(CNN Student News) -- December 3, 2009
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CARL AZUZ, CNN STUDENT NEWS ANCHOR: On Tuesday, President Obama outlined his plan for the war in Afghanistan. Today, we're looking at people's reaction to his announcement. I'm Carl Azuz, and CNN Student News starts right now!
AZUZ: Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, says the decision to send 30,000 additional forces there gives him a clear mission and the necessary resources to complete it. Many Republicans support sending more troops, but they're against setting a timeline for when those troops will leave. President Obama wants to start pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in mid-2011. And some Democrats are against sending any more troops there at all. Administration officials say the president can adjust his decision if he needs to. They believe Tuesday's speech didn't lock the U.S. into leaving Afghanistan; it just made it clear that America doesn't want to stay there long term. Now that is the political reaction. How about ordinary citizens' responses? Jim Acosta dials up those for us.
MICHAEL MASLANSKY, MANAGING DIRECTOR, LUNTZ RESEARCH COMPANIES: Any other specific phrases that stood out?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pollster Michael Maslansky brought together a group of roughly 30 people and split them up into Obama and McCain voters to rate the president's speech. Armed with dial testers, the focus group turned their knobs up for parts of the speech they liked, down for parts they could do without.
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might.
ACOSTA: Through much of the speech, the results were positive. McCain voters were actually more supportive than Obama voters.
OBAMA: This danger will only grow if the region slides backwards and al Qaeda can operate with impunity.
ACOSTA: When the president responded to critics who say he's taking too long to make up his mind...
OBAMA: There has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war.
ACOSTA: ...Conservatives were not buying it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many of you thought he succeeded tonight? Show your hands.
ACOSTA: But after the speech, we heard something we haven't heard much all year: strong praise from Republicans for Mr. Obama.
DAVID NORDSTROM, REPUBLICAN, FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT: It was the most presidential speech I've ever heard him give.
ACOSTA: And you're a Republican or Democrat?
NORDSTROM: I'm a Republican.
LINDA BARNETT, REPUBLICAN, FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT: He reminded me, and I hope it reminded a lot of people, that we are first and foremost Americans.
ACOSTA: And you didn't vote for Obama?
BARNETT: No, sir.
ACOSTA: And you are a Republican?
BARNETT: I am.
ACOSTA: But you really liked the speech?
BARNETT: You know what? I hope he does well.
ACOSTA: Just not all Republicans.
JUSTIN KUBIAK, REPUBLICAN, FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT: He let out a broad kind of a generic strategy, which is kind of what he does. He's a good performer laying out a broad strategy, but when it gets down to brass tacks, when it gets down to specifics, I didn't hear anything new.
ACOSTA: The biggest doubts came from Democrats.
Do you think the president's making a mistake?
PATRICIA CHITTAMS, DEMOCRAT, FOCUS GROUP PARTICIPANT: In some ways, yes, and in some ways no. I think that we need more troops than the 30,000.
MASLANSKY: It was an overwhelmingly positive reaction.
ACOSTA: While Michael Maslansky is not sure Mr. Obama responded effectively to his critics...
MASLANSKY: He tried to reject the idea that he had delayed his decision.
ACOSTA: The dithering.
MASLANSKY: The dithering. He said we did not delay any of our decisions. Now, that may be true, it may not. It doesn't matter. The American people believe that he's taken too long to make this decision.
ACOSTA: And this focus group believe that?
MASLANSKY: They completely believed it.
ACOSTA: He does believe the president succeeded in rallying the nation.
MASLANSKY: He used history as a foundation for what he was trying to say, but he did not bash the Bush era, and it really resonated with McCain voters.
Hollywood on Afghanistan
AZUZ: Okay, so President Obama's speech going over pretty well with some people who didn't support him in last November's election might be a bit of a surprise. But the reaction of some people who did support him might also be surprising. Many actors and directors turned out for candidate Obama last year. Kareen Wynter heads to Hollywood to find out how they're reacting to President Obama's latest decision.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LOS ANGELES: Some in Hollywood don't like the message.
ROBERT GREENWALD, FILMMAKER: I think there will be betrayal. I think there will be pain, and I think there will be grief.
WYNTER: Filmmaker Robert Greenwald, an outspoken liberal activist who produced a documentary against further engagement in Afghanistan, is among those decrying the president's plan to boost troop levels.
GREENWALD: I think the decision to add troops is tragic, because it's fundamentally wrong.
WYNTER: Director Michael Moore is echoing alarm among liberal Democrats who helped Obama win the White House. He issued a scathing open letter to Obama, telling the commander in chief that if he goes through with a troop increase, "You are the new war president, and with that you will do the worst possible thing: destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in you."
GREENWALD: So, this is their refugee camp.
WYNTER: Greenwald traveled to Afghanistan to film his film that argues why the U.S. should withdraw entirely.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because it's our blood on the line.
