Repudiating the Bush Era

Making a mockery of Justice

Don Siegelman, the former Governor of Arkansas whose politically-motivated prosecution we've discussed here, was thrown in jail this week. This is the shameful conclusion of an investigation that Scott Horton of Harpers calls "a political vendetta, conceived, developed and pursued for a corrupt purpose." And he has the evidence to back that up, in spades; the web of deceit and corruption surrounding this case is much too intricate and tangled to delineate here, but Horton has been doing an excellent job of unearthing and explaining the myriad dirty secrets surrounding the prosecution.

The operation to ruin Siegelman and seize power in Alabama, masterminded by Karl Rove, was so outrageous and underhanded that Dana Jill Simpson, a Republican lawyer who had previously run a campaign against Siegelman, decided she had to speak out about it. When it became known that she was going to blow the whistle, "Simpson’s house was burned to the ground, and her car was driven off the road and totaled."

A powerful editorial in the New York Times a few days ago calls on Congress to immediately investigate Siegelman's case, since Bush's Justice Department is not at all interested in promoting Justice. From the editorial:

"The idea of federal prosecutors putting someone in jail for partisan gain is shocking. But the United States attorneys scandal has made clear that the Bush Justice Department acts in shocking ways."

Can we really be shocked anymore, though? The Greek philosophers believed justice to be the highest and most important political virtue. Yet though words like "freedom" and "liberty" are used profusely (and loosely) by this Administration, the word "justice" almost never enters their rhetoric, unless in the context of bringing the evil-doers to it. And it is easy to see why; they are simply uninterested in the concept. The Administration and its friends have persistently tried (and largely succeeded) to turn every level of the Judicial branch into an arm of the White House.

From Cheney's constant efforts to make the executive branch above the law, to the regressive right-wing activist rulings of the Roberts Supreme Court, to a a study of the "Bush Justice Department’s prosecution of cases involving political figures [that] showed seven prosecutions of Democrats for every one Republican," it is exceedingly clear that these people, who share a strong disdain for justice and the rule of law, have no interest in playing by the rules, and that is a truth which is ultimately bad for Americans of all political pursuasions. In the end, the great damage done to the Judicial branch may be the most harmful and long-lasting legacy of the Bush era.

More on the Bush Presidency

Lots of stories these last few days on the further weakening of the Bush Presidency.  This morning Peter Baker of the Post publishes the most interesting analysis so far. 

For more on this topic from NDN visit the Meeting the Conservative Challenge section of our web site,

Gore and the climate change pledge

Al Gore has a strongly worded op-ed in the Times today on climate change.  It also previews the Live Earth concerts next week, and the pledge we will be asked to take:

Next Saturday, on all seven continents, the Live Earth concert will ask for the attention of humankind to begin a three-year campaign to make everyone on our planet aware of how we can solve the climate crisis in time to avoid catastrophe. Individuals must be a part of the solution. In the words of Buckminster Fuller, “If the success or failure of this planet, and of human beings, depended on how I am and what I do, how would I be? What would I do?”

Live Earth will offer an answer to this question by asking everyone who attends or listens to the concerts to sign a personal pledge to take specific steps to combat climate change. (More details about the pledge are available at

Hispanics continue to flee the GOP

In 2006, driven by a great degree by the immigration debate, Hispanics fled the Republican Party.  From 2004 to 2006 the national Hispanic vote moved close to 20 points, going from 59/40 Kerry/Bush to 70/30 D/R.  And turnout was up 33% from 2002.  This part of the American electorate has become energized, and much more anti-Republican. 

Remember that we've seen this happen before.  In California, Pete Wilson and the GOP took on Hispanics and turned a swing state into a blue and progressive one.  Hispanics responded to the GOP attacks by registering and voting in huge numbers for Democrats.  In the first election after the GOP attacks the effect was modest.  The impact came in the 2nd election, and the ones after. 

The question about the anger Hispanics across the nation now feel towards the GOP was whether or not it would sustain, and if so, what impact it might have.  For it is hard to see a viable electoral college map for the GOP that doesn't contain the heavily Hispanic swing states of AZ, CO, FL, NM and NV.  Take these 5 states away and it starts to become hard how to see the GOP wins in 2008.  A continued big swing of Hispanics in 2008 could deny this states to the GOP, and mark the way the GOP has handled the immigration issue as one of the greatest strategic blunders of modern politics. 

