Democratic FCC Commissioner Adelstein: No IPhone For You! Step Up, 4G

Guess which FCC Commissioner is holding up a universal national wireless network?  It's not a Republican, it's Jonathan Adelstein, who doubts that a national wireless business will bid for spectrum.

Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein voiced doubts about the potential for a new national wireless broadband provider to enter the market to take on the incumbent telephone and cable broadband providers.

The Democratic commissioner said he was reluctant to structure the rules of the upcoming radio spectrum auction to encourage the entry of a new player unless there was a commitment that there would be a serious bidder at the auction.

"We don't want to set the table unless we know someone's going to come to dinner," Mr. Adelstein said.

He was speaking at a conference in Washington hosted by the Wireless Communications Association International, a lobby group for broadband service and infrastructure providers.

Speaking to reporters after his formal remarks, Mr. Adelstein said the FCC risked excluding smaller bidders from getting access to the valuable spectrum coming available for no reason if it designates a large block of it to be auctioned off but no large bidder comes forward.

A group calling itself the Coalition for 4G America has been aggressively lobbying for a 22 megahertz block of spectrum with a national license to be auctioned off. The coalition includes the likes of Google Inc., Intel Corp., EBay Inc. unit Skype Inc., and satellite television companies EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Group Inc.

It argues that such a chunk of spectrum would be necessary in order for a bidder to launch a significant challenge to the dominant cable and phone company broadband providers.

Great.  So Adelstein speaks at a lobbying event for the wireless industry in favor of a position supported by incumbent telcos.  I don't want to knock Adelstein, who has generally been a friend, and imply bad faith when it's not warranted.  I just don't really get his position and why he's reluctant to help create genuine competition for the wireless industry.  There are hundreds of billions on the line for various tech companies, so it's pretty clear there will be some business interest in this chunk of spectrum.  Lobbying is fast and furious, with calls flooding into Senate Commerce Committee offices.  

Meanwhile, John McCain sent a letter to the FCC as well on the 700 auction, and I'm trying to get a sense of what he means - he's calling for spectrum for public safety, which could help in terms of supporting a national wireless network, though I'm not entirely sure.  So far, no other Presidential candidates aside from John Edwards and John McCain have moved on this.

Update [2007-6-16 12:21:17 by Matt Stoller]: Obsidian Wings has a useful corrective on this post.

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Residual Forces

Via Matthew Yglesias.

A person affiliated with a rival campaign directed my attention to this Ted Koppel commentary on NPR in which he observes:

I ran into an old source the other day who held a senior position at the Pentagon until his retirement. He occasionally briefs Senator Clinton on the situation in the Gulf. She told him that if she were elected president and then re-elected four years later she would still expect U.S. troops to be in Iraq at the end of her second term.

This gets to the whole 'getting comfortable with disagreement' thing.  Obviously, said rival campaign knows that it's political useful to point out that Clinton won't end the occupation.  At the same time, this campaign is reduced to sending out the criticism to bloggers because their candidate won't make an issue of it himself.  This has the effect of depriving the party of what we really need, which is a debate on the occupation of Iraq.

And meanwhile, Clinton surrogate Chris Lehane (insider journalist Marc Ambinger confirmed Lehane is close with the Clinton camp) is giving us a notion of what she's thinking with this nice quote.

But that measure, and one to set benchmarks, are both doomed because they're coming to the Senate floor as amendments to a water resources bill, and need 60 votes to move. Senate sources admit Democrats don't have those votes and there are no real consequences to voting "Yes."

"Anytime you get a free whack at the pinata, you take it," said consultant Chris Lehane, who saw a sure sign of politics by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in sticking the measures into an obscure bill. "It's a smart use of legislative tactics to provide some red meat for the liberal wing of the party."

This is consistent with Mark Penn's attitude on national security.  We're not getting an honest debate on Iraq.  Atrios, and Kevin Drum think that the residual force idea is a bad one.  It would be nice if one of the major candidates would actually point out that Clinton does not actually intend to end the occupation of Iraq by American troops.

