The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) expressed its deep concerns today about Republican Mitt Romney's decision to announce his candidacy for President from the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan. Located on grounds formally owned by Ford, the museum is a testament to the life of Henry Ford, a notorious anti-Semite and xenophobe whose belief that Jews were second-class, inferior citizens were expressed in detail in his writings on his theory of Americanization. Ford was also bestowed with the Grand Service Cross of the Supreme Order of the German Eagle by Adolph Hitler.
Interestingly, Romney's website only mentions that he is announcing from "Michigan," with no mention of the Henry Ford Museum.
Also, remember that Henry Ford was outspokenly anti-immigrant, as well as anti-Semitic, saying: "These men of many nations must be taught American ways, the English language, and the right way to live." Immigration is of course a major issue facing Congress and the 2008 Presidential candidates. And I'm not holding my breath, but shouldn't a reporter at the announcement ask Romney or a senior staff member if the former Governor of Massachusetts agrees with Henry Ford's views on immigration?
There are two very interesting (but different) articles on how immigration is affecting young children and teenagers. First, the LA Times brings attention to the fact that children are being held in detention centers with their parents who have entered or are living here illegally. Then, The Sacremento Bee has an article on how the youth are expressing their concern over Governor Schwarzenegger's comments on illegal immigration and the unwillingness of some to assimilate.
Last night the Dixie Chicks got sweet revenge when they won all five Grammys for which they were nominated, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Not Ready to Make Nice". The Dixie Chicks were banned from country music stations across the country when Natalie Maines stated that the Chicks were "embarrassed to be from the same state as the President" at a 2003 concert in London. Since then the Dixie Chicks have turned their backs on their country roots and have claimed they will never again attend the Country Music Awards. "Not Ready to Make Nice", the song of the year from their new album, Taking the Long Way, is a response to ex-fans who want the group to move on and stop using the stage to air their political views. This big win for the controversial Chicks sends a clear message that even country music is no longer a fan base for the Bush administration!
Secretary Robert Gates is becoming a very interesting historical figure. Increasingly in his comments and actions, he has become a leader of the effort, supported by so many, of making the reign of the neocons an unfortunate memory. He asked for more troops in Afghanistan; admitted mistakes in Iraq; and yesterday, in his response to Russia's Putin, not only did he fail to take Putin's bait (a sign of a new maturity), he distanced himself from the neocon foreign policy construct of the primacy of might and force in our relations with the world:
Mr. Gates cast himself as a geopolitical realist and drew a knowing laugh when he focused on Mr. Putin’s assertion that the United States and its allies were dividing Europe.
“All of these characterizations belong in the past,” Mr. Gates said. “The free world versus those behind the Iron Curtain. North versus South. East versus West, and I am told that some have even spoken in terms of ‘Old Europe’ versus ‘new.’ ”
The last was a reference to a characterization Mr. Rumsfeld made in January 2003 to contrast Germany and France, which objected to the United States plan to invade Iraq, with neighboring supporters, not all of which are NATO members.
Reviewing NATO’s success in standing up to the Soviet threat, “it seems clear that totalitarianism was defeated as much by ideas the West championed then and now as by ICBMs, tanks and warships that the West deployed,” Mr. Gates said. The alliance’s most effective weapon, he said, was a “shared belief in political and economic freedom, religious toleration, human rights, representative government and the rule of law.”
“These values kept our side united, and inspired those on the other side,” he added.
Shifting to current threats and challenges, he called on NATO members to support a comprehensive strategy to stabilize Afghanistan, “combining a muscular military effort with effective support for governance, economic development and counternarcotics.”
We should view the forging of our policy towards Iran as the next great battleground between the realist school of American foreign policy, so successful in the 20th century, and the waning but still influential neocon school. The neocons seem so discredited that it hard for me to believe that they will win the day, but Gates, Hagel, Biden and others working to defeat the dangerous and disproven neocon approach need our spirited support.
The Post has a mustread story today by Anthony Shadid on a subject we've been focusing on for some months now: how our policies have unleashed a new dynamic in the Middle East that is fundamentally changing the region's politics:
The growing Sunni-Shiite divide is roiling an Arab world as unsettled as at any time in a generation. Fought in speeches, newspaper columns, rumors swirling through cafes and the Internet, and occasional bursts of strife, the conflict is predominantly shaped by politics: a disintegrating Iraq, an ascendant Iran, a sense of Arab powerlessness and a persistent suspicion of American intentions. But the division has begun to seep into the region's social fabric, too. The sectarian fault line has long existed and sometimes ruptured, but never, perhaps, has it been revealed in such a stark, disruptive fashion.
