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Weiner, Spitzer Out: Thank You New York – CNN.com

Twelve years ago, New York City taught the nation about resilience in the face of a massive attack.

On Tuesday, New York again taught the nation that character counts.

There is, of course, no comparison between the horror of 9/11 and a mayoral primary in America’s largest city. But while the shadow of the twin towers still hangs over the hearts of many in New York, the persistence of daily life remains a quiet sign of defiance.

This year, city politics seemed determined to hit a new low rather than aspire to new heights. A series of scandal-scarred candidates sucked up the oxygen amid an otherwise forgettable field. And for a while, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer seemed likely to win their respective races on the strength of name ID and notoriety. Read More…

Why ‘The Newsroom’ matters – CNN.com

Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show “The Newsroom” represents the reality of working in television news about as accurately as “The West Wing” captured working in politics — which is to say, not at all.

But both dramas did something more worthwhile: They expressed the idealism that should animate these careers. And in this time of creative destruction throughout the news industry, it’s more important than ever before. That’s why “The Newsroom” matters.

When “The West Wing” debuted in 1999, the political arena was suffering from a well-deserved dose of post-Monica cynicism. The smart kids were all making piles of money on Wall Street by surfing the tech bubble, and with the 2000 election looming between Bush and Gore, the status quo of peace and prosperity seemed boring. Read More…

‘Sopranos’ a Violent Fantasy for Middle-Aged Guys – CNN.com

Why do we love gangsters — at least the ones on TV and in the movies?

The sudden death of actor James Gandolfini at age 51 has brought a round of instant nostalgia for the HBO show he led at the turn of the millennium, “The Sopranos.” It helped define the time for people living it, stretching between the excesses of the Clinton years and the grim patriotic grit of the post-9/11 period.

There was very little admirable about the character of Tony Soprano — most of us don’t murder on our lunch break — and yet he became a kind of elevated everyman. Read More…

How Did ‘Patriot’ Become a Dirty Word? – CNN.com

On Memorial Day, we honor those patriots who gave “the last full measure of devotion” — in Abraham Lincoln’s words — and died defending our freedom and union.

But this Memorial Day is partly clouded by the resurgence of partisan scandal in Washington. At the IRS, employees filtered through the exploding number of tax exemption applications by politically associated organizations by being on the lookout for groups that had the name “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their name. This was improper, illegal, unethical and outrageous.

But hold on — when did the word “patriot” become a partisan pejorative? How did such a bipartisan positive word get identified as a sign of hyperpartisan politics?

It’s actually an interesting story. Read More…

CNN Podcast: Big Three – Relief in Oklahoma?

Will New Yorkers elect a punch line as Mayor? Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City race for mayor was one of the issues we discussed with comedian Jim Gaffigan, our guest this week on the CNN weekly podcast “The Big Three,” co-hosted by CNN’s Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and Dean Obeidallah.

Listen to the Podcast here:

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CNN Podcast: Big Three – Obama’s Worst Week

This week on The Big Three, we take a look at what might have been Obama’s worst week ever – as a negative trifecta of scandals threaten to overwhelm his administration and derail his ambitious legislative agenda. We get a reality check with special guest, Representative Keith Ellison. And no talk about the biggest stories of the week would be complete without a conversation about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a proactive double mastectomy and the message it sends to millions.

Listen to the Podcast here:

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CNN Podcast: Big Three – Do Muslims Really Hate Terrorism?

CNN Radio’s Big Three: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah.

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CNN Podcast: Big Three – Terror in Boston

CNN Radio’s Big Three: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah.

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GOP’s Cowardly Gun Filibuster Threat – CNN.com

There are days when Congress seems determined to earn its 12% approval rating — and that 14 Republican senators are threatening to filibuster any new gun legislation should make your blood boil if you still have a heart to pump it with.

Four months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, the vast majority of Americans still support some sensible new gun laws, but the same legislation has been declared DOA by conservative senators.

