NDN Blog

Iraq: from tragedy to farce

To prove they are not staythecoursers, this week the Administration announced a strategy to develop a timetable for developing a timetable for transition in Iraq.  The announcement, interestingly, was made by our Ambassador to Iraq and our leading general on the ground there, and not be anyone in Washington.  This is, of course, a few days after another general on the ground there said our military strategy in Iraq was no longer working. 

What happened next should convince any reasonable person that the Administration is no longer capable of managing American interests in Iraq. 

For the only chance we have to prevent Iraq from slipping into a bloody civil war or failed state is to advance a new and vigerous political and diplomatic effort to bring the battling parties to the table and help them find a better path than war.  This will require the American government to be working hand in glove with the democratically elected Iraqi government. 

A day after our representatives made their announcement in Iraq the Iraqi Prime Minister rejected our timetable to find a timetable.  If we can't even manage to get the Iraqi PM to agree to what was largely a pre-election publicity stunt with no real impact for what would happen in Iraq, how can we possibly believe we have the diplomatic chops to pull off a diplomatic solution to our troubles there? 

A lede Times editorial this am discusses all this. 

And what was Rumsfeld's response to a question about the obviously troubling developments in Iraq? "Back off."

In yesterday's Times, Peter Bergen laid out a possible military strategy for the moment when we've decided that a safe and secure Iraq is no longer an option.  It isn't pretty. 

Friends, we've got some tough choices coming in Iraq, and am not real sure what role this Administration is going to play in helping us make them. 

It is never too late to give back

An inspiring article from the LA Times shows that giving back by becoming a citizen is a powerful thing no matter what. For Sona Babai, a 105-year-old Iranian native, the one thing she wanted was American citizenship. Why?

As a sign of gratitude to America for embracing her children, four of whom live here, and allowing their families to thrive as restaurateurs, business consultants, architects, engineers, dentists and other professionals.

The fourth oldest person ever to naturalize, Babai lived through some turbulent times. So she came to America to give her children a good education and as many opportunities as they could possibly have. And America seems to have done just that - enough so that she wanted to give back.

Babai said that "by becoming a citizen, I can show to the world that it is never too late to give back." Asked what she would do as a new citizen, Babai replied:

"I'm an American. I'm going to vote."

At a time when so many on the right are attempting to split the country over the issue of immigration, it is especially important to remember that embracing the opportunities which America has to offer is what brings us together in the end. Even if it's 105 years later.


The Republican strategy on immigration has failed

If you haven't yet seen it, Simon just sent this out. Be sure to keep up with NDN's work on immigration reform.

After months of extreme rhetoric, millions of dollars of ads in all regions of the country attacking Democrats for being soft on immigration, and connecting Mexican immigrants to terrorists, it is now clear that the national Republican Party's strategy of criticizing Democrats' support for comprehensive immigration reform has failed.

Their base is still unhappy, as from their perspective not enough has been done to rid the nation of the "illegals;" there is no evidence that their attacks on Democrats have succeeded anywhere in the country; and they have seriously damaged their brand among Latinos, an act that may have permanently endangered their capacity to build a 21st century electoral majority.

In all my years in politics I'm not sure I've seen a greater misreading of an important national issue by Party leaders of either side. But this should come as no great surprise, as the people behind this momentous Republican strategic blunder are named Hastert, Reynolds and Sensenbrenner, a group not particularly noted these days for their political dexterity or advocacy of sound public policy.

The Republican effort to use immigration against the Democrats has failed because the plan the national Democratic Party is supporting presents a good solution to a vexing national problem, and has broad and deep support in both parties.

On our side, the coalition behind what is called Comprehensive Immigration Reform includes Bush, McCain and many other Republicans; the Chamber of Commerce, the Catholic Church, most labor unions and immigrant advocacy groups; all 44 Senate Democrats and a strong majority of the Democrats in the House.

In a hyper-partisan era, this has been one of the most bi-partisan, "sensible center" initiatives put together in Washington, and simply did not fit their "wedge" strategy. This was simply the wrong fight to pick, and has only reinforced that the Republican Party is more concerned with their own internal politics than solving the important problems facing our country.

The Border Fence that was signed into law by the President today is just one further example. Wherever you come down on this issue, the Fence is seriously underfunded, would cover only a fraction of the border and will take years to build even if fully funded. As designed, it just isn't an important part of the solution. And, bluntly, can we really trust the people who botched the rebuilding of New Orleans and Iraq to manage the building of this thing anyway?

To track how the issue is playing out in races across America, visit Immigration 2006, a new coalition that we've helped build that will be working to make sure we have accurate data on how the immigration issue affected this year's election.

