NDN Blog

Politics and Justice

Was it all political? Were Rove and co trying to put political operatives into these 8 positions to help their 2008 electoral chances?  It certainly seems from all the stories that this was all about politics, and about better using these powerful offices as they did in New Jersey in 2006, to go after the Democrats and weaken their position in the 2008 elections. 

So assuming this was all political, and not based on performance, lets take a look at what could be driving these picks. 

The 4 in the Southwest - The immigration debate has significantly weakened the Republican brand with Hispanics, making the greatest new threat to their 2008 chances the four heavily Hispanic states in the Southwest, AZ, CO, NM and NV.  If you take the Gore/Kerry states and add these four, all of which have been won by Democrats in recent years, Democrats win the Presidency.  Looking to 2008 Republicans will have to defend there weakened position in these 4 states with everything they have - and amazingly, 4 of the 8 fired US Attorneys came from these critical battleground states.   We also know of the remarkable efforts by Senators Dominici and Rep. Wilson in NM to use the post for shortterm partisan gain in 2006. 

Carol Lam - A year ago the greatest threat to the Republican Majority were not the Democrats, but career prosecutors in DoJ's Office of Public Integrity and US Attorneys who were taking down errant GOPers for their historic and rampant corruption and betrayal of the public trust.  No prosecutor had done more to damage the Republicans than the San Diego US Attorney, Carol Lam, who secured the longest jail sentence for a sitting US Congressman in history, was moving against the #3 in the CIA and reportedly was also looking at what may end up being the greatest of all the corruption scandals, Cong. Jerry Lewis's handling of the earmark process (something he has already spent more than a $1m defending against).  Lam was a huge threat to the GOP and needed to be removed.  She was. 

Arkansas - Perhaps the most brazen move.  The White House actually tried to put a Rove political deputy in as US Attorney in the home state of the Clintons, and what could be a pivotal battleground in 2008. 

San Francisco - Speaker Pelosi. 

Washington - Punishment for not moving more aggressively on the 2006 Guberatorial recount.  Sends a signal to the remaining 90 plus US Attorneys and career prosecutors in DC. 

Michigan - Not sure.  Perhaps a diversity pick.   A core 2008 battleground nonetheless with Romney as possible GOP nominee. 

Given the "rules don't apply to us" worldview of the Bush era, it is not a great leap to believe that the White House decided to use these slots to stack the deck for 2008, remove their greatest prosecutorial threat, and punish folks who had not played ball in using these offices for partisan means.  Given how highly political all this was, and that Rove had already in 2002 helped remove a US Attorney in Guam who was going after Jack Abramoff, it is not believable that Rove, the political boss of this era, was not directly involved, if not supervising the whole campaign.   

No wonder Bush doesnt want his team to testify under oath. 

Rove, Miers to Testify, Kind Of

Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) told members of the media that White House Counsel Fred Fielding and the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees had agreed to have Karl Rove and Harriet Miers meet with the committees about the US Attorneys scandal, without resorting to a subpoena.  Unfortunately, it looks like they will not be under oath, the meetings will be closed to the public and there will be no testimony.  Sounds like fodder for Bob Woodward's next book. 

Meanwhile President Bush is making a statement on the scandal at 5:45pm tonight.

Big Business to Senate Finance Committee: Invest More in Education

That was the message Accenture CEO William Green (with a name like that you pretty much have to be a CEO) brought to Congress in his testimony today.  He told the Senate Finance Committee about his own experience at a junior college outside Boston:

“I am a shameless advocate for junior and community colleges because I am an example of what they can accomplish.  There is no doubt that my two years at Dean College not only prepared me for advancing my education and gearing up for a career, but also transformed me as a person. Our nation’s network of junior and community colleges can produce these results. I am living proof.“  

Green also talked about the need to make higher education more affordable by making all education expenses tax deductable, not just tuition, and re-doubling our efforts to teach math and science:

“To build a truly competitive workforce, every company needs people who know how to learn; people with skills in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, problem solving and communications; and people who have ambition and self confidence. In essence, we need people who are great raw material.”

