Politics Today is CBSNews.com's inside look at the key stories driving the day in Politics, written by CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:
**President Obama to get specific on health care with speech to Congress next week...
**Biden talks stimulus today...
**Kennedy memoirs talk about the good and the bad...
5215995HEALTH CARE: When he's faced a crisis, President Obama tends to confront it with a major speech. Now, with health care reform on the ropes and an America that is unclear on how he wants to change the system, Mr. Obama will speak on prime time TV next Wednesday to a joint session of Congress to again lay out his ideas.
"The president has been criticized for being insufficiently specific about what he wants health care reform to look like," writes CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli. "Though has offered details about the provisions he is seeking in a series of speeches in recent months, Mr. Obama has left it to Congress to work out the legislative language. A CBS News poll this week showed disenchantment with the president's handling of the issue.
"Yesterday, senior advisor David Axelrod said the president may become 'more prescriptive' about what he wants from a health care bill, which the White House has asked Congress to produce by September 15th.
"The White House has been 'taken aback by the ferocity of opposition to its health care plan as expressed to members of Congress of both parties during their town meetings last month with constituents,' CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports."
"Obama will huddle first at the White House on Tuesday with the top Democrats in Congress — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada — setting the stage for closed-door meetings later that day among congressional Democrats as they roll back into town from their August recess," write McClatchy Newspapers' Steven Thomma and David Lightman.
"The president then will address Congress on Wednesday night, using all the drama and pageantry of a State of the Union address as he strives to shore up falling support for a vast redesign of the nation's health insurance."
The ultimate question is: What is Mr. Obama going to say that'll be any more effective or clear than he's said in the past? According to Knoller, the president has already delivered 27 speeches on health care and has mentioned his overall objectives in another 92.
"In his address, Mr. Obama is expected to emphasize areas of potential agreement. One is the need for federal regulation of health insurance companies to prohibit them from denying coverage, or charging higher premiums, because of a person's medical history or current condition. Another is the need for federal subsidies to make insurance affordable to millions of lower-income people.
"By signaling that they would seek to revise existing versions of legislation moving through the House and Senate, administration officials and Democratic leaders in Congress — many of whom had said earlier in the summer that they saw no need to scale back their ambitions — made clear that their political calculations had changed. With Congressional Republicans standing almost unanimously in opposition to the Democratic approach, the target now for Mr. Obama is primarily a handful of moderate Democrats and the one Republican who seems open to a deal, Senator Olympia J. Snowe of Maine.
"'It's so important to get a deal,' a White House official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to be candid about strategy. 'He will do almost anything it takes to get one.'"
The Washington Post's Anne E. Kornblut, Ceci Connolly and Shailagh Murray add, "He will be attempting a difficult balancing act, seeking to win moderate Senate Democrats to his cause without embracing compromises that would alienate liberal House Democrats. He is not expected to associate himself with any one bill, but a senior administration official said the president's goal is to be 'much more prescriptive' than he has been, mapping out ways to merge proposals and 'move Congress toward one single solution.'...
"The joint session will come as Senate leaders are rethinking their strategies on the issue. One option, leading Democrats said Wednesday, is to tailor a bill to the demands of Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), a key moderate who has displayed the most willingness to continue negotiating with Democrats.
"Another option, lawmakers said, is to attempt to make any package that comes to the Senate floor more attractive to Republicans by including tighter cost controls and slowing the pace of providing coverage to the 47 million Americans who have no insurance."
"Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod is promising a far more detail-oriented approach next week – although he's not saying what those specifics will actually be, especially when it comes to the hot-button 'public' option proposal dividing liberal and conservative Democrats," adds Politico's Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown.
"The problem is that Obama risks alienating either the right or left wing of his party by staking out a clear position on the public plan.
"And whomever he irks will walk up to the microphones in the Capitol Rotunda and blast away, drowning out the message of party comity he'll try to project with the speech. He's also likely to take heat if he tries to dodge.
"Pelosi, for one, is still committed to the public option and believes no bill can pass her chamber without it, according to several Democratic sources...
"But comments from senior White House aides to POLITICO that the president does not plan to insist on a public option once again served as a reminder that the White House could be in for a rough September."
Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Weisman, Neil King and Janet Adamy, "Wrong Turns: How Obama's Health-Care Push Went Astray"
New York Times' Kirk Johnson, "Democrats Go on the Road to Revive Health Care Push"
CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon, "Liberal Groups Make Final Push for Public Option"
McClatchy Newspapers' Rob Hotakainen, "GOP takes aim at Pelosi in bid to block health-care reform"
New York Times' Jim Rutenberg and Gardiner Harris, "Conservatives See Need for Serious Health Debate"
Wall Street Journal's Karl Rove, "Obama and the Perfect Storm"
"In a speech planned to mark the 200-day mark since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act took effect, Biden will say that $62.5 billion in tax cuts have been delivered, $1.9 billion contracts have been awarded to small businesses, and more than 10,000 transportation projects approved.
"In many areas, he'll say that work has exceeded goals: Work has started on 2,200 highway projects, for example, 700 more than the expected at this stage; Work's also started on 192 airport projects, 94 more than scheduled; Health care centers in all 50 states are providing expanded health care to 500,000 patients, 200,000 more than forecast.
The Associated Press' Ben Feller adds, "With Obama on vacation at the Camp David presidential retreat, the White House hopes Biden's message will get through on perhaps a quieter news day. Biden is up against a wary audience when he says 'the recovery act is doing more, faster, more efficiently and more effectively than we had hoped.'
