November 30th, 2010
04:45 PM ET

Can a fat man be elected president?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Forget all the talk about the United States electing an African-American or a woman as president... what about a fat man?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/30/art.barbour.christie.jpg caption="Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (L) and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R)."]
This idea comes to us courtesy of a Daily Beast column by Lloyd Grove, who talks about the "proliferation of tough, smart, and decidedly chubby Republican contenders." People like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, along with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Grove writes that the rise of these politicians could mean the "imperially slim presidential stereotype might be losing political currency."

Experts suggest that in the past, Americans have seen their presidential candidates as "lean, mean fighting machines." They point out there are plenty of studies that show people pick the best-looking candidates when they know nothing else about them.

But, in light of the staggering problems this country faces, maybe it's time to go for a new approach.

When Christie ran for governor of New Jersey, it was his opponent who made weight an issue. Democrat Jon Corzine ran a TV ad accusing Christie of "throwing his weight around," but in the end, it backfired. Christie said Corzine should "Man up and say I'm fat." Christie won the election.

As for Barbour, he likes to joke about his extra pounds, saying things like, "I don't sweat much for a fat boy." A Barbour spokesman says at some point people have to decide whether they're electing the candidate most qualified to lead the country, or if the election is a beauty pageant.

Certainly something to chew on. Pun intended.

Here’s my question to you: Can a fat man be elected president?

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.

Filed under: 2012 Election
November 30th, 2010
04:40 PM ET

Denying Social Security for people earning more than $150,000?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As we await the final recommendations from President Obama's deficit commission, one Democratic-led policy group is out with its own bold proposal:
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Bloomberg News reports that the think tank Third Way wants to trim or eliminate Social Security benefits for what they consider high-income retirees.

The plan is to boost monthly benefits for poorer retirees - while reducing them on a scale starting with individuals who have $150,000 in outside income or couples with $250,000.

Social Security benefits would be eliminated all together for individuals making $200,000 or couples with $400,000 in income. The group says people who don't need Social Security shouldn't get it.

This is despite the fact that these people have paid into Social Security throughout their working lives.

Third Way also wants to raise the retirement age, limit cost-of-living increases and help young workers create private retirement accounts.

Third Way says its proposal will come out after the deficit panel's report and is meant as a kind of cover for Congressional Democrats to support unpopular deficit-cutting measures.

Republicans have argued for raising the retirement age as well as limiting benefits for wealthier retirees. But most Democrats don't want to touch Social Security at all - when it comes to cutting the $13 trillion plus debt.

However, some Democrats do support cutting benefits. As Senator Kent Conrad put it: "Those who say don't touch it aren't dealing with reality."

As for that deficit commission, like we said yesterday here in the Cafferty File, don't bet on it. The panel now says it will delay the vote that was set for tomorrow until Friday, although they still plan to release the report tomorrow.

Here’s my question to you: Should people earning more than $150,000 be denied Social Security benefits?

Tune in to the Situation Room at 6pm 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: Social Security
November 29th, 2010
05:56 PM ET

Deficit commission a pointless exercise?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama's deficit commission may be dead on arrival.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/29/art.disappointed.obama.jpg caption=""]
Apparently the differences among members are so great that the toothless, bipartisan commission canceled its last scheduled meeting tomorrow. Instead, they'll meet one-on-one and try to twist some more arms before the panel's final recommendations are due Wednesday.

A piece on Politico.com asks if the panel was doomed from the start. After months of reports about how bitterly divided the commission members are - it's hard to imagine that 14 of the 18 members will come to a consensus on much of anything meaningful.

And, this being Washington, there's plenty of finger pointing to go around.

There are the Republicans who co-sponsored the bill to create this commission and then voted against it.

Some even wonder if President Obama himself designed the commission to fail... to save him from making the tough decisions.

He set the December 1 deadline - which meant decisions about the deficit wouldn't factor into the midterm elections. Also, the president has ruled out tax increases for 98 percent of taxpayers.

As for the panel itself, Republican members have made it clear they don't want to consider tax increases... while Democrats don't want to touch Social Security - leaving precious little common ground.

All this makes it increasingly difficult to believe this commission will make a serious dent in our $13 trillion-plus deficit.

Nonetheless, some close to the commission are sounding upbeat - saying they've made significant progress in the last week and that they've "got a chance."

Don't bet on it.

