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July 31st, 2008
05:00 PM ET

Does Congress deserve month-long vacation?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Our Congress should be ashamed of itself.

Despite getting nothing done about the issues troubling millions of Americans – like energy costs, high gasoline prices, offshore drilling – Congress is going to take a month-long vacation starting tomorrow.

In the Senate, Republicans have been blocking any other legislation until they get a vote on drilling. And since the Democrats' prospects seem pretty good for November, they don't want to cave in to the Republicans' demands to vote on drilling now, months before a new administration and Congress. To hell with what the public needs or wants…how can we turn the oil drilling issue into a political advantage for ourselves?

Iowa Republican Charles Grassley may have put it best when he called the Senate "constipated” and said it could use a good dose of laxatives.

If you're tempted to vote for an incumbent this fall, remember this: Congress plans to be out of town until after the political conventions end, returning to Washington September the 8th. If Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid had any guts they'd cancel the vacation and keep Congress in session until some of these issues are resolved.

It's no surprise the American people are disgusted with the whole lot of them. A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll puts Congress' approval rating at 22%. And that's high. Other polls have the rating as low as 9%.

This poll also shows 76% of Americans say things are going badly in our country. Only three times in the past have Americans been so discouraged about the state of our affairs: Watergate, the Iran hostage crisis and the economic downturn of 1992.

Here’s my question to you: In light of its many accomplishments, does Congress deserve a month-long vacation?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

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Filed under: Congress
July 31st, 2008
04:55 PM ET

Judge: Bush officials can be subpoenaed

The House Judiciary Committee voted, 20 to 14, along party lines to cite Rove for defying its subpoena.

The House Judiciary Committee voted, 20 to 14, along party lines to cite Rove for defying its subpoena.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There's a long history of the Bush administration simply ignoring subpoenas from Congress. Not that Congress has gone out of its way to exercise oversight of the executive branch. But when it does, President Bush just laughs out loud and ignores them, like unruly children who are acting up to get attention.

Well they got the attention of a federal judge. U.S. District Judge John Bates says the president's top advisers are not immune from congressional subpoenas. Bates says there's no legal basis for the administration's argument and that former legal counsel Harriet Miers must testify before Congress. However, Bates says Miers and others can assert executive privilege during their testimony.

Democrats call the ruling "very good news” and say that Miers, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and Karl Rove must testify before Congress. Of course, the White House says it disagrees with the judge's ruling and will decide in the next day or two if it will appeal.

Karl Rove became the latest to raise his middle finger to the legislative arm of our government, when he defied a subpoena to testify earlier this month. The House Judiciary Committee voted yesterday to cite Rove for contempt of Congress. But this is only a recommendation; Nancy Pelosi will have to decide whether to bring it to a vote by the full House. And we all know how aggressive Pelosi has been when it comes to oversight of the Bush White House. With Madame Speaker, it's all about politics.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean for President Bush when a federal judge rules his people are not immune from congressional subpoenas?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

July 31st, 2008
01:56 PM ET

Will going negative help McCain?

 Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Remember when John McCain talked about how he wasn't going to run a negative campaign? How he wanted to focus on the issues and not get down in the political mud? I guess you can chalk it up to something else McCain has changed his mind about. Now he's apparently decided that going negative is the way to the White House.

You don't need to look much farther than McCain's ads, which have become increasingly negative – calling Barack Obama a celebrity, and comparing him to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Or the ad that that says Obama "made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops." One study points out one-third of John McCain's ads refer to Obama negatively. On the other hand, 90% of Obama's ads don't even mention John McCain.

Watch: Cafferty: McCain goes negative

These negative ads feed the perception of McCain as an angry candidate. Even some Republicans don't think this strategy is such a good idea. Former top McCain strategist John Weaver called the celebrity ad "childish" and "tomfoolery”, while other Republicans have called it "unprofessional," "absurd and juvenile." An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times says of McCain: "The self-described 'happy warrior' from 2000 has turned sour... and the candor and straight talk that once made him such an attractive candidate are rapidly disappearing."

Meanwhile, McCain's flip-flop on the issue of offshore drilling has netted him some big bucks from the big oil companies. A non-partisan campaign finance watchdog group says that after McCain announced he was changing his position and now was going to support offshore drilling, the Big Oil companies opened their wallets. "Campaign Money Watch" found that in Texas alone, oil-related donors gave $1.2 million to McCain's Victory '08 fund in June – 73% of it coming after his reversal on offshore drilling. Think that's a coincidence?

Here’s my question to you: Is going negative against Barack Obama a winning strategy for John McCain?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2008 Election • Barack Obama • John McCain
July 30th, 2008
05:50 PM ET

'Politicked out' yet?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The 2008 presidential campaign has been a telethon without a disease. In fact, it will be the longest in American history.

First, the public was subjected to that 16-month long primary season, which included months of the Clinton-Obama drama. And that was just the warm-up act.

It's only July. Now were bombarded daily with non-stop coverage of the Obama-McCain throwdown, the daily back and forth, tit-for-tat between the two campaigns.

