On this 34th anniversary of the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, we celebrate how Roe v. Wade has improved and protected the lives and health of women and their families. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi released a statement today calling for the 110th Congress to put an end to the destructive policies of the past that allowed politics to trump science. At the same time that we applaud the Speaker’s statement and celebrate that most American women continue to have access to safe, legal abortions, we are reminded that the fight to protect women’s health and safety is not over.
Bill Richardson isn't the first candidate to announce he's running for President by posting an online video announcement, but he is the first to do it in English and Spanish. It's worth thinking about how his appeal to Spanish-speaking voters might impact the Democratic primary campaign. As we've written about many time before, Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in the country and are increasingly disaffected with conservatives in the wake of the ongoing battle over immigration reform.
Details are few about what the President is going to say about fuel economy in the SOTU address tomorrow, other then that he is going to say the words "fuel economy." It is probably best though to go in with low expectations. After all, Dick Cheney who believes that "conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy" still plays an active role in White House policy-making.
No matter what the President proposes - individual fuel standards for vehicles, increased CAFE standards, etc. - we can all agree that change is long overdue. In fact, NDN has been advocating for increased fuel efficiency for years. Read more in the NDN Agenda and the NYT article.
The President will give the State of the Union Address tomorrow, and the White House has been unusually quiet about the speech. In that spirit, we'll skip right over the substance and go to the style - don't worry we'll be talking about the substance too this week - aptly covered by Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the NYT. Some revealing points:
The President is a very strict editor, or at lease wants the public to think that.
The SOTU speechwriting team is terrified of writing another "mediocre speech that was flat" as David Gergen called the televised Iraq address earlier this month.
The departure of Michael "axis of evil" Gerson, the former head speechwriter is a major loss.
The President is not looking for "flowery language."
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.
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.
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.
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.