Tonight MoveOn attempts a rather remarkable thing - a virtual townhall meeting with the Democratic Presidential candidates. You can participate or learn more at www.moveon.org.
Additionally, the Boston Globe's Rick Klein has a must read piece on the meaning of the Democratic Presidential candidates huge 1st quarter fundraising advantage. It starts:
WASHINGTON -- Democrats appear to have erased the decades-long Republican edge in campaign fund-raising, building a network of well-off donors that rivals that of the GOP -- and that recently has generated more cash.
In dwarfing the sums raised by Republicans in the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates capitalized on growing support from upper-income professionals. While higher-earning households overwhelmingly favored Republicans as recently as the start of President Bush's first term, the gap has narrowed to 4 percentage points among voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000, according to the Pew Research Center's latest polls.
Democrats' recent fund-raising success challenges the traditional assumption of the Republican Party enjoying a reliable financial advantage -- and points to the outlines of a new Democratic coalition that could change the nation's political dynamics in 2008 and beyond, according to campaign finance specialists.
"It's a whole new world," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who was a top adviser to Vice President Al Gore, who was out spent by more than $65 million by Bush in the 2000 election. "To call it revolutionary is not a stretch. It is a game-changer."
The shift leaves Democrats confident that for the foreseeable future they will be able to compete dollar-for-dollar with Republicans, after decades of expecting to be outspent. By reaching a new crop of contributors -- largely through the Internet -- Democrats have tapped into a potentially powerful army of higher-income and better-educated voters who are increasingly aligning themselves with Democratic values, according to polls and demographic data.
As recently as 2002, 45 percent of voters with annual household incomes of more than $100,000 identified themselves as Republicans, while just 28 percent said they were Democrats, Pew polls found. But Pew's 2007 polling shows that gap closing to a 33-29 GOP advantage, with most former Republicans now calling themselves independents.
Just as working-class voters have been drawn to the GOP because of the party's emphasis on traditional values, many higher-income, higher-educated voters who once favored Republicans over tax policy have been moving toward the Democrats because of more liberal stands on social issues and a more internationalist perspective on foreign policy.
Those trends powered voting shifts toward Democrats in the suburbs in last year's congressional elections, where widespread dissatisfaction with the Iraq war and the Bush administration gave Democrats control of Congress for the first time in a dozen years.
"We're going through a period of transformational change," said Alan Solomont , a veteran Boston-based Democratic fund-raiser who is working on the presidential campaign of Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. "Business folks -- not ideologues, but entrepreneurs, new economy workers, venture capitalists -- are [looking at Republicans and] saying, 'This is not how I want my government represented around the world.' "
Throughout recent history, Republicans have been able to count on greater financial resources than Democrats, with an immense fund-raising operation that relied on big business and wealthy individual backers. Many observers predicted that the gap would grow wider in the wake of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform act, since Democrats had long relied on labor unions' unlimited "soft money" donations, which the 2002 law banned.
But Democrat John F. Kerry surpassed fund-raising expectations in his 2004 presidential campaign, bringing in $253.9 million, just $38 million less than President Bush, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democrats built on that trend in last year's mid-term congressional elections, with the party's House and Senate campaign committees pulling to within $7 million of their Republican counterparts.
In the first three months of this year, Democratic presidential candidates blew past Republicans, raising a total of $78 million compared to only $52 million for Republicans. Two Democrats -- Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton of New York -- surpassed $25 million apiece; the leading Republican fund-raiser -- former governor Mitt Romney -- hauled in $23 million.
"Clearly we've had more success with people who named themselves independents and moderate Republicans," said Hassan Nemazee , a New York-based fund-raiser for Clinton and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "We're able to pick into areas where we haven't been able to in the past."
On one level, the tremendous amount of cash flowing to Democrats is a measure of Democratic excitement about 2008. Energy translates into campaign dollars, particularly with online tools making political donations the equivalent of civic activism.
While much credit is given to the Democrats' extensive efforts to use the Internet to raise money, no fund-raising tool can be effective unless potential donors have the resources to give to a party or cause. There, Democrats are encountering a political landscape that is vastly different than it was just two years ago, when some conservatives boasted of building a permanent Republican majority in the United States...
