Morning Briefing: August 24, 2011

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) said he thinks some Republicans go too far when criticizing President Obama, warning the GOP presidential hopefuls that they risk alienating independent voters. “I think when you start ascribing bad motives to the guy, that’s wrong. It turns off people who want solutions,” Bush said told Neil Cavuto in a Fox News interview. Bush also repeated in the interview that he will not run for president.

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi promised martyrdom or victory as rebels continue to take hold of the nation’s capital of Tripoli. “As long as Qaddafi remains in Libya, then there will be no security,” said Abdel Hafiz Ghoga, the vice president of the National Transitional Council set up by rebels. “He must be finished off, either through death or capture.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will meet with families of 9/11 victims to update them on the investigation into whether Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. hacked their phones. Holder is meeting with the victims because “[I] certainly want to hear what they have to say with regard to their concerns and, to the extent that I can share information with them, I will,” he said.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will release her own health reform proposal “in the coming weeks,” the Washington Examiner reports. Bachmann’s support for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act has been the centerpiece of her presidential campaign.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) has overseen more executions than any governor in modern history since becoming governor in 2000. His 234 executions are more than the next two states, Oklahoma and Virginia, have combined to execute in the 35 years since the death penalty was restored. In 11 years, Perry has reduced only one inmate’s sentence from death to life in prison.

A new poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) has found that Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) now has a double-digit lead in polling over former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) in the GOP presidential nomination race. The poll will be released today and its exact results are not known, but PPP has confirmed that Perry does hold a double-digit lead.

A magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked the east coast yesterday afternoon, “one of the most powerful to his the east coast of the U.S. since 1897.” The quake caused damage to national monuments including the Washington National Catherdral and the Washington Monument, which had cracks, prompting the National Park Services to close the obelisk “for an indefinite period of time.” No injuries were reported.

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll, only 35 percent of Americans think race relations have improved since President Obama took office. That’s down from 41 percent of Americans last year who believed the nation’s first black president had improved race relations. Interestingly, larger percentages of blacks and Democrats said they’ve seen improvements than whites and Republicans.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is officially getting his own show on MSNBC, bringing “PoliticsNation” to the 6 p.m. hour. Sharpton had a long trial period at the network and “has played a big role in shaping MSNBC’s lineup over the last 15 years.” He said he is “very happy and honored” to have the show, calling it “a natural extension of my life and work.”

And finally: After the earthquake that shook Washington yesterday forced the evacuation of the Capitol, the Senate held a 22-second pro-forma session a few blocks away. “Senate aides couldn’t remember any other time when the Senate convened outside the Capitol.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) presided over the perfunctory session, which are held every few days during Congress’ recess as a formality.

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