NDN Blog

The immigration battle continues

One of the most consequential battles NDN and its family took on in 2006 was the intense battle over immigration. I am very proud of the role we played, fighting hard and hanging tough for a bi-partisan bill that would go a long way to solving this vexing national problem. For more on our advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform, visit www.ndn.org/immigration.

The battle, of course, isn't over. The perception that the Republican effort to use immigration as a blunt instrument to beat up on Democrats in tough races backfired has created additional momentum for what was called the McCain-Kennedy approach. We are working with their offices, and the organized coalition, and plan to make this a major priority in 2007. I am optimistic that significant reform will pass both chambers and be signed by the President this year, but it is not assured. Thus we must continue to push, and push hard.

A few articles in recent days capture some of the early thinking on the icoming mmigration battle. The Hill has a piece today about Latino mobilization for 2007 passage of a bill. The Boston Phoenix had a very interesting piece about the 2006 elections, that included this quote from me:

Which is why this year’s immigration debate was about much more than race and nationality, suggests Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network in Washington. It was, he thinks, part of an even more fundamental decision to accept or reject the modern world — a world filled with people of different nationalities, languages, tastes, and sexual preferences.

By calling for the mass deportation of Latinos and the building of a wall to keep them out, “The Republicans may have made a decision not to be a political party of the 21st century,” Rosenberg says.

And from this piece from Cox News:

Rosenberg said his party can build on the momentum it gained among Hispanic voters in the past election. "If Democrats want to take advantage of the opportunity that we now have with Hispanics, we have to pass immigration reform this year," he said.

There are many good reasons why immigration reform should pass.  The most important, and the reason we will be fighting again, so hard, this year, is that it is simply the right thing to do. 

More soon.

The Times weighs in with a strong editorial on Iraq

An excerpt from an editorial today, Past Time to Get Real on Iraq:  

What they (The Amiercan People) need is for the president to acknowledge how bad things have gotten in Iraq (not just that it is not going as well as he planned) and to be honest about how limited the remaining options truly are. The country wants to know how Mr. Bush plans to end its involvement in a way that preserves as much of the nation’s remaining honor and influence as possible, limits the suffering of the Iraqi people and the harm to Iraq’s neighbors, and gives Iraqi leaders a chance — should they finally decide to take it — to rescue their country from an even worse disaster once the Americans are gone.

The reality that Mr. Bush needs to acknowledge when he speaks to the nation tomorrow night is that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is feeding rather than restraining Iraq’s brutal civil war. The Iraqi Army cannot be relied on to impose order even in Baghdad, while the Iraqi police forces — dominated by sectarian militias — are inciting the mayhem.

Mr. Bush must acknowledge that there is no military solution for Iraq. Whatever plan he offers needs to start with a tough set of political benchmarks for national reconciliation that the Iraqi government is finally expected to meet. It needs to concentrate enough forces in Baghdad to bring some security to streets and neighborhoods, giving Iraq’s leaders one last opportunity to try to bargain their way out of civil war.

His plan needs to lay out tight timetables in which the Iraqis must take major steps to solve fundamental issues, including equitably dividing their oil wealth and disarming vengeful militias. There must also be a clear and rapid timetable for achieving enough stability in Baghdad to hand back significant military responsibilities to the Iraqis.

The last time America presented Mr. Maliki with a set of political benchmarks, he bluntly rejected them. If he does that again, there is no way America can or should try to secure Iraq on its own. Mr. Bush must make clear to both Iraqis and Americans that without significant progress, American forces will not remain.

We’re under no illusions. Meeting those challenges is going to be extremely tough. And Iraq’s unraveling may already be too far gone.

For Mr. Bush, this means resisting any vague Nixonian formula of “peace with honor” that translates into more years of fighting on for the same ever-receding goals. Democrats in Congress should also resist euphemistic formulas like “phased redeployment,” which really means trying to achieve with even fewer troops what Washington failed to achieve with current force levels.

Nor can America simply turn its back on whatever happens to Iraq after it leaves. With or without American troops, a nightmare future for Iraq is a nightmare future for the United States, too, whether it consists of an expanding civil war that turns into a regional war or millions of Iraq’s people and its oil fields falling under the tightening grip of a more powerful Iran.

Mr. Bush is widely expected to announce a significant increase in American troops to deploy in Baghdad’s violent neighborhoods. He needs to explain to Congress and the American people where the dangerously tapped-out military is going to find those troops. And he needs to place a strict time limit on any increase, or it will turn into a thinly disguised escalation of the American combat role.

US General says war will take 2-3 more years

From the NYTimes today:

The new American operational commander in Iraq said Sunday that even with the additional American troops likely to be deployed in Baghdad under President Bush’s new war strategy it might take another “two or three years” for American and Iraqi forces to gain the upper hand in the war.