It’s enough for some activists to crow that the NRA’s strategy to stall until public attention moved elsewhere has succeeded. The old argument after a mass shooting — “it’s too soon” — has been revealed to be the delay and dodge it always was. Read More…

Baseball is Back, Thank God – CNN.com

Forget Punxsutawney Phil’s predictions. The words “Play ball!” are the most dependable sign that spring has arrived in America. Finally, baseball season is here.

Maybe because it is an outdoor game, with a schedule stretching across three seasons. Maybe because it is a child’s game played by men, bridging the different times of our lives. But the start of the baseball season is always greeted with relief, a sign of rebirth and hope, that this year appropriately coincides with Easter.

Winter is over. The bleak time has been survived. And slowly but soon the familiar rhythms of life will reassert themselves. This, as it’s referred to in the film “Bull Durham,” is the church of baseball, open to all. Read More…

How Gay Rights Went Mainstream – CNN.com

Some days start out historic. The gay civil rights movement has reached the Supreme Court — a milestone by any measure. We won’t know what the justices will decide until June, but it is not too early to reflect on how we got here.

The sea change in public opinion on gay rights in general and same-sex marriage in particular has been unprecedented. A decade ago, just 27% of Americans backed same-sex marriage; today it is a clear majority.

In recent weeks, politicians like Hillary Clinton and Republicans Jon Huntsman and Rob Portman have declared their support for marriage equality. And while far more elected Democrats than Republicans support same-sex marriage, polls show that this is increasingly more of a generational divide than a partisan divide. In fact, a majority of Republicans under age 50 now support the freedom to marry — including more than 60% of evangelicals under 30. Read More…

CNN Podcast: Big Three – Supreme Court and Same Sex Marriage

CNN Radio’s Big Three: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah.

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CNN Podcast: Big Three – Margaret Hoover, Dean Obeidallah, John Avlon

Welcome to The Big Three — a CNN Radio podcast on the big three stories of the week, featuring three contributors who write for CNN Opinion — myself, my bride, Margaret Hoover, and political comedian Dean Obeidallah, who is of no relation (as far as we know).

We each come to the conversation from a different perspective — center, right and left — but we all share a commitment to smart, funny, civil conversation. And we’re all big Yalta buffs. Read More…

In North Korea, Dennis Rodman Fouls Out – CNN.com

Never fear. While North Korea is a closed communist state, a rogue nuclear power that regularly threatens war and starves its own people in prison camps, Dennis Rodman has just returned from some one-on-one diplomacy with its “dear leader” Kim Jong Un and has good news to report: “I love him. The guy is awesome. He was so honest.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this isn’t going to look much better in the eyes of history than Charles Lindbergh vouching for Hitler’s character in the late 1930s.

But say this for the retired rebounding champion known as “The Worm” — he got closer to the young dictator by walking in the front door of North Korea with the Harlem Globetrotters and Vice magazine than diplomats and intelligence services have gotten to date. As former Assistant Secretary of State Stephen Ganyard told ABC News, “There is nobody at the CIA who could tell you more personally about Kim Jong Un than Dennis Rodman, and that in itself is scary.” Read More…

Oscar Likes His Political Flicks Real – CNN.com

With a crop of political movies in the Oscar running, this weekend Hollywood is looking more like Poliwood. Best Picture contenders such as “Argo,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lincoln” have managed to pay off at the box office even as they brought politics and history to the big screen — proof that we’ll take smart over stupid as long as we’re entertained while educated.

But what’s really notable about these films is that for the most part they avoid hagiography. They dare to show complexity. This doesn’t mean indulging in moral relativism; evil exists and these films acknowledge it. But the human dimension is kept intact rather, with characters not divided into simply angels versus devils. The real tradeoffs behind difficult decisions are acknowledged, consistent with the idea that the truth is never pure and rarely simple. Read More…

Tea party’s anti-Rove ‘Nazi ad’ – CNN.com

You would click on the link, and there you’d find the Tea Party Patriots’ mailer, calling for liberty and asking for money, decrying “big-government Republicans” and “leftist Obama Democrats” alike.

But the real target of this particular pitch was none other than Karl Rove himself, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s two White House wins, accused in the ad of trying to “crush the Tea Party movement.”

