End of the Conservative Ascendency

McClellan speaks out on CIA leak case

The Politico writes that Scott McClellan, the former Press Secretary to President Bush, "unknowingly passed along false information" about the CIA leak case of Valerie Plame Wilson to the press. Specifically, the President and Vice President (among others) allowed him to mislead the public. From the article:

Former White House press secretary Scott McClellan names names in a caustic passage from a forthcoming memoir that accuses President Bush, Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney of being "involved" in his giving the press false information about the CIA leak case.

McClellan’s publisher released three paragraphs from the book “WHAT HAPPENED: Inside the Bush White House and What’s Wrong With Washington.”

The excerpts give no details about the alleged involvement of the president or vice president.

But McClellan lists five top officials as having allowed him inadvertently to mislead the public.

“I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the seniormost aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby,” McClellan wrote.

“There was one problem. It was not true.”

McClellan then absolves himself and makes an inflammatory — and potentially lucrative for his publisher — charge.

“I had unknowingly passed along false information,” McClellan wrote.

“And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."


New Post Poll shows more signs of the conservative crackup

The Post has a front page story today detailing a new poll showing overwhelming American support for a more rapid drawdown of American troops, and Bush hitting an all time low in his approval rating.

Conservatives balk at Giuliani

More evidence of how weakened and out of sorts the conservative movement has become since its national repudiation at the polls last year:  

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 — Alarmed at the possibility that the Republican Party might pick Rudolph W. Giuliani as its presidential nominee despite his support for abortion rights, a coalition of influential Christian conservatives is threatening to back a third-party candidate.

The threat emerged from a group that broke away for separate discussions at a meeting Saturday in Salt Lake City of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative networking group. Participants said the smaller group included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps its most influential member; Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council; Richard A. Viguerie, the direct-mail pioneer; and dozens of other politically oriented conservative Christians.

Almost everyone present at the smaller group’s meeting expressed support for a written resolution stating that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third-party candidate,” participants said.

The participants said that the group chose the qualified term “consider” because it had not yet identified an alternative candidate, but that it was largely united in its plans to bolt the party if Mr. Giuliani, the former New York mayor, became the nominee. The participants spoke on condition of anonymity because the Council for National Policy meeting and the smaller meeting were secret, but they said members of the smaller group intended to publicize the resolution.

A revolt of Christian conservative leaders could be a significant setback to the Giuliani campaign because white evangelical Protestants make up a major share of Republican primary voters, including more than a third of voters in Iowa and South Carolina.

But the threat is risky for the leaders of the Christian conservative movement as well. Some of its usual grass-roots supporters might still back a supporter of abortion rights like Mr. Giuliani, either because they dislike the Democratic nominee even more or because they are more concerned with other issues, like the war..

The Hispanic Electorate and 2008

There has been a lot of press coverage on something we at NDN have been discussing for quite a while - that the influence of the growing Hispanic Electorate can't be ignored, much less demonized. Looking ahead to 2008, these articles - a sampling of which is below - provide fair warning specifically to the GOP that their actions could have serious consequences:

Is GOP Erasing Gains It Made With Hispanics?, Newsweek, 09/24/07

Debate No-Shows Worry GOP Leaders, Washington Post, 09/19/07

Division Problem, Michael Gerson, Washington Post, 09/19/07

Hispanics and the GOP, Editorial, Wall Street Journal, 09/15/07

Hispanic Voters Flex Political Muscle, Wall Street Journal, 09/15/07

The G.O.P.’s Candidate-Free Debate, New York Times, 09/20/07

Read more recent press stories about the growing power of the Hispanic electorate here

WSJ: "Republican Party's Woes Go Beyond Bush as It Bleeds Support Among Key Groups"

Really interesting quote from the WSJ on the state of the Republican Party:

"But if Republican erosion continues, the 2008 election could confirm a trend away from the period of conservative dominance in U.S. government and politics that dates back nearly three decades, to 1978.

The party's uncertainties turn on some of the most important groups of voters. Younger voters represent necessary new blood. Hispanics are the nation's fastest-growing demographic group, and are concentrated in big states such as Florida and California that are keys to presidential victories. Independents' ranks fluctuate but are expanding amid voters' disgust with partisanship. Each party needs them to win elections.

