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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…

The Freedom Tower, Rising from Ashes – CNN.com

The World Trade Center is again the tallest building in New York one year after the killing of Osama bin Laden and more than 10 years after the attacks that brought them down.

It is still a work in progress: The hulking steel structure known as the Freedom Tower is still 500 feet shorter than it will be when complete. But it is already a tribute to American resilience, a reminder that whatever devastation we face, we can still come back bigger and better than before.

My wife and I live two blocks from ground zero. The transformation of our neighborhood over the past decade has been inspiring, if comparatively unheralded. The streets that were once covered in ash and smoke are now teeming with life. Read More…

Where’s the Outrage Over Republican’s ‘Communist’ Claim? – CNN.com

“I have here in my hand a list of 205 communists …”

The ghost of Joe McCarthy’s ulcerous accusations hung over a disturbingly casual comment this past week by U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Florida.

When asked by a constituent at a town hall, “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists?”

“That’s a fair question,” West replied. “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”

Keep in mind that this is the man Sarah Palin recently recommended be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential nominee.

And not only did West not apologize — or receive significant criticism from his fellow Republicans — his revealing response was to raise funds off it. Read More…

Palin, Huckabee and the Lure of Star Power – CNN.com

It’s tough to get quality people to run for political office these days. There’s the cult-like polarization, the vicious mudslinging, and the cost to families and finances.

But there’s a new trend which promises to make the problem much worse: It seems that people who have achieved elected office would rather be on TV.

Sarah Palin’s appearance as a co-host on the “Today Show” was just the latest reminder that she walked away from the governor’s mansion in Alaska after getting a taste for the bright lights. Yes, she told her constituents that she was looking out for their best interests by removing the distraction she had become. But the prospect of a lucrative cable news contract, a reality show and big-ticket speaking gigs was certainly a large part of the incentive. Read More…

Republicans struggle in Land of Lincoln – CNN.com

The Illinois primary should be a Republican Party homecoming. After all, this is the Land of Lincoln, home state of the first Republican president.

But the party of Lincoln is no longer an easy fit for the state of Illinois. After serving as a Republican presidential stronghold from 1850 to 1920, as well as a more recent stretch from 1972 to 1988, Illinois is now the seventh most Democratic-leaning state in the nation, after the Northeast and Hawaii.

The swing districts of the Chicago suburbs increasingly lean Democrat. Read More…

George Clooney’s Sudan Focus Should Be Ours, Too – CNN.com

The slaughter of civilians in Sudan goes on with too little attention.

But when George Clooney gets involved, the world takes notice. And that’s at least a step in the right direction.

Clooney brought the media spotlight with him Friday, as he protested outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington and was arrested alongside his father, longtime newsman Nick Clooney.

On Wednesday morning there were crowds lining the hallways of the Russell Senate Building, a reception more suited to a movie star than a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Read More…

Three Simple Ways to Make Congress Work – CNN.com

It’s not your imagination: Our dysfunctional divided Congress is the least productive and least popular in recent history.

Some congressmen walk the halls like members of rival gangs. The simple job of reasoning together seems out of reach. A few good men and women — like Sens. Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe — have decided to retire rather than subject themselves to this disheartening Kabuki theater. The system is broken. But what can we do to fix it?

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. In the past, divided government presided over ambitious accomplishments like the Marshall Plan and the creation of the interstate highway system. Read More…

How Partisan Politics Drove Olympia Snowe Away – CNN.com

The Vital Center is under siege on Capital Hill. “Congress is now more polarized than at any time since the late 19th century,” attests the data-driven blog Vote View.

It has gotten so bad that Sen. Olympia Snowe is throwing in the towel on her three-term career in disgust: “I do find it frustrating,” she said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

What’s worse, she doesn’t think it’s going to get better any time soon: “I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term.”

