21st Century Agenda for America

The Rhee era begins here in DC

The DC City Council approved a new leadership team for our public schools yesterday.  The Fenty-Rhee era of school reform, an era promising bold change, begins this week.  

As a parent of two kids in the DC public schools, I will be checking in from time to time on the new Chancellor's progress.  I for one am very excited about what Fenty and Rhee are talking about for our struggling schools. 

NDN in the Politico today on immigration reform

I'm quoted today in a Politico story on how the collapse of immigration reform may end up hurting the GOP in 2008.   Other examples of this story can be found by clicking on the immigration tag above and reading through previous entries in the section.   There should be little doubt that Hispanics already had blamed the GOP for the tone of the immigration debate before this year; that the Senate bill collapsed largely through the work of a handful of Republican Senators; that the already damaged GOP brand has been and will be further degraded in the Latino community, the fastest growing in the nation; and as in CA in the 1990s, the rejection of the GOP by Latinos could spell electoral doom for them nationally for a generation to come. 

You can find our statement on the collapse of the immigration bill here.

However, I'm not sure that my quotes in the final graph as are clear as I would have hoped.  What I was trying to say is that if Democrats want to take advantage of the GOP stumble it would be wise for them to do more than blame the GOP for the collapse of the immigration bill. Democrats will have to make it clear over the next two years that they will work to do more than play politics with the issue - they need to show that they can deliver on the promise to reform the immigration system.  This means spelling out, in detail, a plan, and doing everything they can to pass it, or at least make significant progress on it, now.  

What is the Democratic vision here? Do Democratic leaders want to return to the framework of McCain-Kennedy, rejecting the point sytem, the nutty guest worker plan and "touchback?" What about H1Bs and other programs for highly educated workers? Is there a set of principles that can bring together the Democrats in both chambers?

My argument in the Politico piece was that for Democrats to take full advantage of the great Republican stumble they will need to make clear what kind of immigration reform they are for, and commit to doing more than just talking about it in the months to come.  Just saying that Democrats are less bad than the Republicans is not a strong message to take to any community.  

NDN, Rob Shapiro in New York magazine on globalization

NDN Globalization Initiative Director Rob Shapiro is quoted prominently in a thoughtful John Heilemann column in New York Magazine this week.  An excerpt:

The pace of change being driven by globalization has only accelerated in the fourteen years since NAFTA’s passage. And the political backlash against that change has only grown more bellicose, potent, and mainstream. In 2006, a raft of Democratic Senate candidates—Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Virginia’s Jim Webb, Montana’s Jon Tester—were elected in part because of their appeals to economic nationalism and their opposition to trade deals that reputedly sent countless jobs overseas. And the anti-globalization tenor of many House Democratic campaigns was even more pronounced. “In all my time in Washington,” says Rob Shapiro, chairman of the New Democrat Network Globalization Initiative and a key adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign, “I’ve never seen less support for open trade across this town than today."......

More broadly, the consensus among top-tier economists that underpinned the support for free trade has lately been rattled by a spate of revisionism. Alan Blinder of Princeton, a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve and a staunch Democrat, has taken to arguing that the downsides of unfettered globalization may be far greater than standard doctrine has assumed—in particular, that offshoring and outsourcing may put as many as 40 million American jobs at risk in the next two decades. The Nobel laureate Paul Samuelson has joined the chorus, as has former Clinton Treasury secretary Larry Summers, who wrote recently that pledges to retrain workers displaced in the globalized economy are “pretty thin gruel” when it comes to allaying the fears of the middle class.

The rethinking going on among such economists is salutary, to be sure. There can hardly be any doubt any longer that globalization (fueled by rapid technological change) is, as Shapiro has written, “weakening the long-standing connection between increases in the productivity of workers and the wages they earn.” But what makes the responses to this new reality among the Blinders and Summerses of the world welcome is that their arguments tend to be complex, careful, and nuanced. What none of them is advocating is any form of protectionism—even though that is precisely what many of the politicians and union leaders now seizing on the rethinking have in mind. Instead, the economists favor grand-scale education reform, worker training, R&D spending, and changes in the tax code to promote the creation of high value-added U.S. based jobs, and, not least, universal health care reform to bring down costs for domestic businesses.

“The next administration has a responsibility to create a new bargain on trade,” says Shapiro. “The bargain is, we will continue to expand open trade and we will make the significant investments required to enable American workers to benefit from it.”