I'm beginning to think that progressives might have to embrace a different strategy than to hope that we get a progressive in the 2008 race, and work to build the machinery for a progressive primary challenge in 2012 against a sitting Democratic President.  That way, regardless of which Democrat becomes President, they will automatically weaken their position if they don't withdraw troops, and strengthen it if they do end the occupation.  If Clinton is only pandering to us on Iraq until she can afford not to, it makes sense for us to think about how to force her to 'have to' pander to us when she's in office.

Finally, can we please get a moderator of a debate to ask the residual force question and hammer on it?  It's kind of important.

Update [2007-6-13 18:56:33 by Matt Stoller]: I'm not making an argument for or against any candidate. Clinton says she'll keep troops in Iraq, though not 'all troops'. No other candidate will criticize her for this, either because they agree with her or because they won't stand up for themselves. Either way, there is no progressive leader in the race for President, though I suppose one could emerge. I'm leaving out the possibility of Gore, or of Bloomberg running far to the left, neither of which I think is probable.

This clip from Richardson comes pretty close to an outright statement of policy differences, without going after a candidate by name, though Richardson wants you to know that he respects John McCain deeply.

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Bob Bauer Open Thread

What do you think of this, which is making the rounds today?  Obama doesn't agree with the idea that progressives should want a Libby pardon, which is good.  As usual, I'm going to agree with Digby, while pointing out that Washington DC used to have too much lead in its drinking water system. Were I an Obama supporter, I might hope that Bauer be kept away from anything sharp, heavy machinery, toys that look edible, and/or Obama himself.

Thoughts?  

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The Enron Case: Bush's Criminal Conspiracy

One of the reasons liberal Democrats are so angry at the Democratic Congress is because Nancy Pelosi promised that, if elected, she would 'drain the swamp', and so far, she hasn't.  Those are code words, not just for investigating, but actually ending the corruption that the Bush administration and the conservative movement has enabled and systemized into our very politics.  Take Al Hubbard, a crony of Bush and a key conservative operative since the 1970s.  He worked on Dan Quayle's secretive Competitiveness Council, undermining wetlands protection and key government regulations so as to benefit big business.  And now he is helping Bush to help legalize what Enron's bankers did in the name of preventing lawsuits.

We expect this 35 year reign of criminal looting of our government to end, period.  And so far, it hasn't.  Take Bush's personal intervention in the case that legalized corporate fraud, which is now before the Supreme Court, a case that uber-savvy progressive operative Bob Borosage brought to my attention months ago.  This came to light today.

In a lawsuit that harks back to the Enron scandal, the Bush administration is at odds with the federal agency that oversees securities markets as well as with state attorneys general and consumer and investor advocates.

President Bush personally weighed in with his views before the administration decided not to support investors whose securities fraud case is now before the Supreme Court.

The president's message was that it's important to reduce "unnecessary lawsuits" and that federal securities regulators are in the best position to sue, said Al Hubbard, Bush's chief economic adviser and director of the National Economic Council.

Hubbard said Bush's perspective was conveyed to Solicitor General Paul Clement by Deputy White House counsel Bill Kelley. Hubbard said the president communicated his policy views, not specifically what he thought the solicitor general should do.

Bush's role in the case underscores its significance. The outcome of the Supreme Court case could determine whether investors can pursue lawsuits to recover investment losses if they can prove collusion between Wall Street institutions and scandal-ridden companies.

The deadline for siding with investors in the case now before the Supreme Court ended at midnight Monday, and the solicitor general did not file a brief. Clement represents the government's views before the Supreme Court. The administration will decide in the next 30 days whether to side with the defendant companies or not to participate in the case at all.

"We think the SEC is the right entity to bring those lawsuits and make sure investors are protected," Hubbard said in describing the president's views. "We are in a society that is overly litigious and it's very harmful to society, very harmful to investors."

"The president believes that it's important to make certain that we reduce the unnecessary lawsuits because that's a very big burden to the economy, which adversely impacts investors," Hubbard added.

"There was a difference of opinion within the administration, but ultimately the president makes up his own mind," said Hubbard. He said the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency sent letters supporting "the policy position that the president believes in." The Treasury Department also sent a letter to the solicitor general echoing the president's views.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 3-2 to ask the solicitor general to support shareholders. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, a former Republican congressman appointed by Bush, sided with the two Democrats.

