NDN Blog

Column: Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce

US News and World Report has published Simon's fourteenth column, "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will now appear every Tuesday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Has Donald Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?"

An Excerpt from "Steve Bannon, Meet Russell Pearce"

As the White House returns this week to immigration and travel bans, it would be wise for them to do a deep dive on the story of former Arizona State Sen. Russell Pearce. Pearce was the legislative leader of Arizona's virulent anti-immigrant wave of a few years ago, culminating in his passing of the famous "papers please" SB1070 bill that became a model for states across the country. Pearce rode these politics hard, using it to become in 2011 the Arizona Senate president, the most powerful legislative position in Arizona.

The core of Pearce's strategy, aided by many of the same people advising Donald Trump, was to create a climate so harsh for undocumented immigrants that they would "self-deport." The anti-immigrant "restrictionists" behind this approach had moved on from seeking direct deportation of all 11 million undocumented immigrants, pragmatically realizing that the cost of direct deportation and the tolerance of Americans for what would be years of raids and broken families made deportation politically impossible. Arizona was the testing ground for this new, refined self-deportation strategy, one that at its core required the terrorizing of immigrant communities to be successful. The more fear, the faster the folks would go and the cheaper and more politically palatable this would all be. Fear, lots of fear, was (and remains) critical for self-deportation to work.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Release: NDN Calls on Trump, Congress to Respond to Russian Aggression in Europe

“There is perhaps no greater threat to the West and to the United States today than Russia’s escalating belligerence. In recent months Russia has stepped up its military campaign in Eastern Ukraine, taken other provocative actions on NATO’s edge, and today the UK and France had to scramble jets to intercept Russian bombers circling the UK.

But Russia’s aggression is also manifesting itself in its willingness to intervene directly in the domestic politics of the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and other American allies. This unprecedented campaign is ongoing, as new reports from France indicate.

A traditional American President would be condemning this Russian aggression, holding high level consultation with our European allies, and discussing additional steps, including more expansive sanctions, to deter this Russian aggression. None of this has happened.

Despite commenting on dozens of often inane subjects on Twitter these past few weeks, including his daughter’s clothing business, the ratings of his television show and election fraud that never took place, our new President has refused to condemn these worrisome Russian actions. A failure to act decisively in the coming days will be appeasement of a newly aggressive Russia on a grand historic scale, and must not be allowed to happen. If the Trump Administration is unwilling to act Congress must step up. The new McCain-Cardin bill in the Senate is a good first step, and it deserves the support of all members of Congress in both parties. But it is only a first step, and countering a rising Russia and preserving the West must become the central foreign policy objective of American leaders now.”

Column: Has Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?

Friends,

US News just published Simon’s latest column, “Has Trump Already Abandoned the Fight Against the Islamic State?”

In the column Simon reviews the actions taken by President Trump in his early days and wonders whether the new President understands that he is making the fight against IS harder not easier. These steps include:

  • Angering the Iraqi Government (immigration Executive Order, other insulting comments)
  • Weakening the Global Coalition Against IS (conflict w/EU, Australia)
  • Inflaming Regional Sectarian Tensions (Conflict w/Iran will make it harder for Iraq to stay allied w/US)

Simon concludes:

“Beneath all of these early actions is an endearing truth about the battle against the Islamic State – there will be no defeating of the Islamic State or other jihadi groups through military might alone. Politics, coalitions, military strategy and sectarian reconciliation all have to be woven together to create true stability and peace in a region that has had far too little of either for far too long. In these early days it appears the Trump administration through its words and deeds is willing to sacrifice the ongoing global campaign against the Islamic State group for a new regional strategy that prioritizes conflict with Iran.”

Release: NDN Calls on President Trump to Demand Russia Honor Ukrainian Ceasefire

"Last night, the US State Department acknowledged that Russia is violating the Minsk ceasefire agreement and has escalated its military activities in eastern Ukraine. The State Department also acknowledged that this escalation began last Saturday, the day of the first phone call between President Trump and Mr. Putin. The Washington Post has a good editorial out this morning putting these activities in context.

