September 8th, 2009
03:55 PM ET
September 8th, 2009
03:08 PM ET

Can Obama overcome three big challenges on Wednesday night?

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David Gergen | Bio
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Political Analyst

In his fiery speech over Labor Day to the AFL-CIO, President Obama signaled that he intends to seize the offensive on health care this Wednesday night as he addresses a joint session of Congress. His supporters believe that it is none too soon and hope that his appearance will be a game-changer.

Obama has shown repeatedly in the past that when a speech really matters, he can sink a three-pointer from 30 feet and he knows it – “I’m LeBron, baby,” he told journalist David Mendell just before he delivered a boffo speech to the 2004 Democratic convention that catapulted him to fame.

Even so, Wednesday night’s health care speech may be one of the toughest he has faced, as he has to overcome at least three major challenges all at once.

First, he has to reverse the tide of public opinion that has turned against the Democrats’ general effort to overhaul health care. While most Americans agree that the system needs to be fixed, poll after poll shows that the country is at best divided on Obamacare as the answer – and some polls show greater numbers oppose than favor. Moreover, many of those who oppose do so passionately – a factor that heavily influences Members of Congress.


Filed under: 360° Radar • David Gergen • Health Care
September 8th, 2009
02:49 PM ET

Rethink learning. Now.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/08/obama.school.speech/art.duncan.cnn.jpg caption="Education Secretary Arne Duncan, second from right, listens to Obama's speech Tuesday."]

Sam Chaltain
Forum for Education and Democracy, National Director

Today, as young people across the country head back to school, the rest of us would be wise to heed the words of our former president by asking ourselves, our neighbors and our elected officials a simple question:

“Is our children learning?”

The answer, of course, may depend largely on where you live. But what troubles me more than that basic lack of fairness is that our entire public education system isn’t even being asked to measure whether or not young people are learning – only whether they are demonstrating progress on basic-skills standardized tests in 3rd and 8th grade reading and math.

As everyone knows, learning involves more than basic skills and regurgitating information. It requires higher-order skills and the capacity to digest, make sense of, and apply what we’ve been taught.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Education
September 8th, 2009
12:11 PM ET
September 8th, 2009
12:04 PM ET

Syria attempts to combat the rise of human trafficking

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/07/art.charity.syria.workshop1.jpg caption="Representatives from the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the interior ministry and the UNHCR at the workshop last month."]

Charity Tooze
AC360° Contributor

Syria is making significant steps to protect the most vulnerable of Iraqi refugees – women and children who are trafficked or forced into prostitution.

Last month, Syrian government officials met with representatives from the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) for a three-day workshop. The purpose of the meeting was to develop laws for the rights and duties of refugees, train local officials on refugee issues and address the growing problem of human trafficking.

An anti-trafficking bill is currently working its way through the Syrian parliament. If passed, it will be the first law of its kind in the Middle East. There are also a number of projects under way to protect women who are trafficked into the country for sex tourism or indentured servitude.

“Women at risk are a priority for the Damascus [UNHCR] office especially in view of their increasing vulnerability to exploitation under economic duress,” said Farah Dakhlallah, public information officer for the UNHCR in Syria.

The anti-trafficking law has been working its way through parliament for more than a year. It includes provisions for victim compensation, the establishment of rehabilitation centers, punishment for beneficiaries (clients), and the creation of an independent administration within the ministry of interior affairs for combating human trafficking crimes.


Filed under: Global 360° • Middle East • Women's Issues • Women's Rights
September 8th, 2009
11:47 AM ET
September 8th, 2009
11:24 AM ET
September 8th, 2009
10:34 AM ET

Morning Buzz: The most dangerous job in Afghanistan?

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Eliza Browning
AC360° Associate Producer

Anderson is reporting live in Afghanistan this week where he is embedded with troops on the frontlines of the fight against the Taliban. He went out on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) patrol this morning and talked to a commanding officer who has the most dangerous job in Afghanistan – he’s the first to identify the IEDs as the patrols sweep through new areas. Anderson talks to this officer about what it’s like to be exposed to this type of danger day after day.

Anderson is joined by Michael Ware, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Peter Bergen who are also in the country reporting on what President Obama has called a “war of necessity.” Anderson is writing on the blog about the new strategy the Marines have developed to regain control of Helmand province. Check out his piece and photos from his reporting.

Michael Ware also went out with an Afghan police commander on patrol. He gets a firsthand look at what the police officer faces every night as he confronts the Taliban in his mission to secure the area. And in the middle of this war-torn country, Dr. Sanjay Gupta meets up with the only vascular surgeon for the entire country of Afghanistan. He is a long way from home, but it turns out he and Dr. Gupta both hail from Atlanta. This doctor explains how he found himself in Afghanistan trying to save lives in this battlefield hospital and the two find they have quite a lot in common, even in this world away from their hometown.


Filed under: Eliza Browning • The Buzz
September 8th, 2009
08:31 AM ET

Dear President Obama #232: Falling czars

Reporter's Note: President Obama asked Americans for advice when he took office. I’ve been writing a letter a day ever since. I have no idea if he reads them or if he thinks my advice is worth a nickel, but that’s no reason to stop trying.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/09/07/obama.czars/art.van.jones.gi.jpg caption="Van Jones resigned from his "green jobs czar" post amid criticism."]

Tom Foreman | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Here’s the thing: You just can’t make it easy for your opponents to beat up on you. Sure you have to take some punches. Sure you’ll occasionally be on the ropes. But you have to keep your arms up, your head protected, and you can’t give your opponents free chances to ring your bell. Which brings me to all of these Czars of yours.

The fact that the Republicans and the talk radio army just forced Green Jobs Czar Van Jones into an unexpected and sudden exit probably does not matter much in the big scheme. These things happen in full-contact politics. But your opponents are now triangulating the whole idea of you having so many Czars, and that is potentially real trouble. The more they start digging up past statements, articles, school papers, and grocery lists written by these Czars of yours, the more they are going to come after you with what they find. “If President Obama chose a person like this,” they will ask with St. Louis arches for eyebrows, “what does that tell you about his judgment?”

Now, before you get defensive, I’m not going to weigh in on the question of whether you should have so many Czars, or whether they should be subjected to more formal scrutiny by the legislative branch. You and the rest of the political crowd have to hammer that out. What I will suggest is that the best defense for any president under attack is offense, and patience.


September 8th, 2009
07:28 AM ET
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