NDN Blog

Immigration Reform: no greater example of how the GOP has lost its way

There are many examples.  North Korea going nuclear.  Iran rising as a regional power in the Middle East.  The collapse of our occupation of Iraq.  Historic deficits.  No agenda to help the middle class in a more virulent age of globalization.  No action taken on global climate change, energy independence, health care, etc.

There are so many example of how this governing party has failed to deliver on its promises, and left many other critical emerging challenges so unexamined.

But to me there is perhaps no greater example of their inability to make government work for the “common good” than their failure to tackle immigration reform this year.  In a hyper-partisan and disappointing age, immigration reform was different.  Senators McCain and Kennedy built a broad bi-partisan coalition for reform that included labor, the Chamber of Commerce, immigrant advocacy groups and groups like NDN.  Republicans got guest worker, Democrats a path to citizenship and everyone agreed to work on fixing the porous border.  It was a throwback to an earlier era, when reasonable people could come together to solve a vexing problem.

But then late last year, almost out of nowhere, the House Republicans broke from this consensus approach and passed a wild and irresponsible bill that called for the arrest and deportation of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  These two approaches seemed irreconcilable.  Debate ensued.  Latinos threatened by both this policy and the extreme rhetoric surrounding the debate, took to the streets in protest.  The Senate came together, led by McCain, Kennedy and Reid and got 58 votes for what was known as McCain-Kennedy.  A version of it finally passed, and off to conference it went.

At that point the national Republican Party and the House Republicans faced a critical choice.  Solve a national problem or succumb to politics? It was a crucial test.  And it spoke to the heart of the criticism of the Republicans these days.  Could they make government work for the common good?

The answer? Speaker Hastert and his able team choose politics.  They said no to any bill with earned citizenship, and renamed the McCain bill the Reid-Kennedy Democratic Amnesty Bill.  Republican ads equating Latino immigrants to terrorists and charging that Democrats were on this side of illegals and terrorists spread like wildfire.

On such a basic level this is all very tragic.  We had a broad bi-partisan approach towards fixing the immigration system in America.  The President went on national TV to support it.  John McCain was its lead sponsor.  Labor and business had come together.  Immigrants groups accepted changes that in many years would have been unacceptable.  The criticism of the Republicans was that they couldn’t make government work.  And what happened? We ended up with an extraordinarily expensive fence that covers only a small portion of the open border, will take years to build and is not guaranteed to make any difference in this difficult problem.  As Travis writes below the governing party cannot even agree on to how and when to sign this new fence bill into law, and may have violated their own rules in holding it this far. 

And we ended up with ads, politics, distortion, fear, lying in the campaigns themselves.  But perhaps reason is prevailing.  As a DCCC blog post yesterday points out, a television station just pulled a GOP ad in Ohio that was clearly lying about the Democratic candidate’s position on immigration.  And Barack Obama jumped in to the fight, cutting a sensible ad for a Democratic candidate in Illinois trying to set the record straight.

I am very proud of the leadership of the Democrats for standing true on this issue of immigration reform.  In this case, they have taken the right moral, political and legislative position.  Tough as it’s been, on this issue, Democrats have shown that they have what it takes to be good stewards of America in a new century. Despite tremendous opposition, we held fast to tackling a serious nation problem and did not yield.

I am also proud of our role in all this.  NDN got involved last year before the now infamous House vote on “Sensenbrenner,” urging all involved to reject that terrible bill.  We have lobbied many Members of Congress and candidates, written many memos, held forums and fought hard with allies like the National Immigration Forum to find a better path.  And in the spring, we launched the first in a series of national Spanish-language ad campaigns that spoke to the hopes of Latinos and not their fears, and we have been on the air, nationally, ever since.

The Republicans, however, in their inability to get this done, have shown why America has grown weary of them and are looking for a new path.  They no longer have what it takes to lead America in this challenging time. 

Where did the Border-fence bill go?

In an article from the Washington Times, the G.O.P. proves to us yet again that they'd rather play politics than solve the problem when it comes to immigration. This time, Congressional Republicans want President Bush to sign the bill authorizing construction of 700 miles of a double-wall fence along the U.S.-Mexico border at a grand ceremony, arguing that, if done at the right time, such imagery could help them in their re-elections. Imagery is all that matters. Ignoring the fact that some don't even know where the bill is, the article acknowledges Republicans' frustration towards President Bush who wants his approval to come in a more private setting. I wonder why.

Perhaps because he, like so many of us, supported comprehensive immigration reform. Or perhaps the President's views on the fence aren't the same as Congressional Republicans. Providing yet another glimpse into the White House's thinking, one Bush administration official commented on the fence, saying:

You talk to the members of Congress about the 700 miles, and there's not a single member who can give you a plausible explanation of how they arrived at 700 miles. We'll build every mile of fence that is useful and necessary to build, and if they tell us to build 700, we'll find a way to build 700 miles of fence, but let's not kid ourselves.

