Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The nature of the Democrats

A Blood Pressure Lowering Guide to the Democratic Party and Democrats
by Chris Townsend
Many folks on the Left, and in our labor movement, are afflicted with frequent bouts of anguish and outrage as we observe the action or inaction of some Democrat in office -- or running for office. Those on the Left who claim to be recovered -- or never afflicted -- by this disease often seem quite calm and at peace as the rest of us go through our gag reflex. I have often wondered whether they secretly are experiencing this condition, but have just gained control of their facial expressions. It's hard to tell sometimes. . . .

After spending almost three decades on the Left and in our labor movement, I think I have heard it all. Union members or lefties will be having a conversation and somebody lets loose with an earful like "Why don't the Democrats support national health care?" or "Why don't the Democrats stop the war?" This is frequently voiced in the context of a particular individual Democrat, such as "Why did Clinton support NAFTA?" or "Why did Al Gore pick Joe Lieberman for his running mate?" It's the same frustration, just individualized to a particular candidate or lawmaker. This behavior will surely become more pronounced as the Democratic-controlled Congress grinds into the final year of the Bush-Cheney regime, and as the presidential primary sweepstakes heats up.

Sometimes we feel better after verbalizing this frustration, but just as frequently it doesn't help at all. That's the problem with trying to measure the Democratic Party against the behavior of a normal political party, and likewise with its leading personalities. I know it may come as a shock, but the facts are that the Democratic Party is not a coherent or unified political party and neither are the views and positions of those elected to hold office bearing its label.

A little context first. For the record, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are not the same, at least not yet. They are different in some ways organizationally, and in significant ways politically. The voters who regularly vote for these parties are also somewhat different from each other. Lawmakers from both groups frequently disagree, although the degree of dispute is sometimes tiny. There are ethnic, racial, religious, gender, and geographic differences between supporters of the two parties. The vast majority of the wealthy and the small business class in the United States support the Republican Party. The working class is split between the two, but unevenly. Both parties do coexist on a rather skinny bit of political geography, however, at least when measured by a world standard or a traditional right-left standard. In the realm of political thought and belief, the Democrats and Republicans operate on the same six inches of pro-business spectrum.

Over the past seventy years, many working people and most unions have tended to regularly support the Democratic Party. That sometimes brought tangible results for working people, such as enactment of the various New Deal programs of the later 1930s. In recent years, Democrats holding office have survived by promising just slightly more to working people than the Republicans and working a skillful "if-the-Republican-wins-the-sky-will-fall" strategy. Combine it with the fact that both parties will go to great lengths to legalistically bar any third party candidate from challenging their de facto monopoly, and there you have it. This is the political straightjacket that working people wear. They don't call it the two-party trap for nothing.

So, the next time you are offended by some Democrat who makes an outrageous remark, or who knuckles under to Bush, or who fails to do the right thing for working people, stop and take a breath and first figure out which part of the Democratic Party it is that you want to complain about. A greater understanding of why the Democratic Party and individual Democrats act the way they do is possible, but only after you first figure this out. Then feel free to complain.



Start with the "official" Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The DNC stages the Democratic Party Convention, hashes out an enormous platform, and then does nothing to try to hold any Democrat to what is in it. While the web page of the DNC advertises itself as "The Democratic Party," there is no way to join. You can give money, but you cannot join. You cannot be kicked out either. The DNC "Committee" itself has historically been comprised of several hundred Democrats selected from around the country in a variety of ways. Election to the DNC by a rank-and-file membership vote happens infrequently, if at all. I once researched these questions and placed calls to both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. The Republicans called me back. In response to my question about how one might become a member of their party, the staffer told me: "We don't have members, we have donors." The DNC blew me off completely and never returned my call. I think it's about the same, however. The DNC has a staff in Washington, D.C. and out in the states, but I can't recall ever meeting any of them during my 15 years here in Washington, D.C. That's probably because I don't go to very many fund-raising luncheons. I once met a Democratic Party "organizer" back in 1997, however. He was a slippery guy who was "organizing" for the Democratic Party in Serbia. It turns out he was really working for the "National Democratic Institute for International Affairs," an arm of U.S. foreign policy paid for by taxpayers, not Democrats.


The second component of the Democratic Party consists of the fund-raising groups for elected Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. These groups primarily select candidates and raise campaign money, but they also issue their own position statements that may or may not overlap with the DNC platform. Best known among these are the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). There is also the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) that helps drum up support for Democrats running for state office. Most of what these groups now claim to be for are things that they did little about during the now-forgotten Clinton years. A short memory helps. These groups also pick who they want to run for office out in the real world, regardless of whether this fits with what the locals may be thinking. Increasingly the DCCC and DSCC have looked for multimillionaires to run for office as Democrats, since they can pay for the whole operation themselves instead of having to rely on the organization to support them.


This section is composed of those running for the Democratic Presidential nomination. These folks pretty much say, and do, anything they want. But, whatever they say has a habit of becoming the "official" Democratic Party line should they be the winner of the primary sweepstakes. Each of these candidates builds their own organization, staff, and network independent of the other Democratic Party parts.


The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) is the best organized and funded faction within the Party, the corporate Democrats. The guiding light of the DLC is the so-called "third way." This is a fancy way of saying that the trick is to keep working people voting for you while you consistently undermine or attack their real interests. It also means that just about whatever big business wants, it can have. This is one of the several groupings pulling hard for the Hillary Clinton ticket, since Bill Clinton was their darling. In this vein on the think-tank front, the Center for American Progress (CAP) is run by former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, and employs a veritable army of staff working diligently to continue the Clinton saga -- they hope. Look for lots of these folks to make the leap to appointed high-level political positions all around Washington if Senator Clinton wins the White House. Quite a few will probably make that jump if any Democrat wins. But even before we get that far, a decent number of CAPers will take flight into the campaign machines that various Democrats will soon construct. These folks come literate, freshly scrubbed, and with an intimate knowledge of the latest high-tech gizmos that are the lifeblood of political campaigns today. These are also the kinds of people who actually read the bazillions of pages of blogs produced every hour.


The highly paid fund raisers, pollsters, consultants, strategists, and lawyers make up the real meat of the Democratic Party apparatus. These are the operators who chase the big money, write the questions and take the polls, spin the results, devise Party strategy and positions, set up and run campaigns, and then turn in a bill for big, big bucks. Our news media grabs these types and puts them on TV to purportedly speak on behalf of all Democrats. Without this section of the Democratic Party, literally nothing would happen. This is also the year-round section of the party, as most of the rest of the party components grow and decline based on the election cycle. This slice of the Party is run exclusively by very wealthy folks who all have good jobs, own homes, and have great health insurance. Well, some of the paid staff making the phone calls, cranking out the direct mail, or answering the phones for these companies and firms probably don't have all these things, but the owners and senior staff of the firms who conduct this political business do. You can bet on that.


This section of the Democratic Party is the hardest to pin down, since so much of it operates in the shadows. These are the rich folks and Political Action Committee (PAC) staffers who send in the checks, attend the private dinners and functions, and buy seats or whole tables at fund-raising dinners disguised as testimonials, etc. The Democrats have cultivated entire networks of wealthy donors from various industries, professions, and regions, but these lists are jealously guarded by the staffers of the specific fund-raising consultant firms. Their data are rarely shared with the DNC or the other pseudo-official parts of the organization. Nobody gives away lists of rich people and their addresses and phone numbers. In recent years the growing swarm of lobbyists in Washington, D.C. have doubled as big money fixers and finders, since most have extensive contacts from their previous Congressional membership or Capitol Hill staff duties. Super rich guys like George Soros and his like also fall in this grouping, bringing enough money single-handedly to do whatever they want. With enough money you can be a Democratic Party somebody overnight.


Ongoing Democratic state and local structures that limp along in many parts of the country are what's left of an actual grassroots structure. Some are doing better than others, and if there is a way to actually "join" the Democratic party you might find it here. Here is where an ordinary person might be able to get involved in some kind of activity or campaign to some degree. This part of the party is rapidly disappearing, however, as the membership ages and little new blood comes in. You will frequently find quite a rub between this group and the inside-the-beltway operators, since the Washington types like to ignore the locals or even ridicule them for their old-fashioned ways. Sometimes this is deserved, oftentimes not. This disconnect is one of the primary short-circuiting points that explains so many of the Democrats failings.


