January 28th, 2008
07:57 PM ET

Beat 360

Evening bloggers!

Tonight is going to be quite a busy show. Anderson speaks to four of the leading presidential candidates - Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney - after CNN's coverage of the State of the Union address.


So with tonight so busy, we wanted to make sure you had something to look forward to on the blog. So here it is - ready for today's challenge? For those of you who don't know, we've started something new - Beat 360°.

Everyday we post a picture - and you provide the caption. Our staff will get in on the action too.

Tune in every night at 10p ET to see if you are our favorite! Can you beat 360°? Here is today's "Beat 360°" pic of the day:

Have fun with it. Make sure to include your name, city, state (or country) so we can post your comment.

Filed under: Beat 360°
January 28th, 2008
07:57 PM ET

Is America really ready for change?

As a child growing up in the nation's capital, my dad worked on "the Hill."

I spent many hours fascinated by the underground tunnel that connected the Capitol to the Senate buildings. That mini-subway ride was my best childhood political memory with Reese Witherspoon's performance in the movie "Election," a close second. My core interests lie elsewhere.  And for me, that's been okay.

David Gergen
Sen. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, acknowledge the crowd during his South Carolina primary victory party.

Enter 2008. 

I've never really committed to anything, not even a favorite brand of soap! Politically, I'm a cynic. No one really "speaks" to me.  I'm not registered with either party so I don't have to sweat primary season too hard. After all, who wants to be conflicted  over whether to choose a candidate based on race or gender?

But Obama's win in South Carolina opened my eyes to new possibilities. Could this be a new political day?  Maybe race is not an issue after all.

"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves ... and imagine that together we can do great things," Caroline Kennedy wrote of Obama in Sunday's New York Times, under the headline "A President Like my Father."

We all know: change is inevitable but not usually welcomed with open arms.  (Will Ashton Kutcher pop out of nowhere, saying Obama's victory is just another episode of his show "Punk'd" - a big trick on us all?)

I hope this country really WILL pick candidates on the basis of issues and not skin color. But realistically, this nation still has a long way toward equality.

Minorities are still paid lower and promoted less than their white counterparts. For every Obama, there are thousands behind bars, victims of an unfair judicial system. Remember Genarlow Wilson?

"It's been a long time coming, but a change is gonna come," soul pioneer Sam Cooke sang in 1965 during the Civil Rights movement, back when my parents were "colored" and riding on the back of the bus.

Forty plus years later we have to ask ourselves: If change comes from within, is our nation really ready? 

– Leah Smith, AC360° Associate Producer

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
January 28th, 2008
07:12 PM ET

Prepping for the candidates

It's been a really busy day.  I was up at 5 a.m.  and on my way to the airport to catch the first flight out to Los Angeles this morning.  It is a stunningly beautiful day in Los Angeles, the kind of day that makes you wonder why you live anywhere else.

Early this afternoon, I taped another major celebrity announcer auditioning to be the "Voice of 360" (more on that in another blog later).

We've been prepping for the Republican debate on Wednesday and now I'm getting ready for tonight's State of the Union coverage.  

We have quite a line up tonight on 360°.  John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards will all be on the broadcast tonight live.

It's going to be a busy night.  I hope you join us.

– Anderson Cooper

Filed under: Anderson Cooper
January 28th, 2008
06:46 PM ET

The Kennedys and Clintons: It's personal

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama is not only a stinging political repudiation of Sen. Hillary Clinton, it’s also a sharp detour - in what had been for the better part of two decades - a warm and close personal relationship between America’s two most-prominent Democratic families.

Kennedys & Clintons

Smooth sailing for the Clintons and Kennedys on Martha's Vineyard in the summer of 1997.

It’s now safe to say that the days of sailing together on Nantucket Sound during the Clintons’ Martha’s Vineyard vacations are over.

Don’t expect to see the Clintons strolling the grounds of the Hyannis Port compound. The warm embraces at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston are also likely a thing of the past.

Even the caption on the famous photo of a young Bill Clinton meeting JFK at the White House in 1963 - now has a footnote. 

