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NDN in the News

Simon was in the Washington Post Friday discussing Iraq and this year's mid-term elections.  

"The Republicans are in trouble," said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the centrist New Democrat Network. "But the map is tough. It's going to be hard for us to win one of the two chambers. It's certainly possible. I think both are going to be hard."

Democrats needed "a broader narrative" on foreign policy, especially in light of the Lebanon crisis, and should avoid becoming wedded to the idea that Iraq -- and Iraq alone -- represented their best chance of winning, Rosenberg warned.

"There's a general sense of chaos, that whatever we attempted to do in the Middle East, it certainly seems to be getting worse not better," he said. "If we bet the whole farm on Iraq, it may not work for us."


It's a Purple Monkey, I Think it Speaks For Itself

The title to this post is actually the introduction to a purple monkey puppet that is a recurring guest on lonelygirl15's youtube.com hosted video blog.  I began watching her fascinating, enthralling and slightly voyeuristic collection of viral video after reading the New York Times critic Virginia Heffernan's blog post about this YouTube sensation.

Lonelygirl15 is actually a 16 year-old girl named Bree.  Bree speaks directly into a webcam, sharing quixotic but inspired observations about her life, conservative parents, interest in science, ever more complicated relationship with her friend/producer Daniel or anything else that is on her mind. 

In just two months, Bree and her purple monkey's seventeen videos have been viewed almost four million times.  Heffernan says that MTV should offer Bree and Daniel a spot on their broadband video channel MTV Overdrive.  I can't believe MTV hasn't already.  This technology is exploding and has applications for what we do - watch Julie Bergman at the NPI New Political Tools of 2006 event to learn more.  So, do progressives need to learn to master the 700 pound purple monkey that is viral video?  I think that "speaks for itself." 

The Connecticut race

A whole lot is going to be written about what happened in Connecticut.  Whether Lamont wins or not, we know that a major national politician has been seriously challenged by a newcomer.  How did we get to this point? I think there were three critical moments in this race which left the door open for Lamont to make his remarkable run:

1. Lieberman attacks other Democrats over Iraq.  Last year the Senator choose to publically chastise other Democrats for challenging the President over our failing policy in Iraq.  Many, including me, thought this was way over the top.  The Administration used the Lieberman lines against other Democrats for weeks.  What is critical here is that Joe went after Democrats not for our policy choices, but for even wanting to have a debate over whether Iraq was working or not.   Understanding this part of the story is essential, for the anger towards Joe has always been more about his defending a failed President against other Democrats than it has been his stance on the Iraq War itself. 

2. Lieberman ignores and discounts his opposition.  In a period that lasted from last year to until a few months ago, Lieberman, in a very dangerous move, essentially told those who were unhappy with him to pound sand. His first ad of the campaign told voters that even though they disagreed with him on the War, there were many other things they did agree on - the message there being I know you are unhappy with me but too bad.  And what is incredible is that he used his own money to remind the voters of the state why they were angry with him! 

During this time the inchoate anger towards him for betraying those that brought him to office was buttressed by this incredible arrogance and self-righteousness.  Remember a third of the country was against the War when it happened; meaning that perhaps half of all Connecticut voters were against the War when it happened; meaning that more than half of all Democratic voters were against the War when it happened three years ago.  Today more than three-fourths of the state believe the President is doing a bad job, and that the War is a failure.  To tell voters that on the issue they most care about that they are wrong, and I know better isn't principle, as Joe has asserted, its arrogance.  Particularly when it is clear the voters are right on this one.  The President and the War are a disaster. 

During this long period many tried to intervene and help the Senator.  His path was simple here - just make it clear that though you are sticking to your guns on Iraq, you want to listen to the concerns of those who are concerned and unhappy about the War.  Sit with folks who are angry.  Listen.  Attack the President in your ads, and in your speeches for Katrina, for a declining middle class, for the high levels of corruption in Washington, for the estate tax, etc.  If the main attack against you is that you are too close to Bush make it clear you think he is doing a bad job - something two thirds of the country agrees with you on. 

None of this happened.  Millions of dollars and countless days were spent on messages to the voters of Connecticut that nothing to do with what was on their mind - why is our Democratic Senator seemingly so uninterested in what Democrats think and believe, why is he defending a War that seems like such a disaster, and why is he so close to Bush?  This campaign will go down as one of the worst of modern times. 