And he was depicted as a Nazi. Read More…

NRA’s enemies list: Most of America – CNN.com

Question: What do George Clooney, Chaka Khan, the American Medical Association, Bon Jovi and C. Everett Koop have in common?

Answer: They are among the 500 names on the National Rifle Association’s absurd new “enemies list.”

Richard Nixon would be embarrassed to find that his once sinister form of score-keeping has been revived so promiscuously by the NRA. But there is some redeeming social value here: The list illustrates an organization that has become hermetically sealed from society at large, so caught up in conservative debates that it has forgotten how to connect with Main Street America. Read More…

Can This Marriage Save American Politics? – CNN Radio

On a cold November afternoon in 2008, in lower Manhattan, as HER candidate was serving his final weeks as President of the United States, HE was inspired.

He wasn’t a Bush man. He is not a party guy at all.

And given the family she comes from, what was captured in this stunning photo was the inauguration of a political intermarriage.

Her family, the Hoovers, may have preferred a son-in-law from the party of her great-grandfather, Herbert.

But as often happens when people get to know each other, love trumps politics – or at least it takes the edge off.

And so, as President Obama and House Majority Leader John Boehner, and their large supporting casts, prepare for four more years, perhaps they should look at the moment captured here, in sight of the Statue of Liberty, when author John Avlon dropped to his knee, photographer-friend lying in wait, and proposed to the descendant of the 31st President of the United States.

Avlon’s grandfather immigrated here, through Ellis Island, 12 years before Margaret Hoover’s great-grandfather entered the White House. To think that Avlon’s grandfather entered America in plain sight of the spot where his grandson John would propose marriage…

Avlon and Hoover are now prominent CNN Contributors.

If you listen to them on this podcast by dropping to your knee and clicking play, you will hear a love story that nearly got too steamy for CNN standards.

And through their love story, and their battle of ideas, we will search for lessons on how the President and his rivals can find common ground.

At the very least, you may conclude that whatever our party affiliations, we are all part of the same family.

Listen to the interview here:

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Jindal, Courage is Not Enough – CNN.com

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal rode into the Republican National Committee retreat in Charlotte, North Carolina, ready to offer a dose of tough medicine for the Republican Party, which he now says “must stop being the stupid party.”

“The Republican Party does not need to change our principles,” he said in a keynote speech, “but we might need to change just about everything else we do.”

Ouch.

There’s a problem with Jindal’s prescription, however, rooted in an idea that Forrest Gump once articulated — “stupid is as stupid does.” Read More…

GOP’s Surprising Edge on diversity – CNN.com

Everybody knows the Republican Party is basically an all-white bastion, right? After all, even Colin Powell condemned the “dark vein of intolerance” that has flowed through his party since the post-civil rights era political realignment.

Now with President Barack Obama leading the Democrats into a second term — buoyed by overwhelming victory margins among African-Americans and Hispanics — it’s clear the GOP has some serious catching up to do.

This is why it might surprise you to hear that Republicans are by far the more diverse party when it comes to statewide elected officials such as senators and governors. On this front, they leave Democrats in the dust. And that’s why the GOP actually has a greater depth of diversity on their potential presidential bench looking to 2016 and beyond. Read More…

Chris Christie Drops Bomb on GOP Leaders – CNN.com

It’s why the American people hate Congress. Unlike the people in Congress, we have actual responsibilities.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie dropped a bomb on Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Congress for refusing to allow a vote on Hurricane Sandy relief in the final hours of the 112th Congress. It was an instant classic of principled political outrage. It provided a strong dose of what Washington has been missing: blunt, independent leadership. Read More…

Goodbye, Postal Service? – CNN.com

It’s the time of year for dashing through the snow to the crowded post office, with arms full of holiday gifts for family and friends.

Not to break the atmosphere of holiday cheer, but this Christmas could be the last for the U.S. Postal Service. It is losing $25 million dollars a day and staring down insolvency — unless Congress steps in to pass a reform package that reduces its costs.