Greeen closed by asking Congress to reform the H-1B visa process for foreign-born, highly educated workers.  Hopefully, as head of the Business Roundtable’s Education and the Workforce Task Force Green will agree that there is no seperating H-1B visa reform from the broader issue of comprehensive immigration reform, and that it is time for the business community to join the broad coalition supporting its passage. 

House Prepares to Debate War Spending Bill

Later this week the House will debate a $124 billion dollar bill to fund the War the Iraq through the end of FY 2007.  As you probably already know, Speaker Pelosi is walking a political tightrope between conservative members of her caucus who may oppose the eventual drawdown of troop numbers and restrictions on the President in the bill, and anti-war Democrats who don't think there are enough strings attached to the bill.  Here's how she pitched the bill in a floor speech last night:

Again and again, Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic Leader, and I, have urged President Bush to adopt a plan for Iraq containing the following elements: transition the mission from combat to training; responsibly redeploy our troops; build consensus for political accommodation in Iraq; encourage a robust diplomatic effort, primarily involving Iraq’s neighbors.  We must then reform and reinvigorate the reconstruction effort; and refocus on the real war on terror – the war in Afghanistan.

Later this week we will debate a plan to bring the war to an end.  The U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans’ Health, and Iraq Accountability Act will rebuild our military, protect our troops, provide for our veterans, and hold the Iraqi government accountable. 

The benchmarks for the Iraqi government set forth in this bill are the benchmarks endorsed by President Bush on January 10.  They are: improvements in the performance of the Iraqi security forces; a greater commitment by the Iraqi government to national reconciliation; and reductions in the levels of sectarian violence in Iraq.

After four years of war, it is reasonable to expect these benchmarks to be met this year.

I welcome the debate over this bill and the opportunity it provides for Members of Congress to express themselves on what the greatest ethical challenge facing our country.

Outside of Congress, the influential progressive advocacy group MoveOn has decided to support the bill, after polling its 3.2 million members.  And they're running radio ads beating-up on Republicans who oppose the bill.

Of course, the President is strongly opposed to the bill, has threatened to veto it and in yesterday's Iraq War anniversary speech - at the end of the bloodiest year so far - said, "They [Congress] have a responsibility to get this bill to my desk without strings and without delay."  Of course, he gave the speech under a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt in heroic Rough Rider garb.  One thing that can be said for this White House, they still know how to pull-off a photo-shoot as delusion of grandeur.

LCV is Hiring

Our friends over at the League of Conservation Voters are looking to hire a Director of New Media Communications.  Learn more on their site.

Joe Biden Responds to the Bush Administration as Iraq War Enters Year 5

Biden gets to the core of the problem, that the Bush Administration is "pushing a rope," using a bad tactic, the surge to back-up a failed strategy. 

A New Idea on Health Care

Matt Miller from CAP writes about an innovative way to solve the health care crisis in this country, in his Fortune Magazine column:

Start with the fact that business now spends a stunning $500 billion a year, or 4% of GDP, on health-care benefits. Let’s say we shifted that cost to government—that’s right, relieved business of it entirely—and, to make matters simple, combined it with other public funds to give citizens a voucher with which they could buy a private health plan. To pay for this without boosting the deficit, we’d raise taxes by an identical amount—not on business, of course, but on taxpayers broadly, via various gas or carbon taxes that would have the salutary side effect of helping cure our energy and environmental woes. Note that the total amount the country is spending on health care doesn’t change under this scheme; we just shift the financing burden from business to the general population, via government. (To make the left happy, we can toss another 1% of GDP into the pot in new taxes to make sure the vouchers go to all today’s uninsured as well. Presto, universal health coverage.)

