January 31st, 2010
07:16 AM ET

Dear President Obama #377: The media's fault? Don't bet on it

Reporter's Note: President Obama’s dressing down of the Republicans continues to make news, as do their responses to what he had to say. It was a pretty unusual moment in presidential politics. And that’s what I’m writing about as I continue my relentless quest to write a letter every single day, to the man on Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

I know I wrote about your big meeting with the GOP’ers just yesterday, but I really want to pick up on that theme again today. Only this time, I want to talk about myself. Or rather, me and a lot of people like me, who comprise the media.

As you made that call for a change of tone in the political debate, one of your complaints is that we media types focus too often on the bitter words, sharp exchanges, and what an old friend of mine used to call “chair throwing” fights. Fair enough. I’ll readily admit that my profession has an unseemly appetite for flamethrowers on both sides of the aisle. Sure, we could make room for moderates to chew over the fine details of a pending agreement, but it’s so much more fun watching a pair of grenade lobbers square off. (To be honest, I actually don’t find that fun at all. Usually when I hear strident voices from either the far left or far right I start looking for a snack and wondering what is on ESPN. That said it is a simple equation for grabbing quick viewers, and that is certainly part of the problem too.)


January 30th, 2010
07:17 AM ET

Dear President Obama #376: Now, tee up your Democrats

Reporter's Note: President Obama had a pretty hard core sit down with the GOP crowd over their differences. It produced a wild array of headlines, and of course, a subject for my daily letter to the White House.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

This meeting you had with the Republicans created quite a stir in D.C., and I must say I like the idea of more like it. Throw the whole bunch, Dems, Repubs, and Indies into a room; toss in an idea like a fumbled football, and let them thrash it out under the TV lights. What fun! It kind of goes along with my longstanding idea that political races should actually be “races.” But that’s for another day.

Back on topic: There is a widespread sense that this was a case of you taking on the opposition; standing up in the lion’s den, refuting their most egregious false claims, and calling them to join in a new effort of honesty, openness and cooperation. Now, I have a one sentence suggestion that, I suspect, can make all the difference in whether that initiative proves effective: Do the same thing with the Democrats.

You don’t have to spend more than a day chatting up the power players in the Capitol, to realize that each party has an ample supply of folks who are quick to blame the opposition for anything that goes wrong, who readily cite incomplete statistics or evidence, and who raise the sword of false accusations in a heartbeat. A president who challenges such behavior in the opposing party is really nothing new. A president who will do the same in his own party…well, that would be interesting.


January 29th, 2010
11:33 PM ET

"If you really want to hear about it..."

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Bill Scheft
Special to AC360°

"I wasn't watching the game too much. What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of goodbye."

So spaketh Holden Caulfield as he stood on a hill before he left Pencey Prep and set out to become the greatest literary anti-hero of the 20th Century..

I am a cliche. A lost boy born just after Eisenhower had triumphed a second time over creeping intellectualism. I read The Catcher in the Rye for the first time when I was 12, the second when I was 15, the third when I was 18, the fourth when I was 22 and on the train to New Haven to cover my last Harvard hockey game. I opened my game story with that quote , which was the first thing I thought of yesterday at 1:07 pm, when my computer told me JD Salinger had died.

I am a cliche. I read everything the man ever allowed to be published, as well as a noble effort of biography/litigation memoir, In Search of JD Salinger written by Ian Hamilton, another lost boy looking for more. At 22, I went out on a date with a girl named Esme SOLELY because her name was Esme. (Do I have to bother to tell you when she rolled her eyes and said, "What, Salinger again?" that I wasn't the first.)


January 29th, 2010
10:34 PM ET

In their boots

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Dave Schechter
CNN Senior National Editor

Every so often, I’ll be looking online for one thing when something else grabs my attention.
It happened again this week.
While researching topics that ranged from the federal stimulus program to food banks to the Census, I came across www.intheirboots.com.

I defy anyone to watch the videos on this website without feeling pangs of emotion.
They are heartfelt, touching, poignant, wrenching, sad and joyous.

For many (most?) Americans, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan can be out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
Unless you have a relative or friend in harm’s way, it’s easy not to think about those conflicts.
The pace U.S. casualties in Iraq has slowed (now at 4,374, with another 31,616 wounded, per www.icasualties.org while the toll in Afghanistan accelerates (now at 972, with 9,496 wounded).


January 29th, 2010
09:44 PM ET

Live Blog from the Anchor Desk 01/29/10

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Tonight on 360°, new hope for some of Haiti's orphans. Plus, we're tracking your tax dollars used for the stimulus. Are new jobs being created? We also have the rare showdown between Pres. Obama and GOP lawmakers. A Q & A session like you've never seen before.

Want to know what else we're covering? Read EVENING BUZZ

Scroll down to join the live chat during the program. It's your chance to share your thoughts on tonight's headlines. Keep in mind, you have a better chance of having your comment get past our moderators if you follow our rules.