With just a few days left in the congressional calendar, there is still some small hope for a Christmas miracle — maybe the Postal Service can be saved as part of a deal on the fiscal cliff. But with even Hurricane Sandy relief stalled, skepticism is growing. Read More…

Don’t Let This Moment Pass Without Acting on Gun Control – CNN.com

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make us confront reality.

In the wake of the slaughter of first graders in Newtown, Connecticut, there are signs that the country — and Congress — are ready to confront the cancer of gun violence that kills over 11,000 Americans each year.

More than 200 Americans have been killed in mass shootings in the last five years. After each attack — whether it was Virginia Tech or Aurora, Colorado — we were told that it was too soon to talk about the role of guns. Now, the fever of denial might be breaking.

A new Washington Post/ABC poll taken after the shooting shows that 54% of Americans now support stricter gun laws and 59% support a nationwide ban on high-capacity ammunition clips — meaning those that contain more than 10 bullets.

The big question of course is whether Congress will listen. This has not been an area where politicians have carved out a new chapter of profiles in courage in recent years. Instead, they have run away in the face of the lobbying power of the National Rifle Association.

But in the past two days, two Southern Democratic senators with A-ratings from the NRA have broken ranks to say that it is time to begin a serious, civil and constructive conversation about remedies to mass gun violence — including perhaps a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and a restriction of high-capacity clips.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — who famously took aim at a cap and trade bill with a high-powered hunting rifle in a 2010 campaign ad — told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the Newtown shooting “changed me. … I don’t know of anybody that goes hunting with an assault rifle. I don’t know people that need 10-, 20-, 30-round clips.”

Add to this chorus of conscience Virginia Sen. Mark Warner — a fellow former governor and current senator. He told a local Richmond TV station: “I believe every American has 2nd Amendment right — the ability to hunt is part of our culture. I’ve had an NRA rating of an A. But you know, enough is enough. I’m a father of three daughters and this weekend they said, ‘Dad, how can this go on?’”

These two senators are leaders of the centrist coalition, and their evolution on this issue matters. It is particularly well timed because Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced her intention to submit legislation to reinstate the lapsed assault weapons ban as well as ban “big clips, drums or strips of more than 10 bullets.”

That bill would provide the substantive basis for a new round of reasonable restrictions on weapons that have little purpose other than to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

To date, there are few Republicans who have newly embraced the need for new gun legislation. Rep. Peter King of New York and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are influential, but among the few returning congressional Republicans who back the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban and restrictions on the sale of mass capacity magazines. But the senators who have boasted the backing of the NRA in the past have been notably silent since the slaughter in Newtown. That can fairly be read as a hope that this moment will pass.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, has been leading the gun crusade in recent years through his group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In many areas, America’s mayors have been leading the policy debate in our nation, and this organization’s message has taken on new urgency, unveiling an effort to encourage supporters to “Demand a Plan” from Washington. In the wake of the Newtown shootings, nine new mayors decided to join the group, including the mayors of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Tucson, Arizona — major cities in the heart of gun country, the South and West.

In this and so many other areas, the fact is that Americans are less polarized than our politicians. A poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns and conducted by conservative pollster Frank Luntz found that 74% of NRA members supported background checks on every gun sale. The larger point is that there is common ground to be found even on this emotional issue — especially if mental health is part of the civic conversation, because self-control and gun control are intertwined.

There is a responsibility to remember after events like this — a need for sustained focus after the heat of the moment passes. Real change will require constructive civic conversation, the kind that Manchin noted has become rare, saying: “It’s a shame that we’ve gotten so toxic a political environment that today in Washington that you can’t sit down and have reasonable discussions with reasonable people to come out to reasonable conclusions.”

But there is a moral urgency to follow through on this moment. The normal politically convenient amnesia can’t be allowed to set in. More senators need to be pressed on the issue of reasonable restrictions and prodded by the polls.

Feinstein’s proposed bill will no doubt start a substantive debate. As President Obama said in his memorial address in Newtown, “No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society. … But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.”

