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September 30th, 2012
08:03 PM ET

Letters to the President #1350: 'How low can you...both...go'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing for their first debate. I am preparing, as soon as I finish this letter, to grill a steak out back. Frankly, I think I’m getting the better deal.

Dear Mr. President,

As the first big debate between you and Mr. Romney looms, I have been amused to see your twin teams frantically lowering expectations. If a voter listens to your side, he’ll hear something like this every hour of the day: “Why Mitt Romney is a masterful debater! A regular Stephen Douglas! No mere mortal could possibly best him in a war of words, so if we manage to just stay on the stage, everyone should consider that a win.”

And from Team Romney, we’re hearing claims like, “Barack Obama? The nation has never seen such a gifted orator. We have no chance, no chance I tell you, of beating him in a debate! In fact, if we even make it to the handshake that should be reported as a decisive victory for our side!”

I don’t think any of it makes difference. Not really. It just gives your teams something to do while you candidates are busy studying for the meeting like a couple of college kids heading into final exams. Most people who are following the race at all have an idea of your relative strengths, and they’re not going to be lured into some alternative reality by all the posturing.

Still, like I said, it is funny to watch. In the end, you are both talented enough to wind up on that stage and to argue your points with reasonable skill. When it is over…that’s when we’ll know who the underdog is.

Can you give me a call this evening? My wife and daughter are off at a college-hunting meeting and I have time to chat.

Regards,
Tom

September 29th, 2012
10:11 PM ET

Letters to the President #1349: 'All is not fair'

Reporter's Note: President Obama is preparing for his upcoming debate with Mitt Romney, and so am I.

Dear Mr. President,

Despite all the grousing coast to coast about the lack of bipartisan effort in D.C., I must say I was delighted with the way that you and Mitt Romney came together to endorse the idea of bringing the real referees back to the NFL. With all due respect to the fill-in guys, it was a rough few weeks for fans without the official officials on the field.

And now, since you and Gov. Romney are in a cooperative mood, might I make a suggestion? How about adding referees to your debates? Oh sure, there are some great moderators lined up; esteemed journalists who will do a fine job keeping you both at your podiums with your water guns holstered, but I would love to see a team of hard core fact checkers running loose on the stage.

Every time one of you whipped out a talking point of dubious authenticity (you know what I’m talking about…and so does your opponent) they could blow a whistle, and throw a flag. I’m thinking the penalties should involve time, as in if one of you say something that is patently untrue, your opponent gets a free minute to harangue you any way he wishes. Unless of course, he too trots out some falsehood during the penalty time, in which case they’ll be ruled “offsetting” and we’ll play the question over.

I don’t want it to be all about our snap judgments. Your campaign managers will each get red challenge flags to throw if they disagree with the call, and we can go to the videotape to review exactly what was said. After that, however, the ruling of the chief umpire will be official.

And fair warning here: If one campaigner or the other commits too many fouls, he can be ejected from the debate, and the other will then get the remainder of the time.

I know it sounds novel, but give it some thought. It might be the best way to contain some of the vitriol, force more accountability, and produce an honest discussion about the issues. And after all, isn’t that what you both want?

Give me a call if you get some time. I’m busy, but around all weekend.

Regards,
Tom

September 28th, 2012
10:30 PM ET

'Solar Star' shunned by White House, credits AC360 viewers for saving small business

Editor's note: Watch the video of Drew Griffin's original report, then read his update to the story.

St. John, Indiana (CNN) – Amidst hundreds of emails I get each day, Bill Keith’s stood out for its subject line: CNN viewers are the best.

I couldn’t agree more. Because when we told you about his plight, how bureaucrats in Washington were close to shutting down his homegrown solar attic fan business, you responded. And today Bill is out of his jam.

You may recall the story. Bill Keith is an Indiana roofer who came up with the idea of creating a solar powered attic fan. The fan cools off your attic during hot summer days, lowers your electric bill and requires absolutely no power source other than the sun to do it.