While the election is not over, and a great deal can happen in the final days, those in the NDN community should take great pride in what we have been part of this year. In the face of an extraordinary political assault, we have stood firm for a comprehensive and sound solution that will go a long way to fixing our broken immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform is morally, politically and legislatively the right thing to do, and togther with many allies we have laid the groundwork for meaningful progress next year on one of the most important challenges facing the nation.

Also, check out the following related links... 

Learn more about NDN's work on immigration reform
"Immigration Reform: no greater example of how the GOP has lost its way" (from the NDN Blog)
Read the Fact Sheet on the Fence
Watch Frank Sharry discuss immigration reform
Watch Simon debate immigration reform on C-SPAN yesterday (Click on "Washington Journal Entire Program: 10/25/2006"; RealPlayer required)
Listen to Simon talk about immigration reform on NPR
"Latino and black voters reassessing ties to GOP" (LA Times, October 2006)
Recent NDN Political Fund poll on Hispanic voters


La Estrategia de los Republicanos sobre el Tema de Inmigración ha Fracasado

NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center sends regular updates to Spanish language media outlets about the issues and campaigns that impact their communities.  The releases are reprinted in their entirety on our blog for our Spanish speaking readers, and you can read the latest below.

Washington – Luego de millones de dólares invertido en comerciales atacando a los demócratas por sus políticas de inmigración en los diferentes estados de la nación, luego del partido republicano utilizar como estrategia el promover la imagen de los inmigrantes mejicanos en este país como terroristas y después de aprobar en el congreso una medida de legislación que crea un muro entre la frontera de Estados Unidos y Méjico – es evidente que estas estrategias manipuladas por el partido republicano para atacar y debilitar al partido demócrata en cuanto al tema de inmigración han fracasado.

Los esfuerzos del partido republicano en utilizar el tema de inmigración como estrategia política para debilitar a los demócratas ha fracasado porque el plan del partido demócrata es apoyar una solución al problema de inmigración que es justa y comprensiva además de tener un apoyo extenso de parte de una coalición bi-partidista formada por individuos quienes han equilibrado un gran progreso en la reforma migratoria este año tales como el presidente Bush, senador John McCain, y otros republicanos, la Cámara de Comercio, las uniones laborales, y la iglesia católica y varios grupos de inmigración.

Definitivamente que esto ha sido una táctica política errónea que los republicanos han tomado ya que solo se han enfatizado en resolver sus problemas políticos internos y no en solucionar los verdaderos problemas que enfrentan en este país.  Sin embargo, el partido demócrata ha luchado por buscar soluciones verdaderas al tema de inmigración ya que se han mantenido firmes en apoyar reformas migratorias, justas, integrales y comprensivas y es lo que se debe hacer como partido y como solución para los miles de indocumentados en esta nación. 

Controversy around Using Search for Politics

The New York Times had a story today on “A New Campaign Tactic: Manipulating Google Data” which comes right off two themes the New Politics institute has been promoting recently in our Tools Campaign. There have also been a spate of other stories recently on what some call “Google-Bombing,” the practice of using search optimization techniques to get certain websites or articles on the web to get returned higher in search queries at search engines like Google. Two of the stories featured NPI’s work: MSNBC had one called “Political Bloggers Coordinate Google Bombs,” and another site had “Web strategists tout candidate use of search ads.”

The two themes NPI has promoted are: using search optimization techniques to ensure that progressive candidates get their messages as high as possible in search queries, and buying search ads. As the stories point out, buying search ads is probably the quickest, cheapest, and most effective thing that progressives candidates could do in the last weeks before the election. Spread the word – a these stories are doing.

Peter Leyden

New Politics Institute


Mr President, Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins

I wrote yesterday that this new offensive by the Administration to set a timetable for a timetable - and once again to focus on a military solution to the troubles in Iraq, and offer no viable political and diplomatic path forward - didn't pass the pre-election laugh test.  According to the NYTimes, it looks like the Iraqi Prime Minister agrees:

Iraq’s Leader Jabs at U.S. on Timetables and Militias

BAGHDAD, Oct. 25 — Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki put himself at odds on Wednesday with the American government that backs him, distancing himself from the American notion of a timetable for stabilizing Iraq and criticizing an American-backed raid on a Shiite militia enclave.

Speaking in Baghdad just hours before President Bush held a news conference in Washington, Mr. Maliki tailored his remarks to a domestic audience, reassuring the millions of Shiites who form his power base that he would not bend to pressure by the American government over how to conduct internal Iraqi affairs.

His comments stood in stark contrast to the message given Tuesday by the top two United States officials in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who said the timetable for political measures had been accepted by the Iraqi government.

