NDN Blog

Fred Thompson to use the internet to catch up, introduce himself

In an interview with USA Today, Fred Thompson describes his decision to run and what his entrance to the field will look like given those already in it. From the interview:

"I can't remember exactly the point that I said, 'I'm going to do this,' " Thompson says, his 6-foot, 6-inch frame sprawled comfortably across a couch in a hotel suite. "But when I did, the thing that occurred to me: 'I'm going to tell people that I am thinking about it and see what kind of reaction I get to it.' "

...

His late start carries some problems but also "certain advantages," he says. "Nobody has maxed out to me" in contributions, he notes, and using the Internet already "has allowed me to be in the hunt, so to speak, without spending a dime."

...

"I feel some of the same feelings that I felt in the latter part of that '94 campaign about what is going on in the country today — only greater," says Thompson, citing public cynicism toward the Republican president and the new Democrat-controlled Congress. "You can't drive the truck all the way across the country, but since '94 other opportunities have opened up in terms of ways to communicate."

A candidate could use the Internet "to cut through the clutter and go right to the people," he says.

(via T.W. Farnam from TPMCafé)

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Reform on Bush's mind in Georgia

Reform was the theme of President Bush's speech in Glynco, GA. One might ask, though, if the President intended to focus solely on comprehensive immigration reform, or was he also focusing somewhat on the reform/modernization of the Republican Party? In addressing the progress of the Senate bill, the President was quick to address the many critics from his own party who have attacked the bill. (Perhaps the President has read the newspapers lately which have exposed the rift within the GOP over this issue.)

From the Glynco speech:

Amnesty is forgiveness for being here without any penalties -- that's what amnesty is. I oppose it. The authors -- many of the authors of this bill oppose it. This bill is not an amnesty bill. If you want to scare the American people, what you say is, the bill is an amnesty bill. It's not an amnesty bill. That's empty political rhetoric, trying to frighten our fellow citizens. People in Congress need the courage to go back to their districts and explain exactly what this bill is all about, in order to put comprehensive immigration reform in place.

...

This reform is complex. There's a lot of emotions around this issue. Convictions run deep. Those determined to find fault with this bill will always be able to look at a narrow slice of it and find something they don't like. If you want to kill the bill, if you don't want to do what's right for America, you can pick one little aspect out of it, you can use it to frighten people. Or you can show leadership and solve this problem once and for all, so the people who wear the uniform in this crowd can do the job we expect them to do.

Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform. Now is the time for members of both political parties to stand up and show courage, and take a leadership role and do what's right for America.

Quick 2008 update

- Fred Thompson is getting into the race around the Fourth of July, according to The Politico.

- Barack Obama released his plan for universal health care yesterday.

- ThinkProgress tells us that New York City firefighters and 9/11 family members are going to be on the campaign trail, making sure folks understand Rudy Giuliani's track record.

- Joe Biden released a new web video entitled "Home" that covers Iraq, specifically his efforts to increase Mine Resistant vehicle (MRAP) production.

- Alaska and Georgia are the latest states to move up their primary dates.

- Hillary Clinton's economic policy speech is available here. FYI - Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is expected to endorse Mrs. Clinton today in Los Angeles. The endorsement is worthwhile because it could help Clinton's campaign with Latino and voters.

- On the Latino front, Nueva Vista Media has launched an independent outreach campaign to promote Barack Obama in the Latino community. The campaign, "Amigos de Obama" will "focus on eligible Latino voters and the thousands that marched for immigration reform last year in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and other cities."

- At the All Things Digital Conference, John McCain discussed a wide range of topics: how he would choose the members of his Cabinet, Iran, ethanol, etc. Video below:

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Coming to terms with the Middle East of today

Taken together press accounts from the Middle East and new stories here at home all remind us that no matter happens with our troop levels in Iraq, the troubles of today's Middle East and the Muslim world are among the most urgent foreign policies challenges facing the nation, and are likely to be with us for a very long time.   As the Iraq Study Group implored, America needs to fashion a diplomatic, economic and military for the region, not just Iraq.  It needs to be a long-term, patient strategy, and it is going to cost our nation and the rest of the modern world a lot of money.  

