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Morning Fix: Sorting out Sanford



South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. AP Photo by Steve Helber

Updated, 8:31 a.m. ET: The State newspaper is reporting that Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) returned to Hartsville-Jackson International Airport Wednesday morning from a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to the State: "Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media."

Original Post

The whereabouts of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford over the past five days has stoked a bitter battle both within the Republican Party and between the two parties about whether it is a serious problem with implications for his expected 2012 presidential bid or simply an overblown media story that amounts to much ado about nothing.

Opinions varied widely.

South Carolina state Sen. Greg Ryberg (R) called the story the work of "well documented Republican political adversaries of the governor" while South Carolina Adjutant General Richard Eckstrom (R) said that a "mountain was being made out of a molehill."

Stu Rothenberg, a well-known Washington-based political analyst and Fix friend, said the incident highlighted coverage "how little most people in the media know about South Carolina politics and how easy it was for the governor's critics -- and for ambitious state politicians -- to manipulate the media."

Others, including some Republicans, said that Sanford's behavior was newsworthy and revealed the perils inherent in the national spotlight that shines on any 2012 presidential aspirant."

"Every candidate thinking about running for president showed his wife's quote to their
spouse this morning and asked them to PLEASE never make such a
statement . . . ever," said Scott Reed, a Republican consultant who managed former Sen. Bob Dole's (R-Kan.) 1996 presidential bid.

A senior Republican consultant, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said that the Sanford incident "won't help him at all and will hurt him a bit in that it reinforces what most folks think of him, which is that he is so much of a maverick that he is in fact one strange dude."

Democrats, not surprisingly, quickly pounced on Sanford's hiatus -- releasing a Web video that collects the incredulous reaction from a variety of talking heads on the matter.

So, which is it? Mountain or molehill?

In short, it depends on what happens next. Sanford will return to the state today and will almost certainly be pressed by the local media to present his side of the story. Given that Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer has alleged that Sanford's staff misled him about the governor's whereabouts, it's hard to imagine that Sanford will be able to get away without either making a statement or holding a press conference to answer questions.

"He's a good man with a successful career in public service who deserves to present his explanation of this before people jump to conclusions," said Charlie Black, a Republican strategist and senior adviser to Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential bid.

What Sanford says -- and whether or not reports continue to surface that suggest the hiking the Appalachian Trail narrative is, in fact, not accurate -- will go a long way in determining whether this story is simply a summer distraction or a major problem for the governor's future political prospects.

Wednesday's Fix Picks:

1. Dan Balz on Obama's options open approach.
2. Obama "95 percent" cured of smoking.
3. NRSC in for almost $1 million in Norm Coleman's legal fight.
4. A look at governors acting strangely.
5. Heyoooooooo! RIP Ed McMahon.

MoveOn to Hit DiFi in Ads: Moveon.org, the most powerful political entity on the liberal left, is at work on a new television ad that calls into question Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) statement over the weekend that President Obama doesn't have the votes to pass health care reform. "Democrats should be leading the charge to pass health care reform now, not throwing cold water on the president's plan," reads an email sent to MoveOn members on Tuesday. "It's crucial Sen. Feinstein hears loud and clear that a delay on reform is unacceptable, so we're creating a new ad to run in California." The news of the MoveOn ads came as other liberal groups -- including the Service Employees International Union -- called out Feinstein for her comments. "Her recent comments minimize the urgency of the healthcare crisis in our country and are out of character with her strong leadership for working Americans in the past," said SEIU president Andy Stern in a statement. Feinstein is still theoretically considering a run for governor in 2010 although most political sharps in the state insist she is not running.

RNC Counters ABC: Seeking to present a bit of counter-programming to ABC's health care town hall to be broadcast from the White House tonight, the Republican National Committee will launch a one-day television ad asking for more fair and balanced coverage. "Today a national TV network turns its airwaves over to President Obama's pitch for government-run health care," says the ad's narrator. "Shouldn't this be a bipartisan discussion?" The ad goes on to insist that Obama's push for a so-called "public" option amounts to "putting government bureaucrats in charges...instead of patients and their doctors" and asks viewers to tell Obama to "work with Republicans...and to stop rushing into another government takeover." RNC officials would not disclose how much was being spent on the single-day buy but one source familiar with the buy described it as "small".

Listing Political Lacunae: The Sanford episode got us to thinking about other political disappearing acts. We noted that both former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) and Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) had vanished for a period of days and asked Fixistas for others. As usual you responded. The most commonly mentioned missing pol? New Hampshire's own Gary Dodds who went missing after crashing his car during the 2006 campaign. It was later revealed he staged the accident to draw attention to his candidacy. Smart move.