I released the following statement to the media earlier today:
"Today’s announcement by Barack Obama that he has raised $25 million shows that Democrats are clearly ahead of Republicans in adapting to the new opportunities and realities of 21st century American politics.
It appears that the collective Democratic field has raised about 50 percent more than the collective Republican field. When the official FEC filings come out next week, there is little doubt that Democrats will far exceed Republicans in the number of people who have donated as well.
No matter how you measure it - money raised, sign-ups on social networking sites, people at events, downloads on YouTube and of course as the recent Pew poll showed, party identification - Democrats are structurally ahead of the Republicans in mastering the new politics of the 21st century.
The 100 dollar revolution that started in 2003 continues to radically change American politics. A combination of more states voting earlier in the primary process and an acceleration of the adoption of new tools that are making it easier for people to participate in politics will mean that by late February of 2008, tens of millions of Americans will have voted, donated, volunteered, blogged, signed up or taken some sort of action on behalf of a candidate.
There also should be little doubt that effectively managing and tapping into the new prominence of average people in our 21st century politics is going to be one of the most critical tests of our political leaders.
Another measure of how Democrats are better adapting to the new realities of the 21st century is the historic diversity of the Democratic Presidential field: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden look like the diverse America of the 21st century."
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday described bilingual education as teaching "the language of living in a ghetto," and he mocked requirements that ballots be printed in multiple languages.
"The government should quit mandating that various documents be printed in any one of 700 languages depending on who randomly shows up" to vote, Gingrich said. The former Georgia congressman, who is considering seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, made the comments in a speech to the National Federation of Republican Women.
"The American people believe English should be the official language of the government. . . . We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and they learn the language of prosperity, not the language of living in a ghetto," Gingrich said, drawing cheers from the crowd of more than 100...
The New York Times just posted a rather remarkable story - a wide ranging repudiation of Bush by his 2004 chief campaign strategist, Matthew Dowd.
This new must read story reinforces what we've been writing for the last several months - the country is in the midst of a powerful and sustained repudiation of Bush, his government, his Party and his politics.
The early graphs:
In 1999, Matthew Dowd became a symbol of George W. Bush’s early success at positioning himself as a Republican with Democratic appeal.
A top strategist for the Texas Democrats who was disappointed by the Bill Clinton years, Mr. Dowd was impressed by the pledge of Mr. Bush, then governor of Texas, to bring a spirit of cooperation to Washington. He switched parties, joined Mr. Bush’s political brain trust and dedicated the next six years to getting him to the Oval Office and keeping him there. In 2004, he was appointed the president’s chief campaign strategist.
Looking back, Mr. Dowd now says his faith in Mr. Bush was misplaced.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' allies on Capitol Hill grew scarce Tuesday as he left it largely to aides to carry out President Bush's order to straighten out the story behind the firing of eight federal prosecutors.
Senate Republicans exiting their weekly policy lunch no longer bothered to defend Gonzales' response to lawmakers' questions about the firings. At most, they mustered an appeal to withhold judgment until the attorney general testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee April 17.
That was Sen. Arlen Specter's message during the closed-door meeting, according to three senators who were present.
''Senator Specter today said to give (Gonzales) a fair chance,'' said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a staunch White House ally who lunched with Gonzales last week. ''I think people are trying to do that. But there are some inconsistent stories (Gonzales) is going to have to explain.''
Among them: Why Gonzales said at a March 13 news conference that he ''never saw documents'' and ''never had a discussion'' about the firings. His schedule for last Nov. 27 showed he participated in an hourlong meeting and approved a detailed plan on the dismissals 10 days before they were carried out.
Gonzales has maintained he was not closely involved in the firings, and did not help select which prosecutors would be told to resign. He added during a trip to the Midwest on Tuesday that he directed DOJ's release of 3,000 documents on Friday relating to the firings, and requested two internal investigations of the matter.
''I look forward to working with Congress. I believe in truth and accountability,'' he said. ''Everything I've done in connection with this matter supports that principle.''