This week the President lays out his "new way forward" for Iraq.  Having rejected the two main recommendations of the Iraq Study Group report - an enhanced regional diplomatic track, and a gradual reduction of US forces in Iraq - the President is now left to argue for essentially more of what he has been doing for the last three years.   Yes, there will be the appearance of change.  We will have "benchmarks," figleaf economic initiatives, Maliki saying all the right things, vague promises of reconcilation and of course more troops.  But at the core of a new strategy is a prayer, a big and significant prayer, a prayer that things will get better because now we really want them to.  

As this story in the Times shows the core of the new strategy is that somehow these new American troops will quiet the sectarian conflict driving the latest round of deteroriation.  I for one do not believe that a sustainable peace in Iraq is possible without the involvement of other interested regional parties like Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Going it alone, with as we have these past 3 years, without the help of the UN, our global allies, other regional actors, has failed.  If the President really wanted to move Iraq forward, he would have changed the fundamental political dynamic inside the country, and shown that the goal of stablizing Iraq was an international priority, not just an American one.  On the ground our troops aren't seen as peacekeepers, but as occupiers, as combatants, and that core dynamic if anything will be accentuated by the President's new plan.  Which is why the Joint Chiefs have made it clear to the White House that they believe more troops means an escalation of violence, the very opposite of what the President will say to us later this week. 

The Bush-McCain plan is DOA. So what's next?

I'm not sure that in my over 20 years of involvement in politics and media have I seen as disastrous a pre-launch of a major policy initiative as what the President will propose this week for Iraq.   From George Will to David Brooks to the front page of the Washington Post there is doubt, confusion, concern emanating from all involved, including, remarkably, those talking on official background from the White House.   As I’ve been suggesting for some time, it is now clear that the White House no longer knows what to do, and that whatever they propose will be more prayer than policy.

I don’t really know what happens next with our debate about the Middle East.  With so many Republican Senators and leaders voicing coming out against a troop escalation I think at this point the President’s “new way forward” has already been politically defeated.  So what comes next?  Taking center stage this week, and for the next month, will be Senator Biden as he kicks off a series of welcome hearings on Iraq and the Middle East.  But if the Presidents plan goes down, quickly, as it appears, what’s next?

As an American it worries me that our President and Commander in Chief is so politically weakened and seemingly so out of it.  The stories from the White House today sound almost desperate, like the staff knows that on the defining issue of the day they are out of ideas, confused, tired, beaten.  No one is taking the new plan seriously.  It is such an extraordinary sign of weakness, to leaders here in Washington and around the world, that we cannot allow that kind of dispiriting drift and confusion to define the new post-2006 America.  Our new Congressional leaders should begin thinking through their strategy for a prolonged and very public engagement about what comes next, and start understanding that this indeed will be very much their problem soon.

If there was a glimmer of hope this week it was the appointment of a new national security team.  We need a new team in there, offering fresh perspectives and new ideas, and the new appointments seem solid and strong.  They are being handed a bad hand, have little time to learn their new positions and will be under great pressure.  But it is encouraging that the President understood enough the depths of his failure to bring in a whole new team to give us some hope that we can find not just a new way forward but a better one. 

Debate returns to Washington

Having been in Washington now for 14 years, I have come to truly value the slow, deliberative nature of Congress.  People with diverse views are forced to come together to hash out a common way forward.  Tolerance, acceptance of difference is at the core of such a system, and required to make it work.  Of course we've had little of that in the Bush years.  Congress has acted as an irresponsible, braindead, corrupt, rubber stamp, allowing all sorts of nutty things to go on with little discussion, debate and oversight.  Committees did not meet.  Hearings weren't held.  The opposition party was dismissed rather than engaged.  This culture that allowed ideology to trump discourse, and debate to be seen as dissent, was one of the major reasons the Republicans went off track these past few years. 

We are already seeing the return of an engaged, deliberative Congress.  It will happen in big ways - the Reid/Pelosi challenge to the President on Iraq - an it will happen in many small ways, but the most dramatic and public way will be in Senator Joe Biden's four weeks of hearings on America's Middle East policy that start Tuesday.  The Senator plans to use his new power to help us better understand what to do; to engage the public in a vital debate about our future; to search, debate, discuss, discover; to call Administration officials to account for their words and actions; to admit that we do not know the best path, and want to, together, as Americans, find a better way. 

These hearings will be vital, important, difficult.  I can't wait for them to start, and welcome the return of messiness to our democracy.

Thanks for the kind words of encouragement

Just a quick thanks to the dozens of you who have contacted us about the appointment of new executive director, Ali Wade.  We all agree that she is a great addition, and look forward to seeing her on her first day, this Monday.

Hoyer releases ambitious 100 Hours schedule

New House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer just released the House Democrats ambitious schedule for the next few weeks.  See it here.   Key dates so far:

Tuesday, January 9 - Implement the 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Wednesday, January 10 - Increase the Minimum Wage

Thursday, January 11 - Expand Stem Cell Research

Friday, January 12 - Allow Negotiation for Lower Prescription Drug Costs

Wednesday, January 17 - Cut Interest Rates on Student Loans

Thursday, January 18 - End Subsidies for Big Oil and Invest in Renewable Energy

It is clearly a new day in Washington. 