Well, over the weekend, we saw a story that shows this degradation of the Republican brand with Hispanics continues apace.  Peter Wallsten of the LATimes published a remarkable piece showing that those newly eligible citizens registering to vote in South Florida, a place where most Hispanics are Republican, are becoming Democrats:

MIAMI BEACH — As a Cuban who fled Fidel Castro's communist rule for a new life in the U.S., Julio Izquierdo would seem a natural Republican voter — a sure bet to adopt the same political lineage that has long guided most of his countrymen who resettled in South Florida.

But moments after taking his oath this week to become a U.S. citizen and registering to vote, the grocery store employee said he felt no such allegiances.

"I don't know whether Bush is a Democrat or a Republican, but whatever he is, I'm voting the other way," Izquierdo, 20, said Thursday as he waited for a taxi after a mass naturalization ceremony at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

Izquierdo said he did not like President Bush's handling of the Iraq war and was miffed at politicians, most of them Republican, who seem to dislike immigrants.

That sentiment, expressed by several of the 6,000 new citizens who took their oaths Thursday in group ceremonies that take place regularly in immigrant-heavy cities nationwide, underscored the troubled environment facing the GOP in the buildup to next year's presidential election.

Surveys show that among Latino voters — a bloc Bush had hoped to woo into the Republican camp — negative views about the party are growing amid a bitter debate over immigration policy.

Republicans in Congress have led the fight against a controversial Senate bill that would provide a pathway for millions of illegal immigrants to eventually become citizens. All but one of the GOP's leading White House hopefuls oppose the measure.

Many Latino leaders, including Republicans, have said the tone of some critics in attacking the bill has been culturally insensitive. They say that has alienated some Latinos from the GOP....

Read on my friends.  This is one of the most important stories in politics today.

White House officials violate Records Act

As ThinkProgress reported today, a House Oversight investigation found that White House officials used Republican National Committee email accounts for a much greater volume of official federal business than had been previously disclosed.

Use of RNC and Bush-Cheney '04 campaign email accounts for official White House correspondences constitutes a violation of the Presidential Records Act. The investigation found over 140,000 emails sent or received by Karl Rove alone (!) from RNC email accounts, and found that at least 88 White House employees had used RNC email accounts for official business.

The most striking finding of the investigation, however, is that the RNC oversaw “extensive destruction” of these emails, including the deletion of all email records for a whopping 51 White House employees. The report found that "given the heavy reliance by White House officials on RNC e-mail accounts, the high rank of the White House officials involved, and the large quantity of missing e-mails, the potential violation of the Presidential Records Act may be extensive."

These actions would be entirely consistent with this administration's notorious neo-Nixonian penchant for secrecy and willingness to obstruct justice. Still, the new report seems particularly damning; such raw exposure of this Administration's frantic efforts to cover their tracks is a strong indictment of their culture of corruption, obstruction, and disinformation.

Officials knew of Abu Ghraib abuses

The New Yorker just published another great new article by Seymour Hersh, the investigative reporter who first broke the Abu Ghraib story. In the article, and his interview about it on CNN, Hersh details how Administration officials scrambled to absolve themselves of all responsibility for the scandal. In a hearing before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee on May 7th of 2004, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said:

"It breaks our hearts that in fact someone didn’t say, ‘Wait, look, this is terrible. We need to do something... I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more sooner, but we didn’t...I didn't see [the photos] until last night at 7:30."

However, Major General Tabuga, the officer originally assigned to investigate reports of abuse at Abu Ghraib, insists that this is simply not true. Whether or not Rumsfeld and other higher-ups had seen the photos (which they certainly had access to long before the scandal broke), very detailed reports describing the abuses had made their way up the chain of command months before the story was leaked to the press. As Taguba said, "You didn’t need to ‘see’ anything—just take the secure e-mail traffic at face value." These reports, among other things, included "descriptions of the sexual humiliation of a father with his son, who were both detainees" and "a video of a male American soldier in uniform sodomizing a female detainee" (which was never released).

For obvious reasons, these reports were taken quite seriously, and were relayed quickly through back channel emails. The upshot of all of this is that by March at the latest, Rumsfeld was talking with the President about the incidents at Abu Ghraib, and once again 'The Decider' decided to do nothing. As Hersh writes, "The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career." In fact, General Taguba was asked to resign, without being given any real reason.

Said Taguba, whose only crime was his honesty, “They always shoot the messenger. To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.” While Taguba's story is sad, it is not very surprising, given that this Administration has always been more concerned with avoiding responsibility than with acting responsibly.