True, there are other members of the Kennedy family who are supporting Hillary Clinton. But the endorsements of the senator and his niece Caroline, the sole remaining link to Camelot, matter far more than any others.  And while the impact the endorsements will have on Democratic voters remains to be seen, make no mistake: the Clinton-Kennedy mutual affection has been diminished. 

We’ll have much more on the Kennedy endorsements tonight following President Bush’s State of the Union address. 

Meantime, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts. Given Senator Kennedy’s close ties with the Clintons, are you surprised by his support for Senator Obama?

– Jack Gray, AC360° Associate Producer

Watch AC360°: Anderson Cooper speaks to four of the leading presidential candidates - Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney - as they react to President Bush's State of the Union address and talk about the race for the White House. Tonight from 10:30p to midnight ET.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
January 28th, 2008
06:25 PM ET

Earmarks: Pulling pork can be unappetizing

(CNN) - Most members of Congress call them earmarks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tried to get them called "legislatively directed spending." But for almost every American taxpayer I've run into over the last year, it's called "pork" and it's not very tasty.

Drew Griffin

CNN's Drew Griffin investigates congressional spending for Anderson Cooper 360°.

Earmarks are those nearly secret pet projects that are added onto the government's spending bills year after year. On Monday night, President Bush will announce what are being called "unprecedented changes" in the way lawmakers earmark money for special projects that benefit their districts or campaign contributors.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "The president will say that if these spending items are worthy, Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote."

Over the last year, I have traveled from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to San Francisco, California, to Alaska uncovering the secret pet projects of Congress.

See some of the projects earmarked for 2008 in this Behind-the-Scenes report.

– Drew Griffin, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Earmarks
January 28th, 2008
04:49 PM ET

"Welcome to L.A."

All of us, the passengers of United flight 23 from JFK to LA, were surprised when we landed and our plane taxied past the terminals to a remote tarmac on the Western edge of the airport.


The captain came on to report we had a TSA issue and that we would be met by buses and then re-screened by security. A sky stair was pulled to the jet and armed tactical air force security met us at the top of the stairs. One told me, "Welcome to L.A." As we waited on the buses cars marked 'bomb team' arrived at the jet liner.

We were bused to a remote and unfinished terminal where we were ushered inside by three officials: The FBI special agent in charge of the airport, the head of TSA at LAX and the head of airport security. FBI agent David Gates explained to the passengers that while we were mid-air a caller from the Allentown, Penn., area had called in a hijacking and bomb threat to our plane. 

He also explained we would have landed in Salt Lake City but that our pilot together with security intelligence were able to confirm there was no hijack risk...so we continued to LA.


But they explained they could not conclusively check for a bomb which is why the canine units and bomb techs are now going through the plane and luggage...and why 100 or so of us are waiting in this unfinished terminal.

I must say, United and the FBI and airport security officials are doing a great job of communicating with us.

– David Doss, 360° Executive Producer

Filed under: AC360° Staff • Behind The Scenes
January 28th, 2008
01:49 PM ET

A dramatic moment for Democrats

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CNN) - Back in Cambridge today, I have already been stopped three times on the street by people asking if his huge South Carolina win and Teddy's endorsement will propel Obama to a breakthrough on February 5th.  The honest answer - as with so much of this campaign - is that nobody knows.

David Gergen

David Gergen is a political contributor for Anderson Cooper 360°.

Certainly, the two events back-to-back have done exactly what he needed: revived the glow of his candidacy.

The media play has been a big part of this boost. The press might have chosen to write off South Carolina - as Bill Clinton obviously hoped by comparing the outcome to Jesse Jackson's wins there - but the press has given it significant play, mostly because Obama's margin was so big and he won a quarter of white votes. (And partly, I suspect, because the media didn't want to be manipulated by Clinton.)

Teddy's endorsement will continue the media momentum as will - importantly - his decision to campaign actively in coming days for Obama. 

But no one should underestimate just how commanding a position Hillary Clinton has built up for February 5.  As the Wall Street Journal pointed out this morning, she has sizable and often double digit leads in 8 of the 10 biggest states voting that day. And many of those states have large Latino populations whom the Clintons are counting on.