Still, defending Gonzales became more difficult with Monday's refusal by his counsel, Monica Goodling, to testify before the Judiciary Committee with other Justice officials involved in the firings, as the attorney general had promised. She said statements by Democrats indicate they have already concluded wrongdoing on the part of Justice officials, including her.
''I can understand the sense of a potential witness not wanting to be ensnared in that kind of a proceeding where conclusions have already been reached,'' Specter, R-Pa., said Tuesday on the Senate floor.
Goodling's announcement, some senior Republicans felt, strengthened the Democrats' charge that the Justice Department had something to hide.
All of which added up to scandal fatigue inside the caucus, the senators said.
Specter's appeal to the caucus received ''a lot of head shaking, a lot of eye-rolling,'' said one senator who attended and spoke on condition of anonymity because the session was private.
Asked Tuesday if Gonzales had lost their confidence, many Senate Republicans demurred. Sen. John McCain's response was typical.
''He has my confidence that I think he ought to make his case,'' said the Arizona Republican, who also is running for president.....
29%. That is the percentage of Americans who approve of the President’s performance today. To me it is an accurate appraisal, as it has been a disappointing time for our nation. Despite a sustained economic recovery wages haven’t risen and jobs haven’t been created at historic norms. Iraq has gone terribly wrong, costing American lives, respect and so much money. Katrina showed terrifying incompetence, reminding us with Bush we are not safer. So little has worked as advertised in this age of Bush, and critical challenges like the funding of the retirement of baby boom, really improving our schools, fixing our broken immigration system, offering all Americans access to health insurance, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy and global climate change have gone unmet.
But there is another dimension to this disappointing age of Bush that needs a thorough discussion – its morality. Has there ever been an American governing party which showed so little regard for the rule of law? Have there ever been so many criminal investigations into a governing party in American history?
Consider the record.
Duke Cunningham receives the longest jail sentence of any sitting Congressman in American history.
House Majority Leader DeLay, one of the criminal masterminds of this era is indicted, for among other things, corrupting the redistricting process in his home state Texas.
#3 at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, indicted.
Former House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis, the architect of the corruption of the earmarking process, has racked up over $1 million in legal bills and seems to be the next to go.
A business rival of Jack Abramoffi is denounced on on the floor of the House by now convicted Congressman Bob Ney and is then soon murdered by a known South Florida mafia hitman.
Two senior White House staffers – Libby and Safavian – are indicted, brought to trial and convicted.
A senior official at Interior pleads guilty and is on his way to jail.
The Republican leadership covered up, for years, the awful sexual recklessness of Mark Foley, and then put him in charge of the Committee for Missing and Exploited Children.
A male prostitute, with a public web site hawking his services, somehow gains a White House press pass, and regularly asks questions at the daily White House press briefing for what is in essence a fictitious conservative organization.
The Administration and Republican Party’s condoning of torture, establishment of secret prisons, regular practice of “rendition,” their repeal of habeas corpus for non-citizens and the overall undermining of the Geneva Conventions.
The hanging out to dry of those kids in the Iraqi torture photos, calling them a few bad apples, when we now know that extreme torture policies had been signed off on by Rumsfeld himself. The warentless spying on our citizens.
The extraordinary and perhaps illegal overstepping of even the generous provisions of the Patriot Act for National Security Letters.
Putting our kids into battle without proper equipment or training.
The incredible politicization of the US Attorney system, starting in 2002 with Rove’s removal of the US Attorney in Guam for pursuing a guy named Jack Abramoff. Attorney General Gonzales' public, and now exposed, lie about his role in it all.
Jack Abramoff and his corrupt use of non-profits, his ripping off of Indian tribes, his serial bribing of public officials and his countless visits to the White House.
The scandal of Walter Reed and other Veteran’s homes, and of the Administration’s repeated attempts to cut veteran’s benefits while sending our kids to fight in his ill-conceived war.
The savaging of two war heroes, John Kerry and Max Cleland, by a President who skipped his National Guard Service and a Vice President who deferred his way out of Vietnam.
