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For the want of two letters

Those two letters are 'i' and 'c' and the President left them out of a key moment in the State of the Union Address last night.  Instead of saying the "Democratic Party," he strayed from the prepared text  - not to mention the teleprompter - in order to refer to the "Democrat majority." 

Don't miss this New Yorker article to find out why the President included this lingual jab in the SOTU and what conservative lunminaries of the past (Joe McCarthy for one) inspired him.

Senator Kerry Not Running for President in '08

Senator Kerry ran an honest, if imperfect, campaign in 2004, and is a dedicated public servant who came within a few thousand votes of being President.  It almost goes without saying that many Americans would, given the chance, gladly charge up their flux capacitors and go back in time to change their 2004 votes.  Instead of trying again in 2008, John Kerry has decided to run for reelection to his Massachusetts Senate seat, and continue his leadership in the Senate.  The Boston Globe is breaking the story:

Senator John F. Kerry plans to announce today that he will not run in the 2008 presidential race, and will instead remain in Congress and seek reelection to his Senate seat next year, according to senior Democratic officials.

Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, plans to say he will remain in the Senate to recommit himself to efforts to extricate the United States from the war in Iraq. His decision to stay out of the presidential race reflects a realization that he would have had an uphill climb in capturing the Democratic nomination, given the other party heavyweights who are already in the race, according to the officials, who spoke to the Globe on condition of anonymity.

Kerry plans to make his plans known with a speech on the Senate floor this afternoon, and is taping a message to e-mail his supporters to explain his decision.

We'll have the video as soon as it's up.

The coming acceleration of mobile media into politics

I had a conversation with a political person the other day in which she doubted whether mobile media would really have an effect on politics for a long while. She said texting just didn’t seem to have the heft to make a dent on the richer media that comes at people from other sectors, including many of the traditional ones. That’s true, for now, but it does not take into account the forward trajectory of this rapidly moving space. Consider two pieces of recent evidence:

The New York Times on Saturday has a very interesting piece on Madison Avenue-level ads already starting to appear on cell phones. With the broadband that’s coming to the phone infrastructure, some very sophisticated ads are able to move through it. Once the private sector blazes that trail, political ads won’t be far behind them. Definitely in 08.

The other piece of evidence to consider is the iPhone. I know there was a lot of buzz around this announcement a couple weeks ago, but only last night did I get to watch the web video of Apple CEO Steve Job’s keynote performance that introduced the phone and explained its many features (click on the "iPhone Introduction," not Keynote). It’s worth just watching Jobs do his demo – he’s a master that political people could study just for tips on creating suspense. But the more important point is that he demoed this phone in great detail, live, on the actual cell phone grid, and the phone’s performance was spectacular. I was really astounded at how good it was, and I have been watching this space for a while.

You can’t think of the mobile phone as a land-line-like voice device that allows you to walk around in the world. That has been the paradigm up until now. You really have to think of these as very small yet powerful computers, with almost all the capabilities of current desktops and laptops, now in your hands. That is the iPhone. It’s not a phone, but a Apple computer that fits in your hand. Oh, and it is, indeed, a phone, a super smart one at that.

So everything you see on YouTube and all the craziness of the web, and the myriad ways that is impacting politics, is also coming to phones. Like, within the year. Certainly in the 08 political cycle. The iPhone comes out in June, and like with the iPod, all the competition will follow.

That’s why this space is one that the New Politics Institute will be deeply focused on in the months ahead.

Peter Leyden

Taking Responsibility at the SOTU

Last night, the President was a little more realistic about some of the country’s domestic issues than about Iraq, but not more forthcoming and honest.

So, he spoke of cutting the budget deficit in half without acknowledging that it was a deficit he created.  He talked about eliminating the deficit entirely in another five years – long after he’s gone -- again without acknowledging that federal spending has grown faster under his watch (and under of Republican congresses) than anytime since LBJ.

He talked about creating 7 million jobs under his watch, without acknowledging that the first 3 million replaced the 3 million jobs lost in the early years of his presidency.

He mentioned climate change for the first time, without acknowledging that he spent five years denying it was a problem and pulled the United States out of the global talks on the issue.  And by the way, his grand response would cut CO2 emissions in 2017 by perhaps 2 percent – far too little to have any effect on climate change.

