American Morning

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July 31st, 2009
06:08 AM ET

Where's our state sovereignty?

By CNN'S Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

The concept of states' rights is as old as America, but lately it's become a red-hot issue.

As Governor Sarah Palin left office this month, she signed a resolution asserting Alaska's sovereignty, referring to the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  The amendment states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Alaska is one of seven states passing Tenth Amendment resolutions this year, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, which tracks such legislation.  More than 20 others are considering similar bills and have either passed one chamber of the legislature, or are being worked on in committees.  But why now?

For lawmakers like Republican Charles Key of Oklahoma, the federal government has overstepped its authority.  Case in point: Former President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" mandate. "There's nothing in the Constitution that says the federal government has the legal right and authority to tell the people in the various states how to educate the children," he says.

Many proponents of Tenth Amendment resolutions bristle at Washington's involvement in what they consider states' affairs – like gun laws, education, health care, and even personal privacy, with the Patriot Act.  It may seem like a new phenomenon, says Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford University Law School, but in fact the states' rights movement is deeply rooted in American history. "Federalism functions as a political competition between the states and the Federal government,” says Kramer. "[It's] how the system is supposed to work." 

Although proponents of the resolutions acknowledge they have no legal bearing, they say it is important to put the federal government on notice. "I'm not telling the federal government to butt out," says Nebraska State Senator Tony Fulton. "The Tenth Amendment exists and there is a gray line and that doesn't mean there is no line at all." In January, Fulton plans to introduce his own Tenth Amendment resolution in Nebraska's State Senate.

Filed under: Just Sayin'
July 31st, 2009
06:07 AM ET

Avlon: Professional polarizers, Maher and Beck

Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. 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.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Bill Maher (L) and Glenn Beck (R)."]

Professional polarizer – that’s the definition of too many political pundits today.  They try to divide in order to conquer, playing to their base and reinforcing their party’s worst stereotypes in the process.

This week, two of the nation’s best known pundits took steps way over the line, deep into Wingnut territory – Bill Maher on the left and Glenn Beck on the right – calling America “stupid” and President Obama “racist.”  I’m sure they’d hate to be paired with each other but that’s part of the fun of punching both left and right on 'Wingnuts of the Week.'

Bill Maher’s a smart comedian who unapologetically reinforced liberals’ reputation for out of touch elitism when he called America a “stupid country” on the 'Situation Room' this week.  Here’s a transcript of the exchange.

Wolf Blitzer: Do you think she (Sarah Palin) has a future nationally as a presidential candidate?

Bill Maher: I don't know about a presidential candidate but I would never put anything past this stupid country.

Blitzer: So people are already complaining that you're calling the United States a stupid country and I'm giving you a chance to clarify.

Maher: I don't need to clarify. It is.

Blitzer: Well, tell me why you think the United States is a stupid country.

Maher: Because Sarah Palin could be president. I mean, please, do I need to expand on that any more? Uh, yeah, I do. I think this is in general... I mean, it's a big country. That's the great thing about it. There's 300 million people here. So, within this large country, there are tens of millions of very bright, intelligent people, you know, the ones who are watching us, um, not the ones who are writing the emails.  Uh, but, you know, in general, um, gosh, uh, you know, this country just gets dumber and dumber by the day. And uh, I don't think I have time on your show to list all the reasons.

There’s an arrogance in professional polarizers that causes them to honestly believe that people who disagree with them are not just wrong but stupid or even evil.  It’s a slippery slope that leads to the demonization of political difference.  If Sarah Palin doesn’t always appeal to the better angels of our nature, Maher ends up as evidence in her argument about the media elites on the coasts looking down on their fellow Americans who live in what they dismiss as "flyover country” and she calls “real America.”  They both end up increasing the heat of our domestic political debates but add very little light.


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
July 31st, 2009
06:01 AM ET

Obama, Biden, professor, officer sit down over brews

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sgt. James Crowley and professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. sat down with the president and vice president Thursday."]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama sat down for a beer at the White House Thursday night with a top African-American professor and the police officer who arrested him earlier this month.

They were joined by a previously unannounced guest, Vice President Joe Biden.

Sgt. James Crowley and Henry Louis Gates Jr., both dressed in suits, sat down with Obama and Biden, who both had their white dress shirt sleeves rolled up.

Video from the meeting showed mugs of beer being delivered to the men, who sat at a round table at the edge of the White House's Rose Garden, munching peanuts and pretzels from silver bowls.

The president was drinking Bud Light, Biden was drinking Buckler (a nonalcoholic beer), Gates was drinking Samuel Adams Light and Crowley was drinking Blue Moon.

After the meeting, Crowley told reporters that the men had a "cordial and productive discussion," in which they agreed to move foward rather than dwell on past events.

He said he and Gates plan to meet again and will speak by telephone to finalize details in the coming days. Both men bring different perspectives, he said, but he would like to hear more about Gates' views.

"It was a private discussion. It was a frank discussion," Crowley said of the meeting, but would not divulge specifics except to say that no one apologized.

Gates was arrested July 16 and accused of disorderly conduct after police responded to a report of a possible burglary at his Boston-area home. The charge was later dropped. The incident sparked a debate about racial profiling and police procedures.

After the meeting, the renowned Harvard professor reflected on the significance of the event and thanked Obama for arranging the meeting.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: Controversy
July 31st, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Cash for Clunkers may be put on hold

The federal government is considering whether to put the $1 billion Cash for Clunkers program on hiatus until it can sort out how much has been spent.

NEW YORK ( - The federal government may suspend its $1 billion Cash for Clunkers program after less than a week over concerns that the plan may have already burned through its funds, according to congressional sources.

A White House official said the Obama administration is assessing the situation, but added that "auto dealers and consumers should have confidence that all valid ... transactions that have taken place to-date will be honored."

The Department of Transportation, which runs the program, wants to sort out how much of the plan's funds it has already committed.

Cash for Clunkers officially launched less than a week ago.

It is set to end on Nov. 1, or whenever its $1 billion budget has been depleted.

Under the plan, vehicles purchased after July 1 will be eligible for refund vouchers worth $3,500 to $4,500 on traded-in gas guzzlers. The trade-in vehicle has to get combined city and highway fuel economy ratings of 18 miles per gallon or less.

The program, created by Congress to spur sales and help the struggling auto industry, is intended to take low-mileage cars off the road and spur new car sales for U.S. automakers.

"With this program, we are giving the auto industry a shot in the arm and struggling consumers can get rid of their gas-guzzlers and buy a more reliable, fuel-efficient vehicle," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement Monday.

Keep reading this story »

Filed under: American Morning • Economy