Tiahrt On TV: Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R) has begun running ads touting his opposition to the economic stimulus package, seeking to seize the fiscally conservative high ground in the open seat Senate race from Rep. Jerry Moran (R). The ads, which began running statewide on Monday, castigates President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for having "sold America a bill of goods . . . a so-called stimulus plan" and urges viewers to go to his website to voice their disapproval with the plan. Tiahrt and Moran both voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act when it passed the House in late January but the Tiahrt forces note that their guy is the leading voice to repeal the bill -- which, of course, ain't happening. The Tiahrt-Moran primary is one of the best on the docket in 2010 for a number of reasons but most importantly because the winner is almost certainly going to be a senator. Democrats still don't have a candidate and the Sunflower State hasn't sent a Democrat to the Senate since the 1930s.

Rising Stars Gather: The Fix is forever on the lookout for the next big thing in politics -- hence our "The Rising" series of profiles on young up and comers. And so our interest was piqued when we heard about an event in Washington tonight being sponsored by the College Democrats of America Alumni Association. The gathering, which will raise money for the group, will be keynoted by Rep. Kendrick Meek who is running for Florida's open Senate seat. Other special guests include Reps. Tim Ryan (Ohio), Rush Holt (N.J.), Jared Polis (Colo.) and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (S.D.).

Say What?: "If you're going to be a family-values candidate and a family-values politician, and you don't live up to that, I think you should resign." -- Conservative commentator Sean Hannity offers up his thought on the political fate of Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.)

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 24, 2009; 5:35 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Sanford: From Bad to Worse

Comments

EVERYONE CONCERNED WILL BE WRITING A BOOK ON THIS CONTINUING REPUBLICAN SAGA.

Posted by: opp88 | June 25, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

MARK SANFORD SAY'S..."WHEN OUR PRESIDENT KEPT REPEATING, REPUBLICANS OLD AND TIRED ARGUMENT, I THOUGHT HE WAS REFERRING TO AMERICAN WHITE WOMEN".
-----------------

HANNITY AND KARL ROVE YESTERDAY PLAYED DOWN SANFORDS CHEATING... NOT SURPRISING...

Posted by: opp88 | June 25, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

AMERICA’S NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY!

It’s official. America and the World are now in a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. A World EPIDEMIC with potential catastrophic consequences for ALL of the American people. The first PANDEMIC in 41 years. And WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES will have to face this PANDEMIC with the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed World.

STAND READY AMERICA TO SEIZE CONTROL OF YOUR NATIONAL HEALTHCARE SYSTEM.

We spend over twice as much of our GDP on healthcare as any other country in the World. And Individual American spend about ten times as much out of pocket on healthcare as any other people in the World. All because of GREED! And the PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare system in America.

And while all this is going on, some members of congress seem mostly concern about how to protect the corporate PROFITS! of our GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT NATIONAL DISGRACE. A PRIVATE FOR PROFIT DISGRACE that is in fact, totally valueless to the public health. And a detriment to national security, public safety, and the public health.

Progressive democrats and others should stand firm in their demand for a robust public option for all Americans, with all of the minimum requirements progressive democrats demanded. If congress can not pass a robust public option with at least 51 votes and all robust minimum requirements, congress should immediately move to scrap healthcare reform and demand that President Obama declare a state of NATIONAL HEALTHCARE EMERGENCY! Seizing and replacing all PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance plans with the immediate implementation of National Healthcare for all Americans under the provisions of HR676 (A Single-payer National Healthcare Plan For All).

Coverage can begin immediately through our current medicare system. With immediate expansion through recruitment of displaced workers from the canceled private sector insurance industry. Funding can also begin immediately by substitution of payroll deductions for private insurance plans with payroll deductions for the national healthcare plan. This is what the vast majority of the American people want. And this is what all objective experts unanimously agree would be the best, and most cost effective for the American people and our economy.

In Mexico on average people who received medical care for A-H1N1 (Swine Flu) with in 3 days survived. People who did not receive medical care until 7 days or more died. This has been the same results in the US. But 50 million Americans don’t even have any healthcare coverage. And at least 200 million of you with insurance could not get in to see your private insurance plans doctors in 2 or 3 days, even if your life depended on it. WHICH IT DOES!

Contact congress and your representatives NOW! AND SPREAD THE WORD!

God Bless You

Jacksmith – WORKING CLASS

Posted by: JackSmith1 | June 25, 2009 2:41 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how Hannity and Faux News will try to cover this up. I don't think it will be we report and you decide.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | June 24, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

How embarrasing for the poor, pathetic RNC. All those two-faced, hypocritical Repuglican Senators and Governors. Wonder what that obnoxious Cheney does in his spare time? And Faux news labels these hypocrits as Democrats?

