Marisa's Musings: Obama on Health Care/Iran/Housing/Ed McMahon

The President continued to defend his plans for health care reform and had some strong words for Iran...also, the latest on the Metrorail crash in D.C. I'm Marisa Bramwell, and here's Tuesday's evening editorial note from the ABC News desk.

POTUS ON HEALTH CARE: President Obama continued his push for health care reform during his press conference Tuesday afternoon at the White House, and said the administration was still early in its development of a reform plan that would work: “We have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are under-insured.” Additionally, as Jake Tapper reported on WORLD NEWS, “The president conceded that private companies may well change employees’ plan because of circumstances the government creates. But he argues that unless costs get under control, employers will eventually be opting for cheaper or even no coverage for employees.” In an interview with Diane Sawyer set to air Wednesday on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, the president said he “absolutely” expects to have a health care reform plan in place by the end of this year. "We're dealing here in Washington with an enormous federal deficit and debt that is largely driven by health care costs. So, whether it's families, business or government, we know that we're going to have to reform this system," he said.

MORE FROM THE PRESSER: Other highlights from President Obama’s news conference Tuesday: When asked about whether the U.S. needed a second stimulus package to keep unemployment low, the president said “not yet, because I think it's important to see how the economy evolves and how effective the first stimulus is.” The president also refrained from answering specific questions on his smoking habits, saying only he was “95 percent cured” and that he does not smoke in front of his family.

RNC OBAMA AD: The Republican National Committee has released a television ad criticizing President Obama’s plan for health care reform. The ad touts Republicans’ plans for health care reform and criticizes Wednesday’s televised discussion on ABC News. The RNC ad will air nationally Wednesday night on cable networks.

IRAN: The Iranian government seemed to have the upper hand today. Those huge crowds of protestors were gone, replaced by the occasional appearance of someone holding up an anti-government poster while others ran up to the rooftops to shout out words of discontent. As Jim Sciutto explains: “This was the only legal protest in Tehran today…a demonstration blaming foreigners for the election crisis. The police did not interfere. But for protesters who challenge the government…a new punishment today…confessions, apparently coerced, showcased on state television. This woman, identified as a rioter, admits to vandalism, saying she was provoked by the Voice of America and the BBC. Today, Iran announced it will set up a special court for the hundreds of protesters arrested so far. And the national soccer team expelled four players who wore the green arm bands of the opposition last week. The smallest sign of dissent…crushed.” There was no general strike as some of the opposition suggested. In fact some shopkeepers in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar marketplace were quoted as saying customers frightened away by the recent violence, ventured back outdoors today. While things cooled off a bit in Iran, the reaction to recent events there heated up a notch in Washington. Here’s how President Obama put it, in a White House news conference: ”The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, the beatings and imprisonments of the last few days.” But the President didn’t say if there would be any change in his administration’s policy of engaging Iran on issues such as the country’s nuclear program: “We are going to monitor and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed.” And there is the question of what Iran’s opposition will do next. Some protest organizers are hoping for another major rally, perhaps as early as Thursday. But if today was any indication, that could just be wishful thinking. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

OBAMA AND BACHELET: Sunlen Miller reports: “During a photo opt in the Oval Office today with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet President Obama declined to apologize for the CIA’s past role in Chile’s politics. Indirectly referencing the 1973 coup that brought Pinochet to power motivated by the US, a reporter made echo of an old joke, ‘there’s never been a coup d’etat in the US because there’s no American embassy.’ Bachelet laughed, as did Obama. The President said there have been times when the US has made ‘mistakes’ but what is important is looking at the politics the US has today.” Obama and Bachelet also announced the countries have formed a science partnership that would include research for clean energy, cancer treatments and the tracking of swine flu.

DC TRAIN CRASH INVESTIGATION: Investigators in D.C. are sorting through two mangled Metrorail trains, trying to determine exactly what led to their deadly collision Monday evening. Nine people, including train operator Jeanice McMillan, were killed and 76 injured when one Metrorail train slammed into another during rush hour. A point of focus for investigators – why the systems put into place to prevent such a crash from happening failed. Lisa Stark reports: “We learned today the two trains were likely being run by computers, which control speed and braking. Sensors along the rail keep track of train locations. If trains get too close, the computer hits the brakes.” So does that mean the track sensors and computer controls failed? Stark reports if they did, “the operator onboard could have pulled the brakes. That’s how a crash was avoided in 2005 – when sensors indicated the track ahead was clear, it was not.” Investigators are looking into McMillan’s work schedule and cell phone records to determine whether fatigue or distraction played a role in the crash. The NTSB also said Tuesday the trains were old and should have been replaced years ago. NTSB investigator Deborah Hersman said the group warned Metro in 2006 about the vulnerability of the older trains, and recommended they be replaced or retrofitted to better survive a collision.

EXISTING HOME SALES UP: Dan Arnall: “For the first time in more than three years, the sales pace of existing homes increased for two months in a row. The National Association of Realtors released its monthly sales report for May this morning, showing closings up 2.4% from the downwardly revised prior month. The annual sales pace was 4.77 million units. While economists were expecting the sales pace to jump to 4.83 million units, the increase was enough to give some hope that the first-time buyer credit and relatively low mortgage rates were spurring the market.” But the increase in sales doesn’t exactly mean sellers are getting more money for their homes - median home prices are down 16 percent from last year, and about 3.8 million homes are on the market. That’s a lot of competition, and as Bill Weir reported on WORLD NEWS, the economic downturn has buyers shifting their tastes in housing: “Flipping is out, along with home equity lines and no-money-down loans. Buying an affordable house is in…energy costs have more people moving closer to urban centers or mass transit hubs. And more communities are embracing ‘green’ developments.”

MEXICO HURRICANE: With winds right around 75 mph, a tropical storm named Andres has just barely become the first hurricane of the Pacific season. Centered 70 miles west of the port city of Manzanillo, on Mexico’s southwest coast, Andres is already blamed for the death of at least one person. A hurricane warning has been posted for a coastal strip from just south of Manzanillo to near Puerto Vallarta. In the states of Jalisco, Colima and Guerrero, heavy rain has flooded a number of homes and trees have been toppled by the high winds. Dozens of shelters have been opened for residents who have had to leave their flooded homes. Hurricane forecasters predict Andres will weaken as it heads north over the tip of the Baja peninsula and eventually heads out to sea. (thanks to Ed Bailey for this entry)

ED MCMAHON PASSES AWAY: Ed McMahon, best known as Johnny Carson’s sidekick on the “Tonight Show” passed away at a Los Angeles hospital Tuesday. He was 86. “For thirty years he was the straight man and chief enabler for The Tonight Show’s Johnny Carson and his drinking buddy humor,” Brian Rooney reported on WORLD NEWS. “In his own right, McMahon became a household name was the pitchman for a publishing house sweepstakes…and he had a couple of successful television shows of his own.” Those shows include “The Next Big Star” (which eventually became “Star Search”) and “Who Do You Trust?” McMahon’s cause of death has not been disclosed. His publicist said McMahon had been suffering from a "multitude of health problems the last few months."

SANFORD BACK: South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford will be back in the office Wednesday. Gov. Sanford took an unannounced hiking trip to the Appalachian Trial last week without telling his staff or family his whereabouts. Sanford’s staff and family were not concerned – they said it was not uncommon for the governor to “go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head.”

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