Given Shapiro’s roots, it’s not surprising that his new bargain embodies the spirit of Clintonism (Bill Clintonism, that is). What’s often forgotten about Clintonomics, in its original incarnation, is that its theme was “putting people first.” Yes, there was always a commitment to fiscal discipline. Yes, there was the embrace of internationalism. But there was also a promise to sink massive sums into the formation and enhancement of human capital. But Clinton’s human-capital agenda was sacrificed on the altar of budget balancing, a sacrifice that was arguably unnecessary had the president and his people been willing to take on corporate welfare, congressional pork, and entitlement spending.

Now comes a golden opportunity for a presidential candidate prepared to do just that. Ready, that is, to make good on Bill Clinton’s unfinished agenda. Without question, the candidate most suitable to taking up the task, for reasons of both temperament and historical-cum-marital continuity, would be Hillary Clinton. Doing so would require her, however, to drop the cheap posturing as a trade hawk and adopt instead a stance of, I dunno, a genuine third-way leader. Those of us who care about getting globalization right will be watching and egging her on. And so, one hopes, will be her husband, who happens to understand all of this as well as anyone alive.

For more on NDN's Globalization Initiative, visit www.ndn.org.

Iraqi government warns of regional chaos

From the Times:

BAGHDAD, July 9 — The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, warned today that an early American withdrawal from Iraq could bring on an all-out civil war and regional conflict, pointedly telling the United States that it had responsibilities to continue lending support to the Baghdad government.

Mr. Zebari also asserted that Iraq’s neighbor Turkey had massed 140,000 troops near his country’s northern border and urged it to resolve differences with dialogue, not through force.

Mr. Zebari was speaking after a violent weekend in which more than 220 people were killed in Iraq, including 150 by a truck bomb in one of the deadliest single attacks since the American invasion in March 2003.

Asked if the Iraqi government’s was aware of the growing pressure on President Bush from Congress to impose a timetable for withdrawing American forces from Iraq, Mr. Zebari said his government was holding a “dialogue” with some congressmen.

“We explain to them the dangers of a speedy withdrawal and leaving a security vacuum, and the dangers vary from civil war to dividing the country or maybe to regional wars,” he said.

“Some people might disagree with this assessment, but in our estimation the danger is huge. Until the Iraqi forces and institutions complete their readiness, there is a responsibility on the U.S. and other countries to stand by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people to help build up their capabilities.”

Mr. Zebari’s comments came after some Sunni and Shiite leaders called on Iraqi civilians to take up arms to defend themselves, amid frustration that Iraqi security forces had failed to halt the deadly suicide attacks....

White House considering changing its Iraq Strategy

David Sanger of the Times has a huge front page story about internal deliberations in the White House.  It starts:

White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.

Mr. Bush and his aides once thought they could wait to begin those discussions until after Sept. 15, when the top field commander and the new American ambassador to Baghdad are scheduled to report on the effectiveness of the troop increase that the president announced in January. But suddenly, some of Mr. Bush’s aides acknowledge, it appears that forces are combining against him just as the Senate prepares this week to begin what promises to be a contentious debate on the war’s future and financing.

Four more Republican senators have recently declared that they can no longer support Mr. Bush’s strategy, including senior lawmakers who until now had expressed their doubts only privately. As a result, some aides are now telling Mr. Bush that if he wants to forestall more defections, it would be wiser to announce plans for a far more narrowly defined mission for American troops that would allow for a staged pullback, a strategy that he rejected in December as a prescription for defeat when it was proposed by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

“When you count up the votes that we’ve lost and the votes we’re likely to lose over the next few weeks, it looks pretty grim,” said one senior official, who, like others involved in the discussions, would not speak on the record about internal White House deliberations....

"Base to Bush: It's Over"

Conservative author and commentator Byron York weighs in today with a true must read.  It starts:

Let's say you're a Republican president, a bit more than midway through your second term. You're scrambling to salvage what you can of a deeply unpopular war, you're facing a line of subpoenas from Democrats in Congress and your poll ratings are in the basement. What do you do?

You estrange the very Republicans whose backing you need the most.

