Donald Trump Betrays America. He Must Be Stopped.

The GOP must get on board with stopping Donald Trump. The man is selling out this country piece by piece.

He must be impeached. As soon as possible.

From his Twitter rants today.

Trump’s latest Tweets
Trump’s latest Tweets

Why does Trump want to be Kim Jong-un’s friend?

why does he trust Putin over American intelligence?

Why is he still obsessed with Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Why does he feel so inadequate?

Why is he still in office?

Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump: Live Blogging

hillary clinton v. Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton v. Donald Trump. (Screenshot)

10:39 p.m.

And, it’s over. Handshakes.

10:37 p.m.

Trump goes after Rosie O’Donnell.

Rosie O’Donnell.

Says he was going to say something terrible about Hillary and her family, but decided not to.

10:34 p.m.

Trump said Clinton does not have a presidential look, Holt said. She’s the first female nominee of a major party.

“I don’t believe Hillary has the stamina. I said ‘the stamina.'”

As soon as he visits 128 countries or spends 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee, “then he can talk about stamina.

10:33 p.m.

Trump wanders again. “We are losing billions and billions of dollars.”

10:30 p.m.

“Words matter when you run for president and they really matter when you are president,” Clinton says. She acknowledges that this campaign has troubled many world leaders.

“Our word is good,” she reassures.

Says Trump never said what his alternative would be to deal with Iran.

10:28 p.m.

Holt: Do you support the current U.S. policy on first use [of nuclear weapons].

Trump says China should “go into” North Korea, Iran has power over North Korea.

10:27 p.m.

Trump: Saudi Arabia and others should be paying us money.

10:24 p.m.

Clinton speaks of Iran. Sanctions were not enough.

President Obama, John Kerry, she helped, shut down Iran’s nuclear program.

Speaks of Trump’s “cavalier attitude” about nuclear weapons.

“A man who can be provoked by a Tweet should not have his hand anywhere near the nuclear codes.”

10:22 p.m.

Trump keeps naming Sean Hannity as his source.

Trump says that he has much better judgment than Hillary Clinton.

“I think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament.”

10:19 p.m.

Trump: ISIS formed because of a vacuum formed  by Barack Obama and Secretary Clinton.

10:18 p.m.

Trump: “NATO could be obsolete.” Says NATO does not focus on terror.

10:17 p.m.

Hillary speaks of cooperating with Muslims in America, not alienate Muslims and push them away like Trump has done.

10:16 p.m.

Clinton: George W. Bush made the agreement to leave Iraq. The only way we could have stayed would have been to have an agreement with the then-Iraqi government to protect American troops. That did not happen.

10:14 p.m.

Trump: “Had we taken the oil,” there would be no ISIS.

10:13 p.m.

Holt: “How will you prevent home-grown terrorism?”

Trump: Speaks of ISIS.

10:12 p.m.

Clinton: “I have put forth a plan to defeat ISIS.” It does entail going after them online. We must also intensify air attacks against ISIS. Take out their “claim of being a caliphate.”

“We’re hoping to push [ISIS] out of Iraq in a year.”

This would be awesome.

10:10 p.m.

Trump talks about his endorsements.

Now talking about ISIS.

10:08 p.m.

Clinton: We are not going to sit idly by and let state actors go after public and private information.

“I was so shocked when Donald invited Putin to hack into Americans.”

10:07 p.m.

Hillary Clinton speaks on cyber security. There are independent hackers. There also cyber attacks coming from states. “The most recent and troubling of them has been Russia.”

10:05 p.m.

Trump says Clinton treated Obama horribly.

“As far as the lawsuit,” admits he was sued, “we settled with no admission of guilt.”

That just means cash flowed and the other side was silenced.

10:03 p.m.

Clinton: [Trump] has started his race for president on this racist, birther lie.

Clinton: Trump was sued in 1973 because he would not rent to African Americans. “He actually was sued twice by the justice department.”

10:01 p.m.

Talking about a birth certificate. President Obama’s. “I was the one who got him to produce the birth certificate.”

Lester Holt: “The birth certificate was produced in 2009. You continued to speak about it in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and January 2016.”

10:00 p.m.

