NDN Blog

Which 08 Candidate Gets the Power of Soccer?

No, this isn’t a pop quiz. It’s the second in my rather faltering series of thoughts on “globalization from the road,” this time from Kerala, in South India. As you know, NDN is keen on soccer, having run some tremendous campaigns using the sport to connect with the hispanic committee. But, that isn't all that the beautiful game has to teach the Democratic presidential hopefuls.

I haven’t actually read Frank Foer’s book on soccer and globalization. I should have, but there you go. Everyone says it is very good, and I apologise in advance if I’m making the same points he does. But I have been ceaselessly struck on my travels by the power of soccer. And not just any type of soccer, neither. It doesn’t matter if it is Malaysian billboard or Thailand metro adverts; Singaporean cable or New Zealand radio; or even the sports pages of cricket crazy India. The world is watching not any old soccer; the world is watching English Soccer. If I were to guesstimate, I would say that the English Premiership has roughly 90% market share in these fast-growing Asian markets, with Spain somewhere around 10%, and the rest absolutely nowhere. That isn't just a result. Its a drubbing.

Now, before you think “smarmy brit bragging about his country’s only half decent export”, there is a political point to this. And it is wonderfully encapsulated in this quote found in Niall Fergusons book Empire, about the decline of British imperial power. Ferguson quotes Sir Richard Turnbull, the penultimate governor of the British protectorate of Aden (now Yemen, who said, rather perceptively, that:

“When the British Empire finally sinks beneath the waves it will leave only two monuments: the game of Association Football, and the expression “f*ck off.”

Turnbull didn’t know how right he was. Soccer is now a non-trivial source of Britain’s soft power infrastructure. People pay attention to the UK, visit the UK, send money to the UK, and even like the UK because of soccer.  And it seems to me that the Democratic candidate who can best articulate similar ways in which America can once again use its considerable cultural, artistic and even sporting arsenal to win friends in Asia, will really be onto a trick.

Sure: there are many, many hard aspects of geo-politics that can’t be solved by a decent PR campaign, a charm offensive or a baseball tour. But while travelling through Asia I have been very struck that while people – “the man on the street” - admires America, and wants to live in America, no one actually likes America. Machiavelli said words to the effect it was better to be feared than to be liked. But for America, it would be nice to be both. And in achieving that there is much the three major candidates can learn about America's potential place in the world from the success of an English game with 22 men on a grass field, being watched by billions around the world.

Ringtones as the Tip of the Mobile Media Iceberg

This week the Associated Press moved a story on how an environmental group is using ringtones of endangered species to raise awareness of this extinction  issue among people with mobile phones. You know, wolves in the wild or blue whales. I was quoted in the story as showing how this is just the tip of the iceberg of the ways that mobile media will be used in politics in the next couple years.

However, I elaborated on that concept this week in the public radio show Future Tense that airs on about 100 stations.  I talked about how those little snippets of sounds can actually have an impact on how people think. Remember that it goes off every time the phone rings, and that all of the person’s social network of friends and family who are around them will also hear the sounds and spark a conversation. And all those little sparks can add up to start a fire...

You can listen to the 5 minute podcast here.

Peter Leyden  

Event next week - The Dawn of a New Politics

I hope you'll join us for a joint NDN and New Politics Institute (NPI) presentation and lunch on Thursday, March 8. Simon and Peter Leyden, Director of NPI, will lay out how transformations in technology and media, changing demographics, and new governing challenges are transforming the political landscape.

The Dawn of a New Politics
Thursday, March 8
Human Rights Campaign
1640 Rhode Island Avenue, NW

Since the 2006 elections, the political terrain for progressives has opened up in unexpected – and very positive – ways. And Peter and Simon's “New Politics” multimedia PowerPoint presentation provides high-level strategic analysis of these changes and what they mean for this emerging “New Politics.”

Their provocative thesis has been presented to various audiences – from elected officials in Congress to the Netroots – and now will be presented in an open public event for any interested individual or progressive group.

To RSVP, contact Tracy Leaman at tleaman@ndn.org or 202-842-7213.

A change in position?

The New York Times has a very interesting article on the comments made by Cabinet Secretaries Gutierrez and Chertoff, who testified yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on immigration legislation. Their comments on offering temporary legal status instead of citizenship to illegal immigrants was particularly interesting, as it seemed to represent a shift in thinking on behalf of the White House. As the article points out:

The citizenship measure has been derided by conservatives as amnesty and hailed by some Democrats, Republicans and immigrant advocates as a provision that will encourage millions of illegal immigrants to come forward. In August, President Bush suggested that he supported such proposals, saying they sounded like “a reasonable way to treat people with respect.”

