NDN Blog

The Times demolishes the GOP's immigration strategy

In a tough and accurate editorial today, The New York Times demolishes the Republican's approach to immigration reform:

"President Bush signed a bill to authorize a 700-mile border fence last week, thus enshrining into federal law a key part of the Republicans’ midterm election strategy. The party of the Iraq war and family values desperately needs you to forget about dead soldiers and randy congressmen, and to think instead about the bad things immigrants will do to us if we don’t wall them out. Hence the fence, and the ad campaigns around it.

Across the country, candidates are trying to stir up a voter frenzy using immigrants for bait. They accuse their opponents of being amnesty-loving fence-haters, and offer themselves as jut-jawed defenders of the homeland because they want the fence. But the fence is the product of a can’t-do, won’t-do approach to a serious national problem. And the ads are built on a foundation of lies...."

Their editorial follows the same logic as our major statement on the Fence and immigration released Thursday.  For more on NDN's work on immigration, visit www.ndn.org/immigration.

Niall Ferguson on "A Failed Presidency"

Niall Ferguson is a high profile right wing Harvard historian. He argues that the problem Iraq is not of competence or strategy, but of will. His view is that America is an empire, and it should behave as such. This means putting in many more troops, and being less squeemish about using them. In short, he was not averse to the concept of Bush's adventuring abroad, even if he thinks he should take them more seriously. Yet this is what he had to say of the President in an article today:

Today, however, the joke is on them. For the Redneck Horn could now just as easily be used by ordinary Americans to express their frustration not merely with Mr Bush but with the entire Republican Party. With a little over a week remaining until the congressional mid-term elections on November 7, some opinion polls indicate that "You're a goddam moron!" is precisely the message voters intend to send the White House. Certainly, "freaking blind" sums up the majority view of the administration's policy in Iraq. And, after the bewildering scandals that have ended the careers of three Republican congressmen in the space of six months, Americans have any number of reasons to ask their elected representatives: "What the hell was that manoeuvre?"

Its a very good piece, worth reading through.

TV ads feel different this cycle, and are

Alessandra Stanley has an interesting essay in today’s Times Week in Review section that looks at the humor in many political TV ads this season, suggesting that

 “In a culture where growing numbers of viewers say they get their news from “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” and at a time when anything shocking or amusing on television can be downloaded and e-mailed instantly, candidates are co-opting the YouTube revolution.”

She is on to something here.  Surveying the ads this cycle it is clear that many more of the most memorable ads we’ve seen is a candidate, or other “real” people, speaking directly to camera.  Think of Harold Ford's great ads, or the Tester/Schweitzer ad mentioned in Stanley's piece, the wonderful ads from Women's Voices Women Vote or Michael J Fox. They are attempting to be more real, more intimate, more authentic.  And they connect. I think humor has been used this cycle not as an end in itself, but as a way of connoting that the message is real, and “not political.”

This new attempt to connect to people in more meaningful ways I think has come for two reasons.  First, as she suggests, the broadcast era of political communications is exhausted, and a new rapidly changing digital and personal age is emerging.  This new age is still very nascent, and what we are seeing is the first of a new wave of efforts to connect to an audience that is no longer as open to traditional 30 second spots or broadcast media norms.   These direct to camera ads are in essence an acknowledgement that it is getting much harder “to break through.”

Second, people are deeply unhappy with the current direction of the country, are seeking a “new direction,” and want to better understand what is happening to the country they love.  The Bush era, with its failed government, extraordinary spin (lying) and disconnect from what people perceive to be the reality of the day, is leaving people wanting “straight talk,” authenticity, realness, leveling.  They want to better understand what is happening, and are looking for leaders to show them the way – and not manipulate them.

Both of these trends taken together would lead one to believe that what voters want more than anything else these next few years is a more direct, honest, authentic politics.  They know the country has gone off course, and are looking for a real and better path forward, and leaders who can take us there.  The Bush era has also given them new tools to detect “truthiness,” or the appearance of authenticity and realness as opposed to its actual existence.