I've been writing recently of the most powerful dynamic in American politics today - the ongoing repudiation of Bush era politics by reasonable people in both parties. The American people rejected this politics at the polls last year; Democrats have made it explicit they will be creating a new politics; and we've even seen Republicans now working consistently with the Democrats to distance themselves from Bush and that brand of conservatism.
This dynamic is also playing out inside the Administration. The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung has another rust read story today about Iran which captures this ongoing struggle to wrestle control from Cheney and what's left of the neocons:
I don't know how many times the president, Secretary Rice and I have had to repeat that we have no intention of attacking Iran," an exasperated Gates told reporters at a NATO meeting in Spain. In fact, he said, the administration has consciously tried to "tone down" its rhetoric on the subject.
Similar statements in recent weeks by President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others follow a high-level policy assessment in January that U.S. and multilateral pressure on Tehran, to the surprise of many in the administration, might be showing signs of progress.
Officials highlighted growing internal public and political criticism of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, as well as the reemergence, after months of public silence, of Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. Larijani arrived in Munich yesterday for talks with European Union officials.
As a result, new talking points distributed to senior policymakers in the administration directed them to actively play down any suggestion of war planning.
Such demurrals are not meant to suggest that the administration will stop pressing Iran on several fronts or that it expects Iranian behavior to change soon. Warnings of new sanctions if Tehran does not suspend its nuclear enrichment program, the dispatch of a second carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf, presidential authorization to treat Iranian intelligence and paramilitary operatives in Iraq as "enemy combatants," and encouragement of Sunni Arab states to take a united stand against Iranian aggression are all designed to convince Tehran that "we have options" and are prepared to use them, a senior administration official said.
"We're a power, too," is the message to Tehran, the official said. "Your power is not unlimited. You can't go anywhere and do anything you want."
The changed rhetoric also stems from a growing foreign policy "maturity" within the administration, according to foreign diplomats and senior officials who agreed to discuss the issue on the condition of anonymity. They described a new attitude, born of the administration's awareness that the Iraq war has left it with a wide credibility gap at home and abroad and the realization that military action against Iran would strain U.S. capabilities, undercut other goals and possibly explode into a regional conflagration. Internal discussion has also focused on the likelihood that an attack could destroy whatever political plurality exists in Iran by uniting even those opposed to Ahmadinejad in a wave of anti-U.S. nationalism.
"It's very important that we proceed carefully, patiently and with some skill," said Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, who by all accounts is playing a lead role in formulating Iran policy. "We believe that diplomacy can succeed. We're focused on that. We're not focused on a military conflict with Iran."
Some senior administration officials still relish the notion of a direct confrontation. One ambassador in Washington said he was taken aback when John Hannah, Vice President Cheney's national security adviser, said during a recent meeting that the administration considers 2007 "the year of Iran" and indicated that a U.S. attack was a real possibility. Hannah declined to be interviewed for this article.
However, sources described agreement among the Bush administration and leading governments in Europe and the Middle East -- including those in Britain, France, Germany and Saudi Arabia -- over consistent but measured pressure on Tehran. They said close consultations, a stark contrast to deep divisions over the U.S. invasion of Iraq, have become self-reinforcing for Washington and its allies.
In another must read piece in the Post today, General William Odom lays out one of the most compelling post-neocon strategies for the Middle East I've seen:
The first and most critical step is to recognize that fighting on now simply prolongs our losses and blocks the way to a new strategy. Getting out of Iraq is the pre-condition for creating new strategic options. Withdrawal will take away the conditions that allow our enemies in the region to enjoy our pain. It will awaken those European states reluctant to collaborate with us in Iraq and the region.
Second, we must recognize that the United States alone cannot stabilize the Middle East.
Third, we must acknowledge that most of our policies are actually destabilizing the region. Spreading democracy, using sticks to try to prevent nuclear proliferation, threatening "regime change," using the hysterical rhetoric of the "global war on terrorism" -- all undermine the stability we so desperately need in the Middle East.
Fourth, we must redefine our purpose. It must be a stable region, not primarily a democratic Iraq. We must redirect our military operations so they enhance rather than undermine stability. We can write off the war as a "tactical draw" and make "regional stability" our measure of "victory." That single step would dramatically realign the opposing forces in the region, where most states want stability. Even many in the angry mobs of young Arabs shouting profanities against the United States want predictable order, albeit on better social and economic terms than they now have.
Realigning our diplomacy and military capabilities to achieve order will hugely reduce the numbers of our enemies and gain us new and important allies. This cannot happen, however, until our forces are moving out of Iraq. Why should Iran negotiate to relieve our pain as long as we are increasing its influence in Iraq and beyond? Withdrawal will awaken most leaders in the region to their own need for U.S.-led diplomacy to stabilize their neighborhood.