The explosion of internet-based groups and networks over the past decade has created the newest part of the Democratic Party. These outfits come and go, but the one that comes to my mind first is MoveOn. If your primary source of information and your favorite tool for activism is the internet, these are right up your alley. Fund raisers have managed to tap the internet folks quite amazingly, since the instigation of outrage over the latest Bush crime seems to translate into big online donations for more of the same. Although it's hard to judge overall, the development of this part of the Democratic Party has upset many apple carts since it is often independent and therefore not as easily controlled as was possible in the past by insiders. I would venture to say that many, many supporters of this section may not even think of themselves as "Democrats" per se. Blog mania is also to be found here, although I can't for the life of me figure out how anyone has the time to keep up with more than a handful of these chatterboxes. The blog crowd claim to have lots of influence, but I remain unconvinced.


Organized labor holds a unique and tortured place in the Democratic Party structure, but many union members would not even know this. Unions provide Democrats with hundreds of millions of dollars each election cycle along with hundreds of thousands of activist members. Were it not for this machinery the Democrats would not exist or be politically viable in an enormous number of places across the country. Labor receives as thanks a sporadic and inadequate return from Democrats on this gigantic investment. Frequently this is because unions don't actually ask for anything from Democrats, although that has improved a bit lately. Overall, the relationship of Democrats and labor is one of the most historically lopsided, with Democrats by far getting the better end of this arrangement.


Last but not least is the Left. While you will find energized individual leftists involved in the campaigns of many, many Democrats running for office, and leftists abound in the various single issue groups, the Left as an organized entity exercises little tangible influence. The Campaign for America's Future (CAF) takes up more or less where Michael Harrington's "Democratic Agenda" conferences of the late 70s and early 80s left off. CAF stages an annual Take Back America conference in Washington, D.C., which has become a widely attended trade show for the growing number of diverse groups on the left fringe of the Democratic Party structures. In order to survive, apparently, self-styled "progressives" within the Democratic Party have expanded the definition of "progressive" to include just about anyone who says nice things and is willing to show up and speak. Some might ask whether groups such as the Congressional Progressive Caucus should be added to a "left" listing. Perhaps. But while the Progressive Caucus may have more members in Congress than any other caucus -- currently at 72 members -- they have almost no structure or resources. The Congressional Progressive Caucus has no dedicated budget or office of its own and is forced to rely on a grand total of one over-worked staff guy who borrows office space from two different members of Congress. Many on the Left try to tell me about all the "influence" that we have, but based on what I see I remain a skeptic about that claim.

I realize that this is merely an improvised yardstick by which to size up the Democratic Party and the leading Democrats within it. I have likely missed a few things, but this is not meant to be exhaustive. I offer it as a means toward a better understanding of what the Democratic Party is, and what it is not. On the Left we are prone to characterize the Democratic Party incorrectly. The Democratic Party does not exist. At least not as an organized structure with members, solid principles, and discipline for those who violate its rules. Instead, it is a cauldron of constantly shifting groups, factions, and personalities often working at the same ends, sometimes working at contradictory ends. It possesses no central nervous or circulatory system. In short, it has evolved into a reform-proof, multi-celled creature that can no more be captured than it can be killed. The primary means to influence in the existing structure is cash money, and the more the merrier. The Democratic Party offers to supporters a degree of influence commensurate with the size of your financial contributions.

That said, nowhere here did I say that work within the Democratic Party world is futile, impossible, or taboo. It's the only game in town, like it or not. But perhaps a more detailed understanding of the Democratic Party will provide all of us with a better sense of what we as a Left need to do in order to somehow, someday, build our own political action vehicle capable of defending working people and finally solving some of the acute problems we face. Possession of this knowledge may lower your blood pressure as well.

Chris Townsend is Political Action Director for the United Electrical Workers Union (UE). Website: www.ranknfile-ue.org.
URL: mrzine.monthlyreview.org/townsend240807.html

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Obama's education plan: a critique

Obama on education - decent, not spectacular
yesterday I crossposted from dailykos a diary on did on the education plan of Bill Richardson, among other things. I had previously crossposted here the diary I did on the plan of John Edwards. To keep balance, I plan over the next few days to cross post the diaries I have done on three other candidates, beginning with this one on the plan of Barack Obama. The text is identical to what was previously posted on dailykos on September 24, the thread of which can be read here, thus some references will be a bit out of date. I will follow this with diaries on the plans of Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd as they appeared on their websites at the time I wrote them. I will also provide links to the original posting, so you can read the comments on the thread. And now for Obama

Yesterday I did a diary entitled A very good Education Plan from John Edwards. Plutonium Page challenged me to write not only about Edwards. Others posted links to the education plans of Obama and Richardson. This diary is a followup to Page and to Adam Bonin who provided a link to Obama’s plan. While I will go through Obama’s plan in detail, let me begin by summarizing. It is good, not as detailed as Edwards, lacks the kind of detail and thematic integration I found from Edwards, but is definitely superior to what we have seen from this administration. And there is one feature in his plan which is important, and which was not addressed by Edwards.

The opening paragraph of Obama’s education policy statement is strong:
Throughout America's history, education has been the vehicle for social and economic mobility, giving hope and opportunity to millions of young people. Our public schools have produced a competitive, productive workforce that has transformed the world economy. Today, our schools must prepare students not only to meet the demands of the global economy, but also help students take their place as committed and engaged citizens. It must ensure that all students have a quality education regardless of race, class, or background
The introduction goes on to make a strong commitment to public education, but then focuses on negative elements
- 6 million secondary students reading below grade level
- 1/3 of graduating students not going on immediately to post secondary education
- exceedingly high drop-out rate

Obama then commits to giving assistance to struggling districts and schools to help disadvantaged students.

But then comes a paragraph which troubles me:
Too often, our leaders present this issue as an either-or debate, divided between giving our schools more funding, or demanding more accountability. Obama believes that we have to do both, and has offered innovative ideas to break through the political stalemate in Washington.

I have to note that as a professional educator my hackles get raised when I hear politicians sign on to the rhetoric about “accountability.” It is not that as teachers we do not accept responsibility for what happens in our classrooms. But the specific term has been being used to beat up on public schools and teachers for the past several decades, and it may serve as a bit of a red flag.

There is some overlap in what I read in Obama’s plan from what I noted in Edwards, although I do not find the proposals as detailed. Nor do I find the use of key themes around which the other ideas are organized. Perhaps it is a stylistic difference, and perhaps I react as I do because as noted I find some of the rhetoric in the introduction troubling. I put this up front so that you can appropriately take it into account as I go through the specifics of Obama’s plan.

Obama recognizes that students from disadvantaged circumstances enter school as much as two years behind their peers in readiness. His answer is in my opinion not as fully developed as it could be:
Barack Obama supports increasing funding for the Head Start program to provide preschool children with critically important learning skills, and supports the necessary role of parental involvement in the success of Head Start.
I do not see here a commitment to universal pre-school for all disadvantaged children, nor do I even see a commitment to fully funding Head Start for all children eligible by family circumstances. A nominal increase in the current levels would fulfill this commitment, but not accomplish much. I know that a long-time friend who is one of the nation’s great experts on early childhood is a strong supporter of Obama, and from that external knowledge I would expect that Obama’s commitment is much greater than this one sentence would imply. But merely from reading the web page I would be troubled.

Obama does have a commitment to teachers. He proposes funding programs in 20 districts to “to develop innovative plans in consultation with their teacher unions.“ These would address things like mentoring and other programs. There are good parts to these ideas - consultation with teachers unions is one example, although I would note that such an approach might not seem to fit in some of the more anti-union parts of our nation: remember, many teachers do not have the right to collective bargaining. There is something to be said for trying a number of approaches before propagating them, and as Obama notes
These innovation districts will implement systemic reforms, and show convincing results that can be replicated in other school districts.
In theory I agree, although given remarks Obama has made elsewhere I worry that the convincing results may be little more than improved test scores. Still, there is verbiage in the section on increasing teacher pay that at least implies that Obama is considering things beyond test scores. Note especially the following:
Obama believes the key is finding new ways to increase pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them and not based on some arbitrary test score. Obama will start treating teachers like the professionals they are.

Obama deals with NCLB only in one paragraph, which reads as follows:
Reform and Fund No Child Left Behind: The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is the right one - ensuring that all children can meet high standards - but the law has significant flaws that need to be addressed. Unfulfilled funding promises, inadequate implementation by the Department of Education, and shortcomings in the design of law itself have limited its effectiveness and undercut its support among many people who care deeply about our schools and our students. Barack Obama would reform and fund No Child Left Behind.
Even were the law fully funded it is in the opinion of many in education a fundamentally flawed approach. I am disappointed that I do not see that reflected in this paragraph, nor do I see what specific shortcomings Obama sees in the law. Merely saying it needs to be reformed without saying how is frustrating to those who want a sense of how Obama would want to approach the issue of accountability. In fairness, he sits on the Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee in the Senate that has responsibility for reauthorization, he and his senatorial staff are involved in trying to make meaningful changes to the law, but if I only look at his website I have no sense of what changes he is seeking to obtain.