Here are some of them:

1) Keep it short (we don't have time to read a "book")
2) Don't write in ALL CAPS (there's no need to yell)
3) Use your real name (first name only is fine)
4) No links
5) Watch your language (keep it G-rated; PG at worst - and that includes $#&*)

Filed under: Live Blog • T1
January 29th, 2010
09:24 PM ET

First stimulus project nears completion, job questions remain

David Fitzpatrick
CNN's Special Investigative Unit

A town with a population of 218 sitting more than three hours from St. Louis would seem like an unlikely place for the nation's first stimulus project.

Yet the progress is apparent on a new $9 million bridge over the Osage River, and the span is scheduled to receive its first automobile and truck traffic sometime in midsummer. It's replacing a bridge built when Franklin Roosevelt was president on what the Missouri Department of Transportation says is the most direct link between Missouri's capitol, Jefferson City, and a large U.S. Army installation, Fort Leonard Wood.

The earth-moving equipment kicked in only minutes after President Obama signed the economic stimulus bill his administration pushed through Congress 11 months ago. Missouri's Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, was present at the first shovel turning and the state paid for a satellite truck to beam images of the ceremony to every resident of the state who wanted to see it.

State and federal officials said at that time that the bridge would create about 30 direct jobs and spin off another 220 "indirect" jobs - supplying the steel, pouring the concrete and boosting the local community's economy.

Keep reading...

Filed under: 360° Radar • David Fitzpatrick • Stimulus
January 29th, 2010
08:58 PM ET

Cash for Clunkers: The gift that keeps on taking

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Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez
Special to AC360°

Toyota’s decision to halt production and recall popular models with a sticky accelerator problem has received tremendous media coverage, although this has almost exclusively been focused on the potential impact of this crisis on the company’s profitability rather than on the safety of its customers.

Other industry stories, like those about Ford’s return to profitability and about the sparkling new, and in some cases greener, vehicles on display at this month’s Detroit and Washington Auto Shows have been taken as signposts of the sector’s coming recovery.

While a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed that 65 percent of the public is unhappy about the government bailout of the car companies (even higher than the 60 percent who dislike the bank bailouts), there remains a continuing conflation, among policy makers and the public at large, of what’s good for the auto industry and what’s good for American consumers.


January 29th, 2010
06:40 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Pres. Obama, GOP Face Off at Retreat

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

There was a rare moment in politics today. President Obama and House Republicans agreed to a face-to-face Q-and-A session on live TV. It took place at the House caucus retreat in Baltimore.

The showdown was tense, at times; and as you'd expect there was some laughter and sarcasm.

"I'm having fun, this is great," Obama said when Indiana GOP Rep. Mike Pence asked if he had time for more questions. "So are we," Pence replied.

The Republicans and Obama criticized each other in the session over various issues linked to the economy.

Another hot topic: the battle over health care.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah said the president reneged on a campaign promise to televise the debate over health care reform.

"You talked a lot about this deficit of trust. There's some things that have happened that I would appreciate your perspective on, because I can look you in the eye and tell you we have not been obstructionists. Democrats have the House and Senate and the presidency. And when you stood up before the American people multiple times and said you would broadcast the health care debates on C-SPAN, you didn't. And I was disappointed, and I think a lot of Americans were disappointed," Chaffetz said.

Pres. Obama admitted some mistakes.

"Look, the truth of the matter is that if you look at the health care process - just over the course of the year - overwhelmingly the majority of it actually was on C-SPAN, because it was taking place in congressional hearings in which you guys were participating. I mean, how many committees were there that helped to shape this bill? Countless hearings took place. Now, I kicked it off, by the way, with a meeting with many of you, including your key leadership. What is true, there's no doubt about it, is that once it got through the committee process and there were now a series of meetings taking place all over the Capitol trying to figure out how to get the thing together - that was a messy process. And I take responsibility for not having structured it in a way where it was all taking place in one place that could be filmed, Obama responded.

Other times, some Republicans peppered their questions with conservative talking points. The president listened, but would cut in to share his thoughts.

"I know there's a question in there somewhere, because you're making a whole bunch of assertions, half of which I disagree with," Obama said to Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas.

Pres. Obama also got his message out.

After the event, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said "In some places I kind of felt like I was in my high school assembly being lectured by my principal."

The president likely hopes this part of his message was heard:

"I think both sides can take some blame for a sour climate on Capitol Hill. What I can do maybe to help is to try to bring Republican and Democratic leadership together on a more regular basis with me. That's, I think, a failure on my part, is to try to foster better communications even if there's disagreement. And I will try to see if we can do more of that this year, " Pres. Obama told the GOP lawmakers.

Join us for the raw politics and tonight's other headlines from Haiti and beyond at 10 p.m. ET.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
January 29th, 2010
05:45 PM ET

Video: Heroes helping Haiti

Anderson Cooper | BIO
CNN Anchor

Filed under: Anderson Cooper • CNN Heroes
January 29th, 2010
05:31 PM ET

Video: Quick verdict a 'surprise'


The prosecutor in the Scott Roeder murder case gives her take on the trial.

Filed under: Crime • Crime & Punishment
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