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GOP’s Radioactive Anti-Obama Rhetoric – CNN.com

The debates this presidential primary season have been less like Lincoln-Douglas than former heavyweight champ Buster Douglas — punch-drunk pugilism, providing entertainment and some great upsets along the way.

But for all the excitement of the fights, there is a civic cost to the radioactive rhetoric that gets thrown out to excite the conservative crowds.

It’s not just that the most irresponsible candidates can play to the base and get a boost in the polls, while more sober-minded candidates like Jon Huntsman fail to get attention. The real damage is to the process of running for president itself. Because when low blows get rewarded, the incentive to try to emulate Lincoln — holding yourself to a higher standard — is diminished. And one barometer of this atmospheric shift is in the increasingly overheated rhetoric by candidates attacking the current president. This serial disrespect ends up unintentionally diminishing the office of president itself. Read More…

Why has GOP turnout taken a dive? – CNN.com

Beneath Rick Santorum’s stunning three-state sweep on Tuesday stands another stubborn sign of dissatisfaction with the status quo: Republican turnout is down.

I’m talking embarrassingly, disturbingly, hey-don’t-you-know-it’s-an-election-year bad. It is a sign of a serious enthusiasm gap among the rank and file, and a particularly bad omen for Mitt Romney and the GOP in the general election. Read More…

What Happened to Romney, the ‘Inevitable’ Candidate?

Newt Gingrich has pulled a Double Lazarus, coming back from the dead twice in this campaign to win decisively in South Carolina.

Exit polls showed a broad and deep victory in this conservative state, with Newt winning tea partiers and evangelicals — as well as both men and women.  Interestingly, Newt won voters who said the economy was the number one issue as well as people who said their priority was defeating President Barack Obama in November. Read More…

Three Things to Watch in South Carolina Primary

All presidential primaries matter, but some matter more than most.

South Carolina has voted for the eventual winner of the Republican nomination since 1980. And for the conservative candidates looking to stop the inevitability narrative that has surrounded Mitt Romney’s candidacy, South Carolina is a must-win state. Here are three things to watch as South Carolinians vote. Read More…

Stop Stereotyping South Carolina – CNN.com

We’re in the thick of the South Carolina Republican Primary, and all the ugly old stereotypes are being deployed as shorthand for one very beautiful state.

You know, the characterization of South Carolina as a swamp of sleazy politics and brutal attack ads, a Bible Belt bastion of rednecks and racism, a state defined by Bob Jones University.

Sometimes these stereotypes are floated in political conversation as evidence of how “real” the state is in determining the true feelings of the conservative base. Read More…

How ‘5 Things to Watch’ Turned Out – CNN.com

In the run-up to the New Hampshire primary, I wrote a column on the five things to look at while the votes came in. Now we’ve got the results, and here’s how it played out:

• Romney’s benchmark — Mitt Romney hit it. His 39% exceeded John McCain’s 2008 total, and he increased his popular vote total by more than 15,000 votes. More important, and more impressive, was the breadth of his support in this state that borders on his own. He won both tea partiers and evangelicals. He won moderates and conservatives. He won rural, urban and suburban voters, every educational group and even won Catholic voters despite running against two Catholics. Read More…

New Hampshire – All About the Independents

New Hampshire is all about the independents. And that’s why it’s the best test of general election electability.

While Iowa’s caucuses are disproportionately dominated by social conservatives, in New Hampshire’s open primary, independents can vote — and they make up more than 40% of the local electorate. Read More…

Five things to watch in New Hampshire – CNN.com

Game day is here — the New Hampshire primary is under way.

Here are five things to look for that could determine the election outcome and the shape of the GOP field going forward: Read More…

Iowa Caucus — Myths and Reality – CNN

It has become a great American tradition, an act of small-town civics, an example of direct democracy in action where citizens get to meet presidential candidates multiple times.

But it is also an overhyped media circus, which helps give Iowa disproportionate influence on who gets the Republican nomination, despite the fact that no binding delegates are actually selected. Read More…

Mitt Romney’s Humor Problem – CNN.com

“I live for laughter,” said Mitt Romney, unconvincingly.

