ThinkFast: February 17, 2010

Four Democratic Senators — Michael Bennet (CO), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Jeff Merkley (OR) — have signed onto a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) asking him to use the reconciliation process to pass a public health insurance option. “Including a strong public option is one of the best, most fiscally responsible ways to reform our health insurance system,” they wrote.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) suggested yesterday that “his fellow Republicans should question what the White House plans to do at its health care summit before deciding whether to attend.” In order to work with Republicans, Bond said President Obama should “start from scratch and not go back to tweaking” the health care bills that passed both chambers of Congress last year.

President Obama plans to sign an executive order this week that will create a bipartisan commission “to recommend ways to rein in the nation’s escalating federal debt.” The panel will be lead by University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and former Republican senator from Wyoming Alan Simpson.

After a four-hour long meeting with RNC Chairman Michael Steele last night, tea party leaders asked if they could use the Republican Party’s facilities for a news conference. The Republican leaders, “probably wary of TV footage showing a tea party takeover” of RNC headquarters, “wouldn’t allow it.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters at a press event Monday that the “White House is considering endorsing a law that would allow the indefinite detention of some alleged terrorists without trial.” “If they are in fact considering preventive detention legislation today, I think it would be a mistake both substantively and politically,” said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch.

Historians and Kennedy loyalists are criticizing “a new mini-series about John F. Kennedy’s presidency that is being prepared by the History channel” and is being produced by 24 creator Joel Surnow. “Every single conversation with the president in the Oval Office or elsewhere in which I, according to the script, participated, never happened,” Kennedy adviser Ted Sorenson told filmmaker Robert Greenwald.

“The size of the US force in Iraq has dropped below 100,000 troops for the first time since the invasion of the country in 2003.” There are now “approximately” 98,000 soldiers in the country, down from a peak of 170,000 during the surge in 2007.

The Committee to Protect Journalists announced yesterday that at least 71 journalists were killed around the globe last year, “the largest annual toll in the 30 years the group has been keeping track.” China and Iran, countries that have the most journalists in jail, “were particularly harsh in taking aim at bloggers and others using the Internet.”

Yesterday, the White House appointed the U.S.’s first ambassador to Syria since 2005. “If confirmed by the Senate, Ambassador [Robert] Ford will engage the Syrian government on how we can enhance relations, while addressing areas of ongoing concern,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said.

And finally: At a town hall meeting in Saudi Arabia, a student asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whether the prospect of a President Sarah Palin terrifies her. “And if so, would you consider emigrating to Canada or possibly even Russia in the event of this happening?” the student asked. Cracking up, Clinton responded, “Well, the short answer is, no. I will not be emigrating.” But she added, “I will be visiting, as often as I can.”

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