American Morning

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November 19th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Is it weakness to try terrorists in civilian court?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Should alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed be tried in a civilian court?

He’s been linked to a virtual smorgasbord of terror crimes, among them: September 11th, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1995 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, and the gruesome killing of journalist Daniel Pearl.

Critics question the decision of Attorney General Eric Holder, saying it gives this “enemy combatant” the same rights as an American citizen. “This is a perversion of the justice system,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said.

In a hearing Wednesday, lawmakers grilled Holder, questioning whether America is growing weak in the war on terror. “I suspect our enemies and friends must be wondering what's going on in our heads,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. Wondering, he said: “are they serious about this effort?”

Holder shot back: “We are at war and will use all tools … to win. We will not cower in the face of this enemy.”

But in a WNYC radio interview, former 9/11 Commission member, Republican Tom Kean, also expressed concern that Mohammed would use the trial as a platform to entice followers. “He wants to be Che Guevara ... I worry a little bit that we’re giving him that forum.”

Others say the American judicial system is best suited for such cases. “What would they prefer we do? Execute these people without a trial?” said Karen Greenberg, the executive director of NYU’s Center on Law & Security. Besides, she says, military commissions have had little success. Only three individuals have been tried in seven years – compared to more than 300 others prosecuted successfully in civilian courts.

Just Sayin’ – Is it weakness to try terrorists in civilian court?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
November 13th, 2009
06:00 AM ET

Is our military too 'P.C.'?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Did “political correctness” allow Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to escape detection and allegedly kill 13 people? Some conservative commentators and politicians are claiming that.

Arizona Sen. John McCain has already done what the military is urging Americans not to do , "speculate" about the motive in the Fort Hood killings. Calling the killings “an act of terror,” he said, “this may sound a little harsh but we ought to make sure that political correctness will never impede national security.”

McCain is expressing concern about allegations that Hasan's superiors played down his extremist views because they didn't want to alienate a Muslim soldier. McCain is not alone. Conservative columnist Ann Coulter said on Baltimore's WBAL radio, “It's just I think the constant increasing menace of liberalism ... we're certainly getting it from the commander-in-chief.”

In reference to Gen. George Casey, Coulter said, “It’s pretty shocking ... and here I thought they didn't allow gays in the military ... shocking!”

Others, like Democratic Representative Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral, dispute that view. Sestak insists the military should be diverse and its leaders sensitive to minority soldiers. He said critics like Coulter are doing soldiers a disservice, at least until all the facts of the case are known.

Watch: Is our military too 'P.C.'? Video

“If there’s anything they should be advancing, it’s, wow, think about the stress they’ve gone under,” Sestak said. “That’s what we should be highlighting. Not going off into right or left field, until we know."

The U.S. Marine Corps rejects the notion Muslim extremists are hiding in its ranks for any reason. First Lt. Josh Diddams told CNN the Corps, “has not seen any trends that indicate individuals are any more ... likely to be involved in an incident based upon their religion."

A look at history seems to bear that out. In March 2003, Sgt. Hasan Akbar, a Muslim, killed two fellow officers in Kuwait and court documents indicated religion was a factor. But there are many instances of solider-on-soldier killings where religion is not considered a factor.

In May 2009 Sgt. John Russell allegedly killed five fellow soldiers. In 2004, Senior Airman Andrew Witt killed a fellow airman and his wife. In 1995, Sgt Will Kreutzer killed one soldier and wounded 18 at Fort Bragg. Those incidents weren't seen by our country's leaders as potential impediments to our national security although some say they should have been.

What do you think? Is our military too 'P.C.'?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
October 30th, 2009
06:10 AM ET

Could distrust in government be a good thing?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

The latest public opinion polls do not bode well for our elected representatives: in some instances, they are suffering record low approval ratings.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll this week, just 23-percent of Americans say they trust government to "do the right thing" all or most of the time. That's the lowest number since 1997.

A September Gallup poll showed public trust in Congress at a record low 45-percent. The executive branch, headed by President Obama, did better, with a 61-percent "trust" rating.

Despite Mr. Obama's campaign promises for hope and change, many Americans have lost faith in Congress to make the right judgments about issues facing the country. This has stymied Mr. Obama's legislative agenda, says CNN Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

"People have always had a kind of healthy skepticism about the bureaucracy. But what you find now is because people don't trust government, it provides a political opening for both parties to say – 'don't trust the other guy.' And depending on where you stand, you don't trust the other guy."

Watch: Is government distrust good? Video

Even the government's push to get the public vaccinated against H1N1 is being viewed with skepticism – despite the fact that the CDC reports 20-thousand Americans have been hospitalized and 1,000 have died from the illness. On the other hand, too much trust in government may have gotten the country in trouble in the past.

After 9/11, trust in government was high. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll in October, 2001 – 60-percent trusted the government to do the right thing always or most of the time. That trust, some say, may have helped President Bush make the case for the Iraq War, which most Americans now oppose.

