NDN Blog

Selling your ideals for 1600 Part II

And maybe misrepresenting your faith...

The Bush Administration's Cuba Policy...or Lack Thereof

As we look ahead to the end of the Fidel Castro era, NDN continues to be a leading voice in the debate over the future of US-Cuban relations.  At the same time, the White House has been completely withdrawn at this critical time.  Who would have expected impotence and apparent indifference from the Bush Administration at a time when Fidel Castro's ill health has forced him to transfer power to his younger brother Raul. Even the top State Department Aide for Latin America admits that the administration has been sitting on its hands, waiting for an actionable moment:

"We don't feel that we've lost an important moment, because quite frankly, we don't see any significant possibility of change of any kind until Fidel is gone," Tom Shannon, the top State Department aide for Latin America, says...

But many observers say the post-Fidel era has begun _ with Raul Castro clearly in control.

This inaction is especially troubling at a time when there are bills in Congress, including one endorsed by NDN, to ease travel restrictions and increase contact between Cubans on the island and Cuban-Americans in the United States. 

Selling your ideals for 1600

With a catchy Hollywood title, this op-ed from the Washington Post points out how Mitt Romney's twists and turns (I refuse to say flip-flopping) are a sad reality along the road to the White House. As Richard Cohen points out:

But I do suggest that his craven crawl toward the White House shows a man of obvious talents and experience who illustrates how broken our system is. Why should anyone have to tailor his beliefs to get past ideological bottlenecks in the early primary states? For Republicans, it's the religious right; for Democrats, it's economic pressure groups such as teachers unions. The rest of us can only stand by, helpless, waiting for extremists to pick a man or woman on the basis of issues that mean less to us -- not the war in Iraq, for instance, but gay civil unions.

Fighting the urge to fully disprove the comparisons between Romney to Ripley (I hope), check out this video below from Romney's site.

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

The Six Degrees of Mark Penn?

Sorry Kevin Bacon, but you've met your match. This Washington Post article features a profile of Mark Penn (strategist to Sen. Hillary Clinton/global CEO) and shows us just how incredibly well-connected Penn is and how that might affect Clinton.

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

AZ Democrats oppose troop surge

According to an article in the Tucson Citizen, nine senators and twenty-six representatives of the Arizona State Legislature have signed a letter opposing the Bush administration's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

Senator Baucus Blocks Bush's Choice for #2 at the Social Security Administration

If this story from the AP is any indication, President Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security is more politically poisonous than ever:  An advocate of partially privatizing Social Security, nominated by President Bush to become deputy director of the half-billion-dollar retirement income program, was rejected Wednesday by Senate Democrats.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said his panel will neither consider nor hold hearings on Bush's choice of Andrew Biggs, who was an outspoken enthusiast behind the president's ill-fated plan two years ago to let people divert some of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts.

"It's a bad idea to give the No. 2 position at the Social Security Administration to someone who still supports that failed proposal," Baucus said.

The repudiation of the Bush Era, continued

There is a central dynamic in American politics today, one that is driving everything else - the enthusiastic repudiation of Bush era ideology and politics by leaders of both parties.   It is my belief that the failings of the Bush era, historic by any standard, will haunt by conservatism and the Republican Party for many years to come.  And as we head into 2008, it will be very difficult for the Republican Presidentials to distance themselves from this disapointing era, particularly the man who has been their primary enabled, John McCain.

To see how hard this is going to be for McCain, check out this tortured excerpt from an AP piece, via CNN:

BLUFFTON, South Carolina (AP) -- Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Monday the war in Iraq has been mismanaged for years and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be remembered as one of the worst in history.

"We are paying a very heavy price for the mismanagement -- that's the kindest word I can give you -- of Donald Rumsfeld, of this war," the Arizona senator said.

"The price is very, very heavy and I regret it enormously." McCain told an overflow crowd of more than 800 at a retirement community near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, complained that Rumsfeld never put enough troops on the ground to succeed in Iraq.

"I think that Donald Rumsfeld will go down in history as one of the worst secretaries of defense in history," McCain said to applause.

The comments were in sharp contrast to McCain's statement when Rumsfeld resigned in November, and failed to address the reality that President Bush is the commander in chief.

"While Secretary Rumsfeld and I have had our differences, he deserves Americans' respect and gratitude for his many years of public service," McCain said last year when Rumsfeld stepped down.

My guess is that by the end of this year the Republican Presidential Primary will be a race to distance one self from Bush himself, and not just his politics.  Of course this won't be pretty or easy, and makes the GOP path to the White House in 2008 a hard one.

Oh, about those Sunni extremists....

In recent days the Administration has brought to our attention how Iranian operatives, the Quds Force, are aiding Shiite militias in Iraq.  You can see Tim Russert question Tony Snow about this here

But what about Pakistan? Their intelligence services have long aided the Taliban, and appear to be doing so again.  The Times has a major story today about how Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are regrouping, and regaining some of their former operational strength from a new base camp in Pakistan.  Another story details how a recent bombing in Iran was likely to have come from operatives based in Pakistan.   As I wrote yesterday, there have been many stories in recent months about Sunni insurgents inside Iraq, some allied with Al Qaeda and some not, have been receiving financial support from Sunnis in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East.  These insurgents, of course, have killed many more people in Iraq than the Shiite militias, and are considered far more dangerous. 