We do not have a bona fide two party system. Who is going to be foolish enough to waste a vote on any Republican? Maybe they are comitting suicide. What does our worst president ever( W. Bush) think of his party's disgusting behavior? He and Cheney should hang their heads in SHAME!

Posted by: paulagoldman20 | June 24, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

"Don't count Gov. Sanford out just yet either."

So, can we count him out NOW?

Posted by: WaitingForGodot | June 24, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

This just gets better and better.


Posted by: WaitingForGodot | June 24, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Is that Mark Warner with Sanford? if yes, why? If no, helluva doppelganger.

Posted by: mdem929 | June 24, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

It's out there already in SC -- he's having an affair, said woman went with him to Argentina, her car was at airport next to his, he and the wife are in marriage counseling.

By tomorrow I expect it will all come out.

Posted by: drindl | June 24, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

His wife thought he was on the Appalachian Trail but it turns out he was looking for Argentina tail. Excellent choice for GOP president. A good fit for Newt Gingrich.

Posted by: SWAMPYPD | June 24, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Thought experiment for conservatives: imagine Obama did what Sanford did.

Posted by: nodebris | June 24, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

jaked, no, I called you racist because you like to crack jokes about rolling watermelons on the white house lawn. You like to claim you're *not* racist because you voted for Alan Keyes. Try to keep your story straight.

Posted by: nodebris | June 24, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Chris,

I'm not going to comment on the Sanford business which apparently has the media on the edge of some orgasmic thrill ride, until we know more of the story.

However, I would like to comment on the health care debate:

Opponents of the 'public option' (and their minions in Congress--usually, but not invariably, Republicans) have had decade after decade of a clear field to do what they want, which is mainly to rake in usurious profits and deny every single little claim they possibly could get away with. The reason they're fighting the public option tooth-and-nail is that they know the palmy days would truly be at an end: they would REALLY have to compete and trim profits, CEO bonuses, and 'overhead'.

Is it a surprise? No. No more than the obscene Wall St. bonuses with which the financial industry still seek to surreptitiously reward their 'greederati'.

But WHY do the media aid them by only very rarely reporting on the most basic lie of all:

It's not the 'public option' that will come 'between the public and their doctors'. THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN HAPPENING FOR YEARS through private insurance.

Every time some no-nothing high school dropout stamps a claim for a doctor-recommended procedure disallowed, they come between patient and doctor. Every time a doctor is pressured by the drug companies to prescribe their newest drug rather than a perfectly good generic, they come between patient and doctor. Every time a doctor is pressured, directly or indirectly, by the current insurance system to spend no more than a minute or two with each patient, rather than taking the correct amount of time to properly diagnose a patient, that, too, is coming between patient and doctor.

So the next time someone says that the public option will come between a patient and their doctor, I hope a few responsible people in the media will point out that it has already happened, and has been happening for over 30 years! Can the government do any worse? The answer is NO.

Posted by: sverigegrabb | June 24, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

"@vbhoomes - I'll pass on bias comments, but the situations are not comparable. Owing to faulty constructionm (Katrina a 2 or 3 at that point), the levees failed.

Mississippi had to deal with nothing like the complete evacuation of its only major city. I quite agree that there were failures in leadership (all those sitting buses for example). It's not racist to blame this solely on the leadership. Just partisan.

BB"

Meh, of all the responses to his moronic comparison of New Orleans vs Mississippi, he focuses on the one absurd comment on coded racism. Most of the comments call him an idiot. He doesn't respond to that one because, well, its an unassailable position.

Posted by: DDAWD | June 24, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

ARGENTINA!? With whom? Someone had to know he was going. Earlier I observed he was guilty of dereliction of duty. Out of the US? Are there provisions in the SC constitution for what happens when your governor goes off cruising the coast of a South American country? This man confirms he doesn't have the judgement to even be a Republican nominee for dog catcher must less POTUS. The Republican Party needs to go into hyperdrive disavowal mode of this man. Eccentric is fine in English novels and Tim Burton movies, but not for a GOTUS.

Posted by: slmdarien | June 24, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Isn't there a gay beach resort just outside Buenos Aires? Anyway, I'm sure there's probably no connection.

Posted by: freedom5 | June 24, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

@cyberfool - Did you read the story? He was in Argentina, not on the AT.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 24, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

cyberfool, you're a couple of lies behind. (Understandable, to be sure!) Click through the link in the Update and you'll see that The State confronted Gov. Sanford as he came back from a vacation in Argentina. The Appalachian Trail stuff was invented out of whole cloth, either by staff or the governor himself. I wrongly speculated yesterday that Sanford was in a hospital-- but my larger point is valid--the Appalachian Trail story was a lie that in today's transparent society would collapse within days. Which it has.

