October 27th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

What if voters choose candidates based on their looks?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Want to know why we're in trouble?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/27/art.romney.tux.jpg caption="Former Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney is known for 'looking the part' of a candidate."]
Political candidates with good hair have a much better chance of being elected than candidates with bad hair, whether either of them knows anything about the issues.

That should scare all of us - but it's true.

A new study by MIT researchers published in the journal "World Politics" shows that people vote for politicians just because they "look the part." That's right: They'll cast a ballot for someone simply because they look smart, competent or attractive.

The research also shows that this phenomenon isn't just unique to the United States, but exists across cultures. In their study, more than 600 participants in the United States and India were shown pictures of candidates in 120 Mexican and Brazilian races. Then they were asked who would do a better job in office.

The Americans and Indians accurately predicted the outcomes of these political races to a surprising degree - based on nothing more than the candidates' faces.

According to the study, just by knowing which candidate looked better, researchers could accurately predict the winner in 68 percent of Mexican elections and 75 percent of some Brazilian elections.

Voting for the good-looking candidate is not a new idea. One of the researchers says, "Ever since Aristotle, people have written about the concern that charismatic leaders who speak well and look good can sway votes even if they do not share the people's views."

But the fact that voters across the world in the 21st century, with all the problems we face, could be exercising their democratic right based on nothing more than good hair or a nice smile is downright frightening.

Here’s my question to you: What does it mean if voters choose candidates based on their looks?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: 2010 Election • Election Process • Elections
October 27th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Do you have faith that elections are honest?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

We should all know the drill by now:

If it's election time, then it's time for accusations of fraud and voting irregularities. And, with six days yet to go until the midterms, we cite the following:

In Nevada, there are reports in some counties that voting machines are automatically checking Harry Reid's name on the ballot.

It's worth pointing out that the voting machine technicians in one of these counties are members of the Service Employees International Union - a group that's planning to give tens of millions of dollars in this election, most of it to Democrats. Harry Reid is a democrat.

  • In North Carolina - a voter says he tried to vote a straight Republican ticket… but his choices showed up as Democrat. Four times.
  • In Illinois, it's the first election where any registered voter can cast their ballot by mail. But one official says that as many as hundreds of thousands of voters who are planning to get a ballot in the mail could be disenfranchised.
  • Also in Illinois, 36 counties missed the deadline to send ballots overseas - to members of the military and other voters.
  • In Pennsylvania, some residents along with a county Republican committee claim a Democratic congressman is trying to flood the voter registration office with fraudulent applications for absentee ballots.
  • And then there's Florida, without which no election drama would be complete. The Daytona Beach city commissioner and his campaign manager were just arrested and charged with committing absentee ballot fraud.

And the election is still almost a week away.

Here’s my question to you: How much faith do you have that our elections are honest?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: 2010 Election • Election Funding • Election Process • Elections
October 26th, 2010
05:54 PM ET

Spending cuts in U.S. lead to what we’re seeing in France?



From CNN's Jack Cafferty

Take a good look at what's going on in Europe, because we just might be next:

As France tightens its fiscal belt, protesters continue to take to the streets.

Earlier today, the French Senate passed the final draft of a bill that raises the minimum age for retirement from 60 to 62, and raises the full retirement age from 65 to 67.

This pension reform measure, which is expected to become law next month, has drawn more than a million protesters.

Unions have walked out on refineries, choking the nation's oil supply. There have been strikes at major ports, disrupted train service and garbage collection. More than 9,000 tons of rotting garbage are piled up in the streets of Marseilles alone.

Students have also come out by the thousands to demonstrate against the government cut-backs. In all, it's estimated these strikes are costing France's economy more than $500 million a day.

And it's not unlike what we saw last spring and summer in Greece, where tens of thousands protested sweeping reforms there, including cuts in pension benefits and increasing the retirement age to 65.

Union protests disrupted plane, ferry and public transport service and public offices were shut.

Meanwhile, despite all the budget cutting, it probably still won't be enough. Experts say Greece is likely to default over the next three years.

There's a lesson in all this for the U.S. If our leaders want to get serious about this nation's staggering deficits, they're going to have to make tough cuts – to things like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They're going to have to raise taxes – maybe a lot – and perhaps raise the retirement age. In other words, it could get very, very ugly.

Here’s my question to you: Will spending cuts in the U.S. lead to the kind of thing we're seeing in France?

Interested to see which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Budget cuts • US Economy
October 26th, 2010
05:53 PM ET

Election already over for Democrats?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/26/top.dems.gi.jpg
caption= ]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

There are only seven days to go before the midterm elections, and President Obama has a quiet day at the White House. Maybe too quiet.

On his schedule: only meetings with advisers and Cabinet members. No campaign rallies. No fundraisers.

