NDN Blog

Friday Morning - the national landscape is changing

As inevitably happens, the national landscape of an election year in the spring gives way to a new and changed landscape by summer and fall.  The success of a political party or national campaign often comes from the ability to sense the change and get ahead of the other side.  It feels like we are in such a moment now. 

In the old landscape the Democrats had the wind at their back.  Iraq, Katrina, an economy not working for most, corruption, etc had produced an environment very favorable for Democrats.  My sense is that backdrop, that environment, and all the message plans, the polling, the strategies for media is about to change.  There is mounting evidence of an economic slow down, possibly making the governing party's economic positioning - always critical - even worse.  But how is the security environment going to change?  Not entirely clear.  But what is clear is it is very possible that the events of the world will make this conversation much more than about our failures in Iraq - the question for both parties is are they ready to adapt, to change, to anticipate, to improvise their way into the final fall messaging wave?

To me it is clear that the centrality of Iraq to the whole progressive enterprise is about to give way to a very different - and more complex - conversation about the Middle East, the use of force and the goals of American foreign policy.  Are we ready for this? Intellectually? Politically?

In the summer of 2002 Bush and Rove nationalized the election around Iraq and taxes.  It was around this time that they clarified their approach, went on the political offensive and defined the election.  The response from Daschle and Gephardt, I believe, cost Democrats the election.  They failed to adapt to the redefinition of the race, arguing that all the campaigns would be won on local issues, and did not offer any kind of national engagement on the two issues that defined every race in the country.  They held on to their spring plan.  The game changed. And Democrats got beat. 

4 years ago Bush and Rove ran a national campaign on the two most important issues of every election - peace and prosperity - war and taxes - that came together late in the summer.  Are Democrats ready to leave their spring gameplan behind and build a new one as the game is changed, knowing what happened the last time around?

Whether and how Democrats adapt - and how this changes their public stances and paid media strategies - will determine what happens this fall. 

Thursday Morning Roundup

Released a new poll memo yesterday looking at Spanish speaking Hispanic voters, and it had dramatic and unexpected results.  The degree of Bush's of fall with this group that voted 48% for him in 2004. and had always held him in high esteem, suprised all of us.  It seems clear now that immigrant Hispanics are holding him personally accountable for the tone and tenor of the immigration debate.  They have been become disapointed with a leader they believed held great promise, while also concluding that Republican government is not producing the results they hope to see.  You can find the poll and the companion PowerPoint presentation at www.ndn.org/hispanic

Hard to add to the saturation coverage of what is happening in Lebanon by all the major news outlets, other than to point out a very good piece in the Times today about how the Shiite-led government in Iraq is reacting to the global community's efforts to eradicate Hezbollah. 

With violence escalating, the Post offers a good piece on how Congressional Republicans are backing off their optimistic assessments of the "progress" in Iraq.  This one follows a must read piece yesterday about the growing disenchantment of the right with the failures of Bush's foreign policy.

And the Post offers another good one on how with Ralph Reed's loss in Georgia the rampant Washington scandals may effect the fall elections. 

A coalition of progressive think tanks and the DGA, led by the DLC, released an exciting new proposal yesterday to "Help the U.S. and the Middle Class Get Ahead By Producing One Million More College Graduates by 2015."  NDN is proud to be part of this coalition, and look forward to the a much bigger report to be released this weekend.   

Time has an interesting piece on how soldiers in Iraq are using YouTube to send video messages back home. 

Look forward to seeing many of you at our NPI lunch today at noon.....it has been a busy week, but a very productive one. 

Wednesday Morning Roundup

Not a full roundup today, as we are off to a press conference to release a new poll we've just completed of Hispanics.  Lots of interesting stuff in there, look for it later today.  If you want to read something in advance of our release, check out a new poll from Roberto Suro and the Pew Hispanic Center.  It tracks a lot of what we will be saying, but with a different sample, also has some noticable differences.  They poll all Hispanics, we focus on just Spanish-speaking voters. 