Above all else I believe what this means is that in the next few years the two parties and their leaders will need to say what they believe and believe what they say, or will suffer their own “macaca” moment – a moment when the mask comes off, reveals the true person underneath and shows that it has all been a big show.  “Political positioning,” or playing to the polls, isn’t gonna cut it in what Stanley calls the “YouTube revolution.”  This is a time for real vision, leadership and powerfully held beliefs. 

KBR/Haliburton should be forbidden from getting future government contracts

The stories just keep coming about KBR's malfeasance in Iraq.  The NYTimes has a new one, showing how KBR has systemically hidden simple data from the government. 

..."A Halliburton subsidiary that has been subjected to numerous investigations for billions of dollars in contracts it received for work in Iraq has systematically misused federal rules to withhold basic information on its practices from American officials, a federal oversight agency said yesterday.

The contracts awarded to the company, KBR, formerly named Kellogg Brown & Root, are for housing, food, fuel and other necessities for American troops and government officials in Iraq, and for restoring that country’s crucial oil infrastructure. The contracts total about $20 billion.

The oversight agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, said KBR had refused to disclose information as basic as how many people are fed each day in its dining facilities and how many gallons of fuel are delivered to foreign embassies in Iraq, claiming that the data was proprietary, meaning it would unfairly help its business competitors.

Although KBR has been subjected to a growing number of specific investigations and paid substantial penalties, this is the first time the federal government has weighed in and accused it of systematically engaging in a practice aimed at veiling its business practices in Iraq.

The allegations come at a critical time for the company, as Halliburton is trying to spin off the subsidiary. And in July, the Army announced that it would terminate KBR’s largest contract with the government, and the company says that it will compete to regain some of that business when the government calls for new bids.

Proprietary information is protected by the so-called federal acquisition regulations, known as FAR. But the agency said KBR routinely stamped nearly all of the data it collects on its work as proprietary, impeding not only the investigations into the company’s activities but also things as simple as managerial oversight of the work.

“The use of proprietary data markings on reports and information submitted by KBR to the government is an abuse of the FAR and the procurement system,” says a memo released yesterday by the special inspector general...."

 Given how close to this group is to the Vice President, who had a hand in deciding who got what contracts in Iraq, they should have kept their nose cleaner than clean.  Given the strategic intent behind a great deal of their out of bounds behavior, we can only guess that they believed that normal, simple rules no longer applied to them. 

Their remarkable, systemic and strategic betrayal of the public trust should cause them to be barred from ever receiving a government contract again. 

The Economy: "Not Good"

Former British PM John Major tells a very funny story about being with Boris Yeltsin at a press conference. A reporter asks Yeltsin if he could succinctly describe the state of the economy. Yeltsin replied: "Good." The reporter asked if Yeltsin could say a little more? Yeltsin replied: "Not Good."

And so it would appear with the prevailing narrative on the American economy. This narrative has been that "The economy has done well in terms of output and productivity, but people don't really think it has benefited them because of slow job growth, and poor income figures." Now it seems as if even this might be too generous. Yesterday, unusually, the head of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put out a statement on recent growth figures. Mr Greenstein, you have the floor:


Today's announcement of a marked slowdown in recent growth follows upon Labor Department figures issued earlier this month showing that job growth has slowed significantly in 2006. These figures contribute to the mounting evidence that the economy has performed relatively poorly during the current recovery. The economy always recovers after a recession, regardless of the policies pursued. But this recovery has been unusual in that economic growth and investment growth are both below the average for recoveries since World War II. And job growth and wage and salary growth are far below average, with the income of the typical non-elderly household failing even to keep pace with inflation. For average Americans, it is not a pretty picture.

Small wonder, then, that we are all talking about Lynn Cheney's steamy bodice rippers, Harold Ford's playboy past, and George Allen's love of gay marriage. Small wonder, indeed.