The bureaucratic infiltration is remarkable.  The case is about whether banks who knowingly defraud investors by helping corporate officers structure fraudulent capital structures are liable for their behavior.  That the Federal Reserve has weighed in on the side of the banks shows extensive damage to our governing institutions.  This is a hyper-partisan corrupt deal, entirely to the benefit of the elites at the Business Roundtable.   The Treasury Department, the Justice Department, the Federal Reserve, and the Comptroller of the Currency are all colluding against investors on this backing Hubbard's extreme right-wing stance.  Truly, gangsters in suits with PhDs are running our government, and many of these are appointed in staggered terms.  When Bush leaves office, lots of these hacks won't.

Christopher Cox of the SEC, a Republican from California, surprisingly voted for investors on this one.  That's a commendable stance, and he deserves to go into that category of 'good bad guys' that the Bush administration has forced us to create (along with Ashcroft, Hagel, etc).

Speaker Pelosi's promise to 'drain the swamp' is going to require extensive and long-term action to reverse the damage the conservative movement has done to our country over the last thirty years.  It's going to require prosecutors who understand how to take down mob-like rackets, because that's really what we're up against, at every level of government (from developers at the local level to Federal Reserve governors).  The neoconservatives learned their political tactics as Trotskyites, and explicitly built their conservative movement around infiltrating government institutions with 'their people'.  The K-Street project was one such institutional innovation, but there are many, many others, as secretive as they are dangerous.  And we're seeing this now, as Bush personally intervenes on behalf of big business elites who want to be able to continue to steal from the public without consequence.

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Enough of the Fake Apologies

Butchering of language bothers me intensely.  Let's take David Saunders and his 'apology'.  Many of you know him as 'Mudcat', but I'm going to call him David as if he is a fully functional adult male.  Here's what he wrote in his initial post insulting vague left-wing bloggers.

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FCC '700': Why You Can't Get Your iPhone

The big news today is a letter that Senator John Kerry, who sits on the Commerce Commitee, sent to the FCC asking for a better internet in light of the FCC's upcoming 700 auction of spectrum space.  Kerry is a tremendous ally of the net neutrality fight, helping lead the cause along with Ron Wyden and Byron Dorgan in the Senate.  Kerry also sits on the Commerce Committee, which is holding a hearing on Thursday on the issue.  This is big, big, big.  Already, 250,000 people have written the FCC on this issue, a major outpouring of organized grassroots support.  John Edwards has chimed in with smart policy recommendations, so it's gone Presidential (where are you, Obama, Clinton, Dodd, Richardson, Biden, etc).  

The fight over spectrum and open access involves a potential new industry worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and a moral argument about what the public airwaves are really for.  Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, Sprint, and the Spectrum Company, which is backed by the cable industry, believe that our communications networks exist so that they can have something to control.  They are monopolists, run by seriously bad people, and viciously anti-democratic.  The telecom giants are large, lumbering, stupid beasts; cable companies are quick and weasely, but even more unethical if possible.  Both sets of companies offer awful service, dishonest pricing plans, and generally are in bed with politicians at a local level and on a Federal level that it's literally stunning.  The pay-to-play nature of the business runs through both parties, and it's not an accident that the late 1990s and early 2000s saw massive telecom frauds which benefitted high level political elites, including former DNC Chair and current Clinton campaign senior advisor Terry McAuliffe (Global Crossing) and Rudy Giuliani (MCI/Worldcom).  Verizon senior exec and policy head Tom Tauke is a former Republican Congressman, because this is a dirty dirty business with lots of money involved.

Consider that texting money over your cell phone, which is done regularly in foreign countries, doesn't happen here because the telecom companies will take half of all cash and send the vendor the balance in 180 days.  Boom.  That's an entire mobile economy that just isn't happening, thousands of entrepreneurs and jobs strangled in the crib by the capricious whims of the monopolists.  Or consider your roaming charges, or your high fees, or your year long contracts, or early termination fees, or the fact that you can't even change providers and keep your cell phone.  That's insane, they are all phones.  No, what's really restricting the iPhone from any company but AT&T is the monopolist deal that these companies have over our public airwaves, and that's all a spectrum game.  And for a long time, the only people who cared were the lobbyists and telecom companies getting rich off of it.  But now, because of net neutrality and Bush, hundreds of thousands of people are involved in a grassroots campaign over the very fiber of this country's communication network and by extension political and moral playing field.