In closing, let's remember what the President told us Tuesday night as the U.S. population reached 300 million. "We welcome this milestone as further proof that the American Dream remains as bright and hopeful as ever." Too bad his deeds won't allow his words to have much longevity. Democrats, take note. We have a plan to ensure the American Dream. Let's stand up and be proud of it.

Further disintegration in Iraq

From Thursday's Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Oct. 18 -- A roadside bombing and other attacks killed 10 American troops across Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military reported Wednesday, making it the deadliest day of combat for U.S. forces in 10 months.

The one-day toll, part of what the U.S. military has said is a 43 percent increase in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces in the capital since midsummer, occurred as casualties among Iraqi troops and civilians are soaring far higher than at any previous time in the war, according to U.S. and Iraqi tallies.

The deaths underscore the surging nature of sectarian violence and the increasing lethality of roadside bombs, which claim the most American lives in Iraq despite efforts to bolster armor and use high-technology devices to disable bombs.

Five of the American troop deaths Tuesday were caused by bombs. Four soldiers were killed in Baghdad about 6:50 a.m. when a planted bomb exploded under their vehicle, the U.S. military said in a statement. Another bomb killed a single soldier north of the capital.

Three soldiers died in combat east of Baghdad, in Diyala province, the military said. One soldier was killed in north Baghdad when armed men attacked his patrol, and a Marine died in combat in the predominantly Sunni province of Anbar, in western Iraq. Since the summer, Baghdad has passed Anbar as the most hostile place in the country for U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Tuesday's deaths, along with the death of an American soldier in Baghdad by small-arms fire on Wednesday, brought the number of total U.S. troop fatalities for October to 70, including 67 killed in action......

Anti-Immigration Groups Showing Desperation

The California Attorney General is investigating a threatening letter that has been sent to Latinos in Orange County saying that legal and illegal immigrants risk arrest and even deportation if they try and vote in this November's elections:

The letter, which purports to be from a Huntington Beach-based group, also warns that the state has developed a tracking system that will allow the names of Latino voters to be handed over to anti-immigrant groups.

"You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time …," the letter says.

This blatant and illegal voter intimidation should be a signal to progressives and all our allies who support comprehensive immigration reform.  Our opponents are desperate and know they are on the wrong side of this issue, both this fall and in the long term.  Now is not the time to run away from immigration, but to hold Republicans accountable for their failure to find a solution to this most pressing issue. 

NDN launches a campaign to get Condi to come clean

Over the last two weeks conclusive evidence has emerged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice received specific warnings about imminent Al Qaeda attacks two months before September 11th 2001.

Bob Woodward’s State of Denial reveals details of an emergency meeting held on July 10th between Rice and CIA Director George Tenet. In his crisis briefing Tenet warned of an imminent Al Qaeda strike, possibly in the United States.

Yet in statement after statement Rice has implied that she was not adequately warned about Al Qaeda attacks, and that she was not told of a potential attack on America.

Meanwhile, details of this July 10th emergency meeting did not appear in the official report of the 9/11 Commission, despite being covered in detail by Tenet in his sworn testimony.

The Secretary of State has had two weeks to explain these inconsistencies. She has not done so. It is time for Condi to come clean.

Today NDN is launching a new campaign to get the Secretary of State to answer four critical questions about the July 10th meeting.

Visit NDN’s website now to see in full the four questions Rice must answer, and the clear evidence which backs them up.

If Rice does not provide honest and complete answers to these four questions, the American people will be forced to conclude that she and others lied about what they knew to cover up their inadequate response to the Al Qaeda threat.

The four questions Rice must answer are:

  1. Question 1: Why do you continue to deny that an “emergency meeting” took place on July 10th 2001 between yourself, CIA Director George Tenet and CIA Deputy Counterterrorism Chief Coffer Black? 
  2. Question 2: How can you continue to claim not to have been warned of a possible attack in the United States in light of what we now know about the July 10th meeting?
  3. Question 3: Given the evidence presented in the July 10th meeting, why were no drastic and immediate new actions taken to protect the American people?
  4. Question 4: How is it possible that the 9/11 Commission’s Report failed to mention the warnings of the July 10th meeting, given George Tenet’s testimony on the subject, witnessed by the Commission’s Executive Director Philip Zelikow, who now serves as one of your closest advisors?

The American people deserve answers. That’s why we are calling for the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to convene urgently to ask Rice, Tenet and 9/11 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow to set the record straight.

And you can help: by supporting NDN’s campaign; reading our new evidence released today; joining our call for the reconvening of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees; signing the petition of the 9/11 Widows to declassify details of the July 10th Meeting; and urging your local media to learn about this issue and hold Secretary Rice accountable.

With your help we can ensure that Condi comes clean.  Because the American people deserve better than a Secretary of State who continues to lie about one of the greatest national security failures in American history.  

Bush Snr on the Economy

Bush 41, speaking today, says he doesn't think 43 gets enough credit on the economy. The Street Light Blog has an interesting look at why he is wrong. (Check the post itself for graphs.) 

