NDN Blog

"Stay the Course" out - "A Study in Constant Motion" in

As reported everywhere today, this astounding u-turn from yesterday's press briefing:

Q Is there a change in the administration "stay the course" policy? Bartlett this morning said that wasn't ever the policy.

MR. SNOW: No, the policy -- because the idea of "stay the course" is you've done one thing, you kick back and wait for it. And this has always been a dynamic policy that is aimed at moving forward at all times on a number of fronts. And that would include the international diplomatic front. After all, the Iraq compact is something we worked out with the Iraqis before visiting the Prime Minister in Baghdad earlier this year.

So what you have is not "stay the course," but, in fact, a study in constant motion by the administration and by the Iraqi government, and, frankly, also by the enemy, because there are constant shifts, and you constantly have to adjust to what the other side is doing.

Quite remarkable. Does anyone have the faintest idea what "a study in constant motion" might mean? Google is suggestive, providing links to the phrase including an obscure Michelangelo Antonioni movie, a description of a soccer game, and an advert for a rental home in North Carolina's out banks. It seems more like the description one might find of an impressionist painting, rather than a strategy for military. But given reported blow-ups between Rice and Rumsfeld over the "clear, hold and build" strategy, perhaps the administration has decided that the best strategy is simply one which no one can understand, and thus no one can disagree with?


UPDATE - i enlarged this post for a piece for The Guardian, which you can read here.  

Schwarzenegger showing the "best of the best" in political communications

The San Francisco Chronicle had a nice story this weekend on how Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was blending top Hollywood talent with top national political talent to create what the  state Republican Chair called "the next generation of communication in politics." There is some truth to what he says, though what Schwarzenegger's team is doing is not rocket science. And other Democratic candidates also are pushing the front lines of what can be done with new media and new communications strategies.

Schwarzenegger's performance is  particularly striking when contrasted to the campaign performance of his Democratic challenger, Phil Angelides, who has not adopted many new practices. In fact, state Controller Steve Westly, who challenged Phil in the brutal primary, used many of the new techniques too.

The use of new tools and new media and communications practices is something that the New Politics Institute is closely tracking. Neither party has a monopoly on innovation at this point and it pays to watch what is happening on both sides.

Peter Leyden

Viral Video Alert: Michael J. Fox on Stem Cell Research

Claire McCaskill's new ad featuring Michael J. Fox is simple and moving.  In it, Fox talks about stem cell research and hope, reminding voters deciding between McCaskill and Senator Talent (who favors criminalizing stem cell research) that "what you do in Missouri matters to millions of Americans."

The ad is running during the World Series on Fox, when millions of Missourians will be watching their Cardinals.  And pickup on the internet has been impressive - on YouTube this ad is the 15th most watched video over the past week, with over 500,000 views. 

Anecdotally, I'm hearing about this ad from people who have little or no interest in politics.  That means that this powerful message is reaching people who may not have engaged in the election debate until now. 

MA-Gov: Best and Worst Political Ads Ever?

We might be behind the curve on this, but the Massachussets Governor's race seems to have both the best and worst of Ads this cycle. Kerry Healey is running an astonishing, shameful negative ad in which she tries to associate Deval Patrick with rapists. Meanwhile Christy Mihos - a wealthy independent candidate - takes the prize for probably the funniest ad i've seen this year. And look carefully about 15 seconds in - you'll see a Kerry Healey look-a-like amongst the group of cartoon politicians.


See Obama Run

Senator Barack Obama went on Meet the Press yesterday and had a substantive talk with Tim Russert on issues ranging from Iraq to Medicaid. Of course the quote that is getting all the play is about his evolving plans for '08:

SEN OBAMA: I don’t want to be coy about this, given the responses that I’ve been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility. But I have not thought it—about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required. My main focus right now is in the ‘06 and making sure that we retake the Congress. After oh—after November 7, I’ll sit down and, and consider, and if at some point, I change my mind, I will make a public announcement and everybody will be able to go at me.

MR. RUSSERT: But it’s fair to say you’re thinking about running for president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: It’s fair, yes

Compare that quote, as Tim Russert did, to his comments on the same show only nine months ago:

MR. RUSSERT: But, but—so you will not run for president or vice president in 2008?

SEN. OBAMA: I will not.

Watch the whole video here and decide for yourself; will we get to see Obama run?