Here is a sampling of recent Clinton leads as recorded today by RealClearPolitics.com:

California - 12.5
New York - 22.7
New Jersey - 18
Massachusetts - 10
Tennessee - 14
Arizona - 10
Missouri - 13

Obama, in the same reports, is ahead in Illinois by 29 and in Georgia – but that’s hardly enough. Now, there are still a great many undecideds, and that's where Teddy's help plus the support of a surprising number of other leading Democrats could possibly help Obama overcome those margins.

For Hillary, the personal challenge coming out of South Carolina is exactly the opposite of what she faced coming out of Iowa.  Then she had to show voters her vulnerability, making an emotional connection.  She did just that.  But now after South Carolina, she has to show her resiliency and inner toughness - that she can take a punch and come back swinging.  And - critically - she has to show she can do it alone. 

This would be a good time for Bill to come down with laryngitis.  Yes, I know that with 22 states in play, the consultants will say he has to be out there covering states she can't reach, speaking more softly than he has.  That is the conventional wisdom.  But think how much more daring –and convincing - it would be if he went to the sidelines and she rode to victory entirely on her own. 

For Obama, this is a dramatic moment; for Hillary, it could also be a moment of boldness.

– David Gergen, 360° Contributor

Filed under: Barack Obama • David Gergen • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics • Top Stories
January 28th, 2008
01:09 PM ET

When is talking about race - 'playing the race card'?

Bill Clinton has been criticized for comparing Barack Obama to Jesse Jackson.

Much of Saturday night’s coverage of Obama’s sweeping South Carolina primary victory focused on race, in part because he won 78% of the African-American vote. I watched the coverage and became increasingly disturbed at the seemingly endless discussion of race, and in the case of Hillary Clinton’s second place finish, gender.

Lisa Bloom
Lisa Bloom is a frequent contributor to the AC360 Blog.

Bill Clinton is hardly a racist, and it’s deeply insulting to suggest that he is.

There’s nothing wrong with saying that Barack Obama’s real viability as a presidential candidate is historic. But the comparison to Jesse Jackson, who’d held no political office when he ran in 1984 and 1988, and who had no chance of winning the nomination, much less the presidency, is less apt.

Obama and Jackson are both African-Americans who had the courage to aim high, but that’s about all they have in common. To compare them is to see only race in each man’s candidacy.

Caroline and Edward Kennedy feel a better comparison is to John Kennedy, and I do, too.

Obama and Kennedy both rallied and inspired young and disaffected voters. Both are progressives with compelling messages of hope. If we can see past skin color, we see comparisons differently.

What of the fact that 78% of the African-American voters in South Carolina supported Obama — does that mean they “voted their race”? This, to me, would be disturbing, implying that Obama’s position on issues, character and leadership, have nothing to do with black votes. But I don’t believe they supported Obama “because of” Obama’s race, any more than the overwhelmingly white Iowa voters chose Obama because of race.

To suggest that South Carolina blacks voted solely on race is insulting to African-Americans, suggesting that they do not research candidates or care about the issues like everyone else.

The “because of race” reasoning assumes that Obama is not the best candidate for the job. If he is, the argument is turned on its head. Perhaps only one-quarter of South Carolina whites voted for Obama because his race stood in their way of picking the best candidate for the job, whereas African-American voters were not blinded by Obama’s heritage.

The same reasoning could apply to Hillary Clinton. If she is the best candidate for the job, her higher numbers among women could reflect that women do not see her gender as an impediment, whereas men do.

In other words, instead of focusing on African-American support for Obama and female support for Clinton, why not analyze why their numbers are lower among whites and men? Because whites and men, even now in 2008 America, are considered the norm, and nonwhites and women are still considered “other,” with our “otherness” leaping out to analysts louder than anything else we do, and in the eyes of most analysts, our “otherness” is our defining characteristic, entirely driving how we think and vote.

Simone de Beauvoir wrote in 1949:

In the midst of an abstract discussion it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman’; but I know that my only defence is to reply: ‘I think thus and so because it is true,’ thereby removing my subjective self from the argument. It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man’, for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity.