Obama does return to the issue of accountability, so I suppose one can say that he is addressing perhaps the most critical issue of NCLB. Yet again, I see a lack of specifics:
Improve Testing and Accountability: Barack Obama believes that, before we can hold our teachers and schools accountable, we need to hold our government, parents, and our communities accountable for giving teachers the support that they need. Obama believes that we should work with teachers, states, and school districts to develop more reliable and more useful measures of student learning.
Let’s look at what is positive in the foregoing blockquote. Obama does set as a precondition for holding teacher accountable that they are given the proper support from the rest of the community, including the parents. That is something with which most teachers would find agreement. When coupled with a commitment to support teachers throughout their careers, such as providing a way to bring teachers into the profession through things like teaching residencies, it shows a real commitment to the teaching profession. Obama can rightly point at things he has gotten through the Senate that address some of these issues. And the idea of including teachers in the development of the measure we use to assess teacher learning is a good one, provided teachers are properly trained to the task. Here it might be useful had Obama pointed at successful examples around the country that demonstrate some of his proposal, and in this context the in-school assessment done by teachers in Nebraska could serve as one useful model. I do caution on the use of the term “reliable” as reliability in psychological measurement (of which educational measurement is a subset) means consistency. The real goal should be validity, for which reliability is a precondition. Let me explain: if I have a scale that consistently measures me as weighing 150 pounds, it is reliable, but wrong, as my current weight is about 190. Were I to draw a conclusion from stepping on that scale that I had lost a lot of weight, that conclusion would not be valid even thought the measurement upon which I base it is reliable - reliably wrong, consistently so. Perhaps a small point, but one of great importance when talking about educational measurement, particularly as we increase the stake placed upon the results of those measurements.

Obama, like many people, has accepted the idea that experiencing more rigorous courses in high school like AP courses is a desirable. We have seen an exponential expansion of AP courses, fueled in part by the Challenge Index as a measure of “good” high schools developed by Jay Mathews of the Washington Post. Back when AP was somewhat rarer, the correlation between having taking an AP exam and going on to and performing successfully in college was fairly clear, even though I have to caution people that correlation does not indicate causation. I think the jury is still out on whether the expansion in recent years is having the intended results, and I note the concern by the College Board that the quality of courses being offered as AP might not be up to the necessary quality, a concern that has led to an audit process before one can list on a transcript a course with the AP designation. Still, the approach is somewhat conventional wisdom at this point, and Obama has moved in the Senate (along with Republican Jim Demint of SC)
a bipartisan plan to allow students who do not have access to college-level courses at their high schools, to apply for need-based grants and seek credit at local colleges or community colleges.
If we are going to see an increase of AP, this plan does address the issue of equity for those students, and thus is something that does seem appropriate.

So far I have been somewhat critical of what I have discussed. The ideas seem good, albeit not as fully developed as I would like to see. But there is one part of Obama’s plan which is outstanding, and for which I would like to provide the appropriate context. One of the proposals that many have made as a part of the reauthorization process for NCLB is to move to measuring the growth of individual students, rather than comparing cohorts (this year’s 4th graders to last years) as a more accurate measure of what is occurring in the classroom. I have expressed concern on this approach, because there is a strong research base that says if you measure Spring to Spring it will show disadvantaged students as not learning as successfully - this is an artifact of your measuring non-school effects. Disadvantaged students lose learning during the summer, while often middle class and above students continue learning, through camps, enrichment, etc. To fairly measure growth would require measuring the knowledge of the students at the beginning as well as the end of the school year. But our current testing schemes under NCLB do not even fully fund that once a year testing.

Obama does not directly address this problem. He actually does something better. Rather than looking at the measurement problem, he attempts to address the underlying inequity. Let me quote the entire section that deals with this, including the quote he provides from someone else:
Expand Summer Learning Opportunities: Differences in learning opportunities during the summer contribute to the achievement gaps that separate struggling poor and minority students from their middle-class peers. Barack Obama's "STEP UP" plan addresses this achievement gap by supporting summer learning opportunities for disadvantaged children through partnerships between local schools and community organizations. One portion of this proposal was included in a comprehensive bill to improve U.S. competitiveness that passed the Senate in April 2007, with a provision for summer programs focused on increasing student math and problem-solving skills.

"Summer is an incredible opportunity to help children who are under-performing in school achieve grade-level proficiency, develop as young leaders, and enter school ready to excel in the fall. The support of Senators Obama and Mikulski demonstrates their commitment to children and education. The STEP UP Act is a tremendous opportunity to deepen and expand our impact on children's lives and help them achieve high academic standards."

- Earl Martin Phalen, CEO of BELL (Building Educational Leaders for Life)

So on balance, how would I assess Obama’s education proposal? There are a number of good points, with the one great point which addresses a key issue of equity. I wish that some of the ideas were more fleshed out. I know from his work in the Senate that Obama has a real commitment to public education, and this campaign material makes reference to some of it. Other than his proposal for expanding summer learning opportunities, I have some concern that he may be still too tied to the current paradigm of accountability, but I see a clear recognition that there needs to be significant change. He has a strong commitment to including teachers in perhaps redesigning how we measure student learning. He is willing to have teachers and their unions play an important role in federally funded model projects. He strongly supports the idea of teachers being paid and treated as professionals.

Overall I view it as a good start, needed more specifics, with the one outstanding proposal that recognizes a key reality that is too often ignored in our discussions about schools and education.

# posted by teacherken @ 3:34 PM 3 comments links to this post
from Education Policy blog
Posted by Duane Campbell

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

With Trippi's Rise, Some See a New John Edwards

By Chris Cillizza, washingtonpost.com, Tuesday, October 23, 2007; A01

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton may have a widening lead in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but John Edwards is not about to give her a free ride.

"Instead of moving from primary mode to general election mode, why don't we have tell-the-truth mode, all the time, and not say something different one time than we say another time?" Edwards asked pointedly last week in New Hampshire.

From the day he announced his candidacy in New Orleans last December, Edwards has presented himself as an outsider, someone much different from the senator who was John F. Kerry's running mate in 2004. But in recent weeks he has launched a markedly more aggressive attack on what he says is Clinton's poll-tested commitment to the status quo, and the new tone to his campaign has coincided with the growing influence of the strategist behind Howard Dean's assault on the Democratic establishment four years ago -- Joe Trippi.

Those who know Edwards best insist that his campaign reflects his own life experiences, including his wife's ongoing battle with cancer, and that in hiring Trippi, a cult figure on the party's left for his role with Dean, Edwards has found someone who can translate his instincts into a coherent campaign message. Trailing Clinton and Barack Obama in the polls, Edwards is basing his campaign on a vision of bold change not shared by either senator.

"Trippi has made him more aggressive and tuned him in to the anger and passion of the Net roots," said Carter Eskew, a senior Democratic strategist not affiliated with any 2008 campaign.
While Trippi was described as a senior adviser when he joined the Edwards campaign in mid-April, he has become much more in the intervening six months: the de facto campaign manager, lead media consultant and -- perhaps most important -- trusted confidante of Elizabeth Edwards, whose influence in the campaign far exceeds that of the conventional candidate's wife.

By all accounts, Elizabeth Edwards and Trippi have developed a close relationship, beginning during their first meeting this spring at the Edwardses' home in Chapel Hill, N.C. An hour and a half into listening to the couple's pitch to join the campaign, Trippi suddenly flinched when his diabetic neuropathy -- a nerve disorder that sends pains shooting through his body at random intervals -- began bothering him. Elizabeth Edwards noticed. And when Trippi started talking about his illness, she told him that she suffers from the same condition.

Still, Trippi turned down the offer to join the campaign. "I told them there was no way I could do it again," Trippi recounted recently. "That I really liked them and really believed they were going to take on a broken system -- but I was not going to do it."