He proposed an interesting direction in health insurance – recovering revenues from the tax deductions for “Cadillac plans” and using them to help support coverage for the uninsured – but again, without acknowledging that the number of uninsured has risen sharply on his watch. He also didn’t mention that his new tax deduction would take the place of the current untaxed treatment of employer-provided health coverage.   

He talked about his administration diplomatic efforts, without acknowledging its role in allowing multilateral trade talks to collapse.

And on the great economic challenge facing Americans – globalization -- he said … nothing. 

If our country is to be governed honestly or wisely in the next two years, it certainly seems like the leadership will have to come not from this President, but from innovative Democrats and perhaps a few dissident Republicans.

Iraq's Government: Bush's version and reality

Last night the President gushed about the Iraqi political system:

And in 2005, the Iraqi people held three national elections — choosing a transitional government, adopting the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world and then electing a government under that constitution.

 A few paragraphs later he implored Iraqi leaders to step up: "now is the time for their government to act."

Perhaps the President should spend a little less time repeating his "elections solve everything" mantra, and a little more time looking at the underlying reasons that he has to keep begging, bribing and cajoling the Iraqi Government to play its part.   The NYT today looks at the shockingly bad attendance levels of Iraqi legislators and how that is damaging Iraq's fragile democracy.

Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, the speaker of Parliament, read a roll call of the 275 elected members with a goal of shaming the no-shows.

Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister? Absent, living in Amman and London. Adnan Pachachi, the octogenarian statesman? Also gone, in Abu Dhabi.

Others who failed to appear Monday included Saleh Mutlak, a senior Sunni legislator; several Shiites and Kurds; and Ayad al-Samaraei, chairman of the finance committee, whose absence led Mr. Mashhadani to ask: “When will he be back? After we approve the budget?”

It was a joke barbed with outrage. Parliament in recent months has been at a standstill. Nearly every session since November has been adjourned because as few as 65 members made it to work, even as they and the absentees earned salaries and benefits worth about $120,000.

Part of the problem is security, but Iraqi officials also said they feared that members were losing confidence in the institution and in the country’s fragile democracy. As chaos has deepened, Parliament’s relevance has gradually receded.

Cuba, the Embargo, and Fidel

Professor Nina Khrushcheva from the New School has an insight-filled essay in the Miami Herald today, which places the potential death of dictator Fidel Castro in recent historical context. 

When the end comes, change in Cuba could be as vast as any that greeted the end of the last century's great dictators. Stalin, Franco, Tito, Mao: All were mostly alike in their means and methods, but how they passed from the scene was very different, and these differences can shape societies for years and decades to come.

Meanwhile, some American lawmakers are looking to chip away at the decades-old embargo against the communist island nation:

Congressional Cuba specialists Rep. James McGovern (D., Mass.) and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, (R., Mo.) predict a flurry of legislation this year to liberalize relations with Havana. Among the priorities: relax restrictions on travel and cash remittances to the island, and ease licensing requirements for exports of agriculture and medical devices. Both lawmakers say they doubt they could get free-standing legislation through both houses and signed by the president. So they plan to try to add pro-liberalization amendments to the farm or appropriations bills.

Congressman Becerra Gives Democratic Spanish-Language Pre-SOTU Address

Congressman Becerra spoke clearly and persuasively on a range of issues last night, coming out particularly strong for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.  Click the picture to watch the speech.

Immigration: What Comes Next?

The WSJ chose to emphasize areas of disagreement between the President and Democrats in their immigration recap today, leaving it to NDN's good friend Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum to play oddsmaker.

Mr. Bush and congressional Democrats agree on the outlines of a bill, but they are far apart on details. Both agree on helping employers fill jobs with temporary workers. Without that, they say, the U.S. economy will remain a magnet for illegals. But the president insists those workers must eventually leave, a key demand of conservatives who fear the growing Hispanic population is undermining American culture. Generally, Democrats want to let them stay and eventually become citizens.

...immigration is such a volatile issue that passing a bill "is going to be a mountain to climb," said Frank Sharry of the National Immigration Forum, a coalition of pro-immigration business, labor and advocacy groups.

Read more

Op-ed from Hagel and Biden

Sen. Chuck Hagel and Sen. Joe Biden have an op-ed in USA Today on their resolution, entitled "A first step in Iraq."

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

Thoughts?

Weigh in on the President's speech, and Webb's response. 

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