Wolf Blitzer gets "Great American" points, stands up to Lynn Cheney

There is a tawdry brouhaha going around about whether Jim Webb and / or Lynn Cheney wrote sexually explicit passages in respective books. As Webb said yesterday, its "smear after smear - a desperate but politically extremely clever attempt to make the last weeks of this election about anything other than Iraq and the economy. Be it Penthouse models in Tennessee, gay marriage in Virginia or immigration rows in New Jersey - it all smacks of a coordinated campaign to pivot critical campaign messages away from the Democratic ground.

Nonetheless, while we are on the subject of Ms Cheney, you might have missed a very rare example of a broadcast journalist standing his ground, while clearly in the right but being challenged on the issue of terrorism. Read the trasnscript below, or watch the video over at Think Progress - and play the mental game WWSHD? - or what would Sean Hannity Do?

CHENEY: You made a point last night of a man who had a bookstore in london where radical islamists gathered. Who was in afghanistan when the taliban were there. Who went to pakistan. You know, i think that you might be a little careful before you declare this as a person with clean hands.

WOLF: You are referring to the cnn "broken government" special. This is the one john king reported on last night.

CHENEY: Right there, wolf. Broken government. What kind of stance is that? Here we are. We are a country where we have been mightily challenged over the past six years. We've been through 9/11, we've been through katrina. The president and the vice president inherited a recession. We are in a country where the economy is healthy. That's not broken. This government has acted very well. We have tax cuts responsible for the healthy economy. We are a country that was attacked five years ago. We haven't been attacked since. What this government has done is effective. That's not broken government. So, you know, i shouldn't let media bias surprise me, but i worked at cnn once. I watched a program last night.

WOLF: You worked in cross fire.

CHENEY: And i was troubled.

WOLF: All right. Well that was probably the purpose, to get people to think. To get people to discuss these issues. Because --

CHENEY: well, all right. Wolf, i'm here to talk about my book. But if you want to talk about distortion --

WOLF: we'll talk about your book.

CHENEY: Right, but what is cnn doing? Running terrorist tape of terrorists shooting americans. I mean, i thought duncan hunter asked you a very good question, and you didn't answer it. Do you want us to win?

WOLF: The answer of course is we want the united states to win. We are americans. There's no doubt about that. CHENEY: Then why are you running terrorist propaganda?

WOLF: Well all do respect, this is not terrorist propaganda.

CHENEY: Oh, wolf.

WOLF: This is reporting the news. Which is what we do, we are not partisan.

CHENEY: Where did you get the film?

WOLF: We got the film, look, this is an issue that has been widely discussed. This is an issue we reported on extensively. We make no apology ies for showing that. That was a very carefully-considered decision why we did that. And i think, i think --

CHENEY: well i think it's shocking.

WOLF: If you are a serious journalist, you want to report the news. Sometimes the news is good, sometimes the news isn't so good.

CHENEY: But wolf, there's a difference between news and terrorist propaganda. END

Good for you, Mr Blitzer. Good for you. WWSHD? Who cares? What we should do, though, is borrow a line from Hannity's arsenal - and say simply that it is such defense of journalistic integrity that make Wolf Blitzer, well, a Great American.

New Schaller book worth a read

We held a small lunch for Tom Schaller, a friend of mine, and author of a new book about American politics, Whistling Past Dixie.  Why I dont endorse what appears to be the thrust of the book - that Dems should write off the South - it is full of important and interesting analysis about how progressives and Democrats can build a new majority around the new American of the 21st century.  I strongly recommend it, and Tom himself.  His presentation was very compelling.

Bush weighs in on Barack?

There is speculation from the Chicago Tribune Blog on whether or not President Bush was referring to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) when he said there are people currently conducting themselves as if they’ve already received the votes needed to validate their star status. During Wednesday's press conference, the President said:

And we've got good candidates running hard. And we're going to win. Now, I know that defies conventional wisdom here. I'm not suggesting anybody in this august crowd has determined the outcome of the election already, but they're running profiles on who this person is going to be running this office, or this one that's going to be -- magazines have got all kinds of new stars emerging when they haven't won the votes yet.