These candidates have been in the game for quite some time now, when you consider Barack Obama has almost been running for 2 years, since saying in October of 2006 that he was considering a run for president. John McCain might be at it even longer, dating back to his embrace of President Bush in the 2004 campaign.

And it's only going to get worse. Next up come the vice presidential picks, followed by the conventions. Then after Labor Day, get ready for the really heated campaigning. There will be debates, and town hall meetings and staged events for the TV cameras. It will make your teeth hurt. Not to mention all the campaigns for congressional and Senate seats.

In late September, some voters can start casting absentee ballots. And don't think both candidates won't have their eyes on these people, which experts say could total as many as one-third of all voters.

Ever more intensive news coverage won't be the half of it. Brace for onslaughts of television ads, direct mailings, phone calls asking for your money and your votes. It will be positively suffocating.

The next 100 days or so will be a political version of "waterboarding."

Here’s my question to you: Are you “politicked out” yet?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2008 Election
July 30th, 2008
03:58 PM ET

Will Stevens’ indictment hurt GOP?

 Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Senator Ted Stevens was the guy behind Alaska's "bridge to nowhere". He might soon be able to use that bridge to cross from the Senate to a federal prison.

The Alaska Republican was indicted on charges of lying about accepting gifts from an oil company, somewhere to the tune of $250,000. That included work on his home like a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing and electrical wiring, along with a gas grill, furniture, tools and a sweetheart deal on a Land Rover.

Stevens insists he's innocent and his office says he'll move "full steam ahead" toward re-election. Nice.

Watch: Cafferty: Stevens hurt GOP?

The six-term Senator will likely face his toughest general-election challenge so far against the mayor of Anchorage, who was already leading in the polls. What is it about politicians who think they can simply continue in office after running afoul of the law. Remember the weasel Larry Craig?

The news probably couldn't come at a worse time for the Republicans. This kind of stuff could help the Democrats reach a 60-seat majority in the Senate, which would let them break Republican filibusters.

Stevens' legal problems could even affect the presidential race. Alaska is a state that hasn't voted for a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, but Barack Obama has sent staffers there – which likely means he's ready to compete.

Some of Stevens' Republican colleagues are already distancing themselves, donating campaign contributions from Stevens to charity and refusing to comment on whether they support his decision to stay in the Senate.

Here’s my question to you: How will Ted Stevens' indictment affect an already-wounded GOP?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: GOP
July 30th, 2008
01:51 PM ET

Would you want to go to Beijing Olympics?

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Boatmen sail a replica of an ancient wooden ship on the Yangtze River to mark the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

How would you like to attend the Olympics starting next week in Beijing? Before you answer, consider the following:

Foreign-owned hotels are being forced by the Communist Chinese government to install software that can spy on hotel guests. Republican Senator Sam Brownback got a hold of a government document calling on all hotels to use the spyware. If they don't agree to monitor their guests' web history, searches, etc., the hotels could face "severe retaliation" – including financial penalties, losing Internet access or losing their license to operate a hotel in China.

There are reports that 22 Chinese gold medalists have been purged from the team, some of them allegedly for "political" reasons.

Ten days ahead of the start of the games, Amnesty International is out with a report that says the human rights situation in China has gotten progressively worse. They claim China is using the Olympics as an excuse to crack down on dissents.

Amnesty says the government has locked up activists, kicked people out of their homes, required some demonstrators to report to the police every week, and detained journalists and bloggers. There is a report today that the Chinese government will block access to certain sites on the Internet as well. Amnesty also says the use of so-called "re-education through labor" camps and beatings in prison have increased.

China says the Amnesty report is unfair and biased.

No banners or whistles will be allowed. No flags of non-participating countries can be displayed. No gambling. No sit ins or demonstrations, no soft drink containers, musical instruments, cameras or radios. No drunkenness or streaking. And dog meat has been ordered removed from all official Olympic restaurants. You can still get a Fido burger, though, at those quaint little out-of-the-way places. And don't forget your gas mask, the air can be pretty foul.

Here’s my question to you: If you had the chance, would you want to go to the Olympics in Beijing?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Beijing Olympics
July 29th, 2008
06:19 PM ET

Why isn’t Obama doing better in the polls?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's a mystery to many: why isn't Barack Obama farther ahead in the polls?

CNN's poll of polls shows Obama up by 5 points, leading John McCain 45% to 40%. In most polls, he rarely breaks 50%. A new USA Today/Gallup Poll actually shows McCain leading Obama 49% to 45% percent among likely voters.

It seems like Obama should be miles ahead of McCain when you consider the political climate. Americans can no longer stand President Bush, or the Republican Party, or the war in Iraq. And of course there's the economy. Also, Obama has run a pretty flawless campaign – highlighted by that hugely successful trip overseas last week. John McCain, on the other hand spent last week making one mistake after another.

One Democratic pollster tells the New York Times that Obama still faces many obstacles. He's young, African-American, relatively inexperienced and has a background that not many Americans can relate to.

