NDN Blog

Thursday Morning Roundup

Short one today, am traveling.  

- The move by the Democrats to make raising the minimum wage a major issue in the campaign is a good one.   As we've discussed in our globalization initiative, the average family is making $1,400 less today than five years ago.  Costs like health care, college tuition, energy and interest payments have risen.  It is has become much harder to make it in today economy.  Faced with this, what is the governing party looking to do? Eliminate the estate tax for the very wealthiest Americans, and give themselves a pay increase. 

This let them eat cake strategy of the governing party is unacceptable, and has left a vast opening for the Democrats.  We clearly need to do more than raise the minimum wage, but this is a very good and important start.  It says to those Americans struggling to get by that we know of your struggles and are working to make it better.  

- The Times has an important piece showing how much Iran is behing the recent military actions against Israel.   The Post previews the G-8, and the troubles following Bush there.  Most papers today have stories about the Russians waning committment to democracy at home. 

- USA Today has a front page piece on the efforts to mobilize Hispanics in response to the current immigration debate.  It features El Cucuy, a powerful California based DJ at the very center of the education and mobilization effort.  In our spring immigration radio campaign, NDN advertized extensively on Cucuy, and another vital DJ, El Piolin.  In a related story, the Post had a must read piece about the rise of Spanish-language radio, now the 3rd most listened to radio format in America.    

Wednesday Morning Roundup

The headlines from today’s paper are not reassuring: terror in Mumbai, Baghdad boils, the Israeli incursion into Gaza continues, and spreads into Lebanon, Russian secret police publically arrest dissenters during an international conference about democracy, election troubles continue in Ukraine and Mexico.

Add to all this the troubling developments of the last few months – the Supreme Court’s challenge to much of the legal theory behind Bush’s war on terror, the growing belligerence of Iran and North Korea, the election success of Hamas, rising anti-Americanism in Latin America, the collapse of the Doha round of trade talks – and it is clear that American foreign policy – whatever today’s rationale is for it - is not achieving what we need it to. 

Josh Marshall at Talkingpointsmemo has had a series of thoughtful posts this week about the utter failures of Bush.  As he wrote last night: “Put simply, do we not detect a pattern in which the foreign policy neoconservatives strike out boldly on some foreign policy adventure, flop right down on their faces and then present the cause of their undoing as a novel insight wrestled from the maw of history when in fact, to everyone else except for them, this 'insight' was completely obvious and predictable from the start?"

Yesterday EJ Dionne had what I believe was a polite column, suggesting that the debate over the Bush era will be a challenging and difficult one for the 2008 Republican Presidential candidates.  He’s right.  The failure of the modern conservatives to do the basics – keeping the world safe and secure, fostering broad-based prosperity, paying our bills, resisting corruption – has been astonishing.  At a very simple level they’ve just blown it, big time, and a lot of what we have to do now in America is set a new course while cleaning up the mess they’ve left.   Bush’s recent admission that bringing the troops home from Iraq would be something left to his successor was in its own way an admission of failure, a throwing up of his hands, a nod to that they given it their best shot and had failed.

Our view here is that the monumental failure of conservative government is the most important political and intellectual story of our time, one with profound consequences for America and our future, and is something we as progressives must put front and center in the fall elections and beyond.   I reprint a portion of an essay we released hours before the State of the Union earlier this year (this essay and other ones on the topic of the conservative movement can be found at our Meeting the Conservative Challenge page):

“Tonight the President reports to the nation on the State of the Union. We will hear soaring rhetoric, powerful words, a President resolute and determined. We will hear of victories, progress, and pride. He will tell a compelling story – and very little of it will be true.  The truly compelling story of this decade is one that Bush doesn’t want told – the rapid and dramatic failure of conservative government.

Finally in a position of virtually unchecked power after decades in the political wilderness, modern conservatives have failed quickly and utterly at the most basic responsibilities of governing, leaving our nation weaker and our people less prosperous, less safe and less free.  Seduced by the temptations of power, these movement ideologues also quickly came to believe that the rules of our democracy did not apply to them. The result is one of the farthest-reaching episodes of corruption and criminal investigations into a governing party in our history.

