(CNN) - There were tears, fears and lots of shouting Wednesday when Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland held a town hall meeting on health care at Hagerstown Community College in his home state.
Dozens of audience members crowded two microphones to ask questions, and many accused Cardin and President Barack Obama's administration of seeking to
bankrupt the nation's future by overhauling the health-care system.
"This government is out of control. We are in debt up to our eyeballs," one questioner declared, her voice rising in anger. "What are you going to do to restore trust and faith in the American people that you know what you're doing?"
Cardin, often speaking above booing and shouts of protest, said he believes the government has a responsibility to ensure that all citizens have access to affordable health coverage.
Much of the crowd's anger focused on one of three House proposals approved by different committees. As a senator, Cardin is considering versions that differ from the House measures, and he noted several times that Congress would continue negotiating to derive a single bill from the various proposals.
(CNN) - A Superior Court judge in Alaska has ruled that former Gov. Sarah Palin was allowed to conduct official state business on a private e-mail account.
Anchorage resident Andree McLeod - who has filed multiple ethics complains against Palin - had sued the former Republican vice presidential nominee claiming that the use of private e-mails denied citizens the right to request public records.
But Judge Jack W. Smith ruled Wednesday that nothing in Alaska law prevents state officials from using private e-mail accounts.
(CNN)–The increasingly bitter battle over health care reform is making some people question President Obama's leadership.
Critics suggest that when it comes to governing on issues like health care, the president is missing the smooth confidence and "Yes we can" charisma that got him elected.
New York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd writes of this debate that seems to be spinning out of control:
"President Obama has proven quicksilver instincts, but not in this case. You would think that a politician schooled in community organizing and the foul balls of a presidential campaign would be ready to squash this kind of nuttiness." Dowd adds that Mr. Obama knows how to rise to the occasion, but he may be running out of time to do so.
On Salon.com, Camille Paglia criticizes the president for proposing only "vague and slippery promises" when it comes to health care. Paglia, who supports the president, faults him for handing over much of the debate to congressional leaders and also seeming to be in an unexplained rush to get something – anything – passed.
She compares it to the "massive boondoggle" of the economic stimulus package, which the president pretty much gave Congress free rein to turn into one big pork project.
And it's not just health care. The list of issues this president faces is mind-boggling and probably unprecedented: from the economy and healthcare to immigration reform (which Mr. Obama now says won't happen until next year) on the home front... to Afghanistan, Iran, and North Korea overseas.
Critics say on a lot of this stuff, the president is talking, not leading.
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion, click here.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it appears that the U.S. economy has halted the longest period of decline since the Great Depression, although it cautioned that economic activity is likely to remain weak in the near term.
The central bank left its key overnight interest rate at 0% to 0.25% range, as expected. Its statement at the conclusion of its two-day meeting said "economic activity is leveling out." That is its most bullish assessment of the economy in more than a year, and suggests that a recovery may have started.
It said that it still expects "inflation will remain subdued for some time" and said that it expects rates to remain near zero percent "for an extended period."
The Fed cut interest rates to the record low range at its December meeting in an effort to spur the struggling U.S. economy at that time.
It also pumped about $1 trillion of cash into the economy during the last year through a number of extraordinary programs, including the purchase of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities, as well as new programs to get banks and other lenders to extend credit to consumers.
But in recent weeks there has been a growing consensus among top economists that the U.S. economy has turned around or is close to doing so. A number of economic readings, including the government's employment report and the gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic activity, have improved - although they still show job losses and a modest drop in GDP.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – House Democrats feature former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a new fundraising push that is doubling as a way to distribute talking points on the issue of health care reform.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee blasted out an email Wednesday accusing Republicans of trying to "defeat health insurance reform" with "lies," as well as disrupting town hall meetings that are taking place during the summer congressional recess.
"Now, Sarah Palin is outrageously claiming that Americans 'would have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel" to receive care," DCCC Executive Director Jon Vogel writes in the email that includes a picture of the former Alaska governor. "While Palin's attack is a complete fabrication, the GOP is closing ranks to defend these outright lies. Over the weekend, former Speaker Newt Gingrich stood by Palin's bizarre "death panel" accusation on national TV."
A hyperlink embedded in the email then takes supporters to the DCCC Web site where people can print out a free copy of the talking points or if they make a donation then a set of "five pre-printed 'Health Care Fact Check' Cards on heavy-duty card stock to keep or share with friends and family" will be sent to their address.
Using the image or name of an opponent is often used by both Democrats and Republicans to encourage people to contribute money as well as excite grassroots activists to become involved in a political campaign or cause.
(CNN) - Now it's the Republicans' turn to face the health-care debate back home.
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley held the first of four town meetings in his home state Wednesday, welcoming what he called a much larger crowd than the usual political gathering.
"We're here at a time when I sense that people are scared for our country and that's why we're having big turnouts," he said to a mostly conservative audience of about 200 people.
The outdoor gathering in Winterset, Iowa, erupted in argument a few times after some left-leaning questions, but the overall tone was more orderly than similar health-care meetings by Democratic politicians.
Grassley is one of six members of the Senate Finance Committee - three Democrats and three Republicans - negotiating the only bipartisan health-care legislation so far.
Listen: CNN's Candy Crowley reports on Grassley's town hall
The six negotiators are not considering a government-funded public health insurance option favored by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders, but are looking at non-profit cooperatives that would negotiate collective polices for members.
Grassley warned that the months of negotiations may fail to produce a bill he can support.
"Nothing may come out of our committee," Grassley said. "It may not be something I can agree with, so I may be pushed away from the table."
He listed his conditions for a bill, saying "what we stand for is that the government is not going to take over the health-care system."
During a White House ceremony Wednesday, President Obama celebrated Justice Sotomayor's swearing-in to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
(Read Obama's and Sotomayor's remarks during Wednesday ceremony after the jump)
WASHINGTON (CNN) - As President Barack Obama's health care proposals face opposition at town halls across the country, a new poll indicates American's opinions of how Obama is handling the issue have not changed.
Forty-three percent of people questioned in a Gallup national survey released Wednesday say they approve of how the president's handling health care, with 49 percent opposed.
The 43 percent approval rating is down just one point from a Gallup poll conducted in the middle of July. The 49 percent who oppose the president is also down a point from last month's survey. That's well within the poll's sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.
The new Gallup poll was conducted August 6-9, as lawmakers were beginning their summer recess, and as coverage of people at town halls protesting the president's health care reform proposals increased across the media.
"The good news for the White House is that the town hall protests have not affected views of Obama," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The bad news for the White House is that a plurality of Americans had a negative view of Obama on health care before the town hall protests began."
One thousand and ten people were questioned by telephone for the Gallup poll.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A pioneer, a preacher, an activist and an athlete are among 16 people who President Barack Obama will honor Wednesday with the Presidential Medal of Freedom - the nation's highest civilian honor.
The recipients, said the White House, were chosen for their relentless breaking of barriers and for setting "a standard to which we all should strive."
The annual award was created after World War II when President Harry Truman wanted to honor civilian service during the war.
The 16 who will be honored at a White House ceremony Wednesday afternoon are: