Yesterday Speaker Hastert made it official. The House Republicans have chosen to walk away from a deep and broad bi-partisan coalition - including President Bush, John McCain, Mel Martinez, a majority of the US Senate, the RNC, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, labor unions, immigrant groups - who were poised to make great progress on immigration reform this year.
Rather than working with this impressive bi-partisan coalition the House Republicans have chosen to pursue a set of policies that, while appealing to some, will simply not be enough to solve the immigration problem.
The American people are looking for a new direction this year because the governing party has been so unsuccessful at tackling tough problems. Their foreign policy has failed to bring about promised results despite hundreds of billions spent, tens of thousands of casualties and plenty of time; their economic policy has resulted in out-of-control spending, huge deficits and a declining standard of living for most Americans; and now on immigration, when a sensible and comprehensive bill is offered, one that would go a long way to solving the challenge of immigration, they walk away.
The Republican Party no longer has the vision, courage, or the toughness to govern America at this time of tremendous challenge. Their failure to pass meaningful immigration reform this year - despite controlling all of Washington and with unqualified support from Democrats - is one of the most graphic demonstrations of their inability to do what it takes to make America a great nation in the 21st century.
Depsite my reservations I watched the first part of Path to 9/11 last night. As an ABC alumnus, I have been stunned to watch this whole extraordinary set of events unfold, something I wrote about last week. I kept thinking - okay, okay, they are just blowing this thing, it can't seem so thoroughly right-wing, and out of control.....
But in the run up I went from disbelief to believing this was a successful use of the public airwaves to promote a right-wing agenda. The first moment was when ABC released a statement mid-week saying that the show was not yet finished and therefore it would be "irresponsible" to offer a critique. And this was after review DVDs had been sent to the press. meaning that reviewers would be offering what was in ABC "irresponsible" reviews across the nation. It seemed more like a response one would get in politics than in the entertainment business.
The second moment was when ABC refused the President of the United States and any progressive commentators an advance copy of the show, even though right-wing bloggers and commentators had gotten copies at least a week in advance. Again, this was not about the content of the show itself, which we didn't have access to, it was about what was becoming a purposeful right-wing influenced media strategy. How could ABC turn down the President, and essentially give him the back of the hand? At one point, director Cunningham was quoted saying something like I have my CIA consultants and Clinton has his.
So I watched. And what I saw was amazing. It was a right-wing hit piece on Clinton and the Administration. Repeated, gratuitous slaps at the President. But above all, as others have noted, the core segment of the whole first part was the near capture of Osama in the summer of 1998, culminating in the moment when Sandy Berger doesn't give the go ahead to the operatives in the field. As we all know by know, of course, that scene never took place, and we never had operatives in the field that summer. The whole key segment of the first night, the one that places the blame right at Clinton and Berger simply never took place. It is scandalous.
I am still amazed by what I saw last night, and saddened by it all. How this thing got through ABC is a mystery. Controls are in place in the network to prevent things like this from happening. But as Iger digs out, he needs to come to grips with not just the production, but the marketing. His communications folks were in on it too.
For a depressing and remarkable piece about the background of the team who produced the movie, read Max Blumenthal's latest piece. It is now clear that thing film was in part the project of a Richard Scaife funded group, yes, the same man who has been bankrolling the conservative movement for years.
But how could that be? Bob Iger, by all accounts a good man, needs to come clean here.
At the end of the day that we should take a degree of solace in the film. The grim reality of their failed ideological movement, government and President has forced the conservatives to turn to fiction to get their message out.
For the past several years I've been discribing the modern conservative movement and their Republican leaders as an "Information Age Tammany Hall." It is a modern, and different, kind of political machine, but it is a classic political machine nonetheless.
A few days ago, another piece of the machine unraveled. In Miami, the political base of Jeb Bush, ten independent journalists and commentators were discovered to also be on the US government payroll, a seldom listened to TV and radio operation directed at sending American media to Cuba called TV Marti. Given Jeb's relationship to this community, it is impossible to believe that he was not personally involved in the decisions on whom to pay off.
As anyone who has worked in Miami knows, the Cuban media there is wildly Republican. It seldom criticizes the Bush family, Republican Cuban leaders or the Republican Party. In many ways it has been Rush Limbaugh and Fox News rolled into one. Now we know one of the reasons why - payola.