But there’s no question that highlighting Mitt’s alleged inner jokester is a now part of Team Romney’s charm offensive, designed to humanize their sometimes robotic candidate.

This effort extends beyond the surgical removal of his tie and studied mussing of his hair before debates. On the humor front, there are family testimonials, offered by his devoted wife, Ann, about how Mitt is sometimes her most “naughty” child. Sons are deployed to recount their father’s penchant for practical jokes and corny one-liners. Read More…

How Ballot Access Laws Hurt Voters – CNN.com

Only two Republican presidential candidates will appear on the ballot in Virginia next year, regardless of how many are in the race.

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul will have the Dominion State all to themselves. Supporters of Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann will have to be content with yard signs or donations as ways of cheering on their favorite would-be nominee. Read More…

Why Trump Can’t Run as an Independent – CNN.com

Among the political threats wielded by Donald Trump in his carnival barker quest for the presidency is that if denied the Republican nomination, he would run as an independent.

As an independent myself, I usually cheer the prospect of any independent campaign. It shakes up the arrogant assumption that our elections are wholly owned subsidiaries of the two major parties and their respective special interests. Read More…

GOP, it’s time to give Huntsman another look – CNN.com

The “conservagencia” is starting to give Jon Huntsman a second look. He deserves it. But the stirrings of respect may be too little, too late. Too bad, because he might stand the best chance of beating President Barack Obama.

RINO hunting has become a reflexive sport inside the Republican Party. And so when Jon Huntsman entered the presidential race, the impulse was to smack him on style points as a Republican in Name Only. Read More…

Why Obama is listening to Teddy Roosevelt for 2012 – CNN.com

The town of Osawatomie, Kansas, was chosen as the location of a major speech Tuesday framing the 2012 election as”a make-or-break moment for the middle class,” what the president described as “the defining issue of our time.” Read More…

Michele Bachmann Fumbles the Facts – CNN.com

There’s an old saying that a lie can go halfway around the world while the truth is putting its boots on — and in politics, a steady drumbeat of misinformation and mischaracterization can too often shape the national debate.

So we wanted to set up a regular online column to confront fear-mongering with the facts, whether it comes from the right or the left during the 2012 campaign. Working with the CNN research team, we’ll investigate candidate claims and call bull when necessary. At a time when partisan spin can disproportionately dominate our democracy, this is an attempt to be an independent voice and an honest broker. Read More…

GOP Rivals Need to Get Real on Foreign Policy – CNN.com

“It would be an irony of fate if my administration had to deal chiefly with foreign problems,” said Woodrow Wilson during his presidential campaign 100 years ago.

World War I soon intruded on his plans — and international conflicts have not stopped intruding on America since. We now see that foreign policy is largely what a president does, despite all the domestic focus of presidential campaigns. Read More…

George Washington to Debt Panel: Man Up – CNN.com

The clock is ticking in Washington on the bipartisan supercommittee, those 12 members of Congress tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving.

More than 140 of their colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans, are encouraging them to be bold and go bigger — reaching $4 trillion of deficit reduction in order to put the U.S. on stable long-term fiscal footing and avoid another round of downgrades. Read More…

Birthers, Smokers, Jokers – It’s Silly Season in GOP Politics – CNN.com

Silly season has begun again. The sideshow is threatening to move into the big tent, and distraction will seem like it’s the main event.

