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November 2nd, 2009
01:23 PM ET

Palin, Limbaugh and Beck Unite Moderate Republicans with Democrats and Independents

Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York.

Robert Zimmerman
CNN Political Analyst

While renowned political pundits, journalists and media stars will try to analyze and spin the "national trends" of the Virginia and New Jersey elections for governor, the controversial and closely watched 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York really does tell a national story, and the results will have a profound impact through the 2010 midterm.

This election began with the Republican candidate, Assemblywoman Dierdre "Dede" Scozzafava, as the strong front runner over the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens, and Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman. That certainly was not a shock to anyone knowing this Congressional District, which is larger than the state of Vermont. In fact, the last time this region chose a member of Congress who was not a Republican, they elected a Whig!

Let's face it, we are talking about serious voting traditions in this Congressional District.

Then the radical national right-wing movement arrived. Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin of Alaska led the way, followed by Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota; Dick Armey, the former House majority leader from Texas; former Senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee; Glenn Beck; Rush Limbaugh; and many others whose conduct and rhetoric brought historic defeats to the Republican Party in 2006 and 2008.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Opinion • Raw Politics • Robert Zimmerman
July 27th, 2009
09:45 PM ET

Police profiling: The lost lesson in this teachable moment

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

As I spent my rainy Sunday in New York watching all the well balanced, politically correct and diversified panels discuss the arrest of Professor Gates, I was struck by the glaring reality that no one on the panels that I observed was a member of or associated with the police profession.

Yes, there were political pundits, sociologists, media commentators, radio talk show hosts, the occasional academician and the inevitable author or two. Many sounded like they were reciting their favorite scenes from Law and Order as they tossed around phrases describing the arrest and their interpretation of why the charges were dropped. Almost all agreed that they did not know what specifically precipitated the arrest, the reasons for it or how race was a factor. However, there was a conclusion among many that race was a factor. This was a particularly stunning conclusion considering the exemplary career of Sergeant James Crowley. For five years Sgt. Crowley taught a class on racial profiling at the Lowell Police Academy. He was hand-picked for that assignment by former Police Commissioner Ron Watson, who is African-American. President Obama described Sgt. Crowley as an "outstanding police officer and a good man" and said that he has "a fine track record on racial sensitivity."

Racial profiling or biased policing is a well documented, shameful and tragic aspect of law enforcement history. It also exists in many other aspects of our nation's culture and society. In examining this issue, I took the daring initiative to actually speak to a respected member of the police profession on this matter. In fact, I spoke to one of our nation's most highly regarded and successful leaders in policing, Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton. In addition to his present position and serving as the President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, he formerly served as the New York City Police Commissioner and the Police Commissioner for the City of Boston.

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June 25th, 2009
12:56 PM ET

Let's leave Mark Sanford's family alone ... as long as he leaves our families alone

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

Every human being who witnessed or heard about the spectacle of Governor Mark Sanford's press conference yesterday had to feel extraordinary sympathy for the Governor's wife and family.

Everyone, that is, except for Governor Mark Sanford, Senator David Vitter, Senator John Ensign, former Senator Larry Craig, and former Congressman Mark Foley.

Despite the sex scandals that each one of these right wing "family values" politicians brought on themselves and their families, they have made a career of dividing families. The pain that Mrs. Sanford and her children are experiencing is a salient reminder to many other citizens and families who have suffered as a result of the divisive rhetoric and discriminatory policies of these self-righteous and hypocritical politicians.

These elected officials and their colleagues in the self-proclaimed "conservative moral movement" have used faith to preach fear and polling data to justify prejudice. Throughout their political careers, they have tried to dictate the definition of a moral American and a proper family. They have tried to create laws that restrict a woman's decision about her health and body and have denied personal rights and human dignity to gay and lesbian Americans. These are reflections of the immorality of their movement.

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June 16th, 2009
08:57 PM ET

For Dems: In disunity there is strength, and maybe comprehensive health care reform

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

When I was reviewing the Senate races with a member of the Senate Democratic leadership in October of 2008, I was told that there was good news and bad news. The good news was that we could come close to 60 seats. The bad news was that approximately 10 of the potentially new senators voted like Republicans.

When I discussed this on CNN, Democrats were upset with me for undermining the sacred party unity theme, and Republicans claimed that I was just trying to counter the argument that the Senate would soon become an extreme liberal bastion. That experience just proved to me that when both parties criticize you, you are probably on to something.

Even before President Obama took the oath of office, that "something" came into focus. While the political pundits and media were focusing on the speculation around presidential appointments, the new Democratic majority in the United States Senate cast its first major policy vote on January 15, 2009.

The issue was whether or not to release the second half of the financial industry bailout fund. The vote did not receive extensive media attention and analysis, but was indicative of the new climate on Capitol Hill. President-elect Obama personally lobbied new and senior senators for this vote. Lawrence Summers, director-designate of the White House National Economic Council, made three visits to the Capitol and sent two letters to senators with his assurances that the program would be run with tough oversight and better management. When all was said and done, it took six Republicans to join with 46 Democratic senators in order to give the President-elect the 52 votes he needed for passage.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Democrats • Health Care • Raw Politics • Robert Zimmerman
May 18th, 2009
09:34 PM ET

Can we overcome the divide?

Program Note: AC360° Contributor Robert Zimmerman will be on the show tonight, here are the questions he's thinking about, and we'd like to hear your thoughts about them. Tonight AC360° at 10 p.m. ET

Robert Zimmerman

In this country, can we build a dialogue around the issues we care about or is the divide too great? The people are ready to work together. Will the politicians allow it to happen?


