March 17th, 2009, is a date that journalists Lisa Ling and Euna Lee will never forget. They were along the China/North Korea border, working on a documentary on North Korean defectors when they were taken prisoner by North Korean soldiers.
"I was struck by the butt of soldier's rifle and I blacked out as he was dragging me. When I came to I was in North Korea. Here I was in the most isolated country in the world. One that regards the United States as its arch enemy," Ling told CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford on Friday's "Washington Unplugged."
Ling continued: "I could not speak the language, did not know if I would ever see my family again, didn't know if I would live to see the next day."
After what could be described as a show trial, Ling was sentenced to 12 years in a North Korean prison camp.
"When I heard the words, '12 years of hard labor with no forgiveness and no appeal', that's when I really started to spiral into a depression," she said. "I started refusing meals, just thinking that I might not get to ever see my family or start a family..."Continue »
The crowning of Lebanese-American Rima Fakih as Miss USA has a greater impact beyond serving as fodder for entertainment shows.
On Friday's "Washington Unplugged," CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate discussed Fakih's impact with Correspondent Bob Orr -- a topic that's "off-beat" for Zarate's usually serious "Flash Points" weekly series.
As Zarate notes, "The story of Rima Fakih is a great American success story. The first Arab-American Muslim women to win the Miss USA title."
There are a couple of reasons why this is important in a National Security context , Zarate explained.Continue »
On Thursday's "Washington Unplugged," John Dickerson was joined by CBSNews.com's Stephanie Condon and Politico's Kasie Hunt for a reporter roundtable on immigration and Mexican President Felipe Calderon's address to Congress this morning.
Condon noted that the reaction from members clearly showed the split in Washington on the issue.
"When he mentioned the Arizona law, he got a standing ovation from half of Congress. It really had the feel of a State of the Union address where there's a real partisan divide in who applauds the president's remarks," she said.
With this division along party lines, the question is can we expect Congress to get to work anytime soon, especially in an election year? "It's going to have to start with the Senate and Senate Democrats released a comprehensive framework for Immigration Reform, but it got caught up in process problems and Democrats are looking for Republican partners." Hunt said.Continue »
While in Washington to promote Jane Goodall's pioneering research, musician Dave Matthews took time out to speak with "Washington Unplugged" about why it's difficult for him to trust Washington politicians. "I can say, almost without exception, politicians are disappointing. Unfortunately, they have a fear of the consequences of them speaking strong true words against what the established power would like them to say."Continue »
It was only a few weeks ago when Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter was ahead of Rep. Joe Sestak by a margin of 20 points for Pennsylvania's Democratic Senate Primary. How much a few good campaign ads and a tidal wave of anti-incumbent sentiment change turn things around.
On Wednesday's "Washington Unplugged," Sestak talked about his victory over Specter with Bill Plante . He said Washington needs to work for the people and not the other way around.
"The career politicians down in Washington don't want to be held accountable. They've lost the trust and the faith of the voters and I think that's what you saw last night, at least in Pennsylvania," he said.
Sestak now advances to the next round, but how will his "outsider" status affect him within the Democratic establishment, most of whom supported Specter, including Gov. Ed Rendell and the White House?
Watch Wednesday's "Washington Unplugged" above, which also features Oscar nominated actor Don Cheadle and his efforts on Capitol Hill to promote the protection of ecosystems and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on his "YouCut " program where people can take part in House Republicans' efforts to cut government spending.
Results: Roundup: All Winners and Losers
Specter Falls in Pa. Dem Primary to Joe Sestak
Rand Paul Wins Kentucky GOP Primary
Blanche Lincoln, Bill Halter Headed for Run-Off
Dem Wins Special Election for Murtha's Seat
"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.
Two Democrats are facing off in a critical primary contest in Pennsylvania today, and Gov. Ed Rendell said on Washington Unplugged that Sen. Arlen Specter deserves to knock out his primary challenger, Rep. Joe Sestak.
"He's one of the most impactful, probably the most impactful, senator in the state's history," Rendell told CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante. "Why would we lose him?"
In the wake of Sestak's devastating campaign ad "The Switch," which portrayed Specter as switching parties only so he could "get re-elected," Rendell commended Specter for leaving the Republican Party. "His switch in parties was a courageous switch because he knew when he voted for the stimulus plan that he was signing his death warrant as a Republican," he said.Continue »
While critics cast the Tea Party movement as a fad and a flash in the pan, Tuesday's Republican Senate primary in Kentucky might prove to naysayers that they indeed are a legitimate force and their backing of Dr. Rand Paul has propelled him as the front-runner for what is usually a ho-hum race.Watch the video at left or here.
