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How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?
A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi last night.
September 12th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The violence in Libya has suddenly yanked the spotlight off the economy and put it squarely on foreign policy as far as the U.S. presidential campaign is concerned.

Mitt Romney is slamming President Obama for his administration's response to angry mobs attacking U.S. diplomatic buildings in the Middle East.

Romney said that a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was like an apology, calling it "disgraceful to apologize for American values." Other Republicans are jumping in, blasting the president's "failed foreign policy of appeasement and apology."

The White House has disavowed the embassy statement, saying it did not approve the statement. In it, the Cairo embassy condemned "continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." This all goes back to a film produced in the United States that some Muslims found offensive.

Meanwhile the president condemned the attacks and said we must "unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence" that took the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

The president's campaign said Romney is using the tragic events for political gain.

Others agree that Romney may have jumped the gun with his response.

Sen. John Kerry called Romney's remarks irresponsible, inexperienced and reckless. He said Romney was wrong to weigh in before all the facts are known.

As for voters, they tend to trust the president more on foreign policy. A CNN/ORC International Poll released this week showed President Barack Obama with a 54%-42% advantage over Romney.

Here’s my question to you: How will the meltdown in the Middle East affect the U.S. presidential election?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Egypt • Libya • Middle East
Is college worth it?
September 11th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

Is college worth it?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Turns out a four-year college degree might be a lousy investment.

Newsweek magazine reports in this week's cover story that for a growing number of young people, the extra time and money spent getting a college diploma will leave them worse off.

Many are pointing to the troubling similarities between college tuitions and the housing bubble:

Things like the rapid increase in tuition prices at rates higher than inflation, and people borrowing large sums of money and incurring huge debt.

Part of the problem is that the federal government has increased student aid big time. More people are taking loans - and students are told that this is "good debt," that they're investing in themselves.

But what kind of investment is it if you can't find a job when you graduate?

It's estimated that as many as two-thirds of undergrads come out of school with debt. For many, their loan balances are in the tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile half of all recent college graduates are either unemployed or have jobs that don't require a degree. And many are in debt up to their ears from student loans.

As Newsweek writes, "these graduates were told that a diploma was all they needed to succeed but it won't even get them out of the spare bedroom at mom and dad's."

Of course there are all kinds of degrees: a degree in engineering will help you find a job and pay off your loans a whole lot quicker than a liberal arts degree.

But, it's past time to rethink how we invest in higher education.

Some say we should put more young people to work through apprenticeship-style programs where they learn specific jobs skills and also "soft skills" - or how to succeed in the workplace.

Here’s my question to you: Is college worth it?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: Education
How much safer do you feel 11 years after 9/11?
September 11th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

How much safer do you feel 11 years after 9/11?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

9/11 changed our world forever.

But a lot more has changed in the 11 years since those scary moments immediately after the terror attacks.

Think back to the days of duct tape, Homeland Security's color-coded terror alerts and anthrax scares.

Going through airport security can still be a hassle – even invasive – but for most of us, that's where the inconvenience ends.

With Osama bin Laden and many of his lieutenants gone terrorism is no longer a major source of worry for most Americans. It has been replaced by fears of an economy gone south and high unemployment.

But the threat of terrorism is far from gone.

In a piece called "A Stubborn Terror," Newsweek magazine reports on how al Qaeda keeps fighting back, with bin Laden's successor Ayman al-Zawahiri calling the shots for this global terror network.

Al Qaeda continues to grow in areas like Pakistan.

The group based in the Arabian Peninsula has staged three attacks on the United States, including the infamous Christmas "underwear bomber."

In Iraq, al Qaeda carries out bombings every month.

In North Africa, it has joined forces with other Islamist extremists and the groups are training terrorists from Algeria, Morocco and Nigeria.

In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, a new al Qaeda group is trying to start a war between Egypt and Israel.

The fastest growing al Qaeda operation of all is in Syria, thriving on the Civil War and chaos. It carried out more than 60 attacks in June alone.

But the priority remains attacking the United States and Europe.

As Newsweek writes, "In fighting terror, our team has to stay lucky 100% of the time. Al Qaeda needs to be lucky only once."

Here’s my question to you: How much safer do you feel 11 years after 9/11?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: September 11
What does it mean if more than 50 million Americans couldn't afford to buy food last year? 
September 10th, 2012
02:42 PM ET

What does it mean if more than 50 million Americans couldn't afford to buy food last year? 

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

More than 50 million Americans couldn't afford to buy food at some point last year.

Stunning - and very sad.

Government data shows that children in nearly 4 million households didn't have enough to eat at some point last year.

And almost 17 million Americans were at the borderline of not having enough to eat.

This means they had to eat less because the food they bought didn't last and they didn't have money to buy more.

