As NDN's resident Brit, i like to sneak in the odd blog post about my home country. But this one happens to be relevant. David Cameron is the new leader of Britain's conservative party. This week he, and his previously hopeless party, gather for their annual conference. They will be joined by John McCain, who is to speak during the week. There he will see the Cameron political phenomenon, even if it might not be beyond McCain to spot certain items ransacked from the repertoire of the current Prime Minister.
But it is Cameron's use of new media that interests me. Yesterday he launched WebCameron. Ignore the bad pun, and have a look. Its a video rich site featuring daily clips of him talking about what he is up to behind the scene, along with clips from friends, guests and advisors (including John McCain.) The first clip features Cameron washing the dishes, the second talking about his feelings having made a speech. All are aggressively informal, unfussy and personable. Its almost as if politics has suddenly gone all Hill St Blues, complete with shaky camera work and behind the scenes footage. In an era in which trust in politics and politicians has declined, Cameron's people have clearly decided that no production values are the best proxy for trust and honesty. And i for one think the site is exceptionally effective.
Now the only question is which Presidential candidate do the same thing. My hunch? All of them.
The analysys is done by Charles Franklin, an academic at Wisconsin who is also responsible for my new favourite website - Political Arithmetik. It has all manner of fascinating graphical goodness to explore. Sadly, it also has some evidence that the President's approval rating is back up over 40%, even if this doesn't seem to be translating into movement in the generic ballot. And, as this graph nicely points out, there is more than a little dead-cat bounce about his rise.
Mark Warner has a background in technology. He was prominent at Daily Kos. He has top tier bloggers working for him. And a nice website. But this - from the Economist - is really taking the "embracing technology" approach to its limits.
Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia who is considered a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2008, recently became the first politician to give an interview in [online imaginary world] Second Life. His avatar (also named Mark Warner) flew into a virtual town hall and sat down with Hamlet Au, a full-time reporter in Second Life. “This is my first virtual appearance,” Mr Warner joked, “I'm feeling a little disembodied.” They then proceeded to discuss Iraq and other issues as they would in real life, with 62 other avatars attending (some of them levitating), until Mr Warner disappeared in a cloud of pixels.
Condi "mushroom cloud" Rice responded in the Post to the Woodwork book relevations by - suprise! - denying all. You can judge for yourself if her story sounds at all credible. I don't think it does. But we have to recall that in Bushworld lying is a tactic, to be used as needed.
In a very provocative post about the new Woodward book, Thinkprogress raises a critical question - did our Secretary of State lie to the 9/11 Commission? And is this a crime?
At the very least it is now clear that the Administration, in covering up a high-level meeting in July of 2001 where the CIA warned about an impending attack by Bin Laden, has once again repeatedly lied to the American people about an issue of great significance, and one critical to maintaining our security.
You can feel it. You can feel the tide turning against the Administration. You can feel it in the nuance of press stories, in the willingness of leaders to challenge him, in the chatter around town.
A big new idea is settling in with the American people and political elites. It is simply that when it comes to foreign policy Bush blew it. He took a big swing and failed.
It is been a long time coming. Much of the story has been known, but it has not hit critical mass. We’ve known that he was warned about Al Qeada striking in the US and did nothing; known that they had Bin Laden at Tora Bora and failed to give the guys on the ground more troops, and that he escaped; known that they all lied in the run up the war; known that they failed to plan for the occupation; known that the occupation itself has been ripe with cronyism, corruption and silliness; known that they blamed and prosecuted a “few rotten apples” for the torturing of Iraqis when it was officially sanctioned government policy; known that their “democratization” strategy gave some of the most radical elements in the Middle East, Hezbollah and Hamas, electoral legitimacy without forcing them to disband their militias; known that the standing up of the Iraqi police and Army has been a farce; known that despite their statements otherwise, the Administration has seldom listened to the generals in the field; known that the “insurgency” was much more than a few rogue elements causing trouble; known that our failure to win the peace was turning Iraq into a version of Soviet Afghanistan, fueling the jihadists around the world.
