NDN Blog

Eye on Afghanistan

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer is in Crawford, Texas for meetings with President Bush about the crumbling security situation in Afghanistan and trials of keeping the NATO alliance together under pressure:

Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Bush are to meet Sunday and Monday at the president's ranch in hopes of solidifying NATO's efforts in Afghanistan. Some experts worry that the international effort is fraying as the violence in Afghanistan has intensified in the past year, exposing fissures between alliance members.

The 26 NATO member nations have assumed vastly different levels of risk in the Afghanistan mission. Countries including Germany, Italy and Spain have largely had their troops deployed in nonviolent areas of Afghanistan, leaving the volatile south to allies including Americans, Canadians, British and the Dutch.

"This mission, which was supposed to be where the alliance regained its solidarity, is not turning out that way," said Thomas Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute.

As the Taliban has resurfaced as a major force in southern Afghanistan over the past year, NATO forces have been increasingly targeted in suicide attacks and other violence. The attacks have contributed to a sharp escalation in violence as well as erosion in efforts to stabilize the country, as extremists also have targeted aid and reconstruction workers.

To compound problems, in recent weeks dozens of civilians have been killed as NATO forces or the separate U.S.-led task force battling the Taliban have engaged extremists, triggering protests by Afghans and threats by Parliament members to expel foreign troops.

Richardson officially in

Today in Los Angeles, Governor Bill Richardson officially began seeking the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination, ending the exploratory phase of his campaign. From the Governor's press release:

The United States faces huge challenges, but also huge opportunities. I am running for President because these times call for a leader with a proven track record, and a demonstrated ability to bring people together to tackle our problems at home and abroad.

I am that person, not because I say so, but because of what I have done, and what I can do for the American people. The challenge of the campaign I am launching today is to get that message heard.

Running for this office is the ultimate job interview. It's not just about the positions you've held but the job you've done and your ability to lead on day one at a very critical time in our nation's history.

This Presidential election is unlike any other we've ever seen. From day one, we have to repair the damage done here at home and to our reputation abroad. And that all starts with restoring diplomacy as the primary instrument of our foreign policy ... and basic fairness as the primary means for problem solving in Washington.

There are a lot of candidates in this race with good ideas. But coming up with a good idea is only half the job. The other half is bringing people together to get it done. I'm proud of my record of getting things done. And I'll put that record up against anyone's.

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

UPDATE: Video is available (English / Spanish

NPI Director Peter Leyden in the Washington Post

Jose Antonio Vargas has a piece in the Washington Post today that picks up on an idea that the New Politics Network has been talking about for some time, that Democrats and progressives more generally are opening up a digital gap over Republicans:

Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank that in recent months has been advising Democratic members of Congress and their staffs on how to take full advantage of the Web, argues that the culture of Democrats is a much better fit in the Internet world.

"What was once seen as a liability for Democrats and progressives in the past -- they couldn't get 20 people to agree to the same thing, they could never finish anything, they couldn't stay on message -- is now an asset," Leyden said. "All this talking and discussing and fighting energizes everyone, involves everyone, and gets people totally into it."

Swift Boat Slowdown

H/T to Paul Bedard of the US News & World Report who shares that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is fed up with the Bush Administration's recess appointments of controversial figures, as a way of avoiding Senate confirmation and is going to do something about it.  He plans to hold pro forma sessions in the August recess (staffed by a local Senator) in which unconfirmed appointees like John Bolton or the more recent Swift Boat ad-funder turned next Ambassador to Belgium, Sam Fox, would be called to the Senate for a later hearing date. 

Quick recap on 2008

The New York Times has a very interesting article on the possible effect that the friendship between numbers 41 and 42 might have on 43.

Paul Kane from the Washington Post reports on the exchange between Senators McCain and Cornyn during last week's immigration discussions.

Mitt and Rudy give their views on the immigration compromise. If you think Rudy's is unbelievably ambiguous, maybe this will explain why.

Bernie Kerik addresses his past with Rudy Giuliani in this quick interview with MSNBC (the issue comes up after about 2:20 minutes).

Tom Goldstein offers a very interesting analysis of what the next President might face in terms of nominations to the Supreme Court. 

ThinkProgress brings to light some very interesting remarks by Newt Gingrich during his commencement speech at Liberty University.

The New York Times gives a detailed look at what Al Gore's up to these days and the mission he's so dedicated to.

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

ISG Report getting a 2nd look

The Post has an encouraging story this morning that the White House and other Republicans are giving the thoughtful recommendations of the Iraq Study Group Report a 2nd look. 

While this story is encouraging, it is really hard to fathom how repeatedly stupid the Administration has been on Iraq for almost 5 years now.  Almost nothing they've done has been right, thought through, or in our national interest.  Their outright rejection of the simple and reasonable recommendations of this report - something we wrote about a great deal here - was another in an historic set of low moments for the American government.

If you haven't read the Report, you can follow the links in the story to find a link to it.  It is very much worth reading.

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.”

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