Lots of news coming from the Middle East today.  My one quick thought is no matter what happens now the the Iraq-centric foreign policy debate of this year is ceding to what will be something else.  For the two parties, there is both opportunity and peril in these developments.  But what we now know is that the fall elections will not be fought on the President's failed Iraq policy alone. 

Tuesday night check in

Big week this week.  We release a new Hispanic poll tomorrow, and announce a new stage of our mas que un partido media campaign.  Thursday we have another great NPI event.  Next week I'm off to California for a few days, and we will be releasing a study about globalization.  But as promised, here is a roundup from the last few days....

Harold Ford introduced a very sensible bill this week, one that would make all future “off-budget” items – like the hundreds of billions needed for Iraq – to be in the budget itself. 

Bush, in a moment of candor, tells Vincente Fox that immigration reform is not going to happen this year.  In his other great moment with a head of state recently, we link to the great mouthful of sh---. 

Sebastian Mallaby has a very good piece in the Post called “Fighters and the Freeloaders.”  Thomas Mann has a compelling piece about how Democrats will take Congress this fall.  It begins:

"There's probably no way congressional Republicans can lose this fall, no matter how unpopular President Bush is or how unhappy the voters are with the war in Iraq. That's the prevailing view in Washington today.

But it's wrong.

If history is any guide, we're heading into a major political storm. And that means we could see a national tide in November that will sweep the Democrats back into the majority.

Virtually every public opinion measure points to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane gathering. Bush's job-approval rating is below 40 percent, and congressional job approval is more than 10 percentage points lower. Only a quarter of the electorate thinks the country is moving in the right direction, and voters are unhappy with the economy under Bush. Finally, Democrats hold a double-digit lead as the party the public trusts to do a better job of tackling the nation's problems and the party it would like to see controlling Congress."

Glenn Greenwald has a remarkable post about the extremism of the right-wing blogosphere, aided by research from Media Matters. 

And today, the Attorney General admits it was the President blocked any inquiry into the White House domestic spying program.  This and other fun tidbits in a good Times piece.   

Received my new Mas Que Un Partido t-shirts last night.  My kids were fired up, as was my wife Caitlin.  They look cool! You too can order some of our own at www.ndnfutbol.org.  Thanks to our friends at www.goodstorm.com for making it possible. 

For those in DC don’t forget to drop by our NPI event, lunch, on Thursday. 

Missed this morning's roundup

Sorry friends.  Will have a real good one tomorrow.  

And did not get picked for jury duty.   While I've enjoyed my past service on a jury, the timing on this one was not so good with our upcoming NPI event this week, and lots of other things going on. 

More tomorrow. 

Monday morning roundup

Am blogging here from the Courts in DC, as I wait to see if I get to serve on a jury trial.

Didnt get to do my normal scan of the news today, but the most interesting pieces I found came from the Times, and report on the growing regional fear in the Middle East of Iran and its Shiite allies. From the first piece:

"With the battle between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah raging, key Arab governments have taken the rare step of blaming Hezbollah, underscoring in part their growing fear of influence by the group’s main sponsor, Iran. Saudi Arabia, with Jordan, Egypt and several Persian Gulf states, chastised Hezbollah for “unexpected, inappropriate and irresponsible acts” at an emergency Arab League summit meeting in Cairo on Saturday."

From the second piece: "As sectarian violence soars, many Sunni Arab political and religious leaders once staunchly opposed to the American presence here are now saying they need American troops to protect them from the rampages of Shiite militias and Shiite-run government forces.

The pleas from the Sunni Arab leaders have been growing in intensity since an eruption of sectarian bloodletting in February, but they have reached a new pitch in recent days as Shiite militiamen have brazenly shot dead groups of Sunni civilians in broad daylight in Baghdad and other mixed areas of central Iraq."

While there is much to be debated about American foreign policy these days, there is growing global concern about the rise of Iran, the main sponsors of Hezbollah. I offered some additional thoughts on Iran on Saturday.