The lying to the world about the cause of war.
The corruption and patronage of the Iraqi contracting process.
The buying off of journalists and commentators from Miami to Washington.
Their argument in the 2000 Florida recount that conducting a legally sanctioned recount of what was clearly a troubled election was illegal – an argument amazingly upheld by their allies on the Supreme Court.
An FEC audit finds the 2004 Bush campaign overspent their Federal allotment by $40 million, a whole lot of money in a race decided by a single state.
Their systemic efforts to deny legitimate voters their right to vote.
Their ignoring of the cries from New Orleans.
Their cutting the taxes of the wealthiest among us while blocking an increase in the minimum wage, currently at its lowest level of buying power in 50 years.
The demonization of Hispanic immigrants in the 2006 elections.
The over the top partisanship on just about every issue. The list goes on and on….
I am no historian, but we have to start asking - has there been anything like this in American history? This kind of whatever it takes politics – the abuse of power, the systemic corruption, the sense that the rules don’t apply to them, the trampling of our liberties, the constant and never ending lying? The conduct of our leaders in this period has extra-ordinary, corrupt and terrible. It has been a profound betrayal of the public trust placed in them by the American people.
We will probably now see a protracted battle over whether it is proper for Rove and the White House team to offer proper Congressional testimony on the firings of the 8 US Attorneys. While this is an important battle, and of course they should all testify, the real battle ahead for the leaders of both parties is to re-establish the morality and virtue of the American government itself. The modern conservatives running our nation these past few years have betrayed our noble heritage, betrayed their historic commitment to limited government, and certainly betrayed the “for the people” sentiment of their Party’s visionary first President. We have lost, temporarily, something that has made America different, and better, than the rest of the world. Together, we need to bring it back, and re-establish here at home what we have worked so hard to export to the rest of the world – liberty, open markets, the rule of law, and of course, democracy.
But bringing back the moral mission of America in the years ahead, doesn’t mean looking the other way and pretending these terrible years never happened. Leaders of both parties need to hold Bush and his allies accountable for the way they’ve run our government. We have to take steps to understand what happened, undo things that can be undone, have a public discussion about our democratic heritage and the rule of law, and then, where appropriate, be forceful in holding those who broke American law accountable. If Republicans are unwilling to do this, Democrats should do it themselves, all under the banner of “renewing our democracy,” and look to broaden the initiative to include things like the webcasting of all Congressional hearings, same day voter registration and other efforts to make it much easier for people to register and vote (like the funding of vote by mail experiments), much stiffer criminal penalties for those acting to deny any voter the legitimate right to vote and better disclosure for all 501 c (3)s, 501 c (4)s and 501 c (6)s organizations which collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars influencing the public debate but have very light reporting requirements.
Another important step in this effort to “renew our democracy” should be a bi-partisan effort to significantly increase the budget of Department of Justice’s Office of Public Integrity for the next ten years, and work to wall off those there from outside political interference. Because of the deep and broad public corruption of this era, this office, which been the lead anti-corruption prosecutor in recent years, has more work and possible cases to try than it can handle. It needs more resources to make sure than any significant corruption during this era is pursued, either through investigation or trial. As it is non-partisan and staffed by career prosecutors, it will be seen as fair and just. Failure to give this Office more money is a tacit acceptance that those who broke the law in this era will go unpunished, something that no leader of either party can accept.
The behavior of these modern conservatives running our country these last few years has been disgraceful. It is critical that our emerging leaders punish those who broke the law, stop other potential betrayals of the public trust, and start a process that will renew our democracy, giving the American people faith that their leaders once again have their best interests at heart.
Was it all political? Were Rove and co trying to put political operatives into these 8 positions to help their 2008 electoral chances? It certainly seems from all the stories that this was all about politics, and about better using these powerful offices as they did in New Jersey in 2006, to go after the Democrats and weaken their position in the 2008 elections.
So assuming this was all political, and not based on performance, lets take a look at what could be driving these picks.
