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Quick shots: Messages and advice

By Hilary Rosen and William Bennett
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hilary Rosen: Lobbyists can fund campaigns anonymously: more leverage to buy votes
  • Republicans' jobs plan is to make the playing field favor the wealthy again, she writes
  • William Bennett calls on Tea Party and GOP to address issues when they win
  • Education, foreign and defense policy, drug abuse need to be dealt with, Bennett says

Editor's note: There are 20 days to go before voters cast ballots in the hotly contested midterm elections. In this special feature, CNN's political contributors share their quick thoughts on what's making news.

Hilary Rosen is a Democratic political strategist and former chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America.

William J. Bennett is a CNN contributor, radio host and the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute.

Hilary Rosen: The "loser" message and donating in secret

"Congressman, nice to see you today," said the lobbyist. "We need your vote on that tax cut bill for our company's investment in a new plant in China.

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"Yes, I know we are building it in China and hiring Chinese workers and not Americans, but our shareholders will benefit. You know the ones who make lots of money already?

"Oh, and by the way, congressman, if you don't vote with us, we are going to fund your opponent's campaign with millions of dollars and you will never know what hit you -- because we can do that in secret."

Does this scenario seem like a horror story? A joke? It's actually the truth. That is what is happening right now in this election, and it will only get worse if people don't stand up to it. The Republicans have no jobs plan; they only have a plan to make the playing field favor the wealthy again, like they did for the last eight years.

The media says this isn't a "winning message." Maybe they are right. But the loser is the average Jane who is working hard trying to pay her bills, and she gets screwed every time the above conversation happens. And it will happen if we don't stop them on November 2.

William Bennett: Memo to Tea Party and GOP candidates

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You have done a more than admirable job over the campaign season leading up to November 2 in casting this election as a referendum on America's future. You have done an equally superb job of raising concerns about the country and the world our children and grandchildren will inherit. Most of your themes have been about jobs, the economy and the deficits -- all critically important. But there are three areas of importance to our progeny's future I have not heard enough about from you, and I ask that you not neglect them once you become a congressional majority with a bully pulpit and the power of the purse.

Foreign and defense policy: President Obama campaigned on resetting our foreign and defense policy, and reestablishing a respect for America that he and the Democrats claimed had been set back. Since Obama has taken office, he has actually turned things toward the worse -- both for our allies (From India to Eastern Europe to Israel) and our enemies (From Iran to al Qaeda and its affiliates).

Education: Our nation's elementary and secondary education system is a shambles. About one-third of our nation's fourth-graders are functionally illiterate, reading below a basic level; at the eighth-grade level, about a quarter of our students read below basic; and at the twelfth-grade level, we're approaching 30 percent.

About 20 percent of our fourth-graders perform below basic in math, 30 percent of our eighth-graders perform below basic in math, and nearly 40 percent of our twelfth-graders perform below basic in math.

Our science scores are even worse, especially compared with those of other countries. And more than 50 percent of our nation's high school seniors score below basic in their knowledge of American history. I continually ask: How can we ask our nation's 18-year-olds to serve, vote in, and fight (and maybe even die) for a country they simply do not know?

Drugs: Today, 10 percent of our nation's adolescents and more than 21 percent of our nation's young adults are regular abusers of illicit drugs. Almost 30 percent of our nation's children in public schools are attending schools that are gang- and drug-infected. And despite having a strong following among these age cohorts, our president says nothing about the increase in these dangerous and upticking trends. Meanwhile, more and more teens see no problem with illegal drug use. We are losing the war for our children's health, sobriety and future -- and at the most important stages in their lives.

While one may think every anthropologist loves his own tribe, as I mention these issues, there is something more important at work here: These issues are crucial to our greatness and our future, and to our children's and grandchildren's safety, health and success. I do not hear candidates mention them when they call my radio show, but when I raise these issues, we nearly melt our phone lines.

There is a lot on our plate as a polity right now, but to forget or neglect these three issues is a mistake with consequences that will be as drastic as any related to our economy. And let's not forget this either: They all affect our economic condition, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the authors.