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November 13th, 2010
10:15 AM ET

Letters to the President: #663 'How to restore the public debate'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama has chastised the media for cheapening the public debate. Me too.

Dear Mr. President,

Well, I hope this Saturday brings you a little rest from your weary travels. I enjoy going on the road but at some point I usually find myself pining a bit for a quiet evening at home with some TV and maybe some brownies. I’ll bet that sounds good right now, eh?

I don’t suppose you’ll get much rest, however, with all the Sturm und Drang over tax cuts, and deficit spending, and oh, whatever else it is that the Capitol Hillers are grinding their teeth over. You sort of took the media to task during your travels for focusing too much on splashy, sensational stories while steering way clear of many serious matters for fear of scaring off the audience.

Well, I have to say you are absolutely right about that. It is tragic, but true. The quest for readers, listeners, and viewers, has built a steadily growing feeding frenzy in my industry for at least a couple of decades and it doesn’t seem ready to end anytime soon. The chum in the water is scandal, “gotcha” interviews, jaw-dropping crimes, and simplistic political positions pitted against each other as if they represent real debate.
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November 13th, 2010
10:00 AM ET

Obama, Republicans agree: Reform culture of earmarks

Reps. Eric Cantor, left, and John Boehner are expected to lead the GOP budget-cutting efforts in the new Congress.
Reps. Eric Cantor, left, and John Boehner are expected to lead the GOP budget-cutting efforts in the new Congress.

CNN Wire Staff

Washington (CNN) - Less than a month after midterm elections brought a change in power in Congress, the White House and Republican leaders agree on one thing: changing the culture of earmarks.

In his weekly address, President Obama called for reforming earmarks, which are funds inserted into spending bills intended for a specific program, project or purpose. Critics say earmarks often sail through without adequate review.

"Given the deficits that have mounted up over the past decade, we can't afford to make these investments unless we're also willing to cut what we don't need," Obama said.

"That's why I've submitted to Congress a plan for a three-year budget freeze, and I'm prepared to offer additional savings," he said. "But as we work to reform our budget, Congress should also put some skin in the game. I agree with those Republican and Democratic members of Congress who've recently said that in these challenging days, we can't afford what are called earmarks."

Obama said while some earmarks support worthy projects in local communities, many others do not.

"We can't afford 'bridges to nowhere' like the one that was planned a few years back in Alaska," said Obama, referring to the infamous $400 bridge project that Sarah Palin initially supported but later killed as governor of Alaska.

"As president, time and again, I've called for new limitations on earmarks. We've reduced the cost of earmarks by over $3 billion. And we've put in place higher standards of transparency by putting as much information as possible on earmarks.gov," Obama said.

He said the administration updated the site with more information about where last year's earmarks were actually spent, and made it easier to look up members of Congress and the earmarks they fought for.

Republican House leaders are calling for a vote on an earmark ban next week when Congress returns for a lame-duck session.

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Filed under: 360° Radar
November 13th, 2010
09:45 AM ET
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09:15 AM ET
November 13th, 2010
09:00 AM ET