In the 2006 congressional elections, Democrats won all three groups. Voters 18 to 29 years old favored Democrats over Republicans by 60% to 38%, exit polls showed. Hispanics favored Democrats 69% to 30%; Republicans' share was 14 percentage points lower than its Hispanic vote in congressional elections two years earlier. Independents went for Democrats 57% to 39%; in 2004, Democrats only narrowly got more votes than Republicans.

'The state of the Republican Party is worse than any time since Watergate, and arguably this is worse than Watergate,' says party strategist Vin Weber, a former congressman, 'because that was about an event, whereas this may reflect a trend.'"

Bob Novack piles on the GOP

There is a great column from Bob Novack today and I say that well aware that NDNblog readers may not be used to seeing great and Bob Novack in the same sentence very often.

His underlying point that “never before have I seen morale within the [Republican Party] so low” is backed up by facts that should be familiar to readers of this blog. And remember, with a “half-century of reporting in Washington” under his belt, Novack has been offering his conservative brand of pundit journalism for more years than most, if not all, of the bloggers on this sight have been alive. It serves to give him some insight into the waning fate of the GOP…

On immigration:

During the past summer, a female acquaintance of mine in her 70s who had been a faithful Republican during her long life was solicited by a GOP cold caller as a previous contributor to the party. Not this time. She informed the fundraiser that President Bush's position on immigration was the last straw. She would not give the Republicans another dime -- not now, maybe never. So, she told him, stop calling me!

On the state of the Bush Administration:

… melancholic Republicans yearn for a leader. It cannot be George W. Bush, an unpopular lame duck. The party's many presidential candidates pretend that Bush does not really exist, not mentioning his name during debates.

On the Senate in 2008:

The decision by Sen. John Warner announced Friday not to seek a sixth term from Virginia at age 80 was no surprise but still a disappointment. Former Gov. Mark Warner, no relation and a Democrat, is an overwhelming favorite to win in Virginia next year. Republicans privately estimate that this will be one of four Senate seats they will lose in 2008, giving Democratic Leader Harry Reid a real working majority.

On the endless tide of GOP corruption and hypocrisy:

If so many people knew Craig was an accident waiting to happen, why was he not eased out of office? How many other examples of scandalous behavior are known but hidden?


Rep. Rick Renzi, investigated by the FBI, announced he would not seek a fourth term for the highly competitive Arizona northern district that could go Democratic. That represents a double whammy for Republicans. Renzi, investigated for receiving an alleged kickback in a land transaction, is but one of at least half a dozen House Republicans under federal inquiry.


Mitt Romney approached the calamitous atmosphere last week by asserting that Sen. Craig, until last week his Idaho state chairman, is part of the capital's corruption that only a real outsider -- specifically, the former governor of Massachusetts -- can cure. Past candidates have succeeded in pointing to corruption in Washington, but always by the opposite party. The Republican Party's next leader faces a more complicated problem.

The great Rovian failure

When Karl Rove announced his resignation this week I'm pretty sure he did not expect the media to so swiftly declare his tenure a failure, and to start serious speculation that the great accomplishment of this "genius" was to give progressives an historic opening to advance their agenda.

Several examples today.  The Post frontpages a story that looks at the Rovian politicization of the Administration, which many, including NDN, believe went way beyond what was permissible or just (for years we've been calling the modern conservative machine an Information Age Tammany Hall).  Andrew Kohut looks at how much more progressive the nation has become, and Frank Rich wonderfully deconstructs Rove in his weekly column today. 

We weighed in on Rove with this piece earlier this week, and of course have been exploring this subject for the last several years.  A collection of our essays can be found in our Meeting the Conservative Challenge section.  A particularly worthy read is this essay, the Democratic Opportunity, which ran in the Politico in April and lays out what progressives and Democrats must to do to seize the opportunity Bush and Rove have given us.

