Monthly Archives: June 2006


Looks like the Greensboro News-Record reported who thought she spoke for all Greensboro when she told Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, “We love you” didn’t speak for, well, her editor, for one.

Nancy’s closing comment to Rice — “We love you here in Greensboro” –was inappropriate, to say the least, and she shouldn’t have said it. She knows it, too. She told me that her mouth outran her brain and that she intended to convey respect for Rice’s accomplishments. Didn’t come out that way. And while it wasn’t meant as a political endorsement, I can see how it will be read that way. To avoid any perception of preferential treatment, Nancy won’t be covering stories about Rice or the State Department.

Taking on Hollywood

Will Marshall argues that instead of bashing conservatives, Democrats should “Raid the Red Zone,” which is the title of his article in the premiere issue of The Democratic Strategist. With the GOP collapsing due to its own ineptitude, now is the time.

How to seize the opportunity? There are basically two choices. One, favored by many liberals and lefty bloggers, sees partisan belligerence as the key to mobilizing a Democratic majority. The idea is that by intensifying attacks on our opponents, we can galvanize the party faithful while also projecting the strength of conviction that swing voters have supposedly found lacking among Democrats.

But this approach is based more on wishful thinking than rigorous electoral analysis. The party’s core problem is not a pandemic of cowardice among its leaders, it is that there are not enough Democratic voters. Since the late 1990s, Democrats have been stuck at about 48 percent of the vote in national elections. Moreover, polarizing the electorate along ideological lines plays into Karl Rove’s hands because conservatives outnumber liberals three to two. Democrats need to win moderates by large margins, but moderates by definition resist strident partisanship and ideological litmus tests. The politics of polarization repels them.

To successfully raid the political red zone – the South, Mountain West, Great Plains and lower Midwest – Democrats instead need a politics of persuasion. It starts by acknowledging that moderates and independents have substantive reasons for swinging Republican in recent elections, including persistent doubts about Democrats on security, taxes and the role of government, as well as moral questions.

We start by addressing the moral issue head on. We need to acknowledge that there are moral problems. Many corporations are corrupt. Half of all marriages end in divorce. Millions of children live with only one parent. These are moral issues. And our media and public discourse is, well, course.

…[C]consider the proliferating number of alternative platforms for foul language and coarse content: video games played on Xboxes and GameCubes and PlayStations; music downloaded to iPods and other MP3 players; and — most vexing of all — the array of opportunities for mischief on the Internet, from click-to-view pornography to chat rooms to social-networking sites.

All of which adds up to a need for a national discussion about solutions — what part legislative or regulatory, what part old-fashioned parenting combined with 21st-century techno-savvy?

I’ve maintained for some time that Democrats need to take on Hollywood. Anyone has the right to produce misogynist music, salacious sitcoms and morally relativistic reality shows. And the industries that make money off them have a right to do so. But that doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t excuse Democrats from bowing at Hollywood’s altar with their hands out.

Marshall cites the work of Barbara Whitehead, the Co-Director of the National Marriage Project.

Parents have a beef with the popular culture. As they see it, the culture is getting ever more violent, materialistic, and misogynistic, and they are losing their ability to protect their kids from morally corrosive images and messages. To be credible, Democrats must acknowledge the legitimacy of parents’ beef and make it unmistakably clear that they are on parents’ side.

Marshall continues.

Whitehead advises Democrats to begin simply by honoring the vital work parents do in teaching their kids right from wrong. We should also equip parents with better tools to shield their kids from the onslaught of the consumer culture and aggressive corporate marketing campaigns. And there is no good reason for progressives to exempt the entertainment industry from the same kind of accountability we demand from corporations in general (emphasis added).

V-Chips and web blocking software only go so far. Clamp down hard enough on your kids at home and guess what? They hang out at their friends’ homes. You can’t shield kids from media’s blasts. But you can demand accountability and boycott the business that advertise alongside questionable programming.