Paul joined CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante on Tuesday's "Washington Unplugged" and explained this isn't an issue of Republican vs. Democrat but a referendum on the out of control spending from both parties in Washington.
"Neither party has controlled the debt very well and neither party has controlled spending," he said. "So I think the Tea Party is about bringing government back to its senses and a lot of the things we talk about are a chastisement to both parties."
He insists, though that the aim of the Tea Party movement isn't to isolate the other parties and that, in fact, he shares some ideals with Democrats.
"I think the interesting thing is that a lot of the things the Tea Party talk about are very popular with Democrats and Independents. We talk about term limits... You poll a balanced budget amendment you find than an enormous amount of Independents and Democrats support term limits and balanced budget," he said.
As Plante noted, Paul sounded quite confident of victory in today's vote.Continue »
Relations between the administrations of President Obama and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai have been strained for much of 2010, but on Wednesday the two leaders made nice, holding a press conference in which they projected mutual respect and cooperation.
The reality, however, is that sticking points remain between the two men - and it will take more than a stateside visit and photo-op to adequately address them.
On Thursday's Washington Unplugged, Zalmay Khalilzad, the former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, spoke with CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante about the realities both sides are facing.
According to Khalilzad, relations "will ultimately depend on whether progress is made on the ground" in the war in Afghanistan.
"If progress is not made the contentiousness will return in my judgment," he said.Continue »
On Tuesday's Washington Unplugged, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) spoke with CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Nancy Cordes, reacting to BP's unprecedented plan to contain the massive oil spill with a metal container that will be lowered onto the leaking pipe to try to suck in the flowing oil.
Nelson said, "If it works, presumably all that oil coming from the well head would go up into that container, then up a pipe to a tanker. Let's hope it works."
While oil companies are on the hook for clean-up costs they are not obligated to pay costs exceeding $75 million to business and communities affected by these disasters.
"Existing law only limits a company to $75 million in damages, and you can imagine that this is going to be one of the worst environmental and economical disasters," Nelson said.
He and Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) introduced the Big Oil Prevention Act to ensure that oil companies are not allowed off the hook when it comes to paying for economic damages as a result of future oil spills. It would raise the liability cap from $75 million to $10 billion. It would also eliminate the $1 billion per incident cap on claims against the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, a government reserve for handling the immediate costs of dealing with disasters.
Watch the interview above, or watch all of Tuesday's Washington Unplugged here, also featuring CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate with the latest on the failed Times Square attack and suspect Faisal Shahzad.
"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.
To put it simply, the Obama White House and the White House Press Corps are having issues. Those issues range from the president leaving the White House without the press pool in tow to not making statements at most of his bilateral meetings during the Nuclear Security Summit.
On CNN's "Reliable Sources" two weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz about his daily press briefings, "I sometimes joke that I know when somebody thinks they have a good question, because when I walk in they've already got their makeup on."
The comment and earlier incidents resulted in a mini-summit between Gibbs and select White House reporters.
On Tuesday's Washington Unplugged, Sharyl Attkisson discussed this with White House Correspondents' Association Board Member and Reuters White House Correspondent Caren Bohan, who explained what was brought up at the meeting with Gibbs.
"One of the issues that I think is important is we would like to see President Obama hold more press conferences," she said. "He's been a little more reluctant to hold news conferences or take questions from reporters at informal settings."
Another issue raised at the meeting was the use of "anonymous sources" by the press corps. Gibbs asked reporters to end their use of quoting anonymous sources. Continue »
President Obama has cast a wide net in his search for his second Supreme Court pick in less than a year, and he's hoping to stay on the same timetable as with the nomination of Justice Sonya Sotomayor.
On Wednesday's Washington Unplugged, CBS News Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford spoke with Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante. "My guidance is that this is going to be early to mid May," she said. "They want to do it before May 26th. They want to start those hearings in July."
The White House confirmed Wednesday that it has a list of 10 potential nominees, but the focus has narrowed to just a handful. As Crawford explains, the White House is "doing intense vetting right now."
"They're going to cast a very wide net right now because they have a lot of constituencies they're trying to satisfy," she said. "When it comes down to it, it's just going to be a handful at the very end that [Obama] will talk to and look at seriously."
One new name that's being floated around and could be a strong possible pick is Martha Minnow, the current Dean of Harvard Law School. Crawford notes, "She was also a professor of President Obama's at Harvard Law and was one of the people who encouraged him to go into public service."
Watch more of CBS News' Jan Crawford on who else is on the President's SCOTUS short-list as well as CBS News Washington Bureau Chief Chris Isham's interview with acclaimed journalist and author Ahmed Rashid.