We’ve begun that long stretch where political campaigns are viciously jockeying for position before the first primary vote is cast in January. But when Pat Robertson starts warning about the GOP primary voters getting too extreme for the party’s good, and Michelle Malkin tweets “Birthers, flip-floppers, Beltway moldy-oldies, Kabuki reformers. Don’t have stomach to look at GOP2012 field today,” you know things are getting weird and dispiriting. Read More…

Congress Finally Gets Something Right – CNN.com

Our dysfunctional divided Congress finally was able to find some common ground Wednesday, passing long-delayed free-trade bills with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Together, these treaties promise to increase U.S. exports by more than $12 billion a year while creating more than 300,000 jobs — good news for our still-sluggish economy and struggling American workers. Read More…

Millionaire’s tax is on target – CNN.com

Here’s one idea that could unite Main Street voters with Occupy Wall Street protesters — raise taxes only on individuals making more than $1 million a year and use that revenue to pay for President Barack Obama?’s jobs bill, which is made up of bipartisan policy proposals to get the economy moving again.

It is an audacious idea, brewed first by Sen. Charles Schumer and backed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as preferable to the president’s repeated call to roll back the Bush tax cuts on any household making more than $250,000 a year. Read More…

Vaclav Havel, a Hero for Today – CNN.com

Draw up a compelling character representing the arc of the 20th century and it might look like this — a child whose homeland is conquered by the Nazis and then occupied by communists; a playwright, essayist and dissident turned state prisoner of conscience turned leader of a victorious nonviolent revolution over a totalitarian dictatorship. He culminates his career as president of his newly liberated nation. Read More…

Politics as Ideological Blood Sport – CNN.com

They just don’t get it.

Two months after playing partisan chicken with the debt-ceiling limit and leading directly to a U.S. downgrade, our dysfunctional divided Congress was at it again — carelessly bringing the country to the brink of a government shutdown. Read More…

Rick Perry’s Fantasy About Obama, Israel – CNN.com

Gov. Rick Perry unleashed an onslaught against President Obama’s Israel policy Tuesday in New York, calling it “moral equivalency,” “appeasement,” “naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous.”

All this sounds very bad, deepening the narrative that Obama is hell-bent on alienating our closest allies, secretly sides with Muslims in the Middle East and has broken with decades of U.S. policy to do so. On cue, a second spin-driven news-cycle appeared: “Will Obama lose the Jewish vote in 2012?” Read More…

Christine O’Donnell: Exhibit A for Getting Rid of Closed Primaries – CNN.com

One year ago this week, America got a wake-up call about a core problem in our politics that empowers ideological extremists and special interests.

On September 14, 2010, both Delaware Rep. Mike Castle? and Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty lost closed partisan primaries, depriving most voters of a chance to vote for them in a general election. One a Republican and the other a Democrat, they both fell prey to a system that is rigged to punish political independence and that artificially polarizes American politics. Read More…

Can Obama overcome D.C.’s partisan poison? – CNN.com

In a call to action on the American economy, President Obama entered a deeply divided U.S. Capitol on Thursday to propose a decidedly bipartisan package of policies backed with an urgent message: “Pass this bill now.”

The address before a joint session of Congress was greeted with now-routine hyperpartisan skepticism, even before its contents were announced. But this was not a windy inspirational speech; instead it was a direct policy appeal full of specifics. Read More…

From Wall Street to the Street: A Cabdriver’s Tale – CNN.com

Jack Alvo drives the streets of the New York City six days a week — the 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. He never imagined he’d be a cabdriver at his age.

After all, a decade ago, he was pulling down $250,000 a year on Wall Street. He survived the 9/11 attacks while working in wealth management for Morgan Stanley on the 73rd floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower. He was a lucky man.

But Jack lost his last finance job in 2009, not so long after the markets crashed during the Great Recession. He is still in its grasp, trying to raise two kids, his hair now gray, driving a yellow taxi through the steel and concrete caverns of Manhattan. Read More…

Picking Bachmann or Perry is risky for GOP – CNN.com

A day can be a long time in politics, and that was certainly true this past Saturday.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll in Ames, followed by libertarian Congressman Ron Paul. Tim Pawlenty’s third-place finish pushed the two-term Minnesota governor out of the presidential race the next morning. Perhaps the biggest news was the big-foot move by Texas Gov. Rick Perry to declare his candidacy 1,200 miles away in South Carolina.