 

Sunday Roundup

We've written a great deal about the Middle East these past few days, so today's focus is on other news today:  

The Post's lede editorial today begins with this remarkable graph: "The world last week seemed almost to be spinning out of control. From Lebanon to North Korea to Darfur, from Baghdad to Bombay, the news was frightening or depressing or both. Hundreds of innocent people died. Oil prices soared, stock prices fell. It's been some time since global affairs seemed so bleak."  They then raise the vital question - is the world spinning out of control because of the weakness of the Administration, or despite it?  The answer to this question is one of the most important ones of our time. 

Thinkprogress captures the well-reported exchange between Bush and Putin, where, at a low moment for our country, the Russian autocrat bests an American President in a discussion of the meaning of democracy. 

The Post reports how worried GOP leaders are that the immigration debate could do long term damage to their Party.  NDN agrees that they should be worried.

The Times previews this week's Senate stemcell debate. 

On the subject of Presidential power, talkingpointsmemo offers an interesting take on what happened this week with FISA and Arlen Specter.  Glenn Greenwald, author of How Would a Patriot Act? has had a series of thoughtful posts on the subject this week. And in a related editorial, the Times weighs in hard:

"It is only now, nearly five years after Sept. 11, that the full picture of the Bush administration’s response to the terror attacks is becoming clear. Much of it, we can see now, had far less to do with fighting Osama bin Laden than with expanding presidential power.

Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.

One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror."

And finally, the Times Magazine has a piece that I've haven't read yet - but will tonight - on the possible return of nuclear power

Saturday Morning Reflections

I will do more of a news roundup tomorrow, but today wanted to reflect upon the rising violence in the Middle East.   Here we go:

Iran is a big problem - At the heart of Israel's actions this week is a needed and important challenge of the efforts of Iran to become a regional hegemon.  Iran is a significant funder of both Hezbollah and Hamas; they are developing nuclear weapons against the objections of the world; they have a new powerful beachhead in Iraq; their current leader is perhaps, should we say, "unstable:" with oil revenues surging, they have the money to project greater power; and I believe they have, along with the Russians, decided to create instability in the Middle East to drive up the price of oil to both weaken the West and reinforce their power. 

Iran should be viewed as a classic regional aggressor, acting outside the norms of the International Community.  As we are tied down in Iraq, and with reduced money, international credibility and troops, America is at this moment ill-equipped to lead a multi-year effort to contain Iran's ambitions.  Israel sees all this, and is taking aggressive action to begin challenging Iran before they grow too powerful, knowing that the America and the world at this point are unlikely to be effective at checking the dangerous rise of Iran. 

The high cost of oil is creating global instability - While much has been made of the environmental impact of our dependence on fossil fuels, it is time to begin a public conversation about the security challenges it poses.  Several oil states - Russia, Iran, Venezuela - buoyed by high oil prices, are becoming exporters of instability.  As the providers of something all growing nations are deeply dependent on, they literally have the world over a barrel.  Challenge Russia as the Europeans wanted to, and Putin threatens to cut off natural gas supplies.   Bush goes to Russia for the G-8, and is muted in his criticism of the growing authoritarianism of Putin and his team. 

Remember that when Hamas was elected Russia joined Iran as one of first nations to provide monthly aid.  Hamas's leadership visited Russia in their first trip outside the Middle East.  There is clear evidence of a growing deep and strategic relationship between Russia and Iran.  The provocative acts by Hamas and Hezbollah came at a time when Israel and the moderates in the Palestinian government were making progress on talks to have Israel pull out of the West Bank as it did in Gaza, a core plank of Olmert's recent campaign.  

The provocative acts by Hamas and Hezbollah appeared strategic and coordinated, designed to create instability and possibly regional war.  But who would want this? Certainly not the Palestinian or Lebanese governments, as they were benefiting from the recent peace.  Not the Saudis or Jordanians.  It sure makes sense to believe these actions were encouraged by Iran.  Both Hamas and Hezbollah are enemies of Israel, are bankrolled by Iran, and the actions themselves seemed more designed to create instability then to achieve a concrete outcome - and who benefits from instability in the Middle East?  Those who own the oil - Iran, Russia - and those who have a vested interest in fostering instability in the region. 

