Editor's note:David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four presidents. He is professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Follow him on Twitter.
(CNN) - "When they won't see the light," goes the old saying, "make 'em feel the heat." That was the strategy President Obama employed today in his press conference as he skewered Republicans over deficit negotiations. But where will it lead?
The president likely scored political points with two arguments. First, he skillfully made the case that in refusing to end tax breaks for oil companies, millionaires, and CEOs on corporate jets, Republicans are taking money away from hard-pressed Americans who need help. Who would want to do that?FULL STORY
Editor's note: David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been an adviser to four U.S. presidents. He is a professor of public service and director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School.
(CNN) - Until we have more definitive information about the shooter, pointing fingers at who might bear responsibility for the Tucson, Arizona, massacre only contributes to what we must end in America: a toxic political environment.
Soon after the news broke, the internet lit up with accusations, even before we knew anything at all about the man who pulled the trigger. Much of the early commentary, especially from the left, blamed the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, etc. for employing a rhetoric of militarism and creating a climate of hate.FULL STORY
(CNN) - It is striking that President Obama has just made strong assertions that the stimulus plan of last year has saved or created two million jobs and has been a great success. But a CNN poll that just came out of the field found that over half of all Americans oppose the stimulus plan and three quarters think huge amounts have been wasted. What is the disconnect here?
(CNN) - We have just officially learned that President Obama will speak for some 70-75 minutes tonight. Conventional wisdom holds that speeches should be short, to the point and leave people wanting more. Is this a good idea for the president tonight? Bill Clinton could pull it off, as he did. Barack Obama is an excellent speaker, as we all know, but can he pull it off, too? A big challenge - and we will all stay glued to watch, or will we?
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/06/25/obama.energy/art.obama.garden.gi.jpg caption="Opinion of Barack Obama as president continues at levels rarely seen in recent decades. "](CNN) - Across America and much of the world, opinion of Barack Obama as president continues at levels rarely seen in recent decades. Sure, there has been sniping from the right and a little slippage in the polls, but mainstream opinion – both in the polls and the press – has generally been lavish in praise.
That is why it has been jarring to read two of the most influential and mainstream newspapers in the world over the past few days, both of them harshly critical.
In editorials, columns and news stories on Saturday and again this morning, the Financial Times castigates the President for passive leadership. Among the headlines: “President Obama needs to lead”; “Obama is choosing to be weak”; “Cap-and-trade mess”; and “Punch-drunk Obama needs middle way on Tehran”. Meanwhile, the Economist spoke out in its new issue with a full-page column entitled, “The senator-in-chief: Barack Obama is too deferential to his former colleagues on Capitol Hill”.
The essence of their argument about his domestic leadership is that the President has assigned out to Congress primary responsibility for writing major legislative bills and then has stood by passively as the bills have been so watered down or become so flawed that they fall far short of what is needed.
I'd give President Obama a B+ for his handling of the economy so far. He essentially appears to be moving in the right direction, but the banking plan was slow to get off the ground and it's unclear if it will work.
(CNN) - For political impact, the President deserves a strong A for his speech tonight - it was inspiring, spoke to the chief concerns most Americans appear to have about his economic program, and explained the bailouts for banks and autos in terms that were very understandable.
It was also the most ambitious speech that we have heard from a President in decades - the first half sounded like FDR fighting for the New Deal, the second half, Lyndon Johnson fighting for the Great Society. Rhetorically, I thought the speech was a B - it had very little music. Clearly, as he himself said, he wanted to speak plainly and until near the end, he avoided soaring language. In short, I don't think it will find its way into an anthology of great speeches, but it will serve the President extremely well with the public.
John McCain and Sarha Palin are the 2008 Republican presidential ticket. (Photo: Mike Roselli/CNN)
A few thoughts as John McCain takes his bows: one cannot leave that speech without having enormous respect for him as a war hero and patriot. His retelling of his story tonight was extremely moving. I have long been a fan of John McCain the human being and I came away even more impressed tonight. It is worth remembering that a McCain has fought in every American war since 1776.
In terms of addressing America's big challenges, however, I found the speech much less compelling. It was a very general recitation of fairly standard Republican approaches (how is he really different from Bush on policy?), and it did not address many issues such as getting us out of an economic ditch, heading off the worst financial crisis since the Depression, exploding health care costs, and more. Overall, I thought that part of the speech was thin.
Kudos to McCain for leaving personal partisan rancor out of the speech. Personally, I wish that he had curbed some of that earlier in the convention.
Overall, I came away believing that the McCain-Palin ticket will be very formidable this fall. And even though the speech was long, I thought that when one judges its political impact, I would give it an A.
Palin wowed the RNC Wednesday, but how will she play in suburbia? (Photo credit: E.M. Pio Roda / CNN )
It is clear from tonight's national debut that Sarah Palin may connect extremely well in rural, small-town America. And no doubt, Republicans will be sending her there in key states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and the like. Her pit bull style, combined with her humor and presence along with her roots, will likely draw people to her. Lots of people there will look forward to hearing her in person.
The question for me is whether she will also appeal in suburban America. I am not at all certain that she will: her combative, anti-elitist style - along with her staunch conservatism on issues like abortion - may just leave a lot of voters cool if not cold.
The answer to that question could have a big bearing on the election. What do you think?
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/03/art.gergen2.gi.jpg caption="Palin addressed the RNC Wednesday."]Republicans got everything they could possibly want from Sarah Palin tonight: she was a large, confident personality - one Democratic friend ruefully wrote that she reminded him of Ann Richards - and she delivered an extremely well crafted speech. Before the speech, Republican strategists told Dana Bash of CNN that they hoped that she would show viewers "a common touch with executive presence", and she definitely succeeded at that.
Three things in particular stood out:
1. She joked that the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is ...lipstick. Clearly, in the next few weeks, she will play the role of a pit bull with lipstick. My sense is that she will very likely connect with blue collar America but may be much less successful in suburban America.
2. Her personal story is also one that will relate well to people. She has a quality of seeming like the girl next door.
3. She showed a lot of confidence in addressing energy toward the end of the speech, which gave her more substantive depth.
Now let us be clear: there will be tons of Democrats and others who will disagree with her and will take sharp exception with her views. Her jabs at Barack Obama and the Democrats were surprisingly personal at times. And she will face tough questioning ahead from the press. After all, there are still some serious questions about what kind of president she might be. We are going to have a rough and tumble race down the home stretch.