For decades Trippi has been a part of Democratic presidential politics, often working for long shots -- Rep. Richard A. Gephardt in 1988, Jerry Brown in 1992 -- and through a combination of sharp elbows and sharply defined messages transformed them into legitimate candidates.
As Dean went from an afterthought in the 2004 presidential race to the Democratic front-runner, Trippi's star rose with him. But when the former Vermont governor finished third in the Iowa caucuses, the campaign was essentially over, and Trippi was suddenly out of a job. And, many assumed, he was out of presidential politics -- a decision seemingly affirmed at his meeting with the Edwardses.

On March 22 all of that changed. In a televised news conference, Elizabeth Edwards announced that her breast cancer had returned but that her husband's campaign would continue. "I sat there in my house with my wife and my neuropathy firing away," Trippi recalled, "and just said, 'You know, I am not done either,' and I picked up the phone and offered to join the campaign."
In an entry on the Edwards campaign blog titled "I'm Signing On," Trippi announced his return. "I really thought that the 2004 presidential campaign would be the last I would be involved in," he wrote. But the decision by the Edwardses to continue the campaign in the face of the return of Elizabeth's cancer "made me realize that I wasn't done trying to make a difference either."
For John Edwards, it was a chance to fix his struggling campaign, which had seen the departure of a number of his original senior staff members, including 2004 campaign manager Nick Baldick. Former congressman David Bonior (Mich.) had been serving as the campaign manager, but his skills were clearly more as a surrogate than a strategist.

Officially, Trippi has been described as part of a trio of advisers that includes pollster Harrison Hickman and longtime adviser Jonathan Prince. But the evidence seemed to suggest that it was Trippi who now had the Edwardses' trust.

In July, the campaign brought on Paul Blank to handle the day-to-day operations of the campaign and Chris Kofinis to head up communications. Both Blank and Kofinis have ties to Trippi: Blank was political director in Dean's campaign before joining Wake Up Wal-Mart, where Trippi served as a consultant. Kofinis was communications director at Wake Up Wal-Mart. At the same time, it was announced that Bonior's role would evolve into serving as a stand-in for the candidate, though he would retain the title of campaign manager.

Then, in mid-August, Marius Penczner, who had served as Edwards's lead media consultant since late 2003, parted ways with the campaign. Trippi, a media consultant by training, took over crafting Edwards's ads, with an assist from Prince.

Trippi declined to discuss his role in the campaign's day-to-day operations. "I hope that I have brought a better focus to the campaign and his message -- and helped better define the differences between the change John Edwards would bring to Washington [versus] the business as usual candidacy of Hillary Clinton," he said.

Asked to explain Trippi's rise within the Edwards inner circle, a former staffer said: "Two words: Elizabeth Edwards." The source, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly, added: "I think Trippi's influence grows daily, and because that influence is Elizabeth-sanctioned it makes it all the more powerful."

Although Trippi plays down the closeness of his relationship with Elizabeth Edwards -- the two have spoken directly only five or six times during the campaign, he said -- it is clear that they share the same ideas about aggressive campaigning.

Take Elizabeth Edwards's decision to confront conservative commentator Ann Coulter during Coulter's appearance on MSNBC's "Hardball." It was Trippi who gave her the number for the show's control room.

Or take the video that Trippi produced for the CNN-YouTube debate that poked fun at the media's obsession with how much John Edwards paid for a haircut. Trippi said Elizabeth Edwards "really liked" that video -- a phenomenon on the Web.

And, in contrast to her husband's campaigns in 2004, when she played a somewhat peripheral role, Elizabeth Edwards often takes the fight to her husband's opponents more aggressively than he does. She was the first to broach the idea that her husband, and not Clinton, is the strongest advocate for women in the race, and she most pointedly questioned whether Obama's voting record in the Senate matched his antiwar rhetoric before joining Congress.

Those familiar with the relationship between Trippi and Elizabeth Edwards offer several reasons for their alliance. One connection is over their health issues. Another is over the Internet. Trippi became interested in how it could be used in politics, and Elizabeth Edwards became fascinated with its power to create social connections while she dealt with her cancer.
As David Weinberger, an Internet strategist for Dean and part-time consultant to the Edwards campaign, wrote on the Huffington Post, "during times that could have crushed her -- that would have beaten most of us down -- she found strength in and with others, many on the Internet."

Others say Elizabeth Edwards sees this race as more a cause than a campaign, a belief that makes her and Trippi -- an unapologetic believer in the power of liberal ideals and the overthrow of "transactional politics" -- ideological soulmates.

It's that message -- a fiery, some say angry, populism -- that has drawn attention to John Edwards of late.

One Democratic consultant who has worked with Trippi said the common thread in the majority of the presidential campaigns with which Trippi has been involved is an outrage with the way Washington operates.

A former senior staffer for Dean's presidential campaign said, "Anyone that knows Joe could see a marked difference in the creation of the new John Edwards once Joe came aboard." Trippi, the staffer added, "is an incredibly powerful force on any campaign, and when given a malleable candidate he will have an enormous impact."

The Edwards campaign -- and many people formerly affiliated with it -- reject the notion that the candidate is anything but his own invention.

"This is who he is," Prince said, noting that as far back as his 1998 campaign against Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.), Edwards was talking about fighting for the little guy and against special interests. In one ad during that race, Edwards said: "Insurance companies have plenty of lobbyists fighting for them. I don't want to be their senator. I want to be yours."

Prince agreed that the tone of the 2008 campaign is different than that of the 2004 race, explaining that "there is more intense emotion to it, more passion." But, he said, that change is due to Edwards's experiences as the vice presidential nominee, his work on the issue of poverty in 2005 and 2006, and the impact of his wife's cancer diagnosis and relapse. Those developments "make you look up close at what's important," Prince added.

Whoever is more responsible, the question for the campaign is whether it can turn what has been an insurgent effort into something more substantial. For Trippi, it's a question that lingers from Dean's cometlike trajectory.

"The way it ended in Iowa, no one knows if Joe was right or not," said a consultant who has worked with Trippi on past races.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Preparing a comparison chart

Hello all,
As you may know, we are campaigning for Edwards, Obama and Kucinich. We are presently preparing a chart comparing these three candidates and the others on key issues; the war, the economy, health care, etc.
Since the prior post, the California SEIU has endorsed Edwards. The Missouri_Kansas SEIU has endorsed Obama.
Duane Campbell

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Former Georgia Governor Endorses Edwards

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/18/07
Former Gov. Roy Barnes and former Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor held a Capitol reunion of sorts Thursday, getting together for a press conference to support John Edwards' presidential campaign.
Barnes served as governor, with Taylor as his second-in-charge, from 1999 to 2003. Taylor served another four years as lieutenant governor before running unsuccessfully for governor last year.
Joining Barnes and Taylor at the event were several other elected officials, including two African-American state senators, Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) and Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). Last week, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was in Atlanta touting her endorsement from black U.S. Reps. John Lewis.
Barnes said Southern Democrats have too often had to tip-toe around their nominees because they weren't popular in the region. He said that won't be the case with Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina.
"I am ready for a president that talks like I do and I can understand without an interpreter," Barnes added.
Barnes said Clinton will have a difficult time winning the general election because so many Americans have a negative view of her.
"Whether we like it or not, she's a polarizing figure and I think she would have a very difficult time being elected and governing," he said.
Taylor said, "I am ready for a president who can bring people together."

Edwards Wins Massachusetts SEIU Endorsement

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Massachusetts union endorses Edwards

By Jenn Abelson, Globe Staff

Democratic presidential contender John Edwards picked up the backing today from the 90,000-member Massachusetts chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

This is the 11th SEIU affiliate endorsement that the former senator from North Carolina has secured since Monday, representing more than 1 million working families. The other chapters are: California, Idaho, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia.

"John Edwards understands the everyday struggles of working families," Rocio Saenz, president of SEIU Local 615 in Massachusetts, said in a statement.

SEIU declined to make a national endorsement because no candidate had enough support, so the state chapters were left up to make individual endorsements.

So far, rival Senator Barack Obama has picked up support from his home state SEIU chapter in Illinois and Indiana, representing a total of 170,000 members.

Posted by Foon Rhee, deputy national political editor at 06:07 PM

Monday, October 15, 2007

Illinois, Indiana SEIU endorse Barack Obama

Democratic hopeful Barack Obama picked up the endorsement Monday of the 170,000-member Illinois Service Employees International Union, a boost to the candidate's prospects in neighboring Iowa, whose caucuses kickoff the presidential nomination contest.

The Illinois union could provide an important flow of volunteers to help knock on doors in Iowa or make phone calls on behalf of Obama. Spokesman Jerry Morrison said the union will have no trouble finding people willing to help.