The 4 in the Southwest - The immigration debate has significantly weakened the Republican brand with Hispanics, making the greatest new threat to their 2008 chances the four heavily Hispanic states in the Southwest, AZ, CO, NM and NV. If you take the Gore/Kerry states and add these four, all of which have been won by Democrats in recent years, Democrats win the Presidency. Looking to 2008 Republicans will have to defend there weakened position in these 4 states with everything they have - and amazingly, 4 of the 8 fired US Attorneys came from these critical battleground states. We also know of the remarkable efforts by Senators Dominici and Rep. Wilson in NM to use the post for shortterm partisan gain in 2006.
Carol Lam - A year ago the greatest threat to the Republican Majority were not the Democrats, but career prosecutors in DoJ's Office of Public Integrity and US Attorneys who were taking down errant GOPers for their historic and rampant corruption and betrayal of the public trust. No prosecutor had done more to damage the Republicans than the San Diego US Attorney, Carol Lam, who secured the longest jail sentence for a sitting US Congressman in history, was moving against the #3 in the CIA and reportedly was also looking at what may end up being the greatest of all the corruption scandals, Cong. Jerry Lewis's handling of the earmark process (something he has already spent more than a $1m defending against). Lam was a huge threat to the GOP and needed to be removed. She was.
Arkansas - Perhaps the most brazen move. The White House actually tried to put a Rove political deputy in as US Attorney in the home state of the Clintons, and what could be a pivotal battleground in 2008.
San Francisco - Speaker Pelosi.
Washington - Punishment for not moving more aggressively on the 2006 Guberatorial recount. Sends a signal to the remaining 90 plus US Attorneys and career prosecutors in DC.
Michigan - Not sure. Perhaps a diversity pick. A core 2008 battleground nonetheless with Romney as possible GOP nominee.
Given the "rules don't apply to us" worldview of the Bush era, it is not a great leap to believe that the White House decided to use these slots to stack the deck for 2008, remove their greatest prosecutorial threat, and punish folks who had not played ball in using these offices for partisan means. Given how highly political all this was, and that Rove had already in 2002 helped remove a US Attorney in Guam who was going after Jack Abramoff, it is not believable that Rove, the political boss of this era, was not directly involved, if not supervising the whole campaign.
No wonder Bush doesnt want his team to testify under oath.
The new issue of Foreign Affairs has an excellent piece on the future of of our policy in Iraq. Written by James Fearon, a Stanford professor, the article takes a look at the history of Civil Wars since WWII, and asseses the likelihood of the success of our current policy. He is not optimistic.
Suppose that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad continues and Sunni insurgent groups and Shiite militias continue to fight one another, U.S. troops, and civilians. If the Bush administration sticks to its "stay the course toward victory" approach, of which the surge option is the latest incarnation, it will become increasingly apparent that this policy amounts to siding with the Shiites in an extremely vicious Sunni-Shiite war. U.S. troops may play some positive role in preventing human rights abuses by Iraqi army units and slowing down violence and ethnic cleansing. But as long as the United States remains committed to trying to make this Iraqi government "succeed" on the terms President Bush has laid out, there is no escaping the fact that the central function of U.S. troops will be to backstop Maliki's government or its successor. That security gives Maliki and his coalition the ability to tacitly pursue (or acquiesce in) a dirty war against actual and imagined Sunni antagonists while publicly supporting "national reconciliation."
This policy is hard to defend on the grounds of either morality or national interest. Even if Shiite thugs and their facilitators in the government could succeed in ridding Baghdad of Sunnis, it is highly unlikely that they would be able to suppress the insurgency in the Sunni-majority provinces in western Iraq or to prevent attacks in Baghdad and other places where Shiites live. In other words, the current U.S. policy probably will not lead to a decisive military victory anytime soon, if ever. And even if it did, would Washington want it to? The rise of a brutal, ethnically exclusivist, Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad would further the perception of Iran as the ascendant regional power. Moreover, U.S. backing for such a government would give Iraqi Sunnis and the Sunni-dominated countries in the Middle East no reason not to support al Qaeda as an ally in Iraq. By spurring these states to support Sunni forces fighting the Shiite government, such backing would ultimately pit the United States against those states in a proxy war.