Filed under: 360° Radar • Robert Zimmerman
May 12th, 2009
01:30 PM ET

It's time for Democrats to come out of the closet about gays in the military

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more on the issue when Anderson speaks to Lt. Dan Choi, Army National Guard, who was discharged for being gay. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

In the contentious battle for the Democratic nomination for president, one of the few issues that united the candidates and the party was a commitment to end the policy toward gays and lesbians in military service referred to as "don't ask, don't tell." This is the policy that requires our servicemen and women to either lie about or hide their sexual orientation in order to maintain their status in military service.

It is hard to imagine that 16 years ago this policy was regarded as an innovative approach to block the harassment and dismissal of gay and lesbian members of our armed services. Though a source of bitter controversy at that time, it was considered to be a step forward. However, it has clearly not accomplished its intended purpose and must end. President Barack Obama made that clear during the 2008 campaign and in his first 100 days in office. He has also been joined by Generals Colin Powell, John Shalikashvili, Iraqi war heroes such as Congressman Patrick Murphy and many others who have served our nation in support of that position.

So what is keeping the Democrats in the closet on this issue while brave gay men and women in the military are being fired for either being forced out of the closet or coming out on their own? Sure the Obama Administration is busy with a very full agenda. That comes with the job. The Truman Administration brought World War II to a victorious conclusion, rebuilt Western Europe under the Marshall Plan and also took the bold and controversial steps to integrate the military during a historically challenging time in our nation's history. The Johnson Administration signed into law landmark civil rights legislation during a very contentious and divisive time for our country.

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April 21st, 2009
09:34 AM ET

Make accountability count

President Obama met with CIA workers and Director Leon Panetta, left, in Virginia on Monday.
President Obama met with CIA workers and Director Leon Panetta, left, in Virginia on Monday.

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

After thoughtful deliberation, President Obama released memos from the Bush administration revealing brutal CIA interrogation tactics. These memos, authored by leading officials in the Bush Department of Justice, made every attempt to create a legal rational to engage in nothing less than torture. Despite the use of bureaucratic language to justify their intent, there is no question these memos were an exercise to excuse tactics like "stress positions" that were employed by the Nazis in World War II or water boarding used by the Khmer Rouge in Phnom Penh Cambodia. In fact, these memos have the temerity to actually point out that other countries that behaved in a similar fashion, like Indonesia, were engaging in torture.

While President Obama deserves great credit for releasing these memos in the face of strong opposition within his administration and with minimal deletions in the documents, he has not ended the debate. On the contrary; he has started it. The questions that need to be addressed focus on whether the release of these memos compromise our ability to combat terrorists. We also have a right to know what, if any, measures should be taken to hold those who authored these memos, as well as those who attempted their legal justification, accountable. In short, the answers to those questions reflect the core values and the guiding principles that define the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress' commitment to transparency and accountability.

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March 24th, 2009
02:38 PM ET

Jack Nicholson: Political Prophet in 2009

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

In the dramatic courtroom showdown between Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in the film 'A Few Good Men,' Nicholson, in the role of Col. Nathan Jessep, famously declared to Lt. Daniel Kaffe, played by Cruise, "You can't handle the truth." As I sat in the movie theater in 1992 (yes, there were no DVD's at the time but it was a talkie and in color) awed by that powerful performance, I would never have imagined Jack Nicholson to emerge as a political prophet in 2009. Yet that dramatic line – a challenge to confront the truth - has special insight and wisdom now.

As the Obama administration faces an economic crisis of historic proportions, we hear a self-important refrain from too many political pundits, members of the mainstream media and the political establishment. The public will not be able to "understand," "get their arms around," "grasp" or "appreciate" the "financial stabilization plan," the "mortgage plan," the "economic stimulus program," the "small business loan program" or the "public-private investment program to buy toxic assets." You get the point. Take your favorite pretentious sound bites and place them into a sentence of your choice.

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Filed under: AIG • Economy • President Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Robert Zimmerman
March 4th, 2009
11:59 PM ET

Hypocrisy that could embarrass even A-Rod

Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a volunteer for the Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York which does not represent the DNC.

Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

In politics, hypocrisy often passes for hyperbole. However, when the discussion gets into the trillions of dollars, hyperbole just doesn't cover it. Hypocrisy puts it in the proper perspective. I will be the first to recognize that neither political party is above hypocrisy, and I have never failed to call my party on it.

However, these past several weeks, hypocrisy has climbed to the height of our national debt, and with the same speed. Which brings me to the self-righteous and divisive comments of the Republican Congressional leadership, their colleagues in Congress and, of course, Rush Limbaugh. Even the unabashed A-Rod would probably cringe at this level of hypocrisy.

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Filed under: Raw Politics • Republicans • Robert Zimmerman
February 16th, 2009
04:15 PM ET

Republicans' fatal attraction

Editor’s Note: Robert Zimmerman has been a Democratic National Committee member since 2000. He is a partner at Zimmerman/Edelson Inc., a marketing, advertising and public relations firm based in New York.
Robert Zimmerman
AC360° Contributor and CNN Political Analyst

Perhaps it is the result of Valentine's Day and President's Day falling on the same weekend. But I cannot help wondering if President Obama's bipartisan game plan will lead to a very smart strategy, unrequited love or a fatal attraction. It is certainly not an affair to remember. Sorry for that but the Oscars are coming up.

While the media and pundit community obsess about whether the Obama Administration's strategy for bipartisanship is smart or successful, it is just as critical to explore the partisan strategy of Republican Congressional leaders and their members.

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