"A Gallup poll last month found 51 percent of Americans wished the government would have spent less to stimulate the economy. The same poll found 41 percent thought the stimulus package was helping the economy in the short term; 33 percent saw no effect, and 24 said it was making the economy worse...
"The vice president's appearance is part of a concerted White House push in advance of the 200th day of the stimulus act on Saturday. Five top administration officials plan to speak about the law's benefits on Thursday in appearances in Arkansas, Virginia, Illinois, California and Minnesota."
"In a memoir being published this month, Senator Edward M. Kennedy called his behavior after the 1969 car accident that killed Mary Jo Kopechne 'inexcusable' and said the events might have shortened the life of his ailing father, Joseph P. Kennedy," report the Times' Carl Hulse and John M. Broder.
"In that book, 'True Compass,' Mr. Kennedy said he was dazed, afraid and panicked in the minutes and hours after he drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island with Ms. Kopechne as his passenger…
"The account by Mr. Kennedy, who died on Aug. 25 at age 77, adds little to what is known about the accident and its aftermath but recounts how they weighed on him and his family. The book does not shy from the accident, or from some other less savory aspects of the senator's life, including a notorious 1991 drinking episode in Palm Beach, Fla., or the years of heavy drinking and women-chasing that followed his 1982 divorce from his first wife, Joan.
"But it also offers rich detail on his relationships with his father, siblings and children that round out a portrait of a man who lived the most public of lives and yet remained something of a mystery. Among other things, it says that in 1984 he decided against seeking the presidency after hearing the emotional objections of his children, who, it says, feared for his life.
Meantime, a Massachusetts legislator wants to change the name of Boston's Logan Airport to honor the late Kennedy, leading the Boston Globe's Matt Viser and Martin Finucane to review who Maj. Gen. Edward Lawrence Logan was and talk to a descendant of his about the proposal.
"Logan led troops in the Spanish-American War and World War I. He was also a lawyer, judge, state lawmaker, and president of a number of charitable institutions, according to a biography on Massport's website.
"He's largely forgotten today. Everybody asks who General Logan was. But if you had asked us in 1941 when he passed away, everybody in Boston knew him," said Leonid Kondratiuk, the retired Army colonel who serves as historian for the Massachusetts National Guard.
"'In his time, he was well regarded and well known and well respected. He was a leader in so many fields.'"
"The 42-year-old father of four threw nothing but high, hard fastballs in an interview with the Herald yesterday, saying too many Bay State politicians have 'dirty hands.'
"We've got a political system and a group of people that suck, and that needs to change,' said Schilling.
"The former ace said he's been contacted by Republican officials about a Senate bid, but he still needs the blessing of his wife, Shonda. He also has an online gaming business, 38 Studios.
"'I do have some interest in the possibility (of running for Senate),' he wrote on his blog 38pitches.com.
Schilling sounded more like a would-be senator than a retired jock when talking about his chances in the Dec. 8 primary.
"'Anybody who comes into this race from outside the world of politics would have a big advantage. They wouldn't have the baggage that (current politicians) have,' Schilling said."
The Boston Globe's Andrew Ryan and Milton J. Valencia add, "Schilling, an athlete nearly as well known for his strong opinions as his performances, told Brad Puffer of New England Cable News in an interview yesterday that he has been contacted about a possible Senate run, and has not ruled it out. ...
"But after the interview, in a statement posted on his blog, Schilling sounded a more positive note. 'I do have some interest in the possibility,' he wrote.
"'That being said, to get to there from where I am today, many, many things would have to align themselves for that to truly happen. I am not going to comment further on the matter since at this point it would be speculation on top of speculation.'"
Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel, "Price of Kennedy seat: $3 million-plus": "'The money will be a huge factor,' said a Massachusetts Democratic operative, who asserted that to be a viable special election candidate, Democrats will need to raise between $3 and $4 million before December. Others predict the putative entry fee could be north of $5 million—or more for candidates with lower statewide name identification."
**The New York Times' Helene Cooper writes, "G.O.P. May Be Vital to Obama on Afghan War": " As President Obama prepares to decide whether to send additional troops to Afghanistan, the political climate appears increasingly challenging for him, leaving him in the awkward position of relying on the Republican Party, and not his own, for support."
**The Washington Post's Robert Barnes on the speculation that Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens might be readying for retirement after hiring only one clerk for the 2010 term.
**Contrary to the breathless reporting from the New York Post this week regarding former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, D-N.Y., and his possible political comeback, the New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters and Danny Hakim report that he has decided to move forward with something much lower-profile: teaching.
"Attorney general? State comptroller? United States senator? Don't bet on it. But one job former Gov. Eliot Spitzer is in fact doing is teaching political science at City College of New York. Mr. Spitzer's class, 'Law and Public Policy,' began on Tuesday. Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Spitzer said, 'I'm looking forward to it and excited by the prospect.' He declined to discuss rumors that he was considering a bid for elected office, but did tell NY1 that a New York Post report that he had discussed a return to politics was 'totally untrue.'"
**The debate schedule for this fall's New Jersey gubernatorial race has been scheduled with the first debate to be held on Oct. 1.
**The colorful former Rep. Jim Traficant, D-Ohio, who served seven years in federal prison for racketeering and bribery, was released from prison Wednesday. His hometown newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, is all over his release.