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Let's Put Donna Edwards in the House

I put this up late in the afternoon yesterday, so I'm bumping it again for morning readers. This is a significant primary. Matt

I just threw in $25 to Donna Edwards via the Blue Majority page, which is the new name for the netroots page from last cycle.  She was just added today, along with Charlie Brown.  I would hope, as you consider your political giving this cycle, that you consider her race worthy of your resources.

One of the most significant primary challenges we had last cycle was Donna Edwards against Al Wynn, for a whole host of reasons.  I just got done reading Death by a Thousand Cuts, which is ostensibly about the elimination of the estate tax in modern America.  Really, though, like many of the great modern political books, Death by a Thousand Cuts is about how the ideological right builds its coalitions and how the left simply does not fight back.  The key strategy, whether on NAFTA, health care, the estate tax, the Bankruptcy Bill or net neutrality, is to solidify right-wing business interests - Chamber of Commerce, NFIB, NAM, ATR, Business Roundtable, etc - and then use their network of think tanks, policy organizations, PACs, and grasstops to wedge parts of the Democratic coalition.  Legislative victories for the powerful follow.  We've seen this again and again; it's why many of us are in politics, on the blogs.  We ask ourselves the question, 'Ack, why did the Democrats vote for XYZ?!?!'  Well, one reason is because of people like Al Wynn.

In the fight over the estate tax, Wynn was cited as a key figure in this strategy.  The estate tax was the single most progressive tax there is, so normal criticisms from rich corporations won't work to broaden the coalition.  But having a CBC member like Wynn, along with a variety of other members, helped to mask the right-wing essence of the idea.  Wynn likes to talk about how the estate tax hurts small businesses in his district, which was roughly the same rationale he used to pass the bankruptcy bill, and the same rationale he uses to support energy legislation, telecom-friendly legislation, and defense contractor-friendly legislation (such as his original support for the war).  You can see Wynn's allies in his PAC donations, which even after he ostensibly moved left after he 'learned his lesson' from Donna in 2006, are obviously right-wing.  He's not just getting cash from your standard financial services companies, he's pulling in cash from Walmart and the US Chamber of Commerce.  That's stunning.  That's a brazen 'I haven't changed' moment.  

Getting people like Wynn to support corporate-friendly policies has been a lynchpin of right-wing power, which means that Donna Edwards's challenge to Wynn is both critical and systemic.  This is not a normal primary challenge, this is a clash of two systems of power, of influence, and of ideas.  It's not a surprise that the Chamber is already weighing in on this race, for Wynn.  This primary was critical in 2006, when her underfunded campaign, which was dismissed in DC because she did no polling, no TV, and only a bit of direct mail, nearly toppled Wynn, who was seen as invincible.  It's even more critical now.  Donna is a real, legitimate candidate.  She is going to raise a lot of money, and she's going to fight for values and ideas that actually are progressive.  We lost in 2006, and we see what that got us - a Democratic Party that is only responsive when it's convenient for them.  We can't afford this kind of Democratic party, and we must support people like Donna in our movement to change it.

The choice here, in the primary, is so stark it's almost unbelievable.  Wynn, aside from getting cash from the US Chamber and Walmart, is one of 26 signatories to the letter encouraging the Presidentials to attend the CBC Institute's Fox News debate.  He's an opponent of net neutrality.  And though he repudiated his Iraq vote, he is still bringing in Harold Ford Jr. to kick off his campaign, an event at which Ford said we'd need to be in Iraq for a long time, a sentiment Wynn came very close to endorsing.

I'm a progressive because I believe in ideas, but I also believe, strongly, that we must give our ideas power through our force of argument, activism, and resources.  We need to build a better country, and the vehicle we have and will use is the Democratic Party.  As we've seen over the past four months, this Democratic Party isn't entirely ours.  Sometimes we're going to get greatness and investigations, a Congress that will do its job.  Sometimes we're going to get complete flaccidity sparked by fealty to silly people like Stuart Rothenberg and Kenny Baer.  But ultimately, we must give our own ideas force by making the argument that we're not going to go away, that our people are going to be in office, and that it is our ideas that must be taken seriously by the political system.