Beware the Fiscal Cliff Deniers – CNN.com

Washington is playing chicken with the fiscal cliff — the combination of automatic tax hikes and deep spending cuts in 2013 that could plummet our recovering economy back into recession. Brinksmanship is back while the clock ticks.

Responsible voices in both parties say they don’t want the country to go over the cliff, and Republicans have just offered their own outline of a plan to counter the president’s opening bid. (Both sides have rejected those opening offers.)

There is danger ahead — a growing chorus of ideological activists on both sides who insist there is no reason to fear going over the fiscal cliff, if the cliff exists at all. Read More…

The Man Who Changed Baseball Forever – CNN.com

Marvin Miller died Tuesday at the age of 95. And here’s why you should know his name: Miller transformed the game of baseball even though he never put on a uniform.

This slight union lawyer was considered the enemy of owners, and yet he might have done more than anyone else to bring free market competition to the national pastime and make it a modern big business.

He was lionized and vilified and is sadly still denied entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Read More…

Don’t Fear the Gover – Republicans Wisely Break with Grover Norquist – CNN.com

Who’s afraid of Grover Norquist?

Fewer and fewer Republicans, thankfully.

In recent days, the declarations of independence from Norquist’s absolutist anti-tax pledge have been coming fast and furious.

Add Southern Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Lindsey Graham to the growing list, along with Reps. Peter King, Steve LaTourette and Scott Rigell.

Chambliss kicked off the most recent outbreak of common sense by telling a Georgia TV station, “I care more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge.” He added, “If we do it (Norquist’s) way, then we’ll continue in debt.” Read More…

Battleground Blog: How the Swing Counties Swung – CNN.com

Over the last two months of the campaign, CNN focused on the swing districts of swing states as a way of looking at who would win the election. From Jefferson County Colorado and Loudon County Virginia on CNN’s OutFront’s Final Factors, to the Battleground Bus Tour with Ali Velshi from Florida’s I-4 Corridor to Ohio’s Stark County, we hit the road and talked with swing voters on the ground. In the end, here’s how they voted. Read More…

Independent and Centrist Voters Breaking with Precedent – CNN.com

The final polls are out and behind the national horserace is a fascinating dynamic – Mitt Romney is narrowly winning independent voters while President Obama is winning centrist voters by a nearly 20-point margin.

For example, here in the must-win battleground state of Ohio, the final CNN/ORC poll showed Romney edging Obama among independent voters by two points, 48% to 46%. But among moderate voters, Obama is crushing Romney by 21 points – 57% to 36%.

This is significant because in past elections independents and centrist voters have been largely synonymous–overlapping cohorts, reflecting the belief of many independents that the two parties are too polarized and disproportionately dominated by their respective special interests. Read More…

What’s Really at Stake in Election 2012 – CNN.com

The stakes in this election go far beyond just who takes the oath of office in January.

Each of us is faced with choices that will have huge ramifications in our nation for decades — and the choice is not simply about Democrats versus Republicans or even Obama versus Romney. The real stakes are this: The political strategies that prove successful in this election will be replicated far into the future.

Throughout this election cycle, we’ve seen hyperpartisan narratives resonate more than facts, total opposition embraced as a congressional tactic, and unprecedented dark money flow through our airwaves in an avalanche of negative ads. Read More…

Stand up for Centrist Candidates – CNN.com

There’s more to Election Day than just the presidential campaign. The polarization of the parties has led directly to the divided and dysfunctional Congress we’ve seen over the past two years, leading to the lowest congressional approval ratings in recent history.

No matter who wins the presidency, we need to see more principled problem-solving centrists elected from both parties.

That’s why I’m continuing my pre-election CNN.com column tradition of listing some of the most standout centrist Senate and House candidates on the ballot this year.

Centrism is one of most misunderstood and maligned political identities in our polarized hyper-partisan environment. Its advocates have been hunted into near-extinction on Capitol Hill by party-first conformists, angry ideologues and special interests. Read More…

Battleground Blog: Ohio’s Senators Weigh in on Romney Jeep Ad Controversy – CNN.com

Here in Ohio and other Rust Belt battleground states where this election will be decided – the auto bailouts are a personal, political and pocket-book issue.

