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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.

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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…

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…