To fully appreciate the State of the Union, we need a deep understanding of the conservative movement and its rise to power. Jumpstarted a little more than fifty years ago by William F. Buckley’s National Review, the conservatives began their long march to power by investing billions of dollars in a modern infrastructure to combat the entrenched position of progressives in government. They used this infrastructure – think tanks, for-profit media, superior and innovative forms of electioneering – to defeat an aging progressive movement, and now have more power than at any time since the 1920s.

In recent years America has learned what life is like under a true conservative government. With near absolute power, conservatives have pursued their agenda with little compromise or input from progressives. The latest chapter of the great conservative story – the Bush years – may have been one of political victories, but it has also been one of disastrous governance. The broad and deep failures of the Bush government should cause all Americans to reappraise the virtue of this grand conservative experiment, recognizing that even after 50 years and untold billions of dollars, they have yet to come up with a true alternative to 20th century progressive government -- which did so much good, for so long.”

I hope the NDN can make getting this conversation into the public debate one of our highest priorities for the remainder of the year. 

Tuesday Morning Roundup

This one is a little longer than usual, as we have a few good ones left over from the weekend.   

The Times starts the day with an editorial questioning the President’s economic cheerleading, reminding us that deficits are still way too high and the governing Party has little so say about the central economic issue of the day, the decline in wages for most Americans. 

Ratings are in for the World Cup, and they exceeded everyone’s expectations.  Even though Spanish speakers are somewhere between 5-7 percent of the overall population, Univision scored at a third of all the Sunday’s final viewers.  The extraordinary performance of Univision throughout the Cup validates the strategic intent of the NDN Political Fund’s 5 month long "mas que un partido" campaign to speak to Hispanics using the powerful metaphor of soccer.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, a close Bush ally, says in a letter to the President that some of the domestic spying by the Administration may have been “illegal;” Talkingpointsmemo has two worth reading: first a reprise of a post from the New Republic blog about the growing sectarian violence in Iraq; second, a compelling entry about an LA Times piece about the utter failure of the Iraqi police.

Gary Kasparov challenges the West to stop coddling the increasingly autocratic Russians; the Post’s Sebastian Mallaby has another in a series of thoughtful op-eds, this one challenging the notion there is little to do to stop global climate change; and as we battle over immigration, a thoughtful NY Times op-ed reminds us that the first permanent settlements of what is now the United States were Spanish.

Appropriately a judge finds the seizure of documents from a Member of Congress’ office legal; the McCain led takedown of Grover Norquist continues, as assertions of his corruption change a conservative movement leader’s reach; a LA Times education blogger discovers the $100 laptop, a device that could change education as we know it.  If Democrats are looking for big ideas I think putting “a laptop on every desk” of every child would be a very 21st century update of a “chicken in every pot.”

And in New York magazine this week, John Heilemann discusses the rise of Kos and the battle over Lieberman.  Features a few quotes from an NDNer. 

Let us know if we missed anything. 

  

Ruth Marcus on the Lieberman race

I've already weighed in heavily over the past few days on the Lieberman race, so I won't be commenting that much more on it other than to comment on the commentary itself.  So much of what has been written about this race has been inaccurate.  An exception was a piece Ruth Marcus had in the Post today.  

In the piece she hits both sides with inconvenient truths.  For the Lieberman world, she makes it clear that the opposition and concern she felt while in Connecticut was something Connecticut voters themselves feel, not something cooked up by outside bloggers or Lamont.  

The Lieberman campaign seems still to be struggling to figure out exactly what happened up there.  But the math is pretty simple.  A third of the country opposed the Iraq war when it happened in 2003.  That means that perhaps as much as half of all Connecticut voters opposed the war when it happened; and this certainly means that more than half of all Democratic primary voters opposed the war three years ago.  And things have dramatically worsened since then. 

For the last three years Senator Lieberman has made his steadfast support of our troubled occupation perhaps his signature issue.  He just wasn't that he stood by the President.  He criticized other Democrats who did not share his view.  

So, he firmly identifies himself as a national spokesman on perhaps the most salient issue of the day; his position is deeply unpopular at home with all voters, particularly Democrats; rather than acknowledging the concerns of voters, and working to accomodate them somehow, he begins his campaign with an ad saying that we will have to agree to disagree on this one; and then gets insulted and angry that people aren't looking beyond this one issue to the totality of his career. 