With Other Options Exhausted, Bush Turns to the Economy

President Bush, not for the first time this cycle, is spending a few days talking up his economic record. He now seems to share with his father the dubious distinction of being the only President since the second world war to disprove the Fair equation, an economic model developed by Yale Economist Ray Fair that usually shows a tight fit between good economic indiciators and electoral results. Since World War II the only presidents to buck the trend have been Bush 41 in 1992, and Bush 43 in 2004. And, if the polls are any indicator, Bush in 2006 also. (See this presentation from Economist Robert Gordon for more details, especially slide 16.) NDN's chosen explanation, shared by most Democrats, is that the Fair equation only breaks down when most voters don't think they are benefiting from economic growth.

In other news this story caught my eye over the weekend.

The secret to managing your finances isn't "rocket science," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told a group of high school seniors Thursday."It's very simple," said the former Wall Street titan whose net worth is estimated at over $700 million. "Make sure you don't spend more than you earn."

If the irony wasn't lost on high school seniors, it certianly shouldn't be lost on voters.

Is what we are doing in Iraq a war?

Are we fighting a war in Iraq? Against whom? I know we have troops on the ground there, but the President has said that major hostilities ended in the Spring of 2003.  So why are we still calling our actions in Iraq a war?

It seems that a more accurate description of our work in Iraq would be to call it the American occupation of Iraq, and that our troops are peacekeepers. 

Getting these words right matters on several levels.  Accuracy in speech and thought usually help one end up in the right place, as knowing where you are helps you get to where you want to go.  It will also allow us to morally engage the rest of the world in doing what is right there now - preventing Iraq from slipping into a failed state or a civil war that could end up exporting instability the way Afghanistan did after the Soviet pull out.  Other nations do not want to help us fight a losing war, but perhaps they will help us find a regional political solution to the troubles of the Middle East. 

Language matters.  Calling American actions in Iraq a war is in itself part of a much greater problem - the overwhelming of American discourse by Bush proproganda and ideology.  The road forward in Iraq starts with calling it what it is - a failed occupation.

My relationship to television is changing

Tonight my two sons and I watched two of the most famous soccer teams in the world, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, play each other on television.  It was on a cable channel called GolTV, that had commercials in English and Spanish, and we watched a recording we had made earlier in the day on our Comcast DVR. 

A few months ago I would have never ever been able to see this game.  That's when we switched to Comcast, ordered a special soccer package and finally got a DVR (digital video recorder).  Since getting this new system I watch more TV, but it is much more of what I want to watch when I want to watch it.  And for my family, with two young active boys, it has meant much more sports. 

For example, last week I recorded the Mets games and we watched portions in the morning when the boys were awake.  Without this new magical DVR we would not have been able to see Carlos Delgado's great series, or the remarkable catch by Endy Chavez.  This thing has certainly changed our lives.  And you get the sense it is only the beginning.  

We have written a great deal about this media transformation at NPI.  But the growing power of sports programming in this new world is a major reason why our affiliate, the NDN political fund, has been running a national television and radio campaign - mas que un partido - connecting soccer, Democratic values and Latinos.  There is no question that in this increasingly balkanized media environment sports programming is rising in importance, and is something as progressives we simply must do a better job understanding, and connecting to.    

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...

There is little question that a great deal of America's current unhappiness with the Repubicans is being driven by a perception that the world is less safe today.  Consider the facts: North Korea goes nuclear.  Iran's influence spreads throughout the Middle East.  Our occuption of Iraq has failed, and is fueling global jihadism.  Anti-Americanism is growing in Latin America.  Russia is slipping further and further into a post-democratic state.  America abandons the Geneva conventions, undermining a big idea that has kept the world more civil in recent decades.  And of course we learn that Sec. Rice has been serial lying for years about what she and the Administration knew in the run up to 9/11....

And, as the NY Times reports today, in Afghanistan, a place where many could point to of our efforts working, the Taliban are back. 

All sorts of good news for Democrats

The papers are filled with stories about Democratic optimism, swing voters leaving the Republican Party, and the Senate now being seriously in play.  No matter what happens this fall, the Media are clearly experimenting with praise for Democrats in ways that we haven't seen in a long time. 

At Dailykos, DemFromCT has a very good summary of some recent polls, including a new Newsweek poll showing the Dems with a 23 point lead in the Congressional generic, and broad support for Pelosi's first 100 hours agenda.

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