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(CNN) - The much anticipated "Beer Summit" took place in the White House Rose Garden Thursday evening.
The participants - President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Sergeant James Crowley, and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. did not speak to reporters during the event.
After much discussion about which beer would be served, Obama chose a Bud Light, Biden went with Buckler, Gates had a Sam Adams Light, and Crowley chose a Blue Moon.
SAN DIEGO, California (CNN) – Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty sharply criticized President Obama on issues ranging from health care reform to foreign policy Thursday, urging Republicans to challenge the president in a speech that was seen as a step toward a possible presidential run in 2012.
"It is time we stand up to President Obama," Pawlenty said in a speech to members of the Republican National Committee meeting here in this West Coast city. "It is time we stand up for our principles, and it is time we stand up for the American people."
Unlike fellow Republican Sarah Palin, Pawlenty is not new to national politics. He is a two-term governor, former head of the National Governors Association, and was on the short list to be Sen. John McCain's vice presidential running mate in 2008.
But Pawlenty is still relatively unknown, even within his own party.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As Congress prepares to head into a monthlong August recess, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill ripped into the insurance industry, framing the health care debate as a battle against insurers.
"They are the villains in this," Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters. She labeled industry practices as "immoral."
Pelosi predicted that as members go to their districts next month and explain the Democrats' health care plan, it will pick up support. But she pointed directly at insurers as standing in the way of health care reform, highlighting their opposition to having a government-run plan compete with private insurers.
"They are doing everything in their power to stop a public option from happening, and the public has to know that," she said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The giveaway was when they started calling him "Barack."
It was jarring, at first, to hear many in this group of 12 independent voters refer to their new president by his first name. But the more they talked, the more it made sense. After all, they are seeing a lot of him.
And they like it - or at least they like him. "There's a sense of intimacy, or relationship, that was there," says Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducted the focus group in Towson, Maryland, on Wednesday night. "[It shows] how unbelievably powerful his personal presence is. ... Don't get fooled by numbers alone. Something is stronger here."
So while the president's poll numbers start to dip, these dozen independents - including four McCain supporters and a lone Nader voter - are giving the president some leeway. They feel like they know him, and that he's "honest,' as one put it. And while they say the country is "broke," "worried" and "confused, they're not blaming Barack. If anything, they seem invested in his success.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The White House announced Thursday the 16 recipients of this year's Presidential Medal of Freedom, who include researchers, activists and athletes.
Recipients "make an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors," the White House said in a written statement.
"Their relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up their fellow citizens sets a standard to which we all should strive," said President Barack Obama in the statement.
(Full list of recipients after the jump):
(CNN) - Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is still sidestepping questions about his White House ambitions – feeding speculation that has surged in the wake of his decision not to seek a third gubernatorial term next year.
"Well, I've got a year and a half left to be a governor of the state of Minnesota and that's going to be the focus of my attention," he told CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room Thursday after being asked whether he was planning a presidential run.
"But I am in Minnesota and elsewhere going to try to speak to how my party can do a better job. Obviously we got our tails kicked in the last two elections, Wolf, we need to do a better job. I think I've got some ideas to share but that's really going to be focused on how we can do better in 2010, I'm not thinking beyond that."
Pawlenty, who will take the center stage with party leaders this week at the Republican National Committee Summer Meeting, has taken on a progressively higher profile over the past few months.
The Minnesota governor, named vice chair of the Republican Governors Association this summer in the wake of South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's resignation of the top spot, has emerged as a major critic of the president's health care reform plan, blasting it this week in a letter to Minnesota's congressional delegation.
Earlier this week, he raised eyebrows when he also took a swipe at the health care plan Massachusetts launched under then-Gov. Mitt Romney, a potential 2012 presidential rival.
Watch Tim Pawlenty on the Situation Room today at 4 p.m. ET.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is trying to downplay expectations for Thursday night's "Beer Summit", saying President Obama "is not going to announce anything" in terms of new initiatives to address racial profiling and will not address reporters when they are briefly let in to take pictures of the confab.
"You won't hear from the president," Gibbs told reporters. "You won't hear from the glass of beer."
Gibbs said Obama simply hopes "this will help foster a dialogue" by bringing together the president's friend, Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the man who arrested him, Sgt. Jim Crowley of the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department, over a few beers.
Gibbs added that the president will not engage Gates and Crowley in questions about what happened on the night of the incident. "This is not an after-action report," he said.
Instead, the summit is planned to be held in a more casual setting, with White House aides revealing that Crowley and Gates will be bringing their family members for the meeting at the picnic table on the South Lawn of the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi signed off Thursday on a key component of a health care deal reached with conservative Democrats earlier in the week, potentially paving the way for a new consensus among the fractured House majority.
The deal between four fiscally conservative congressmen - part of the so-called "Blue Dog" coalition - and the chamber's Democratic leadership allowed debate to resume Wednesday in the critical House Energy and Commerce Committee.
A full House vote on the health care plan has been delayed until after the August congressional recess in part because the committee's fiscal conservatives had threatened to defeat the bill if several of their concerns were not addressed.
The Energy and Commerce Committee is the last of three committees required to clear the bill before it can be considered by the full House.
Pelosi told Capitol Hill reporters that she is "okay" with language instructing the Health and Human Services secretary to negotiate reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals under a government-run health care option.
(CNN) - The upcoming White House meeting with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the Cambridge police officer who arrested him earlier this month appears to have touched off a fresh debate all on its own: what kind of beer should be served?
Earlier this week the White House indicated each man would drink the beer of their choice - Bud Light for President Obama, Blue Moon for the police officer, and perhaps Red Stripe or Beck's for Gates.
But one Massachusetts congressman thinks another beer entirely should be served: Boston's own Sam Adams.
In a letter to Obama dated Wednesday, Massachusetts Rep. Richard Neal strongly urges the president not to drink Budweiser, now owned by a Belgian company. Nor should the White House consider serving Miller or Coors, Neal writes, both owned by a United Kingdom conglomerate.
Instead, the White House should serve the three men - all with ties to Massachusetts - the local favorite, not only because of its popularity in the region but also because it remains the largest American-owned and brewed beer, Neal says.
But Sam Adams founder and brewer Jim Koch told NPR if it was up to him he would make a special beer just for the event.
"I'd make a blend of ingredients from all over the world. Which is certainly what's represented there with the three participants," he said. "I would blend those ingredients together artfully and harmoniously, because that's really what we all hope for."
(CNN) – The jury in the corruption trial of former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana was expected to begin deliberating by midday Thursday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alexandria, Virginia, said.
Senior U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III began giving jurors their instructions about 9:45 a.m., said Peter Carr. Closing arguments by defense and prosecution attorneys ended Wednesday.
A federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on June 4, 2007, on corruption charges after federal agents said they found $90,000 in his freezer. Authorities said the money was part of a payment in marked bills from an FBI informant in a transaction captured on video.
Jefferson, 62, was accused of using his office to solicit and receive more than $500,000 in bribes for himself and his family in exchange for promoting products and services to countries in Africa.
The Democrat pleaded not guilty to 16 counts of racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.