"Washington Unplugged" appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET.Continue »
Hawaii has a unique format for its election, a "winner-takes-all" format, meaning an open race without a primary and runoff - the candidate with a plurality of votes wins. Two Democrats, state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case are running against Republican Honolulu councilman Charles Djou.
According to Ambinder, "That could give the Republican Charles Djou a leg up in this district which since 1971 has only gone to a Republican once."
In Pennsylvania, the race if on for the late John Murtha's congressional seat. Murtha passed away in February and a special election will be held on May 22nd.
Breaking down the candidates Ambinder notes, "Tim Burns, Republican business man who has plenty of money and plenty of support. Then you have Murtha's District Director Mark Critz who is running essentially to continue to Murtha legacy."
The district has been held by Murtha for over three decades.
"It's a legacy of government largesse. This is a district that is very used to getting favors from government. Burns is running on the platform that suggests that all of that, 35 years of that was bad for the district," he said.
The reason why PA-12 is important is because should Tim Burns win, it would be telling as to voter sentiments nationwide on the power of big government.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist also faces the battle of his political career in the Republican Senate primary vs. Marco Rubio - and now the possibility of him running as a 3rd party candidate looks more and more like the solution to his "Rubio woes."
"Republican Party in Florida has essentially given up on him and there are signs that he's given up on the Republican Party," said Ambinder.
Watch Monday's "Washington Unplugged" above - which also features the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Rubin on Defense Secretary Robert Gates' leaked memo on the lack of an effective Iran strategy and "Behind the Scenes" during Republican Sen. Scott Brown's interview on "Face the Nation".
"Washington Unplugged," CBSNews.com's exclusive daily politics Webshow, appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.
Climate Change and the environment has taken a back-seat to other domestic issues like health care and the economy in President Obama's first year in office, but that's not stopping a group of dedicated young people from trying to grab Washington's attention.
On "Washington Unplugged" Tuesday, Earth Day Network's Campaign Director Nate Byer spoke with CBS News' Nancy Cordes and Kaylee Hartung about the importance of tackling this issue, "Now is the time for people to come together. We've got a great young team here."
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Earth Day Network, the organization that coordinates all events for Earth Day, is holding a Climate Rally on the National Mall in Washington on Sunday, April 25th, with performances by Sting, John Legend, The Roots and many more.
And they hope to make a big statement with this year's events. According to Byer, "We wan to make Earth Day a State of the Union for the environment."
Watch the Earth Day Network's Nate Byer with Nancy Cordes and Kaylee Hartung above, also featuring CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate on the Nuclear Summit and Politico's Jonathan Allen on the Senate's return from recess.
"Washington Unplugged" appears live on CBSNews.com each weekday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Click here to check out previous episodes.
Republican California Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman may be the billionaire former CEO of eBay who has already shattered primary and personal spending records, but her role as an "outsider" may serve to her advantage as the backlash against the "establishment" grows, CBS News Chief Political Consultant Marc Ambinder said Monday.
In a new weekly series on Washington Unplugged, Ambinder is breaking down this year's buzzworthy races. Of Whitman, Ambinder said, "She doesn't have much of a political background, which is to her benefit in a year when politics is seen as poisonous."
Whitman's "outsider" role stands in sharp contrast to the likely Democratic candidate, attorney general and political mainstay Jerry Brown, known to many Californians as "Governor Moonbeam." Brown was the state's two-time Governor from 1975-1983.
According to Ambinder, "You're going to have a classic case, perhaps the template of a Republican running as a can-do, pragmatic problem-solver against an established politician who is able to really rouse the Democratic base. It's going to be a very interesting, very close race."Continue »
Perhaps there is something in the tea: On "Washington Unplugged" Wednesday, the debate between Tea Party Patriots National Coordinator Debbie Dooley and Patriot Majority PAC President Craig Varoga quickly turned ugly.
Patriot Majority, a left-leaning group, has launched a campaign targeting Tea Party candidates in this year's hotly contested mid-term elections with the hopes of keeping them out of office.
According to Varoga, "The Tea Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin is the leader of it. Any attempts to distance themselves from that are not going to be successful."
Dooley quickly shot back, responding, "If you cannot discredit the message, you try to discredit the messenger...Don't sit there and tell me we're part of the Republican Party. You are not going to get away with discrediting our message because you don't like what our message is."
Moderator Bob Schieffer played referee as the debate progressed and both sides could barely get a word in edgewise. The issue of Sarah Palin's connection to the Tea Party became a reoccurring theme during the debate.
Dooley discussed the relationship between Palin and Tea Party Patriots.