All of this been known. But in recent weeks, these things we’ve known have come together, stuck together, and are forming a new story line. It is no longer they’ve tried hard, acted tough and are gutting it out for America. It is that they’ve blown it. Big time. Perhaps overseeing the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history.
It is hard to know the exact moment when it all tipped. Suskind’s new and remarkable book, The One Percent Doctrine, has been part of it. The insanity around the ABC movie, The Path to 9/11 has been part of it. Clinton’s appearance on Fox has been part of it. The NIE release has been part of it. The recent spate of stories about the utter incompetence and corruption of our occupation have been part of it. And now Woodward’s new book, out next week, loaded with new and extraordinary stories will accelerate it all.
However we got to this point I think the President’s credibility on security matters has been shattered, and he can’t get it back. They took a big swing, and they blew it big time.
Now what do we do? Clearly a new team, a new approach is needed. Isn’t that what elections are about?
Latest news from our ongoing work on Hispanic issues, this Press Release was sent out earlier today.
CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR IN BIG TROUBLE WITH LATINOS
New Poll Shows Governor trailing 64% - 21% with key group
Washington DC -- A new poll of California Latinos shows a deep dislike of Governor Schwarzenegger. In this poll of 600 Spanish-dominant likely voters, the governor has higher disapproval ratings than President Bush, and is losing to his opponent Phil Angelides by 64% - 21%. Spanish-dominant Latino voters make up about 10% of the California electorate, with all Latinos now making up about 18% of the electorate as a whole.
These new results are consistent with national polls showing a dramatic erosion of support for Republicans in the Hispanic community. In a recent NDN political fund survey, for example, Republicans trailed Democrats 59% - 23% with Spanish-speaking Latino voters, a dramatic drop for a group that gave at least 40% of their vote to President Bush in 2004. (Visit to view the survey.)
These results also confirm a recent Field Poll's finding that the California governor is not only struggling to put together an electoral majority, but also confirms that the Governor is in trouble with the overall Latino community. In the just released Field Poll the governor topped out at 44% with all voters, and trailed his opponent 42% - 30% with all Latinos. (Visit to view the Field Poll).
"Despite being an immigrant himself, Governor Schwarzenegger has completely lost the faith of Latino immigrant voters," said Steve Phillips, President of PowerPAC. "The depth of dislike for the governor in this increasingly influential community will not be easily reversed and spells trouble for the Republican Party in California for a long time to come."
"The immigration debate this year has turned Latinos across the nation against Republicans," said Joe Garcia, Director of NDN’s Hispanic Strategy Center. "But here in California, if there is a close election, this deep and intense dislike of the current governor – if tapped into - could be the key to electing a new governor.”
This poll, conducted by Bendixen & Associates on behalf of PowerPAC and the NDN Political Fund, was of likely Hispanic voters in three counties in Southern California – Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego – that are more Republican than other parts of the state.
Some of the key findings include:
Among this audience, Phil Angelides is leading Schwarzenegger 64% to 21%, despite more than half of these voters having no positive or negative opinion of Angelides (54% say he is unknown to them).
Schwarzenegger is not only deeply unpopular in these communities, with 69% holding a negative view of him, but he is also seen as untrustworthy. 73% of these voters said they do not trust Schwarzenegger to represent the interests of the Latino community.
These voters are concerned about their growing inability to afford a middle-class life in California, listing high cost of living, lack of affordable housing, and high natural gas and electricity bills among their top concerns facing the state. The national debate over immigration is also deeply important to these voters, with nearly 60% saying growing anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment in the country has affected them and their family.
Fully 68% of these voters said the recent comments by Gov. Schwarzenegger, in which he referenced a Latina Assemblywoman as being “very hot” due to her “black blood mixed with Latino blood” were insensitive or racist, with only 26% agreeing the comments were “mostly harmless,” as was the primary reaction portrayed in the media.
NDN is a 21st Century Progressive advocacy and political organization. PowerPAC is a California-based political action committee working to get people of color engaged in politics and into political office at the local and state level.