That's precisely what President Bush has managed to accomplish during the two big political developments of recent weeks: the commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's prison sentence and the defeat of comprehensive immigration reform. But the president's problems with the GOP base go beyond those awkward headlines. Republicans aren't mad at Bush for the same reasons that Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and the devotees of MoveOn.org are; there's no new anti-Bush consensus among left and right. No, conservatives are unhappy because the president allied himself with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) over an immigration deal that leaned too far toward amnesty for illegal immigrants. They're unhappy because Bush has shown little interest in fiscal responsibility and limited government. And they're unhappy, above all, because he hasn't won the war in Iraq.

All of this has left Republicans saying, at least among themselves, something blunt and devastating: It's over.

"Bush fatigue has set in," declares one plugged-in GOP activist.

"We're ready for a new president," says a former state Republican Party official in the South.

"There was affection," opines a conservative strategist based well beyond the Beltway, "but now they're in divorce court."

Read the rest here in today's Post. 

Our broken politics

The Bush era has done great damage to Washington's ability to meet important challenges.  We know the story - big mistakes, challenges not met, extraordinary betrayal of the public trust.  In 2006 voters asked for a new chapter in the American story.  What we now know well into 2007 that this new chapter will not come quickly.  It will take years and a great deal of work to move past this disapointing and damaging era of politics. 

There are many examples of how Bushism will be with us for years to come.  The right-leaning Roberts court.  The continued erosion of American support for globalization and trade liberalization.  A Middle East more difficult than before.  But to me the most graphic example of our hard it is going to be bring the parties and the American people together to solve our common problems is what happened with the immigration bill last week. 

We have written about this often so I wont repeat other than to say that if anything was to pass in this Congress it was the immigration bill.  It had broad and deep bi-partisan support.  It passed the Republican controlled Senate last year.  It had a remarkable coalition behind it, including leaders of labor, the Catholic Church, business and immigrant rights groups.  It was supported by the most powerful leaders in Washington including the President, John McCain, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  And yet it still didnt pass. 

For progressives, we have several tasks ahead.  First to stay focused on solving problems not playing politics.  We need to get things done that improve the lives of average Americans.  Second, and perhaps most importantly, is that we cannot let these disapointing years cause us to doubt the power and goodness of the American experiment itself.  We have overcome much greater challenges before.  And though the array of challenges in front of us are great, and urgent, at our very core we must believe that they can met and tackled with the same sense of can-do optimism as this remarkable nation has met similar times of trial and trouble in our past.  This is no time for retreat, for withdrawal, for accepting the limited and cramped vision of the Bush era.   Our task now must be to re-imagine the goodness, and greatness, of America, and apply our creed and values to the newly emergent challenges of this new century. 

It is not the day that it is dark.  It has been our response to it.  And that we have the power to change.  But it is not going to be quick, easy, inexpensive and clean.  We have years of hard work ahead of us to move America beyond the broken politics of the Bush era.

The Times takes the new Court to task

The NYTimes reflects on the new Roberts Court this morning with a strong and well-argued editorial this morning.  An excerpt:

It has been decades since the most privileged members of society — corporations, the wealthy, white people who want to attend school with other whites — have had such a successful Supreme Court term. Society’s have-nots were not the only losers. The basic ideals of American justice lost as well.

It is very much worth reading in its entirety.

The Post profiles Michelle Rhee

The Post pens an in-depth profile of Michelle Rhee, DC Mayor Fenty's choice to be the next Superindendent of Public Schools.  Her appointment is being taken up by the DC City Council this week. 

The appointment of Rhee may end up having national significance.  She is one of the first of a wave of education reformers to come from the remarkable Teach for America program to move into a top administrative spot.  It is also an early - perhaps too early - test of the young, idealistic and determined reformers coming out of the maturing national service movement.  It is a classic case of the old meets the new, but of course the battle will mean a great deal for those of us who live in DC and have kids in public schools here (I will have kids in 2nd grade and Kindergarten next year). 

I am hopeful that Fenty made a wise choice with Rhee.  Improving of our public schools, particularly for our fast growing minority populations in our resurgent urban cores, is one of the most important challenges facing the nation.  This job became a more urgent one with the Supreme Court's decision last week on limiting the ability of school districts to integrate their schools.  As the parent of kids in public schools I admire Mayor Fenty's bold vision and courage to appoint someone with Rhee's background to this critical post.  While the idea of Rhee is a powerful one, what matters most is now is that she and the Mayor carry out this reform ideas and improve DC's troubled schools.  The hard part of this great gamble has just begun.

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, www.ndn.org.

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