Here are the big stories on the agenda today:
John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics. He writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. 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.
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By John Avlon
Special to CNN
Senator Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats yesterday will bring the Democrats to a filibuster proof 60 seat majority once Al Franken is seated. This is bad for believers in the virtue of checks and balances, but the reality is that Republicans have only themselves to blame.
Centrists have been forced to the margins of the Republican Party, as the party itself has been forced to the margins of American politics. The two dynamics are, of course, directly connected.
In his press conference, Specter named Joe Lieberman as his political soul mate, a man who lost a Democratic primary to a left-wing anti-war candidate but easily won re-election as an Independent in Connecticut. But his real and rightful anger was directed at conservative activists who have targeted centrist Republican incumbents in recent years, including Specter.
Among these ranks have been Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee, Maryland Congressman Wayne Gilchrist and New Mexico Congresswoman Heather Wilson. All were challenged by conservatives backed by the Club for Growth who were cheered on by right-wing radio. All lost their primary challenges. And all the victorious conservatives were easily beaten in the general election by Democrats.
This is the dynamic that has led the Republican Party into retreat and increasing irrelevance, preaching to a shrinking choir instead of building a big tent. Senator Specter was acting in self-interest – he knew that he had a better chance of winning a general election than a closed partisan primary.
But the fact that Democrats welcomed him with open arms while Republicans like Rush Limbaugh said good riddance after attacking him for years, speaks to the shifting fault-lines below what could be a larger, Obama-led realignment.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has called the 100 day mark a "Hallmark holiday."
And Democrats are practically asking the question: Are you better off now than you were a hundred days ago?
But historians say hold on. The president still has one thousand, three hundred and sixty one days to go.
With President Obama’s first 100 days in office now complete, the majority of American Morning viewers graded him with positive marks. Some were more cautious, noting that “the changes he makes are exactly what we voted him to do.”
Grade the president and tell us why you believe he deserves the grade you give him. What has the president completed that has directly affected you and how? What has disappointed you about his first 100 days? What do you hope to see him achieve in the next year? In the next four years?
Some viewers were displeased by the Republican comments on Mr. Obama’s first 100 days.
Tell us your thoughts. How do you feel about letting those who oppose the president to express their opinion? Do you believe it’s appropriate for former candidates to weigh in on the current president’s progress? What would you like to hear from the Republicans and independents?
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Today I asked one of my colleagues "what makes swine flu different from the regular flu bug?"
Her answer: "One is being talked about all day on TV and the other is not"
She has a point but that's not the whole story. Since we began covering the swine flu these have been my biggest questions:
-What makes this different from the regular seasonal flu? (Seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans each year)
-Why can't they come up with a vaccine for it?
-How do you know if you or your loved ones have swine flu?
-Can you get it from eating pork?
If you are wondering the same things, here's a quick explainer based on what we've gotten from all of the experts we've talked to over the past few days, including our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CDC Acting Director Dr. Richard Besser, and the president himself.
The biggest reason the swine flu is a concern is that swine flu is harder to treat or fight, because it’s a new strain and thus people have little natural immunity to it according to experts. Here's what Dr. Carlos del Rio of the Emory University School of Medicine told VOA News.
"This is a totally new virus... You have a virus to which there's no pre-vaccination, there's no prior immunity. And, therefore, the mortality rate may be higher than other influenza viruses."
Coming up with a vaccine takes time. And as the CDC acting director said today on our air, they are fast tracking a swine flu vaccine. Whether or not they choose to recommend using it is still apparently up in the air. Watch the interview
So how do you know if you have it? Symptoms include fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea; much like regular flu. So if you have those, stay home, avoid others in your household, and call your doctor to see if you should get tested or take an anti-viral.
Lastly, experts say you cannot get it from eating pork, according to the USDA. In fact, there’s no evidence that even touching raw pork infected with the virus is risky, says the USDA.
Hope this helps,