Both Obama and Clinton candidacies are historic, and yes, that is worth mentioning in the coverage. And we would be remiss if we did not talk about the race and gender divides in voting, especially when they are pronounced.

But this election for most voters is about the issues: the economy, Iraq, health care. Our coverage is shallow — literally skin-deep — if we focus obsessively on Obama’s race and Clinton’s gender.

If we are to become a color-blind and gender-neutral people, let’s stop treating all the white males in the race as normal people, devoid of gender and race, and Obama and Clinton as the black man and the woman. And let’s stop dividing up voters solely on the basis of race and gender. Some of us “others” have a lot more going on than the color or the shape of our skin.

We may want out of this war, we may want experience, we may want health care for everyone, we may want a Supreme Court that will continue to protect abortion rights. And even if we vote for one of our own — as white males have for centuries — let’s reject the knee-jerk assumption that the only reason is race or gender.

– Lisa Bloom, ‘In Session’ Anchor/360° Contributor


Filed under: In Session • Lisa Bloom • Raw Politics
January 28th, 2008
12:30 PM ET

Demanding to be heard - and tuned out

It's heartbreaking. And maybe it's only a New York City phenomenon. Or an urban one.

Black- and brown-skinned children acting out on the subway. And I'm not talking about infants or toddlers. I am talking about teenagers and young adults.

Jami Floyd

Jami Floyd frequently comments on issues of the day.

Loud and foul-mouthed, drawing stares from respectable black folks and sidelong glances from others too intimidated to look at them directly. This was heard this morning on the platform at West 86th,"Punk-a– Mother F-er! You b–ch. God damn! Sheeeeet."

This, from the mouths of babes, whilst the mothers of real babies, six-, seven-, eight-year-olds, looked on in resigned disgust, trying to distract their little ones from the sordid spectacle. And it's not just on public transportation.

It happens elsewhere, too. Grocery stores, street corners, the Gap. But the subway car is confining and the behavior inescapable. So, what is this about, this bad behavior on trains and buses?

I grew up alongside these kids in an even grittier New York City. And sure, kids can be loud. But there is something about these poor kids from the inner city and I have thought about this for years. I've come to the conclusion that it is about power.

These are children who feel powerless - powerless over their neglectful schools, powerless over their dysfunctional families, powerless over their roach-infested apartments - no heat in winter, no cool relief in summer.

They see a world in which they will likely be left behind and they don't like it but they feel powerless to change it.

Their obnoxious and embarrassing behavior is a cry for help - for attention. They seem to be saying, "Look at me! See me! Hear me! I am here! I will not be ignored." But of course - they are ignored.

The sad irony is that the behavior they exhibit only serves to further marginalize these children. We close our eyes, tune them out. We become immune to these encounters and have learned to do precisely what these kids are begging us not to do - ignore them. And that is what is so heartbreaking.

– Jami Floyd, “In Session” Anchor/360° ContributorRead more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session”

Filed under: Jami Floyd
January 28th, 2008
11:36 AM ET

Race vs. Gender: Take 3

Well, well, well.

Look what happened in South Carolina. All week last week I was reporting about black women voters there and the struggle they face in deciding whether to vote their race or their gender in choosing between Sens. Obama and Clinton.


The experts I spoke with told me in the black community there is a perception that race trumps gender so any black woman voting for Hillary Clinton might be considered a sellout.

Every black woman I talked with said they were planning to vote the issues and hoped others would do the same.

Whether they did or didn’t in the end, black women sure turned out for Sen. Barack Obama.

The much-coveted voting bloc overwhelmingly voted for Obama: 78 percent of black women went with the Illinois Senator. Never before has this group held so much power in deciding who could become the democratic nominee. As Obama and Clinton move toward Super Tuesday do you think we’ll see the same voting trend? What about women in general?

Among women, Obama defeated Clinton in South Carolina 54 to 30 percent, reversing what had happened in New Hampshire after his big win with women in Iowa.

Things are sure to get even more interesting from here on in. Send me your thoughts! 

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent

Filed under: AC360° Staff • Barack Obama • Hillary Clinton • Randi Kaye • Raw Politics • Top Stories
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