The question facing our government, great friends of the US oil industry, is do they believe the high cost of oil to be a problem for America? Sure doesn't seem that way by their actions.  And fundamentally, if we cannot accept as a nation that our dependence on fossil fuels is becomg a one of our greatest societal and security threats, then our government is no longer serving the interests of the American people.   

Friday Morning Roundup

Lots in the news today about the growing regional conflict in the Middle East.  Michael Young, writing in the Times, suggests: ISRAEL’S incursion into Lebanon after the kidnapping on Wednesday of two Israeli soldiers by the militant group Hezbollah is far more than another flare-up on a tense border. It must also be seen as a spinoff of a general counterattack against American and Israeli power in the region by Iran and Syria, operating through sub-state actors like Hezbollah and the Palestinian organization Hamas."

The Washington Post's editorial page writes: "WHEN ISRAEL withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon in 2000 after more than two decades of occupation, it also issued a warning: Any cross-border provocations by Hezbollah, the militant Shiite group, would elicit a severe military response. So there can be no surprise at the violent reaction to Hezbollah's ambush of an Israeli patrol Wednesday, in which three soldiers were killed and two others taken captive by the guerrillas. And there can be no doubt that Iran and Syria, Hezbollah's chief sponsors, bear responsibility for what has instantly become the most far-reaching, lethal and dangerous eruption of cross-border fighting in the Middle East in recent years."

And EJ Dionne correctly points out that the whole Bush strategy in the Middle East, here described as the Big Bang theory, has failed: "But when the Big Bang (invasion of Iraq)happened, the wreckage left behind took the form of reduced American influence, American armed forces stretched to their limit and a Middle East more dangerously unstable than it was at the beginning of 2003. Whether one ascribes these troubles to the flawed implementation of the Big Bang Theory or to the theory itself, what matters now is how to limit and, if possible, undo some of the damage."

As I wrote a few days ago, the Bush era foreign policy has failed.  The escalation in the Middle East, shines a light on what has been perhaps our greatest failure, our strategy to bring democracy and stability to the Middle East.   

But this is a familiar theme these days.  Katrina showed our Homeland Security strategy has failed; declining wages, rising health care cost, energy, college tuition and interest costs, coupled with the largest deficits in history has shown that our economic strategy has failed; a core piece of our strategy on how to fight the war on terror has been repudiated by the Supreme Court, and now in degrees by the Administration. 

In talking to many friends over the past two days, it is clear that people are worried by what is happening in the Middle East, but more worried that there is so little we as American can do about it.  Our extraordinary failure in Iraq has shaken our faith, and I would add the faith of the world, in America's ability to tackle difficult international challenges.  It feels very much like we need a new leadership team, a new strategy and a new direction at what is a very critical time for the nation.  But how is that to happen?

Thursday Morning Roundup

Short one today, am traveling.  

- The move by the Democrats to make raising the minimum wage a major issue in the campaign is a good one.   As we've discussed in our globalization initiative, the average family is making $1,400 less today than five years ago.  Costs like health care, college tuition, energy and interest payments have risen.  It is has become much harder to make it in today economy.  Faced with this, what is the governing party looking to do? Eliminate the estate tax for the very wealthiest Americans, and give themselves a pay increase. 

This let them eat cake strategy of the governing party is unacceptable, and has left a vast opening for the Democrats.  We clearly need to do more than raise the minimum wage, but this is a very good and important start.  It says to those Americans struggling to get by that we know of your struggles and are working to make it better.  

- The Times has an important piece showing how much Iran is behing the recent military actions against Israel.   The Post previews the G-8, and the troubles following Bush there.  Most papers today have stories about the Russians waning committment to democracy at home. 

- USA Today has a front page piece on the efforts to mobilize Hispanics in response to the current immigration debate.  It features El Cucuy, a powerful California based DJ at the very center of the education and mobilization effort.  In our spring immigration radio campaign, NDN advertized extensively on Cucuy, and another vital DJ, El Piolin.  In a related story, the Post had a must read piece about the rise of Spanish-language radio, now the 3rd most listened to radio format in America.    

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