Why is all this activity by Sunni extremists equally troubling to our government as what is happening with the Quds Force? In our current desire to isolate Shiite Iran, are we looking the other way on the growing strength of radical Sunni elements in the Middle East? Are we shooting for some kind of balance, believing the Shiites have a grown a little too powerful, so we need to let the Sunnis regroup? But aren't these radicals the same ones who attacked us on 9/11, are the ones who we are surging to subdue, and whose growing power requires more troops in Afghanistan?  

As those in Congress, of both parties, who have been bravely fighting the President these last few weeks look to their next act, my hope is that their goal is to create a new strategy for the Middle East that makes sense of all this.  While focusing on troop levels is important, our goal should be to force a big conversation about a new strategy, one that now must deal with this very new dynamic unleashed by our actions, the growing regional struggle for power between the Sunnis and Shiites.  Redeploying the troops is a tactic - but what is the strategy?

Hagel on Meet the Press: so worthwhile

If you didn't see Chuck Hagel yesterday, I strongly recommend watching his opening statement.  It is powerful. 

If he runs for President he is going to be a formidable candidate.

Repudiating the Bush Era

US politics 2007 is being driven by one central force - the ongoing and deepening repudiation of the Bush Era, its politics and ideology.  It is as if we have to struggle, each day, to toss off the language, the arguments, the reality of this disapointing era, as Bush and his team desperately try to stop the ongoing assault on their governing construct and world view. 

Look at what has happened in recent weeks, and how the media is handling it all.  A majority of Congress, including prominent Republicans, rebuke the President on Iraq.  The Post frontpages a story about how our vets aren't getting the medical treatment they deserve.  The Times runs yet another story about how Iran isn't going away, and that any plan that we may have for the future of the Middle East must involve them. The Administration cuts a deal with another one of his Axes of Evil, North Korea, and then is pummled by the right, particularly by their own former UN Ambassador.  Today Russert destroyed Tony Snow on the inept stage management of the this week's version of its "Iran is the enemy" campaign, and on the same show, Senator Hagel, a likely Republican Presidential candidate, suggests all this Iran talk is a diversion to keep people's attention from the troubles in Iraq and the Iraq votes this week.  Libby's defense is that Bush and his team scapegoated him to save Rove.  A recent NIE rejected the Administration's assertion that Iran was driving the violence in Iraq, and a Pentagon Inspector General report concluded that Doug Feith, a leader of the neocon faction inside the Administration, created an alternative intelligence process in the runup to the Iraq War that systemically, well, how should we say? Lied.....

It is remarkable how far they've fallen. They have become literally un-believable.  In his interview on Russert this morning, Tony Snow kept saying things that didn't make any sense.  So why is Iran different from North Korea? Or from Russia during the Cold War? We can talk to them but not to Iran.  No real answer for that one.  He refered to our need to take on the enemy in Iraq.  But who exactly is this enemy Tony, and who exactly are our troops fighting there? And Tony why do we scream bloody murder about possible aid by Iran of the more radical Shiite elements in Iraq, but say nothing when our Sunni "allies" in the region help fund groups who are killing many more people, and more Americans, than the Shiites groups are? And why do we stay silent when a regional Sunni television station, currently aided by the Egyptian government, broadcasts segments glorifying the killing of Shiites and Americans? Or stay silent when the Pakistani Intelligence Services, who like the increasingly famous Iranian Quds force, are an integral part of their government, aids the Taliban, the group that housed and aided the 9/11 terrorists? 

Essentially their answer to everything now is that we have to win the war, pulling the troops out will lead to regional chaos and that we need to support the troops.  The ground they have to work from has gotten so small.  But even this one core argument isn't what it was, and has lost a great deal of its potency.  In listening to Snow this morning describe what would happen if we pulled out the troops - Al Qaeda growing in strength, regional actors moving into a failed state, extremists empowered - it sounded as if he was describing Iraq today, as it already is.  And the stories in recent days about the lack of adequate care for troops returning home, rotations being shortened, shortages of critical body and vehicular armor on the ground in Iraq, Generals warning that the Army is on the verge of breaking - and then, even the Administration's claim that they are supporting the troops begins to falls apart.  Once that happens they will have no ground left to stand on. 

It is now clear that the Administration is also in the proces of losing the battle for ideological control of the country.  Their arguments, words, frames, constructs, no longer make sense.  What happened in Congress on Friday and Saturday was just another manifestation of the main dynamic driving American politics today, the repudiation of Bush era politics and governing philosophy.  We are moving on to a new era, slowly, more slowly than is good for the country, but we are moving on.  

A final hearty congratulations to the Congressional leaders of both parties who are doing the hard work of making Bush and his allies history.  This is tough stuff, and as I sit here tonight I admit I am a little amazed at what Senator Reid and Speaker Pelosi pulled off this week.  It was no easy thing, but it also showed that there are many tough but important battles ahead.

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