But don't candidates lose all the time for being on the wrong side of a single, powerful issue?Don't people lose over voting for a tax increase, being anti-choice, even for just being a Democrat? Isn't this part of the game? And aren't all elections about the what you will do for the voters, not what you've done? Ask Winston Churchill, or Al Gore Sr. 

The righteous indignation of Senator Lieberman on the ability of Democrats to challenge him for his public stance on the war is a little much to take.  On this issue, whether he is right or not (and that certainly is not clear), he is wildly out of touch with his constituency back home.  But in her piece today Marcus also points out that the national community of internet activists, bloggers and moveon seemed to have become overly obsessed by this race, and that I agree with.  With so many critical races around the country for Senate, House, Governor and beyond, why is the one battle, over a safe seat, so important?  Much has been written about why the amount of energy put into defeating Lieberman has been worth it.  I think most of it is unconvincing. 

I agree that the way Lieberman scolded his fellow Democrats over the Iraq war, and then last week started collecting signatures for an independent run, have been two extraordinary mistakes - big enough mistakes to prevent him returning to as a Senator.   But given the limited resources we has as a movement, I also believe the amount of national effort going to be oust him is also an unfortunate occurrence.  I wish the passion, the energy, the time, the effort going to oust Joe had been directed in many other places.   But we are way beyond that now. 

It's Italy!

And I was right this am.  Zidane's name is more famous, or perhaps infamous, than ever. 

Hats off to the Italians for overcoming a great deal, and playing a great tournament. 

Your reax to the World Cup?

Sunday musings

Lots of interesting stuff in the papers today.   A theme running throughout the day is the struggle to understand and manage how interconnected we've become through globalization.  We read today of Zidane, and world's obsession with soccer; of the new baby Panda here in DC; of immigration; of the Mexican elections; of a leading Republican's letter to the President raising questions about the use of foreign intelligence gathering techniques being used here at home on Americans; of cell phone use in the Congo. 

Despite rising global threats we live in a time of relative peace and prosperity.  Our time is characterized as a period of rapid flow of ideas, technology, commerce, people and information.  With the end of the Cold War and the Clinton-led effort to bring the former communist and non-aligned world into the global economic and political system, the modernity of the United States is being brought to all parts of the world.  

The Washington Post's remarkable story on cell phone use in the Congo and how it is fundamentally changing the country is the must read of the day.   It reminds us that almost half the world's 6 billion people are now on the global information network.  And that the way most people will access this network in the years to come will be a wireless device like a cell phone, increasingly packed with other features that enable commerce and information exchange. 

As the Congo story shows as the barriers to globalization are overcome, the velocity of its adaption increases.  And this increase of globalization's velocity is I believe the greatest challenge facing the world today.  People, societies, institutions can only handle, easily, only so much change.  With such rapid changes, the norms developed in civil societies become threatened.   Helping our country, and the people of the world understand these changes and manage them effectively seems to me to be the main goal of American policy makers today. 

Here at home let's look at one salient debate through this prism - immigration.  The immigration problem we are facing today really stems from the fact that people are now trying to move with the same velocity as the rest of global capitalism.  Latin Americans like all people want a better life.   Moving up to the US almost guarentees it.  Easy to get there these days.  Why not go?

As more and more people get onto this global network, and experience the velocity of the modern world, we should expect a much greater desire to migrate to places that offer greater opportunity, whether within a country or without.  Hundreds of millions of Latins now know of the opportunity America offers; it is easy to get here; through cell phones you can better stay in touch with family at home, easing the pain of leaving; why not try it? 

Putting 6,000 troops on the border is not going to stop this extraordinary new bi-product of globalization - a global desire to seek a better life, and the power and confidence now to seek it wherever it is offered.  I wrote yesterday of the Republican's utter failure to understand or deal with the realities of our current wave of immigration.  In this case they are acting as true conservatives, fighting against a rapid wave of change that is for many hard to understand.  Their failure, and since they are the governing party, our failure as America to come to grips with the immigration challenge is one of many examples of how hard it is going to be for even advanced, democratic societies to deal with the changes to come from 21st century globalization. 