"When you have lower trust in government, you tend to get fewer foreign wars, you tend to get fewer expensive government programs, and you also tend to get fewer abuses of civil liberties, says Gene Healy of the conservative Cato Institute.

In other words, public distrust might be an informal but much needed way of exercising checks and balances.

What do you think? Could distrust in government actually be a good thing?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
October 23rd, 2009
06:26 AM ET

Should kids be reality TV stars?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Will Falcon Heene be forever known as "Balloon Boy?" It sounds silly, maybe even funny – unless you’re Falcon Heene.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="The Heene family – including Falcon, second from right – on CNN's "Larry King Live" last week."]

The Heene incident begs the question: is it time we re-evaluate how children are used on reality TV? Exactly why are we so interested in watching kids stumble, and sometimes fall on shows that we see as Hollywood and they may often see as real life?

On the program “Supernanny,” kids are seen at their worst on national television, with parental consent – all so Mom and Dad can get advice on "how to parent" from Supernanny, Jo Frost. The show's a hit, as are so many others that feature children.

Some say Richard Heene used the adorable assets for a shot at adult fame. And remember Octomom? She and 14 kids are currently "in production." But some experienced Hollywood producers have bucked that trend.

Watch reality TV kids Video

“I don't use children in any of our reality programs,” says Scott Sternberg, a veteran reality TV and executive producer of such programs as “The Academy” and “On the Case with Paula Zahn.” “We have done kids’ game shows where kids compete for prizes and for good things. But no, I've never done a reality show with children and certainly not using children to get their parents on television,” he adds. “Once you put a child in any kind of a serious situation where there can be repercussions, then you're changing those children's lives forever.”


Filed under: Just Sayin'
October 16th, 2009
06:15 AM ET

Is Snowe’s vote really a gift to the GOP?

By Carol Costello and Ronni Berke

Does Republican Senator Olympia Snowe’s bipartisan vote on health care really matter? It's ONE vote for goodness sakes!

But, history shows one "maverick" vote can make a difference. Ever since President Obama publicaly admired her bipartisan "courage,” that "courage" has been publicly excoriated by conservative talk radio.

Rush Limbaugh decried: “This voice by the way is the voice of the new castrati. Those who have lost all gonads, guts and courage, throughout our culture and our political system.”

Still, Snowe has inspired something many politicians have not these days: admiration. On CNN's Political Ticker, half the comments went like this: “Leave it to a woman to keep things moving;” “Good for her. I like independent thinkers;” and “I wish both the Senate and House were filled with people like her.”

Snowe’s vote could end up being seen as less of a betrayal than a gift for her party.


Filed under: Just Sayin'
October 9th, 2009
06:40 AM ET

Are women secretly yearning for a bad boy?

From Carol Costello and Ethel Bass

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Jon Hamm plays Don Draper, the charismatic lead character of AMC's "Mad Men.""]

Don Draper. He's the charismatic lead character in AMC"s "Mad Men," a TV show that takes place in the sixties when women mostly stayed at home, and men brought home the bacon. Draper is a suave "ad man," who cheats on his wife, but supports her financially. And who treats most other women like dirt. Women we talked to who watch the show – LOVE him.

“Don Draper. He’s just so mysterious,” says one 26-year-old. “It's a very particular type of magnetism – he is just so confident, and he never doubts himself,” says another young woman. One young woman summed it up best when she said, “You know he's not good for you, but like oh my God, you know, I have to have it!”

Some female viewers love Don Draper so much, they didn't blink an eye when he went beyond "bad boy" behavior to, um, sexual assault in a clip from season two .

Even Jezebel, a feminist women's blogsite, gave him a pass for this because "...sometimes assertive women get tired of always being so damn assertive ... sometimes they like to be told what to do."

Just sayin' – Are women secretly yearning for a bad boy?

Psychiatrist Gail Saltz says, “I think that women have throughout the ages ... yearned for the bad boy” and that women love the idea of Don Draper because, today they feel overwhelmed in a down economy with work, the kids, and the needy husband.

According to a study by the Wharton school, called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," ...women's happiness has fallen both absolutely and relative to men's…”

The 60's world of Mad Men is, what Dr. Saltz calls, "a fantasy solution." “The idea that the knight would come in and scoop them up and make everything easier is also very appealing, but it's a fantasy that doesn't include the being suppressed, you're not having anything of your own, it doesn't include those things.”.

But there's even a TV show about a wife who's loyal to her cheating politician husband – called "The Good Wife."

And in real life women have scorned "cheaters" like former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, South Carolina's Governor Sanford and John Edwards.

Yet they've given some cheating men a pass like Bill Clinton and now, seemingly David Letterman. Want the real life reason why? Dr. Saltz says it's "very much a function of how much you identify with the woman who's been hurt. Feel sorry for her – hate the man. Think she can take it – his cheatin' heart might be okay.”

What do you think? Why do women love the cheatin' Don Draper? Do we now yearn for that old-fashioned, bring home the bacon kind of guy?

Filed under: Just Sayin'
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