GREENWALD: We've interviewed over 120 people for our "Rethink Afghanistan" film and work, and there's a tremendous consensus of opinion about the idea military won't solve it.
TED JOHNSON, MANAGING EDITOR, DAILY VARIETY: Especially among liberals and progressives within the entertainment community, President Obama's decision on Afghanistan threatens to create serious fissures in his support out here.
WYNTER: At an event in New York Monday night, some stars did not want to talk about the Afghanistan question.
ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: Not here to talk about that.
WYNTER: Others expressed support for the president's plan.
SHOHREH AGHDASHLOO, ACTRESS: I feel quite confident about it. I think he's doing the right thing.
WYNTER: Others were non-committal, but said overall they still back the president.
STANLEY TUCCI, ACTOR: I have faith in him.
WYNTER: Do you still support him?
NATALIE PORTMAN, ACTRESS: Yes, I do.
WYNTER: But some analysts believe that if enough celebrities abandon the president, it could hurt his image. "Variety's" Ted Johnson notes stars have their own kind of bully pulpit.
JOHNSON: They have the megaphone; they have the platform. They get the news attention
WYNTER: Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hollywood.
AZUZ: I want to thank the hundreds of you who had excellent comments on our blog. At last glance, our quick poll was split right down the middle. Haven't seen this before: 50 percent of you agreeing with the president's decision; 50 percent saying he should not be sending more troops. Jay writes: "I believe the troop increase is completely necessary. Hopefully, it'll pressure the Taliban enough to have a significant impact on the rest of the war." From Presley: "If they send more troops to Afghanistan, there will be a better chance things will move more quickly and more efficiently. We need to maintain a presence in the Middle East." Mikayla says, "I don't think they should do this because the U.S. already owes so much money in debt, and I think they should pay that off before they start sending troops out." Carl -- different Carl, same sweet name -- he notes, "It will cost more to taxpayers; it will take more troops away from their families. This is not a good idea from the president."
Word to the Wise
TOMEKA JONES, CNN STUDENT NEWS: A Word to the Wise...
truancy (noun) the act of skipping or being absent from school without permission
AZUZ: Well, whether you accidentally sleep through your alarm or just straight up skip, students are usually the ones who get in trouble for truancy. But in one school district in Green Bay, Wisconsin, a judge is punishing parents of student skippers. Jeff Alexander of affiliate WBAY fills us in.
JUDGE JERRY HANSON, GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN MUNICIPAL COURT: You've been charged with habitual truancy. How do you plead on that?.
JEFF ALEXANDER, WBAY REPORTER: Every week, Municipal Judge Jerry Hanson is at a Green Bay high school holding truancy court. Each year, he issues more than 500 truancy tickets to students, and yet attendance continues to be a serious problem. Judge Hanson says often it's the same reason why:
HANSON: A parent or a guardian who either encourages or contributes to the truancy of an individual, i.e., not helping them along.
ALEXANDER: So this year, Hanson is asking the students he sees questions about their parents.
HANSON: What does she do to try to help you go to school?
ALEXANDER: He then has police issue $366 Contributing to Truancy citations to parents he feels deserve them.
HANSON: It's a good chunk of money.
ALEXANDER: After receiving a citation, parents must show up at truancy court with their child and try to work things out with the judge, maybe even avoid paying the fine. If they don't show up, they could ultimately face an arrest warrant. Social workers at Preble High School stand behind the hard-line approach.
KELLY ROWE, SOCIAL WORKER: The school can only do so much, and the parents have to do their part in trying to get kids to school. And when we've tried to contact parents and they're not helping us, then I think it needs to be taken to the next level.
ALEXANDER: And Rowe says right now, close to 100 students at Preble alone have serious attendance problems, which could prove costly to their parents.
AZUZ: Holy cow. We know some of y'all are going to want to sound off on this one. You see our page there: You go to CNNStudentNews.com, click on our blog "From A to Z." We want you to tell us: Would truancy fines get parents to make sure their students get in school? And if that wouldn't work in your opinion, what would? Go to our blog. Let us know what you think today.
Before We Go
AZUZ: Before we go, a feline frenzy descends on Atlanta. It is the country's largest cat show, where contestants try to claw their way to the top. 650 curious kitties took part in the event, putting their 5,850 lives on the line. Ok, it's not that dramatic, but cut us some slack; we're trying to make a cat contest sound exciting. The winner, this thing: name is Gorilla. You can pretty much see how he got that name. Of course, we can always make a lot of jokes about something like that.
AZUZ: But we assure you, they're in purr-fectly good fun. All right, a lot of you guys saw that pun coming; what you didn't probably realize is that it was going to be that cat-astrophic. But we will be back with more tomorrow. For CNN Student News, I'm Carl Azuz.