The bringing of the whole world onto this global network has only just begun, and it will, as we can see from this Post piece on the Congo, start to challenge traditional ideas, assumptions and civil societies in ways we haven't even begun to fathom.  In a few years, as most wireless devices become web-enabled, the rural entreprenuers of the Congo featured in this piece will be able to access this blog, and I hope, leave a comment. 

And it would be appropriate to end this piece with an homage to the most watched television event of our emergent global society - the World Cup final.  With billions tuning in this afternoon, including everyone in my home, it is likely that a son of Algerian immigrants in France will become perhaps the most world's most famous and admired man; and that the name Zidane will become spoken, texted and emailed perhaps more than almost any other word in human history.    Allez les blues. 

Morning Roundup

The news this morning is full of stories about Mexico and the border.  With the Mexican election now officially in dispute, the attention the immigration debate in this country will get - and its salience in the fall election - will continue to grow. 

To me how America responds to the immigration challenge says a great deal about what kind of nation we want to become in the 21st century.  I'm proud of Harry Reid and the Democrats for not taking the easy enforcement-first road.  We've stuck to our guns, and argued that to solve the problem we need a comprehensive approach - tougher border enforcement, tougher sanctions on US employers of undocumenteds, a modest guest worker program and an earned path to citizenship that puts the undocumenteds at the end of the current immigration line.  Many Republicans, including the President and John McCain, agree with this thoughtful approach.  Today's Post has a good editorial re-iterating their support for this path. 

But the Republican House doesn't agree with this sensible path forward.  They've passed a bill calling for the arrest and deportation of the 11-12 million undocumenteds living here.  And now they are openly working to undermine the broad bi-partisan Senate consensus around comprehensive immigration reform by moving only a piece of the plan, tougher border enforcement. 

Democrats have stood firm and offered a plan to solve a vexing national challenge.  The Republicans are offering a plan to solve their own vexing internal political problems.  But this should come as no suprize, as little the Republicans have done since they came to power in 1994 has been about effectively solving problems or meeting the new challenges of the emerging century.  Think deficits, Katrina, Iraq, shorting of funds for education, no action on pensions, health care and energy costs, no conversation or strategy about declining wages, rampant warantless spying on private American citizens.  As a spent and failed governing party, the Republicans are doing the only thing they are good at - playing politics, and focusing on staying in power.  While benefiting them, this approach is not helping America effectively understand or tackle the challenges of our time.  For the majority party it has all become about them and their needs, and not about us, the America people or the country. 

That's why this immigration battle matters so much.  It is a test of whether we still have the capacity to tackle important challenges.  That's why NDN has worked so hard on this issue - in an unprecedented bi-partisan coalition - for the past year.  It is a test of the governing party's capacity to do what is right for us, and not for them.  And of course as of today they are failing this test in a dramatic and disapointing fashion. 

The likely next President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, at his first news conference yesterday criticized the militarization of our common, peaceful border and pledged to find a better way.  The lead anti-immigrant spokesman, Republican Tom Tancredo, fired back that his comments were "insulting." 

Man is this country ready for a new politics. 

Morning Roundup

- The Post's top editorial today speaks to this era of the conservative movement, one we call here at NDN the "gee, governing is hard" phase.  Global trade talks started in 2001 have collapsed, again, as the United States simply cannot do what it takes to get a deal done.  As the Post writes...."THE BUSH administration faces a dilemma in the wake of last weekend's breakdown of world trade talks. It can allow the hope of freer trade to die....[and] risks being blamed if trade talks fail -- as now seems likely."  More evidence that the main theme of the 2008 elections will revolve around the cleaning up of the Katrina-like mess left by the Bush years. 

- Calderon is declared the winner in Mexico, but we all know this thing isn't over yet.  EJ Dionne has a nice piece comparing this election to our own contested election in 2000. 

- Watched most of the Lieberman-Lamont debate last night.  Joe was commanding, and at times looked like the national leader he has been. However, he seemed more passionate about attacking Lamont then he did in making his case for what we will do for the next six years.  Lamont was fine, but unconvincing.  He simply looked like he was a few levels down from Joe, though a nice and good guy.  All in all Joe probably gained more from the debate, as he effectively planted seeds of doubt about Lamont, and Lamont did not do enough to make himself look like a viable and serious alternative to Joe.  And what is the deal with Lamont not releasing his tax returns? Seems like such a rookie mistake, and shows how hard it is for first time candidates to win a race at this level. 