But on Wednesday, Mr. Gutierrez and Mr. Chertoff declined to endorse the measure. Mr. Gutierrez said many illegal immigrants might prefer working here for several years and returning home.


It was unclear whether the officials were simply trying to ease conservative concerns about the citizenship question or whether Mr. Bush had actually shifted his position. Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman, said Mr. Bush still supported a path to citizenship that would include payments of fines back taxes and a requirement to learn English, among other things. But it seemed unlikely that the two cabinet secretaries would make such remarks without first consulting the White House.

We'd like to hear your thoughts on this one, so please comment below. As always, for more on NDN's work on immigration reform, check our website.

Chertoff lobbying for immigration reform

The LA Times has a great article on the White House's efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which include a big push by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Swift Boat Ads Funder Up for Ambassadorship

Sam Fox wrote a $50,000 check to the 527 organization that created and aired the noxious and patently false "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" ads.  His reward was a cushy appointment to be our next Ambassador to Belgium.  But Ambassadorships are Senate confirmable posts, which means Fox had to face Senator John Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday.  As this article from the WAPO reveals, he offered wishy-washy excuses for his involvement, clearing lacking confidence in his convictions:

The panel did not vote on Fox yesterday, but committee member Kerry got in his say. He walked in a bit late and explained that he did not intend "to play some sort of 'gotcha' game," but he wanted to know: How does the nominee feel about the level of "personal destruction" in politics these days?

Fox replied that he was "very concerned" that politics have become too "mean and destructive," especially with the participation of independent "527" groups such as Swift Boat Veterans. He tried not so subtly to redirect Kerry's line of questioning by saying, "Sir, you're a hero," adding that no 527 group "can take that away from you."

Why then, given Fox's dim views of 527s, did he give such a large chunk of money to help Swift Boat? Kerry asked.

Fox explained that he and his wife donate generously to GOP political causes. "When we're asked, we generally give," he said. He said he could not recall who asked for the Swift Boat donation but explained that he thought it was important to give to a 527 working on behalf of Republicans because a 527 "on the other side" was stooping to such low levels as comparing President Bush to Adolf Hitler.

"So two wrongs make a right?" Kerry asked.

Fox said he thought the dirty work of 527 ads was "disgraceful," but "that's the world we live in."

Reading Conservative Blogs is Fun?

It is when they feature neocon "Prince of Darkness" Richard Perle making professional and often personal attacks on other Republicans.  Take the words he had for the last two Secretaries of State:

Colin Powell was a disaster. He never liked the president's policies. He did almost nothing to get them implemented. Condi [former head of the National Security Council and now Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] was in way over her head from the beginning, and the president gave much too much weight to her views.

I have a hard time accepting the normative judgments of a mastermind of the Iraq War.  His stronger point may be the inherent unfairness that the people who made foreign policy in the Bush Administration - Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Cheney, etc - were considered unfit (read: crazy wingnuts) for public consumption.  That left comparative "moderates" like Powell, Rice, the President and, hell, Laura Bush in 2004 to go out and sell a dangerous foreign policy based on the neoconservative world view.  Perle may finally be fed up with having been the man behind the curtain, destined to be ignored.  It appears that in addition to being a terrible wonk, Perle also wanted to be the hack who sold the ideas and received attention and praise attention and praise from the President and the American people in exchange.And it wouldn't be an interview with a bitter, neocon if he didn't brazenly lie about WMD:

Saddam is gone, and I think that is a good thing. He was a menace. It is very popular now to suggest that because we didn't find WMD, he wasn't the threat. What we didn't find in truth was stockpiles of WMDs. He certainly had the capacity to produce chemical and biological weapons again when he wanted to do so, and so I believe he was a threat, and I think we had the right to respond to that threat.You can't operate on the basis of what you know later. You've got to operate on the basis of what you know then.

Reading that, it's almost impossible to believe that Perle, and his illogical defense of the war, have fallen out of favor.

Lofgren promises immigration legislation

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren said that she would work to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation by the end of the year. At the town hall meeting designed to address the recent ICE raids, she said:

"With your help and your stories, I believe I can help others in the Congress understand,'' said Lofgren, who became chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law when the Democrats took control of Congress in January. "If we are just punitive to those who have started to make a life here, who we will really punish is America.''

