NDN Blog

GOP = Amtrak: Discuss

A scathing review of the Woodward book in this weekend's Post caught my eye. Not least for this paragraph, and especially the zinging final line:

In crisis after crisis, the government simply failed to operate the way it was designed to. Memos failed to circulate or arrived after they became irrelevant. Briefings conveyed only the news that listeners wanted to hear. Controversial information was rarely presented to the president, who rarely asked for it. New proposals were quashed, and policy was stymied by terrible infighting, or worse, indifference. On point after point, the government's performance was over budget, unapologetic and late. In other words, the Bush administration has become the new Amtrak.

And if it needed ramming home quite how obviously the wheels have come off this particular train, this morning's Post poll is quite extraordinary. I was especially struck by the +6 lead on terrorism, and the strong, strong presumption of a Foley cover-up. It seems that this scandal has done what the Democrats themselves haven't quite been able to pull off - portraying the Republicans as the corrupt, out-of-touch embodiment of nasty politics-as-usual. But, as Simon says below, beyond the ferocious spinning, it is clear that people knew Foley was a problem, did nothing about, and have been scrabbling to invent a half plausible explanation as to why. So this judgement - even Amtrak would do a better job than these guys - doesn't seem unfair.

 

A defining moment for the Republican Party

Four new national polls are in the process of being released, and all of them show significant movement for the Democrats.  The CBS/NYTimes poll had a startling statistic: 79% of those polled believe the Republican Leadership put politics over the safety of pages.  The Foley scandal appears to have jelled into a "defining moment," and a very bad one for the GOP. 

All four polls give the Democrats a 15-23 point advantage in the Congressional generic ballot test, a dramatic improvement from other recent polls.  The infamous Gallup poll, the one touted by the R's two weeks ago as a sign of their recovery, has Bush dropping 7 points, from 44 to 37, and reports this:

 "On the question of which party's candidate would receive their vote if the election were held today, Democrats held a 23-point lead over Republicans among every type of person questioned — likely voters, registered voters and adults. That's the largest lead Democrats have held among registered voters since 1978 and a jump from last month's 48%-48% split among likely voters."When the Rs won in 1994 they had a 12 or point so advantage in the generic.  Despite their desperate attempts to blame others, the Republicans are getting what they deserve with the page scandal.  Foley was a well known sexual predator.  He was not only allowed to stay in Congress and keep doing what he was doing, but he was allowed to stay in the Republican Leadership, and was even given the Chairmanship of the Committee on Missing and Exploited Children after the leadership was informed of his problems.  The public has figured out these modern conservative's game - it is all about them, all the time, and seldom about us, the American people, our great country.  The page scandal has seared this sense into the American people, creating for us a "defining moment" that will be remembered for a long time to come. 

Google Buys YouTube, and Video on the Web Enters a New Phase

It’s official. Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion today. The breaking news linked here came off (where else?) Google News. All the details will come spilling out in the next few days, but for now, keep in mind the significance.

If there was ever any doubt about the inexorable migration of television and all motion media to the web, then this purchase should clear the doubt. In other places, we have talked about last fall, September 2005, as being the starting point for this migration. And, here we are with YouTube, the bottom-up video phenom, with less than 75 employees, fetching $1.65 billion – all before it reached its first birthday.

Now YouTube will be able to be supercharged with the resources of Google, one of the world’s most flush companies, whose core business is selling extremely effective targeted advertising on the web.

Something is bound to come of this. Will it be the advertising model for motion media on the web? The definitive way to search for video (using some new technology that analyses spoken word, etc.)?

Who knows? We’re still in early days. But this was crossing a big threshold.

Peter Leyden

What Won't They Say?

Rep. Ray Lahood (head of the Congressional Page program) was on Face the Nation Sunday to defend Speaker Hastert and the scandal-ridden Republican party.  Lahood's attempt was laughable - Bob Schieffer actually laughed after Lahood mentioned Tom Delay, Bob Ney and Duke Cunningham as examples of Hastert's "strong leadership."  Watch it below to see the incredible disconnect between Republicans and reality, honest, credulity, etc.:

 

Betting on Nancy

More bad news for Dennis Hastert. Tradesport, the online betting market, now gives the Democrats a .57 probability of taking back the House.

UPDATE:  After today's stunning series of polls, it appears i spoke too soon. At the market's close today, the odds had risen to .6 - the highest since trading began. 

A Backlash against the Netroots Backlash

A long, interesting and spirited defence of the role and importance of the Netroots, from the latest Boston Review.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that Kos “fires up his Web site . . . and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.” The New Republic senior editor Lee Siegel (now suspended) warns portentously of the dangers of “blogofascism,” a movement bearing worrying similarities to the Fascist forces that transformed post–World War I Europe into a “madhouse of deracinated ambition.” ... These claims are hysterical to the point of near-incoherence. They’re also wrong. The netroots are becoming a power in the Democratic Party, but they aren’t under the control of any one person or clique.

After fending off the critics, the piece also has a few ideas about what comes next.

Creating a coherent ideological agenda will be far harder for the netroots than opposing Republicans or turncoat Democrats like Joe Lieberman. But it offers enormous political possibilities. The “new” union movement of the SEIU and the Change to Win coalition provides one example of how it might be done. As prominent netroots bloggers recognize, the SEIU has a lot in common with the netroots—it aims to replace a top-heavy structure with a more dynamic and aggressive approach to union organizing. But it is also providing organizational firepower and intellectual input for John Edwards’s campaign to change the economic message of the Democratic Party, and to make it more attractive to voters whose economic interests have been trampled by Republicans and their enablers.