Democratic Ideas

There is also a belief shared at least by some of the participants [of the NDN Annual Conference] that Democrats have ridden for too long on what are the fumes of the New Deal and the Great Society, which sustained Democrats for half a century.

Amen. Dan Balz writes about two new Democratic publications — The Democratic Strategist I cited in yesterday’s post and The Democracy Journal, which appears at first blush to focus more on policy than political strategy.

Those in the middle of these [two publication launches] share a similar conviction, which is that for too long Republicans have been winning the battle of ideas (and often campaign strategy) in American politics, in part because conservatives invested in what is now a well-funded infrastructure of organizations that have produced ideas, thinkers, publications, strategists, and politicians who now control the White House, Congress and increasingly the federal judiciary.

…[Democracy Journal Co-Editor Kenneth] Baer offered a sharper critique of the politicians, criticizing as poll-driven and uninspired the 2006 campaign agenda issued by congressional Democrats. “You could go through it line by line and write the poll questions that generated each line,” he said.

One concern I have about The Democratic Strategist is found on its “Write for Us” page.

The first three types of “categories of material will particularly be sought:”
· New opinion polls and analyses
· Strategy papers based on opinion data
· Surveys and reviews of the available data and current strategic debates in specific topic areas

Are all of our ideas to be driven by polls?

Mapchanger Strategy

The Democratic Strategist, a new magazine about just what its title implies, made its debut this week. I’ve read about half the articles, and while I agree with only some of the ideas, it encouraged me to see this kind of “idea” publication launched.

The first article should interest the attendees of the recent Va. bloggers convention. Jerome Armstrong, co-author of Crashing the Gate, was the speaker Saturday evening at the conference. He was not awe inspiring. He seemed out of sync, a little disorganized and somewhat inarticulate. I then listened to his interview on WINA-AM in Charlottesville and then read his article in the Strategist. He acquits himself quite well.

In his article, he endorses what is essentially the “Howard Dean strategy,” building organizations nationwide to compete in all 50 states. Armstrong calls it the “mapchanger strategy,” and he cites fellow blogger Chris Bowers from MyDD for succinctly laying out the rationale.

Abandoning a district also has repercussions for future elections. Failing to challenge your opponent’s message in an area is damaging to your message in that area in the future. Failing to provide a choice to those willing to support you–and there are always tens of thousands willing to support you in any congressional district–sends a message that you do not represent or care about those people. Even worse, failing to challenge an incumbent sends a message that you are afraid of your own beliefs and that you are not working to make this country a better Democracy.

Running a candidate in each of these districts would also have helped to identify Democratic activists in each of these districts. Identifying, encouraging, and assisting potential Dem activists throughout the entire country would help to strengthen the Party, both now and in future elections cycles. These are the people who can help to bring the Democratic message to every corner of the country.

I made the same argument to some Virginia Democratic leaders a couple of months ago. We need to compete in all state House and Senate districts. Such a strategy requires more than field organization, however. Armstrong, to his credit, recognizes that and the other challenges facing Democrats.

Yes, the Democratic Party has a problem with branding. Yet if we can rebuild the party across the country, at this very local level, the message and branding problems will be much easier to address. They are certainly not going to be solved within DC. In fact, in many ways, the debate over strategy and tactics versus ideas and principles is a false one. The election strategies that a party puts into practice reflect its values. A national party cannot, through a slogan, say they are putting people first, and then in the next election blow off half the people of the nation.

The same applies in the Commonwealth. I think Armstrong may be too complacent about message and branding problems, however. They won’t solve themselves simply by building a strong field presence.

I won’t argue what’s most important. Organization, good candidates, money, authenticity, principles, communications — they’re all part of the necessary mix.

George Lakoff, at a panel at the YearlyKos conference (link is currently down), argues that talking about values and principles is key. He points to the Reagan campaigns. You believed him; he spoke convincingly.

