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Jeffrey Toobin | BIO
CNN Senior Legal Analyst
It was the most vivid, and unexpected, confrontation of Wednesday's State of the Union address.
It happened when President Obama said this: "Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests - including foreign corporations - to spend without limit in our elections."
In the audience, Justice Samuel Alito, President Bush's second appointee to the Supreme Court, could be seen shaking his head and saying, it appeared, "Not true, not true."
Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of "Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics," and "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
John Avlon will be on tonight to discuss the stimulus program, the Obama Administration's agenda and what we can expect from the President's State of the Union address tomorrow. Read this excerpt from his book.
The Rise of Independents
The future lies with those wise political leaders who realize that the great public is interested more in Government than in politics . . . The growing independence of voters, after all, has been proven by the votes in every Presidential election since my childhood—and the tendency, frankly, is on the increase.
—Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1940
In the more than sixty years since FDR predicted the rise of independence in the American electorate, analysis of congressional voting records shows that Washington has grown more polarized, driven by ideology and disdaining compromise, than at any time in the recent past.
This trend has especially been on the increase since the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and continued to grow with the anti-Clinton fervor of the 1994 Newt Gingrich–led Republican Revolution. As columnist George Will has written: "Some ideologically intoxicated Republicans think Democrats are not merely mistaken but sinful . . . Some Democrats, having lost their ideological confidence, substitute character assassination for political purpose."
This polarization has been cemented by redistricting—creating safe congressional seats for incumbents to occupy without the built-in check and balance of a credible opposition candidate. Currently, 90 percent of congressional seats are considered "safe." Once upon a time in America, people chose their congressmen; now congressmen choose their people.
As Congress has grown more partisan, however, the electorate has grown steadily more Centrist, with the number of self-identified moderates rising from a bare plurality of 36 percent in 1980 to 50 percent in 1998 and 2000. At the same time, the number of Americans who are reluctant to identify themselves completely with either political party has been steadily rising.
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Special to CNN
What if, at once, we could create millions of new jobs, greatly reduce the federal deficit and dampen the financial speculation that almost destroyed our economy?
Well, we can. And to do so, all we need is more political resolve from President Obama plus some actions by Congress.
The economic recovery that some in the administration allege to be underway is not really much underway at all.
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CNN Senior Political Contributor
The president's first State of the Union speech was an attempt to rev up his troops and convince the country he can lead them to the promised land.
The speech was long and flowing with lots of rhetoric we've heard before. Some of the statistics were new and seemed to stretch the credibility gap.
The president also took credit for the Iraq success which is strange since he opposed the surge that won the war.
Reporter's Note: President Obama gave his State of the Union address last night, and every pundit in the civilized world is giving his or her assessment today. Me? I’m just writing my daily letter to the man on Pennsylvania Avenue.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
Nice job on the speech last night: inspiring phrases, soaring rhetoric, snappy applause lines, good beat…easy to dance to…“Dick, I’ll give it an eight!” Seriously, it was a good piece of work. Now whether it was enough…I can’t really say.
Millions of your fans were no doubt reminded of how you were on the campaign trail and how much that gave them hope for a new future. The biggest problem, however, is what all the semi-fans, independents, and moderates think. Because their support is what will likely sink or save your agenda. Did you really convince them that you are like Fast Eddie Felson? “I’m back!”
I read a good story earlier this week about Apple. Essentially it argued that part of Apple’s great success is that it does not spend a bunch of time prattling on about what it is going to do. To the contrary, it keeps its head down, says precious little about its plans, and then rolls out some awesomely cool product like the iPhone and lets everyone start drooling. If the product turns out to be a bust, (ahem…Newton!) experience has clearly taught them that the damage will be less if they haven’t spent too much time raising expectations. And if the product turns out to be wonderful, everyone is excited by the excellent surprise.
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Special to CNN
If the president's goal in his State of the Union address was to reset the nation's agenda, he succeeded.
Calm, comfortable and controlled, President Obama made it plain that jobs are his top priority. He devoted more time and attention to jobs and the economy than every other issue combined.
He shored up his credibility on fiscal responsibility, laying blame for the crushing deficits where they belong: at the feet of the Republican Congress and the Republican president who squandered the massive Clinton surpluses and left us even more massive Republican deficits. Channeling Joe Friday from "Dragnet," he said, "These are just the facts."
He expressed the American people's righteous indignation over Wall Street fat cats who were bailed out by the taxpayers and are now living high on the hog with obscene bonuses. He hammered the Supreme Court for allowing corporations to buy elections.
Editor's Note: Last night, during President Obama's State of the Union speech, the President took the unusual step of criticizing the recent decision by the Supreme Court for no spending limits on contributions by corporations to political candidates. Justice Alito could be seen mouthing the words, "not true." Today, on the Senate Floor, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.) weighed in with his thoughts on the decision.