But what matters more than this one-day snapshot of the 2012 horse race are the dynamics determining the shape of the field. Read More…

Are Republicans at War with Reality? – CNN.com

So here’s what I learned watching Thursday night’s Republican debate:

States’ rights should rule the day, unless you’re gay.

Small government is the rule unless a rapist impregnates his victim.

Loyalty oaths should be the new normal.

Ten-to-one spending cuts to tax increases is an ideologically unacceptable compromise.

And refusing to raise the debt ceiling is a stand for fiscal responsibility even if it were to trigger an immediate default.

The action onstage in Ames, Iowa, on Thursday night provided a portrait of a grand old party that seems increasingly at war with reality itself. Responsible governance and philosophic consistency were endangered species in this political arena. Read More…

Ugly to Compare Terrorists with Tea Party – CNN.com

The cycle of incitement continued this week as Democrats frustrated with the debt-ceiling deal equated the tea party with terrorists, just weeks before the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

It is an ugly and unacceptable comparison, especially coming — as it did — on the heels of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords triumphant return to Congress after being shot in Tucson in January.

The instinct to raise funds off fear-mongering was also deployed in record time, as GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann — no stranger herself to the politics of incitement — fired off an e-mail which read: “The Democrats have stooped to a new low. This afternoon, Vice President Joe Biden reportedly led a congressional meeting where tea party members were labeled as ‘terrorists.’ ” Read More…

The Extreme Grouses as the Center Wins Debt Deal – CNN.com

The center can hold. That’s at least part of the big-picture takeaway after the House passed a lopsided if 11th-hour debt ceiling and deficit reduction bill by a refreshingly bipartisan margin of 269 to 161.

The extremes were united in their disapproval, sniping over the bill’s ideological imperfections. On the right, the Club for Growth and The Heritage Foundation lobbied for opposition among Republicans against Speaker John Boehner. On the left, MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee accused the president of weakness and selling out. Congressional members of the Tea Party Caucus and the Progressive Coalition refused to sign on through the bitter end. Read More…

Inflexible GOP Should Listen to Reagan on Debt – CNN.com

As the debt-ceiling deadline ticks closer, conservatives in Congress are fighting among themselves. The civil war is between responsible Republicans and extreme ideologues. The question is whether the collateral damage will include the American economy.

House Speaker John Boehner abruptly abandoned his attempt to negotiate a “grand bargain” on the deficit and the debt with President Barack Obama? because of a lack of support among tea party members, and now he is struggling to keep support for his Plan B intact in the face of an open rebellion. Read More…

Our Stupid Self-Inflicted Debt Crisis – CNN.com

Let me get this straight. The people who have been preaching the most about the dangers of American decline are right now helping to hasten American decline.

Because if America defaults on its debt, not only will we find ourselves in a far deeper fiscal hole, but the full faith and credit of the United States will be compromised. In our globalized era, that means America will be considered an unpredictable partner and a second-class power. Read More…

Good news: The Gang of Six is back – CNN.com

That’s thanks to the Lazarus-like resurgence of the Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of senators who have been working tirelessly to come up with a balanced plan to restore our nation to fiscal responsibility.

Washington’s professional partisans and cynical scribes had written the Gang of Six’s efforts off in recent weeks as well-intentioned but ineffectual, especially after Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, took a hiatus from their talks. Read More…

In Debt Talks, Obama as Grown-Up in the Room – CNN.com

The enemy of problem-solving in politics is ideological inflexibility.

That is the case President Obama made to the American people on Monday as ongoing debt and deficit talks try to stop the nation from default on August 2.

The president essentially called the bluff of conservatives who constantly call for action on the deficit but are making a habit of walking away from ambitious deals. Read More…

‘Palm-gate’ proves centrists’ Palin doubts – CNN.com

She was caught red-handed. The surreal scene of Sarah Palin referring to notes written on her palm during a Q&A session after her speech at the National Tea Party convention has validated skeptics even as it’s been dismissed by her supporters.