“I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. I did. You know what else I did? I’m preparing to be president.”

[APPLAUSE]

9:59 p.m.

Again, Lester Holt has lost control. Trump rambles on.

9:56 p.m.

Trump: “In New York City, we had 2,200 murders, and stop and frisk brought it down to 500.”

Hillary: Crime has continued to drop under the current mayor. We have to work with faith communities

9:54 p.m.

Clinton speaking of “implicit bias,” which is a problem for all of us, she says. Police now are having to handle a great deal of mental health problems on the street.

9:52 p.m.

“We’ve got to address the systemic racism in our justice system. We can’t just say ‘law and order.'”

Clinton is glad the federal government is ending private prisons. “I want to end them in the state systems.”

9:51 p.m.

Hillary Clinton bemoans the negative picture Trump paints of the Black community.

“Stop and frisk was found to be unconstitutional,” Hillary says.

9:50 p.m.

Trump bemoans Chicago, “I have property there.”

9:48 p.m.

Holt: “Stop and frisk has been ruled unconstitutional.”

Trump: “No, you’re wrong.” Blames the judge and current mayor.

9:47 p.m.

Trump, “African Americans live in Hell.” Calls for bringing back “stop and frisk.”

9:46 p.m.

Trump: “We need law and order. When I look at Charlotte, NC, a city where I have investments.”

9:44 p.m.

Holt turns to the question of race. “Everyone should be respected by the law,” Clinton says. “And everyone should respect the law.”

Clinton speaks of “brave police officers” who also want reform.

Clinton: “We have to tackle the plague of gun violence.”

9:43 p.m.

No focus. Clinton and Trump go back and forth. Lester Holt again tries to take the reigns.

9:42 p.m.

Trump, “Look, it’s all words. It’s all sound bytes.”

Regarding people who did not get paid, “I took advantage of the laws of the country.”

9:40 p.m.

Hillary speaks of people she’s met who were “stiffed” by Donald Trump.

Trump does not deny the accusation from Clinton, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and didn’t deserve to be paid.”

9:38 p.m.

Again, Trump speaks. Lester Holt has lost control.

9:37 p.m.

“As far as my tax returns, you don’t learn much from tax returns. You learn from financial disclosures,” Trump said.

9:35 p.m.

Hillary Clinton: Trump’s paid zero in federal taxes. What’s he hiding? “There’s something he’s hiding.”

“Were he ever to get near the White House, what would the conflicts be?”

9:34 p.m.

Clinton, “For 40 years, or 39, everyone running for president has released their tax returns.”

9:31 p.m.

Lester Holt to Trump: “You have not released your tax returns.”

“I’m under a routine audit and I will release them” as soon as the audit is over.

Dancing away from the question, now talking about a trade deficit.

Holt presses Trump on his taxes. Trump says he gets audited often by the IRS.

9:30 p.m.

Trump goes after Clinton again. “We are in a big, fat, ugly bubble.”

9:28 p.m.

Lester Holt has lost control of the debate. Clinton speaks of the “Trump loophole,” “Trumped up trickle down” economics.

“I don’t think top-down works in America,” Clinton says.

9:19 p.m.

Hillary speaking of her record. Donald Trump keeps squinting.

The moderator, Lester Holt has already lost control of the debate.

9:18 p.m.

Hillary is keeping her cool. Donald Trump is speaking to Hillary.

 

9:15 p.m.

The debate is on. Donald Trump is wandering, drinking water already. Hillary’s best take-away so far? “Trump Dump Trickle Down Economics.

 

Trump Backs Off His Obama “Birther” Lies, Now Says Hillary Started It

Donald Trump lies again.
“Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Mr. Trump said. “I finished it.”
During the 2008 Democratic contest, a senior strategist for Mrs. Clinton at one point pondered, in an internal memo that was later leaked, the ways in which Mr. Obama’s personal background differed from many Americans. But contrary to Mr. Trump’s assertion, neither Mrs. Clinton nor her campaign ever publicly questioned Mr. Obama’s citizenship or birthplace, in Hawaii.
Another WTF? moment from Donald Trump.,

Health Care Battle Tipping In Obama’s Favor As Vote Nears

President Obama

What a nice headline to read in the Sun-Times: "Health care battle tipping in Obama’s favor as vote nears."