Here’s my question to you: Was the deficit commission a pointless exercise from the start?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Budget cuts • Deficit
November 29th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Black Friday stampedes, arrests and fights; what's happened to us?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The holiday season is upon us - and by the looks of things, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Some of the behavior on display as Americans hit the stores for Black Friday deals was downright disgusting, including stampedes, arrests and fights. And it’s all in the name of buying holiday gifts for our loved ones.

Here are some reports from what happened at stores around the country:

  • In Georgia, a Marine reservist was stabbed when he tried to help stop a suspected shoplifter. The Marine was one of four servicemen stationed outside a Best Buy collecting Toys for Tots.
  • In Los Angeles, California, the Sheriff's Department had to temporarily put part of one shopping mall on lockdown after a fight in the food court.
  • An Indiana woman was arrested after fighting with other shoppers at a Walmart checkout. Police say customers were fighting about a person accused of cutting in line.
  • Another woman was arrested in Wisconsin. Police say she threatened other shoppers while waiting in line at a Toys R Us store. They say she tried to cut pass several hundred shoppers waiting in line. When she was confronted, the woman threatened to get a gun and shoot the other shoppers.
  • At yet another Wisconsin Toys R Us, thousands of people waiting in line rushed the doors when they opened. The store's employees had to lock the doors and call police. Customers waiting for hours reportedly chanted "end of line" to those just showing up.

Merry Christmas!

Here’s my question to you: In light of stampedes, arrests, and fights on Black Friday, what has happened to us?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Holidays • Spending
November 24th, 2010
03:23 PM ET

Time to reconsider profiling for airport security?


FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As the national debate over full-body scans and pat downs at airports rages on, there's another idea that maybe deserves a second look: profiling.

It works pretty darn well for Israel, but questions of political correctness always seem to put an end to the discussion in the U.S. Instead we are reduced to having our crotches grabbed.

However, a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows 70 percent of Americans support using available information about passengers to determine who gets picked for extra security screening.

When asked what criteria should be used to select passengers: 86 percent say personal behavior, 78 percent say travel history, 55 percent say nationality, and 50 percent say personal appearance.

This goes to the point that not all profiling is equal. There's a big difference between smart profiling and the less effective kind – based on race, religion, gender or country.

What's important is for the U.S. to improve profiling based on things like behavior, no-fly lists, personal data and travel history.

It turns out many pilots support this kind of profiling. The Daily Beast reports that online discussion groups show pilots complaining that the government is wasting resources by applying the same broad security measures to everyone.

Meanwhile, with all the hype over airline security, consider this: Politico reports that in 99 million domestic flights (that have carried 7 billion U.S. travelers) in the last decade, there have been zero bombs snuck onto airplanes and detonated. Zero.

Here’s my question to you: When it comes to airport security, is it time to reconsider profiling?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • The Cafferty File • Travel • Vacation
November 24th, 2010
02:26 PM ET

Spend more or less on holiday gifts this year?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/24/art.cafferty.mall.gi.jpg%5D

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie are polished off – millions of Americans turn their attention to Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

What's yet to be seen is how the shaky economy and troubling forecasts are going to effect holiday spending this year.

The Federal Reserve now says to expect weak economic recovery for several years. Some policy makers say it could take 6 years – or longer – before unemployment, growth and inflation return to more normal levels.

Meanwhile, taxes are set to go up for 90 percent of Americans if the "Making Work Pay" tax credit expires at the end of the year.

Never mind all that. The American consumer is apparently ready to spend.

A survey by the National Retail Federation shows people plan to spend about $689 on holiday-related shopping this year. That's up about $7 from last year.

They say most of that money will be spent on gifts for friends and family. The rest of it will go to co-workers, decorations, food, candy and flowers.

The survey shows the $393 that consumers plan to spend on family and friends is the highest it's been since before the recession hit.

But partly because of the recession, consumers are still looking for bargains, which is why many stores started promoting their Black Friday sales right after Halloween. These discounts usually drop prices by 20 to 30 percent.

Here’s my question to you: Do you plan to spend more or less on holiday gifts than in years past?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

Filed under: Economy • Holidays
November 23rd, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Is the Tea Party here to stay?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Tea Party movement might just be getting started.

After a year of rallies and protests and a strong showing in the midterm elections, the Tea Party is getting significant support from the public.

A new USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Americans are split as to whether they want Tea Party-backed members of Congress or President Obama to take the lead in setting policy.

The folks at the White House must love this:

In the poll, 28 percent say Obama should have the most influence on government policy in the next year; but 27 percent want the Tea Party to set the course.