“I want to stress that this is a government of the people’s will, and no one has the right to set a timetable for it,” Mr. Maliki said at a news conference broadcast on national television.

“This is an elected government, and only the people who elected the government have the right to make time limitations or amendments,” he said, stabbing the air with his hand.

The remarks pointed to a widening schism between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the Americans who support it.

As the violence here increases and midterm elections in the United States approach, Mr. Maliki has come under pressure from the Bush administration to step up efforts to control the violence. But the very forces that elevated him to power and whose support he must retain — religious Shiite parties with their own militias — are complicit in the violence.

That tension was on display in his remarks on Wednesday. While acknowledging the problems presented by militias and death squads — groups of men with guns that American military officials say are some of the primary culprits in the new phase of bloodletting here — Mr. Maliki said pointedly that the main factor driving the violence was insurgents and militant fighters, largely Sunni, who have been killing Shiites for more than three years.

“Saddamists and terrorist groups are responsible for what is going on this country and the reactions,” he said, in a reference to retaliatory killing by Shiite militias that began after the February bombing of a shrine sacred to Shiites. “We should contain the reactions.”

Mr. Maliki’s stance differs sharply from views presented by American officials, who speak of Shiite death squads as an evil equal to that of the Sunni insurgents. But it fits snugly inside the circle of hardening Shiite sentiment that the American military, in keeping full control of security, has not given the Iraqi government full power to intervene when Sunni militias or insurgents carry out sectarian cleansing..."

The Perfect Choice for Deputy Secretary of State?

For those of you who have been following our Campaign to Get Condi to Come Clean, there is a potentially interesting development on the horizon.  Secretary Rice is expected to name a new Deputy Secretary of State (a position that requires Senate confirmation) soon to replace Robert Zoellick, who left to become US Trade Representative.  One of the leading candidates is her close advisor and current Counselor to the State Department Philip Zelikow. 

Zelikow is at the center of the controversy over the July 10th, 2001 meeting between then National Security Advisor Rice and CIA director George Tenet, in which Bob Woodward describes warnings that "al-Qaeda was going to attack American interests, possibly in the United States itself."  Somehow that meeting, described by Tenet in sworn testimony to the 9/11 Commission, was left out of the 9/11 Commission's final report.  Philip Zelikow was Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission and was there when Tenet testified about the July 10th meeting.

NDN is calling for the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to reconvene and call back Secretary Rice and Zelikow to answer questions about these serious inconsistencies.  But short of that, a Zelikow confirmation hearing would provide another forum to get to the bottom of this question of national security and political cover-ups. 

Learn more about the candidates for Deputy Secretary of State in Steve Clemon's informative blog post here.

Voila! Using new web tools for democracy

Ever heard of the website opensecrets.org? How about MAPLight.org?

Aimed mostly at hackers and others of superior techie skill, Wired reports on how the web is mobilizing into the Web 2.0. The goal is simple: “grassroots participation, forging new connections, and empowering from the ground up. The ideal democratic process is participatory and the Web 2.0 phenomenon is about democratizing digital technology.”

At a time when we seem to think that everything is as good as it can get and technology has advanced about as far as it can go, it is still a field of constant innovation. Cell phones get smaller, computers get faster, and some envision an internet community that allows for transparency by tracing campaign dollars. Not only that, but Web 2.0 would be used to track other problems, and create better, faster solutions.

Echoing the passions of Kos, our technology can create “new ways to make government responsive to the public, and to magnify the individual power of each educated and informed voter.”

NDN minimum wage ads in National Journal

NDN's minimum wage campaign ads are featured in today's Ad Spotlight from the National Journal. Jane Roh writes:

Vote For A Pay Raise, Por Favor
NDN is continuing its Hispanic voter outreach effort this month by targeting two states with minimum wage increases on their ballots. Arizonans and Coloradans next month get to decide whether to give minimum wage earners a $1.60 and $1.70 raise, respectively; both measures also allow for annual revisions based on cost of living and inflation.

In the television spot running in both states, a woman whose husband has two jobs talks about the strain on her family. Her husband's rationale is that he is working overtime "for our kids," but "the sad irony is that, at the time he gets home, he doesn't even get the chance to see them awake."

The radio ad, set in a classroom, stars children telling their teacher about the various jobs their parents do. "My daddy works at the auto factory, teacher. And also at a toy factory," says little "Pedrito."

Congressional Democrats failed to get the first federal minimum wage increase in 10 years through before recess, and six states now have proposals on their ballots. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) surprised constituents in September when he signed a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $8 by 2008, making the state one of the most generous in the nation.

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