NDN Blog

The Times offers an excellent editorial on immigration

The lede Times editorial today captures both the opportunity, and the challenge, of the coming Senate debate on immigration:

The immigration deal announced in the Senate last week poses an excruciating choice. It is a good plan wedded to a repugnant one. Its architects seized a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul a broken system and emerged with a deeply flawed compromise. They tried to bridge the chasm between brittle hard-liners who want the country to stop absorbing so many outsiders, and those who want to give immigrants — illegal ones, too — a fair and realistic shot at the American dream.

But the compromise was stretched so taut to contain these conflicting impulses that basic American values were uprooted, and sensible principles ignored. Many advocates for immigrants have accepted the deal anyway, thinking it can be improved this week in Senate debate, or later in conference with the House of Representatives. We both share those hopes and think they are unrealistic. The deal should be improved. If it is not, it should be rejected as worse than a bad status quo....

Read the full editorial here.  You can read our statement on the deal here, and review some additional thoughts here.

Can the Republicans do the right thing on immigration?

A front page Post piece this morning looks at the GOP reaction to the immigration deal.  Not suprizingly many in the right are rebelling against the most important part of the new Senate deal - the process to legalize the status and provide a reasonable path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumenteds already here. 

While many on the progressive side - including those of us at NDN - have reasons to be concerned about the new immigration deal, it is important to realize how far the GOP has come on immigration, and how, in essence, they have as a national Party repudiated the strategy they used in 2006.  At the press conference on Thursday we saw many Republicans who had previous stayed away from the issue embracing this new construct, including the provision for the 12 million.   Given the rhetoric of the 2006 elections, the blatantly racist ads, the extraordinary obsession with the issue, it is remarkable how far they've come. 

As anyone who has been reading our stuff this past year knows we believe the Republicans made an historic strategic blunder on immigration in 2006.  It became one of the three defining issues for them in elections, after the war and economy/taxes.  They spent tens of millions of dollars on ads, countless hours of free press, and invested their core brand in a mean-spirited and often racist demonization of Hispanics.  It simply didn't work, and was not only ineffective, but had huge opportunity costs for their Party and did a great deal to damage their brand with the fastest growing part of America, the Hispanic community.  Most Republican campaigns closed with other themes as it never materalized as a salient voting issue, even though it had great saliency for a small number of passionate few in their base. 

There was never public or private polling data showing that the way the GOP played immigration in 2006 was going to work.  I always believed that the investment the GOP made in immigration was really because the rest of their agenda had collapsed, and they essentially had nothing to run on.  They had to dig into 2nd tier issues for their national positioning, ones that there was little evidence would work.  Immigration, because of the intensity of the issue in their base, was chosen for promotion to the 1st tier.  It was a terrible mistake, cost their Party dearly, and significantly contributed to their enormous electoral defeat in 2006. 

Up until a few days ago it was not clear that the national GOP understood how damaging this debate had become to their brand.  They had whipped up national concern about an important issue, then offered a wild, ineffective and often racist set of solutions to solve it.  The way they handled the issue played right into the Democratic indictment of the modern GOP - that it was more concerned with [playing politics than solving important problems facing the nation.  I have been quoted, and I still believe, that if the GOP had continued down the path they were on immigration that they were in essence turning the emerging America of the 21st century to the Democrats, as Pete Wilson turned California to the Democrats in the last decade. 

But this new Senate deal, and the appointment of Mel Martinez, a pro-immigration reform Hispanic immigrant, as RNC Chairman, shows that there reasonable elements in the Republican Party who are trying to change the orientation of their Party on this issue of extraordinary consequence.  As progressives we should welcome this change of heart and strategy, and hope that this week, in what will be a remarkable Senate debate on immigration, that the reasonable ones win the battle with the less than reasonable ones, and that we emerge with an immigration bill that shows that our leaders have what it takes to come together and solve the pressing problems facing the nation today. 

As progressives, while there is much we must fight to improve in whatever comes out of the Senate, we have to keep in mind that Senator Kennedy got the GOP to agree to what is the single most important provision in deal - to offer legal status and a path to citizenship for the 12 million undocumenteds already here.  If we can do this, and get a bill signed into law this year, and within a few months see millions of families come out of the shadows, it will be one of the most important accomplishments of our movement in some time, and one of the proudest moments of my time in politics. 

Friends there is much at stake here.  Let us ready ourselves for a debate of great consequence this week, and acknowledge for a moment how far we've come in the last two years on this vital and important issue.

The Assault on Reason: internet good for democracy

This book excerpt from Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, emphasizes Gore's belief in the internet as a vehicle in revitalizing the role of people in our democracy. From the book:

Fortunately, the Internet has the potential to revitalize the role played by the people in our constitutional framework. It has extremely low entry barriers for individuals. It is the most interactive medium in history and the one with the greatest potential for connecting individuals to one another and to a universe of knowledge. It's a platform for pursuing the truth, and the decentralized creation and distribution of ideas, in the same way that markets are a decentralized mechanism for the creation and distribution of goods and services. It's a platform, in other words, for reason. But the Internet must be developed and protected, in the same way we develop and protect markets—through the establishment of fair rules of engagement and the exercise of the rule of law. The same ferocity that our Founders devoted to protect the freedom and independence of the press is now appropriate for our defense of the freedom of the Internet. The stakes are the same: the survival of our Republic. We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it, because of the threat of corporate consolidation and control over the Internet marketplace of ideas.