Ali Weise joins NDN as new executive director

I am very excited to announce a major new step forward for our organization. One of the most talented and good people I know, Ali Weise, is joining NDN as our new executive director. Below, I send along a press release announcing her arrival.

Bringing Ali on board is the first in a series of steps we will be taking to ensure that this wonderful network we've built does its part - and does it well - at this critical time for the nation.

I hope everyone in the NDN community will make Ali feel welcome, and do everything they can to ensure her success in the years ahead,

Happy New Year all.

Best,

Simon Rosenberg

ALIXANDRIA WEISE TO JOIN NDN
Veteran Congressional, political aide to become new executive director

Washington, DC – NDN, a progressive think tank and advocacy organization, announced that Alixandria Weise would be joining its staff in a newly created position of executive director.

“America and the progressive movement face a whole new array of 21st century challenges,” said Ali Weise. “Few organizations have thought more about or worked harder to help us meet these challenges than NDN. I am excited to be joining this team that has such a long track record of success, and I am ready to get to work.”

“Ali has the right mix of vision, intelligence and leadership skills to take NDN to the next institutional level,” said NDN President Simon Rosenberg. “I’ve known Ali for a long time, consider her a good friend and believe deeply that she is one of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with. With Ali on board, there is much, much more NDN will be able to do to contribute to the important debates of our day.”

With the titles of Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer, Ms. Weise will oversee the day to day operations of NDN, and will report directly to President Simon Rosenberg. She will be joining NDN’s very experienced management team that includes New Politics Institute Director Peter Leyden, a well-known writer and former managing editor of Wired magazine, and Hispanic Strategy Center Director Joe Garcia, the former head of the Cuban-American National Foundation.

Alixandria Weise, 31, has worked in the United States Congress and Democratic politics for over ten years. During the 2006 campaign cycle, Ms. Weise was the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Campaign Director and then became the Deputy Director of the Committee's Independent Expenditure operation, which spent $67 million in over 50 congressional races. Ali served as Congressman Adam Smith's (WA-09) Chief of Staff from 2000 - 2005, and as his Communications and Legislative Director from 1997 - 2000. During her time in Congress, Weise was a leading staffer for the New Democrat Coalition, a House Caucus currently co-chaired by Congressman Smith.

Ms. Weise also ran the Washington State Caucus campaign for Senator John Kerry's presidential race in 2004. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, and a Washington state native.

NDN is a think tank and advocacy organization working to advance a 21st century progressivism. It has three affiliates, the New Politics Institute, the Hispanic Strategy Center and the NDN Political Fund. NDN and its work can be found at www.ndn.org, www.newpolitics.net and www.ndnblog.org.

One more chance?

In the coming weeks the Bush Administration will coming to the American people and essentially be asking for one more chance to fix Iraq.  Having rejected the more innovative ideas in the ISG Report, their plan will be more prayer than policy, and will have little chance of making things better for the troubled region.   The question Congress will be facing is given the extraordinary failure of the Bush Iraq policy do they guys deserve one more chance? And if not what is the alternative?

I for one am looking forward to Senator Joe Biden's hearings on Iraq that start next week.  He has a real chance to help establish an accurate picture of what has happened and is happening in the Middle East today. I hope one of the first people called is Secretary of State Rice, and let her explain to the American people her view of the theory behind our actions in the region and how we create a better path forward.   

There is a lot of talk these days about escalating the number of troops in Iraq, but this idea seems increasingly DOA.  Republican Senators Hagel, Smith and Collins have already said no, and possible GOP Presidential candidate Brownback certainly seems to be leaning no.  Bush simply doesn't have the votes for sending more troops into Iraq without making a more convincing case that it will improve conditions on the ground. 

Given that it is now become clear for the whole world to see that the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are at the heart of the American backed Iraqi government, the case that more troops will make lead to a "victory" has become much harder to make. 

The Times has a good piece looking at the global fallout from a homemade/bootlegged video captured on a mobile phone, the Iraqi government's very own Macaca moment.

AM Roundup: A new era begins this week

Welcome back all.  This Thursday the Democrats retake control of Congress for the first time since 1994.   The House is poised to move quickly on a variety of fronts, Senator Joe Biden will start a series of hearings on Iraq next week and with a flood of stories this week about the first woman Speaker, it is quickly, very quickly, to start feeling like the dawn of a new era in Washington. 

In news the Times has a very detailed recap of the terrible year in Iraq, the Post has one more story delving into the growing sectarian divide in Iraq and the Times reports on what appears to be progress in mobilizing the world against Iran's nuclear ambitions. 

And on the "New Day" front, the Post previews the legislative strategy of the House Democrats in what will be their first week back in power, and the Times' Carl Hulse writes about the healthy tension in the Democratic Caucus between the recently elected and the more experienced members.

Exciting times all.  Look for much from NDN this week and of course in the weeks and months to come.

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