People suffering from this condition said they found themselves in this situation for a few days a month for seven months of the year. That's a long time to be hungry.

The number of Americans in this category shot up by more than 800,000 from 2010.

Those finding it hardest to buy the food they needed include women living alone, blacks and the poor.

With numbers like these it should come as no surprise that food stamp use is at record levels.

According to the government, 46.7 million people used food stamps in June. That's up more than 3% from a year ago.

In fact, food stamp use has stayed above 46 million all year long just as unemployment has stayed above 8%. That's some economic recovery.

And it's costing all of us... federal food stamp spending neared a record $76 billion last year.

Nonetheless, President Obama has pushed to grow the program - with the Department of Agriculture running radio ads encouraging more eligible people to enroll for food stamps.

Republicans want to cut back on food stamp spending.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if more than 50 million Americans couldn't afford to buy food last year?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 4pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: Food • Food Prices
Why is Congress so good at kicking the can down the road?
September 10th, 2012
02:41 PM ET

Why is Congress so good at kicking the can down the road?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

They're at it again.

After a five-week vacation, Congress is back to doing nothing.

Lawmakers are back on the Hill - although most of them aren't really there. They're worried about Election Day, which is less than two months away.

If it's at all possible for the atmosphere in Washington to get any more partisan, now is the time.

And while the country is knee-deep in serious problems, Congress is focusing on politics. What else is new?

The only must-pass measure before them is a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government and avoid a government shutdown.

Aside from that, look for lots of meaningless hearings and votes on measures that both sides know won't pass: The Republicans want to roll back automatic defense cuts and repeal Obamacare. The Democrats want to vote on a jobs bill with no Republican support.

Also, expect a lot of these votes to echo themes we're hearing on the campaign trail from Messrs. Obama and Romney.

Pathetic is what they are. All this as the U.S. hangs off the edge of that fiscal cliff.

If Congress chooses to do nothing about the deep automatic spending cuts and the expiring Bush tax cuts coming soon, economists warn we likely will be headed for another recession.

And there's loads of other unfinished business too - like a farm bill, a veterans jobs bill, and a housing bill.

Urgent matters, to which the response is - ready? The Senate might leave town again for another seven-week recess as soon as September 21.

But be sure to vote to re-elect the incumbents in your state or congressional district, because they're doing such a great job.

Here’s my question to you: Why is Congress so good at kicking the can down the road?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: Congress
How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?
August 30th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's been a long journey for Mitt Romney.

After six years of running, on Thursday night he will have what is probably his best chance to convince the American people that he should be their next president.

Although voters believe that Romney is best-equipped to deal with our ailing economy, the nation's top issue, it's been an uphill battle for him when it comes to connecting with these voters.

Over the past few days, other speakers - most effectively his wife, Ann - have made the case that Romney is much more than a rich and seemingly emotionless business executive with good hair.

But a lot of Americans still aren't convinced. They don't believe this guy with $200 million in the bank, offshore accounts and private tax returns understands what it's like to struggle.

With that in mind, Politico has some advice on how Romney can make the best use of his convention speech.

For starters, Romney should "go bold," which means not only pitching his own plans for fixing our problems but revealing some personal details he hasn't before.

That means things like his Mormon faith, his near-death experience in France or even what it was like to shut down a plant at Bain Capital.

Another suggestion is to "go light on the red meat." That's what Paul Ryan is for, as he so eloquently showed the nation Wednesday night.

Lastly, Romney could talk about his relationship with his father, George Romney. By giving some details - and showing some emotion - about what he learned from his father, Romney could show us a glimpse of the humanity that many have yet to see but that those close to him insist is there.

Here’s my question to you: How well do you feel you know Mitt Romney?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

Should politics be put on hold for Isaac?
An uprooted and fallen tree is pictured today in New Orleans.
August 29th, 2012
04:56 PM ET

Should politics be put on hold for Isaac?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's a quandary. On the one hand, there is what's now Tropical Storm Isaac slowing laying waste to parts of the Gulf Coast.

Granted it's not Katrina take two, but there are hundreds of thousands of people without power, one 18-mile stretch of levee in Louisiana has been overtopped, and many people are losing their homes to the flood waters triggered by heavy rains and a massive storm surge.

On the other hand, Washington and the federal government are laying waste to the entire country - and we are fast approaching an election where some far-reaching decisions will have to be made by the voters.

The Republican convention is in full swing in Tampa, having been spared the brunt of Isaac. And President Obama is hot on the campaign trail trying to convince the country he deserves a second term.

The Republicans shortened their convention by a day out of concern for the storm. And next week - when the cleanup will be in full swing - the Democrats will convene their dog and pony show in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The political business of the country is moving forward in spite of a rather large natural disaster impacting millions of our citizens. The temptation perhaps is to jump to the conclusion that the politicians are being insensitive. Perhaps all campaigning should cease out of consideration of the hurricane victims.