Donna Edwards has just been added to the Blue Majority page. I put $25 down for her campaign, which brings my total donations to Donna this cycle at $50.  I hope you'll join me.

Update [2007-6-11 17:52:26 by Matt Stoller]:: EMILY's List stands for 'early money is like yeast' for a good reason. I know it's not always fun to put up money now, when there's no horse race feeling to these contests. But it is the most important cash you can give. This is when a few thousand dollars can hire that critical staffer to help start a field organization, as opposed to October 2008, when a few thousand dollars will get thrown into the giant sucking television budget of a million. More to the point, if we want our ideas in Congress, we need to fight for them, and that means putting up cash when it makes a difference. Early cash helps unlock other money, like labor cash, who might be on the fence about who to endorse. It can help establish that critical sense of 'legitimacy', which is an ephemeral but critical quality in politics. Giving early to key races like this now is a sign of maturity and seriousness in politics; it's why the US Chamber and Walmart each wrote a check to Wynn a few months ago. They were making a statement that Wynn is their guy. We need to make that statement about Donna.

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Clinton Unleashes Attack Dog Chris Lehane on Obama

One of the reasons complaints about blogger ethics are so stupid is that reporters and campaigns regularly speak in code that voters are not supposed to understand.  It's like there are two languages in politics, one for the regular voter, and one for the elites.  Chris Lehane's career is a perfect example.  Now, we've criticized Carville for going on CNN and giving out pro-Clinton talking points as a generic Democratic analyst, and he hasn't really stopped.  His excuse is that he's not being officially paid by the campaign, as if he wouldn't make millions and garner immense influence with another Clinton in the White House.  Reporters 'get' that Carville isn't a generic analyst and see him through that lens, but viewers just see a trusted figure on CNN, and so they take away a different sense of the information they receive.  Two different contexts, two different languages.

James Carville is the most high profile of these double-agents, but there are others.  One very prominent Clinton surrogate is Chris Lehane, who ran negative campaigns for Gore in 2000 and ran the Clark campaign into the ground in 2004 (after resigning from the Kerry campaign), along with his partner Mark Fabiani.  Lehane, though he doesn't officially work for Clinton, has a long relationship with the Clinton and their machine entourage, even garnering PR business with current Clinton communications director and former Glover Park Partner Howard Wolfsen on Michael Moore's films, which are produced by Clinton ally and supporter Harvey Weinstein (see this clip, where both Weinstein and Moore laud Clinton and discuss Weinstein's relationship with her). Lehane is regularly used by reporters as a quote machine, speaking unofficially for the campaigns in a 'hands-off' manner so Clinton spokespeople don't have to say it.  When Lehane says something, you can pretty much be assured that it's coming from the Clinton campaign.

So you won't be surprised to see this underhanded attack coming from Lehane's mouth on Obama's situation with Tony Rezko, an Obama donor who has just been indicted.  This story is being floated again, probably with the intent of killing Obama's sheen now that he appears to have underperformed a bit in the debates versus Clinton (that's the narrative, whether it's true or not, and frankly, it was all so boring I couldn't pay attention).

First, here's what a normal Democratic strategist says who isn't trying to hurt a candidate and Rezko and Obama.

Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter, who is not affiliated with any presidential candidate, said the situation "may leave voters with the impression Senator Barack Obama is and was indeed a politician, but I'm not sure that's earth-shattering."

And here's what a Clinton surrogate says.

Campaign consultant Chris Lehane, who worked in the Clinton White House and for Al Gore in 2000, said it shows voters that Obama "puts his pants on the same way as any other politician" -- something that "undermines the core Obama brand, that he is a different kind of leader."

Note how the reporter, Mike Robinson of the AP, qualified Cutter as 'unaffiliated' while saying that Lehane had worked in the Clinton White House and for Al Gore.  They both read like they are just commenting, but to insiders, it's well-understood to mean that Lehane speaking for Clinton and Cutter is unaffiliated.  Two languages, two contexts.  Very annoying.

Want more proof Lehane is speaking unofficially for Clinton?  Let's look at the spin coming from Lehane, which is almost always pro-Clinton and on-message.  Here's Lehane on Clinton's electability 'problem', before she decided to run.

