September 2nd, 2008
08:14 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Convention full speed ahead

Cate Vojdik
AC360° Writer

The Republican National Convention is getting into full swing tonight, a day later than planned, thanks to Hurricane Gustav. The trick will be to fit all the planned speakers into the shortened timeframe. Among the GOP headliners we’ll hear from tonight: Sen. Joe Lieberman, former Sen. Fred Thompson, First Lady Laura Bush …and President Bush.

President Bush will make his comments live via remote from the White House. That’s about 1,000 miles from St. Paul in case you were wondering. Bush was supposed to give his speech live in St. Paul yesterday but backed out as Gustav hurtled toward the Gulf Coast. Today, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it was a “mutual decision” that Bush would address the convention by remote instead of in person. A new national poll hints at what may have fueled that mutual decision. In the CNN/Opinion Research poll, only one in three Americans approve of the job Bush is doing. A quarter of those polled say Bush is the worst president in U.S. history, and six in ten have an unfavorable view of him personally. Ouch. And here’s what’s most troubling for the McCain campaign: A majority of those polled say that McCain’s policies would be the same as Bush’s, a number that has risen slightly since the Democratic convention ended.

The prevailing wisdom is that John McCain’s biggest task in St. Paul is to distance himself from Bush – and his policies. The big wild card is whether McCain’s surprising choice for a running mate will help or hurt him in this respect. McCain’s staffers spent much of the day responding to questions about how thoroughly Sarah Palin was vetted before she was tagged as veep. Their answer: very. But considering Palin’s pregnant teenage daughter and the so-called trooper-gate investigation that Palin’s facing back in her home state of Alaska, not everyone was swallowing that answer.

But back to the task at hand for the McCain campaign. The speakers you’ll hear tonight will talk about what makes him the right choice for president and why he’s his own man. They’ll talk about McCain the maverick, the former POW, the public servant. We’ll hear more about his adopted daughter, Bridget. It’s all part of the convention’s overarching theme: service above self. That’s the plan in broad brush strokes.

What do you think it will take to convince voters like those in the new CNN poll that McCain will chart a new and better course as president if elected? We’d love to hear from you. And stay with CNN for our special live coverage of the RNC in St. Paul.

Here’s tonight’s lineup:

September 2nd, 2008
07:05 PM ET

Broken levees and saving a Cormorant

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.pj.bird2.jpg caption="Plaquemines Parish's Coastal Management Director PJ Hahn cleaning the distressed bird."]Kay Jones
AC360° Editorial Producer

I went about and hour and a half south of New Orleans to check out a potentially serious levee breech in Plaquemines Parish. Photographer Leon Jobe and I got on an air boat with a local guy, Jimmy, and the parish's Coastal Management Director PJ Hahn. What we saw was a major collapse of the levee, but fortunately no homes in immediate danger.

On our way back to the car, Jimmy spotted a bird in distress. The cormorant, which looks a lot like a seagull, was desperately trying to stay afloat. It was wrapped up in debris from the water, and being eaten up by fire ants. PJ reached in and helped free the bird of the debris, and washed the fire ants off. He then tried to check and see if its wings were broken. Luckily, it looked as if the poor thing was just exhausted more than anything.

We took the boat back to the levee and dropped off the bird. Hopefully, the poor thing had time to rest and get back on his way.

Here's one more picture: me and "local guy" Jimmy on an air boat south of New Orleans.

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav • Kay Jones
September 2nd, 2008
06:29 PM ET

China gets $3 billion oil deal with Iraq

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.iraq.oil.jpg width=292 height=320]

Editor's Note: Iraq has approved a $3 billion deal with China to develop the al-Ahdab oil field. It's the first oil deal to be honored by Iraq and its new Iraqi government since the fall of Saddam Hussein, originally canceled after the 2003 invasion. Under the contract, China National Petroleum Corp. will develop the field for 20 years. It's expected to produce up to 25,000 barrels a day after three years, and eventually reach 125,000 barrels per day. CNN's Baghdad correspondent Arwa Damon share's with us the mood on the ground:

Arwa Damon | BIO
CNN Baghdad Correspondent

The news that Iraq had signed a “service contract” with China made the A bloc in the locals newscasts, but caused little reaction among most Iraq’s still trying to grapple with the difficulties of day to day life. The contract is in fact but a tiny fraction of Iraq’s oil wealth, and is service only – the China National Petroleum Company is going to provide technical advice, oil workers, and equipment. Iraq has already sworn that all oil revenue would go straight into the Iraqi treasury.