I think it is time that the Democrats, who have done so much to force a much needed dose of realism into the Iraq debate, start doing the same for the region and the rest of Muslim world - for we should have little doubt that for all the money we've spent, the lives lost, the injuries sustained and prestige damaged, this region of the world is much more dangerous and unstable today than prior to 9/11.  Our failure in Iraq has been an epic one, as it has unleashed forces we little understand and certainly cannot control. 

Consider this passage from a front page New York Times piece from Monday:

The Iraq war, which for years has drawn militants from around the world, is beginning to export fighters and the tactics they have honed in the insurgency to neighboring countries and beyond, according to American, European and Middle Eastern government officials and interviews with militant leaders in Lebanon, Jordan and London.

Some of the fighters appear to be leaving as part of the waves of Iraqi refugees crossing borders that government officials acknowledge they struggle to control. But others are dispatched from Iraq for specific missions. In the Jordanian airport plot, the authorities said they believed that the bomb maker flew from Baghdad to prepare the explosives for Mr. Darsi.

Estimating the number of fighters leaving Iraq is at least as difficult as it has been to count foreign militants joining the insurgency. But early signs of an exodus are clear, and officials in the United States and the Middle East say the potential for veterans of the insurgency to spread far beyond Iraq is significant.

Maj. Gen. Achraf Rifi, general director of the Internal Security Forces in Lebanon, said in a recent interview that “if any country says it is safe from this, they are putting their heads in the sand.”

Last week, the Lebanese Army found itself in a furious battle against a militant group, Fatah al Islam, whose ranks included as many as 50 veterans of the war in Iraq, according to General Rifi. More than 30 Lebanese soldiers were killed fighting the group at a refugee camp near Tripoli.

The army called for outside support. By Friday, the first of eight planeloads of military supplies had arrived from the United States, which called Fatah al Islam “a brutal group of violent extremists.”

The group’s leader, Shakir al-Abssi, was an associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia who was killed last summer. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, Mr. Abssi confirmed reports that Syrian government forces had killed his son-in-law as he tried crossing into Iraq to collaborate with insurgents.

A Danger to the Region

Militant leaders warn that the situation in Lebanon is indicative of the spread of fighters. “You have 50 fighters from Iraq in Lebanon now, but with good caution I can say there are a hundred times that many, 5,000 or higher, who are just waiting for the right moment to act,” Dr. Mohammad al-Massari, a Saudi dissident in Britain who runs the jihadist Internet forum, Tajdeed.net, said in an interview on Friday. “The flow of fighters is already going back and forth, and the fight will be everywhere until the United States is willing to cease and desist.”

Or this passage, from another Memorial Day front page story:

BAGHDAD — Staff Sgt. David Safstrom does not regret his previous tours in Iraq, not even a difficult second stint when two comrades were killed while trying to capture insurgents.

“In Mosul, in 2003, it felt like we were making the city a better place,” he said. “There was no sectarian violence, Saddam was gone, we were tracking down the bad guys. It felt awesome.”

But now on his third deployment in Iraq, he is no longer a believer in the mission. The pivotal moment came, he says, this February when soldiers killed a man setting a roadside bomb. When they searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army.

“I thought: ‘What are we doing here? Why are we still here?’ ” said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. “We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us.”

Or this story from a few days earlier about new findings from the newly liberated Senate Intelligence Committee:

Most of the information in the report was drawn from two lengthy assessments issued by the National Intelligence Council in January 2003, titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," both of which the Senate report reprints with only minor redactions. The assessments were requested by Richard N. Haass, then director of policy planning at the State Department, and were written by Paul R. Pillar, the national intelligence officer for the Near East, as a synthesis of views across the 16-agency intelligence community.

The report includes lists indicating that the analyses, which were reported by The Washington Post last week, were distributed at senior levels of the White House and the State and Defense departments and to the congressional armed services and appropriations committees. At the time, the White House and the Pentagon were saying that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators, democracy would be quickly established and Iraq would become a model for the Middle East. Initial post-invasion plans called for U.S. troop withdrawals to begin in summer 2003.