To avail itself of more attractive policy options, the Bush administration (or its successor) must break off its unconditional military support for the Shiite-dominated government that it helped bring to power in Baghdad. Washington's commitment to Maliki's government undermines U.S. diplomatic and military leverage with almost every relevant party in the country and the region. Starting to move away from this commitment by shifting combat troops out of the central theaters could, accordingly, increase U.S. leverage with almost all parties. The current Shiite political leadership would then have incentives to try to gain back U.S. military support by, for example, making more genuine efforts to incorporate Sunnis into the government or reining in Shiite militias. (Admittedly, whether it has the capacity to do either is unclear.) As U.S. troops departed, Sunni insurgent groups would begin to see the United States less as a committed ally of the "Persians" and more as a potential source of financial or even military backing. Washington would also have more leverage with Iran and Syria, because the U.S. military would not be completely bogged down in Baghdad and Anbar Province -- and because both of those countries have a direct interest in avoiding increased chaos in Iraq..
As I've been writing for months, I think it is now clear that the Administration did not understand the fundamentally new regional dynamic creating the first Shiite-led Arab government in history would create. In hindsight there was almost no chance we could have ended up in Iraq in any other place than where we are today. The frustration of 1300 years of Shiite oppression by the region's Sunnis was never going to lend itself to a quick and stable outcome. Or for Iran, the region's most powerful Shiite regime, to do anything than work to consolidate their position with their extraordinary new ally, run, with America's help, by political parties closely aligned with the their own government.
What this means is that we have very little to celebrate on this 4th Anniversary of the Iraq War, and must marvel at the incredible stupidity of the man who got us into this mess without a plan, and had the audicity to declare in front of the world "Mission Accomplished."
The Times takes an indepth look at one of the "new tools." For more on our take on the new tools for politics and how to best use them visit our New Politics Institute website and come back regularly to this blog. There is little doubt that we are seeing a vastly different way to campaign, advocate and run our politics this year, and the change, if anything, seems to be increasing in velocity.
A new editorial from the Times echoes an argument NDN has been making for two years: that the Administration needs to take more aggressive steps to help all Americans benefit from the opportunities of globalization:
In a speech just before his recent Asia trip, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson Jr. cited a poll showing that only a third of Americans view free trade as an economic plus, while nearly half say it is bad for jobs and wages. Unless Mr. Paulson and the administration do a lot more to counter that public anxiety — and growing opposition on Capitol Hill — President Bush stands to lose his fast-track authority to negotiate trade deals, which will be up for renewal soon, and will find it increasingly hard to block protectionist laws.
So far Mr. Paulson has tried to explain away Americans’ fears by stressing that technology, not trade, is most to blame for lost jobs. But the opposition is not only about lost jobs. It’s also about the downward pressure on wages and the concentration of income at the top that have gone hand in hand with globalization. And it’s about the erosion of the social safety net — from inadequate unemployment compensation to subpar public schools — which makes many Americans view economic transitions like globalization as risks not worth taking.
As the nation’s top economic official, Mr. Paulson should be the person to push for policies to strengthen the political foundation for free trade. That would start with a significant upgrading of the Labor Department’s Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which helps workers who lose jobs because of trade. Congress expanded the program in 2002 in exchange for granting Mr. Bush fast-track negotiating authority on trade deals. But the administration has made little effort to publicize the program, and many eligible workers do not even know it exists.
Also long overdue is a plan to guarantee all Americans health care. Education is also important, although Mr. Paulson is overstating the case when he describes it as a silver bullet for making Americans more competitive. Unfortunately, the administration has let the funds decline for proven programs like Head Start and has even failed to secure full financing for its No Child Left Behind initiative.
In the wake of Mr. Paulson’s trip to China, Beijing made another comment about liberalizing its currency exchange rate, a move that would help make American exports more competitive. But the greatest threats to free trade are Americans’ fears about globalization and their doubts that the government will do anything to help them. It’s time for Mr. Paulson to use his powers of persuasion — starting with Mr. Bush — to solve the domestic side of the trade problem.