December 7th, 2010
12:19 PM ET

Senate Democrats openly upset with tax cut deal

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnpoliticalticker.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/t1larg-uscapitol-1207.jpg?w=640 width=300 height=169]Dana Bash and Ted Barrett

Senate Democrats are openly expressing their disappointment, and in some cases outrage, with the President Obama's tax cut deal.

And what is most striking walking the hallways and talking to senators is that the palpable frustration is coming not just from liberal Democrats, but moderates as well.

To be sure – despite their dismay – most Senate Democrats are saying they haven't yet decided how they will vote, because they are waiting for more details.

Still, Democrats are telling us they're not only unhappy with the president for breaking a promise that he and others made not to extend Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans, they're also expressing concern about the overall cost of the plan and its impact on the deficit.

"I still seem puzzled at the president's enthusiasm, and the Republicans, giving an income tax break for people making over $1 million. We're borrowing $46 billion to do so," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, a moderate Democrat.

Landrieu also chastised the president for dealing with Republicans without adequately consulting his fellow Democrats, and said she's worried this is the way the next two years will be.

"He's enthusiastic about this new arrangement dealing with the Republican caucus that stated, according to their leader, their number one objective is to unseat him. I can understand trying to appeal to independent voters. I do that myself. I think it's very important. But this sort of enthusiasm for caucusing with Republicans – and he didn't even, literally, didn't even speak to the Democratic caucus. Not any of it. Not the liberal group, not the moderate group, not the conservative group," said Landrieu.

New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg, a liberal, accused the president of "capitulation under pressure."

"I think capitulation under pressure is something that has, in my view, the wrong message and will have the wrong outcome," said Lautenberg.


Filed under: Dana Bash • Democrats • Raw Politics • Republicans • Ted Barrett
December 7th, 2010
12:01 PM ET

Opinion: 'Don't ask, don't tell': A cold shower on civil rights

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/12/06/wolraich.dadt/t1larg.us.troops.stalls.kuwaid.suited.afpgi.jpg width=300 height=169]Editor's note: The opinions in this blog are solely those of Michael Wolraich, a founder of the political blog dagblog.com.

Michael Wolraich
Special to CNN

"If 'don't ask, don't tell' is repealed and you are assigned to bathroom facilities (that have) an open bay shower that someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian service member also used, which are you most likely to do?" - Question on 2010 Department of Defense Comprehensive Review Survey of Uniformed Active Duty and Reserve Service Members*

It seems that ensuring shower security for American soldiers and Marines is critical to maintaining our global military pre-eminence. If our brave men and women cannot comfortably bathe in environments free from the risk of homosexual lust, how can we expect them to battle armed Taliban insurgents and other enemies?

In order to assess the gay shower hazard and other threats to military readiness if the "don't ask, don't tell" policy were repealed, the Department of Defense surveyed American troops over the summer.

Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, found the results reassuring. He told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "Repeal of the law will not prove an unacceptable risk to military readiness. ... I believe our troops and their families are ready for this," although he acknowledged, "some soldiers and Marines may want separate shower facilities."

Sen. John McCain, despite having promised in 2006 to respect the judgment of military leaders, disputed the results of the survey. He questioned whether the sample size was representative and noted that soldiers and Marines in combat units were especially concerned about the effects of repeal.

Insisting that "one of our highest responsibilities is to the men and women of our armed services," the Senate's self-declared straight-talker demurred, "it may be premature to make such a change at this time and in this manner, without further consideration of this report and further study of the issue by Congress."

While the government certainly has profound responsibilities to the men and women of our armed services, it is not clear why the precise breakdown of their opinions on "don't ask, don't tell" matters one whit when assessing whether gays and lesbians are permitted to serve with them.