Problem is – Iraq, though expecting to rake in an additional 70 billion dollars of oil revenue this year – can’t get its oil flowing at full capacity. The extra and unexpected surplus is due to the rising oil prices, and has little to do with oil flow. The country’s oil infrastructure is in shambles. This is the first deal that government signed to try to address that problem, and in that sense it is significant. And its also symbolic – its the first deal signed with a foreign oil company since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Aside from needing to rebuild the oil infrastructure, there’s also the political side of if all. Iraq still needs to pass an oil law to define how much of the revenue goes into the central government’s pocket, how much to the provinces, and how to deal with who gets the money from unknown reserves. And that’s all caught up in tensions between the country’s Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurdish political blocs, each that wants what they think is their fair share of Iraq’s black gold. Even the spokesman for Iraq’s government concedes that that’s not going to pass anytime soon.

Iraqi’s are fully aware of how wealthy their country is and the potential that is out there, but few really believe it will turn into anything tangible that will improve their lives anytime soon.

As one of our Iraqi staff put it “From a burnt house you can take what you want, the house is burnt anyways”.

Filed under: Arwa Damon • Global 360° • Iraq
September 2nd, 2008
05:16 PM ET

Erica's News Note: The messy politics of parenting

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.palin.baby.jpg caption="This undated photo provided by the Heath family shows Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with her daughter Piper in Wasilla, Alaska." width=292 height=320]

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The McCain campaign is running on a simple motto, a seemingly simple concept: Country First. For John McCain, those words are more than a campaign slogan; they’re also the foundation for McCain’s personal journey. Just after returning from Vietnam, McCain wrote about his time as a POW. “I had a lot of time to think over there, and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life - along with a man’s family – is to make some contribution to his country.”

Country and family. For many Americans, if you add God to that list, you’d complete the list of things they hold most dear. But which of those very important parts of your life truly comes first? That is the uncomfortable question many voters are now posing, and there is no easy answer.

The life of a working mom has never been – and likely will never be – easy. Full disclosure: I am a working mother. I am also far from perfect.

This is not to say the life of a working father is easy; it’s not. But let’s be realistic, men and women deal with situations differently. We feel different pressures. Some are very real, others certainly seem that way. We also feel differently. No matter how far we have come, we are judged differently because we are different.

When Gov. Sarah Palin was announced as John McCain’s running mate on Friday, the reality of working moms and dads - their responsibilities, their loyalties, their daily struggles - was suddenly a hot topic… again. She’s not just a working mom; she is the working mother of five with a job that doesn’t come with many days or hours off. Her youngest, Trig, is still an infant. How do you juggle a baby and the #2 elected job in the US? That question has ignited the blogs, especially the Mommy blogs.

Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note • Sarah Palin
September 2nd, 2008
05:08 PM ET

McCain female supporters racist for ripping Obama's experience

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.carlyfiorina.jpg caption="Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard and economic advisor to presidential candidate John McCain, tours the podium at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn." width=292 height=320]

Roland S. Martin | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Political Analyst

This blog post has nothing to do with Sen. Barack Obama and whether he has the experience needed to be president.

And no, I don’t think Sen. John McCain’s female supporters are racists.

The focus is really on the pathetic attempts by them to use their gender as a whipping stick to decry any criticism of his vice presidential pick, Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin.

Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and RNC Victory 2008 chair, released a statement today assailing anyone – namely men – who doesn't have nice things to say about Palin.

“I am appalled by the Obama campaign’s attempts to belittle Governor Sarah Palin’s experience. The facts are that Sarah Palin has made more executive decisions as a Mayor and Governor than Barack Obama has made in his life," she said. "Because of Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the Presidency and the treatment she received, American women are more highly tuned than ever to recognize and decry sexism in all its forms. They will not tolerate sexist treatment of Governor Palin.”

So let go ahead say it: Fiorina is a virulent bigot. Why? Because she just launched an unwarranted attack on the credibility, integrity and experience of Obama.

Now how stupid do I sound by saying that her criticism of Obama is due to the fact that he's a black man?

Well, Carly, you sound dumb trying to do it as well.

This is nothing more than a brushback attempt by the McCain campaign to prevent anyone from challenging Palin, and it's a pathetic and gross attempt to play the woman card.

For the idiots out there who choose to write about her looks, put up photoshop-altered images emphasizing her looks, or remarking about her physical appearance, they are fools.

But it is perfectly legitimate for Democrats to questions Palin's resume, just as it is for Republicans to go after Obama's resume.

Yet this is clearly the GOP's plan.


Filed under: Barack Obama • John McCain • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
September 2nd, 2008
04:29 PM ET

The talk about Sarah Palin

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.palin.podium.jpg caption="Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, addresses the crowd at a campaign stop in Washington, Pa. Saturday." width=292 height=320]

Barclay Palmer
AC360° Senior Producer

Everyone’s talking about Sarah Palin, even some who say we shouldn’t be.