The latest campaign skirmish over the auto industry concerns comments Mitt Romney made on the stump about Chrysler allegedly moving Jeep manufacturing overseas to China. This drew immediate outcry from the company and provided a field day for Fact-Checkers who pronounced the statement a “Pants-on-Fire.” Read More…

Battleground Blog: Shooting Survivor Passionate About 2012 Election – CNN.com

On the Battleground Bus Tour, we’ve met some extraordinary people. Usually, our focus is talking with the swing voters in swing states who will decide this election. But while Hurricane Sandy bore down on the East Coast, we started reporting a story on the ground game being implemented by both campaigns in Ohio.

At the Stark County Democratic Party Headquarters, we met a dedicated volunteer who lived through a dark chapter of American history and retained his sense of civic commitment.

His name is Dean Kahler and he was shot at Kent State in 1970. Read More…

Obama’s Deficit Plan Closer to What CEOs Favor – CNN.com

The deficit and debt are major concerns for swing voters — and President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have very different visions of how to deal with it.

That’s why it was significant to see 80 CEOs of major American companies sign a letter this past week committing to press for a balanced bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and debt no matter which candidate is elected president on November 6.

The words “balanced” and “bipartisan” are key here — because the CEOs understand that this problem is too big to be solved by tax hikes or spending cuts alone. We can’t simply tax or cut our way out of this problem. Read More…

Deficit-Hawk CEOs Bend Toward Obama – CNN.com

The deficit and debt are major concerns for swing voters — and President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have very different visions of how to deal with it.

That’s why it was significant to see 80 CEOs of major American companies sign a letter this past week committing to press for a balanced bipartisan plan to reduce the deficit and debt no matter which candidate is elected president on November 6.

The words “balanced” and “bipartisan” are key here — because the CEOs understand that this problem is too big to be solved by tax hikes or spending cuts alone. We can’t simply tax or cut our way out of this problem.

Instead, the CEOs backed the outlines of the Bowles-Simpson commission, which attracted bipartisan support with its plan to cut spending, rein in entitlements and increase tax revenue through lower rates while closing loopholes and deductions. Read More…

Mourdock’s Rape Remark and Extremism – CNN.com

Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock believes that rapes resulting in pregnancy are “something that God intends to happen.”

Do you?

It’s a relevant question as we enter the last two weeks of this election, because Mourdock’s comments are not isolated.

The statement comes from the same rigid ideology behind conservative Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin’s musings in August, when he said women’s bodies have the ability to “shut down” pregnancies that result from what he called “legitimate rape.” Read More…

Hall Monitor Mitt’s Missed Chance – The Daily Beast – CNN.com

President Obama needed to step up and dig in at Tuesday night’s second presidential debate, and that’s exactly what he did, I write over at CNN. Insistent jockeying for time, his fumble of the Benghazi question, and furious Etch-a-Sketch moments on everything from Pell Grants to the Dream Act may have hurt Romney with swing voters – exactly the ones he needs to hone in on in the coming weeks.

And he just came across as a bully:

“Mitt Romney followed a great debate with a fail. His constant interruption of Candy Crowley and the president – his peevish, ‘Hall Monitor Mitt’ persona – was not just a loss in terms of style points. It was revealing in terms of character. The CNN focus group found that the intense awkward interjections alienated swing voters and women in particular. Tweets to me used words like ‘entitled’ and ‘bully.’ Bottom line, it wasn’t presidential. It was small and self-important rather than big and magnanimous. And it will cost him momentum. Read More…

Will Energy Boom Swing the Election? – CNN.com

No Republican has won the White House without Ohio.

In these final weeks, the Buckeye State is an intense campaign battleground and northeastern Ohio is the bellwether of this key swing state.

For decades, the economic news here has been grim. Once the breadbasket and manufacturing backbone of the nation, Ohio has been hit hard by outsourcing while family farms have been under constant pressure.