This disconnect is a real problem for Palin and the Republican Party. Palin’s presidential hopes are already confronting the fact that she is the most polarizing figure in American politics.

She is queen of the conservative populists, and to her supporters she can do no wrong. She is despised by Democrats. But — and here’s the biggest hurdle — she is disliked and distrusted by Independents and centrists. Read More…

In 2011, It’s Truly Independents Day – CNN.com

Our first president, George Washington said, “I was no party man myself, and the first wish of my heart was, if parties did exist, to reconcile them.”

His vice president, John Adams, once wrote, “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” Read More…

In GOP Presidential Field, Only Three Are for Real – CNN.com

There are three ways to run for president these days.

The first is to run to promote yourself. The second is to run to promote ideas. The third is to actually run for president of the United States.

The Republican presidential hopefuls running on this old-fashioned third notion are a distinct minority. And that says a lot about the state of our politics: bread and circuses meets reality TV.

Read More…

‘Live Free or Die’ state good test for GOP – CNN.com

It makes sense that the first major Republican debate is going to be held Monday night in New Hampshire.

The Granite State is the best test of general election appeal of any presidential candidate before Super Tuesday. That’s because New Hampshire’s Republican primary is open to independent voters, who make up 42% of the local electorate — paralleling national percentages and outnumbering in-state Republicans or Democrats.

New Hampshire is a decidedly center-right state, with libertarian impulses and an anti-tax tradition. But the national stampede to the far right embraced by most current GOP candidates will not work there. New Hampshire voters tend to reward fiscal discipline without pandering to the religious right. Social conservative litmus tests that can help a candidate win in the Iowa caucuses can be kryptonite here. Read More…

Sex scandals turning into civic problem – CNN.com

Really? Another ambitious politician is laid low by personal behavior that would make a drunk frat-boy think twice. What’s with these people?

At this point, Americans are scandalized but unsurprised. Political sex scandals feel like giddy new installments of reality TV. The real guessing game is now what new low will be achieved and by whom –Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brazen race to the bottom is replaced by John Edwards’ grand jury indictment, and then New York Rep. Anthony Weiner’s social media sleaziness. Read More…

Why Democrats don’t want Huntsman to run – CNN.com

With Mitch Daniels’ decision to opt out of the 2012 presidential race, Jon Huntsman is the lone standard-bearer of the center-right in a crowded GOP field. Historically, that should put the former Utah governor in a strong position to compete for the nomination. But in the increasingly conservative Republican Party, the activist class has called him a Republican in Name Only, or RINO, and worse. Read More…

The Rigged Game of Redistricting – CNN.com

Across the country, state legislatures are debating redistricting right now. It’s a once-a-decade proposition: the opportunity and obligation to redraw political district lines to reflect the latest census.

The problem is that the system is rigged — politicians choose their voters, instead of voters choosing their politicians. The result is the rise of “safe seats” designed to drive the real election away from the all access general election to low-turnout, closed partisan primaries. It amounts to an end-run around democracy.

The bottom line is this: If you’re frustrated with the bitter polarization afflicting American politics, you should be pushing for redistricting reform right now.

Read More…

Savor this moment, in the name of the 3,000 – CNN.com

I have never been so happy to hear that someone is dead.

It’s not bloodlust — it’s justice.

Ten years ago at this time, Osama bin Laden was in Afghanistan planning the terrorist attacks that killed more than 3,000 of our fellow Americans in cold blood.

Now he is dead and the families of his victims can have a measure of comfort. The healing can deepen. And if there’s a celebration in the streets outside the White House and ground zero — just as there was celebration after the death of Adolf Hitler was announced on May 1, 1945 — it is deserved. It is 10 years overdue.

Read More…