January 24th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

Tucson shootings affect State of Union address?


FILE PHOTO: The State of the Union address on January 27, 2010. (PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In light of the Tucson shootings, it looks like we're in for a very different State of the Union address this year.

The president's annual message to Congress is usually full of partisan theatrics - one half of the room applauds and stands while the other sits on their hands. Last year, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed the words "Not true" when the president criticized a Supreme Court decision.

Partisan rancor and rudeness were also on full display last year. Remember when a Republican congressman yelled "You lie" in the middle of the President's health care speech?

But it's highly likely we'll see anything like that tomorrow night. The mood is different this time. President Obama and other lawmakers have been talking about changing the tone of the talk in Washington. In a video preview of the speech, the president calls on the nation to "come together" and to "focus on what binds us together as a people."

And not unlike a high school prom, all of Capitol Hill is also aflutter when it comes to the seating arrangements for tomorrow night. Many members of Congress are crossing the aisle - and will sit with a "date" from the other party. Whether if any of this good will remains once the speech ends remains to be seen.

Meanwhile John Avlon writes for the Daily Beast that we may be seeing an end to the era of "hyperpartisan talking points and canned anger." Wouldn't that be nice?

Avlon points to several signs that Americans have had enough, including: Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC, Glenn Beck's declining ratings and loss of advertisers at the F-word network, as well as Sarah Palin's plummeting approval ratings.

Here’s my question to you: How will the Tucson shootings affect the State of the Union address?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: President Barack Obama • Tragedy
January 13th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Will Tucson massacre change tone of political debate?



FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It was one of President Obama's finer moments.

Speaking to a full auditorium in Tucson - and the wider television audience of a grieving nation - the president told Americans, "We can be better."

In light of the massacre of innocents and a country more divided than ever, Mr. Obama said it's time to talk to each other "in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

As he eulogized the dead, the president said while we may not be able to stop all evil in the world, how we treat one another is entirely up to us. Mr. Obama spoke at length about Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl who was killed, saying that he wants "our democracy to be as good as she imagined it."

The president walked a fine line as he tried to stay above the partisan blame game that has evolved since this tragedy. He said, "the forces that divide us are not as strong as the forces that unite us."

Many believe the speech was just what the doctor ordered for a country reeling from the shootings and weary of years of divisive politics. But in the long run how much will it matter?

There's still a dark side to what happened in Tucson last weekend. A very dark side.

An aide to Sarah Palin says there are a record number of death threats against Palin since the Arizona shootings. Her aides are looking to step up her security.

This stuff is ugly and scary and very much begs the question of what we are becoming.

Here’s my question to you: Will the Tucson massacre change the tone of the political debate in this country?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Tragedy • United States
January 11th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

Tucson tragedy enough to change gun laws?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It's a debate almost as old as the country itself: whether it's a good idea for private citizens to own guns.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2011/images/01/11/art.glock.jpg caption="A Glock 19 handgun."]
And when something like the Tucson massacre happens, the debate roars to life all over again.

It was remarkably easy for the shooter - Jared Lee Loughner - to get his hands on a gun in Arizona, which has some of the laxest gun laws in the country.

The 22-year-old passed an instant background check in a sporting goods store before purchasing a Glock 19 - a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He also bought an oversized magazine that allowed him to fire 33 shots without reloading - instead of the standard 10. Some lawmakers want to ban these oversized magazines nationwide.

They're already outlawed in at least 6 states.

But not Arizona - where a recent law allows anyone over 21 to carry a gun without a permit. Guns are allowed almost everywhere in Arizona - including the state capitol, many public buildings, in places that serve alcohol and on school grounds.

Meanwhile, by many accounts, Loughner is being described as mentally unstable and someone who should have never been allowed to buy a weapon in the first place.

He failed the "drug screening process" for the military and was rejected. Loughner had five run-ins with his Community College police before he was kicked out of school for disruptive activity.

But instead of becoming stricter, the nation's gun laws have actually become more lax in recent years. Examples include the removal of Washington, D.C.'s handgun ban and an amendment to allow gun owners to carry concealed and loaded weapons in national parks.

Here’s my question to you: Should the Tucson tragedy be enough to change the nation's gun laws?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Firearms • Law Enforcement • Tragedy
January 11th, 2011
05:00 PM ET

What can Pres. Obama say in Tucson to ease the pain?


President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama observed a moment of silence yesterday to honor the victims  of the Arizona tragedy. (PHOTO CREDIT: JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It is the nature of events that confront our leaders that often serve to define them.

In the wake of the Tucson massacre, President Obama has been given an opportunity to deliver on a promise he made long ago: to raise the level of political discourse and by so doing to unify this country.

Politico has an excellent piece on how this tragedy presents Mr. Obama the chance to elevate the nasty tone of politics; much like Bill Clinton did after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Political analysts say that the president could use this experience to help move the country to a higher moral ground.

This is a promise the president first made in his famous 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention. And civil discourse is something he also talked about tirelessly on the campaign trail and since he's been in office.

But action speaks louder than words, and in the last two years we haven't seen much, if any, of this in Washington. In fact, the partisan divisions and heated rhetoric between the two sides are arguably worse than they've ever been.

And President Obama, at times, has been part of the problem. During the campaign, then-candidate Obama said of countering Republican attacks, "if they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." And more recently, in the lead-up to the midterms, the president referred to Republicans as "enemies."

The president has called the Tucson shootings "a tragedy for the entire country." He's headed there on Wednesday. A nation increasingly weary of anger and division will be listening.

Here’s my question to you: What can President Obama say in Tucson to ease the pain?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: President Barack Obama • Tragedy • United States
January 10th, 2011
06:00 PM ET

How to tone down the hateful rhetoric?


Well-wishers leave flowers, candles and notes outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ). (PHOTO CREDIT: GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

It was probably only a matter of time.

For the past two years, the political rhetoric in this country has quickly grown more hateful, angry and divisive.

We've seen guns at rallies and signs with nasty and racist slogans. And now we have the tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. Is there a link between this inflammatory rhetoric and the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others, six of whom are dead? Bet on it.

Several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are now calling for the political rhetoric to be toned down. They say politicians need to "cool it" and to think about "how our words affect people."

There's an idea!

This is happening at the same time some of them are deciding to start carrying guns.

Many are pointing fingers at Sarah Palin, who makes incendiary and irresponsible comments with some regularity. Palin once tweeted concerning the health care debate, "Don't retreat, instead - RELOAD!"
She posted a map online before the midterms showing crosshairs over 20 contested Democratic districts, including Giffords'.

At the time, Giffords said, "When people do that, they've got to realize there are consequences to that action."

Since the shooting, Palin has expressed her condolences and said she hates violence.

The Tea Party movement, which has also been a cauldron of inflammatory rhetoric, is distancing itself from the tragedy, condemning what happened.

But even if there is no direct correlation here, people such as Palin could bear some indirect responsibility for the mindset of the shooter and others like him.

Here’s my question to you: What can be done to tone down the hateful rhetoric in this country?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?


Filed under: Tragedy • United States