"Hillary Clinton has a good sense of self," said Chris Lehane, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked in the White House for President Clinton. "I don't think she makes this race unless she thinks she has a pretty good chance of winning the whole thing."

And more?  Here's Lehane spinning on Obama's $25M quarter, a clear victory for Obama.

"Anyone who can put together $25 million in a quarter comes off as a very serious and credible candidate," said Chris Lehane, who was the spokesman for Vice President Al Gore's presidential campaign in 2000. "Enough people have been around the block in the Clinton world that they understand this is a marathon, not a sprint."

That's the Clinton line, straight up, and it's laughable to think that a neutral observer would say this.  And that's the point, the reporter quoted Lehane to get an unofficial Clinton perspective, because the Clinton campaign isn't going to say what Lehane said officially, even though they want this out there.  It's like the Rezko rumor, which the Clinton people want out there, but without their fingerprints. To make this point even more firmly, see what Lehane said only months earlier.

In March, Democratic operative Chris Lehane, who has been a staffer on multiple presidential campaigns, likened this exclusionist fund-raising strategy to that undertaken by George W. Bush during the presidential campaign of 2000.

"He put together a financial infrastructure that laid the foundation for a presidential run and locked down the Who's Who of the Republican fund-raising community," Lehane said. "Hillary Clinton's ability to lock up fund-raisers is not only a positive for her, but also takes away those potential assets for others."

So now the Clinton campaign understands this is a marathon, not a sprint?  The pro-Clinton spin is so thick that Lehane can't resist even when it's about fashion.

For Mr. Obama and other candidates like John Edwards who have gone tieless in public appearances, the look could help convey youthfulness and openness to change, says political consultant Chris Lehane, who advised Bill Clinton. But "the downside is, does it reinforce any issues regarding whether he has enough experience or gravitas to be president?" he adds.

Journalists regularly quote Lehane to speak unofficially for the campaign.  Lehane was even rumored to be working on a California 527 seeking to move up the primary date to benefit Clinton (note that I can only find this sourced on one blog, though Lehane does speak positively of the 527 here in SF Gate). The effort is over, since California moved up its primary.

Lehane knows he'll get paid back by Clinton.

[Lehane] said remembering who your true-blue friends are is a must for a political winner.

"I think history is pretty clear that those folks who are loyal to the Clintons find the loyalty is really reciprocated -- and that is one of the reasons why so many people have stuck with them for so long,'' he said. "They really do respect and appreciate it when someone is loyal, and that manifests itself in many ways ... that is what good politicians do.''

I wonder why he's been saying things like this since 2005?

Three years ahead of the election she dominates the field and "is in the strongest position any non-incumbent presidential candidate has ever been in the modern history of the Democratic party" according to party strategist Chris Lehane.

Now let me note that this is not a knock against Lehane.  I have two basic points here.  One is that I'm really getting tired of political journalists speaking in code to voters such that you have to decipher what they are really trying to say to the people that matter.  Political journalism should not exist in the realm of seventh grade girls who pass secret mean notes to each other in class about the other kids.  And two is that I am really tired of campaigns who engage in this kind of nonsense.  If Clinton wants to draw attention to Tony Rezko's history with Obama, if she and Mark Penn really want to open up that can of worms, they should have enough principles to come out and say it in the open.  It's possibly a legitimate question, frankly.  I'd like to know more about Rezko and the Chicago machine.  But I don't think it's fair to spread rumors like this in print using surrogates who are clearly on your time under the guise that they are unofficial and neutral observers when they are obviously such pushers of pro-Clinton spin.  

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Immigration Back?

I've been having a running conversation with my good friend Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, who's involved in a progressive immigrant rights group called Dreams Across America. This coalition group brings together unions, churches, activists, etc to lobby and generate activism around immigration. He's been encouraging me to blog about immigration, but I've been reluctant because I don't really know that much, and because I don't understand the strategy of the left. Rick tells me that the immigration bill isn't in fact dead, and as Atrios notes, George Bush wants to put immigration reform back on the agenda. This is useful from a political perspective in terms of cutting out Bush's base even further. I'm not sure I buy that the immigration bill could come back; the Senate spent weeks on this bill, and that's valuable time. But even so, it's important to look at this debate for what it means in terms of our coalition work.