Our Miami-based Hispanic Strategy Center director Joe Garcia described the TV Marti payola scandal to the St Pete Times this way: "They have turned it into a banana republic radio station that is used for political patronage".
My hope is the media there keeps digging on this one. At some point it will all head right back to the two Bush brothers.
Tomorrow night the President speaks to the nation. He will be looking back at 9/11 and assessing our progress since that terrible day five years ago. It will be the political equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig.
There is little question the nation is in a much weaker position today. We have spent trillions on security, taken tens of thousand of casualties and lost a great deal of power and prestige around the world, all in a period greater than the time from Pearl Harbor to the end of WW II - and what do we have to show for it? A Middle East in much greater turmoil today; Osama Bin Laden still alive and active, and terrorist attacks around the world increasing; as Peter Bergen outlines today in the Post, the Taliban resurgent in Afghanistan; Latin America much more hostile to America and our government; our military dangerously degraded, as has the capacity for the UN and other international institutions to take collective action to solve global challenges; global trade talks have collapsed; high oil prices which fueling instability, as Iran, Russia and Venezuela have used their new riches to export anti-Americanism, and our government still has no serious plans to end our dependence on foreign energy sources; as Katrina showed here at home we are still not ready, and DHS continues to be mired in extraordinary bureaucratic and operational troubles;
and finally, as the Senate Intelligence Committee Report confirmed on Friday, our President and his team are epic liers, willing to spin the world into war, serially torture and lie about it - and in the process have seriously degraded America's capacity to lead and pursue our interests around the world.
The Governing Party's response to 9/11 has been a disaster for America and our interests. They have made an extraordinary effort, and it has left us much worse off today. Simply put what they tried after 9/11 failed.
So, on this difficult anniversary, tomorrow should not be just a day to remember the fallen, but a day to recommit ourselves to find a new American strategy that brings greater peace and prosperity to the world; firmly re-commits our government to the formula that worked so well for America for so long - advocacy of democracy, free markets, liberty and the rule of law; and above all, I hope a day to inspire us to not accept our nation's current path, but to commit to do what is in our power, each of us, to restore the promise of this great nation we love and the world so desperately needs.
The disclosure undercuts continuing assertions by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. The Republican-controlled committee, in a second report, also sharply criticized the administration for its reliance on the Iraqi National Congress during the prelude to the war in Iraq."
These stories and the report itself are well worth reading. And they are a shocking indictment of the carelessness and outright deceit of the Administration. It is very clear from this report that Bush and Cheney knowingly and repeatedly lied to the American people about the cause of the Iraq War. While this may not be news, this historic effort to mislead the American people and the world has now been documented and confirmed by the Congress - the Government - of the United States itself.
One new area that many will be looking into is how the Administration was duped by the Iraqi exiles, who exagerated and lied to help bring the US into Iraq. A small mention, but one certainly examining, is the claim that this group had been infiltrated by foreign intelligence services. Is the implication here that the Iranians helped dupe the US into attacking their worst enemy?
One of the main reasons Iran has become such a regional and even global threat today is the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the Sunni dominance of Iraq. Did the neo con cabal in the White House get taken for a ride - to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of casualties, the loss of our prestige around the world - by the Iranians? Clearly this is a question that must be answered as soon as possible.
All in all this report recounts a sad and terrible chapter in our history.
"The Bush administration’s proposal to bring leading terrorism suspects before military tribunals met stiff resistance Thursday from key Republicans and top military lawyers who said some provisions would not withstand legal scrutiny or do enough to repair the nation’s tarnished reputation internationally."
It happened so fast. On Wednesday the President launches an aggressive effort to recast the national security/foreign policy conversation. On Thursday, leaders of his own Party and the Pentagon repudiate his new approach. From a governing standpoint, we should be pleased with has happened. From a political standpoint, it shows how extraordinarily out of touch and removed the White House has become from the rest of Washington, and of course, the country. Their political endgame this fall will be ferocious, hard-fought, well-funded and coordinated. But it is hard to spin away, and advertize away, the hard reality of a failed foreign policy and an economic policy that has benefited only a tiny few. The speedy crash of this new initiative should worry Republicans that there is no easy way out of the current mess they've made out of our government.