I offered a my advice to Lieberman yesterday in a long post.  I still believe it is his race to lose, and I hope he ends the race by talking about his vision for where he wants to take the country, and what he has done for Connecticut.  It is all about Joe now.  He should turn away all these folks coming into the state to campaign for him.  Everyone knows the Democratic establishment supports him.  After all he has the State Party, the DSCC, the US Senate leadership, Labor, Planned Parenthood, the environmental groups - everyone - with him. 

Lieberman's least compelling lines these past few days has been his assertion that there is no room for someone like him in the Democratic Party.  Come on Joe, the whole organized Party is behind you.  There is plenty of room in the Democratic Party for someone who supported the war.   That is not the issue - the issue is whether you have become too much a defender of a failed Administration, and left your Democratic roots.  This is an easy one for you to take on, as you did, last night (not so effectively I thought, by the way). 

- In other news of the day the decision to keep DeLay on the ballot in Texas seems like sweet justice.  Not sure we all should be excited by what is happening in Gaza, as the body count rises and the endgame is hard to discern.  Reminds us that the Administration's approach to the Middle East seems to have not worked out all that well.  Gay marriage suffers a set back in New York, indicating that this may be a long and drawn out struggle. 

- Finally, the World Cup. Yahoo's FIFA World Cup site is excellent.  Among the best things you can find there is video of all the top goals.  The first stage of NDN's five month long "mas que un partido" campaign ends this weekend with the final games of the World Cup, with our television ads running on Univision in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas, and our radio ads with Andres Cantor running in every market in the nation on Cantor's radio network.  For more on our campaign visit www.ndnfutbol.org, and feel free to offer your thoughts here. 

Initial reports on the ratings in the US have shown explosive growth for the World Cup in both Spanish and English.  The strategy behind the campaign - finding a low cost and effective way to reach tens of millions of Hispanics in the US - certainly seems justified given the extraordinary performance of the Cup so far. 

I'm rooting for Zidane. 

My advice to Joe

As I wrote the other day, Joe Lieberman is an old and good friend of mine, and I am supporting him in the Democratic Primary.   He and I come from the same county in Southwestern Connecticut, where most of my family still lives, and he was instrumental in helping me get NDN off the ground ten years ago.    

His decision this week to seek an independent line on the November ballot has hurt his chances of coming back to the Senate next year, but I still believe that he has the tools at hand to win the Democratic primary outright.  He has had a sizable lead in the polls, a tremendous record of service, a demonstrable mastery of Connecticut politics, an inexperienced opponent and is as many know a good and thoughtful man.  If he closes strong and speaks to the concerns Democrats in Connecticut have about him - starting tonight in a debate with Lamont - he will win the primary and cruise to victory in November. 

But the key to victory is for the Senator to show a better understanding of what has created the anger towards him in Connecticut and around the country.  From his comments he believes it is his support of the war in Iraq.  I disagree.  Many of us who support the war, and continue to believe setting a date for a troop withdrawal is not a good idea, have not generated the opposition the Senator has.  His troubles began late last year when he scolded the Democrats for not rallying around the President's questionable performance in Iraq.  He attacked John Murtha publically, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal re-iterating his attacks against the Democrats and became a weapon used by the Republicans to pummel other Democrats.  Many, myself included, felt this brief but biting campaign waged against his own Party was over the top, gratuitous and undermined Democratic efforts to create a much needed debate about Iraq.  Harry Reid, had to take the extraordinary step of repudiating Senator Lieberman, and asked him to refrain from such attacks in the future. 

In talking to Democrats in Connecticut, including my relatives, it is clear that it is not his stance on the war alone that has generated the anger towards Joe, it is a sense that he is no longer interested in working with Democrats to oppose what they see as a dangerous and failed Administration.  The photos showing up again and again on the blogs are versions of "the kiss," a shot from the State of the Union when the Senator embraced the President.  This image has nothing to do with the war and everything to do with betrayal.  His decision to go independent this week only reinforced this core sense among Democrats that he is no longer on their team.   

This is a much more searing, and much more powerful indictment of the Senator and his character than saying he was wrong on the war.   Unlike his position on the war which he will not change, the impression that he is now working too closely with a failed Administration is something that he has the power to address and fix through his public statements and his paid advertising in the final month. 