There's a fair amount of bragging by the right that they did great online organizing to defeat this bill, and that's not entirely wrong.  The great space the Republicans have not occupied online is the nativist sphere; lawmakers regularly get death threats from economically depressed quasi-white supremacist groups masquerading as patriot vigilantes, and they are very well organized online. Less intensely hate groupish, though still on that continuum, comes the nativist right, which definitely sits squarely in the Republican camp, and I could definitely see a strong right-wing activist blogosphere emerging from that group. In fact, the New Right, direct mail groups parallel to our own blogosphere, emerged from this wing of the party to try to kill the Panama Canal Treaty in 1977, an issue Reagan jumped on early.

Right now, that group is somewhat submerged in the GOP, smothered by the traditional consultants, and more than that, big business, though it is given free reign on war, abortion, Terri Schiavo, and general stomping on brown people. The GOP establishment does not fully embrace the nativist wing of the party - and neither do its think tanks and intellectual shops - for a very good reason. Big business wants cheap labor, and the cheapest labor is composed of undocumented immigrants who have no labor or legal rights, and thus no leverage.  That's the only reason Bush wants to bring this bill back.  He's an order taker from big business. Duncan Hunter, Ross Perot, and Pat Buchanan are all from the nativist wing of the party, and their dispute with immigration also cuts into another place big business does not want to go: trade.

So anyway, why did this bill die?  Well from watching the utter confusion of the left-wing coalition groups, I'm just going to assume that nativists happened to get the upper hand over big business, and the left just didn't really play.  As far as I can tell, despite a lot of discussion online and in the media, there is no coherent progressive position on immigration, and so the people fighting this out are the Minutemen and the Business Roundtable, with Ted Kennedy in there pleading to get something done, backed by a whole bunch of top-down liberal lobbyists with no real arguments or base.  And right now, for reasons I don't fully understand, the Business Roundtable got beat. 

Bush may or may not have the political capital to bring immigration 'back', I don't know.  He seems to have lost control of his party on this one, though he has not on Iraq.  What is clear is that if progressives are going to play on immigration, we need a strategy and a set of arguments.  My gut says that this is going to require linking immigration and trade, since this is an issue having to do with labor, capital, and goods all flowing across borders.  Our current immigration 'problems' (or opportunities, depending on whether you a big business guy who likes slave labor) cannot be disassociated from NAFTA, and I'm curious why that attempt was made.

In other words, if there's a 'grand bargain' to be struck on immigration, it should address the millions of Mexicans and Americans thrown into poverty by our trade policies, who then become immigrants or dispossessed. Regardless, the immigration debate, for it to be relevant to progressives, has to be linked to a larger narrative of economic instability.  There's something about labor rights in there, but labor has so little reach now that we need new arguments.  

The left needs to show up on this one, and the immigrant groups haven't been in the fight with moral arguments that we can understand and get behind.  It's all about some weird compromise that I don't understand which looks like a sop to big business.

Also, as an aside, though I love him, Ted Kennedy is not a liberal movement guy.  He's an insider Senator who wants to legislate and cut deals with the right.  There's a role for that, the role of a great moral insider, but he's not a substitute for real left-wing progressive outside groups making good arguments and building a long-term strategy and movement. Meanwhile, the nativists and the big business behemoths on the right aren't going away, but understand that they are no longer compatible in the same party structure on core economic issues. Don't expect to see a real right-wing online movement with activist leanings to emerge without a death match against corporate elites.

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Rothenberg: Democrats Played Iraq "like a Stradivarius"

If you want to know the decrepit and immoral state of conventional wisdom in DC, check out Stuart Rothernberg's piece on the supplemental vote.  Rothenberg is part of the forecaster-consultant complex, bumping up races or downgrading them, thereby helping the party committees determine which seats are in play.  He has a well-known beef with Chris Bowers specifically and liberals in general, mocking Howard Dean and the idea of a 50 state strategy until the 2006 wave election occurred.  Rothenberg is not a Republican and he isn't particularly an ideologue right-winger, but he does believe in conservative ideas.  In that, he's a lot like Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, and Ken Salazar.  He's center-right, the ultimate Beltway pundit, bad at his job but good for the money centers.  So it shouldn't be a surprise to read his latest column on how terrifically Democratic centrists played the war vote, and how they will benefit tremendously from giving Bush another blank check.