New links to Rove, Abramoff exposed in prosecution of former Alabama Governor

Scott Horton's recent piece in Harpers provides an excellent case study in the current culture of corruption in government. Horton's well-researched article centers on statements by current Alabama Governor Bob Riley's former Chief of Staff, Toby Roth, in the Birmingham News.

In the Birmingham article, Roth denies that the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was political in nature. The Birmingham reporters take Roth's words at face value. Horton, however, carefully documents Roth's extensive links to Karl Rove and Jack Abramoff, suggesting that:

"We’re looking at one hell of a scandalous miscarriage of justice, the object of which is corrupt and patently partisan and political. Very powerful forces have been engaged to cover it all up. There are also unmistakable signs of corruption surrounding the Montgomery statehouse – it’s not Siegelman’s corruption, but rather that of his successor and opponent. Indeed, it seems very closely tied to the people who claimed to have launched an effort to “get” Siegelman, using the authority of Karl Rove and his reach deep into the Department of Justice."

Roth's cover-up is but the latest example of the corruption and cronyism that we have almost come to expect from this Administration and its friends.

Mr. President, is this how it ends?

After the collapse of the immigration bill last night, I could only really think of the President and his legacy. Immigration reform has been something that he could do that would leave behind something lasting, something permanent, something that as he traveled around the nation in his post-Presidential years he could look on with joy and pride. But even now that looks doubtful, and with that, it is increasingly likely that he will go down in history as one of the worst leaders our nation has ever had.

Consider what we will be discussing and writing about for posterity: a drop in the standard of living for average Americans; the creation of structural budget deficits coming right before the fiscal time bomb of the retirement of the boomers; a decline in our rates of broadband penetration relative to the rest of the world; more without health insurance, in poverty and with dangerous levels of household debt; rising crimes rates; an education reform approach underfunded by tens of billions of dollars; a weakening of our support for trade liberalization; a shifting of the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class; an era of what has been perhaps unmatched corruption, lying and betrayal of the public trust; a weakening of our long-cherished civil liberties, including the suspension of habeas corpus for non US citizens; the publicly sanctioned demonization of Hispanics, the fastest growing part of the American family; and of course there is the great one, Iraq, and our incredible tossing away of the opportunity to remake the world in a way true to our values after 9/11 when the whole world was with us.

What will also be discussed are not just the mistakes, but the challenges not met. The lack of action on the decline of the middle class, on climate change, on energy independence, on college tuition costs; on giving our workers and kids 21st century skills; on offering a plan to give more people health insurance and good and affordable care; on Darfur. To paraphrase Tom Friedman this was not only a disappointing age for what was done, but also disappointing in the lack of imagination shown by our leaders in finding ways to solve the tough emerging challenges facing our nation and the world.

So, Mr. President, this morning we add one more item to this terrible legacy - the inability to fix our broken immigration system.

Somehow I thought that given the coming judgment of history, Mr. Bush would rise, drag his reluctant Party to the table, and end his time here with a powerful and moral act - bringing these 12 million out of the shadows - that would make it much more difficult for history to break against him. But this morning, even on an issue he believes in so deeply, he couldn't get it done, and we are now one more day closer to having his time here in Washington be judged as an extraordinary failure of leadership, character, judgment and governance.

Perhaps things will change in the coming weeks, and the President and the reluctant Republicans will wake from their slumber and find common ground with the Democrats. I hope so, and we at NDN will continue to work as if something good can come from the disappointing outcome last night on the floor of the Senate.

In the immigration debate a clear consensus on a path to citizenship has emerged

For those of us who have been working to fix our broken immigration system, this has been a very good week.   The new Kennedy-Kyl bill made significant headway through the Senate.  Bad amendments were defeated.   Good amendments, particularly the Bingaman amendment limiting the new guest worker plan to 200,000 a year, passed.

Perhaps overlooked in what was a busy week is how the opposition to what is the central provision of what has been called Comprehensive Immigration Reform collapsed, and how a clear national consensus to offer undocumented immigrants legal work status and a path to citizenship has emerged.  This is no small accomplishment, no small development in what has been a very difficult debate, and must be seen as a tremendous victory for Senator Kennedy and those advocating sensible reform.

