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November 3rd, 2009
07:28 AM ET

Military families ready to serve, anxious for Afghanistan

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.

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Filed under: Commentary
November 3rd, 2009
07:28 AM ET

Military families cry out: Stop asking us to pay the price of hubris

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.


Filed under: Commentary
October 28th, 2009
07:22 AM ET

Commentary: Protecting NFL players is paramount

Editor’s Note: DeMaurice Smith is the executive director of the NFL Players Association. Previously, he was a trial lawyer and litigation partner at a D.C. law firm. Smith previously served as Counsel to then Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder in the U.S. Department of Justice before entering private practice. He will be speaking today to the House Judiciary Committee on the impact hard hits and concussions have on NFL players. Below are excerpts from that testimony given exclusively to CNN.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="DeMaurice Smith says the number one priority of the NFL Players Association is to protect those who play the game."]

By DeMaurice F. Smith

As Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, my number one priority is to protect those who play and have played this game. There is no interest greater than their health and safety. Let me repeat: protecting the players is paramount.

The House Judiciary Committee deserves immense credit and appreciation for bringing this issue of concussions and brain trauma in the sport of football to the forefront. I am confident that the Committee and today’s hearing will be a turning point on this issue and my hope is that this day will serve as a marker denoting the day that those of us that are involved in football at the highest level commit ourselves to finding the right answers.

It will not only influence this game at the professional level, but for our players in College, High School and Youth Football. I have one simple declaration on behalf of those who play and those who played this game: We are committed to getting the right answers, to work with everyone who has the goal of protecting our players and to serve as a model for football at every level.

Watch Smith discuss player safety Video

Given that commitment, I acknowledge that the Players Union in the past has not done its best in this area. We will do better. To men like John Mackey and Brent Boyd and to the families of Mike Webster and Andre Waters, and other players that suffered and continue to suffer daily, I commit and we commit to this as our mission. We will not fail them or their families.

Between 2000 and 2008, there were hundreds of studies highlighting this issue. I believe that the NFL MTBI Committee has reviewed many of them. Unfortunately, the NFL diminished those studies, urged the suppression of the findings and for years, moved slowly in an area where speed should have been the impetus. But as we learn more about this issue, one thing becomes clear: the days of denigrating, suppressing, and ignoring the medical findings must come to an end.

We need to share relevant information, embrace expert researchers and collectively find the right answers.

The game of football is America’s passion; it is often discussed, analyzed and debated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And the discussions focusing on the business of football are becoming increasingly popular. Fans of our great game are fully aware that the players and the owners are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement and that much of player health and safety will be discussed in that process. Our players, our fans and the NFL should also know that we cannot wait until an agreement is signed – or worse, perhaps, a lockout – to begin taking corrective steps today.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of DeMaurice F. Smith.

Filed under: Commentary • Sports
October 16th, 2009
06:10 AM ET

Avlon: 'Wingnuts' hit new low in health care debate

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="Ed Schultz (L) and Floyd Brown (R)."]

Apocalyptic urgency and unhinged accusations are the stock in trade of the wingnut fringe. By pumping up fear and anger, they try to divide and conquer for political and personal gain. This week we’re taking a look at a new form of anti-Obama psychosis and a new low in the health care debate.

One of the worst in the political business is back peddling an entrepreneurial impeachment scheme. The culprit is Floyd Brown, a man memorably called “a slimy thug for hire” by George Stephanopoulos during the Clinton years.

You might have first become acquainted with his handiwork in the 1988 campaign, when he was the architect of the infamous Willie Horton commercial, which drew widespread accusations of race-baiting. He’s been disavowed by many sane Republicans, but also served as a delegate to past conventions and as an executive director of Young America’s Foundation.

Well, he’s trying to get back in the game with a noxious new Web site called Impeach Obama. Here’s a snapshot of the hysteria he’s peddling:

How long must we wait... how long should we sit back and permit Barack Hussein Obama to rip apart the fabric of this country before we take action?

Are you terrified at Barack Obama’s campaign to change our country into a third-world nation?

Are you willing to sit back and watch Obama bulldoze our great nation?

Are you willing to let him construct a totalitarian regime... fascism, socialism, Obamaism... take your pick?

It’s got all the telltale signs of Obama Derangement Syndrome – paranoia and pathological hate posing as patriotism. It riffs off race, totalitarianism and apocalyptic politics. In this case, Brown and Co. say they are trying to defend the Constitution by doing violence to it.

There were irresponsible calls for President Bush’s impeachment from the far-left during the last administration, continuing the ping-pong from Nixon to Clinton. Now it’s apparently a standard part of the hyper-partisan bag of tricks, trying to deny the legitimacy of the president from an opposing party by any means necessary. And what’s even worse is that there are folks trying to make a buck by pumping up the hate and hysteria of their fellow Americans.


Filed under: Commentary • Wingnuts of the week
September 28th, 2009
09:53 AM ET

Republican pollster: Americans angrier than ever

From town halls to tea parties, a lot of people across the country are really ticked off. Last week in our special series "Mad as Hell," we looked at the sources and potential solutions for all of that national anger.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Pollster and Republican Party adviser Frank Luntz says Americans are angrier than ever."]

Frank Luntz is a pollster, communications expert, author of the new book "What Americans Really Want, Really" and has advised the Republican Party on hot-button issues like health care.

Luntz joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Monday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

John Roberts: So people in America, are they really angrier than they’ve ever been?

Frank Luntz: They are. 72% of Americans define themselves - we took a survey of 6,400 people, that's five times the typical CNN media poll – 72% of Americans are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore. And they're mad at politics because they think there's no accountability in Washington.

They're mad at business because they think that their employers don't respect them. And they're mad at Hollywood for the coarseness of the culture. So you've got all three things going on at the same time and they don't find a solution to it.

Roberts: Let me quote from your book here because you say what's so important is not necessarily that Americans are mad as hell. You say, “It matters more that they're not going to take it anymore. Americans have hit a tipping point with Washington and, moreover, its political parties.” So we're at this tipping point. What does that mean for the country? You gave us the background of what people are mad at but why are they mad at all of this and what is this tipping point?

Luntz: They feel like the politicians aren't listening to them. And those elected officials who canceled their town hall meetings, boy, did they make a mistake. I wrote this book and I added that extra "really" to “What Americans Really Want” because the definitions of this anger the elites don't understand. They think the town halls are an aberration.


Filed under: Commentary • Politics
September 17th, 2009
11:52 AM ET

Rollins: Carter is wrong on Obama opposition

By Ed Rollins
CNN Senior Political Contributor

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He was White House political director for President Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Ed Rollins says opposition to health care reform is about the substance, not the president's race."]

NEW YORK (CNN) - President Obama is about to undertake a full-scale blitz of all the Sunday talk shows to try to convince the American people one more time of the merits of his health care plan.

This is after he has spoken on the subject publicly more than 100 times and after he just gave a nationwide speech before the Congress and the country.

I know this is his highest priority, but what else can he say to turn around the nearly half the country that doesn't want his health care plan? And if he told us honestly that the plan he and the Democrats are proposing could cost you more and cut services for those on Medicare, even more people would be opposed.

This is now an inside game. There are House versions and a Senate version of the reform bill. It's a question of how do you get them passed and get them to a conference committee to work out the differences.

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Filed under: Commentary • Controversy
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