Good news on trade - it looks like we aren't going to have the threat of a tarrif war with China, after all, as Senators Schumer and Graham decide to junk their threat for 25% tarrifs on Chinese goods as retaliation for currency manipulation. The issue is an odd one. We mentioned in a memo a few week's back on Trade. There is almost universal agreement that China's action is unfair. This is true among progressives also - ranging from Robert Rubin on the one hand, through to this release from the normally domestically minded EPI on the other. What to do about it was less clear. The Senators were in a bind. They could let the threat drop, and lose face. Or they could bring it to a vote, and annoy the chinese, invite retaliation at the WTO, damage Treasury Sec Paulson, and risk making matters worse. That they decided to eat it up, in the end, was the wise course. What comes next? My best understanding is they go back to the drawing board, and try to come up with some WTO friendly measure akin to that raisedSenators Grassley and Baucus to introduce new ways to punish countries – like, er, China – with “misaligned currencies."
Any steps which don't threaten greater protectionism are welcome at present. Trade is being used, predictably, as a mixture of punching bag and hollywood villain in various House races. At the same time the value of the dollar relative to other countries also helps to increase calls for protectionism. C. Fred Bergsten, Director of the Institute for International Economics, made this point in a recent article:
The history of U.S. trade policy amply demonstrates that dollar overvaluation, and the huge and growing trade deficits that it spawns, are by far the most accurate predictors of U.S. protectionism. When currency misalignments provide sizable advantages to their competitors, more industries look for relief from imports. When their goods and services are priced out of global markets, meanwhile, fewer exporters are credibly able, or even willing, to fight for liberalization.
Still, good news amidst storms is better than no good news at all. So congratulations to the two Senators for taking the better path, and let us hope they will continue to try and find more constructive means to solve this vexing issue.
A very useful cut-out -and-keep guide from the always excellent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, delivering a knee-capping of various familiar canards on the impact of tax changes. Tax is an oddity for conservatives. They are correct to say that say that low levels of tax encourage work, saving, and investment. The stimulus from the first round of Bush tax cuts can plausibly be argued to have boosted demand at a time when the economy needed it - although its always important to stress that the President sold them on quite different grounds. But because of the irresponsible way in which this administration introduced its tax cuts few of the promised benefits actually occur. The Bush tax cuts are, in effect, just a tax increase deferred to the future because they were not funded by decreased spending. They were poorly targetted to boost innovation, or increase demand accross the economy. And they (as you would expect) reduced tax revenue, benefited the rich disproportionately, and done little to counteract anaemic job and wage growth. It'll be interesting to see which Republican candidates go into 2008 arguing for further tax increases, given how poorly these ones have worked.
Simon and Rob issued a new Memo today, looking at how the economy is playing out in the campaign. We were particularily keen to puncture the Republican idea that falling gas prices would help boost the President's flat economic approval pictures. As you can see from this graph, there doesn't actually seem to be much of a relationship between the two. Or at the very least, falling prices have no been enough to lift that rating. And we think this second graph might be the reason why the Republicans get such little credit for their strong growth and productivity gains. This is the e-mail that Simon sent out earlier today.
Under George Bush, the American economy is not benefiting most families. And progressives must hold the administration to account in this election.
Today Rob Shapiro and I are releasing a new memo – Challenging The Republican Economic Record – where we compare how little the income of the average American family has increased over the last four years, with four years of comparable GDP growth during President Clinton’s terms. We find that the dismal Republican record has cost the average family $5,054 in income gains.
You can read the memo online here, or download a PDF version here.
This “prosperity gap” of more than $5,000 per family – not the volatile price of gas - helps explain why President Bush’s economic approval ratings remain low and why, throughout this campaign, Democrats must speak loudly and clearly about the economy.
Whether gas prices rise or fall over the next five weeks, progressives must hold conservatives accountable for their major failures of economic stewardship - stagnant wages and incomes; fiscal mismanagement, and misunderstanding globalization.