"Our members are coming to us asking what they can do," Morrison said, adding that the Obama endorsement was an unanimous decision by Illinois leaders.

Tom Balanoff, president of the SEIU Illinois State Council, cited Obama's commitment to expanding access to affordable health care and to protecting workers' rights as among the biggest reasons for his union's early endorsement.

Balanoff also cited Obama's early opposition to the Iraq War.

Barack also picked up the endorsement of the Indiana SEIU.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Edwards Wins Endorsement From Friends Of The Earth Action

Leading environmental group says Edwards has the best policies to halt global warming and protect our planet's natural resources.

Manchester, NH – Today at an announcement event in Dover, New Hampshire, Senator John Edwards won the endorsement of Friends of the Earth Action, one of the leading environmental groups in the country. "John Edwards understands that we must accept responsibility for conserving natural resources and act with urgency to stop the crisis of global warming," said Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth Action. "He has led on this issue, with the best plan to halt global warming and protect the environment. He has the strength and courage to stand up to the big corporations that are abusing our planet. And he is the only top-tier candidate in this race who opposes new nuclear plants in the U.S. For these reasons, we trust John Edwards to work for a healthy environment and fight for the rights of regular people in our country and around the world."

Edwards has introduced a detailed agenda to halt global warming and protect the environment. His proposals include:

Capping greenhouse gas pollution starting in 2010 with a cap-and-trade system, and reducing it by 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, as the latest science says is needed to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

Leading the world to a new climate treaty that commits other countries—including developing nations—to reduce their pollution. Edwards will insist that developing countries join us in this effort, offering to share new clean energy technology and, if necessary, using trade agreements to require binding greenhouse reductions.

Opposing subsidies for new nuclear power plants in the U.S. because they are costly, take too long to build, and generate waste that cannot yet be stored safely and permanently.Creating a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off $10 billion in greenhouse pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies. The fund will support U.S. research and development in energy technology, help entrepreneurs start new businesses, invest in new carbon-capture and efficient automobile technology and help Americans conserve energy.Meeting the demand for more electricity through efficiency for the next decade, instead of producing more electricity.
Reversing every harmful environmental executive order and regulation issued by the Bush Administration. Edwards will submit legislation strengthening the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and restore the "polluter pays" principle in the Superfund.

"For nearly four decades, Friends of the Earth Action has worked to raise awareness about the importance of protecting the environment," said Edwards. "I am honored to receive their support and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future. We must work together to halt global warming and protect our natural resources to ensure our children inherit a healthy planet."

Founded in San Francisco by David Brower, Friends of the Earth Action has for decades been at
the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a healthier, more just world. Its members helped found Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest federation of grassroots environmental groups, with member groups in more than 70 countries.

Edwards has already earned the endorsement of several influential environmental leaders in New Hampshire, who serve on his Environmental Leadership Committee:

Environmental Leadership Committee Co-Chairs:
State Representative Jay Phinizy - Chairman of the House Environment and Agriculture Committee
State Representative David Essex - Vice Chairman of the House Environment and Agriculture

CommitteeMembers of the Environmental Leadership Committee:
Joanne Allison Sparks - Environmental activist, North Conway
Maureen Westrick - Founder of the Fertile Valley Initiative, Intervale
Margaret Ridgely - Member of New Hampshire Audubon, North Sandwich
Samuel Wasmuth - Member of Sierra Club, Wolfeboro
Jennifer Snow - Environmental activist, Stratham
Kay Delanoy - Environmental activist, Keene
Donna Thompson - Environmental activist, Derry
Joseph Cullum - Environmental activist, Spofford
Ron Poltak - Environmental activist, Auburn

It Saves Money and Makes Kids Healthy — What’s the Problem?

Published on Tuesday, October 9, 2007 by the Chicago Sun-Times

by Jesse Jackson

Nine million children go without health insurance in this country. A broad bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress, including such rock-ribbed conservatives as Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, voted to expand the children’s health-care program to cover about half of those. Last week, President Bush vetoed the bill. In the Senate, enough Republicans will join Democrats to override that veto. The question is whether two-thirds support can be found in the House of Representatives. In partisan fervor, the Republican leadership has vowed to stand with the president.

There is little disagreement about basic facts. The president and conservative and liberal senators agree that the program works. Governors of both parties are lobbying for its expansion. This isn’t about reckless spending; the expansion is paid for by an increase in taxes on cigarettes. All agree that insured children are healthier. And that saves money, reducing preventable diseases, lowering the cost for emergency-room services that result when treatments are put off, and reducing the risk of infection in other children.

So why veto the bill? President Bush warns that the expansion of the program would cover middle-income families. Given the cost of health care and the pressures on working families, it isn’t clear what would be wrong with that. But in any case, it isn’t true.

The bill would allow states to cover children of the near poor — those who make up to twice the amount considered a poverty-level income. Experts say this will max out at about $41,000 for a family of four, with states having the discretion of whether to get to that limit, and the federal government able to stop states from going above it. Does anyone other than this president born of privilege have any doubt that families raising two children on $40,000 a year will struggle with health-care costs?

White House spokespeople say the main issue is an ideological one. This bill, the president charges, “is an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.” It’s all part of a plot to move by small steps to what Rudy Giuliani burlesques as “socialized medicine.”

Again, this wouldn’t be so bad if it were true. There is no evidence that current recipients of government-sponsored health care — those on Medicare and Medicaid, veterans health care, federal and state government employees insurance — are less happy than those with private insurance. And with 44 million going without health insurance, this country must make a commitment to universal health care, giving everyone a choice of private insurance or a public program. But again, the president’s claim is not true.

The fact is, as Harold Meyerson has noted, the multibillion-dollar insurance industry hasn’t found a way to profit from providing health care to these poor children. That’s why they don’t have insurance. And that’s why the private health insurance lobby, the American Medical Association and Big Pharma, the drug company lobby, are all supporting — not opposing — the bill. These are not exactly champions of “socialized medicine.” The president is stiffing needy children to give private insurance companies customers they don’t want.

This isn’t partisan or ideological; it is moral. Most religious traditions tell us that, as the Bible says, we can only measure ourselves by how we treat the “least of these.” Let the children come unto me, Christ taught.

It is America’s shame that one-fifth of all children in this rich nation are raised in poverty. It is simply inexcusable that vulnerable children should be deprived of health care to make an ideological point. The insurance companies are enjoying record profits. The children are at risk and need the care.

© Copyright 2007 Sun-Times News Group

The Coming Progressive Era

Published on Friday, October 12, 2007 by CommonDreams.org
by David Michael Green

Listen now, right here
It’s going to be a beautiful year

(Mark Knopfler, “We Can Get Wild”)

Sometimes, being condemned to repeat history is not such a bad thing.

Welcome to 1932, redux. Almost all the elements are there, fortunately. And not a moment too soon.

In 1932, Franklin Roosevelt and a dire national emergency combined to wrestle the republic away from the death-grip in which the Republican oligarchy of the time was holding it, and in doing so dramatically expanded outward the envelope of progressive government in America, as well as establishing a progressive governing coalition that lasted four decades and more.

Many of the same conditions apply today. Not all, to be sure, but then there are also additional factors pointing in the same direction which were not present in Roosevelt’s day.
That said, in politics - it is often rightly remarked - a day can be like a lifetime, and anything can happen. Especially given the capacity of the current governing crew to do anything in pursuit of power - and I mean anything - any predictions regarding a post-Bush/Cheney era necessarily come attached to some massive caveats. There’s an attack on Iran, to start with, which Bush has apparently promised several people - including Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu - he will launch before leaving office. There are the current activities of the party in California, doing what they do best, winning elections the only way they can. Now they are attempting to rig the state’s Electoral College delegation to steal about 20 votes from the Democrats and throw the same number to the Republicans, for a net switch of plus-or-minus 40, making it highly difficult for Democrats to win the presidency even after the disaster called Bush. And, of course, there’s also the question - very real in my mind - as to whether Darth and the First Marionette will voluntarily leave office at all, or whether they will pull a Putin/Giuliani and engineer their own permanent dynasty.

Even aside from their insatiable lust for power, they would have every reason to do so. Can you imagine what would have happened to these guys so far if they hadn’t had the ability to control prosecutorial power and to define state secrets these last years? I assure you that they themselves can well imagine, and they’re not anxious to walk away from Washington for that reason alone. Unfortunately, moreover, it’s all too easy to see how it might be done. Trump up another ‘foreign’ crisis. Seize power in the name of democracy. Deploy the party hacks for another Brooks Brothers riot like the one in Florida in 2000, with GOP brownshirts intimidating anyone in their way. Get the same 5-4 Supreme Court majority that put you in office in the first place to keep you there by giving it all some sort of legal blessing. Then stand by and watch as the Democrats do nothing, the press says nothing, the elder, pre-Neanderthal statesmen of the Republican Party stay silent, and a hapless public nurses its beers and ball games, oblivious to the death of the republic.

