January 9th: What's On Today's Show

In our second hour, guests explain the influence of independent voters, and whether or not they are really as independent as they seem.

hide captionIn our second hour, guests explain the influence of independent voters, and whether or not they are really as independent as they seem.

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The Military We Need
Just weeks after withdrawing troops from Iraq, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta laid out President Obama's plans to cut the defense budget by more than $450 billion over the next ten years. Panetta stated that despite the cuts, the United States will still have one of the strongest militaries in the world. But not everyone agrees, and some have raised questions about the the type of military presence we need to have, especially as the Obama administration calls for more strategic operations across the Pacific and Middle East. Neal Conan speaks with NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman on the proposed defense cuts and the implications they will have on future military operations.

Opinion Page
Throughout the campaign season, politicians reveal stories about their pasts as fodder for campaign ads and stump speeches. But such revelations tend to draw criticisms and microscopic analysis from the other side. For example, Rick Santorum has told a story about how he and his wife decided to take home their son, Gabriel, who was born prematurely, after he died. Since then, pundits have weighed in on what the story says about the Santorums, using words like "crazy" and "weird." New York Times columnist Ross Douthat says politicians can and should contest the critiques, but they have lost the right to complain about them.

Role of Independent Voters
New Hampshire Republicans vote Tuesday in the first primary in the country for the 2012 GOP nominating contests. Unlike many states, independents in New Hampshire can vote in the Republican primary. In a state with an independent bent like New Hampshire, they can wield considerable power. Polls show around 40% of voters nationwide identify themselves as independent. In this hour, host Neal Conan speaks with Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page and George W. Bush campaign strategist Daron Shaw about the independent electorate.

Whooping Cranes
A flock of whooping cranes and an ultralight plane are grounded in Alabama due to a Federal Aviation Administration investigation. Operation Migration uses ultralight planes to guide whooping cranes in migration from Wisconsin to their winter home in Florida. Operation Migration pilots are licensed to fly sport aircraft. However, the FAA prohibits sport aircraft, including ultralight planes, from being flown for hire by a business or charity. Operation Migration argues that this rule wasn't designed to prevent wildlife reintroduction. Host Neal Conan speaks with Operation Migration co-founder and CEO Joe Duff.

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