This seems to be an interesting critique, given the advice he gave to Senator Obama, which is noted in the Senator’s book, Audacity of Hope:

You've got a bright future. Very bright. But I've been in this town awhile and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you've been getting, people start gunnin' for ya. And it won't necessarily just be coming from my side, you understand. From yours, too. Everybody'll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.

Why does no one talk about climate change?

At the risk of cross-posting, I am currently engaged in a spirted debate with the head of the Sierra Club, Carl Pope, about the role Climate Change isn't playing in the elections.

My original argument was simple. These elections present a great American climate-change puzzle. Fertile conditions - the energy debate itself, gas prices, progressive Californian policies, Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth, overwhelming scientific evidence, and more - should have pushed climate change onto the agenda. They have not. And I claimed, somewhat gingerly, that no one is joining the dots because of the way that Democrats have difficulty talking openly about issues that excite their base........But what sort of progressive politics exist when the Democratic Party doesn't campaign on climate change, but the president of the Christian Coalition and a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals do?

I find the lack leadership on this issue puzzling, and something we as progressives have to begin to deal with in the run-in to 2008. This election is evidence that even threat of planetary catastrophe is not enough to make Americans talk about climate change at election time. It is simply not enough to hope that Al Gore will run, and bring the issue with him. And who is the only politician of stature to consistently mention it? Well, whadayaknow?

Obama sounded like a national candidate, but neither he nor the other speakers who lavished praise on him directly referred to his presidential bid. Obama sketched in a platform that calls for changes in the nation's Iraq policy and improvements in health care, education, climate change and other concerns.

Bottom line. Its so simple. Saving the planet is a winning issue for Democrats. End of story. Lets start behaving like that.

What a week

Simon just sent out the e-mail below, highlighting the extraordinarily strong week NDN had. Lots of press hits and interviews, with more to come.


Its been an incredible week here at NDN. A wave of enthusiasm is breaking right now and I can feel it in the excitement here in Washington. Nowhere is that clearer than in the debate over immigration. Today's LA Times article "Immigration galvanizes Latino voters" is a validation of the argument we've been making at NDN for the past two years: engaging the Hispanic community and supporting comprehensive immigration reform is the right thing to do morally, legislatively and politically.

Just as progressives stand to gain from the work we've done reaching out to this community, conservatives are about to pay a serious political price. Treating immigration as one more wedge issue that can be used to divide Americans was a huge political miscalculation. Here is how the LA Times put it:

"There's been a civic awakening," said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, which has spent close to $2 million on Latino outreach for this election. Rosenberg points to in-house polls that show the immigration debate has made 54% of Latinos more likely to vote. "That's a significant shift," he said. "If Democrats make investments in this community, the benefits will be extraordinary."

At the same time, we've taken the fight to our opponents. Yesterday, NDN's Hispanic Strategy Center Senior Advisor Maria Cardona debated immigration with Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC. Not an easy task, but Maria more than held her own. And Wednesday, I was on NPR's Morning Edition discussing immigration reform and C-SPAN taking calls alongside the leader of an anti-immigration group.

Even David Brooks is agreeing with us. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then NDN's meta-narrative about the new politics is receiving a lot of flattery this week. Brooks' op-ed in the New York Times mirrors our own argument that conservatism as a governing philosophy is dead: "This election is a period, not a comma in political history."

Also this week, New Politics Institute Director Peter Leyden has been featured in MSNBC and on the front page of MYDD.com talking about how progressives can use Google and search technology to more effectively communicate our message. NPI's vision for a progressive movement that embraces the new technology and new tools is really taking off and changing how we practice politics.

At this critical moment we may not have time to catch our collective breath, but I hope you'll take a minute to enjoy the momentum that is building behind the NDN family and the entire progressive movement.



Listen to Simon talk about NDN's "Condi Come Clean" campaign with Sam Seder on AirAmerica
"Democrats won't count votes before they're cast" (Washington Times, October 25, 2006)
"A Proliferation of political spoof sites"
(MSNBC, October 11, 2006)


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