Also, his rival, John McCain, has a history of appealing to independent voters, which is part of the reason why his supporters argued during the primaries that he was the strongest general election candidate.

Robert Novak writes in his column that Obama's difficulty reaching the 50% mark is due to an "overwhelmingly white" undecided vote of 10% to 15%. It's left some Republicans speculating whether McCain might be able to "back into" the presidency much like he did his party's nomination. This is despite the fact that even Novak describes McCain as "wooden" and acknowledges "not even Bob Dole's dismal candidacy in 1996 generated less enthusiasm in GOP ranks than McCain's current effort".

Here’s my question to you: Why isn’t Barack Obama doing better in the polls?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Barack Obama
July 29th, 2008
06:19 PM ET

Where are the Clintons?

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Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.(PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It looks like Barack Obama is narrowing his search for a vice president, and Hillary Clinton ain't on the list. There are reports that Virginia Governor Tom Kaine is quote "very, very high on the short list" and that he's told associates he's had "very serious conversations" with Obama about joining the ticket.

Some of the other names out there are Senators Evan Bayh and Joe Biden, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and former Senator Sam Nunn. But no Hillary. She may dream about being on the dream ticket, but that's apparently about all.

Watch: Cafferty: Clintons MIA?

Right after the primaries CNN's Roland Martin told me the chances of Hillary being on the ticket were slim and none. When one of our bosses told him he needed a second source for that information, Roland said, "There is no second source." Looks like he knew what he was talking about.

The New York Times says Clinton has told people close to her she thinks there's little chance Obama will pick her. Here's a clue: She hasn't been asked to provide any documents to the committee vetting potential VPs. She's not campaigning for Obama either.

Hillary Clinton hardly darkened the door of the U.S. Senate for 16 months while she was running for president.

Now all of a sudden her former campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe says she's been too busy working in the Senate to campaign for the Democrat who won the nomination. He says once she's done there, though, "she's going to hit the campaign trail." Her Senate work didn't keep her from campaigning for herself almost every day for a year and half.

And what about Bill Clinton? Almost as silent and invisible as his wife.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to Barack Obama, where are the Clintons?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

July 28th, 2008
04:04 PM ET

Judgment or experience more important for prez?

 Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

Click the play button to see what Jack and our viewers had to say.

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Judgment matters more than experience when it comes to picking a president... so says Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.

The Nebraska senator traveled with Barack Obama into the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan last week. Hagel, a Vietnam vet who earned 2 purple hearts, says experience does matter, but that character and judgment matter more. That includes: who the candidate listens to and if he can make the right decisions on behalf of his country and the world.

Watch: Cafferty: Does judgment matter more?

Hagel has been a sharp critic of the war in Iraq and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Barack Obama. He hasn't endorsed either Obama or John McCain, but says Americans are lucky to have a choice between these two "smart, capable and decent men."

Also traveling with Obama was another military man, Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Reed, a retired Army captain, talked about what it was like visiting military posts with Obama. He described it as "dynamic”, saying they couldn't get to their car because soldiers were flocking to Obama to get autographs, take a picture, say hello. Reed says Obama received genuine and enthusiastic responses from the troops.

McCain has used the same line Hillary Clinton used against Barack Obama during the primaries, saying he doesn't have enough experience to be commander-in-chief
Here’s my question to you: Is judgment more important for a president than experience?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: 2008 Election
July 28th, 2008
03:59 PM ET

Mistake to award Olympic Games to China?

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Beijing's National Stadium, which is nicknamed 'Bird Nest', covered with smog. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP PHOTO)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:
The air in Beijing is heavy with a whole lot more than anticipation in advance of the Summer Olympic Games which begin in less than 2 weeks. Pollution in China's capital is reaching dangerous levels.

Chinese state media reports that if the air quality doesn't improve, they could pull up to 90% of the cars off the road in Beijing and shut down more factories. This comes after an air pollution control plan implemented over a week ago – it included pulling half of the city's 3 million vehicles off the roads, closing factories in and around Beijing and halting most construction. So far it hasn't worked.

For the last 5 days, Beijing's air pollution index has failed to meet the standard for "good" air quality, with visibility reduced to several hundred yards. Just the kind of stuff you want your athletes breathing.

More than 10,000 athletes and hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected for the games. Some teams, including our own, are offering optional breathing masks for their athletes.

And pollution isn't the only issue plaguing the Beijing games. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is warning China not to use Olympic security as an excuse to crack down on legitimate dissent. Chinese officials have made several terror-related arrests and insist that the Olympics are threatened by terrorists. But some are concerned China – which hasn't presented much evidence in these crackdowns – is just going after people who disagree with them. Most experts say the threat from terrorists is low.

And then there are the free-speech activists and those focused on Tibet and Darfur who have gone after China ahead of the summer games.
Here’s my question to you: In light of pollution in Beijing among other issues, was it a mistake to award the Olympic Games to China?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Beijing Olympics
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