Take a look at the following pictures. I tried to think of those macro data series that most closely reflect the average person's experience: the amount of work available (measured as the total hours of labor demanded by firms), the average hourly earnings of workers in the private sector, the amount of overall compensation that individuals receive for their work (thus excluding capital income), and the actual salaries and wages that people earn. All data is expressed in real (inflation-adjusted) terms, and in each decade recession years are excluded. It's quite striking that by each of these measures, the US economy performed quite poorly since 2003. The current economic expansion has simply not delivered the employment or wage growth that people expect from the US economy. So why hasn't Bush gotten credit for the state of the US economy? Actually, I think that he has. And from the GOP's point of view, that's exactly the problem.

Stop Hating on NY

Why are Republican Congressmen from New York obsessed with comparing their (and my) home state with various troubled corners of the globe?  Congressman Peter King has been quoted saying that being in Baghdad is “like being in Manhattan.”  And during a recently revealed trip to the Northern Marianas Islands in 2001, Congressman John Sweeney said he had seen "worse sweatshops back home in New York."

Sweeny's trip was paid for by a lobbyist hired by Jack Abramoff, as part of Abramoff's campaign to ensure that apparel producers in the Northern Marianas Islands could continue to call their products 'Made in the USA,' while remaining exempt from federal minimum wage and immigration laws.  The human rights abuses that take place as a result of this lawless situation are well-documented and include withholding wages, keeping workers in overcrowded and unsanitary barracks, prohibitions on religious practices, forced prostitution and forced abortions. 

After the trip, Sweeney received almost $10,000 in campaign donations from Abramoff and his lobbyist associates.  The results:

Within months of returning...Sweeney met separately with Marianas Gov. Fitial and Rudy [the Abramoff lobbyist who arranged the trip] in Washington. Rudy also met with members of Sweeney's staff...Fitial had meetings with Sweeney and his fellow Appropriations Committee member, Doolittle, in Washington on April 8, 2001, to discuss the islands' infrastructure and development needs.

Sweeney initially refused to discuss the trip, but is now admitting that he violated House ethics rules by going on a lobbyist-funded trip. 

Congressman King's comments are even more absurd.  Last I checked, Manhattan was not on the verge of a civil war and their were no leadership purges going on in the NYPD to try to reign in roving bands of sectarian death squads. 

Sweeney and King's comments are symptoms of the greater Republican disease.  After 12 years in power in the House, they will say anything, no matter how out of touch with reality, to advance their political agenda.  It can't get much clearer that the time for change is now. 

Friendster Launches New Contest for Bottom-Up Political Commercials

The Social Networking website Friendster has teamed up with an interactive advertising company to launch a contest for young people to create their own political ads before the November election.

The contest is reminiscent of MoveOn.org’s pioneering effort in the 2004 election that is still viewable at Bush in 30 Seconds. Yet now there is an exponential increase in the number of people familiar with how to create and upload online video. And Friendster is one of the largest social networking sites with 33 million members.

The contest will reward the top six video creators with prizes, ranging from $2500 to a video iPod. You can see an overview and details of the contest in an advertising trade publication report. You can see the “Get Political” Video contest announcement at the Friendster site, or go right to the video website that is partnering with Friendster to do it.

The videos seem to have a range of quality but are worth browsing to get the zeitgeist forming out there.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute

Toward a Majority Party? Young people and Exurban trends in The Times

The New York Times
Week in Review this Sunday had a cover story (on the prospects for Democrats or Republicans becoming the majority party ) that hit hard on two demographic trends that the New Politics Institute has been focusing on for the last year. In fact, NPI fellow Ruy Teixeira was prominently quoted through the piece, and made extended reference to data from his NPI report on The Next Frontier: A New Study of Exurbia. Ruy and NPI have been arguing that exurbia, once considered solid conservative territory, has been changing in a way that opens up much more opportunity for progressives.

Another theme of the piece, and particularly an amazing graphic “How Generation Influences Party,” was how young people today are trending progressive. In fact, the most Democratic voters of all ages are now 21-year-olds. It has dramatically been trending that way since Bill Clinton became president. And the Bush II years have only accelerated the trend.

The graphic also goes back and shows how people who came of voting age in each of the previous Administrations back to FDR’s time identify themselves politically today. Again, you can see that this current crop of young people vote more progressive than any previous generation. The only comparable generations are those who came of age in the FDR/Truman era, and also in the Boomer updraft of the 1960s ands 1970s.

Peter Leyden

GOP Firewall Strategy Collapses

So much for the Firewall strategy. On Friday, Time reported how the GOP had decided to hold the line:

In what it is privately calling it's "firewall" strategy, the Republican National Committee has recently spent close to $4 million in three crucial Senate races — Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee — in the hope of holding Democratic gains to a maximum of five seats. No new RNC money has gone to House races during that time.

And now, only 3 days later, this from this morning's NYT.

Senior Republican leaders have concluded that Senator Mike DeWine of Ohio, a pivotal state in this year's fierce midterm election battles, is likely to be heading for defeat and are moving to reduce financial support for his race and divert party money to other embattled Republican senators, party officials said.

We note only that a firewall is defined as "a physical barrier inside a building or vehicle, designed to limit the spread of fire, heat and structural collapse." Fingers crossed.

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