This opposition, which now includes Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, while it has had many components, has been led since late 2005 by Congressional Republicans.  Their goal was to defeat any bill that had legalized the work status and offered a path to citizenship to the 12 million undocumented immigrants and their families.  Ten of millions of dollars of ads were run in races across the country demonizing Hispanic immigrants and supporters of sensible reform, and in many cases, the ads compared Mexican immigrants to Muslim terrorists.   It was a central plank of virtually every Republican campaign in the nation, from Rick Santorum to JD Hayworth.  While the President and some Senators, led by John McCain, opposed this strategy, they failed to persuade their colleagues and the ads and the campaign continued.

This strategy, of course, didn’t work, and I believe was one of the most significant political miscalculations of a political party in the modern era.  The Republicans demonization of immigrants, reminiscent of Pete Wilson’s efforts in California in the 1990s cost their Party in three ways: first, it has tremendous opportunity costs.  The hundreds of millions of dollars of paid and free media they invested in the issue gained them little or nothing politically.  This money and time and message could have been spent much more productively for them in other ways.  Second, it deeply angered Hispanics, the fastest growing part of the American electorate.  Hispanics swung 20 points to the Democrats and their turnout went up 33% from 2002.  And finally, it reinforced the central argument of the Democrats in 2006 – that Republicans were more interested in politics than solving the big problems facing the nation.  The national GOP whipped up a national frenzy around our “broken borders,” never offered a cogent solution to what is a very real problem and then blocked a sensible bi-partisan effort that would have gone a long way to mending our broken immigration system.

Which brings us to this week.  While we believe the new Senate bill needs further improvement, there should be little doubt that the Republican Party, Republicans in the Senate and the American people have joined the Democrats in embracing the central tenet of what progressives have fought for in this debate – a path to citizenship.  Opponents to the 2006 Senate bill like John Kyl have now embraced the citizenship provisions.  The new Chair of the RNC is a pro-immigration reform Hispanic immigrant, Mel Martinez.  And a new New York Times poll out today shows two-thirds of the nation now supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants (

While there is a long way to go in this debate, their should be little doubt now that the nation and the leaders of both parties have come to consensus on one central tenet of the immigration debate – there must be a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.  For those of us in the trenches on this tough and important issue, we should sit back and recognize that for all the anger and contention significant progress has been made, and it is now much more likely that the lives of 12 million people will be dramatically improved this year. 

Finally, it should be noted that yesterday the Congress voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage.  This has been a very high priority for NDN, and coupled with the progress made on immigration reform, demonstrates that this new Congress is taking the necessary steps to help improve the lives of those people in the United States struggling the hardest to get ahead.  If immigration reform passes this year, tens of millions of families will have had their lives directly affected, and improved, by the actions of this new Congress.  Given the inaction of recent years, these are no small accomplishments for Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi. 

Towards a new American strategy in the Middle East - a special NDN interview with Vali Nasr

I just sent this email out. Let me know what you think by leaving a comment in the comment section.


In recent days we've seen a very public and contentious debate over Iraq here in the US, continued fighting in Afghanistan and a new round of fierce fighting in Lebanon, public demonstrations against the Pakistani government, reports that the Administration has authorized covert action against Iran and a new UN Report suggesting Iran is making greater progress on its nuclear program than previously believed.

All of this new activity reinforces a main argument of the recent Iraq Study Group's report - that America needs not just a military strategy for Iraq, but a comprehensive diplomatic and political approach to this troubled region.

Of all the voices weighing in on what such a strategy would look like, few have been smarter or more persuasive to us here at NDN than noted Middle East scholar Vali Nasr. For many months I've been advocating to all I meet that they read his book The Shia Revival - How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. This book has taught me more, and helped me understand more about the Middle East today than any other thing I've read in the last several years. If you haven't read it, a new paperback edition of the book is out now and available at your local bookstore or online.

To help bring the important thinking in this book to our members and friends across the country, I sat down and interviewed Professor Nasr two weeks ago here in Washington, DC. I hope all of you will take a moment to watch the interview, now on-line. Of all the arguments he makes, I believe the most important is his recommendations on how to engage and contain Iran.

In all my years at NDN I've never promoted a book or thinker the way I have Vali. All of us here at NDN would love your thoughts on the format, and execution of our "Nasr campaign." Please let me know directly by leaving a comment below.

Thanks for all this, and I hope you enjoy getting to know Vali and his thinking as I have.


Simon Rosenberg

Additional Links:

Watch Vali Nasr on The Colbert Report

Buy The Shia Revival

Read "When the Shiites Rise" from Foreign Affairs

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