8 a.m. ET: Today begins the final week before Congress returns to session, but the proliferation of news has made it difficult to differentiate the normally sedate August recess from the rest of the political calendar.
In the last week alone, Ted Kennedy died, Ben Bernanke was reappointed, Eric Holder named a prosecutor to probe interrogation practices and the CIA released an explosive report on the same topic. In the weeks before that, there were fierce debates over health-care town halls, "death panels" and whether President Obama had mishandled his signature legislative initiative. Not to mention the fact that Paula Abdul announced she was leaving American Idol and Jon and Kate Gosselin continued their war of words. It's been a busy month -- and a rough one for President Obama.
The accumulated controversies of the summer have taken their toll on Democrats. Politico reports that "the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010." Charlie Cook says it's even money that Democrats will lose more than 20 seats next November, while Nate Silver and Stu Rothenberg have similarly dire predictions for the majority. Pollster.com pegs Obama's average approval rating at 49 percent, down more than 10 points since Memorial Day.
Continuing in his role as the most outspoken defender of the Bush administration's legacy, Dick Cheney had harsh words Sunday for the current White House's approach to the interrogation issue. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Cheney called it "an outrageous political act", adding that the Obama administration's criticism of its predecessor "offends the hell out of me, frankly." Dianne Feinstein said "the timing of this is not very good" and that she wished Holder "had waited" because her Senate Intelligence panel is already investigating the issue. (Everyone was very honest Sunday. Cheney spoke "frankly," as did John Kerry on ABC, while Feinstein said she was speaking "candidly.")
Obama needs a win on health care. So Organizing for America -- formerly known as the Obama presidential campaign -- is attempting to harness its massive email list and grassroots opposition in favor of the president's reform plans. The Washington Post reports that OFA is "planning more than 2,000 house parties, rallies and town hall meetings across the country over the next two weeks." And Democrats have received a rare sliver of good news from the Congressional Budget Office, which reports that the House's reform bill would help consumers save money on prescription drugs, according to the New York Times. On the Sunday shows, Democrats continued to suggest that Congress should pass health-care reform as a tribute to Kennedy, while Orrin Hatch said there was no Democrat in the Senate ready to step forward and assume Kennedy's role as a bipartisan dealmaker.
The jury is still out on who will fill Kennedy's Senate seat. Both Hatch and Chris Dodd said Sunday that they thought Vicki Kennedy would be a good choice to continue her late husband's work. The Boston Herald quotes a source as saying Vicki Kennedy is "very much interested" in filling the seat, which conflicts with the reporting of most other outlets that she is not interested in the post. The Herald and the Globe report that Joseph Kennedy II is getting increased attention after an impressive speech at his uncle's funeral.
August 31, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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