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

One by one, House Democratic fence-sitters began choosing sides Friday, and the long, turbulent struggle over landmark health care legislation tilted unmistakably in President Barack Obama’s direction.

In full campaign mode, his voice rising, the president all but claimed victory, declaring to a cheering audience in Virginia, "We are going to fix health care in America."

With the showdown vote set for Sunday in the House, Obama decided to make one final, personal appeal to rank-and-file Democrats, arranging a Saturday visit to the Capitol. Republicans, unanimous in opposition to the bill, complained anew about its cost and reach.

Under a complex — and controversial — procedure the Democrats have devised, a single vote probably will be held to send one bill to Obama for his signature and to ship a second, fix-it measure to the Senate for final passage in the next several days.

Democratic leaders and Obama focused last-minute lobbying efforts on two groups of Democrats, 37 who voted against an earlier bill in the House and 40 who voted for it only after first makingL sure it would include strict abortion limits that now have been modified.

Democratic leaders worked late Friday attempting to resolve the dispute over abortion. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who succeeded last November in inserting strict anti-abortion language into the House bill, hopes to do so again. That prospect angered lawmakers who support abortion rights.

"We’re not going to vote for a bill that restricts a woman’s right to choose beyond current law," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., as she left an evening meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Abortion opponents are divided over whether restrictions on taxpayer funding currently in the bill go far enough.

Reps. John Boccieri of Ohio, Scott Murphy of New York and Allen Boyd and Suzanne Kosmas of Florida became the latest Democrats to announce support for the bill after voting against an earlier version that passed, bringing the number of switches in favor of the bill to seven.

This is sweet, and it’s history in the making.

This vote will be historic. Fitting that it should come on a Sunday.

To all members currently serving in the United States Congress: Vote YES on this bill. Be a part of history-in-the-making.

FYI: the picture above, in XHTML language, is aligned to the CENTER. That’s where this bill really comes from: the CENTER.

Vote for it with confidence. Vote for AMERICA. Vote, that all "… might have life, and might have it abundantly."

First Lady Marks International Women’s Day With Hillary ‘President’ Joke (Video/Text)

From Yahoo! News:

In a fitting show of solidarity for International Women’s Day, First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made light of the brutal 2008 battle Clinton conducted to defeat Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. As Michelle Obama launched a State Department commemoration of International Women’s Day, she briefly stumbled over Clinton’s job title. "Let me thank my dear friend, Senator – Secretary Clinton. I almost said, ‘President Clinton,’ " said the first lady to laughter and applause. "But let me thank you for that kind introduction, and most of all thank you for your friendship, thank you for your support, and thank you for your indispensable advice in getting me through this first year and helping me figure out how to get my family settled in our new life in D.C."

The exchange stood as another rebuke to a favored theme of the Beltway pundit set: that tensions between the Obamas and the Secretary of State still run high. More than that, though, the series of events that the first lady presided over drew wider attention to the stubborn lags in gender equality beyond the developed Western world. Both women stressed this issue in their respective speeches. As Secretary Clinton put it, the world "can’t solve problems of financial crisis, climate change, disease and poverty if half of the population is left behind."

It’s so nice to see this pleasant exchange. The pundits on the left and the pundits on the right want to see arguments and fights. Turns out they get along just fine.

Michelle is incredible. And Secretary Clinton is as well.

In Support of Obama’s ‘Surge’ in Afghanistan

The New York Times posted an extensive article on the process through which President Obama arrived at his decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Obama was "haunted by the human toll," his advisers say, and wrestled with the economic toll. One estimate claimed that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over 10 years. The "fiscally conservative" far right doesn’t bat an eye at these costs. Obama was concerned.

From The New York Times:

Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr. Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out, a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.

“I want this pushed to the left,” he told advisers, pointing to the bell curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.

When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that, betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.

The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case study in decision making in the Obama White House — intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved. It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president described by one participant as something “between a college professor and a gentle cross-examiner.”

Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of pages of documents.

We never heard President George W. Bush described as "intense, methodical, rigorous, earnest," although he may have been "deeply frustrating for nearly all involved." Obama was "deeply frustrating" for different reasons.

