Morning Must Reads: The Show

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White House

President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting on health care insurance reform at Gallatin Field in Belgrade, Mont., Aug. 14, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

–Obama departs on a two-day Midwest trip today with townhalls and business tours on the agenda. Jeff Zeleny writes it’s an effort to shore up Democratic numbers as November looms:

Mr. Obama is trying to recapture his brand as he seeks to define himself again as a reformer, hoping to counter the anti-government, anti-incumbent sentiment that has poisoned the atmosphere for Democrats.

–Looking at Gallup’s latest numbers, he’ll need to recapture some of 2008’s youth excitement to mitigate midterm losses.

–Obama’s deficit commission makes its debut today at the White House, no substance expected.

–As Jay wrote yesterday, the financial reform process has descended into theatrics. John Dickerson bemoans the show and argues passage is a foregone conclusion.

–Goldman execs are set to testify before Carl Levin’s Subcommittee on Investigations today. From Alex’s preview:

As they absorb Senators’ barbs, they will likely come off as humble, contrite — and as boring as possible. The hearing, the fourth in a series on the causes and consequences of the financial crisis, will use Goldman as a “case study” to examine the role investment banks played in fueling the sector’s near-collapse. With anger over Wall Street bailouts and banker bonuses still bubbling, “case study” is a naked euphemism for “whipping boy,” and lawmakers will hurl the usual mix of scripted sound bites, choreographed outrage and probing (often rhetorical) questions at Goldman boss Lloyd Blankfein and his deputies.

Felix Salmon marvels at Levin’s ability to whip up a media storm over Goldman’s standard (and legal) practice of hedging.  He writes the high drama of congressional hearings has actually obscured real potential wrongdoing:

Levin has, on the other hand, managed to muddy the waters surrounding Goldman a great deal, with the serious allegations about lack of adequate disclosure now being mixed up with all manner of vaguely-choate ideas about shorting and profiting off other people’s misery. It’s as though Goldman’s real sin here was not to lose as much money as everybody else when the housing market collapsed.

–Consumers Union takes a more blunt approach to vilification.

–John Kerry says a Senate climate bill is very much alive.

–Howard Fineman reports immigration legislation not so much.

–Lindsey Graham, mired in both, gets a Times profile.

Marc Ambinder highlights an ad from Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim James on, of all issues, the number of languages in which driver’s license exams are offered. In between the odd close-ups and long pauses, the tribal cipher is striking: “This is Alabama. We speak English.”

–Arizona’s new immigration law ignites passions.

–And Chuck Schumer gets a challenger, political consultant and Fox News commentator Jay Townsend.

What did I miss?