What would business think of such an idea? Policy suggestions like this would ordinarily be dead on arrival, decried as a record $500 billion tax hike sure to sink the economy. But what if the business community rose as one to force politicians to get past such rhetoric—and publicly trumpeted the need for the new taxes? It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. Look what we’d be doing: We’d free business from the burden of financing health care. (Employers emotionally or paternalistically attached to their health role could still facilitate and arrange for coverage, just not fund it, as conservative Heritage Foundation scholar Stuart Butler lays out in a forthcoming paper for Bob Rubin’s Hamilton Project.) The boon for competitiveness—not to mention shareholder value and the stock market—is obvious. And to seal the deal for skeptical capitalists, conservative economists declare that this brand of tax hike should have no impact on growth. "In one scenario we call health expenditures government, and in another we don’t. What does it matter?" says Kevin Hassett, head of economics at the American Enterprise Institute and an advisor to John McCain. "It’s hard to imagine that would have the negative growth effects" normally ascribed to tax increases in the economics literature.

It's at the very least an idea worth debating and Matt finishes with an arguement that NDN's Globalization Initiative has been making for the past year, that American companies need to make improving their employees standards of living a priority now, or face the consequences.

If business doesn’t help Washington fix these essentials before long, rising worker anxiety will produce a protectionist backlash that could wreck everything capitalists believe in. Instead of reflexively resisting the idea of government and taxes, therefore, business leaders must now do some constructive, nonideological thinking if they want to serve corporate America’s self-interest—and the country’s.

Where they stand on Iraq

Just a quick look at where the 2008 presidential candidates stand on Iraq:

Sen. Hillary Clinton: View her HillCasts on Iraq and our troops

Rudy Giuliani: Watch his take on the non-binding resolution

Sen. Barack Obama: Watch this video released today by his campaign

John McCain: Read "The Consequences of Failure in Iraq" from his website (and check out the video on the side)

Governor Bill Richardson: Read his Iraq policy (from a speech given in December, 2006)

Sen. Sam Brownback: Read this brief statement on Iraq from his website

Sen. Chris Dodd: Read his Leadership on Iraq from his website

Mitt Romney: Watch "The Mission in Iraq"

Sen. Joe Biden: Read the Biden-Gelb plan for Iraq

Rep. Duncan Hunter: Watch this video of Duncan Hunter discussing the Iraq War Resolution (Note: this video is also available on his website, though I can't directly link to it)

Dennis Kucinich: Read his plan for Iraq

Mike Gravel: Watch this video where he speaks on Iraq at Saint Anselm College

Jim Gilmore: Supports the troop surge and rejects calls for a pullout from Iraq on his website

Mike Huckabee: Read the National Security/Foreign Policy issue on his website (Note: no specific mention of Iraq)

Ron Paul: Read his website's statement on War and Foreign Policy

Tom Tancredo: Read about his views in the Defense section on his website

Tommy Thompson: Read his new approach where he proposes creating three Iraqi states

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

The Iraq Anniversary: not much to celebrate

The new issue of Foreign Affairs has an excellent piece on the future of of our policy in Iraq.  Written by James Fearon, a Stanford professor, the article takes a look at the history of Civil Wars since WWII, and asseses the likelihood of the success of our current policy.   He is not optimistic. 

Suppose that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad continues and Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias continue to fight one another, U.S. troops, and civilians. If the Bush administration sticks to its "stay the course toward victory" approach, of which the surge option is the latest incarnation, it will become increasingly apparent that this policy amounts to siding with the Shiites in an extremely vicious Sunni-Shiite war. U.S. troops may play some positive role in preventing human rights abuses by Iraqi army units and slowing down violence and ethnic cleansing. But as long as the United States remains committed to trying to make this Iraqi government "succeed" on the terms President Bush has laid out, there is no escaping the fact that the central function of U.S. troops will be to backstop Maliki's government or its successor. That security gives Maliki and his coalition the ability to tacitly pursue (or acquiesce in) a dirty war against actual and imagined Sunni antagonists while publicly supporting "national reconciliation."