“I don’t want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight years,” he told his advisers.

Read the NYTimes article. Any who thought Obama was not listening to his generals should take heed. He was taking them back to boot camp, pushing and challenging them more than they had been pushed or challenged before. As Commander-in-Chief, he alone makes the policy decisions in war. The generals meet the professor.

I’m with the professor and the generals.

No one gets everything they want in a time of war.

Health Insurance Industry Shill Newt Gingrich Wants You to Stop Demonizing Other Shills

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is a shill for whoever is padding his wallet.  Make no mistake, the most frightening thing for Newt Gingrich and other health insurance industry shills is the fact that taxes will have to rise for people who make over $250,000 a year.

That’s just a fact of economics.

On this week’s Meet the Press, Newt Gingrich said the Democrats are demonizing those showing up to protest at town hall meetings.  That would include, I presume, the man who bit off another man’s finger at a health care rally:

California authorities say a clash between opponents and supporters of health care reform ended with one man biting off another man’s finger.

Ventura County Sheriff’s Capt. Frank O’Hanlon says about 100 people demonstrating in favor of health care reforms rallied Wednesday night on a street corner. One protester walked across the street to confront about 25 counter-demonstrators.

O’Hanlon says the man got into an argument and fist fight, during which he bit off the left pinky of a 65-year-old man who opposed health care reform.

A hospital spokeswoman says the man lost half the finger, but doctors reattached it and he was sent home the same night.

She says he had Medicare.

The protestor who bit off the man’s finger was demonstrating against health care reform.

Remember, Newt Gingrich tried to kill Medicare in 1995.  Had he succeeded, where would that leave grandma today?

Since 1995, Republicans have done everything and anything to weaken and dismantle Medicare and any other government program that keeps money from the health insurance industry, that weakens the health insurance industry’s ongoing efforts to capitalize on your health.

Look, the Republicans waged a war in Iraq without paying for it.  Any Democrat who dared to protest the war in Iraq was completely demonized by the Right Wing Conspiracy.

The health insurance industry shills want to keep money in their own pockets, making sure that the United States of America remains the only democracy on the planet that does not provide health care for all.  And everyone else is providing health care at half the cost the United States is spending.

Here are the most recent statistics from the World Health Organization for the United States and other democratic nations:

Statistics for the United States:

  • Total population: 302,841,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 44,070
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 75/80
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 67/71
  • Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 8
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 137/80
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 6,714
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 15.3

Statistics from Canada:

  • Total population: 32,577,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 36,280
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 78/83
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 70/74
  • Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 6
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 89/55
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 3,672
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 10.0

Statistics from France:

  • Total population: 61,330,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 32,240
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 77/84
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 69/75
  • Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 5
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 124/57
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 3,554
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 11.1

Statistics from the United Kingdom:

  • Total population: 60,512,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 33,650
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 77/81
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 69/72
  • Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 6
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 98/61
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 2,784
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 8.4

Statistics from Germany:

  • Total population: 82,641,000
  • Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 32,680
  • Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 77/82
  • Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 70/74
  • Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 5
  • Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 106/55
  • Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 3,328
  • Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 10.4

The world’s other major democracies spend almost half on health compared with what the United States spends per capita, and they’re all living longer than we are — even the Brits.  In some of these countries, for-profit health insurance is illegal.  You can run a company and sell all the widgets you want, making wonderful profits, but you can’t run a health insurance company that exists to take people’s money and then stand between a doctor and patient, refusing money for treatment.

Do you know the term the health insurance industry in the United States uses for those instances where they actually have to provide payment for medical treatment?  They call it a medical loss.  The health insurance industry in the United States actually measures the medical-loss ratio.

Every other democracy provides health insurance, in one way or another, through their government.

Remember all of these FACTS the next time you hear Newt Gingrich or any other health insurance industry shill criticize reform efforts.

Obama’s Health Care Speech – Full Video and Text

Washington, D.C.– Below is the full text of President Obama’s address on health care to the Joint Session of Congress, with emphasis added by Turning Left:

***

Madame Speaker, Vice President Biden, Members of Congress, and the American people:

When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.

As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.

