ThinkFast: July 29, 2009

The government-run insurance option that is meant to compete with private insurers “is losing important political momentum” as Congress debates health care reform. Senate and House Democratic leaders yesterday “wouldn’t guarantee…that the ‘public option’ would be in the final version of the legislation.” Democrats are not ruling out the alternative, co-ops, “member-run health care consortiums comparable to credit unions.”

According to a Gallup Poll, Americans are wary about the impact of health care reform. Forty-four percent say “a new healthcare reform law would improve medical care in the U.S.,” and 47 percent “believe reform will expand access to healthcare in the U.S.”

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he sees “some chance of a modest acceleration” in the pace of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Gen. Ray Odierno told Gates that the security situation is “better than expected” since the U.S. formally handed over of control of Iraqi cities last month.

The House Financial Services Committee approved legislation to impose new rules on executive compensation. The bill would “allow federal regulators to put limits on compensation packages at financial firms deemed to have taken inappropriate risks.” The measure drew an immediate rebuke from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which said the measure would “restrict economic growth and job creation.”


Sarah Palin is reportedly considering a talk show. Her representatives “have been quietly testing the waters to see how much interest radio syndicators have for her.” But sources say Palin “hasn’t committed to radio” as her next step.

The Obama administration said yesterday that “it would take new steps to ease American sanctions against Syria on a case-by-case basis, the latest sign of a diplomatic thaw.” White House officials said Middle East special envoy George Mitchell conveyed the message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said the U.S. government “would try to expedite the process for obtaining individual exemptions to the sanctions.”

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is upset that “Blue Dog” Democrats are dominating health care negotiations and she’s blaming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. “When he was in Congress, in the leadership, Rahm Emanuel recruited more conservative members, and, based on some of the information, … they told him they could vote the way they wanted to — the chickens are coming home to roost,” said Waters.

The Irish government has said it will accept two detainees from the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. The men are reported to be Uzbeks. “I am conscious of the intention of the United States to close the center at Guantanamo Bay, in part by transferring detainees, no longer regarded as posing a threat to security but who cannot return to their own countries,” said Ireland’s Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.

And finally: Happy hour at the White House. The much-awaited and much-discussed diplomatic gathering of President Obama, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, and Cambridge police officer James Crowley will take place tomorrow. The three men will raise their glasses of beer at the picnic table outside the Oval Office at 6 pm, weather permitting. According to the White House, Sgt. Crowley asked for Blue Moon beer, while Obama will be drinking Budweiser. “No details have been given about Mr Gates’ beer of choice but, fortunately for the colour theme, he is reported to like Red Stripe, a Jamaican lager.”