Obama offers closed captioning for videos

Barack Obama's videos now offer closed captioning for the hearing impaired. You can check the service out at the Obama website (just make sure to allow pop-ups for the site). The site's blog explains the reasoning behind the service:

We recently received a call from Tom Faar, a veteran of the Gulf War who now works at Galludet University, the nation’s leading institute of higher learning for the deaf.

Tom, who spent much of his service listening to Morse code, had his hearing damaged, and many of his fellow soldiers lost their hearing altogether. “When you’re at war,” says Tom, “there are so many guns going off in your ears.”

Tom had a simple request: he asked that our online videos be made available with closed captioning. “So many of our Veterans are deaf or hard of hearing and they really depend on closed captioning,” he says. “People who are culturally deaf have no way to receive the message without it.”

Thanks to Tom, we have now launched a closed captioning site on our website— barackobama.com/closedcaptioning. Working with Project ReadOn we are generating closed captioning to our videos. There are currently nine videos available and we will continue to update more as well as regularly feature closed captioning in future videos.

“You know, in many ways, this constituency has been forgotten,” says Tom. “Obama’s campaign is the first to take this seriously and do something about it, and he’s got my support.”

NDN Applauds Progress on Immigration Reform

I released this statement earlier this afternoon...

"There should be little doubt that fixing our broken immigration system is one our nation’s highest priorities. NDN has supported a comprehensive approach to fix our immigration system, one that does three things – cracks down on the border and in the workplace, better regulates the flow of future workers to lessen the need for undocumented workers, and offers millions of undocumented immigrants already here a chance to legalize their work status and eventually become American citizens. It has been our belief that the only way to fix our immigration system was to take this comprehensive approach and do all three things together. Anything less would not work.

The deal announced today by Senators of both parties takes this same comprehensive approach, and thus we believe is an important step in the right direction. We are clearly closer today towards coming up with a good bi-partisan solution to the immigration challenge that will serve the interests of the nation.

We were especially pleased to see so many Republicans at this afternoon’s press conference, as it has been their party that has so aggressively stood in the way of progress to this point.

Like many, we found parts of the deal to be troubling. We are particularly concerned about the approach to temporary workers, the retreat from the family-first immigration approach that has guided American immigration policy for almost a century, and the requirement for heads of households to return to their own countries to initiate portions of the citizenship process.

We eagerly anticipate the debate in the Senate next week, and plan to be very active to help make sure we get a good and strong bill to the President this year."

For more information on NDN's work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, visit http://www.ndn.org/advocacy/immigration/.

Broder on the trade deal

Make sure to see Broder's look at Democrats and the trade deal announced last week.  His reporting skills are put to use in taking the tempreture of some key Democrats:

Levin said that the government in Colombia, which is allied with the United States in opposing the influence of Venezuela's leftist Hugo Chávez, must do more to curb violence targeted at union organizers. And Levin, representing an auto district, wants South Korea, which ships thousands of cars to the United States, to open its doors to American-made vehicles.

Nonetheless, both Levin and Schwab describe last week's agreement as "an important first step" toward rebuilding a bipartisan coalition behind a trade policy that expands the volume of shipments into and out of this country -- but that raises labor and environmental standards instead of degrading them.

That is what Levin calls "expanding the circle of those who benefit from globalization," a healthy step beyond the old and futile debate between "free trade" and "protectionism."

But there are some forces in the Democratic Party and elsewhere reluctant to abandon the old rhetoric -- or the old fights. Bloggers such as David Sirota and interest groups such as the U.S. Business and Industry Council condemned the new agreement and vowed to fight the issue.

Because most Republicans are on the side of liberalizing trade, the key question is how many Democrats will support trade agreements negotiated by a Republican administration. When I asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, his answer was "maybe 60 to 90," substantially less than half the Democratic membership but perhaps enough to make a majority with Republican votes.

Novak to Rove: you are in trouble (maybe)

Robert Novak, in his very biased way, points out that Susan Ralston's request for immunity for her testimony to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform could be very bad news for Karl Rove.  Ralston was Rove's Chief of Staff and before that, she worked for Jack Abramoff.  Waxman, and many others, suspect that Ralston is the link between the disgraced lobbyist and the White House, and now it appears that he's going to get some answers.  Will Karl 'Kryptonite' Rove escape again?R

Read Novak's column...

Comey's Testimony Points to Another Gonzalez Lie continued...

It certainly looks like it.  Former Deputy Attorney General Comey's testimony indicates that:

1) Gonzalez lied when he testified to Congress in February when he said there was no disagreement within the Administration over the warrentless wiretapping program. 