NDN calls on the Trump Administration to forcefully defend the Minsk agreement and demand Russia and its forces in Ukraine to stand down. Given the President's statements about Russia over the past year, Americans have every reason to be concerned about whether it has become the policy of the United States to appease ongoing Russian aggression against its neighbors and the West. It was shocking that our President for example did not raise the issue of Russia's interference in US domestic politics - an ongoing activity some have equated to an act of war - in his call with Mr. Putin on Saturday.

Failure to take immediate concrete steps along with our NATO allies to encourage Russia to de-escalate will be a tactic sign of approval from the Trump Administration, and will signal a dramatic and unwelcome change in policy towards one of the world’s most menacing powers.  It should also be noted that candidate Trump explicitly promised that such aggression by Russia in Ukraine would not happen if he were to become President."

- Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

For this statement and more of Simon's analysis, please review our backgrounder on Russia's insurgency against the West. Additionally, in two recent Twitter threads, Simon elaborated on his concerns of Trump's appeasement of Russia and Trump's steps that signal radical changes in US foreign policy.

Column: A Strategy for Confronting Trump, Restoring Democratic Norms

In his new column for US News, "Drawing the Line with Trump," Simon argues that Democrats need to abandon traditional responses to the Trump Presidency, and set new rules of engagement. Trump’s early, repeated trampling of democratic norms must be confronted head on now. Friday’s decision to strip legal residents of the US of their liberties without debate or consultation is the act of an autocrat or dictator, not an American President. No further evidence of his intentions are needed now.

In his piece Simon lays out four conditions for continued Democratic cooperation:

1) Stop the Executive Orders
2) Debate Your Proposals In Congress
3) Divest or Disclose
4) Honor Decorum

Trump has historically low levels of public support; voters already have grave concerns about his secret holdings and the potential for corruption; and regular people are already taking unprecedented steps to protest his early Presidency. Democrats have a great deal of running room to take a dramatic and principled stand not against Trump but in favor of the rule of law and our democratic system itself.

Release: NDN Calls on President Trump to Delay Decisions on Russia Policy until Investigations Completed

"Given the ongoing investigations by the FBI, CIA and Senate and House Committees into Russia’s penetration of America’s political system, President Trump should refrain from making any significant changes in our policy towards Russia until these investigations are complete, and Congress and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on their findings.

Additionally, it is our belief that President Trump should put his National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, on leave until he has been cleared of any connections to the Russian government by these same investigations. It is just unacceptable for Flynn to continue in such a sensitive and consequential job – particularly given the early actions by this President which appear to be in concert with Russia’s foreign policy goals – while he is being investigated by the Intelligence Community and law enforcement."

-Simon Rosenberg, President, NDN

For this statement and more of Simon's analysis, please review our backgrounder on Russia's insurgency against the West. Additionally, in two recent Twitter threads, Simon elaborated on his concerns of Trump's appeasement of Russia and Trump's steps that signal radical changes in US foreign policy.

Column: "The End of Pax Americana?"

US News and World Report has published Simon's eleventh column, "The End of Pax Americana," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his column, "Chin up, Democrats," in which Simon argues that Democrats should have pride in their historic accomplishments and optimism about the future of their politics.
 
An Excerpt from "The End of Pax Americana"
 
In just his first week in office, Donald Trump has made moves that could set the nation back generations. He is trying to dismantle the global order that American built and led after World War II, which ushered in a relative Golden Age for Americans and the people of the world. For reasons that are still unclear, Trump seems intent on tearing down this successful global system without offering any kind of vision of what will replace it. Given that this system was erected as a way of preventing the developed world from slipping back into a frenzy of nationalism and protectionism that in the 1930s and '40s brought global economic collapse, mass unemployment and a World War that left tens of millions dead, this is no small matter.
 
