NDN Blog

Biden discusses Iraq, receives praise from South Carolina

Sen. Joe Biden, who is planning to run for President in 2008, was on Fox News Sunday with Sen. Carl Levin discussing their resolution on Iraq. You can view the video here.

Also, an article from South Carolina's The State reveals that Sen. Biden is receiving a good deal of praise ahead of the Palmetto State's January primary.

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

Cuba: the waiting game

The Financial Times had an interesting article on Cuba over the weekend that addresses issues similar to those found in a poll that NDN conducted in October of the Cuban Exile community.

Cleaning up the staggering criminality and corruption of the Bush era

Coming back to one of my favorite subjects, Talking Points Memo has a good recap of renewed efforts to put Republican and conservative criminals in jail.

While I applaud the new, tough ethics bills passed by Congress, those efforts don't really touch on the criminal activities of the Republicans and conservatives these past few years.  Even though many of these folks are no longer in positions of power, it is critical that the new Congress support those pursuing any thread of evidence that laws may have been broken.  Investigations into people like the king of earmarks, Rep.  Jerry Lewis, must be completed, and the career prosecutors looking into what I think will be seen as the most systemic corruption of our government in our history be given both the political cover and resources to finish their jobs.  Otherwise, our new Congressional leaders will in essence be complicit in letting bad guys get away, an unacceptable outcome on many levels. 

As ethics reform goes to conference it is essential that measures be taken to give the career prosecutors in the Office of Public Integrity at Justice and in other US Attorney offices more money, and to create a greater public understanding of the importance and political difficulty of what they are being asked to do so that it will be harder for this difficult process to be interfered with.  Our new leaders of Congress have to be militant in protecting this process against what will be any attempt by what's left of conservative power, the Administration, to prevent the wheels of justice from turning.  This week Senator Leahy was reported to be offering an amendment to extend the statue of limitations of Congressional crimes from 5 yo 8 years, and to offer the Office of Public Integrity more money.  These are good and sound ideas, and must be part of any final bill.   

Accordingly, the recent firing of the various US Attorneys by the Administration, including the one who successfully prosecuted Duke Cunningham (who received the longest jail sentence of any convicted Member of Congress in history) must be understood as the first serious effort by Bushies to undermine this process.  As Talking Points reports, actions are being taken to address this new White House effort, but from first glance I'm not sure how sufficient they are to the moment at hand. 

Richardson gets in, also through an internet video

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson becomes the third Democratic candidate this week to announce over the internet

By contrast the one Republican to get in this week, Senator Sam Brownback, announced at a traditional event in his home state, an approach that looks increasingly very 20th century. 

The Post had an interesting piece this am looking at the Hillary video.  Walter Shapiro at Salon also as an early, thoughtful take on what is shaping up to be a very different type of Presidential campaign, one that is now looking very much like the first Presidential campaign of the 21st century.

You can also find on Richardson's site a Spanish-language version of his announcement.

Pakistan is helping the Taliban. Now what?

As we all try to dig out of the mess left by the Bush years, we will have to increasingly be turning our attention to what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The current issue of Foreign Affairs has an article that makes the claim that Afghanistan, Bin Laden's former (and current home?), is slipping away from the West.  A Times story today confirms what many have believed - that the resurgence of the Taliban, a radical Sunni group closely aligned with Al Qaeda, is being supported by the our "ally" in the region, Pakistan. 

Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan’s vulnerable western flank.

More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta is an important base for the Taliban, and found many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them...

Two questions immediately come to mind here.  

1. What is the American government's plan to prevent Afghanistan from sliding into chaos, and once again becoming a haven for radical Sunni elements, ones that did in fact launch the 9/11 attack on the United States?  Can Senator Biden's excellent set of hearings on American foreign policy take this on in the coming weeks?

2.  Why is okay for us to talk to and work with Pakistani and Saudi elements who are known supporters of Al Qaeda, and not talk to Iran? We have all come to learn that this Administration is prone to simplistic thinking, meaning that they have the capacity to reduce complex situations down to an argument so simple that it is no longer an accurate representation of what is happening on the ground.  I think we are in such a moment with the Administration's single-minded focus on making Iran - not Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, not repressive autocracies - the new regional uber-threat in the Middle East. 

Why is it okay for us to talk to, and work with, nations like China, Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, all of whom are engaged in activities we strongly oppose, but cannot talk to Iran, a traditional "great power" player in the Middle East?  The Persians have been players on the world stage since the time of the Greeks, long before the existence of many of the nations on the current National Security council.  What makes the Iranians so different from these other countries? And how we can possibly contemplate isolating a government so closely aligned with the governing party of our great project in Iraq, a government who as recently as 2001 helped us defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Given the close cultural, political, religious and economic ties Iran has to critical actors in both Afghanistan and Iraq, I don't believe it is possible for us to imagine bringing a sustained and lasting peace to the region without active Iranian involvement.  Here I agree wholeheartedly with the Iraq Study Group report.  We need to talk to and engage all the regional actors in the regional peace process.  We should have no illusions about who we are dealing with, but without such a process the President's policy really is "stay the course" plus, and almost guarenteed to fail. 

If recent press reports are to be believed, the current radical leader of Iran is under increasing pressure at home.  If his power is derived to some degree from the fear of future American belligerence, why not complement our moving carriers into the Persian Gulf with a public overture to him and his government? No deals, just a meeting, a high profile meeting?  Or a public meeting of low level foreign advisors?  My own sense is that by doing so we will undermine the entire rationale of his public argument at home, and accelerate the departure of this terrible regional actor. 