The traditional political parties trail behind, with 23 percent choosing Republican congressional leaders to influence policy and only 16 percent choosing Democratic leaders.

Experts say the nation's divided mood "guarantees that there will be gridlock." That's because government follows public opinion, and public opinion is all over the place about who should be in charge.

Meanwhile, here's another sign that the Tea Party could have some real staying power:

The Wall Street Journal reports many Tea Party groups around the country are focusing their agenda of limited government and penny-pinching on local governments.

Here’s my question to you: Is the Tea Party here to stay?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Tea Party
November 23rd, 2010
05:00 PM ET

If Palin runs for president, should she agree to Couric interview?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Sarah Palin told Fox News that if she runs for president, she will not "waste" her time on another interview with CBS' Katie Couric.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/23/art.palin.jpg caption=""]
Here's why. Take a look at this transcript from a Cafferty File segment from September 2008:

Cafferty: There's a reason the McCain campaign keeps Governor Sarah Palin away from the press. I want to play an excerpt from an interview that Palin did with CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric where she was asked about the bailout package. Listen to this.

Couric: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries, allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy, instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Palin: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping - it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes, and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans.

And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today.

We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

Cafferty: Did you get that? If John McCain wins, this woman will be one 72-year-old's heartbeat away from being president of the United States. And if that doesn't scare the hell out of you, it should.

That clip has gotten more than 4,150,000 hits on YouTube.

Here’s my question to you: If Sarah Palin runs for president, should she agree to an interview with Katie Couric?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: 2012 Election • Katie Couric • Sarah Palin
November 22nd, 2010
04:28 PM ET

Looking forward to airplane travel, full body scans and pat downs?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Two million people a day are expected to travel through this nation's airports Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I am very happy I'm not one of them.

Airline travel this holiday season is shaping up to be a nightmare, thanks to the government's new airport security measures, which include full body scans and invasive pat-downs.

A growing backlash to these measures is coming from all corners, from pilot and flight attendant groups to civil rights and privacy advocates.

Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who hasn't gone through airport security in decades, admits she wouldn't want to submit to an enhanced pat-down if she could avoid it.

Passengers are sharing outrageous stories that show just how embarrassing and invasive all this is:

A flight attendant and breast cancer survivor says she was asked to remove her prosthetic breast during a pat-down, while a bladder cancer survivor wound up soaked with urine during his pat-down.

The latest example comes by way of a viral video of a shirtless boy getting a pat-down from a TSA agent. A partially disrobed child forced to submit to groping by a strange adult. It's just disgraceful.

The TSA insists it's trying to strike a balance between security and privacy concerns. Really?

One industry expert tells the Associated Press that the agency is working under an unachievable mandate since the risks constantly change when terrorists use new tactics. This means the TSA is always in crisis mode, adding new policies to respond to the last terror plot.

And on some level, Americans do get their dilemma. A recent CBS poll shows that four out of five Americans support the use of full body scans.

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Airlines • Thanksgiving • Travel
November 22nd, 2010
04:25 PM ET

Buffett: Rich should pay 'a lot more in taxes'

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Rich people "should be paying a lot more in taxes." So says one of the richest Americans out there.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/11/22/art.buffett.jpg caption="Warren Buffett."]
Billionaire Warren Buffett told ABC News that taxes for the lower, middle class and possibly upper middle class should be cut even further.

But he said, "I think that people at the high end - people like myself - should be paying a lot more in taxes. We have it better than we've ever had it."

Buffett says the rich always insist that if their taxes are lower and they have more money in their pockets, they will spend it and then it will trickle down; but he says that hasn't happened for the last 10 years.

Buffett's not the only super-wealthy person to advocate paying more taxes. A group of 45 people who call themselves "patriotic millionaires" agrees.

They're asking President Obama to allow the Bush tax cuts to expire at the end of this year for incomes over $1 million.

Critics question the political motivations of this group.

In any case - if Congress does nothing about the Bush tax cuts, there are only 39 days left until the largest tax increase in American history will go into effect.

Democrats in the House and Senate say they will hold votes after Thanksgiving to extend the Bush tax cuts for those making $250,000 or less.

However, it's unclear if they have enough votes in either chamber to pass only the middle class tax cuts. They may need to find middle ground with the Republicans, who want to extend the tax cuts for everyone.

Here’s my question to you: Warren Buffett says rich people "should be paying a lot more in taxes." Do you agree?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Taxes
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