How? He needs to make it clear that he agrees with the two-thirds of the American public and more than 90 percent of CT Primary voters that the country is going in the wrong direction, that he is disappointed with the way the President has governed the nation, and that he will spend the next six years working to put it all right. 

This overwhelming majority of Americans who have come to believe that the President is weakening the nation are correct in their assessment.  Average families are making less money today.  Deficits have ballooned to historic levels, and the tax burden is shifting from the wealthy to the middle class.  Health care and energy costs have soared.  Poverty, personal bankruptcies and crime are rising.  As Katrina showed our Homeland is not secure.  It has hard to argue that with the chaos in Iraq, and the election of militants in Palestine and Iran, that the Middle East is better off today.  Afghanistan and Somalia are heading in the wrong direction, the Russians are acting irresponsibly, North Korea has fired missiles and anti-Americanism is surging in Latin America.  Our hard-earned liberties have been violated by this Administration, in ways that a GOP controlled court declared unconstitutional last week.  And of course, it is been during this time that Republicans have presided over the greatest set of criminal scandals in its history. 

If the Senator wants to win he should make it clear that he believes the Republicans and Bush have failed our great nation.  Additionally, he would be smart and tactful to acknowledge that even though he believes that the outcome today in Iraq has been worth the the money spent, the lives lost and the long-lasting damage to the image of America around the world, he understands that a majority of Americans and an overwhelming majority of Connecticut Democrats see it a different way and that he respects their views; and that while he believes that pulling out of Iraq would be a mistake, he has been heartened to see democracy work as it was intended.  We are having a debate about a very serious matter facing our country.  Reasonable people can disagree about Iraq, and have, very publically.  And it is through this debate - required of a nation like ours - that we will achieve the best outcome, and ensure that the interests of the American people are served. 

Though he has through his own mistakes opened the door for an inexperienced newcomer like Lamont, Lieberman has time to right himself, address the concerns many have, and remind all of us why he had become so popular and respected in the first place.  More than anything else he must state simply and clearly that he believes the President of the United States has failed us, and that he will work to find a better path.  All of this seems easily within his power to do. 

Finally, the group of people who should be most worried by what is happening in Connecticut are not Democrats, or moderates, but Republicans.  For the lesson of this race is that embracing a failed President and his deeply unpopular government could cost many at the polls this fall.      

Morning Roundup

- The Post has a front page piece laying out how the world seems to have gotten much more troubling of late: "From deteriorating security in Afghanistan and Somalia to mayhem in the Middle East, confrontation with Iran and eroding relations with Russia, the White House suddenly sees crisis in every direction." Republican foreign policy expert Richard Haas sums it up: "The danger is that Mr. Bush will hand over a White House to a successor that will face a far messier world, with far fewer resources left to cope with it."

With wages down five years in a row, our Homeland Security efforts still a mess, our defecits skyrocketing to historic levels, the world itself growing more menacing and global trade talks breaking down there can be little doubt that the Bush and the Republicans have left America much worse off than they found it. 

- Every paper covers the immigration debate, with the Times weighing in with an aggressive editorial against the border-enforcement only approach.  Kudos to Senators Specter and Kennedy for working in a bi-partisan way to promote the most effective, and sensible solution out there, the current Senate bill.  The DNC joined the fray with a new Spanish-language radio campaign, calling on the GOP to get serious about solving the immigration problem and stop playing politics.  The new ad echoes the themes established in NDN's spring radio campaign that aired with the support of NDN's members across the country. 

- France and Zidane continued their remarkable run in the World Cup, beating a spirited squad from Portugal 1-0.  Spanish speakers can hear NDN's radio ads this weekend during the final two games across the country on Andres Cantor's radio network, and on Univision in El Paso TX, Albuquerque NM, Denver and Colorado Springs CO, Las Vegas NV, Phoenix and Tucson AZ and Tampa and St. Petersberg FL.  To see and hear our initial round of ads in our "mas que un partido" campaign, visit www.ndnfutbol.org, where you can also order NDN's cool, attractive t-shirts, jerseys and soccer balls. 

If we missed anything else important feel free to write it up in the comments section below.  Have a good day. 

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