American Morning

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August 21st, 2009
10:22 AM ET

The War at Home: Military family stress

This week in our special series "The War at Home," we've seen how difficult it can be to make the transition back home after months, and in some cases years, on the battlefield.

We're starting to see the stress of long and repeated deployments reflected in the military divorce rate. CNN's Kiran Chetry had the chance to meet one couple whose marriage was pushed to the breaking point.

Filed under: Military • The War at Home
August 21st, 2009
10:10 AM ET

The War at Home: 400,000 VA claims backlogged

They're coming home from the front lines – in need of help from the government they fought to defend – and they're stuck, in a sea of red tape.

In our special series "The War at Home," our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr looks at the backlog of claims at Veterans Affairs that has left hundreds of thousands of vets in limbo.

Filed under: Military • The War at Home
August 21st, 2009
10:01 AM ET

Frances Townsend: Tom Ridge has it wrong

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Frances Townsend, CNN contributor and former homeland security adviser, disputes the allegation politics were involved in the terror alert level."]

During the 2004 presidential race, many on the left accused the Bush White House of trying to use the politics of fear to get re-elected. That same claim is now coming from a former Bush insider.

America's first secretary of homeland security, former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, says in his new book that he was pressured to raise the nation’s terror alert level ahead of the election.

Frances Townsend, former homeland security adviser for the Bush administration, says that's not what happened. Townsend is now a CNN national security contributor and she spoke with Kiran Chetry and John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday.

Kiran Chetry: In his book Ridge says, “Ashcroft strongly urged an increase in the threat level, and was supported by Rumsfeld. There was absolutely no support for that position within our department. None. I wondered, ‘Is this about security or politics?’” Fran, you were in the meetings. What is your recollection of how that whole conversation went down?

Frances Townsend: Kiran, I actually chaired the meeting and called it. Tom Ridge knew very well that I agreed with him that I didn't believe there was a basis to raise the threat level, but I knew there were others in the Homeland Security Council that did believe that and we agreed we'd have the conversation. By the way, what Tom Ridge's book doesn't say is the most eloquent case for not raising the threat level was not made by Tom in fact, it was made by Secretary of State at the time, Colin Powell. And Bob Mueller, at great personal risk – remember his boss John Ashcroft was advocating to raise it – based on the facts of the intelligence, Bob Mueller himself made an eloquent case not to raise it.


Filed under: Controversy • Politics
August 21st, 2009
06:31 AM ET

Avlon: Hyper-partisan blast from the past

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="Cindy Sheehan (L) and Tom DeLay (R)."]

The health care debate continued to heat up with week. There was an eruption of wingnuttery on the left, as liberals went into reflexive protest mode against the Obama administration’s indication that they might support a bipartisan bill with a non-profit co-op instead of a public option.

On the right, rock-ribbed partisans are devoted to doing whatever they can to derail Obama’s health care reform in any form. They share a my-way-or-the-highway approach to politics that condemns compromise and denies the concept of common ground.

This week’s Wingnuts are two hyper-partisan blasts from the past who’ve emerged from semi-retirement in an unwelcome attempt to reinsert themselves into the national debate – Cindy Sheehan and Tom DeLay.

On the left, Cindy Sheehan has announced her intention to protest President Obama on his summer vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, according to the Washington Examiner. Sheehan was a far-left fixture a few years ago, protesting then-President George W. Bush outside his ranch in Crawford, Texas. Now she’s back because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan haven’t stopped per her instructions. Here’s a partial list of her demands:


Filed under: Wingnuts of the week
August 21st, 2009
05:31 AM ET

What’s on Tap – Friday August 21, 2009

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (L) testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee along with (R) Frances Townsend, former homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush - February 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge (L) testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee along with (R) Frances Townsend, former homeland security advisor to President George W. Bush - February 12, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Here are the big stories on the agenda today:

  • Did the Bush White House use the politics of fear during the 2004 election?  There are explosive new allegations that there was political pressure to raise the country's terror threat level, before the 2004 election.  And they come from the man hired after 9/11 to stop another 9/11: the first Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge.  We’re live from Washington.  We’re also talking to CNN Contributor Fran Townsend, who was a Bush homeland security insider during that time.
  • Hurricane Bill is now a powerful category three storm and it could again become a category four.  It’s expected to bring extremely dangerous rip tides as it heads up the Atlantic – in line with our East Coast.  Rob Marciano's tracking the extreme weather for us this morning.
  • And from town halls to talk radio, President Obama keeps pushing his make or break plan for health care reform.  He says there's still way too much misinformation going around.  Plus, see why the president thinks, quote – "everyone in Washington gets all wee-wee'd up."
  • This weekend only! Across the country, car lots are bracing for a busy, busy weekend.  After a month and nearly three billion bucks, the amazingly popular "cash for clunkers" program expires on Monday.  So just how successful has the rebate program been?  Will some dealers ever see a dime? What will its end mean for Detroit?
  • The tractor pull isn’t in town, so we’re going to them.  Rob’s Road Show is live in “Pull Town” today, for the National Tractor Pull Championships, at the Wood County Fairgrounds in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Filed under: What's On Tap
August 21st, 2009
05:00 AM ET