SunRise Solar was a perfect U.S. born “green” company. So perfect that during the 2008 election the Obama campaign took notice. And shortly after the election, Bill Keith and his company became the poster child for the president’s green jobs, green manufacturing initiatives.

FULL POST

September 28th, 2012
10:17 PM ET

Official: FBI security request in Libya not granted

A 360 exclusive report: A senior law enforcement official tells CNN’s Fran Townsend the FBI wanted the U.S. military to provide perimeter support in Benghazi following the deadly attack at the U.S. Consulate, but the request was not granted. Anderson talked about the news with Fran, former FBI Assistant Director Tom Fuentes and former CIA officer Bob Baer.

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Filed under: Libya • Terrorism
September 28th, 2012
10:09 PM ET

Best moments from presidential debates

Ahead of the presidential debates between Pres. Obama and Mitt Romney, Anderson Cooper recaps some of the most unforgettable debate moments in U.S. history.

September 28th, 2012
10:05 PM ET

Students: Teacher segregated black kids

Gary Tuchman reports on a sixth grade teacher in Minnesota who is accused of putting black and special needs students in the back of his classroom. Timothy Olmsted was placed on leave this past January, and then resigned two months later. But, he's still getting paid.

"He separated me from the white kids and sent me to the other side of the room where all the black kids were," a 12-year-old girl said. Black students told their parents and grandparents that Olmsted repeatedly called them "stupid, sloppy, and disgusting."

FULL POST

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Filed under: Education • Race in America
September 28th, 2012
09:58 PM ET

RidicuList: No one hipper than Wolf Blitzer

Who's hipper than Wolf Blitzer, aka B. Diddy? No one. If you disagree, welcome to the RidicuList.


Filed under: The RidicuList
September 28th, 2012
09:43 PM ET

KTH: Vets suffer while waiting for benefits

U.S. veterans are fighting for disability benefits they say they're entitled to from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Randi Kaye reports.

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Filed under: Keeping Them Honest • Veterans
September 28th, 2012
09:23 PM ET

Doctor: U.S. health care not working

Dr. Hsia wants to change the market-driven approach to U.S. health care because she believes patients aren't protected from financial ruin, which should be a guaranteed part of the system. Her interview is part of AC360's series "What Keeps You Up at Night," which focuses on election issues.


Filed under: 2012 Election • Health Care
September 28th, 2012
08:42 PM ET

Letters to the President #1348: 'Information overload'

Reporter's Note: President Obama has to deal with a tremendous amount of information, including one letter from me every day.

Dear Mr. President,

Today felt like one of those “uncontrolled noise” days. You know what I’m talking about; days when you have so many different thoughts, ideas, conversations, graphs, reports, reviews, newspapers, TV and radio shows, blogs, tweets, and frustrations that you find yourself wondering how anything ever gets done.

I’m speaking specifically about the presidential race, btw. For some reason I just felt buried beneath an avalanche…or maybe I should say a mudslide…of campaign news.

Years ago, I had no trouble disengaging when such matters pressed in too hard; when my head started spinning from too much information too fast. I would simply switch the radio to a music channel, roll down the windows, and between the fresh air and tunes I’d soon be thinking clearly again.

However, these days we are all so connected it seems almost impossible to make that trick work. Cell phones, blackberries, Wifi all over the place…sometimes I feel as if the news is streaming directly into my skull. I’ll probably wind up roaming the streets with aluminum foil wrapped around my head.

Normally I like learning a lot of new things every day. But now and then, I just feel as if the flow is so intense that I have no time to make any sense of any of it. I’m like some old silent film actor working on an out-of-control factory production line; just shoving pieces anywhere, everywhere, trying to keep up with the torrent. In those circumstances, none of what I hear seems to fit into a bigger picture. It’s just a hodgepodge of stuff; facts, figures, interviews, articles. On days like this, I get home late and my wife says, “So what was in the news today?” And despite having handled far more information than normal, I can only give her a blank stare and say, “Honestly…I have no idea.”

I hope your day was a bit more manageable than mine. And I hope you can call this weekend to commiserate.

Regards,
Tom

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