3.  Lieberman goes independent.  So Democrats are wondering whether you a Democrat any more and whats the answer? File as an independent, essentially proving that the opposition's attacks on you were right.  This was the most important moment in the campaign, and the one that if Joe loses, I believe, is the main reason why.  Prior to going independent, Joe was up by 20 points in the polls and in command of the race.  Lamont was still ill-defined, and Joe plenty of money to take control of the dialogue and the race itself.  All were waiting to see what Joe would do with this stronger than expected challenge.  He choose to cut and run, and not stand and fight.   

Within weeks of this decision the race shifted dramatically.  20 points in some polls, 30 in others.  Shifts of this magnitude can only happen with extraordinary external events.   In this race one of those extraordinary external events happened - a popular and respected Senator had proven that his critics were right - he no longer cared about being a Democrat.  He was going independent, leaving his Party.  And that is the reason this decision to go independent was so fateful.  It reinforced the essential concern Democrats in the state had.  And it was the kind of bad decision that causes even people like Joe Lieberman to lose an election. 

Final thoughts.  Joe Lieberman is my friend, and a mentor of mine.  He is a remarkable man, a good leader and one of the smartest people I know.  It has been personally very painful for me to watch this political trainwreck over the past year.  I offered my advice, weighed in when asked, tried to help, but not suprisingly, there was very little interest from the Senator and his people in what folks like me had to say.  They never really believed it was going to be a race until it was too late.   

While I believe there are larger lessons here for the Party about our passion, our principles, our ideology, the rise of the netroots etc, I think first and foremost the story of the Connecticut race is one of a good man who had lost touch with the people that brought him to office; and the main lesson is that candidates who get too close to Bush and his failed government this fall could pay a terrible price. 

But of course all of us will have more to say about this in the days ahead.  Very interested in your thoughts. 

Ocean Energy

This has got nothing to do with politics and technology but it's cool - check out the front page NYT business section article on world wide efforts to harness ocean waves for energy: Energy from the Restless Sea

Not to be outdone in the irony category, the story appears next to another about Congress loosening offshore oil drilling restrictions. mmmm....?

Since Inconvienent truth, I am a little obsessed with global warming.

3 More Surprings Things About Paulson's Speech

I've been thinking some more about Hank Paulson's speech. I increasingly think it does show a shift in the administrations economic thinking. This was laid out in a perceptive Council on Foreign Relations Memo two weeks ago:

Bush essentially set five goals for the new Treasury secretary. Keep taxes low. Curb federal government spending to curb the budget deficit. Deal with international imbalances. Keep investment markets open. Support innovation and risk-taking in the private sector to boost USeconomic growth.

They were right on the money: this gives a pretty good summary of the speech. But three things strike me nonetheless. First, the repeated focus on entitelments. Paulson mentions it throughout, along with restarting stalled reforms. It is a very clear sign that we'll soon have Social Security, round 2. Second, the new deficit focus heralds budget cuts above the Deficit Reduction Act. Paulson is "working with my colleage and friend Rob Portman" at OMB. This implys new measures in the offing. Remember when most people thought Portman's move from trade signalled the death of Doha? Perhaps it instead meant a genuine new enthusiasm for budget cuts? I mailed a Wall St insider last night who concurred, saying "The major point of Paulson's remarks was the promise to cut entitlements next year to reduce the deficit." Finally, the sheer domesticity is striking. When Paulson was appointed, he was going to be Mr Global "No Retreat From The Global Economy." Now it seems he is Mr domestic "Getting Our House in Order." Yet, underneath, he could still be Mr "Using The Economy As An Excuse To Slash Spending." Lets watch and see: at some point, the real Henry Paulson will have to stand up.

Statement by Joe Garcia on Castro and Cuba

Contact: Joe Garcia, NDN

Statement from Joe Garcia, former head of the Cuban American National Foundation and an expert on Cuba issues, on the current situation in Cuba

The current situation in Cuba could be the beginning of a tremendous opportunity for the Cuban people as the world anticipates the end of Fidel Castro's oppressive rule. We should proceed with cautious optimism about the possibilities in store not only for the people of Cuba but also of the Cuban exile community who have long awaited a moment like this. A transition to a democratic Cuba will not only greatly benefit the Cuban people but also will help provide much needed long-term stability for all of Latin America.