The classified reports, however, predicted that establishing a stable democratic government would be a long challenge because Iraq's political culture did "not foster liberalism or democracy" and there was "no concept of loyal opposition and no history of alternation of power."

They also said that competing Sunni, Shiite and Kurd factions would "encourage terrorist groups to take advantage of a volatile security environment to launch attacks within Iraq." Because of the divided Iraqi society, there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so."

While predicting that terrorist threats heightened by the invasion would probably decline within five years, the assessments said that lines between al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world "could become blurred." U.S. occupation of Iraq "probably would boost proponents of political Islam" throughout the Muslim world and "funds for terrorist groups probably would increase as a result of Muslim outrage over U.S. actions."

So, here we are.  Iran has become a regional hegemon and made great strides towards nuclearization.  Lebanon's government is no longer in control of its own country.  Iraq is a failing state that is exporting its chaos throughout the region.  Scared by the Shia revival so eloquently described by Vali Nasr, Sunni Arab states are now treating Al Qaeda as a legitimate ally in its fight against the Shiites.  After all these years Bin Laden is still on the loose.  Our great ally, Pakistan, also now fearful of Iran, is helping revive the Taliban.   Two groups America considers terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and Hamas, were elected to power in the region in elections our government sanctioned.  Israel, one of our nation's most important allies in the world, has been weakened by a war that I believe they fought because of their perception that America has become an ineffective actor in the region. 

So, what exactly has gone right over there these past 7 years? Perhaps a trillon dollars spent, a terrible degradation of our military, tens of thousands of casualities, a dangerous lost of our prestige and ability to project power and a Middle East more unstable than before.  What in our history can compare to this extraordinary set of miscalculations and mistakes?  But more importantly, what do we do now?

As essential as setting deadlines for a troop withdrawal may be, it is time for Democrats to begin confronting this broader reality, and start the process of fashioning a much deeper and long term strategy for what has become the most important and troubled region in the world today.

June 5th New America Foundation event worth checking out

The New America Foundation is hosting an event on June 5th entitled Inequality and Institutions: Understanding the Connections between Bargaining Power, Productivity, and Compensation in the U.S. Economy. It looks like it's going to be an interesting, timely event. For more information, click here.

Hillary lays out economic vision for shared prosperity

Today in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton "outlined her views on how America could restore a strong middle class in the face of globalization and the Bush Administration’s concerns for the special interests." Her campaign offers a few talking points behind her plan to shared prosperity - the only true measurement of economic success according to her site.

We'll have more on this later, but until then check out NDN's Globalization Initiative.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Wallsten and Schaller: Immigration debate exposes rift within GOP

As the media continues to cover the the immigration debate, its intricacies, and its status in the U.S. Senate, a few articles have covered a critical component of the debate: the tensions it poses to the Republican Party and its future. And according to these articles, the tensions run deep as the party considers and chooses its role in modernity. The first of two articles discussing these tensions is this front-page story from Peter Wallsten of the LA Times. From the article:

At issue are not just different approaches to immigration but competing visions for how to rebuild and maintain a base of loyal Republican voters.

Many Republican strategists and Bush allies blame election defeats last year in part on the loss of Latino voters after a flurry of anti-illegal immigration ads that strategists say exploited ethnic stereotypes. They say Republicans cannot hope to win a national majority without substantial support from the fast-growing Latino voting bloc.

"I believe that not to play this card right would be the destruction of our party," said Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the Cuban-born general chairman of the Republican National Committee, who helped write Senate legislation creating a path to citizenship for most of the nation's estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. "Hispanics make up about 13% of our country and by 2020 will be closer to 20%. It is a demographic trend that one cannot overlook."