One of the great choices America will have to make in the coming years is whether we take sides in the millenial-long struggle for power in the Middle East between the Arabs and Persians, the Sunnis and the Shiites.  By eliminating Iran's two great regional enemies, the Taliban and Saddam, we tipped the regional balance towards the Persians and the Shiites.  Now our actions seem to be intent on tipping everything back a little towards the Arabs and the Sunnis.  But is this a game we want to, or are truly able to play?  The Post has a must-read story today on these Sunni-Shiite tensions are playing out in the region's media, something we wrote about a few days ago.   

No matter how we look at our future policy in the Middle East, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, Iran is and will always be at its center.  Just a few years ago the Iranian government helped us defeat the Taliban, and have like us have a great interest in slowing rise of radical Sunni Islam.  It is time we start getting smarter about to look at our long-term interests there, and work towards a goal of not isolating Iran but engaging them in bringing their region to a more modern, democratic and peaceful place.

So much for the TV networks, the Presidentials are announcing online

First Obama, now Hilary. They both launched their presidential campaigns via online videos.

Obama, it much be noted, pushed the envelope the farthest, and first – he launched his video announcement right into the fray of YouTube. But Hilary has now come out with her version on her website – and she’s going to push the edge further this Monday with live video chats.

People thought the 2006 elections were going to be known as the YouTube elections. You ain’t seen nothing yet. The 2008 cycle has just begun and the innovation is just starting.

Hang on for this ride. And keep up with our ongoing series: “Re-imagining Video.”

Peter Leyden

Bi-partisan signs of progress on immigration reform

For those of eager to reform the nation's broken immigration system there have been some encouraging signs of progress in recent days:

- The GOP made a Cuban immigrant, and great champion of comprehensive immigration reform, the Chairman of their Party.  It is an important sign of the President's commitment to passing a bill this year, and for Republicans it helps provide some distance from their shameful demonization of immigrants in last year's election.   

- A new coalition of powerful grassroots groups has formed to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year.  It is aptly named Alliance for Immigration Reform 2007. 

- The Democrats pick Denver as their convention site in 2008.  To fully capitalize on their choice of Denver in the 2008 elections, Democrats will want to show the Hispanics of the southwest and the nation that they helped fix the broken immigration system, and brought an end to a debate that has become seen in this community as anti-Hispanic.

- Finally, in his State of the Union Preview yesterday, Colorado Senator Ken Salazar made it clear that passing comprehensive immigration reform was an important Democratic priority this year. 

Given how contentious this issue was in 2006, there is no doubt that it will take a lot of work to get it done in 2007.  But I remain optimistic, and we will be using all means available to NDN to get this important legislation passed this year. 

For more on NDN's work promoting immigration reform, visit the immigration section of our website at www.ndn.org/immigration.

Sen. Clinton to form exploratory committee

According to this article from The New York Times, Sen. Hillary Clinton is set to announce that she's forming a presidential exploratory committee. The announcement is set to come this morning. (On Sunday, Gov. Bill Richardson will announce that he too is forming an exploratory committee.)

UPDATE: Video of the announcement can be found on her website. In it, Sen. Clinton asks everyone to join the conversation so we can be part of the solution. Also, Sen. Sam Brownback has announced his bid for the Presidency, saying that his positions "are at the heart of where the Republican Party is." For more, check out his website.

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

Sen. Salazar Delivers Democratic State of the Union Preview

For the first time ever, the Democratic preview of the State of the Union was delivered in Spanish. Sen. Ken Salazar delivered it and excerpts of the text can be found here. For the full text in both Spanish and English, click here. You can also listen to it here and watch the video preview here.

Attorney General Gonzales v. Senator Specter

This is really incredible.  We've written about the Bush Administration's decision to strip foreigners of their Habeas Corpus rights before, and Simon just linked to Glenn Greenwald's excellent analysis.  But it is worth reading the actual exchange to see the Attorney General, the highest legal authority in the land, say that he doesn't believe that Habeas Corpus is a guaranteed right, and to see Senator Specter rebuke him.  Make sure to read to the end, Specter definitely saves his best critique for last...

SPECTER: Where you have the Constitution having an explicit provision that the writ of habeas corpus cannot be suspended except for rebellion or invasion, and you have the Supreme Court saying that habeas corpus rights apply to Guantanamo detainees — aliens in Guantanamo — after an elaborate discussion as to why, how can the statutory taking of habeas corpus — when there’s an express constitutional provision that it can’t be suspended, and an explicit Supreme Court holding that it applies to Guantanamo alien detainees.

 GONZALES: A couple things, Senator. I believe that the Supreme Court case you’re referring to dealt only with the statutory right to habeas, not the constitutional right to habeas.

 SPECTER: Well, you’re not right about that. It’s plain on its face they are talking about the constitutional right to habeas corpus. They talk about habeas corpus being guaranteed by the Constitution, except in cases of an invasion or rebellion. They talk about John Runningmeade and the Magna Carta and the doctrine being imbedded in the Constitution.

 GONZALES: Well, sir, the fact that they may have talked about the constitutional right to habeas doesn’t mean that the decision dealt with that constitutional right to habeas.

 SPECTER: When did you last read the case?

 GONZALES: It has been a while, but I’ll be happy to — I will go back and look at it.

 SPECTER: I looked at it yesterday and this morning again.

 GONZALES: I will go back and look at it. The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —

 SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

 GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

 SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.

 GONZALES: Um.

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