While I believe that Democrats needn’t reinvent government to regain a majority in either Congress or the Virginia General Assembly, their values and principles must be substantive and clearly articulated. And substance, whether it be a principle, value or policy, must be constructed over time. We can’t wait until the 2007 election season to make the case.

I’ve argued that Virginia Democrats should have begun immediately after the regular session in March with the groundwork necessary to ensure recapturing the Senate in ’07 and the House by ’09. Even then, the time frame is short for November ’07. It takes time and scores of speeches, op-eds, letters to the editor, town hall meetings, editorial board meetings, interviews with bloggers, etc., to get the word to voters that Virginia Democrats have a better way. Right now, the strategy seems to be step aside and let the Republican fratricide do the work for us. You can never abdicate your responsibility to the other guy perpetuating mistakes. As Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny point out in another Strategist article, Republicans did not gain power via direct mail and robo calls.

They were arrived at through years of vigorous debate and discussion by people who passionately held some core beliefs – and debated them with each other and the politicians seeking their support. They were unafraid to think big and unafraid to anger those who disagreed with them – including many voters.

I wouldn’t recommend angering voters. To the contrary, one way to win moderate Republicans and independents is to acknowledge some of their concerns re moral issues and taxes.

If you want to convert Republican voters, you need to get them comfortable with your views, values and ideas. That is a much easier process when it is done gradually over time, letting the ideas percolate, and gaining feedback to learn how best to frame them for the election season.

Will Marshall’s Strategist article offers some compelling thoughts. More about them later.

By the way, if you’re looking for thought provocation, check out the agenda for the annual meeting of the New Democratic Network (NDN). It’s this Thursday and Friday in Washington. Speaking will be Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Tom Vilsack, Mark Warner, Ruy Teixeira, Joe Trippi, Markos Moulitsas and others. Should be fun and a great bonding experience for me: One of my daughters is going with me.

Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain…

…who is doing nothing, but being hypocritical.

“The claims of this administration and its commitment to interior enforcement of immigration laws are laughable,” said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group that favors tougher workplace enforcement, among other measures. “The administration only discovered immigration enforcement over the past few months, five years into its existence, and only then because they realized that a pro-enforcement pose was necessary to get their amnesty plan approved.”

…Major work-site crackdowns have run into trouble in the past. A spring 1998 sweep that targeted the Vidalia onion harvest in Georgia, and Operation Vanguard, a 1999 clampdown on meatpacking plants in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, provide case studies of how the government fared when confronted by a coalition that included low-wage immigrant workers and the industries that hire them, analysts said.

The Georgia raids netted 4,034 illegal immigrants, prompting other unauthorized workers to stay home. As the $90 million onion crop sat in the field, farmers “started screaming to their local representatives,” said Bart Szafnicki, INS assistant district director for investigations in Atlanta from 1991 to 2001.

Georgia’s two senators and three of its House members, led by then-Sen. Paul Coverdell (R) and Rep. Jack Kingston (R), complained in a letter to Washington that the INS did not understand the needs of America’s farmers. The raids stopped.

For Operation Vanguard, the INS used a more sophisticated tactic. It subpoenaed personnel records from Midwestern meatpacking plants and checked them against INS and Social Security databases of authorized workers, then interviewed suspect employees. Of 24,148 employees checked, 4,495, or 19 percent, had dubious documents at about 40 plants in Nebraska, western Iowa and South Dakota. Of those workers, 70 percent disappeared rather than be interviewed. Of 1,042 questioned, 34 were arrested and deported.

Nebraska’s members of Congress at first called for tougher enforcement, recalled Mark Reed, then INS director of operations. But when the result shut down some plants, “all hell broke loose,” he said.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns (R), who was governor at the time, appointed a task force to oppose the operation. Former governor Ben Nelson (D), now a U.S. senator, was hired as a lobbyist by meatpackers and ranchers. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) pressured the Justice Department to stop.

Members of Congress at first hostile to immigrants embraced “all the same people who were so repugnant to them before,” Reed said, “and they prevailed.” Operation Vanguard — which was designed to expand to four states in four months and nationwide the next year, eventually including the lodging, food and construction industries — was killed.

