September 30th, 2010
04:31 PM ET

How important are the people around the president?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

All the president's men are headed for the exits... or at least a lot of them are.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is leaving his job in the West Wing on Friday to maybe run for mayor of Chicago, Illinois.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/30/art.rahm.jpg caption="White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel."]
And Emanuel isn't the only member of President Obama's inner-circle, also known as the Chicago Mafia, who's leaving or has left the administration.

Senior adviser David Axelrod plans to return to Chicago after the midterm elections to start working on the president's re-election campaign.

The president's economic team is also pretty much history. Larry Summers, the head of the National Economic Council, is going back to Harvard. Peter Orszag, the budget director, and Christina Romer, head of the council of economic advisers, have both left.

Over at the Defense Department, Secretary Robert Gates - who also served under George Bush - has suggested he plans to step down before President Obama's first term is over.

Of course, working for any administration is tough business. The hours are long, the pressure is intense, and it's not unusual to see lots of turnover in these jobs.

In President Obama's case, his approval numbers are sinking and his party faces an uphill battle in the midterm elections, but he now has a chance to bring in some new blood.

The replacement selections could be critical. Depending on whom he picks, President Obama might be able to deflect criticism that his administration is insular and out of touch. Or not.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: President Barack Obama
September 30th, 2010
04:30 PM ET

Most important issue to you in midterm elections?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's no secret the American people are fed up with Washington, the politicians who make a living there on our tax dollars, and their inability to act on the issues that really matter.

Only three in 10 Americans say things are going well in the country today - according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll.

And you can bet, when these disillusioned voters cast their ballots for the midterm elections, they'll have many issues weighing on their minds.

This same poll shows 49 percent of those surveyed say the economy remains the top problem facing the country.

That's followed by 11 percent who say the deficit, 10 percent who say education, and nine percent who say Health Care and the Wars.

Other issues lower down on the list include: Illegal Immigration, Terrorism and Energy.

When asked what the most important economic problem is, people overwhelmingly say unemployment. No surprise there, with a national unemployment rate hovering just below 10 percent.

Other economic issues people worry about include Taxes, Housing, the Stock Market and Inflation.

These midterm elections are shaping up into some very interesting contests. With the anti-incumbent mood at record levels, people seem to be looking for something - anything - different... which has translated into big victories for the Tea Party.

Many Americans are unhappy with President Obama's policies, which could mean big losses for the Democrats. You don't need to look any further than the president's signature issue of Health Care.

Fewer than one in five Americans say the new health care reform law will help them personally; and almost half of the country wants Congress to repeal most of the major provisions.

Here’s my question to you: What issue is most important to you in the midterm elections?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Election Process • Elections
September 29th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Public school teachers pass math & reading tests themselves?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is shaking up the state's education system - and the other 49 states ought to take notes.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/29/art.math.class.jpg caption=""]
Christie is out with a plan to reform New Jersey's public schools... that would base teachers' pay hikes on students' performance, and not seniority or tenure.

The Republican governor wants all teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade to pass tests in reading and math themselves in order to be certified. What a novel concept.

Christie says this could lead to quote "the firing of lousy teachers and bad principals who hurt our children." unquote. Here's a rare politician who gets it.

Under the current system, teachers earn tenure after 3 years on the job. But Christie wants to put an end to that... along with raises based only on seniority or advanced degrees.

And that's not all. He wants to select master teachers - and pay them more. so good teachers stay in the classroom, rather than leaving for administrative jobs that pay more. And he wants to offer merit raises for teachers who work in low-performing schools.

Teachers unions are not too happy with Christie's plan - no surprise there. They don't like the idea of tying teacher evaluations too closely to students' scores - saying other issues play a role, like the students' experiences at home.

But education experts are praising Christie... saying his plan will "dramatically improve" the quality of education in the New Jersey public schools.

The state legislature will have to approve changes to seniority and tenure - but the rest of the things Christie signed into law with executive orders.

Here’s my question to you: Should public school teachers have to pass math and reading tests themselves?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Education
September 29th, 2010
04:54 PM ET

Why would you vote for any incumbent?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's no wonder the Tea Party has the traction it does.

House Democrats voted Wednesday to adjourn so they can go home and campaign for the midterm elections. There is no budget, there is no decision on what to do about the Bush tax cuts that expire January 1. There is no willingness to confront any of the pressing issues they are paid to deal with.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/06/09/art.voting.jpg caption=""]
You see, our lawmakers are cowards. They don't want to have to vote before an election. Could be bad for them. To hell with the American people. At the end of the day it's all about them.

They're getting ready to leave town - again - and won't be back for five weeks.

Before heading out, the House is expected to vote on a measure to keep the federal government operating through December 3. That's necessary because they never bothered to pass a budget.

