opened the door to a compromise on a public option, saying it is 'not the essential element' of comprehensive reform. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said on CBS's 'Face the Nation' that Obama 'will be satisfied' if the private insurance market has 'choice and competition.'" 

The New York Times sums up the politics here: "For Mr. Obama, giving up on the public plan would have risks and rewards. The reward is that he could punch a hole in Republican arguments that he wants a 'government takeover' of health care and possibly win some Republican votes. The risk is that he could alienate liberal Democrats, whose support he will also need to pass a bill."

The AP: "The shift leaves open a chance for compromise with Republicans that probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority."

Here's President Obama's op-ed on health-care reform in Sunday's New York Times.

The White House has launched a Spanish language-version of WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck.

Speaking of fact-checks… As we've asked before, why does the president continue to say, "If you like your health care coverage, you can keep it"? Nobody seems to be able to prove the president's proclamation true. Here's a Washington Post fact-check on the claim.

Also: "One of President Obama's favorite arguments for his health care overhaul plan is that he would require insurance companies to pay for tests and other preventive care that can determine whether a person has a life-threatening disease. 'It saves lives, it also saves money,' he said at his town hall meeting last week in New Hampshire. But things are not that simple," The Boston Globe points out. "While cholesterol tests, cancer screenings, and other preventive measures can save lives, there is strong disagreement about whether they really reduce health care spending, because the tests themselves are costly and often lead to more doctor's visits and procedures. And now, that longstanding medical debate has become a big political sticking point."

Liberal HCAN/AFSCME are up with a new health-care TV ad targeting Republicans.

"The Obama administration, in a major shift on housing policy, is abandoning George W. Bush's vision of creating an "ownership society'' and instead plans to pump $4.25 billion of economic stimulus money into creating tens of thousands of federally subsidized rental units in American cities."

Turning to foreign relations/national security… Iraq and Afghanistan will top the agenda today when the president speaks before the VFW Convention in Phoenix.

GOP consultant Alex Conant looks to things to watch for in Obama's speech today.

This Washington Post piece about Defense Secretary Robert Gates' decision to change commanders will be a must read for those who enjoy Pentagon intrigue.

And here was the most interesting exchange in Secretary of State Clinton's interview with the Wall Street Journal: Why push human rights and democracy so hard in Africa, I venture, and not in Russia or China? Some see a double standard. "First I think it is important to stress that human rights remain a central driving force of our foreign policy," she says. "But I also think that it's important to look at human rights more broadly than it has been defined. Human rights are also the right to a good job and shelter over your head and a chance to send your kids to school and get health care when your wife is pregnant. It's a much broader agenda. Too often it has gotten narrowed to our detriment."

Mrs. Clinton adds, "We have very strong differences with the Chinese. We have stood up and talked about that and pointed it out and they will continue to disagree with us. We know that." But the administration sees an opening to get closer with Beijing on the global economy, climate change and North Korea -- and touts results already.