Posted by: mattfugazi | June 24, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

I understand that he took a state car for what had to be a personal trip, whereever it was. That cuts his claims of fiscal conservativism. If you are out of work, we will let you suffer, but if you are the gov', spend some state money on a car.

So if he was backpacking, more power to him, except that there ought to be some trail logs that he passed. And did he do an "out and back" for 5 days? Did he park a car and have someone shuttle him to a distant starting point? If so, who? WTF? The media doesn't seem to know much about backpacking or they wouldn't be swallowing this story hook line and sinker, without a few more questions and answers.

So how many miles per day did he hike? Is this guy an uberhiker or some slackerpacker? Inquiring minds want to know.

As for heading out w/o anyone knowing where he was going, strongly discouraged and not a good role model. So did he let someone know?

And of course there is the whole issue of him legally transfering power to the Lt Gov. What if there were a natural disaster that required the SC National Guard? Would they be able to deploy w/o a command from the Gov?

Posted by: cyberfool | June 24, 2009 9:22 AM | Report abuse

Brings to mind some others who retreated to Argentina when the going got tough -- German Nazis.


***


FED SECURITY AGENCIES FUND, OVERSEE NATIONWIDE VIGILANTE 'GESTAPO" -- EXTRAJUDICIAL BYPASS OF THE RULE OF LAW

• Civilian volunteers fronted by federally-funded organizations such as Citizen Corps, Infragard and USA on Watch stalk, harass, vandalize, terrorize unjustly "targeted" persons and families with covertly implanted GPS tracking devices -- an unconstitutional extrajudicial targeting and punishment "matrix."

• Reports of torture, disabling injury from silent microwave radiation "directed energy weapons" widely deployed to local law enforcement under various federal programs from agencies that include the Justice Department.

• Feds, locals refuse to investigate victim complaints in nationwide cover-up of alleged atrocities, enabled by co-opted and complicit local police -- an American social genocide/politicide.

WHEN WILL CONGRESS AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION WAKE UP AND RESTORE THE RULE OF LAW IN AMERICA?

http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener


Posted by: scrivener50 | June 24, 2009 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Holy Cow, he was in Argentina?

This just keeps getting better and better.

Disappearing for five days including father's day without telling your wife, family, or really anyone what you are doing is weird enough as it is...But going to a different country on a different continent, in a different hemisphere of the world without telling your wife, family, or anyone?

Holy cow.

Posted by: VTDuffman | June 24, 2009 9:09 AM | Report abuse

MoreAndBetterPolls reports that Buenos Aires is host to more beautiful women than any other Western Hemisphere city of comparable size, many of whom have been architecturally reconstructed to the level of extraordinary scenery.

Posted by: MoreAndBetterPolls | June 24, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

IF this guy left word with a responsible person how he could be contacted, then this is a mountain from a molehill.

However, we must not forget that as Governor, he is the commander of the state's National Guard forces. In simply that role alone, he cannot absent himself from communications. Like it or not, a commander of military forces is a 24/7 responsibility, however remote it appears that a call will be made on those forces to act.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | June 24, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

>>I guess he was in touch with someone, but that's remarkable.

Obviously wasn't his staff seeing as they just misinformed everyone. Pretty much cements that they really did have no idea where he was at the time. Which is a frightening prospect towards what kind of leader he is.

Posted by: mtcooley | June 24, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

You know, I've been to Buenos Aires, and it's just lovely. So kudos to Gov. Sanford for making the trip. Sometimes I tell my wife and colleagues and the state I'm governing I'm at the Central Park Zoo, sometimes I tell them I'm at Dollywood. "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" is also great.

This is my favorite part:

>

Posted by: mattfugazi | June 24, 2009 8:55 AM | Report abuse

@vbhoomes - I'll pass on bias comments, but the situations are not comparable. Owing to faulty constructionm (Katrina a 2 or 3 at that point), the levees failed.

Mississippi had to deal with nothing like the complete evacuation of its only major city. I quite agree that there were failures in leadership (all those sitting buses for example). It's not racist to blame this solely on the leadership. Just partisan.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 24, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Cruising along the coast of Buenos Aires? This is the story that keeps on giving! What will we hear next?

I smell toast.