John McCain’s campaign has decried “smears.” Rudy Giuliani said a reporter should be “ashamed” for asking if Palin’s 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy would detract from the Republican Convention. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have said candidates’ children are off limits.

Ok, got it.

And yet, given that Jenna Bush’s wedding photos were viewed by millions around the world, and that culture wars have periodically engulfed this country for decades now, with arguments over what exactly constitutes "family values," should we be surprised that people – and the press – are asking about Sarah Palin’s life and decisions, and her daughter’s too?

More to the point – is it all bad? Come on, there's good in it, too.

Sarah Palin’s candidacy has sparked a passionate national dialogue about what’s the right balance of work and motherhood, or simply parenthood. Her story is making us think differently about old arguments over "family values," "personal responsibility," and "good judgment."

"It's the Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition," as Jodi Kantor and Rachel Swarns put it so memorably in today's New York Times, "But this time the battle lines are drawn inside out, with social conservatives, usually staunch advocates for stay-at-home motherhood, mostly defending her, while some others, including plenty of working mothers, worry that she is taking on too much."

Yes, these are hot button issues. And some people are understandably upset. But some of the dialogue about work/family balance, teen pregnancy, even the degree to which politicians' familiy lives should be a subject of public discussion, is important.

In the middle of a presidential campaign that will set the nation's direction for the next four years, these are good things for us to be thinking about, and talking about, in a new way.

What's your take?

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • Raw Politics • Sarah Palin
September 2nd, 2008
04:03 PM ET

Obama's high-tech edge is changing politics

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.obama.lights.jpg]
Leslie Sanchez
AC360° Contributor | Bio
Republican Strategist

In 1840, a young Whig organizer named Abraham Lincoln wrote the guidebook on political field work. His "confidential" circular advised Whig campaign operatives to "make a perfect list of all the voters and ascertain with certainty for whom they will vote."

Almost 170 years later, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign is demonstrating the wisdom of Lincoln's counsel.

Computers have long since replaced the 3 by 5 cards that for generations were the stock-in-trade of precinct captains in both political parties - green cards for voters who supported your candidate, red ones for those opposed and white cards for the undecided. Every campaign needed to persuade the white cards, get out the green cards on Election Day, and keep a close watch on turnout by the red cards.

Marrying creative marketing techniques with state-of-the-art technology, Obama has taken the voter identification process to lengths nobody could have anticipated just four years ago.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Leslie Sanchez • Raw Politics
September 2nd, 2008
03:55 PM ET

Seeing Gustav's flood damage from the air

Paul Courson
CNN Producer

Where are all the people? I've never seen a big city with empty streets and sidewalks, and even though I knew New Orleans was evacuated, seeing what that meant was TROUBLING. But the lack of much visible damage became reassuring. From a couple hundred feet in the sky, I could see that even the Riverwalk area, at the edge of the water, had been spared.

Not so for the Biloxi-Gulfport coastline. There, a few wrecked boats and many flooded houses showed where the storm surge left its mark.

In one hard-hit area, we circled around a large residential area, as the crew checked whether anyone had been trapped and needed rescue. Fortunately, everyone seemed to have evacuated this locale as well.

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav
September 2nd, 2008
03:41 PM ET

Times are hard in St. Bernard

Jim Spellman
CNN Producer
St. Bernard Parish

The sign reads "times are hard in St. Bernard" and whatever spray paint poet wrote it has got it right.

Its not so much that Gustav brought hard times, the damage here from wind, water and a few levee issues has been relatively minor, but walking the neighborhood’s streets here makes it clear that three years after Katrina, the mess from that killer storm still remains.

Across the street from the sign sits a house with another kind of spray painted sign–the familiar cross with the number that search and rescue folks left behind.


Post by:
Filed under: Hurricane Gustav • Hurricanes
September 2nd, 2008
03:22 PM ET

At Gustav shelter: 'We almost had a riot here last night.'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/02/art.vert.shelter.jpg caption="The View from inside the Coliseum shelter in Alexandira, Louisiana." width=292 height=320]

Christine Romans | BIO
CNN Correspondent

The people who endured long bus rides to shelters far from home to escape Gustav are ready to go home.

But now they have to wait, and the patience is wearing thin. So is the food and the plumbing.

In Alexandria, Louisiana, local Red Cross volunteer Herb Boykin left the Coliseum shelter last night only to be called back to calm the evacuees.

'We almost had a riot here last night.'


Post by:
Filed under: Christine Romans • Hurricane Gustav • Hurricanes
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