The second article is from Tom Schaller, whose article in Salon asks if Rush Limbaugh was correct in describing the immigration debate as a marginalizing (and potentially destructive) force within the Republican party. From Schaller's article:

Immigration is especially perilous for the GOP because it is what might be called a "double-edged" wedge issue. It not only pits the party's base against a large and quickly growing pool of potential new Republicans -- 41 million Hispanics -- but also pits two key parts of the existing base against each other. The Wall Street wing of the GOP, which finances the party, wants to keep open the spigot of pliant and cheap Spanish-speaking labor. It finds itself opposed by much of the Main Street wing, which provides millions of crucial primary and general election votes and would like to build a fence along the Mexican border as high as Lou Dobbs' ratings or the pitch of Pat Buchanan's voice. And it's simply impossible for any political party to win if it has to choose between money and votes.

Why have Republicans found themselves on the point of this wedge? Because in the two decades since the last major immigration measure, the makeup of the national Republican Party and the demography of the country have both changed dramatically. In 1986, radio talkers like Limbaugh could not harness the power of millions of devoted daily listeners to bring national Republican political figures to heel, and the Hispanic vote share was negligible. Twenty years later, Limbaugh is the most popular talk radio host in America, and there are millions of Spanish-speaking immigrants living alongside Rush's listeners in the kinds of red states where Spanish was rarely heard before. At the same time, the Latino vote has grown to 10 million. The GOP is now forced to choose between its reliable base of close-the-border, English-only cultural whites and the rapidly growing bloc of swing-voting Hispanics.

Obama and Facebook: more than friends

Barack Obama's campaign recently dove deeper into Facebook with the debut of the Obama Facebook application. Now, not only can be Obama's friend but also an on-line advertiser of his campaign's happenings. The application's official description:

The Obama application puts the most recent campaign video and news on your profile and in front of your friends. It also enables you to easily communicate with your friends in early primary states where support for Barack is especially important.

While the Obama-Facebook relationship isn't surprising, as one of Obama's staffers co-founded Facebook, this is a great step for the new political tools of our time.

(Background: The application was created after Facebook launched its new developers platform, which allows users to create applications that can be integrated into users' profiles.)

Interesting Facebook UPDATE: Facebook is taking social interaction one step further in Canada, serving as a platform for Canadians who want to offer their hopes/dreams/etcetera as to where their nation is heading.

For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.

Intelligence reports predicted Iraq chaos

In my recent interview with Vali Nasr, we talk at lenght about the notion that what is happening in Iraq today - the breakdown of civil society, the rise of Al Qaeda, the sectarian fighting, the regional ascension of the Shia, including Iran - in hindsight was perhaps the most likely outcome of our toppling of Saddam.  

A new report from the Senate Intelligence Committee reveals that many inside the Administration believed this to be so:

Most of the information in the report was drawn from two lengthy assessments issued by the National Intelligence Council in January 2003, titled "Principal Challenges in Post-Saddam Iraq" and "Regional Consequences of Regime Change in Iraq," both of which the Senate report reprints with only minor redactions. The assessments were requested by Richard N. Haass, then director of policy planning at the State Department, and were written by Paul R. Pillar, the national intelligence officer for the Near East, as a synthesis of views across the 16-agency intelligence community.

The report includes lists indicating that the analyses, which were reported by The Washington Post last week, were distributed at senior levels of the White House and the State and Defense departments and to the congressional armed services and appropriations committees. At the time, the White House and the Pentagon were saying that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators, democracy would be quickly established and Iraq would become a model for the Middle East. Initial post-invasion plans called for U.S. troop withdrawals to begin in summer 2003.

The classified reports, however, predicted that establishing a stable democratic government would be a long challenge because Iraq's political culture did "not foster liberalism or democracy" and there was "no concept of loyal opposition and no history of alternation of power."

They also said that competing Sunni, Shiite and Kurd factions would "encourage terrorist groups to take advantage of a volatile security environment to launch attacks within Iraq." Because of the divided Iraqi society, there was "a significant chance that domestic groups would engage in violent conflict with each other unless an occupying force prevented them from doing so."

While predicting that terrorist threats heightened by the invasion would probably decline within five years, the assessments said that lines between al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world "could become blurred." U.S. occupation of Iraq "probably would boost proponents of political Islam" throughout the Muslim world and "funds for terrorist groups probably would increase as a result of Muslim outrage over U.S. actions."

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 (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/25/us/25poll.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin).

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. 

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