One interesting thing to watch next week is that the House Republicans, the most terrified group in Washington today, are standing firm with the President's already dead on arrival package. Will we have immigration reform redux, where the House R's take a narrow and base-driven position at odds with good governing and the Senate R's, leaving no room from compromise? Or will the President in this case have to bring all parties together, including the Democrats, and work out a deal to get something passed before the fall?
I've been following the news about the upcoming ABC movie "Path to 9/11" closely. I am an ABC alumni, having worked at ABC News in the 1980s. I still know people who work there, and look back at that time as a lucky and wonderful period of my life.
From everything I've read it is clear ABC blew it on this one. I'm not sure how it happened, but the movie is sloppy and inaccurate; the way the network promoted it showed they understood the right would be happy and the Democrats unhappy; reports late last night indicate ABC's partner, Scholastic, the publisher of Harry Potter and other school materials, has pulled their "educational" materials about the film from their web site; and their refusal to allow government officials portrayed to even screen the movie in advance is bizarre and irresponsible, contributing to the sense that there is rightwing conspiracy behind the film.
Given what has happened, and how important the subject matter is, the film should be pulled. Instead turn the time over to ABC News to host live roundtable discussions with representatives of all involved to talk about 9/11, Iraq, and the future of American foreign policy. Given all the controversy, the viewership of these programs would be huge, the public service extraordinary.
The problem for ABC is that they using public airwaves to promote a private, or partisan, agenda. If this was HBO, or even a commercial movie, this would not be as much of an issue. But these are our airwaves not theirs; and they have to be held to a higher standard.
Kudos to Media Matters, Think Progress, Working Assests, MyDD, NPI fellow Jennifer Nix and the many others who have led this very new style campaign against this unfortunate film.
In his Monday column this week Robert Novak hits the GOP hard for failing to pass a meaningful immigration bill:
"Immigration is the most melancholy element of a depressing Republican year. The Iraq intervention and its aftermath have hurt, and Republican inattention to runaway government spending has been deplorable. But immigration is the issue most likely to cause rank-and-file Republican voters to stay home on Election Day, and it may cost the party its congressional majorities."
As I wrote this morning, the failure of the immigration bill is a potent symbol of the failure of these modern Republicans to tackle the important challenges of our time. From the right to the left all wanted to do something this year. A good and sensible bi-partisan bill was offered. The President supported it. As did all 44 Democrats in the Senate, and most Democrats in the House. A little bit of work - that thing called governing - could have brought everyone together to solve a vexing national challenge. But they couldn't do it. They couldn't find common ground in their own party.
In the process the Republicans have angered both their own base, and the many immigrants who believed this President and his Party that would be different.
So, in the great modern Republican tradition, when that governing thing doesn't work, what does one do? Politics. Blame others. Use TV ads to demonize your opponent. Attack them for being with "the other."
Using immigration as a blunt weapon against an opponent is being tried right now in Rhode Island. The National Republican Party, through its Senate arm, has been running an ad on behalf of Lincoln Chafee accusing his opponent Steve Laffey of accepting a Mexican ID in his town where he has been mayor. The ad then says that the FBI has said that these IDs could be used by terrorists to get other IDs.
What's remarkable about this ad full of brown faces and terrorists is that using this ID is common practice across the United States, and is sanctioned by the Treasury Department. It is not all that unreasonable, as it is a government issued ID by our largest neighbor, and a friendly one to boot.
Mexicans. IDs. FBI. Terrorists. I see.
So Bush promotes sensible immigration reform. His Party balks. His Party runs ads equating immigrants to terrorists in a Republican primary. He stays silent.
Imagine what they gonna use against Democrats, who actually tried to work with him to pass the good McCain-Kennedy Bill. Gonna be a difficult and troubling fall.
Several pieces over the weekend preview the fall Republican strategy - argue that electing Democrats will weaken the war on terror, making us less safe. To do that, the Times reports today, they will have to give up a passing the pending immigration bill. Not a big suprize, given that the House Rs believe attacking Democrats for being soft on immigration - meaning that they support the bill passed by the Senate and supported by President Bush - will be one of their key issues this fall.
