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Wiener, from joke to mayor?

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
updated 9:53 AM EDT, Fri May 24, 2013
Your hosts for CNN's weekly podcast
Your hosts for CNN's weekly podcast "The Big Three," from left: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover and Dean Obeidallah.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • CNN Radio podcast features CNN Opinion contributors on top three stories
  • Dean Obeidallah: Guest Jim Gaffigan offers parenting advice to Hoover, Avlon, parents-to-be
  • They discuss Oklahoma Congressmen's hypocrisy in accepting tornado aid
  • They take on Bloomberg's comment that plumbing might be better for some than college

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top three stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Will New Yorkers elect a punchline as mayor?

Anthony Weiner's entry into the New York City race for mayor was one of the issues we discussed with comedian Jim Gaffigan, our guest this week on the CNN weekly podcast "The Big Three," co-hosted by CNN's Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and myself.

Jim, who many know from his Comedy Central specials and his numerous appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman" and "Conan," also talked with us about his new book "Dad Is Fat" (No. 5 on The New York Times' Best Sellers List), in which he writes about the adventures of raising five young children with his wife in a midsized New York City apartment.

Jim offered some very funny yet helpful advice to my co-hosts, who are married to each other and expecting their first child this summer. Jim offered particularly instructive guidance for how Margaret and John can cope with their expected son's most traumatizing day: His circumcision.

To listen to the podcast, click on the Soundcloud audio player above. Or find it on iTunes.

But back to Anthony Weiner: For those of you who missed it, in 2011 the former congressman texted pictures of his private parts to women, lied about it, had to resign.

We all agreed his mayoral bid can't simply be dismissed as a joke. In fact, a new poll has him in second place in the mayoral race, and he has close to $4 million in his campaign chest. Weiner might just win this race --assuming he has figured out the proper way to use Twitter.

In the podcast, we also tackled two other issues that sparked heated discussions and had unexpected results.

The first was political hypocrisy in the response to the Oklahoma tornado.

Certainly all elected officials expressed their condolences and support for the people who suffered as a result of this devastating natural disaster. But we saw some Republican members of Congress from Oklahoma -- most notably Sen. James Inhofe -- now supporting federal disaster relief for the people of their state.

But these same people opposed supporting federal aid for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, which hit in October. This wasn't lost on a fellow Republican, Rep. Peter King of New York. He called them out -- and caused me, probably for the first time in my life, to agree with something King said.

Our biggest debate on this issue, though, was over the role the federal government should play in helping people after a natural disaster.

Margaret said federal government shouldn't be the primary source of funding for these people, arguing that instead the government can be a facilitator, seeking and encouraging private funds and donations to provide assistance. In contrast, I strongly believe that the federal government should be leading and funding the relief effort so that people in need are helped as quickly as possible.

Our third big issue was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's comment this week that if you weren't at the top of your class in high school, you shouldn't waste the money and time on college and instead you should become "a plumber."

As John noted, this sentiment echoed a 2012 statement by former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who mocked President Barack Obama as being a "snob" for saying he wanted everyone to go to college. Instead, Santorum believed that some should forget college and instead pursue jobs that require using your hands.

While we all agreed that the costs of a college education now border on the obscene, we did not agree on what was causing the hike in tuition prices. But there was no dispute that anyone who dreams of going to college and has graduated high school should have the opportunity to pursue higher education.

A college education not only increases a person's knowledge, it results in more employment opportunities and better wages.

In fact, people with less than a high school diploma have an unemployment rate of 12.4%. In contrast, the unemployment rate of those with a four-year college degree is only 4.5%, well below the national unemployment rate of 7.5%.

We hope you check out this week's episode of "The Big Three." We would love to hear your thoughts on the podcast and the issues we raised.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

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