When President Harry Truman ordered the armed forces to integrate in 1948, he did not first commission a survey asking white soldiers what they would do if they had to share a shower bay with a black soldier. If he had, the response in an era of segregated bathrooms would have been unenthusiastic to say the least.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Military • Opinion
December 7th, 2010
11:38 AM ET
December 7th, 2010
11:29 AM ET
December 7th, 2010
11:18 AM ET

Video: Elizabeth Edwards' final stages of cancer fight

Update: Elizabeth Edwards, 61, passed away today at home in North Carolina after her 6-year battle with cancer.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Sanjay Gupta
December 7th, 2010
11:11 AM ET
December 7th, 2010
11:00 AM ET

Suspected 'honeymoon killer' in Alabama, in jail

Program Note: Watch AC360° tonight at 10pm ET for a Tom Foreman update.

CNN Wire Staff

A man accused of killing his new bride on a honeymoon scuba dive in Australia has been returned to Alabama, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said.

David Gabriel "Gabe" Watson was being held at the county jail Tuesday morning, Sgt. Gregory Fitts said.

Australian media dubbed Watson "The Honeymoon Killer" after his 26-year-old wife, Tina, died in October 22, 2003 while the two were diving at a historic shipwreck off the Great Barrier Reef.

The incident occurred about 9,000 miles (14,500 km) from Birmingham, Alabama, where the couple had married 11 days earlier.

Watson returned to the United States after his wife's death and, five years later, remarried. In that same year, 2008, he pleaded guilty in Australia to criminally negligent manslaughter. He finished his sentence there in early November and was subsequently held in immigration detention.

Then, in late November, Watson was arrested in Los Angeles, California, after a grand jury in Alabama indicted Watson on two counts - murder for pecuniary gain and kidnapping where a felony occurred - according to Donald Valeska, an assistant attorney general for Alabama. Those charges are based on the premise that Watson hatched the plot to kill his wife while in Alabama.

It was not clear under exactly what circumstances Watson traveled from Australia to the United States.

The Jefferson County Court clerk's office said Watson had not been assigned to a judge, and there was no scheduled court appearance as of about noon Tuesday.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment
December 7th, 2010
10:50 AM ET
December 7th, 2010
10:25 AM ET

Letters to the President #687: 'The need for compromise'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/12/06/obama.taxes.debates/c1main.obama.pool.jpg width=300 height=169]Tom Foreman | BIO

AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: President Obama and his fellow Dems are wrangling with the Republicans over what is going to happen to the Bush tax cuts. I’m wrangling over another letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this, I have a fire in the fireplace (which is a better place for it than say, on the sofa,) we just finished a fabulous pasta and shrimp dinner cooked by our younger daughter, and I’m listening to Bob Dylan singing “Here Comes Santa Claus.” You don’t have to tell me that this is a great country. I know.

Are you in the Christmas spirit yet? It is coming to our house rather languidly this year. Not sure why. We have not raced to put our decorations up, and we’ve not bought a tree yet. (Yes, we are still “real” tree people. I suppose one day we’ll find an artificial one only makes sense, but for now we want one that smells like pine on its own and doesn’t need to be brought down from the attic and dusted.) I suppose our rather half-hearted holiday heading could have something to do with the economy. We know enough friends and family members who are struggling that it just seems a little untoward to be too eager to cut loose with the ho, ho ho’s.

On the other hand, when times are tough there is a good argument to be made for enjoying what you have; celebrating the holidays with as much vigor as you can muster and taking solace in the closeness of friends and family.

I’ve been following the steady debate over what to do with the Bush tax cuts and it looks as if you are headed for a deal that will extend them for everyone. Some of your fellow Democrats wanted a different approach and will no doubt grouse about any compromise, and I suppose you’re not thrilled about making a deal either.

But sometimes deals have to be made. That’s just the way life works. I know a lot of you folks in the political game have grown very “compromise averse” in recent years; equating a deal for the common good with a loss for their side. (Mind you, I’m not passing judgment on this particular issue. Maybe this compromise is good, maybe it’s bad, you all have to decide that.)

But compromise often represents the best success that was possible under the circumstances. And I don’t think I’m going way out on a limb to say that a lot of Americans would like to recover some sense that Washington is capable of at least a little success; maybe imperfect, maybe not precisely what any one group wants, but something that might help us all get back to feeling like we all can work together at least now and then.

Call if you get a moment. I’ll be working in New York a bit this week, but my cell is always close.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

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