This policy is hard to defend on the grounds of either morality or national interest. Even if Shiite thugs and their facilitators in the government could succeed in ridding Baghdad of Sunnis, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to suppress the insurgency in the Sunni-majority provinces in western Iraq or to prevent attacks in Baghdad and other places where Shiites live. In other words, the current U.S. policy probably will not lead to a decisive military victory anytime soon, if ever. And even if it did, would Washington want it to? The rise of a brutal, ethnically exclusivist, Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad would further the perception of Iran as the ascendant regional power. Moreover, U.S. backing for such a government would give Iraqi Sunnis and the Sunni-dominated countries in the Middle East no reason not to support al Qaeda as an ally in Iraq. By spurring these states to support Sunni forces fighting the Shiite government, such backing would ultimately pit the United States against those states in a proxy war.

To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington's commitment to Maliki's government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States less as a committed ally of the "Persians" and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing. Washington would also have more leverage with Iran and Syria, because the U.S. military would not be completely bogged down in Baghdad and Anbar Province -- and because both of those countries have a direct interest in avoiding increased chaos in Iraq..

As I've been writing for months, I think it is now clear that the Administration did not understand the fundamentally new regional dynamic creating the first Shiite-led Arab government in history would create.  In hindsight there was almost no chance we could have ended up in Iraq in any other place than where we are today.  The frustration of 1300 years of Shiite oppression by the region's Sunnis was never going to lend itself to a quick and stable outcome.  Or for Iran, the region's most powerful Shiite regime, to do anything than work to consolidate their position with their extraordinary new ally, run, with America's help, by political parties closely aligned with the their own government. 

What this means is that we have very little to celebrate on this 4th Anniversary of the Iraq War, and must marvel at the incredible stupidity of the man who got us into this mess without a plan, and had the audicity to declare in front of the world "Mission Accomplished."

NDN and NPI on Political Video and the Web

It's hard to read the news these days - online, in print or otherwise - without hearing from Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden on the increasing influence of web video in politics and the end of the broadcast era.  Here's Simon in today's ABC News lead story on the "Hillary 1984" video and the broader phenomenon of web video in politics:

"This ad represents the emergence of a new era in political advertising," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the Washington-based New Democrat Network, an influential party advocacy group.

"It's a condition of 21st century politics," said Rosenberg. "It's a brave new world…the barrier to entry for politics has been lowered and it's much easier for average Americans to participate and engage..."

"It used to be that unless they bought tens of millions of dollars in advertising, you weren't going to be heard," said Rosenberg. "Now, if an ad catches on, on YouTube or wherever, and becomes trendy and exciting, it could have just as much impact," he said...

"This is unsettling, particularly for the candidate," said Rosenberg. "It means that increasingly, the political campaigns are going to be one voice among many, albeit a very loud one," he said.

"They're not going to be in control and there's nothing they can do about that," said Rosenberg...

"The next big thing to watch is broadcast quality video becoming available on mobile phones," said Rosenberg.

"We have no idea what the campaigns are going to look like in Fall 2008 because the velocity of change is increasing," said Rosenberg, noting that the Apple iPhone is scheduled for launch in June 2007.

"Broadband video will be in 80 million phones by 2009," said Rosenberg, "YouTube is going mobile by the end of the year. TiVo will soon allow you to record things off the Internet. Media, including these viral political ads, are going to be viewed in a rapidly accelerated way," he said.

And Peter joins Simon in talking about web video and politics in this Saturday's San Francisco Chronicle:

The compelling "Hillary 1984" video recently introduced on YouTube represents "a new era, a new wave of politics ... because it's not about Obama," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a San Francisco-based think tank on politics and new media. "It's about the end of the broadcast era."

The ad is proof that "anybody can do powerful emotional ads ... and the campaigns are no longer in control," Rosenberg said. "It will no longer be a top-down candidate message; that's a 20th century broadcast model."

It also dramatizes that today, political activists with the Internet as their ammunition have gone from being "just donors to the cause," he said, "to being partners in the fight. And they don't have to wait for permission."

And just a few weeks ago Simon and a number of NPI fellows were featured in an article in The Hill looking at a host of emerging technologies and their effect on politics

Stay tuned for more analysis on web video from NPI soon and if you haven't already, make sure to read NPI fellow Julie Bergman-Sender's paper on viral video in politics

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