Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama is urging, in the wake of the mess over at the USDA over accusations of racism, that our country take up the discussion of racial issues anew. In today’s letter, I’ll try to do my part.
Dear Mr. President,
I’ve been thinking about your call this week for a broad American discussion of race. You and I have been exchanging letters for quite a while now (and by that I mean I have been writing every single day since you took the oath and you have not responded even once, but still…) so I feel that I can speak freely. And I want to tell you a story from around 1965. It’s kind of long, but heck, it’s the weekend. I have the time if you do.
When I was in first grade, my family travelled from our home, which was in South Dakota at the time, down to see my grandmother in Alabama. My grandfather had died suddenly a year or so before and my folks wanted to help her out, and share Christmastime with my mom’s side of the family. So we piled into the Desoto, a hulking bullet of white and aqua, and rolled away from the Black Hills, over the Badlands, across the Great Plains, and down through the Delta.
The ride was interminably long, and my brother, sister and I lolled around in the back seat as if we were crossing the ocean in steerage. No air conditioning. No iPods. AM radio at best and the stations were a hit and miss patchwork of hillbilly tunes, scratching in from the ether as we passed some small town, and hissing out again as it faded to a speck in the rear window.
Stops were not common. Sandwiches were made and packed before we embarked, a jug of water passed when we grew thirsty, and restroom breaks were like pit stops at Indy; screech up, bail out, back in, let’s roll. My parents were not unreasonable. They were just efficient drivers who knew that if we three kids, all under the age of 12, had half a chance we’d turn a two day drive into a month long trek and we’d be due to head home before we’d even arrived.
Special to CNN
Essence, the nation's premiere black women's magazine, caused a firestorm recently when it hired a white woman as its full-time fashion director. With all due respect to the critics, Essence magazine got it right.
Kudos to editor-in-chief Angela Burt Murray and her team for having the good business sense and courage to elevate a qualified and talented white woman, who has served as a freelance editor in the fashion section for the last six months, in a time of such racial tension, cries of reverse racism, and calls for an end to "diversity programs."
In incidents involving former USDA employee Shirley Sherrod, the Tea Party and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, America has been engaged in a stressful and often ugly conversation about race. Now comes Essence, a magazine that I have read and subscribed to faithfully since I was in college.
House ethics committee investigators have recommended that Rep. Charlie Rangel of New York be reprimanded, according to one of those investigators, Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas.
A reprimand would be a relatively light punishment, compared with censure and expulsion. The recommendation was made to the ethics committee before Thursday's public hearing detailing charges against Rangel.
The full committee and the House would have to approve any sanction against Rangel.
Asked about the recommendation, Rangel said it's "untrue."
Special to CNN
A district judge on Wednesday preliminarily barred the enforcement of two sections and two subsections of Arizona's new immigration law, SB 1070.
As was the case with the public reaction after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed the law on April 23, we are again seeing wild claims about the matter - in this case, about Judge Susan Bolton's order.
Commentators are making overblown statements about the judge's order without having actually read it. As a lawyer who supports the enactment of state laws that promote comprehensive immigration enforcement, I offer this initial analysis to the beleaguered voters of Arizona:
Political movements are becoming ever more like a match tossed into a room full of dynamite; no matter which stick you are aiming for, chances are a lot of others will fire off too. A case in point: The movement to side step the Electoral College and elect presidents purely by popular vote.
Massachusetts jumped hard on that bandwagon, and rattled down the last stretch of road toward making it their law this week. New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Illinois, and Hawaii have already approved such measures.
The attraction is simple. Americans don’t like the idea of the person they pick for office losing the election because of this strange, historic institution of the Electoral College. In fairness, it doesn’t happen often, but it can and it did in recent memory. Al Gore in 2000 had more popular votes than George Bush, but you may have noticed Mr. Gore never moved his things into the Oval Office, we went to Iraq, and the rest…as they say…is the stuff vendettas are made of.
So common wisdom has it that disgruntled Democrats are driving this movement. That said, pundits on both sides of the aisle are dissecting the ways in which a popular vote might benefit their party. But if this movement continues, I suspect they both might be shocked by the long term results.
Voters are hugely united by a profound irritation with the status quo, and a purely popular vote would make it much harder for either party to triangulate key states to win, especially in a tight election. That volatility could make the White House door swing much wider for all sorts of third party, no party, and wild party candidates who simply capture the public’s fancy in the home stretch. Did anyone say Howard Stern?
What’s more, if the winner must have a majority, not merely a plurality, relatively oddball players who grab, oh say, ten percent of the vote, could suddenly become kingmakers; wheeling and dealing their support to whichever near-front runner will give them the most concessions.
I’m not saying a popular vote is a bad idea. What I’m saying is the unintended consequences could also prove to be utterly unexpected and calamitous for the two parties and their supporters, some of whom even now seem blind to the surprises the public may have in store for them.
CNN Wire Staff
Three U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate blasts in southern Afghanistan, making July the deadliest month for American forces since the war started nine years ago.
The three died Thursday after an improvised explosive device attack, the International Security Assistance Force said.
Their deaths bring the July tally to 63. A total of 85 international service members, including Americans, have died this month.
Before this month, June was the deadliest month for Americans and coalition forces. A total of 103 international soldiers died last month - including 60 Americans. The totals are based on reports compiled by CNN.
The grim milestone comes amid concern at home over Washington's strategy in the Afghanistan war.
Anderson Cooper | BIO
Reporter's Note: I am writing this week about some of my favorite quotes and sayings. I don’t know if the president has enjoyed this, but then, I don’t know if he enjoys any of these letters, so as long as I’m having fun..
So NY Congressman Charlie Rangel has been charged by the Ethics Committee for a series of supposedly shady deals, and bringing “discredit” on the House of Representatives. I don’t mean to be snarky, but every time I hear something like that I have to giggle a little. Seriously, public approval of Congress is at what… 11 percent or something like that? I’m not sure they can be discredited at this point. “Why Mr. Smith, you’re bringing shame upon the whole cell block!”
It’s a shame really because (and I’m not kidding here) I know that plenty of good people all across this country have run for office over the years, and won, and taken their oaths with the full intent of making our nation a better place. They are unfairly tarred every time I, or anyone else in the nattering class, takes a swipe at politicians overall. On the other hand, the relentless drumbeat of tone deaf inaction and misadventure up on the Hill makes it hard to take them at face value whenever they profess shock over the behavior of one of their own.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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