Pick up Matt Bai's "The Argument" today

This month a new book arrives from an old friend, Matt Bai, the talented New York Times Magazine writer. The Argument: Billionaires, Bloggers and the Battle to Remake Democratic Politics - like everything Matt writes - is a good read, insightful, full of ideas big and small, and certainly worth picking up and making it one of your end of summer books.

The Argument takes an in-depth look at a process that NDN and its family have been at the center of these last few years: the re-invention and modernization of progressive politics. It is perhaps one of the most important and least understood stories in American politics today.

Whatever the short-term electoral outcomes of this decade in American politics, it will be remembered as one where the progressive movement, so dominant in the 20th century, shook off a generation-long period of drift and began to do what was necessary to take on a very powerful and modern conservative politics. The reasons for this are many: changes in campaign finance law, the Iraq War, the manifest failures of Bush and the conservatives to govern, even while they accrued more and more power. Today the progressive movement is much more 21st century than 20th, and is better able to play on the modern battlefield of today's politics. We've seen the creation of many new institutions: the Democracy Alliance, Media Matters, Center for American Progress, Center for Progressive Leadership, Democracy Journal, Catalist, America Votes; a whole new slew of internet-based players in the emergent "netroots" like MoveOn, DailyKos, Talking Points Memo, MyDD and the Huffington Post; and we've seen the emergence of a whole new set of leaders from Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Howard Dean, Markos Moulitsas, Rahm Emanuel, Andy Stern and Rob Stein.

Perhaps most importantly, all the new tools we have at our disposal today have made it easier for millions of Americans to partner with us in this critical effort to offer America a better path. Their arrival has brought more passion, more debate, more resources and is creating an entire new generation of leaders capable of serving the nation for years to come.

What Matt's book points out is that this process is still in its infancy, or in a start-up phase; and as such, it is in a very messy and emergent state. Overall Matt's assessment of all this, and of the people involved in this effort, is a little rougher than I would have liked, but that's the business we are in. But if Matt is correct in his assessment - and for this you should read the book - it means that there is much more for all of us to do in the coming days. Our work in building this modern progressive movement is far from finished. That is very exciting to me.

Looking ahead it is important to realize how much American politics has changed in the last few years. Just two years ago Bush and the conservatives were triumphiant. They had greater ideological control of the government than any time in the last 75 years. The progressives and Democrats appeared weak, in retreat, and unable to adapt to modern realities. But then the conservatives collapsed. Democrats won an historic victory in 2006. All measures of Party strength show the Democrats in the strongest shape they've been since before Reagan's election in 1980. The movement's infrastructure has become much more robust and modern. Progressives are way ahead in adopting a whole new set of 21st century tools to engage the Americans of today. Critical emergent constituencies - the new Millennial generation and Hispanics - are moving deeply into the progressive camp. And Democratic leaders are slowly re-orienting the debate and our government around the daunting array of 21st century challenges, many ignored by the conservatives in recent years, and many made much tougher to manage because of the conservatives' many mistakes.

So yes, Matt is right: there is work left undone. But left of center politics is so much more exciting, so much more passionate, so much more entreprenurial than its been since I joined it 20 years ago. We also have more wind at our back than at any time in the last political generation, and for all of this, I remain optimistic that this movement of ours, as imperfect as it is, is poised to take the reins and lead America with confidence and grace to meet the emerging challenges of our new century.

How Rove will be remembered

Rove has been called the "architect."  But of what? What did he build, and what will he leave behind? 

He guided Bush to two narrow and hard-fought victories, and briefly oversaw a conservatism that had more power in Washington that anything we had seen in 70 years.  But today those victories look like pyrrhic ones, as the conservative movement is in ideological and politics ruins, and the Democrats stronger today than anytime in a generation. 

So, as his epitaph I offer this:

Karl Rove was the "architect" of one of the worst governments in American history, and the one who engineered the end of modern conservatism, one of the most successful ideological movements of recent times.   

Brilliant yes. Bold, without a doubt.  A complete and utter failure who left his country and his movement weaker than he found it? Yep.

Eventually, perhaps, disgraced.

Schaller on the Democratic field

In Salon, Tom Schaller has an interesting take on the state of the Democratic presidential field.  Once there you can also read his recent take on the GOP side.

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