Here's the problem: Large majorities of Americans disapprove of Congress and only one in four people trust the federal government to do what is right always or most of the time. But when they enter the voting booth, they re-elect the same people over and over: the people who are taking this country right down the drain.

This year there are signs that the midterm elections might be particularly brutal for the party in power, the Democrats. Experts think the Republicans have a decent chance of picking up the 39 seats needed to take control of the House. The experts also say Republicans have an outside chance of gaining 10 seats to control the Senate.

Things are bad for the Democrats all over, but especially in the Midwest.

One Republican pollster says that part of the country will be a "killing field for Democrats this year."

Here’s my question to you: Why would you vote for any incumbent?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Election Process • Elections
September 28th, 2010
04:54 PM ET

Pres. Obama vs. Sarah Palin in 2012?


Supporters hold up signs during the DNC (L) and RNC (R) back in 2008. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Sarah Palin could be President Obama's savior. When it comes to the 2012 presidential race, a new poll suggests that Obama could lose - unless he's running against Palin.

The Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll shows that a majority of Americans are considering voting against Obama. Forty-four percent of those surveyed say they will vote to replace Obama, and 13 percent say they'll consider voting for someone else. Only 38 percent say he deserves re-election.

Voters are down on the president for lots of reasons, but especially his policies. By double digits, they disapprove of his new health care law, and they trust congressional Republicans to create jobs more than Obama. This is despite the fact that a majority of voters like him personally.

Obama's best hope of winning a second term just may be Alaska's dropout governor, Palin. If the election were held today, voters say, they would back the president over Palin by a 9-point margin.

Support for Palin is weak in the Midwest and the Northeast ... and almost 60 percent of voters say her actions since since resigning as governor have made them less likely to vote for her for president.

Female voters are especially negative about Palin. Fifty-four percent have an unfavorable view of her. No other Republicans tested in this poll had such high negatives among women.

It's not likely the Republicans would be dumb enough to nominate Palin after what she did to John McCain's run for the White House, but when it comes to politics, nothing should surprise us anymore. And if it happened, well, just imagine if the woman who helped bring down McCain's campaign would help re-elect the Democratic sitting president.

Here’s my question to you: If President Obama runs against Sarah Palin in 2012, who would you vote for?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


September 28th, 2010
04:52 PM ET

Why would white women desert Democrats?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

More bad news for Democrats. As if they don't have enough problems these days, The Daily Beast reports white women are now deserting the Democratic Party in droves.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/28/art.women.jpg caption=""]
Exclusive polling data from Gallup shows enthusiasm among all women is down, but white women are the least enthusiastic of all the major demographic groups.

Only 27 percent of white female registered voters say they're excited about the midterms. That compares to 36 percent of black men and women and 40 percent of white men.

Another Gallup Poll from earlier this summer showed that Republican women are the most enthusiastic of registered female voters. It's Independent women and Democratic women who aren't too psyched about the upcoming elections.

The Daily Beast article suggests that the so-called PUMAs may finally be leaving the Democratic party for good. These are the white women voters whose motto was "Party Unity My Ass" during the primaries.

At the time, they were so unhappy with Hillary Clinton's loss to Barack Obama that they were supposedly going to vote for John McCain in 2008. Turns out they didn't, but only time will tell what these women will do next.

The Daily Beast article suggests Democrats still have a last-ditch chance to attract white female voters by focusing on issues that matter more to women - like health care for children.

And, pollsters point out that although Democrats may be losing white women, they aren't necessarily headed into the Republican column. They may just stay home on election day.

Here’s my question to you: Why would white women be deserting the Democratic Party?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Democratic Race • Democrats
September 23rd, 2010
03:00 PM ET

Why do presidents cooperate with Woodward on books about them?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In 1974, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon with their reporting on Watergate.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/23/art.book.jpg caption="The cover art for Bob Woodward's latest book: 'Obama's Wars'"]
But Bob Woodward was just getting started on the occupants of the White House.

In 1994, he wrote "The Agenda" about President Clinton, in which he revealed disputes, temper tantrums and heated debates in the president's second year in office.

In 2004 he wrote "Plan of Attack" about Pres. George W. Bush in which he famously revealed how CIA Director George Tenet told Bush it was a "slam dunk case" that Saddam Hussein had WMDs.

In 2006, he wrote "State of Denial" - also about Bush - and revealed how the president failed to tell the truth about how badly the Iraq war was going.

Woodward's 16 books are all bestsellers. He's a writer/reporter who stays on the story until he has something no one else has.

It used to be said the worst news you could get at the office is "60 Minutes is on the phone and wants to talk to you." The idea being that no good would come of a conversation with them.

The same applies to Bob Woodward.