Posted by: margaretmeyers | June 24, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Out of the country??? Out of his mind! I guess he was in touch with someone, but that's remarkable.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | June 24, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Sanford's week long anonymous "hike in the woods" is WAY TOO bizarre and unbelievable! Wouldn't a responsible "normal" public official at least do a "transfer of power" document, if they're going to completely disappear from the face of the Earth for a week? And wouldn't the "Governor" of a state with "normal" intelligence know that certain people are going to get quite concerned after he/she has gone missing for a few days? And wouldn't a "normal" State Bureau of Investigation be looking for the state's governor after a few days of his going missing? And wouldn't a "normal" caring husband at least let his wife know where he was going to be hiding out incognito for a week? And wouldn't any "normal" loving wife be worried and report her husband missing after he's been missing for a few days? Of course, it is true that nearly everyone living in North Carolina, and north from there, already knew that "they're not quite normal down in SC". But I don't think anybody realized how totally full of pure B.S. they were, too!

Posted by: Doowadiddy | June 24, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

vbroomes:

Don't worry about them (they actually claimed that I was "racist" because I voted for Alan Keyes). No amount of reason will work with them. Don't count Gov. Sanford out just yet either.

Posted by: JakeD | June 24, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

JakeD: It's suddenly not a molehill. We've been lied to. He was not on the AT.

http://www.thestate.com/politics/story/838823.html

He was not even in the country. I think he's pretty well shot himself in the foot.

Posted by: mtcooley | June 24, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

As I've said, if he wasn't hiking, then it's a big story. If he was, mountain out of a molehill.

Posted by: JakeD | June 24, 2009 8:32 AM | Report abuse

Yea I like Thune to Mark, but do not think he is giving any consideration in running. To set the record straight with some posters from yesterday about my comments on Hurrican Katrina, to suggest this is coded racism or that I am a racist is really dispacable and quite revolting. I like a lot of americans opened my checkbook(unlike probably some posters who didn't contibute a dime but yet again believe they have moral superioty) to Katrina victims. Having spent 4 years in MS. I can tell you they have a sizble african american population. But because MS had good leadership everybody pitched in and helped their neighbor and cleaned up the mess and got on with their lives. Because of the lack of leadership in LA. a significant number of people sat on their butts waiting for the government to take care of their needs. Its the differnce between self reliant conservatism and helpless victims of liberlism.

Posted by: vbhoomes | June 24, 2009 8:24 AM | Report abuse

I think attention to Sanford as a candidate for national office was unwarranted before this and remains so, now.

I think he fails the basic "likability" standard for national candidates, regardless of their other skills or lack thereof. I have been fooled by this standard in the past: I thought Kerry "failed", and he was the eventual nominee of his party. Of course, GWB polled poorly against unnamed generic Ds, but beat Kerry.

I think Thune passes likability, in anticipation of the question no one will ask me. But I will not be here til much later, so I am offering that thought just-in-case.

The Prez will remain likable, too [more anticipation].


Posted by: mark_in_austin | June 24, 2009 7:59 AM | Report abuse

I would concur that Sanford has disqualified himself for any serious consideration for POTUS. But it has drawn far more coverage than it deserves, he's just a Gov and an extreme long shot even before this happen. The bigger news story yesterday, was that we found out the State Dept had issued invitations for the agents of the brutal Iranian regime to stop by at their embassies throughout the world on 4th of July and enjoy a hotdog and coke on americas taxpayers dime. This is politically untenable in light of recent events and with the exception of Fox news, the MSM has totally ignored the story. And they wonder why the american people think they are in bed with the Obama administration.

Posted by: vbhoomes | June 24, 2009 7:55 AM | Report abuse

I find it hard to believe that someone would go hike the Appalachain trail for a week and not tell his wife where he is going, unless he is hiking with someone he doesn't want her to know about. Not to mention as any good boy scout (or girl scout) will tell you is that you NEVER go hiking in the woods without the people closest to you knowing where you will be and when you will be home. Not to mention wouldn't his wife had noticed him packing up a huge backpack for a week long camping trip.
My thinking is that there is something else going on and we will find out about a mistress or something like that in the next few weeks.

Posted by: AndyR3 | June 24, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse

The way things are going in America, most voters probably wish their politicians would disappear.

Posted by: tobetv | June 24, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

To me it seems vaguely irresponsible to not have means for his staff to contact him, but not a big deal. I certainly wouldn't be delighted to hear my governor had pulled a stunt like this, but wouldn't really care as long as he didn't make it into a repeat practice. Everyone is going to go through the motions because, well, that's how politics works but I think there's more interesting stuff going on, like when Obama commits to more details on heath care and what cap and trade is going to look like.

Posted by: theamazingjex | June 24, 2009 7:05 AM | Report abuse

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