Assuring that these reckless neocons are weakened also requires us to better understand how they operated inside the Administation. A new Inspector General Report tells the story of how they hijacked the intelligence process and helped lie the nation into the Iraq War.
In this new century, in my lifetime, America will become a country that is only 60 percent or so white. Factoring in that a little more than half the population is female, this means that somewhere between 70% and 75% of all Americans in the future will be either women or minorities. One of the great challenges for both political parties and both ideological movements in this new century will be to build their politics around these and other profound demographic changes in America, ones that are creating what we call a “new politics.”
By this measure the emerging Democratic Presidential field in 2008 is historic. The two leading contenders today are a woman and a mixed race American of partial African descent. Another leading contender is of Mexican descent, is bi-lingual, and comes from a state, New Mexico, which has the most complicated racial and cultural mix of any state in the Union. When you add white male candidates from the South, Midwest and Northeast this field looks an awful lot like the emerging America of the 21st century and not at all like the America of the 20th century. We’ve never seen any Presidential field like this in American history. It is now clear that Democrats are offering a vision of a party that looks like, and speaks to, the emerging population of 21st century America.
The Republican Presidential field on the other hand is all white, and all male. It looks very much like a field from any race of the late 20th century. It even features one candidate, Tom Tancredo, who is running in large degree to reverse the demographic changes described above.
In 2006 the Republicans attempted a new twist on the old Willie Horton approach by demonizing Hispanics, and waged a national campaign against immigrants of all kinds. The American people, aware of the new realities of our 21st century people, rejected the racial rhetoric of the Republicans. Vicious anti-immigrant candidates like Randy Graff and JD Hayworth lost in Arizona, ground zero for this debate. Millions marched in the largest civic demonstrations in recent American history. And the Hispanic vote, the fastest growing segment of the American population, surged to never seen before numbers and swung wildly towards the Democrats. On understanding and accepting these demographic realities the American people appear to be way ahead of its leaders.
Many words will be used to describe the Democrat’s field this year but the one I believe is most accurate is “modern.” Democrats just look like a 21st century Party, with leaders who look like and speak to the people of the America of today and tomorrow. The Republicans on the other hand are struggling with reinventing their politics around these new realities. Yes, over the objections of many, they now have a Hispanic immigrant as the Chair of their party. But that same week Senator Martinez was chosen, the Senate Republicans made Trent Lott, a Senator with a history of institutional bigotry and racism, their number two. Their Presidential field is all white male, the only minorities in their Congressional Party are four Cuban-Americans from Florida and many leaders in their Party continue to fight comprehensive immigration reform in horrible and racist terms.
The Republicans should be worried about these developments. For getting on the wrong side of enormous cultural trends like this one can make a party a minority party for a long time. But perhaps in times of great change this what we should expect from one party long associated with the word “progress,” and another associated with the word “conserve.”
So this morning, as we watch the exciting Senator Obama toss his hat into the ring, let us also reflect on the historic nature of the Democratic field, and acknowledge that this party of Clinton, Obama, Richardson and Edwards appears to today much more the party of 21st century American than its adversary.
As Aaron noted below, Simon is quoted in thisNew York Times article on how John Edwards (and other presidential candidates for that matter) are learning how to deal with blogs. Edwards' faced a dilemma on whether or not to keep two bloggers on his staff who have written "incendiary comments" on sex, politics and religion. Below are different scenarios Edwards faced, offering insight on how campaigns view the power of the blogosphere:
Mr. Edwards could keep the women on his staff and have to answer for the sometimes vulgar and intemperate writings posted on their personal blogs before he hired them late last month. He could dismiss them and face a revolt in the liberal blogosphere, which is playing an increasingly influential role in Democratic politics and could be especially important to his populist campaign. Some bloggers saw the controversy as manufactured by conservative groups.
Or, as Mr. Edwards did Thursday, he could keep the two bloggers on staff, but distance himself from their views.
Earlier this week, the NYT had an important article that dispelled the myth that immigrants are a drain on the US economy. In fact, Nina Bernstein's story, shows that immigrants are helping to drive our economy, creating small businesses and jobs in traditional immigrant enclaves like Queens, NY and, increasingly, across the country.
In Los Angeles, at least 22 of the 100 fastest-growing companies in 2005 were created by first-generation immigrants. In Houston, a telecommunications company started by a Pakistani man topped the 2006 list of the city’s most successful small businesses.
Click on the picture for video related to the article
"Older politicians will have to get beyond their ideological blinders to recognize the opportunity waiting for any candidate or political party that can embrace both halves of the Millennial era civic ethos paradox."