2)  That he or Comey was referring to another, as yet unknown program.

WAPO has more...

Democrats Propose FY 2008 Budget

The sticking points with the President will be additional money for veterans' benefits, education and health care. The budget is 2% bigger than the President and he is hinting he might veto it, but House Appropriations Chairman David R. Obey (D-WI) hass a pretty good comeback:

"It's that 2 percent difference that makes him a president, not a king, and I don't plan on crowning him...I haven't had too many people grab me back home and say, 'Obey, why don't you come to your senses and cut cancer research?' That's what the president's budget has done for the past two years, and that's what it would do again."

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) makes the important point that Republicans couldn't even agree on a budget, and Democrats intend to do better, even working with a Republican President.


Must read op-ed

Charles C. Krulak, commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999 and Joseph P. Hoar, commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994 have written a powerful rebuttal to the use of torture.  You can read it here or below.  It's an important reminder at a time when Republican Presidential candidates are falling all over each other, pretending to be Jack Bauer. 

It's Our Cage, Too
Torture Betrays Us and Breeds New Enemies

By Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar
Thursday, May 17, 2007; A17

Fear can be a strong motivator. It led Franklin Roosevelt to intern tens of thousands of innocent U.S. citizens during World War II; it led to Joseph McCarthy's witch hunt, which ruined the lives of hundreds of Americans. And it led the United States to adopt a policy at the highest levels that condoned and even authorized torture of prisoners in our custody.

Fear is the justification offered for this policy by former CIA director George Tenet as he promotes his new book. Tenet oversaw the secret CIA interrogation program in which torture techniques euphemistically called "waterboarding," "sensory deprivation," "sleep deprivation" and "stress positions" -- conduct we used to call war crimes -- were used. In defending these abuses, Tenet revealed: "Everybody forgets one central context of what we lived through: the palpable fear that we felt on the basis of the fact that there was so much we did not know."

We have served in combat; we understand the reality of fear and the havoc it can wreak if left unchecked or fostered. Fear breeds panic, and it can lead people and nations to act in ways inconsistent with their character.

The American people are understandably fearful about another attack like the one we sustained on Sept. 11, 2001. But it is the duty of the commander in chief to lead the country away from the grip of fear, not into its grasp. Regrettably, at Tuesday night's presidential debate in South Carolina, several Republican candidates revealed a stunning failure to understand this most basic obligation. Indeed, among the candidates, only John McCain demonstrated that he understands the close connection between our security and our values as a nation.

Tenet insists that the CIA program disrupted terrorist plots and saved lives. It is difficult to refute this claim -- not because it is self-evidently true, but because any evidence that might support it remains classified and unknown to all but those who defend the program.

These assertions that "torture works" may reassure a fearful public, but it is a false security. We don't know what's been gained through this fear-driven program. But we do know the consequences.

As has happened with every other nation that has tried to engage in a little bit of torture -- only for the toughest cases, only when nothing else works -- the abuse spread like wildfire, and every captured prisoner became the key to defusing a potential ticking time bomb. Our soldiers in Iraq confront real "ticking time bomb" situations every day, in the form of improvised explosive devices, and any degree of "flexibility" about torture at the top drops down the chain of command like a stone -- the rare exception fast becoming the rule.

To understand the impact this has had on the ground, look at the military's mental health assessment report released earlier this month. The study shows a disturbing level of tolerance for abuse of prisoners in some situations. This underscores what we know as military professionals: Complex situational ethics cannot be applied during the stress of combat. The rules must be firm and absolute; if torture is broached as a possibility, it will become a reality.

This has had disastrous consequences. Revelations of abuse feed what the Army's new counterinsurgency manual, which was drafted under the command of Gen. David Petraeus, calls the "recuperative power" of the terrorist enemy.

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld once wondered aloud whether we were creating more terrorists than we were killing. In counterinsurgency doctrine, that is precisely the right question. Victory in this kind of war comes when the enemy loses legitimacy in the society from which it seeks recruits and thus loses its "recuperative power."

The torture methods that Tenet defends have nurtured the recuperative power of the enemy. This war will be won or lost not on the battlefield but in the minds of potential supporters who have not yet thrown in their lot with the enemy. If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable in situations of grave or imminent danger, we drive those undecideds into the arms of the enemy. This way lies defeat, and we are well down the road to it.

This is not just a lesson for history. Right now, White House lawyers are working up new rules that will govern what CIA interrogators can do to prisoners in secret. Those rules will set the standard not only for the CIA but also for what kind of treatment captured American soldiers can expect from their captors, now and in future wars. Before the president once again approves a policy of official cruelty, he should reflect on that.

It is time for us to remember who we are and approach this enemy with energy, judgment and confidence that we will prevail. That is the path to security, and back to ourselves.

Charles C. Krulak was commandant of the Marine Corps from 1995 to 1999. Joseph P. Hoar was commander in chief of U.S. Central Command from 1991 to 1994.

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