A Second Bush Recession?

For a President, having one recession might be unfortunate. But to have two? That must be considered careless. Yet Sterling Newbury, a private equity analyst who writes over at TPM, thinks carelessness has been the order of the day. Since last week's slower than expected GDP figures there has been much discussion the extent of the upcoming slowdown. Newbury is more bearish than most:

"The reason, ultimately, that the "doom and gloom" caucus is predicting recession, is that the economy is tearing through the net of housing and federal stimulus that has held growth up, and there is very little but the cold, cold ground to break the fall. With inflation here, people are pulling out of short bonds, expecting more rate increases, this is forcing up short term rates."

The chances of slowdown are greatly hastened by any number of grim possibilities: the possibility that foreign central banks will stop buying American assets leading to a declining dollar, a further (unexpected) oil shock, a decline in the housing market or an economic shock caused by a security event. Even without these, Newbury says thinks that 2007 will see a signifcant GDP slowdown, with certain areas of the country in recession. If he's right, it will turn conventional wisdom on its head. Economists traditionally worry that Politicians will cynically engineer economic pre-election booms. The idea that they might be able to bring about a bust the year before an election..... well that would take a President of extraordinary economic vision, wouldn't it?

Treas Sec Paulson U-Turned on Wages. Or Did He?

Treasury Secratery Paulson gave his first big speech yesterday. His bipartisan tone and policy priorities were, i thought, encouraging. He comes accross as engaged and thoughtful. And significantly he made stangant incomes one of his four top priorities, along with reform of social security, energy, and protecting open trade. This is a big switcheroo, and backs up what Rob and Simon said in their memo last week. Pressure from progressive organizations is helping to put the issue up the agenda. This change of emphasis was picked up by Ed Luce in the FT, and the Times.

But is it a change of heart? Not really. Last month Olympia Snowe asked Paulson about wages at his confirmation hearings. He said nothing was going on that further rises in productivity wouldn't fix. That sentiment did not change yesterday, as you'll see if you read the full remarks. Key quote:

"But we still have challenges, and amid this country's strong economic expansion, many Americans simply aren't feeling the benefits. Many aren't seeing significant increases in their take-home pay. Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health-care costs, among others."

The explanation in the rest of the passage - wage growth will follow economic growth, wages rises below productivity rises is a long-term trend, lots of factors are responsibile - doesn't show much of a change of thining. The only switch is a more New Dem style focus on helping people get access to training. Two bottom lines. First, while its nice to see the change of emphasis, there hasn't been a change of analysis. Second, on wages, free trade and the deficit, it isn't enough to say you are on the right side. You actually have to do something about it too.

Brother, Can You Spare a Multinational Force?

When discussing the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the administration likes to talk about finding a resolution that does not lead to a return of the "status quo ante."  Fantastic use of Latin aside, I'm not sure that Secretary Rice's two weeks of diplomatic efforts have overcome the main obstacle to reaching a lasting cease fire.  Put simply, Israel will not leave Southern Lebanon until an international force has secured the region, preventing Hezbollah from moving back in. 

In unsurprising news, there are not a lot countries volunteering to send troops to stand between Hezbollah and Israel.  An anonymous senior European official in the must-read New York Times article on the topic was quoted saying “All the politicians are saying, ‘Great, great’ to the idea of a force, but no one is saying whose soldiers will be on the ground...Everyone will volunteer to be in charge of the logistics in Cyprus.” 

People like Republican Senator Chuck Hagel are seeing the bottleneck of volunteers for logistical duty in Cyprus and the complete lack of combat forces available and are calling for an immediate cease fire, even without an international force. 

Lest we forget why there are no American or British troops available to police South Lebanon, there is this article from the LA Times.  The deteriorating situation in Baghdad is a reminder that after almost three and a half years it is unclear when the situation in Iraq is going to improve. 

NDN in the News

Joe Garcia, Director of NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center, is in the New York Times today discussing Fidel Castro temporarily ceding power to his brother Raúl Castro:

“Obviously something has happened,” said Joe Garcia, a political strategist for Democrats and the former executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, the largest exile group. “This is a guy who, the last time he went into surgery that we know of, made a point of saying he had no general anesthesia and was on his cellphone giving orders the whole time. He was unwilling to cede the stage at all. That he did so now in such a dramatic fashion implies something big.”


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