But a bright spot has suddenly emerged after decades of struggle, an energy boom brought on by natural gas and oil wells. Suddenly, local farmland that had been worth $15 per acre six years ago was valued at $5,800 per acre and leases allow farmers to keep a portion of the royalties if oil and gas are found. Read More…

The Gaffe Master Beats the Policy Wonk – The Daily Beast – CNN.com

Joe Biden didn’t just meet expectations Thursday night, he completely surpassed them.

Before the vice presidential debate, I’d thought that Paul Ryan would have the upper hand — a young, smart policy wonk and great communicator paired off against an out-of-practice, aging politico with a recurring case of foot-in-mouth disease.

I was wrong.

Joe Biden had clearly studied Barack Obama’s failures in the first presidential debate and decided to do the exact opposite — intensely engaged, smiling and pushing back aggressively at the slightest hint of misstatement or exaggeration.

Read More…

In Virginia’s Crucial County, Military Cuts Worry Swing Voters – CNN.com

Take it from President Barack Obama — Virginia’s Loudoun County is a must-win swing district in a must-win swing state.

“We won last time in Loudoun County, and if we win again, we win Virginia,” Obama declared at a rally in August. “And if we win Virginia, we win the election.”

The final factor affecting many undecided voters in this wealthy Washington exurb is sequestration — massive, automatic cuts scheduled to start taking effect at the the beginning of 2013 after the failure of a supercommittee to come up with a deficit-reduction plan. Read More…

The Audacity of Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch – CNN.com

The Etch a Sketch was in full effect at the first presidential debate in Denver on Wednesday night.

Mitt Romney put forward a strong performance, transforming back into his 2002 Massachusetts moderate mold, a belated advocate of bipartisan leadership. It would have had a lot more impact if it hadn’t contradicted almost every policy statement Romney has made on the campaign trail since he started running for president. This flip-flopping is a force of habit, but it was used to great effect, reflecting a campaign and a candidate finally focused on the general electorate.

President Obama, in turn, had an objectively weak debate. The president was more professor than preacher, a budget wonk getting lost in paragraphs of detail rather than concisely punching back. He fulfilled the political truism that incumbent presidents have bad first debates because they are comparatively unprepared and overburdened by budgets and other details of governing — as President Reagan did in his disastrous first 1984 debate. Read More…

For GOP, It’s the Social Issues, Stupid – CNN.com

This election is about the economy — not social issues or other distractions.

At least, that’s the mantra we’ve consistently heard from conservative candidates this election cycle. We heard the same thing during the “tea party election” of 2010.

But it’s an odd insistence from an overwhelmingly social conservative Republican party. Because keep in mind, they’re not disavowing anti-choice beliefs on abortion or opposition to gay rights or any other deeply held hot-button issues. They just don’t want to discuss them loudly in an election year. Read More…

Romney Foreign Policy Attack Was Disgraceful – CNN.com

“Partisanship ought to end at the water’s edge” is a longstanding adage of American politics.

But in the hours after the death of the first U.S. ambassador killed in decades, Mitt Romney — panicked as his poll numbers have slipped — punched hard against the president, unleashing an unwise, inaccurate and unpresidential attack on the Obama administration.

The fog of war applies to the confusion about the timeline of ugly incidents in the Middle East on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But when the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement condemning the obscure and intentionally inflammatory film that had already given rise to riots, the Romney campaign saw an opportunity to amplify its “Obama-Apologizes-For-America” narrative. Read More…

Politics of Clint Eastwood’s Empty Chair – CNN.com

Clint Eastwood’s rambling speech to an empty chair in Tampa, Florida, was more than just awkward performance art on a political stage.

It actually provided a useful metaphor for one of the most nauseating aspects of this presidential election — the growing gap between narrative and facts.

One of my favorite quotes is by the late, great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” But because of the rise of partisan media, amplified by the echo chamber of the Internet and talk radio, today everyone comes to civic debates armed with their own facts. Read More…

Is That the Best Mitt Romney Can Do? – CNN.com

Is that the best he can do?

On family, Mitt Romney got an ‘A’ in his nomination speech last night. On positive presidential vision he got a ‘C’ — and on presidential policy he got an incomplete.

