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First Read Morning Clips: GOP Cautious When Talking Confederate Flag

OBAMA AGENDA: Lowering his guard

Obama has recently displayed a human side that has been absent for most of his presidency, the New York Times writes.

He used the N-word during a discussion about race on a podcast interview released Monday.

Over the weekend, the president inserted himself into California’s water-use debate as the commander-in-chief hit a lush golf course in the state during the midst of a severe drought, the New York Times writes.

Washington is in a frenzy over the forthcoming Supreme Court decision that will likely be the final major legal threat to Obamacare, The Hill reports.

Per the Wall Street Journal: “Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist whose comments about the health-care law touched off a political furor, worked more closely than previously known with the White House and top federal officials to shape the law, previously unreleased emails show.”

CONGRESS: Trade scramble

Trade will again dominate Capitol Hill this week as Congress scramble to pass President Obama’s trade agenda before going on recess, The Hill outlines.

“The Senate vote on Trade Promotion Authority will amount to a test of faith,” Roll Call writes.

OFF TO THE RACES: GOP candidates tread carefully on SC’s Confederate flag

“Jeb Bush's standing among Republican primary voters continues to improve, Marco Rubio remains popular with the party and two-thirds of GOP voters say they couldn't support Donald Trump,” one of us wrote.

Also from our poll: Voters top concerns of the 2016 election are wealthy individuals and corporations who might have too much influence who over wins, as well as campaigns that spend more time on negative attacks than proposing solutions.

GOP presidential candidates looking towards the South Carolina primary are treading carefully on the question of whether or the state should remove the Confederate flag from outside the statehouse, the New York Times writes.

“The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum,” the Guardian writes.

The race is on to court Latino voters,the Washington Post reports.

BUSH: The National Journal reports on Bush’s Obamacare alternative and the problem it poses for the GOP.

CARSON: In an op/ed in USA Today, the only African-American 2016 presidential candidate has a simple message on the Charleston shooting: Call it racism.

KASICH: Preparing for a presidential run, Gov. John Kasich told the Christian Broadcasting Network “amateur hour is over.”

O’MALLEY: He called on South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag and suggested that Congress had fallen under the sway of “white racism” on Sunday, the Los Angeles times reports.

PAUL: A pro-Paul super PAC is out with a website and digital ad “highlighting Jeb Bush’s support for bailouts,” Politico reports.

SANDERS: The Vermont senator brought out 5,500 in Denver over the weekend, the Denver Post reports.

CRUZ: The AP issued a statement in response to a photo of Ted Cruz at a 2nd Amendment celebration that appeared as though a gun was pointed at his head.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll find Cruz leads the GOP field in Texas. Rick Perry is a distant second.

And around the country…

Democrats hold a small edge in Florida and Ohio Senate races, while GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is ahead in Pennsylvania, a new Quinnipiac poll finds.

PROGRAMMING NOTES.

*** Monday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Tamron Hall speaks with South Carolina State Representative Gary Clary (R-SC) regarding taking down the Confederate flag that currently flies over the Statehouse after the massacre at a Church in Charleston, NBC News Foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin about Afghanistan parliament attacked by Taliban suicide bomber, and MSNBC’s political analyst and Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson about President Obama appearing on the Marc Maron podcast over the weekend.

*** Monday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will interview Rep. James Clyburn, Rev. Norvel Goff, Harvard’s Charles Ogletree, the Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty and Chris Cillizza and Retired U.S. Marshal Chief Inspector John Cuff.

*** Monday’s “Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: Jonathan Capehart joins to discuss racism, President Obama’s use of the n-word in an interview and the confederate flag, Fmr. RNC Chair Michael Steele joins to discuss GOP reactions to confederate flag debate and campaign donations linked to white supremacists, security expert Bill Stanton and criminal profiler Pat Brown will be here to talk about the latest sightings of the escaped convicts in NYS.