All of that could happen. Indeed, if you look at the trail of tears running like a river from Florida to Ground Zero, to Max Cleland, the Swiftboaters, Ohio, Guantánamo, Baghdad, Congress and beyond, all that in fact has been happening.

But for the sake of this discussion, let’s leave that aside. Let’s assume that - either because they wouldn’t try something that brazen or because the public would finally have had enough of this nightmare if they did - we actually have a relatively untainted election in 2008 and inaugurate a democratically chosen president in January 2009.

Under such conditions, what is likely to be the electoral result? I think a repeat of 1932 is definitely a strong possibility. That election represented a massive mandate to change the status quo, a supernova of American political history. The Great Depression was at its worst in 1932, with no government relief of which to speak. President Hoover didn’t seem to care, or at best appeared oblivious to people’s suffering. In any case, he was clearly unwilling to break with tradition and contemplate a new role for government, even during a dire national emergency. After decades of Republican rule, Americans were as thirsty for change as a frat party with a broken keg spout.

The situation is similar today, though not as drastic, and without 1932’s concentrated woes in the economic sphere alone. Yet this is a country extremely desirous of change, and we still have another 13 months of BushCo unraveling to come before the election. Astonishingly low levels of support for the Catastrophic Kid have been recorded since 2004, now hovering around 30 percent. And we know what happened to the Republican Congress in 2006. Meanwhile, since 2003, more than half the country has been telling pollsters that America is on the wrong track. In the last year or so that percentage has been running at record 70-75 percent levels, representing a huge gathering storm.

Franklin Roosevelt cobbled together a remarkable New Deal coalition that was devastating in 1932, but Democrats had already began savaging the GOP oligarchy two years earlier, picking up 8 Senate seats and 52 House seats in 1930. Those are serious numbers, but it turned out that that would be just the warm-up act. With FDR leading the ticket and two more years gone by stuck with Hoover sitting in the White House doing little but asking for patience during the severe Depression, the Democrats in 1932 picked up an additional 12 seats in the Senate, and an astonishing 101 more in the House. Then, of course, there was the presidential contest, the results of which would have been humiliating to Hoover under any circumstances, but doubly so as a rejection of his incumbency. FDR swept 42 of 48 states, riding 57 percent of the popular vote to an Electoral College blowout of 472 to Hoover’s pathetic 59. When the dust was all cleared after the 1932 election, Democrats controlled 59 of 96 Senate seats (or 62 percent), 313 of 435 House seats (72 percent), and they joined together under the Democrat in the White House for a massive mandate for change. I guess that explains why they sang “Happy Days Are Here Again”.

Quite arguably the exact same process is happening now. Republicans are deeply reviled for having taken the country off its historic path in nearly every way possible to do so. This is, of course, a disaster made by the entire party (not just one president), which effectively controlled all three branches of government from 2001 until 2007, with some minor exceptions in Congress and the courts. That means that GOP presidential candidates are stuck between the roughest of rocks and the hardest of hard places. They must run far away from the Party and the current president to have a prayer of winning in 2008, but they also simultaneously cannot plausibly do so, and even if they did it would only result in them alienating their own base. If the Democrats have even the slightest clue in their heads (which is doubtful other than the Clintons, who know how to win elections), 2008 will be a referendum on George W. Bush and the party of Iraq, Katrina, Osama, Schiavo, Rove, Foley, Social Security destruction, debt, devastation and more. You wouldn’t want to be holding them cards, even if you weren’t already as pathetic a figure as Rudy Giuliani or Fred Thompson, leading as demoralized a bunch of losers as is today’s GOP.

I suspect the repeat of 1932 is already underway. Like then, today you have a hegemonic Republican Party which has had ample opportunity to show its policy wares, generating a long line of angry customers demanding a refund on the damaged goods they bought. One of the great architects of the earlier GOP domination was Mark Hanna, who pioneered the noxious stew mixing money, corporate power and fear-mongering into the modern presidential campaign and was, therefore, the hero of one Karl Rove. But Rove got more than he bargained for in worshiping Hanna. And also less. He built himself a little empire, using the same tools, sure enough. But it was supposed to last a generation or two, like Hanna’s did. Alas, just the opposite has likely occurred. Rove’s empire generated enough revulsion such that his McKinley, George Bush the Inferior, is now widely considered the worst president ever, even by serious historians, and even by conservative ones. More importantly, it lasted just long enough to produce what appears to be precisely its opposite reaction - a generational realignment in favor of the Democratic Party. Or, more properly, in favor of the Party That Happens To Not Be The Republican Party.

2006 looks a lot like the warm-up, mid-term election, of 1930, where the anger was just beginning to bubble over. Last year, Democrats picked-up 6 seats in the Senate, and 31 in the House, capturing control of both houses from the Republicans. Not bad at all, by historical standards, but not enough to govern (even if the Dems had anything resembling political courage coursing through their veins, which they most assuredly do not). There’s the president with his veto pen. There’s the 40-plus Senate votes available to filibuster anything to death. And there, just in case Democrats were willing to push an issue and could then get it past filibuster obstructions, is the absence of the two-thirds supermajority needed in both houses to override a presidential veto. So, as in 1930, one more election is required.

Clearly, Hillary Clinton (the, gulp, presumptive nominee) is no Franklin Roosevelt. But it is worth remembering that in 1932 Roosevelt was no Roosevelt either. His main commitment was not to a progressive agenda, but rather to doing something - anything - which was enough to lead to resounding victory over Hoover and his band of merry Republicans, satisfied to bear-hug their economic orthodoxy while Americans literally died in the gutter.

If Clinton, like her Bubba before her, gives every impression of being the worst thing imaginable that the Democrats could gin up to occupy the Oval Office (Lieberman doesn’t count, now that he’s an independent), that’s because she is, or at least well could be. But it is important to understand that, at the end of the day, that’s really a misreading of the Clintons, which is actually a hopeful thought. I’ve seen presidential scholars and historians struggle and pull their hair out trying to figure these people out. Are they liberals? Sometimes! Are they moderates? Sometimes! Are they conservatives? Well, don’t tell the regressive right in America who live to hate Bill and Hill, but as a matter of fact, yeah, they are. Sometimes. You could ask Ricky Ray Rector, the poor SOB whom Governor Bill flew home to Arkansas to execute during the campaign of 1992. Except, of course, that Ricky Ray is dead. This despite the fact that he was so mentally impaired that he asked to have the pecan pie served to him for his last meal saved to be eaten later. Or you could consult with the tens of thousands of American jobs that used to be located here before Clinton made NAFTA and WTO happen, without environmental or labor protections, of course. If, that is, you can find them. They left the country long ago.

Anyone trying to locate the Clintons ideologically would have just about as much luck with Jack the Ripper. The ideology of the Clintons is not liberalism, conservatism or any other ‘ism’ but Clintonism. They are completely amoral and unconcerned about anything but themselves. In a way, that actually makes them worse than contemporary Republicans, but in another way that also makes them possibly quite useful to progressives, since - lacking any real ideological guiding star - they will simply become whatever creatures that events and pressures make them to be.
This is where we can be a bit hopeful, I think, even though the thought of Clinton being the next president is the great emetic of 2007. She’ll be whatever public sentiment wants her to be, including possibly quite progressive if that’s what we demand. She is also likely to be responsive to the public will as indirectly expressed through Congress. Hillary won’t be triangulating against her own party in Congress, like Bill did, if Democrats win overwhelming majorities in 2008 and there is a public demand for action.

Both of those eventualities, it seems to me, are highly likely - in fact more likely than a Democratic presidential victory, which I also see as substantially probable. Almost every card imaginable is lining up in favor or Democrats sweeping into a 1932-like rout next year. To begin with, of course, there is massive anger and disgust with the Republicans and they way they’ve governed these last six years. This is likely only to get worse, if for no other reason than that this president is not going to end the Iraq war during his tenure in office. Then there is the money which, for the first time probably in human history, is now flowing to Democrats in far greater amounts than to Republicans, as if we’ve fallen into some bizarro parallel universe of some sort. Even Wall Street is abandoning the GOP. When did that ever happen? The party, meanwhile, is having a very hard time attracting quality candidates to run, and increasingly, an equally difficult time keeping incumbents on board. Who wants to risk losing a brutal and humiliating campaign, stuck to an ugly party label, only to be relegated to the hopeless minority in Congress even if you do win? This would be the political equivalent of going kayaking in a hurricane in order to catch a single fish. Most people - even Republiclones - are not that dim or that masochistic. On top of all this, and just by happy coincidence, the math of the Senate rotation is especially daunting for the Greasy Oleaginous Party this year, as they are stuck defending twice as many seats within the one-third of the body up for election this cycle as are the Democrats.