Let's look at what Trump has said and done over the past few weeks. He unilaterally walked away from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a liberalizing trade pack with countries representing 40 percent of the global economy that would have not only extended the global system to more countries but modernized it for the Internet Age. He has called for the renegotiation of the core economic relationship with two of our three largest trading partners, Mexico and Canada, and already threatened to unilaterally leave what we call the North American Free Trade Agreement. The New York Times reports today that an executive order is coming that will dramatically cut back American support and involvement in multi-lateral institutions like the United Nations. Imposing unilateral tariffs and border taxes as Trump has threatened would begin to unravel the global trade regime that has been in place since the 1940s. He has called NATO obsolete, and has cheered on Brexit and encouraged other countries to leave the EU. On Wednesday he announced a series of highly xenophobic steps including the building of his famous wall with Mexico.
 
Taken together Trump is signaling a retreat to the very kind of politics – nationalism, protectionism, racism and xenophobia – that brought about actual carnage in much of the developed world a few generations ago.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: "Chin up, Democrats"

US News and World Report has published Simon's tenth column, "Chin up, Democrats," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies is Now Necessary" in which Simon argues that Trump's plan to keep all of his holdings establishes new far weaker norms, encourages public corruption, creates many new terror targets, and exposes the US to exploitation by foreign governments.

An Excerpt from "Chin Up, Democrats"

On Tuesday I tweeted out a link to a new CNN poll showing that 65 percent of Americans believe Obama's presidency was a success. Among the responses was one from a conservative friend who cited the now familiar litany of statistics showing how much power Republicans had gained during his eight years in office. He ended his tweet with "Thanks Obama."

This exchange captures the Democratic Party's current dilemma. For while the Republicans have more power, the Democrats have been by other measures a far more constructive and successful party. For the second straight administration, a young, talented Democratic outsider was elected to clean up messes left by Republicans who struggled to govern. Both times these young telegenic leaders, despite extraordinary Republican opposition and some missteps along the way, left the country far better than they found it. Both left office with some of the highest approval ratings and people saying their presidencies were a success of the entire post-WWII era of American politics. This is no small achievement.

And for all the GOP stats about decline, we have our own set that paint a more nuanced picture – more votes in six of past seven presidential elections, a feat only matched once in all of American history; a 14-point advantage (53/39) among under-45 voters who will be the dominant force in American political life for the next generation or two; a far more popular and admired party; gains in the Senate and House in 2016, not losses; a huge array of popular and well-regarded national figures.

As Trump ascends into the presidency, Democrats would be wise to give themselves far more credit for a job well done than we hear in the current discourse. Looking back over the past 80 years, there is an argument to be made that the modern Democratic Party has done more to improve the lives of people here and abroad than any organized political force in human history. In addition to leading a decades-long struggle to defeat totalitarianism in various forms, we imagined and built a global order that has ushered in an age of almost unimaginable human progress, peace and self-determination. Billions of people today across the world today have the education and opportunity to contribute to the lives of their countries; billions are living in some form of democracy where they can cast a ballot for their leaders; no great war has engulfed the planet; billions have access to life-saving medical care and modern technologies that are making the act of living itself far more fulfilling, and long.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary

US News and World Report has published Simon's ninth column, "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in which Simon does a deep dive on why Trump 's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

An Excerpt from "An Independent Audit of Trump's Companies Is Now Necessary"

This week, President-elect Donald Trump thumbed his nose at the government agency that oversees ethics in the Executive Branch by announcing he intends to keep all of his far flung holdings as president. Whether this unprecedented and arrogant act is illegal and unconstitutional and not just unethical will be at the center of what is sure to be a vigorous debate in the coming months.