I want to thank the members of this body for your efforts and your support in these last several months, and especially those who have taken the difficult votes that have put us on a path to recovery. I also want to thank the American people for their patience and resolve during this trying time for our nation.

But we did not come here just to clean up crises. We came to build a future. So tonight, I return to speak to all of you about an issue that is central to that future – and that is the issue of health care.

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.

Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.

We are the only advanced democracy on Earth – the only wealthy nation – that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage. In just a two year period, one in every three Americans goes without health care coverage at some point. And every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage. In other words, it can happen to anyone.

But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care. It happens every day.

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

Then there’s the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it. This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It’s why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care.

Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.

These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.

I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.

During that time, we have seen Washington at its best and its worst.

We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors’ groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.

But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

Well the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:

It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government. It’s a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals. And it’s a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.

Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:

First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.

That’s what Americans who have health insurance can expect from this plan – more security and stability.

Now, if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t currently have health insurance, the second part of this plan will finally offer you quality, affordable choices. If you lose your job or change your job, you will be able to get coverage. If you strike out on your own and start a small business, you will be able to get coverage. We will do this by creating a new insurance exchange – a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices. Insurance companies will have an incentive to participate in this exchange because it lets them compete for millions of new customers. As one big group, these customers will have greater leverage to bargain with the insurance companies for better prices and quality coverage. This is how large companies and government employees get affordable insurance. It’s how everyone in this Congress gets affordable insurance. And it’s time to give every American the same opportunity that we’ve given ourselves.

For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, we will provide tax credits, the size of which will be based on your need. And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned. This exchange will take effect in four years, which will give us time to do it right. In the meantime, for those Americans who can’t get insurance today because they have pre-existing medical conditions, we will immediately offer low-cost coverage that will protect you against financial ruin if you become seriously ill. This was a good idea when Senator John McCain proposed it in the campaign, it’s a good idea now, and we should embrace it.

Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those – particularly the young and healthy – who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don’t sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people’s expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don’t provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek – especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions – just can’t be achieved.

That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that’s been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I’d like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.

Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.

There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.

My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a "government takeover" of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.

So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly – by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.

Insurance executives don’t do this because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called "Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations."

Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.

Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects. But by avoiding some of the overhead that gets eaten up at private companies by profits, excessive administrative costs and executive salaries, it could provide a good deal for consumers. It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.

It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.

For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.

Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public – and that is how we pay for this plan.

Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.

Second, we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment – it’s the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.

In fact, I want to speak directly to America’s seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that’s been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.

The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies – subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.

These steps will ensure that you – America’s seniors – get the benefits you’ve been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That’s what this plan will do for you. So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut – especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.

Now, because Medicare is such a big part of the health care system, making the program more efficient can help usher in changes in the way we deliver health care that can reduce costs for everybody. We have long known that some places, like the Intermountain Healthcare in Utah or the Geisinger Health System in rural Pennsylvania, offer high-quality care at costs below average. The commission can help encourage the adoption of these common-sense best practices by doctors and medical professionals throughout the system – everything from reducing hospital infection rates to encouraging better coordination between teams of doctors.

Reducing the waste and inefficiency in Medicare and Medicaid will pay for most of this plan. Much of the rest would be paid for with revenues from the very same drug and insurance companies that stand to benefit from tens of millions of new customers. This reform will charge insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies, which will encourage them to provide greater value for the money – an idea which has the support of Democratic and Republican experts. And according to these same experts, this modest change could help hold down the cost of health care for all of us in the long-run.

Finally, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.

Add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years – less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent – but spent badly – in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.

This is the plan I’m proposing. It’s a plan that incorporates ideas from many of the people in this room tonight – Democrats and Republicans. And I will continue to seek common ground in the weeks ahead. If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open.

But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.

Everyone in this room knows what will happen if we do nothing. Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it most. And more will die as a result. We know these things to be true.

That is why we cannot fail. Because there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed – the ones who suffer silently, and the ones who shared their stories with us at town hall meetings, in emails, and in letters.

I received one of those letters a few days ago. It was from our beloved friend and colleague, Ted Kennedy. He had written it back in May, shortly after he was told that his illness was terminal. He asked that it be delivered upon his death.