As if all this weren’t bad enough for the GOP, the foam-at-the-mouth wing of the party has finally had enough of being played for fools and is now openly courting defection and the idea of running a third-party candidate against both Republicans and Democrats. It seems there is a limit, after all, to how many times the oligarchs can game the religious right and fellow-traveler shock troops, exploiting them for their money, labor and passion, while tossing them nothing but the occasional Supreme Court justice bone to shut them up. The money wing of the GOP (the one that really counts, and the one that lately has been doing quite a lot of counting, thank you very much America) found that out over immigration, the ultimate wedge issue. Now they’re finding it out again over the Giuliani candidacy. It seems the Frankenstein monster has a brain of its own, even if it is the abnormal one stolen from the medical university. (This is actually more than a bit scary for the long run. Recall that the United States helped create al Qaeda to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan, only to find that the organization had a few of its own subsequent ambitions as well. In this way, the Money Right may come to rue the day it created its army of angry white males out of the body parts of hate, fear and insecurity, all juiced to life with the electro-current of Limbaugh Lies. It’s certainly okay with me if the monster consumes its creators - more deserving fellows never there were - except that we’re all likely to get swallowed up in that bloodbath too. Anyone remember a certain Timothy McVeigh?)

Finally, the issues are all running against the GOP. Or maybe it is The Issue. What voter, outside of the Dirty Thirty - those 30 percent of Americans remarkably still clinging to this president - wants another four or eight years of the same idiocy, the same torture, the same incompetence, the same arrogance? More to the point, this race may well come down to a simple choice between a candidate promising an endless war in Iraq and another promising to get out. Republicans could have a worse platform than that on which to appeal to voters, but they’d truly have to work at it. Maybe Bush could revive the draft before next November if he really wanted to demonstrate how much damage a single individual can cause to a 150 year-old institution.

Some Republicans - in Missouri and Kansas of all places - have even started a trend (or revived Jim Jeffords’) of jumping ship to the Democrats, which is likely to become a tidal wave soon. This thing has the potential to become a virtuous cycle, where each bit of bad news for the party precipitates more bad news, which in turn… In my judgement, it is truly not too much to imagine this being the beginning of the end for the GOP, or perhaps a period in which it exists merely as a rump party in Mississippi, Utah, and other equally progressive outposts. If that is the case, and if having two major parties is ultimately endemic to American politics, and if conditions favor a progressive era, it is even conceivable that a new party could rise to prominence - to the left of the Democrats. Those are a lot of ifs, to be sure, and it is also surely the case that the GOP recovered from 1932, from the devastating blow-out of 1964, and from the post-Watergate smashing of 1974, only to morph into a powerhouse in 1980, 1994 and 2002. But at the same time, I would never have imagined the demise of the party as within the realm of possibility just seven short (well, actually excruciatingly long) years ago. What is different this time, above all, is that the party was taken over by radicals well out of the mainstream of public opinion, that it governed in its full unadulterated glory these last years with no one but themselves to plausibly blame for what transpired, that it failed dramatically at everything it touched, and that it really has nowhere else plausibly to go besides its toxic brew of international aggression, kleptocratic economics and sex-obsessed punitive social policy, all cut with a healthy mixer of nastiness, hypocrisy and congenital deceit. Mmmm. Yummy formula for drawing votes, eh?

Calling this a perfect storm may not do justice to the tsunami headed the GOP’s way. They’ll be lucky if they wind up as well off as the Tories in Britain after Thatcher, exiled for a dozen or more years, and only saved from utter oblivion by Tony Blair’s combination of you-feel-like-you-need-a-shower-after-listening-to-him smarminess and his stupidest-gamble-this-side-of-Germans-betting-on-fascism decision to climb into bed with George W. Bush (sorry, there aren’t enough showers in the Western Hemisphere to clean up from that image).

Of course, Democrats seem to possess a seemingly infinite capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and that’s even without reference to their pathetic ideological self-neutering, desperate as it is to avoid controversy of any sort, anywhere (”Oh, sorry - did we offend you by appearing to actually take a stand on an issue? We’ll make sure it never happens again.”). Even as we speak, they are busy squandering away what little trust the voters gave them in 2006. We should make no mistake but that nobody actually votes for Democrats these days. Instead, they either vote for the Republicans, or against them. How else could it be since you’d need a microscope to find what it is Democrats stand for.

But since those are the present choices, Democrats are likely to get one more chance in 2008, and they’re likely - with one exception - to sew up total control of the government, with a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and little need for overriding vetoes. The one exception, interestingly, also has parallels to 1932, where the Democratic Congress and Roosevelt found its New Deal legislation frequently being shot down by the residual right on the Supreme Court. The same thing would happen after 2008, but, like then, can only go so far. The Court - or at least the swing voter Anthony Kennedy - knows that its power is dependent on its legitimacy, and that its legitimacy in turn depends on not legislating from the bench too often, particularly in the face of not just Congressional and presidential, but also the public will, and even more so when there is considerable hunger in the land for change. That’s a freight train that not even these troglodytes are dumb enough to stand in front of for very long.

Interesting things could well happen in 2009. This country will not ever be Sweden, but it could conceivably get within shouting distance. People have seen the alternative and it ain’t pretty. Baby Boomers, likely to continue being the 800-pound gorilla of American society all the way until they leave a glut of unemployed undertakers in their wake, will be wanting economic security and social freedom, both policies of the left. Clinton will be pulled in that direction, and won’t even resist much if the public is already there. She just wants power. Then she’ll want re-election, then she’ll want a legacy. And all of that is fed by popularity, not any sort of real agenda or principle she’d be bringing to the table. In the coming years we can safely expect an exit from Iraq, no other wars of aggression, national healthcare, a semi-serious global warming policy, an end to the trampling of civil liberties, an approximation of tax and budgetary sanity, good relations with much of the world, bible-thumping sex police thrown out of American government and confined instead to their personal S&M basement dungeons, civil rights decency for minorities and gays, and perhaps even halfway serious campaign finance and electoral system reform.

It ain’t everything I’d want, but honestly, it ain’t bad either, and I mean that even without resorting to a slam-dunk comparison against the present nightmare (anybody can do better than these guys, just by showing up).

The last major item not on that list would be the general reeling-in of grossly bloated corporate power in America and the world, which is where we can pretty safely bet that Clinton would draw her line in the sand - not that Congress would be pushing much in that direction anyhow.

But, hey, you know, we need to save something to bitch about in 2012 anyhow, don’t we?

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, http://www.regressiveantidote.net/.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

SEIU Fails the Political Courage Test

Although I'm generally proud to be a member of SEIU, the fastest growing labor union in North America, I'm embarassed for the leaders of my union today for committing a blatant act of political cowardice (see below). Sen. Edwards is not only the most pro-labor, pro-union, pro-working families candidate in the race, he's also the most electable. This represents a very rare combination and thus an opportunity that should not be wasted. In a crowded field of eight Democratic candidates Edwards earned the support of a clear majority (55%) of the members of our national executive board -- quite an amazing accomplishment -- but our leaders still chose to ignore the will of the majority and decided not to endorse him. In doing so, they have brought shame to our great union and have also squandered a golden opportunity to help elect the first genuinely progressive President in the history of our nation.

On the bright side, the SEIU chapters in the early primary and caucus states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) now have a chance to partially redeem our union. Let's hope they do so quickly.

