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Roland S. Martin
When is the last time a decision by a presidential candidate ended up being good for him, and his opponent?
That is certainly the case with Sen. Barack Obama’s decision on Thursday to become the first candidate since the program went into effect in 1976 to make the bold move.
The move is a huge help to Sen. John McCain because he has cast himself as the fierce independent who is all about reform, even to the point of opposing President George W. Bush on key initiatives. By Obama ceding ground on this issue, he goes against all of the signals he sent for many months on the issue of public financing of campaigns.
Obama made the decision in a video message sent to his supporters, and it didn’t take long for the McCain to jump all over the decrying it as the clearest indication that the junior senator from Illinois is not the breath of fresh air that he has portrayed himself to be.
Executive Director, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law
Author of A Return to Common Sense
Barack Obama's decision to opt out of public funding for the general election is not a surprise. It was so well telegraphed, he should take out a patent.
The presidential public funding system worked well for three decades after it was enacted in the early 1970s. It leveled the playing field, boosted competition and reduced corruption. Think of it this way: in the first five elections under presidential public funding, a challenger beat an incumbent president three times. There's no congressional district in America with that much competition!
But the presidential system needs repair. Principally, candidates simply don't get enough money to mount a fully strong race in a modern election. The amount, when it was set, was about two thirds of the amount spent by the McGovern campaign of 1972 - in other words, two thirds of the least successful presidential campaign in modern history!
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.quincyflood.jpg caption="The Mississippi River rushes through a break in Indian Grave Drainage District levee north of Quincy, Ill"]
Author of Damned To Eternity
Look at Quincy, observe the massive relief effort. And notice all those outsiders there on the banks of the Big Muddy. Look familiar? It sure as hell should. In fact, you should be listening to CSN&Y’s deja vu "we-have-all-been-here-before" refrain as you watch any national news broadcast any day this week from atop the Memorial Bridge. They’re all railing about the Great Floods of 2008—that if the levee across the river in West Quincy, Missouri, fails, 14,000 acres of prime farmland will be deluged and all commerce in a 200-mile stretch between Keokuk, Iowa, and St. Louis will shut down. Just like when the levees “failed” in 1993.
But here’s the thing: The West Quincy levee did not “fail” in 1993. It was sabotaged. Indeed, even though 500 levees up and down the Mississippi River failed in 1993 (and another 500 levees failed on the rivers that feed into the Mississippi), West Quincy was an anomaly: That levee would have held were it not for James Scott, a local bad boy who is serving life in prison for causing its break.
Here’s why I’m so red hot:
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.leveesandbags.jpg caption="Working on securing the levee along the Mississippi River in Clarksville, Mo., Tuesday."]
Good Evening. It's gone from bad to worse in the midwest. At least three levees north of St. Louis, Missouri have failed and another one is on the brink. If it fails, all bets are off. Tonight, a massive sandbagging effort is underway to save that one levee from the floodwaters. Other towns are on alert, too. We'll have a live report from 360's Gary Tuchman, who's in Winfield, Missouri.
Plus, a potential disaster in the making. CNN's Drew Griffin has uncovered a troubling confession from FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding some leeves in the midwest. We're keeping them honest.
Also tonight, new details in the manhunt for a fugitive hedge fund manager. You may recall, investigators believe Samuel Israel faked a suicide last week instead of showing up at prison. Well, tonight, there's been an arrest. We'll tell you who and why.
Hope you'll join us at 10pm ET.
David M. Reisner
360° Digital Producer
The Mississippi River claimed new tracts of farmland overnight north of St. Louis, Missouri, as officials warned that the swollen river could breach four or five more levees today around the Gateway City. About 11 levees have been breached in the St. Louis area since the flooding began.
When you hear the term 'levee breach,' what does that mean exactly? A levee breach can come from any number of scenarios. I put together a slideshow to show you all the different ways a levee can fail. Take a look:
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.flood.jpg caption= "Photos taken from CNN Photojournalist Steve Coppin on Blackhawk Tour in the Quincy, IL area"]
Someone once told me the best way to get perspective in life is to try to see yourself from 1000 feet above ground.
That was particularly true this morning. I got a call at 7:30 am asking if I could be at the airport in Quincy, Illinois by 8 a.m. to go up in a Blackhawk helicopter to tour the flood zone. I said, "Sure."
I been driving along the Mississippi River the past few days seeing the flood damage at eye level, from Burlington, Iowa to Quincy. I've watched volunteers sand bag for hours, talked to police and seen homes and farms destroyed by the mammouth Mississipi. But I didn't really have perspective until today from the bird's eye view.
I and photojournalist Steve Coppin met up with members of the Illinois National Guard 1st Battalion 106 Aviation Regiment out of Decatur, IL. Five minutes later we were up in the UH60 Blackhawk...
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/19/art.michelleobamaview2.jpg caption ="Michelle Obama on 'The View' yesterday."]
President, Center for the Advancement of Women
The dissection of the mainstream media’s role in the downfall of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign is not yet exhausted. The power of the print, electronic and cyber press to reflect society’s values and reinforce or influence change is indisputable. While the media washing cites isolated incidents of gender bias and overblown reactions, the debate revealed an often unspoken truth: sexism is not dead. In fact, it is broadly tolerated, beyond the candidates, crushing in various ways the lives of more than half of the electorate. Each of us must take responsibility for making sexism as unacceptable as racism.
Mrs. Clinton’s run for the Democratic nomination taught us that today’s sexism is cast at the individual, not at a system that’s capable of supporting a woman conduct a credible and competitive campaign for the presidency. She emerged from the fabric of our society’s sexist stereotypes as a lightning rod aspiring to the highest male bastion of arguably the most powerful political position in the world. However, her ascent was laced with shockingly open and often unspoken intolerance and hatred, not unlike the challenges women encounter in their daily lives. Gender bias is often insidiously subtle, sitting on the fence between humor and questionable behavior, and pernicious to the advancement of our country.
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Will Smith, Charlize Theron pose at the opening ceremony of the Moscow international film festival in Moscow, Thursday.
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Candy Crowley BIO
Senior Political Correspondent
You know on the income tax form, there’s that box you check if you want to put three dollars in a kitty to fund political campaigns? I’m not taking names here. I know you don’t pony up. Most people don’t.
Barack Obama doesn’t want your money anyway - at least not funneled through the US Treasury. He’s opting out.
Cutting to the bottom line, he raised more than $272 million in the primary season. (Notice how much smaller that sounds than what it really is? Over a quarter a BILLION dollars.) You can only spend 85 million if you take federal money in the general campaign. This must have been a nanosecond decision-making process.
Other bottom line: John McCain raised less than 99 million in the primary season. Calculator please.
WAIT WAIT WAIT. Do not surf away. I can make this interesting, or at least short.