To me the collapse of the immigration bill is a clear and potent sign of why the Rs are in trouble this fall. An unprecendented bi-partisan bill is created, bringing together labor, business, immigration groups and folks like NDN. It is supported by Bush. It passes the Senate. The President gives his only prime time speech this year promoting it. It is a good bill, going a long way to solving the vexing immigration problem. But of course these guys, who have shown themselves to be so good at politics and so bad at governing, can't pass it. And so today we learn that is won't pass. No big suprize here.
But what comes next is millions of dollars of ads saying that Democrats weakness on border issues is creating more terrorists. We saw it in an NRSC ad for Lincoln Chafee against a fellow Republican two weeks ago. So it is coming. But Democrats have nothing to fear. We have a plan - the Senate bill, supported by McCain and Bush - that solves the immigration problem. They have "seal the border." Ours is a plan that will work, there's is a press conference. We can win this battle this fall, with the American people, on tv ads.
But this security first and only strategy leaves exposed what is a major Republican weakness this fall - the economy. The Post has a very good story on this today, and a new CNN poll released last night shows now that the economy is the number one issue of voters today. From the Post piece:
"At first glance, the economy's role in this year's midterm elections is a puzzle. Economic growth and unemployment are at levels that in past years would have been a clear political asset for the party in power.
But one layer down in the statistics, the answer is more clear. Flat wages and rising debt nationally have converged to leave millions of middle-class households feeling acutely vulnerable to bumps in their financial planning. The most visible of these are rising energy prices and a softening housing market.
A less obvious but powerful variable is the interest paid by people carrying credit card debt or mortgages whose monthly payments vary with interest rates. People buffeted by these trends have given rise to a new and volatile voting block.
"People like this are making a large ripple across the body politic," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. When added to the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, he said, worry about this economic crunch "is creating a political environment that is not that friendly to the party in power."
Every election cycle has its own important set of undecided, or swing, voters. In 2000, it was the "soccer moms," targeted by both parties with appeals based on education and quality-of-life concerns. In 2004, it was the security moms, normally Democratic-trending women whose concerns about terrorism helped give Bush his margin of victory.
This year could mark the emergence of what might be called mortgage moms -- voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze. Democrats are betting that this factor is strong enough to trump security or cultural values issues."
The rise of the economy as an issue should come as no suprize to NDNers. Our globalization project has been banging on this theme for 18 months. And we've been working hard, for over a year, to pass meaningful immigration reform. No matter how salient the security issues are this fall, for a governing party to ignore the current economic plight of average Americans, and let a good and sensible immigration reform bill collapse, says more about why they may lose power than the epic failure of their foreign policy.
Defeating "Islamic Fascism." This week defeating Islamic Fascists became the primary goal of our foreign policy. But can this can be our primary goal? What can history, for example, tell us?
Let's look at the lesson of World War II. In that era our national strategy was to foster democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets around the world. We defeated the fascists of that era, who were a virulent threat to our vision, through war; and built lasting democracies and peace through institutions like the United Nations, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank and the far-sighted investments of the Marshall Plan. Defeating the fascists of that time was a tactic, a way of getting to the end goal - global peace and prosperity, and flourishing democracies that cherished liberty, the rule of law and open markets.
Bush and co seem to have no similar strategy. They seem only concerned to with defeating those who disagree with us through war; they have no serious strategy for achieving lasting peace and prosperity, or deploying the formula that worked so well after WWII - democracy, the rule of law, liberty and free markets.
If we are to learn the lessons of history - as this Administration suggests - then we must get much more serious about promoting - in word and deed - our commitment to the formula that worked so well before. But this means that in bringing peace and prosperity to the Middle East hat there can be no sacrifice of our commitment to liberty through warrantless spying; no sacrifice of our commitment to Geneva conventions; no sacrifice of our commitment to the rule of law by allowing political parties with funded militias to participate in democratic elections; or no "nation building" in Iraq without a serious plan or a serious political commitment to bring it about.
The Bush Administration has confused means with ends. The end goal of foreign policy should be to foster a peaceful and prosperous world. Defeating "Islamic Fascism" is certainly one of the main tactics we should use to achieve our goals, but it cannot be an end in itself. To me that is the greatest lesson of World War II. As we re-learning in Iraq today.