For more information on passing comprehensive immigration reform, check our website.

Simon, Joe Trippi, and Louis Ubinas in The Hill

Make sure to read Jessica Holzer's article in today's Hill "Campaigns evolving amid new technologies to attract voters," and look quotes from Simon and NPI fellows Joe Trippi and Louis Ubinas on the new tools of political communication.

“The president [elected in 2008] will look back and recall a distinct Internet moment that gave the campaign that winning momentum. One or more of the candidates will have a distinct ‘macaca’ or YouTube moment,” Joe Trippi, a longtime Democratic strategist, predicted, referring to the gaffe that derailed then-Sen. George Allen’s (R-Va.) reelection campaign...

“’07 will be a year of massive experimentation. Much more of the advertising is going to be outside the campaigns,” Simon Rosenberg, the president of NDN, a progressive think tank, said...

With so many voters gathering political information online, campaigns will have to be vigilant about shaping their candidate’s Internet image, argued Louis Ubinas, an NDN fellow and a director in the media group at McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm. That includes trolling blogs and aggressively managing what pops up on Google searches for their own candidate’s and their opponents’ names.

“If you’re not buying keywords or managing search optimization, you’re not doing a thing,” he said...

“Anyone can fake it for a 30-second TV ad, but no one can fake it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Trippi said. “We’re going to see authentic candidates, warts and all. But even with the warts, we like ’em.”

Apparent progress on a regional solution in the Middle East

As we've been writing about for some time, the key to creating stability in Iraq will be creating more regional stability, as the main problem in Iraq - the struggle between Sunnis and Shiites for dominance - has become the source of tension throughout the region. 

Thus, we've been an enthusiastic supporter of a regional peace process, one that brings all the main stakeholders in Iraq to the same table.  This was a central idea of the Iraq Study Group report.  It was also the first idea in the report publically dismissed by the Administration. 

Apparently, there has been a modest change of heart on Penn. Ave:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 — American officials said Tuesday that they had agreed to hold the highest-level contact with the Iranian authorities in more than two years as part of an international meeting on Iraq.

The discussions, scheduled for the next two months, are expected to include Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Iranian and Syrian counterparts.

The announcement, first made in Baghdad and confirmed by Ms. Rice, that the United States would take part in two sets of meetings among Iraq and its neighbors, including Syria and Iran, is a shift in President Bush’s avoidance of high-level contacts with the governments in Damascus and, especially, Tehran.

Critics of the administration have long said that it should do more to engage its regional rivals on a host of issues, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Lebanon. That was the position of the Iraq Study Group, the high level commission that last year urged direct, unconditional talks that would include Iran and Syria.

While the newly scheduled meetings may not include direct negotiations between the United States and Iran, and are to focus strictly on stabilizing Iraq rather than other disputes, they could crack open a door to a diplomatic channel.

Iraqi officials had been pushing for such a meeting for several months, but Bush administration officials refused until the Iraqi government reached agreement on pressing domestic matters, including guidelines for nationwide distribution of oil revenue and foreign investment in the country’s immense oil industry, administration officials said. The new government of Iraq maintains regular ties with Iran.

“I would note that the Iraqi government has invited Syria and Iran to attend both of these regional meetings,” Ms. Rice told a Senate panel on Tuesday, in discussing the talks, which will include Britain, Russia, and a host of international organizations and Middle Eastern countries.

The first meeting — which will include senior Bush administration officials like the State Department Iraq envoy David Satterfield, will be in Baghdad in the first half of March, administration officials said. In early April, Ms. Rice will attend a ministerial level conference, presumably with her Iranian and Syrian counterparts, which will likely be somewhere else in the region, administration officials said.

A year ago, Iranian and American officials announced a planned meeting between the American ambassador to Baghdad and Iranian officials to help stabilize Iraq but the meeting never occurred.

The Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called America’s anticipated face-to-face contact with Iran and Syria — two countries that the Bush administration has accused of destabilizing Iraq — “very significant.”

This announcement, a modest step forward, shows further weakening of the hardline, neocon faction inside the Administration.  While the ongoing ideological struggle inside the Bush White House between the remaining neocons and a more reasonable group that appears to be led by Sec. Gates wil continue through the end of the Bush term, this modest step is an important one, and should be cheered by leaders on both sides of the aisle.

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