But the fact is Isaac ain't Katrina - not by a long shot. And the problems of the country probably deserve our undivided attention, Isaac or not. We're in big trouble here.

Here’s my question to you: Should politics be put on hold for Isaac?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 5pm to see if Jack reads your answer on air.

And, we love to know where you’re writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention?
August 27th, 2012
12:21 PM ET

What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With Isaac drawing a bead on the city of New Orleans, the Republican National Convention is no longer at the center of this week's media storm.

Nonetheless, the GOP needs to shine during its abbreviated three-day convention if it wants to recapture the White House.

And while national conventions these days are highly scripted affairs, there's still a little room for a politician to surprise us, in a good or bad way.

Politico takes a look at past conventions and how they've been the breeding grounds for both rising stars and unintended screwups.

Barack Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention propelled him into the national spotlight and started talk of him as presidential material.

At the other end of the spectrum was Bill Clinton's 1988 convention speech. It went on for twice the allotted time, and delegates didn't pay much attention - except for cheering when Clinton finally said the words "in closing."

As for the Republicans' Tampa convention, there are high hopes for keynote speaker and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and the candidate's wife, Ann Romney.

This convention could be the Republicans' last best chance to introduce Mitt Romney to the country on their terms.

New CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll numbers show that although the race is a dead heat between Romney and President Obama, likely voters believe the president cares more about people and better understands their needs while Romney is perceived as better able to handle the economy, always the most important issue in any presidential election.

And while the temptation might be to try to make Romney seem warmer and fuzzier, he is resisting, saying, "I am who I am." At the end of the day, it's probably easier to be true to yourself than try to be someone you're not.

Here's my question to you: What's the greatest risk Republicans face at their convention?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

Should failing grades on deficit, jobs and economy cost Obama a second term?
August 16th, 2012
02:54 PM ET

Should failing grades on deficit, jobs and economy cost Obama a second term?

By CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama has some serious "issues" when it comes to the economy... and that might translate to "issues" come Election Day.

A new Gallup poll shows Americans continue to give the president failing grades on the economy, jobs and the deficit.

The president gets high marks for his handling of "terrorism"– 58 percent... and fair marks on "education" - 49 percent... and "foreign affairs" - 48%. But that's where the good news ends for him.

On immigration, Mr. Obama gets just a 38 percent approval rating... and it's downhill from there.

His worst marks come on "creating jobs" at 37%, the "economy" - 36%, and the "federal budget deficit" - 30%.

It's not hard to see why many Americans feel this way... with unemployment above 8 percent for 42 months in a row now and annual deficits topping $1 trillion dollars.

This poll also shows that the president's ratings on the economy are much worse than those of prior two-term presidents.

President Obama's 36% approval on the economy compares to 46% for George W. Bush, 54% for Bill Clinton and 50% for Ronald Reagan.

The bottom line here is millions of Americans continue to suffer under a weak economy, and if they don't get the sense that President Obama is improving their economic lives, it might be a tough sell come November 6th.

Here's my question to you: Should failing grades on the deficit, jobs and the economy cost President Obama a second term?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 5 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Barack Obama • Deficit • Economy • The Cafferty File
Should President Obama consider replacing Joe Biden on the ticket?
August 16th, 2012
02:33 PM ET

Should President Obama consider replacing Joe Biden on the ticket?

There's a growing chorus of voices suggesting that President Barack Obama should dump Joe Biden as his running mate in light of the vice president's latest mistake.

Biden told a mostly black audience in Virginia this week that Mitt Romney's vision of regulating Wall Street would put "y'all back in chains."

And even though the White House is standing by Biden, a lot of people think those comments were unacceptable.

Former GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain told Fox News "it might be wise" for Obama to swap out Biden for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Just today – the White House said it's not going to happen, adding that the one place they wouldn't go "for advice on vice presidential running mates is to Senator McCain."

Obama told People magazine Biden is an "outstanding vice president." The president said people get "obsessed with how something was phrased," even if that's not what was meant.

But Former Democratic Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder said he thinks Clinton would be a better choice. Wilder actually called for the switch back in 2010, and he said if the president had replaced Biden on the ticket several months ago, he'd have a bigger lead over Romney now.

As for Clinton, she has made it clear many times that she's not interested, but it's probably wise to never count a Clinton out.

Legal experts tell The Weekly Standard that it's still possible for Obama to change his running mate. The Democrats have until September 6 to nominate their presidential ticket.

Here's my question to you: Should President Obama consider replacing Joe Biden on the ticket?

Tune in to "The Situation Room" at 4 p.m. ET to see if Jack reads your answer on the air.

And we'd love to know where you're writing from, so please include your city and state with your comment.

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