In it, he spoke about what a happy time his last months were, thanks to the love and support of family and friends, his wife, Vicki, and his children, who are here tonight . And he expressed confidence that this would be the year that health care reform – "that great unfinished business of our society," he called it – would finally pass. He repeated the truth that health care is decisive for our future prosperity, but he also reminded me that "it concerns more than material things." "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

I’ve thought about that phrase quite a bit in recent days – the character of our country. One of the unique and wonderful things about America has always been our self-reliance, our rugged individualism, our fierce defense of freedom and our healthy skepticism of government. And figuring out the appropriate size and role of government has always been a source of rigorous and sometimes angry debate.

For some of Ted Kennedy’s critics, his brand of liberalism represented an affront to American liberty. In their mind, his passion for universal health care was nothing more than a passion for big government.

But those of us who knew Teddy and worked with him here – people of both parties – know that what drove him was something more. His friend, Orrin Hatch, knows that. They worked together to provide children with health insurance. His friend John McCain knows that. They worked together on a Patient’s Bill of Rights. His friend Chuck Grassley knows that. They worked together to provide health care to children with disabilities.

On issues like these, Ted Kennedy’s passion was born not of some rigid ideology, but of his own experience. It was the experience of having two children stricken with cancer. He never forgot the sheer terror and helplessness that any parent feels when a child is badly sick; and he was able to imagine what it must be like for those without insurance; what it would be like to have to say to a wife or a child or an aging parent – there is something that could make you better, but I just can’t afford it.

That large-heartedness – that concern and regard for the plight of others – is not a partisan feeling. It is not a Republican or a Democratic feeling. It, too, is part of the American character. Our ability to stand in other people’s shoes. A recognition that we are all in this together; that when fortune turns against one of us, others are there to lend a helping hand. A belief that in this country, hard work and responsibility should be rewarded by some measure of security and fair play; and an acknowledgement that sometimes government has to step in to help deliver on that promise.

This has always been the history of our progress. In 1933, when over half of our seniors could not support themselves and millions had seen their savings wiped away, there were those who argued that Social Security would lead to socialism. But the men and women of Congress stood fast, and we are all the better for it. In 1965, when some argued that Medicare represented a government takeover of health care, members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, did not back down. They joined together so that all of us could enter our golden years with some basic peace of mind.

You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited. And they knew that when any government measure, no matter how carefully crafted or beneficial, is subject to scorn; when any efforts to help people in need are attacked as un-American; when facts and reason are thrown overboard and only timidity passes for wisdom, and we can no longer even engage in a civil conversation with each other over the things that truly matter – that at that point we don’t merely lose our capacity to solve big challenges. We lose something essential about ourselves.

What was true then remains true today. I understand how difficult this health care debate has been. I know that many in this country are deeply skeptical that government is looking out for them. I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.

But that’s not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.

Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Bill Clinton’s Lightning Diplomacy Frees 2 Journalists Held in North Korea

This just in from the WTAE Pittsburgh:

North Korea said Tuesday that two detained American journalists have been pardoned. The announcement came after news reports that former President Bill Clinton met Tuesday with the two journalists. ABC News reported that a government source with knowledge of the mission said Clinton’s meeting with journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee was very emotional.

The source was hopeful that Ling and Lee would leave North Korea on Tuesday night for the United States, ABC reported.

Earlier, Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during his surprise mission to Pyongyang to negotiate the release of the two reporters, holding “exhaustive” talks on a wide range of topics, state-run media said.

Clinton “courteously” conveyed a verbal message from President Barack Obama, the official Korean Central News Agency said in a report from Pyongyang. Kim expressed his thanks, and engaged Clinton in a “wide-ranging exchange of views on matters of common concern,” the report said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, however, denied Clinton went with a message from Obama. “That’s not true,” he told reporters.

I don’t know what was said behind closed doors, but this was incredibly fast. The fact that Clinton is not a member of the Obama Administration no doubt gave him greater flexibility in dealing with Kim Jong Il.

I look forward to hearing former President Clinton speak about this trip when he returns to the United States.

I especially look forward to hearing from Laura Ling and Euna Lee.

And I am incredibly impressed.