CNN's GUT CHECK | for June 12, 2012 | 5 p.m.
– n. a pause to assess the state, progress or condition of the political news cycle
DEVELOPING… VOTING UNDERWAY FOR GABBY GIFFORDS’ SEAT: Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her husband, Mark Kelly, and candidate Ron Barber voted in Arizona's special election together hours ago. WATCH. Barber, a former Giffords’ aide who was shot in the head during last year's mass shooting that killed six and injured 13 others, including Giffords, is seeking to fill the remainder of Gifford’s term. Barber faces Republican opponent Jesse Kelly, a former Marine and Iraq war veteran who challenged Giffords in 2010 but came up 4,000 votes short. Arizona’s 8th Congressional District, which encompasses Tucson and parts of Southeast Arizona, leans Republican but is not considered a bellwether because of the conditions that led to this truly special election. Polls close at 10 p.m. ET.
On this day in history, who said "Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar"?
The story of the struggling economy is often told through numbers: nameless, faceless statistics that, as journalists, we cite in an effort to try and explain how families and the middle class, blue-collar workers and the working poor, retirees and in some cases entire communities are surviving in these times.
Numbers, though, rarely give readers and viewers the full scope of this problem, which is why every attempt is made to find someone who truly understands the struggle. And it is not just the media, but the campaigns who day in and day out hold dueling telephone conference calls and staged events featuring “real people.”
After all, humanizing a number is powerful in politics.
And yet, sometimes a number, a headline citing a number, can stand on its own such as this one from CNNMoney.com: Family net worth plummets nearly 40%
Eye popping. Heading shaking. Astonishing.
If there was ever a number that explains the state of the economy, it is this one. In five words and one number, this headline paints a clear picture that shows the economic problems are not just in the now but are long term.
It also explains, again, why the race for president will be decided largely on one issue – the battle over competing visions on who is best equipped to turn the economy around.
We know what dragged the economy down – loose financial regulations, collapse of the housing industry and individuals overextending themselves.
Yet we are still speechless when we read this line from CNNMoney.com about the Survey of Consumer Finances: The stunning drop in median net worth - from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010 - indicates that the recession wiped away 18 years of savings and investment by families.”
The survey data was compiled from President George W. Bush’s final years in office and the opening years of President Barack Obama’s term – deflating any political gain Republicans might hope to gain from it.
Yet it forces voters to think about the one question that will likely decide who wins in November: Who is best equipped to turn the economy around?
And the two candidates will be trying to convince voters such as Velma Hart that they have the answer.
Did you miss it?
Leading CNNPolitics: Do Obama, Romney lack common touch?
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each accuse the other of being out of touch, unable to connect with everyday people. Are either of them right? – Halimah Abdullah
Leading Drudge: US: Russia Sending Attack Helos To Syria
The Obama administration says Russia is sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime and is warning about a dramatic escalation in the Arab country's 15-month conflict. – Bradley Klapper
Leading HuffPo: Rick Scott: Voter Purge Turned Up 'Over 50' Non-Citizen Voters - 'The Debate's Over'
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Tuesday sought to explain his recent decision to sue the federal government over a controversial voter purge effort meant to strike supposed non-citizens from the rolls. – Nick Wing
Leading Politico: John McCain heated about popcorn provision
Nebraska grew more popcorn than any other state last year, and Omaha is home to ConAgra Foods, the corporate giant whose brands run from the classic Orville Redenbacher’s to Fiddle Faddle, Poppycock, Crunch ‘n Munch and Screaming Yellow Zonkers! – David Rogers
Leading New York Times: Vouchers Unspoken, Romney Hails School Choice
As president, Mitt Romney said, he would seek to overhaul the federal government’s largest school programs into a voucherlike system, replacing top-down Washington mandates. – Trip Gabriel
The political bites of the day
- No more Mr. Nice Guy -
MITT ROMNEY ON BARACK OBAMA IN A RADIO INTERVIEW FROM NAPLES, FLORIDA: “Whether or not you think he is a nice guy, he has clearly failed us. His policies did not work. The economy did not turn around. Housing prices didn’t come up. Unemployment was not brought down as he said it would. He said it’d be down at the 6% range by now and it is over 8%. By his own measurement, he has been unsuccessful, and we have to try policies of someone else, which have a much better chance of getting America back to work.”
- Remember candidate Michael Steele on the Scarlet Letter? Here’s candidate Kerrey on Dem defensiveness -
FORMER NEBRASKA SEN. BOB KERREY IN A ROLL CALL ARTICLE: “Democrats find themselves on the defensive. Moreover, the focus tends to be more on deficits — and it’s harder for Democrats to make the case that we haven’t contributed to those deficits because of stimulus and [the Troubled Asset Relief Program].”
- Cornyn calls for Holder to resign; the AG calls statement ‘breathtaking in its inaccuracies -
TEXAS SEN. JOHN CORNYN AT A SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: “You leave me no alternative but to join those who call upon you to resign your office. Americans deserve an attorney general who will be honest with them. They deserve an attorney general who will uphold the basic standards of independence and accountability. You’ve proven time and time again, sadly, that you’re unwilling to do so.”
- Holder defends administration’s record on leaks -
ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER IN TESTIMONY TO THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: “We have tried more leak cases, brought more leak cases during the course of this administration than any other administration. I was getting hammered by the left on that only two weeks ago. Now I am getting hammered by the right for potentially not going after leaks. It makes for an interesting - it makes for an interesting dynamic. The mechanisms that we have in place are indeed good ones, and we have shown in the past no hesitancy to employ them.”
What stopped us in 140 characters or less
On June 12, 1987, a defiant President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate, a symbol of the separation of East and West Berlin, and urged the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
“Secretary General Gorbachev, if you seek peace - if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - if you seek liberalization: come here, to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate,” Reagan told the jubilant West Berliners. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Reagan and Gorbachev had developed a close relationship over the years and though the Soviet news agency called Reagan’s visit “openly provocative” and “war-mongering,” the speech was largely seen as an invitation for more nuclear arms reductions talks.
And while with the clarity of history the speech is seen as a symbolic tipping point in the Cold War, it wasn’t seen that way initially.
“For all its drama, the speech received relatively little media coverage,” writes Romesh Ratnesar in Time magazine. “Compared to the younger, more vigorous Gorbachev, Reagan seemed to be a diminished figure on the world stage, a lame-duck President hobbled by the Iran-Contra scandal at home."
It wasn’t until 29 months later, on November 9, 1989, that East and West Berlin were united and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall began. After leaving the presidency, Reagan even traveled back to Berlin in 1990 and took a hammer to the wall himself – a task he called “damned hard.”
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Ken Jennings is back… sort of. Jonathan Gormley (@JonathanGormley) correctly answered today’s Gut Check trivia question with “Ronald Reagan.” We are beginning to think that Gormley is stockpiling CNN gear – for what reason, we don’t know.
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