So you have to wonder, looking at his body of work, why anyone would open the door to him when he knocks and says he wants to write a book about the president. But that's exactly what the Obama administration did.

The result is Woodward's latest, "Obama's Wars."

How good or bad it will be for the Obama White House remains to be seen. But it's too late to worry about that now.

Here’s my question to you: Why do presidents choose to cooperate with Bob Woodward when he wants to write a book about them?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: News Media • President Barack Obama
September 23rd, 2010
02:45 PM ET

Do you feel like recession is over?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's unlikely there were all that many champagne corks popping across the country when we learned this week that the recession officially ended more than a year ago.

And maybe that's because it doesn't feel like the recession has ended…not at all.

A new Gallup Poll shows that 88 percent of those surveyed say now is a "bad time" to find a quality job.

That number is as high as it was one year ago... and higher than it was at this time in 2008, when the recession was under way. Only 55 percent felt this way in 2007, before the recession started.

The bottom line is Americans are waiting for the jobs to come back. It may be a very long wait, and, in fact, a lot of the lost jobs will never come back.

The national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, and there are no signs it's going to improve significantly for a while. Since the recession started - more than seven million jobs have been lost. Almost two and a half million homes have been repossessed.

But the National Bureau of Economic Research says the recession, which began in December of 2007, ended in June of 2009. This makes the 18-month long recession the longest and deepest downturn since the Great Depression.

Add in weak economic data in the past few months and concerns about a possible double dip recession are growing.

According to CNNMoney.com, a group of top economists say there's a 25 percent risk of a double dip recession in the next year. That's up from a 15 percent chance just six months ago.

Here’s my question to you: Do you feel like the recession is over?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Recession • Unemployment • Unemployment / Economy
September 22nd, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Only 55 jobs created with $111 million in stimulus money?


An aerial photo of downtown Los Angeles. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Here's yet another glaring example of government inefficiency:

Two Los Angeles departments that received $111 million in federal stimulus money have only created 55 jobs so far. 55.

Reports by the city controller show that the Departments of Public Works and Transportation moved too slowly in spending the stimulus money - partly due to all the red tape. These agencies say they plan to create or retain 264 jobs once they spend all of the money.

The Department of Public Works, which got $71 million in stimulus money, has plans for projects like resurfacing streets and bridges and rebuilding sidewalks and storm drains.

That all sounds good - but these reports show it took eight months to put together bids, review them and then award the contracts.

As for the Department of Transportation, it's received almost $41 million to buy new buses, upgrade railroad crossings and put in new traffic signals. But the controller's report shows it took nearly a year to get approval to buy some of these buses.

Almost a year. Meanwhile, unemployment in Los Angeles is above 12 percent.

According to The Los Angeles Times, city officials wouldn't comment on the audit - but pointed to newer figures they have showing stimulus dollars at work.

Just imagine what the private sector could do with $111 million. For a $50,000 salary, you could directly hire more than 2,000 people. Not 55.

Here’s my question to you: Should two Los Angeles departments have been able to create more than 55 jobs with $111 million in stimulus money?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


September 22nd, 2010
04:49 PM ET

Why do Palin and O'Donnell attract so much attention?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It feels like Sarah Palin all over again.

Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O'Donnell burst onto the national stage with her upset win in the primaries; and suddenly everyone can't seem to get enough of her.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/09/22/art.odonnell.jpg caption=" U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell smiles at supporters before doing a television interview at her Senate primary night party on September 14, 2010 in Dover, Delaware. "]
This is despite the fact that O'Donnell has some big question marks on her resume - just like Sarah Palin. She's come under fire for allegedly misusing campaign funds for personal expenses-just like Sarah Palin.

O'Donnell has also been in the spotlight for saying years ago she "dabbled in witchcraft" and had one of her first dates with a witch "on a satanic altar." And she's used her views on abstinence to rule out masturbation.

After her last-minute cancellation of two Sunday show appearances over the weekend, O'Donnell announced Sarah Palin advised her not to do any more national media interviews, and instead focus on local media.

Based on Sarah Palin's disastrous interviews with Katie Couric, that's probably not bad advice. I wonder if it means O'Donnell is as poorly informed on the issues as Sarah Palin was.

It all sounds so familiar. Palin's resume is littered with goofy comments like saying you can see Russia from Alaska or not being able to name a single newspaper she reads.

Palin quit as governor of Alaska midway through her first term. She often refuses to talk about lots of issues with the media, unless it's with the F-word network - which pays her.

But none of that seems to matter. Sarah Palin has become a huge celebrity who is seriously being talked about as a possible presidential contender. Just what we need. Remember the McCain campaign?

Here’s my question to you: Why do people like Sarah Palin and Christine O'Donnell attract so much attention?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


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