Now that the dust has settled on the Congressional vote on the supplemental appropriations bill and on the ruckus that anti-war opponents of the bill kicked up, it's time to assess the political implications.

First, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill played the issue like a Stradivarius. They forced a vote on a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, putting Republicans on record supporting the status quo and President Bush, but allowed a subsequent vote to "fund the troops." That gave their own Members from swing districts the opportunity to demonstrate their support for the military.

From a purely political point of view, Democrats had their cake and ate it too. Yes, the war is unpopular, and opposing it is a no-brainer. But the one thing Democrats need to avoid is looking like themselves during the 1970s and 1980s -- weak and unwilling to support America's men and women in uniform. Yes, they've spent the past few years speaking the right words on national security and the armed forces, but if they had refused to pass a spending bill, they would have at the very least opened themselves to attack from the GOP.

So, in ignoring the demands of the party's left, Congressional leaders have kept their party right where they want it -- against the war but also against terrorists and for the troops.

To truly understand how ignorant this is, just take a look at this pretty graph put together by the Washington Post last week.

wapost poll.jpg

The Democrats lost twelve points among independents and eighteen points among liberal Democrats, leading to an overall slide of ten points.  From a twenty four point lead in leadership over Bush in April, the Democrats now sit at parity with him.  If you are politically craven, this was a terrible move.  I don't actually think the Democrats who voted to fund the occupation are that craven; Mark Udall genuinely believes that people who opposed a blank check for Bush want to deny medical care to our troops.  And Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel genuinely want to defer to Bush on leadership and initiative in Washington.  They voted for what they wanted, and got it.  But as a political matter, and whether it was 'good' for Democrats as a whole, well, that's hardly a Stradivarius.

Rothenberg continues.

Why take a chance alienating swing voters when the party already made its point by sending the president a deadline bill that he vetoed?

Anti-war critics of the Democratic Congressional leadership have nowhere else to go, both now and in November 2008.

Liberal bloggers apparently are angry with Democratic Rep. Mark Udall's vote for the supplemental, but they'll support him in next year's open-seat Senate race in Colorado. Similarly, the 2008 Democratic nominee for president will be more appealing to anti-war liberals than the Republican nominee will be, so the Democratic Party risks very little, at least at this point, in disappointing its most ideological, confrontational element.

Why take a chance alienating swing voters, Rothenberg asks, completely oblivious to the fact that this vote cost Democrats ten points among independents.  We're already seeing rural voters turn against the occupation, and towards the Democrats.  It's bizarre that this guy is a forecaster, a nonpartisan political analyst, but it's also important to know that this is where the conventional wisdom comes from.  

Note also the contempt for the left, for people who want to end the occupation in Iraq.  Where are we going to go, if it's not for Mark Udall in Colorado or Hillary Clinton in 2008?  Well, I can say that this energy is going to translate either into primary challenges or into apathy, but it won't go into helping this party leadership much longer.  I'm going to encourage primaries as much as possible, because what they want is for us to go away.

I have to say that Udall's probably going to regret attacking progressives at a certain point.  I hear he's mad at us, which prompted his angry, irrational, and vicious response to our criticisms in the Denver Post.  That bipartisanship isn't going to work so well for his race for the Senate, as Zappatero helpfully points out.  Udall's going to have to run hard against Iraq, and essentially disavow this vote.  He's going to be questioned with 'well if you were against the war why did you vote to fund it?'  And his explanation, that he supports the troops by giving money to Bush, will sound a lot like John Kerry's 'I voted for the $87B before I voted against it'.  In fact, expect to see that clip used in GOP commercials.  Whatever Udall gives as an explanation won't work for anyone's vote except Stuart Rothenberg.

Democrats who are not named Udall, Emanuel, or Hoyer would do well to ignore people like Rothenberg in the future.  'Forecasters' like him are quite terrible at their job, give useless and counterproductive information that cherry-picks data to confirm a preconceived hypothesis, and generally encourage bad faith politics within the Democratic Party.  Oh, and let's leave aside the fact that occupying a foreign country like Iraq and killing thousands of people is against the ten commandments or something.  I mean, Stuart Rothenberg, Rahm Emanuel, Steny Hoyer, George Bush, and Mark Udall did.

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