Howard Kurtz writes in "The Daily Beast" that heading into the midterms, the White House feels so beat up by the press and unable to push its own narrative that its gone into "bunker mode."

"What's fascinating is the belief that the bully pulpit has been permanently downsized, forcing the leader of the free world to shout for attention in a cacophonous world."

And it's not just President Obama who seems to be feeling the pain here. Bill Clinton spoke at a campaign event the other day in a high school gym in Detroit that was nearly two-thirds empty. When was the last time Clinton spoke to an almost empty house?

Even some Democrats are voicing their frustration. Frank Caprio, who is running for governor in Rhode Island, says President Obama can "take his endorsement and really shove it." Lovely. This after the president didn't endorse him.

And there are plenty of reasons for all this angst among the Democratic Party. The conventional wisdom is that Democrats are in for a real bruising next Tuesday.

A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Democrats face a record "enthusiasm gap." Only 37 percent of Democrats say they're more enthusiastic about voting this year than usual - compared with a whopping 63 percent of Republicans.

Polls also show congressional Republicans holding their lead in generic ballot match-ups against Democrats.

Here’s my question to you: Is the election already over for the Democrats?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: 2010 Election • Democrats
October 25th, 2010
06:05 PM ET

Too late to do anything meaningful about deficit?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/25/art.spending.gi.jpg caption ="A demonstrator holds a sign protesting the deficit."]

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With the national debt nearing $14 trillion and a deficit of $1.3 trillion last year, Washington is sitting around and waiting for the recommendations from that toothless bipartisan deficit commission.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the panel might recommend cutting some key tax breaks – like deductions on mortgage interest, child tax credits and allowing employees to pay for their health insurance with pretax dollars. The panel is also looking at cutting defense spending and freezing domestic discretionary spending.

Even if the commission agrees to any of this, good luck getting them through Congress. It's also worth pointing out that this commission is expected to stay away from the real tough issues like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

As for the president, the Associated Press reports that after the midterms, Mr. Obama plans to put more emphasis on fiscal discipline in his next two years in office.

The president has said that if we're going to get serious about the deficit, we'll have to look at everything – including entitlements and defense spending. He says it will be a "tough conversation."

Meanwhile, as candidates and lawmakers spew their ideas about cutting the deficit, experts say all the talk is nothing more than "fiscal fluff."

They say ideas like eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, earmarks, tax evasion, or returning unused stimulus funds won't solve our deep fiscal problems.

In the meantime, the government keeps spending. Since 2007, when the newly-minted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed there would be "no new deficit spending," the national debt has increased by five trillion dollars.

Here’s my question to you: Is it too late to do anything meaningful about the deficit?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6 p.m. 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.

Filed under: Deficit
October 25th, 2010
05:07 PM ET

Things in Washington different after midterms?


 (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/File)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The old definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.

We are on the verge of giving control of at least one house of Congress back to the Republicans. Gee, that worked well the last time, didn't it?

And the Democrats, who have had the Congressional ball since 2006, have done what – exactly? End the wars? No. Fix the economy? No.

Run up the national debt? Oh hell, yes.

Speaking of the Democrats, while party leaders insist they will keep control of the House, most experts will tell you otherwise. But either way, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi could lose her job.

If the Democrats lose control of the House, Pelosi is toast. But perhaps more interesting is even if Democrats keep control with a very slim margin, which is the best hope for them, Pelosi could still be ousted as Speaker. Several Democrats have already said they would vote against her.

In any case, it's quite possible that a week from tomorrow the voters will bring some big changes to the political landscape in Washington – or will they?

At the end of the day, we just keep electing a different version of the same losing proposition. It's like deciding whether to hit yourself in the head with a hammer or a baseball bat... the results are pretty much the same.

Here’s my question to you: How will things in Washington be different after the midterms?

Interested to know which ones made it to air?

Filed under: 2010 Election • Congress • Washington
October 19th, 2010
05:58 PM ET

Americans' negative view of federal workers justified?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

At a time when millions of Americans are disgusted with the federal government, a new poll shows low marks and negativity toward civil servants.

The Washington Post survey finds 52 percent of those polled say the 1.9 million federal workers are overpaid for what they do.

Seventy-five percent say federal workers are paid more and get better benefits than those working outside the government, according to the survey.

Thirty-six percent think they're less qualified than private-sector workers.

And half say that federal employees don't work as hard as those at private companies.

The poll also shows a deep divide along party lines when it comes to the views of the federal work force, with Republicans being more negative.

Republican candidates are latching onto this sentiment. On the campaign trail, they're using civil servants as examples of what's wrong with government - too big, too invasive and too much in debt. They vow to freeze pay raises and furlough federal workers if they win control of Congress.

Federal unions and Democrats describe criticism of "faceless bureaucrats" as scapegoating.

