John P. Avlon
Editor's note: John P. Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America."
Congressional corruption scandals are dominating headlines just as campaign season is heating up - and Democrats might get beaten back by the same tide that swept them into office in 2006.
The past two weeks have seen a 13-count case against 40-year incumbent Charles Rangel of New York and the announcement of an ethics trial against California's Maxine Waters.
All this comes as a jury decides the fate of the buffoonish former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, accused of conspiring to sell President Obama's Senate seat. Their three states represent a significant part of the Democrats' political base.
It's an ugly picture of cronyism and corruption that seems to be replayed every few years. As libertarian humorist PJ O'Rourke famously warned: "When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators."
The tea party movement has been called a lot of things - from racist to the voice of the people. One tea party group is on a mission to change how the movement is perceived, especially when it comes to race relations.
Lloyd Marcus, a spokesman for the Tea Party Express, is hosting a National Black Conservative press conference in Washington on Wednesday. The event at the National Press Club is featuring more than a dozen black conservative speakers, including former diplomat and presidential candidate Alan Keyes.
The goal, Marcus said in a statement, is to fight back against "bogus, false and malicious charges" and the NAACP's resolution calling on tea party leaders to crack down on racist elements in the movement.
"As a black singer/songwriter performing my 'America Tea Party Anthem' and traveling with Tea Party Express, I have attended over 200 tea parties across the U.S. The attendees are not racists," Marcus said. "They are decent hard-working Americans who love their country. Tea party patriots oppose President Obama's policies, not his skin color."
Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN
Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette Jr. is a nationally syndicated columnist, an NPR commentator and a regular contributor to CNN.com.
It was an ethnic twist on an American classic, the kind of thing that some people consider appealing and others frightening. Pinto beans, diced tomatoes, salsa and jalapenos top a hot dog that's grilled to perfection.
It's 10 o'clock on a Saturday night at ground zero in the immigration debate.
The hot dog vendor, a woman from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, would normally be doing a brisk business. Her cart is across the street from a popular Latino dance club that used to be frequented by Mexican-Americans but is now normally crammed with Mexican immigrants.
"The city feels abandoned," the woman tells me in Spanish. "Everyone has left."
It sure looks that way during a drive though the city's predominantly Latino west side, with its abandoned buildings, deserted homes and empty parks.
Since April, when Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 to punish illegal immigrants for the sins of the employers who hire them, estimates are that tens of thousands of illegal immigrants have left Arizona for a warmer climate in Utah, Colorado, Texas or New Mexico.
Six years ago, hip hop icon Wyclef Jean released a soulful tune called "President," in which he fantasized about what it would be like to lead a country.
That fantasy may come closer to reality when the Haitian-American recording artist announces exclusively on CNN's "Larry King Live" that he intends to run for president of Haiti.
Jean, who had been an outspoken proponent for Haiti through his Yele Foundation, told CNN Tuesday that plans to make the major announcement on King's show Thursday night.
Born in Haiti, Jean shot to fame in the mid-1990s as a member of The Fugees, a U.S.-based hip-hop and reggae group. He performs now as a solo artist.
He was one of the first celebrities to offer aid after the devastating earthquake there in January.
He told CNN late last month that he has filled out the necessary paperwork to make a run at the country's highest office.
A top Obama administration official said Wednesday the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico is "turning a corner," with the "vast majority" of the oil now gone and the procedure to permanently seal BP's crippled well apparently working.
"We definitely are making progress. The oil hasn't been leaking for some time," Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy, told CNN's "American Morning." "The static kill is going well, but ultimately, it's the relief wells we ordered drilled that will be the 'final kill-kill.' Probably, in the next 10 to 14 days that will be done, but (it was) an important step last night."
"Our scientists and external scientists believe that the vast majority of the oil has now been contained. It's been skimmed. Mother Nature has done its part. It's evaporated. And so, I think we're turning a corner here," Browner added.
She credited the progress to "the fact that we launched the largest response in the history of our country. We had nearly 7,000 vessels, more than 40,000 people, working to clean this up: to capture it, to skim it, to burn it. And that's why the vast majority of the oil is gone. In terms of what's left, it will continue to weather in the ocean. If it comes ashore, obviously it can be cleaned up - the tar balls, the sheens. But certainly, we're seeing far less oil than we were seeing," Browner explained.
Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: President Obama never writes to me. He never calls either. I suppose he is busy, but it’s not like I’m just sitting around rolling Play-Doh, and I find time to write every day!
Dear Mr. President,
Whilst relaxing here alongside the river in New Orleans over a plate of hot and sugary beignets (and frankly, should there ever be any other kind?) a co-worker asked me a relatively simple and yet devilish question: Why do you think government has become so ineffective and disliked these days?
See what I mean? It’s like the question of why Seinfeld’s girlfriends on his TV show were generally not so good looking. I mean other than Terry Hatcher and Kristin Davis, of course. Seems like an easy question until you try to answer it.
But let’s break it down. The second part of the political question, I submit, is easy. Government is disliked because it is ineffective. Too many of the DC crowd have mistaken politics for policy. This isn’t a matter of government doing too much or too little. It’s more a case of pols on both sides just stumbling around seemingly incapable of announcing a plan, developing that plan, and putting it into place with any real efficiency or efficacy.
But why is that? Well, as we sat there listening to the distant ships on the river and looking across at Jackson Square, I pondered that question a bit more. And trust me, New Orleans is a great city in which to sit and ponder.
Iran denied reports of a grenade exploding near the convoy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during his visit to a western Iranian city Wednesday.
The semi-official Fars News Agency and several other outlets had reported the incident, in which Ahmadinejad was unhurt.
But the media department at Iran's presidential office denied there was an attack. Media advisor Ali Akbar Javanfekr told CNN that the grenade was a toy firecracker and accused international journalists of blowing the story out of proportion.
"This was someone playing with a firecracker, the kind children play with, the kind you use when you want to celebrate," Javanfekr said. "This was a toy and there were no injuries but the western media took and made it bigger than it is."
Despite the denial, there was an account about the incident on Raja news, a rightist website linked to some members of parliament that has in the past both supported and criticized Ahmadinejad.
The site reported there had been a grenade attack and quoted the Fars news account. Someone lobbed a homemade grenade just after the president's motorcade went by, Fars reported.
The suspect was arrested, according to both reports.