For an excellent overview of what the bloggers are all about, have a look at the video of Kos giving his take on the story of the blogs, at NPI's shiny new website.  

North Korean crisis made in the White House.

From the National Security Network, a helpful overview of the policy behind news from Korea. 

Under President Bush significant ground has been lost. When he took office, North Korea was adhering to a negotiated freeze on plutonium and may have possessed enough plutonium for one nuclear device. Since then, North Korea may have more than quadrupled its stock of weapons-grade plutonium and breached all previous constraints on its program. Under the Bush administration, North Korea has expelled international nuclear inspectors, withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and produced enough new weapons-grade plutonium for a number of nuclear weapons.

Cleaning up the mess of the Bush era

There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about political narratives and story arcs.  One I happen to believe is very germane to the times we live in is that the next stage of our history will be defined by those who work to clean up the mess of the Bush years.  We need to "clean up the mess."

The mess is our foreign policy, economic policy and in our vision of what the role of government is and does.  Lets reviews news from the last few days to get just the latest manifestation of their failures.  North Korea explodes a nuclear device.  Taliban resurgent in Afghanistan.  Iraq is spinning out of control, and now seems to be on the road either to a major civil war or becoming a failed state.  Only 51,000 jobs were created last month.  The Republican Leaders in Washington fan out across the country to defend their decision to put a known sexual predator in charge of the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children.  A 2nd senior White House official, Susan Ralston, Karl Rove's right hand, resigns over their ties to Abramoff.  Bush unilaterally decides to ignore portions of the new Homeland Security bill. 

The scale of the governing challenge in front of us is captured by Fareed Zakaria in today's Washington Post: "When Iraq's government was formed in April, after four months of bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis, many voices in America and Iraq said the next six months would be the crucial testing period.  That was a fair expectation.  It has now been six months, and we have seen bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis.  Meanwhile the violence has gotten worse, sectarian tensions have risen steeply and ethnic cleansing is in full swing.  There is really no functioning government south of Kurdistan, only power vacuums that have been filled by factions, militias and strongmen.  It is time to call an end to the tests, the six-month trials, the waiting and watching, and to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed.  It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed."

Our governing party is a mess and can no longer be counted on to lead America in a challening era.  They have failed at virtually everything they have tried to do, but the world has not slowed down, our problems have not just magically gone away.  Our movement has done a remarkable job fighting the great PR machine of the governing party, so evident even in the last few days.  We should be proud of how we've stood firm, fought back and helped weaken their hold on power.  But in the months ahead, regardless of what happens in the fall elections, we now have to get serious about cleaning up the mess they've created, and building a governing coalition true to our democratic heritage, and ready to tackle the challenges of our time. 

Bullsh-t fatigue

No matter what happens this fall, it sure seems like we are coming to the end of a particular era in American history.  From the highest vantage point it may be the end of the great 20th century battle between progressivism and conservatism; a little lower down it may be the end of the Bush era; and a little lower, the end of the Hastert-DeLay-Abramoff reign of corruption, unseriousness and extreme partisanship in the House.  

NDN has been commentating a great deal these last few years about the utter failure of conservative governance.  And certainly the American people have grown weary of these conservatives inability to tackle the important challenges of our time.  But I think we may also be witnessing a growing weariness of the spin, deceit, lying and proproganda that has also been a defining characteristic of this era.  After years of this over-the-top win at all costs proproganda strategy, Americans are beginning to distrust everything that comes from a Republican or conservative mouth.  The world is just not as they describe it, tarnishing their brand in a way so elemental that it will be hard to restore in the years ahead.

Think about it.  Rice just lying again and again about the run up to 9/11.  Hastert's unbelievable lies these past few days, and desperate attempts to paint the Foley scandal as a Democratic one.  Fox News's repeated and purposeful identification of Foley as a Democrat on the air.  Progress in Iraq.  Wages are rising.  No one knew the levees could break.  No one in the Administration sanctioned the torture of people in Iraq.  It is all bullsh-t. 

As progressives who have a proud history of making government work for the common good, we will have to spend time better understanding and changing this culture of untruth.  Democracy requires an informed citizenry.  But in this era, it would be more accurate to say we have a "misinformed" people, as the government itself, backed by fierce partisan like Fox News, Limbaugh, Hannity and Drudge spew purposeful lies and falsehoods each day. 

A great deal of the energy of the early 21st century progressive era has been to counter this culture of deceit.  It has been effective so far, unearthing the strategic nature of this proproganda machine.   And you can see it in the most effective political ads of this cycle, many of which have the candidate, unadorned, speaking directly to camera, trying desperately to reconnect voters to an actual person, a true event, a real set of beliefs, reality. 

I'm not sure how our movement and our nation should approach all this going forward.  But it is clear that the American people have an inkling of all this themselves, and like a TV show whose characters no longer speak with the same authority as at the beginning of its run, people are reaching for the remote and are looking for a politics that better speaks to them and the challenges, culture and values of our time.   We call it "a new politics," and I believe what we will see in the next few years is a fierce battle between the two great ideological movements to identify and claim it for their very own. 

News roundup: Castro is terminally ill, staffer confirms that Hastert is a liar

Two stories caught my eye today.

First Time reports that Fidel Castro is terminally ill. For a look at how the Cuban-American community views the coming Post-Castro era see our new just-released study.

And a Washington Post piece may have ended Speaker Hastert's political career today. The story has a 2nd staffer confirming the story of Tom Reynold's former Chief of Staff that Hastert and his team knew about Foley as early as 2003. The account seems to make it clear that Hastert and his whole team have been repeatedly lying about their covering up for a sexual predator.

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