The government says it's hard to compare salaries in the private and public sectors because many jobs outside government are in low-paying industries while government workers are typically more skilled.

The good news for government workers is that of people who have interacted with a federal worker, the survey found. Three in four say the experience was a good one. Also, the survey shows younger Americans are more likely to give positive reviews.

Here’s my question to you: Is Americans' negative view of federal workers justified?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Taxes • United States • US Federal Government • US Government
October 19th, 2010
04:25 PM ET

Growing disconnect between states and federal government?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The legalization of marijuana, immigration reform and health care.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/19/art.pot.jpg caption=""]
These are just three hot-button examples of how the states and the federal government are increasingly out-of-step with each other.

Starting with California, the Justice Department is vowing to keep prosecuting people who possess marijuana there - even if voters approve a ballot measure that would legalize recreational use of the drug.

Attorney General Eric Holder says the administration "strongly opposes" Proposition 19 and will "vigorously enforce" federal drug laws should the measure pass.

Whether or not you approve of marijuana, California is bankrupt and in desperate need of money. Taxing pot might be a way to raise some cash.

Meanwhile - the federal government is going after states like Arizona, which are trying to do something about illegal immigration since the federal laws go all but unenforced.

The Obama administration is suing Arizona, claiming the state's immigration law is unconstitutional. A federal judge has put some of the most controversial parts of the law on hold... but Arizona's governor Jan Brewer is vowing to take her state's case all the way to the Supreme Court.

And then there's President Obama's signature issue of health care reform. It's been the law of the land for several months, yet dozens of states are now challenging it.

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit brought by 20 of these states can move forward. He says the states can challenge the constitutionality of the law's requirement for all Americans to buy health insurance.

Here’s my question to you: Why does there seem to be a growing disconnect between the states and the federal government?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


October 18th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

How much do attack ads damage our faith in our leaders?


People cast their votes at a polling station set up at the Miami-Dade Government Center. Florida residents headed to the polls to cast votes on the first day of early voting in the midterm elections. (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Political campaigns are a brutal sport - but this season's attack ads seem to be nastier than ever.

Politico reports that while candidates have always attacked each other, distorted their opponents' records and taken their statements out of context... this year's "napalm-flavored" attack ads take it to a whole new level.

Some of this year's ads suggest that the politicians running for office aren't just untrustworthy or inexperienced, they are cruel and sick individuals.

For example: Campaign ads accuse candidates of wanting to gas shelter animals, of wanting to inject young girls with dangerous drugs, of letting men beat their wives... and of helping child molesters - either by buying them Viagra or protecting their privacy.

A lot of these ads are coming from incumbents who are worried that they're on their way out in November. They seem to think that by turning their challengers into monsters, they have a chance of winning.

One of the most notorious ads of the campaign season is by a Florida Democrat who calls his challenger "Taliban Dan."

While some of these over-the-top attack ads contain some level of truth, experts suggest that at a certain point they become counterproductive. They say voters tend to believe the worst about politicians, but when attacks become too outrageous, they stop buying it.

Meanwhile, the people running these ads want to be - or already are - our leaders in Washington. And it says a lot about the kind of people representing us that they're willing to resort to such a low level of rhetoric in order to win.

Here’s my question to you: How much do attack ads damage our faith in our leaders?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Election Process • Elections • Polls
October 18th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

When it comes to Afghanistan, what, exactly, is the point?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

More than nine years into the war in Afghanistan, there doesn't seem to be a lot that's good to report.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/10/18/art.terrorists.jpg caption="Osama bin Laden (L) and Ayman al-Zawahiri (R)."]
From every conceivable angle, things are a mess - starting with the country's attempts at democracy. Officials have now postponed announcing the results of last month's parliamentary elections because of widespread suspected fraud. An election panel spokesman said Monday that about 10 percent of votes have been disqualified because of the suspected fraud.

The New York Times reported that the fraud included everything from stuffing the ballot box to citizens being forced to cast their votes at gunpoint to election officials and security forces working in cahoots with corrupt candidates. Lovely.

On the security front, deadly insurgent attacks on U.S. and coalition troops are rising. It’s the deadliest year of the war for foreign troops, which includes Americans and service members from other nations. A recent U.N. report shows 1,200 Afghan civilians died and 2,000 more were wounded in the first six months of this year.

It's no wonder American support for the war in Afghanistan is at an all-time low. The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll shows 37 percent of those surveyed favor the war. Fifty-two percent say the operation has turned into another Vietnam.

Meanwhile, remember Osama bin Laden?

You know, the reason we're in Afghanistan to begin with? A senior NATO official says bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, are hiding close to each other in houses in northwest Pakistan. No hiding out in caves for these guys - instead al Qaeda's top leaders are believed to be living in relative comfort, protected by locals and the Pakistani intelligence.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to Afghanistan, what, exactly, is the point?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Afghanistan
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