But the worry about his arrangement is far greater than the issue of propriety and legality. Let me offer a few examples:

It establishes new far weaker norms. Perhaps inspired by Trump's example, we've already seen House Republicans vote to gut their own ethics regime; the Senate GOP is holding hearings on Cabinet nominees without either their FBI background check or ethics clearance completed; challenging anti-nepotism laws, Trump is bringing his son in law, who is also not divesting from all his holdings, into the White House; and Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson refuse to recuse himself from overseeing decisions affecting his lifelong employer, Exxon Mobil. In these early days, the new GOP has made it clear it intends to weaken or ignore good government policies put into place decades ago – the very opposite of draining the swamp.

It encourages public corruption. Remarkably, Trump not only refused to adopt the many suggestions outside counsel had for how to ethically manage his holdings, he actually walked back a commitment for the Trump Organization to do no new deals while he is president. In his Wednesday press conference, Trump said the business will in fact be able to do "domestic" deals. This is a clear signal from our next president that investors/courtiers, and one would assume U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies, should begin lining up at Trump Tower to begin talks on domestic U.S. projects. The benefit of these deals would go directly to the benefit of the Trump family, and since he has not divested, Trump himself. As all of his business dealings are essentially secret, the public would have no way of knowing who was entering into business with the family of the sitting president. The opportunity for public corruption here is perhaps unprecedented in all of American history.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

Column: Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Global Petro-Politics

US News and World Report has published Simon's eighth column, " The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's embrace of petro-politics," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "Rediscovering the Democrats' North Star," in which Simon offers some thoughts on the arduous path ahead for Democrats.  He calls for a focus on four issues now: prosperity, security, political reform and being for everyone.  

An Excerpt from "The Pernicious Politics of Oil - On Trump's Embrace of Petro-Politics"

For all the sense of fear and dread about the state of the world today, America and its allies do not have a significant global ideological rival as we did with Communism and Fascism in the 20th century. Most of the world is in the American-led global trading system; most of the world has signed on to the Paris climate accords; most of the world still works through the forum of the United Nations to at least discuss and debate contemporary issues.

Yes, this system is fraying. It isn't perfect, and there are outliers and insurgencies, like the Islamic State group. But there is one looming threat that if not contained could continue to grow into something existential and truly threatening – the pernicious politics of oil.

There are three parts to this rising threat. First, climate change. In addition to the promise of the Paris climate accords and the many other steps large and small governments and communities are taking around the world, clean energy investments appear to be hitting an early critical mass, suggesting private sector innovation will play an ever more meaningful, and perhaps historic, role in addressing the challenge. More must be done here, of course, and rapidly, but the Obama years have created a global momentum that I think is unstoppable. Or so I hope. (Note I am an advocate for more domestic fossil fuel production and a supporter of fracking, but also believe in the necessity to accelerate our transition to more sustainable and distributed sources of energy. See this terrific new Atlantic piece from Ron Brownstein on the role fossil fuel production played in the 2016 presidential election.)

Second, the oil curse. What the world has learned is that far too often countries with large oil and gas holdings fall prey to authoritarianism and oligarchical capitalism. There is a traditional political economy reason for this: The revenues generated for the government through oil production frees politicians from their dependence on taxpayer dollars and thus voters themselves. The wealth created through traditional free market capitalism, innovation and bottom up entrepreneurship isn't needed to generate the wealth of the nation or an unaccountable small ruling class. In the process, the state becomes much more powerful vis a vis its own people, and democratic institutions and norms are weakened or struggle to develop. Think of Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia as prime examples.

These petro-economies are in the most extreme a different form of societal organization – maybe a rival? – than free market democracies. They are oligarchical and "command and control" in structure, the opposite of the bottom up, people-led vision of a good society imagined by our Founding Fathers and championed globally by the West since World War II. These countries are less invested in the instruments of the modern free market system, and while they make money off of it, the more it becomes a global success the more of an ideological threat it becomes to their control over their own people – particularly in an age when it is far harder to control the information to which their people have access to.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

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