Note that Rep. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Sen. Ben Nelson (DINO-Neb.) voted in the opposite way their previous behavior would suggest. Kingston voted for the tough “no amnesty” House bill on immigration and Nelson voted against the Senate bill that provides a “path to citizenship” or, like it or not progressives, amnesty.

But the real snake in the grass is again (envelope, please) George W. Bush. As it turns out, Bill Clinton was doing a much better job holding companies accountable for hiring illegal immigrants, while Bush was giving them a free pass.

Between 1999 and 2003, work-site enforcement operations were scaled back 95 percent by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which subsequently was merged into the Homeland Security Department. The number of employers prosecuted for unlawfully employing immigrants dropped from 182 in 1999 to four in 2003, and fines collected declined from $3.6 million to $212,000, according to federal statistics.

In 1999, the United States initiated fines against 417 companies. In 2004, it issued fine notices to three.

The charge against Democrats is they have no principles they will stand for, while Bush and the Republicans do. As this example demonstrates, the only principle Bush and Karl Rove stand on is political expediency, compassionate only to their corporate backers.

Liberal #%*&! Press!!

Here’s the latest indisputable example of the liberal press. It’s really disgusting.

By the way, taking a break from my role as a blogger, I want to make it clear to Keith Olbermann that we love you here in Fairfax. I just wanted to say that with my time.

Fallout From Our Failure in Iraq

Iran, Syria, North Korea – all feared the U.S. after the decisive Afghanistan invasion and the ill-advised attack against Iraq. But the Bush administration had no clue how to take advantage of the situation diplomatically.

Just after the lightning takeover of Baghdad by U.S. forces three years ago, an unusual two-page document spewed out of a fax machine at the Near East bureau of the State Department. It was a proposal from Iran for a broad dialogue with the United States, and the fax suggested everything was on the table — including full cooperation on nuclear programs, acceptance of Israel and the termination of Iranian support for Palestinian militant groups.

But top Bush administration officials, convinced the Iranian government was on the verge of collapse, belittled the initiative. Instead, they formally complained to the Swiss ambassador who had sent the fax with a cover letter certifying it as a genuine proposal supported by key power centers in Iran, former administration officials said.

Last month, the Bush administration abruptly shifted policy and agreed to join talks previously led by European countries over Iran’s nuclear program. But several former administration officials say the United States missed an opportunity in 2003 at a time when American strength seemed at its height — and Iran did not have a functioning nuclear program or a gusher of oil revenue from soaring energy demand.

A Lie is a Lie

Mike Shear of The Washington Post, the final speaker at the Va. blogger conference, said we probably wouldn’t agree with anything he had to say. Then he sought to provoke with his basic message that bloggers irresponsibly truck in rumor, gossip and basically are pretty lax on the fact checking. If we don’t know it to be true, we shouldn’t say it.

I agree.

He also said that the difference between bloggers and newspapers is that journalists “attempt always to make sure that what we have written is true.” While he equivocated, he seemed pretty sure he was on higher ground. He even quoted the Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics. It is an “optional code,” I might add.

I also think it’s irresponsible for a newspaper to report that, say, a presidential candidate did not deserve medals he received while a soldier, when in fact, as the paper reported a week or so after the Swift Boat Veterans attacks on John Kerry, that the charges were not true. Yet, The Post reported the story before checking to see if it was true, and once it found otherwise, kept repeating the story.

When asked about the contradiction, Shear, to his credit, said it’s “a hard charge to deny.” But he tried to defend papers by saying that they try to find out the truth whereas bloggers rarely do.

That’s too broad a charge and too weak a defense of papers who report rumor or charges if they echo long enough on Fox News or other pseudo news media. In other words, they adopt the lowest standards of truth and decency. That that is better than no standard is higher ground only in a relative sense, and not a place I’d anchor my moral superiority.