They started following an up-and-coming senator named... Barack Obama. Then he ran for president.
And it was an incredible case of being in the right place – at the right time – for a group of filmmakers who ended up being eyewitnesses to history.
HBO will debut their documentary tonight – at 9 p.m. ET. Our Alina Cho got a sneak peek.
By Dan Lothian, CNN White House Correspondent
Washington (CNN) - In the tight circle that surrounds President Obama, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs is in the inner bubble.
He's the 3 a.m. wake-up call when North Korea fires a test missile, or when the Nobel committee picks the president for the top award.
"Trust me, it is a job I would gladly give to anybody who would volunteer," Gibbs said.
Or would he?
After all, he's an adviser, a friend and a mouthpiece for the administration with more access than recent press secretaries.
"I can walk in and ask him a question at any given time, pick up the phone and talk to him about anything at any given time. I think [that] makes my job easier," Gibbs said in an exclusive interview with CNN.
The president and the press secretary first connected in 2004 when Obama was a virtual unknown outside of Chicago, Illinois, and was campaigning for the U.S. Senate. They clicked and grew close, leading Obama to tell the Wall Street Journal in a 2008 interview, "Robert is the guy I want in the foxhole with me during incoming fire. If I'm wrong, he challenges me. He's not intimidated by me."
Gibbs chuckled while recalling the comment and quipped, "That is when we called him 'Senator' or by his first name."
By Christine Romans
There is nothing more political, and fuzzy, than the math surrounding the massive $787 billion stimulus package. The administration says 640,000 jobs have been saved or created by the stimulus. That's based on $159 billion in contracts to states for roadwork, bridges, and to keep teachers in the classroom.
Using very simple math, that means taxpayers have spent about $248 thousand per job the White House says were saved or created.
$159,000,000,000 spending ÷ 640,329 jobs saved/created = $248,309 per job
Critics of the stimulus will say it shows taxpayers are getting a raw deal.
But like everything surrounding this stimulus, it is not as simple as that. And a White House economist told ABC such math is quote "calculator abuse."
Why? These are just jobs created to date. These projects will keep creating more jobs, so this cost per job number will only go down over time. The money obviously is not simply down the drain – it's creating economic activity and reflects wages, but also, supplies that are ordered, and materials manufactured, equipment rental, etc.
Still, there is an obsession with quantifying the cost to taxpayers of these jobs.
The White House has its own formula for that.
Government spending $92,136 per job-year
Tax cuts $145,351 per job-year
State fiscal relief $116,603 per job-year
Source: White House
Once the stimulus is fully deployed and working, taxpayers will have spent $92,000 per job.
You can read more of the White House Council of Economic Advisers’ math here.
All the subsequent job and cost counting is as much politics as mathematics. Supporters of the stimulus want to highlight new and saved jobs. They will say the economy is now growing again because of the stimulus spending. Opponents will say it costs too much, there is too much waste, and our grandchildren will pay for it later.
We may never know exactly how many jobs have been created or how long they will last. We will never have a list of three to four million American names who have benefited from the stimulus. But what is certain? I can tell you that $787 billion will be spent over the next two years, and political bickering over its effectiveness has just begun.
By Jim and Karen Irwin
We are ready for answers, because we’re ready to serve. We are Blue Star parents and as our son fights on the front line in Afghanistan, we are afraid that further delays in Washington’s decision-making will let lives and victory slip away. The recommendations of our commanders have been sitting on the President’s desk since August 30th and families like ours are growing impatient. Since General McChrystal’s report was delivered, the President has flown to Copenhagen to pitch the Olympics and accepted the Nobel Prize while we have sat and waited for a decision. As a family we have invested in Afghanistan and decisions are urgently needed.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were like most any other American family. We both worked hard to provide for our two boys and give them a chance to succeed. Like millions of other American families, September 11, 2001 added a new sense of purpose and new dimension to our lives. Not long after the attacks, unbeknownst to us, our son Mike began talking to Army Recruiters at the same time he was looking into college. He earned a scholarship to college but throughout his first two years of school the need to serve his nation kept coming back to him.
Editor's Note: Lisa Leitz is an assistant professor of Sociology at Hendrix College and the wife of a U.S. Naval aviator currently deployed in support of the war in Afghanistan. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Leitz.
By Lisa Leitz, PhD
Military Families Speak Out Board of Directors
As President Obama weighs the strategy in Afghanistan, I along with the members of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) ask him to consider the burden he is asking military families to bear. While most Americans go about their daily lives, military families, who make up less than 1% of the total U.S. population, are being crushed by the weight of the current wars.
In the eight years of America’s war in Afghanistan, 911 military families lost their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters (and an additional 4,357 lost loved ones in Iraq). October 2009 was in fact the deadliest month of the war in all eight years. Tens of thousands of military families battle with the daily difficulties of war injuries. Friends of mine have had to quit jobs or school in order to care for loved ones, and they continue to struggle to secure the care these veterans deserve. An estimated 500,000 veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq wrestle with PTSD, and their loved ones fight daily battles with an overburdened Veterans’ Administration and to hold their families together.
By Carol Costello and Bob Ruff
Ever wonder why we have a census? The answer is right there in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States:
"Representation and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers ... The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct."
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/03/census.art.jpg caption="The short form of the 2010 census has just 10 questions, but it is controversial."]
Monday, August 2, 1790 marked the start of the first census. It was then, and still is now, used to determine each state’s allocation of members in the House of Representatives. But as the country has grown from just under the 4 million people counted in that very first census, to the nearly 300,000,000 counted in 2000, so too has its uses. Today the census also helps determine how many federal dollars go to which states, and it gives agencies national social and health statistics that are used for policy purposes. And in addition to the short form that counts every American, there are longer, much more detailed forms that go out to smaller numbers of Americans each year.
The short form of the 2010 census has just 10 questions, but it is controversial.
Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann has been among the most vocal critics. She says the census questions represent government intrusion, such as Question 4 on the form: “What is your telephone number?” Bachmann told CNN she only plans to list the number of people in her household on her 2010 form because the Constitution doesn’t require any information beyond that.
CNN’s Carol Costello spoke with one census worker, who preferred to remain anonymous so that he could speak more freely, to see what kind of response he gets when he asks questions of people who share Rep. Bachmann’s privacy concerns.
“Carl”, the census worker, said he’s concerned that Bachmann’s objections reinforce the fear that some Americans already have about the census: “Some of them are pretty blunt.,” said “Carl.” “They say I’m not talking to you. I don’t want to have anything to do with the government. I’m not talking to you or anything. Get off my property or I’ll call the police.”