There’s no question that Mitt Romney succeeded in painting a portrait of himself as a loving husband, son and father. You wouldn’t have a heart if you didn’t find the story about his father buying a single rose for his mother every day deeply affecting.

Mitt seemed moved to tears by the memory of his parents, as did many in the arena. Looking back at their lives and his father’s political career, I found myself tweeting “George Romney 2012.” Mission to humanize Mitt, accomplished. Read More…

GOP Policy Is the Scandal, Not Just Akin’s Comments – CNN.com

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

These were the words that got Rep. Todd Akin kicked to the curb by Republicans, ranging from Mitt Romney to Karl Rove to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who pronounced the comments “biologically stupid” and “bizarre” to Erin Burnett on “OutFront” on Monday night.

It’s good to see conservatives stand up for sound science. But beneath the well-deserved thrashing Akin received, I get the sense that political self-interest is driving this debate more than concerns about policy or principle. The problem seems to be less what Akin said than the way he said it. Read More…

What We in 2012 Can Learn from Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 – CNN.com

One hundred years ago Monday, Theodore Roosevelt launched the most successful third party presidential bid in American history, declaring, “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord!”

It was the culmination of the Progressive Party Convention in Chicago on August 6, 1912. And its influence still echoes through our politics today.

Roosevelt, the former president, had tried and failed to wrest the GOP nomination from his successor, William Howard Taft. His supporters believed that the nomination had been stolen by the conservative power brokers and declared their independence. Read More…

Is It Still Too Soon to Talk Gun Control? – CNN.com

The bodies of the victims are being buried. The court case will continue, without cameras. The horror in Aurora has faded from the front page in favor of Olympic coverage.

So it is worth asking, 10 days after the largest mass shooting in American history, whether it is still too soon to start a conversation about reasonable gun restrictions. What actions could we take to make such slaughters more difficult to perpetrate?

Because if it is true, as the National Rifle Association says, that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” then it’s equally irrefutable that people with guns kill people.

Here is the toll, beyond the 12 dead and 59 wounded in Aurora. More than 180 people killed in mass shootings in the past five years, including the 32 people who died in the April, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. And dwarfing that total are the 10,000 Americans murdered by gunshots every year. Read More…

Jeb vs. Grover: Battle for GOP’s soul – CNN.com

This is what happens when politics starts looking like a cult: Jeb Bush gets attacked for being a traitor to the conservative cause.

The former Florida governor has been speaking with the freedom of someone not running for office, saying that both his father and Ronald Reagan would have had a hard time in today’s hard-right GOP and questioning the wisdom of Grover Norquist’s absolutist anti-tax pledge.

That set off a fascinating public fight between Bush and Norquist, two faces of competing factions within Republican Party. It is the latest evidence of a growing GOP backlash against the ideological straitjacket Norquist has attempted to impose on governing in the United States. Read More…

Hyper-Partisanship Dragging Down Nation – CNN.com

It’s not your imagination: Our politics are more polarized than at any point in recent history.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey from the indispensable Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. And if you needed more evidence of the passionate and sometimes poisonous polarization afflicting our nation, you didn’t have to look further than the crowds in Wisconsin on Tuesday night after the recall attempt.

Here’s the real wake-up call: Americans are more divided about partisan politics right now than they are about race, class, gender and age. That’s right: Forget the original sin of slavery and the longstanding fights over civil rights — those old divisions now seem small compared with perceptions of whether a person is a Republican or Democrat.

Welcome to the new bigotry, where a person’s partisan identification is a source of prejudice, seen as a reflection of fundamentally different values, representative of an alien America. Read More…

Grow Up, Congress: Make a Deal on Debt – CNN.com

Confronted with record-low approval ratings, Congress seems determined to drive them down even further by planning another game of chicken with the debt ceiling this fall.

The last time they tried this game, the United States lost its Triple-A credit rating as Standard & Poor’s opined that “the political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policy making becoming less stable, less effective and less predictable.”

Talk about a zero percent learning curve. As you know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Well, this asylum is being run by the inmates. Read More…