Solidarity Forever!
Paul B

Rolling Stone Magazine -- National Affairs Daily, 10/9/07
Sometimes no news is the worst news of all. SEIU, the high-growth service workers’ union, announced today that it won’t make a union-wide endorsement in the Democratic primary.
“Any one of these candidates would help create a new American dream for workers and their families,” said SEIU honcho Anna Burger.
This is a true disapointment for Edwards campaign. The candidate has been working for this endorsement, hard, since the end of the 2004 campaign, walking pickets, joining hunger strikes, doing just about anything imaginable to win SEIU support.
I interviewed Burger for the profile of Edwards I wrote earlier this year. She confided that SEIU had a “special relationship” with Edwards:
"He has always been willing to reach out in organizing campaigns. He was with us in Houston when we were organizing 5,000 janitors, which was a huge effort. He was also with us in Miami when we were organizing janitors and university workers at the University of Miami, where we were in a very long difficult struggle. He wasn’t just making phone calls. He was on the picket lines.
"All of the Democratic candidates came to the SEIU executive board in January. When John Edwards came in, someone asked him what kind of workers’ struggles had he been involved in. And he started to list some. And then from around the room people kept on joining in, ‘Oh, and you were here.’ ‘And you were here.’ And it started adding up. There were more places than even he’d remembered. It was kind of a comical moment, when instead of a candidate having to answer, everyone else was.
"He was also the first one who jumped up and said he wanted to do our “Walk a Day in Our Shoes” challenge — and immediately he was off talking with a nursing home worker who was struggling to make ends meet. He believes with a passion about the importance of unions as part of the solution for working people in our country. This is a true commitment on his part."
With his modest fundraising to finish the third quarter, and recent slippage in the polls in Iowa, Edwards really needed this kind of momentum booster.
The good news for Edwards fans is that he can still vie for state-by-state endorsements of SEIU locals. Speaking to the Edwards campaign today, they put a brave face on the union’s decision, noting that SEIU Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina are now individually empowered to endorse their candidate. “This frees up our support within SEIU,” said an Edwards insider. “Now they can go to bat for us.”
The Edwards campaign also took pains to point out today’s SEIU decision prevents workers from, say, Illinois — where Obama’s endorsement is all but assured — from becoming foot soldiers in a pivotal early state like Iowa … unless Iowa’s SEIU local also endorses Obama.
So what if Iowa SEIU fails to endorse Edwards? “That would be troubling,” said the insider.
-- Tim Dickinson

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Obama: We need a new politics

Remarks of Senator Barack Obama: A New Beginning
Chicago, IL | October 02, 2007
Thank you, Ted. Ted Sorensen has been counselor to a President in some of our toughest moments, and he has helped define our national purpose at pivotal turning points. Let me also welcome all of the elected officials from Illinois who are with us. Let me give a special welcome to all of the organizers and speakers who joined me to rally against going to war in Iraq five years ago. And I want to thank DePaul University and DePaul's students for hosting this event.

We come together at a time of renewal for DePaul. A new academic year has begun. Professors are learning the names of new students, and students are reminded that you actually do have to attend class. That cold is beginning to creep into the Chicago air. The season is changing.

DePaul is now filled with students who have not spent a single day on campus without the reality of a war in Iraq. Four classes have matriculated and four classes have graduated since this war began. And we are reminded that America's sons and daughters in uniform, and their families, bear the heavy burden. The wife of one soldier from Illinois wrote to me and said that her husband "feels like he's stationed in Iraq and deploys home." That's a tragic statement. And it could be echoed by families across our country who have seen loved ones deployed to tour after tour of duty.

You are students. And the great responsibility of students is to question the world around you, to question things that don't add up. With Iraq, we must ask the question: how did we go so wrong?

There are those who offer up easy answers. They will assert that Iraq is George Bush's war, it's all his fault. Or that Iraq was botched by the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Or that we would have gotten Iraq right if we went in with more troops, or if we had a different proconsul instead of Paul Bremer, or if only there were a stronger Iraqi Prime Minister.

These are the easy answers. And like most easy answers, they are partially true. But they don't tell the whole truth, because they overlook a harder and more fundamental truth. The hard truth is that the war in Iraq is not about a catalog of many mistakes - it is about one big mistake. The war in Iraq should never have been fought.

Five years ago today, I was asked to speak at a rally against going to war in Iraq. The vote to authorize the war in Congress was less than ten days away and I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Some friends of mine advised me to keep quiet. Going to war in Iraq, they pointed out, was popular. All the other major candidates were supporting the war at the time. If the war goes well, they said, you'll have thrown your political career away.

But I didn't see how Saddam Hussein posed an imminent threat. I was convinced that a war would distract us from Afghanistan and the real threat from al Qaeda. I worried that Iraq's history of sectarian rivalry could leave us bogged down in a bloody conflict. And I believed the war would fan the flames of extremism and lead to new terrorism. So I went to the rally. And I argued against a "rash war" - a "war based not on reason, but on politics" - "an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences."

I was not alone. Though not a majority, millions of Americans opposed giving the President the authority to wage war in Iraq. Twenty-three Senators, including the leader of the Senate Intelligence Committee, shared my concerns and resisted the march to war. For us, the war defied common sense. After all, the people who hit us on 9/11 were in Afghanistan, not Iraq.

But the conventional thinking in Washington has a way of buying into stories that make political sense even if they don't make practical sense. We were told that the only way to prevent Iraq from getting nuclear weapons was with military force. Some leading Democrats echoed the Administration's erroneous line that there was a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. We were counseled by some of the most experienced voices in Washington that the only way for Democrats to look tough was to talk, act and vote like a Republican.

As Ted Sorensen's old boss President Kennedy once said - "the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war - and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears." In the fall of 2002, those deaf ears were in Washington. They belonged to a President who didn't tell the whole truth to the American people; who disdained diplomacy and bullied allies; and who squandered our unity and the support of the world after 9/11.

But it doesn't end there. Because the American people weren't just failed by a President - they were failed by much of Washington. By a media that too often reported spin instead of facts. By a foreign policy elite that largely boarded the bandwagon for war. And most of all by the majority of a Congress - a coequal branch of government - that voted to give the President the open-ended authority to wage war that he uses to this day. Let's be clear: without that vote, there would be no war.

Some seek to rewrite history. They argue that they weren't really voting for war, they were voting for inspectors, or for diplomacy. But the Congress, the Administration, the media, and the American people all understood what we were debating in the fall of 2002. This was a vote about whether or not to go to war. That's the truth as we all understood it then, and as we need to understand it now. And we need to ask those who voted for the war: how can you give the President a blank check and then act surprised when he cashes it?

With all that we know about what's gone wrong in Iraq, even today's debate is divorced from reality. We've got a surge that is somehow declared a success even though it has failed to enable the political reconciliation that was its stated purpose. The fact that violence today is only as horrific as in 2006 is held up as progress. Washington politicians and pundits trip over each other to debate a newspaper advertisement while our troops fight and die in Iraq.

And the conventional thinking today is just as entrenched as it was in 2002. This is the conventional thinking that measures experience only by the years you've been in Washington, not by your time spent serving in the wider world. This is the conventional thinking that has turned against the war, but not against the habits that got us into the war in the first place - the outdated assumptions and the refusal to talk openly to the American people.

Well I'm not running for President to conform to Washington's conventional thinking - I'm running to challenge it. I'm not running to join the kind of Washington groupthink that led us to war in Iraq - I'm running to change our politics and our policy so we can leave the world a better place than our generation has found it.

So there is a choice that has emerged in this campaign, one that the American people need to understand. They should ask themselves: who got the single most important foreign policy decision since the end of the Cold War right, and who got it wrong. This is not just a matter of debating the past. It's about who has the best judgment to make the critical decisions of the future. Because you might think that Washington would learn from Iraq. But we've seen in this campaign just how bent out of shape Washington gets when you challenge its assumptions.

When I said that as President I would lead direct diplomacy with our adversaries, I was called naïve and irresponsible. But how are we going to turn the page on the failed Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to our adversaries if we don't have a President who will lead that diplomacy?

When I said that we should take out high-level terrorists like Osama bin Laden if we have actionable intelligence about their whereabouts, I was lectured by legions of Iraq War supporters. They said we can't take out bin Laden if the country he's hiding in won't. A few weeks later, the co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission - Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton - agreed with my position. But few in Washington seemed to notice.

Some people made a different argument on this issue. They said we can take out bin Laden, we just can't say that we will. I reject this. I am a candidate for President of the United States, and I believe that the American people have a right to know where I stand.

And when I said that we can rule out the use of nuclear weapons to take out a terrorist training camp, it was immediately branded a "gaffe" because I did not recite the conventional Washington-speak. But is there any military planner in the world who believes that we need to drop a nuclear bomb on a terrorist training camp?

We need to question the world around us. When we have a debate about experience, we can't just debate who has the most experience scoring political points. When we have a debate about experience, we can't just talk about who fought yesterday's battles - we have to focus on who can face the challenges and seize the opportunities of tomorrow. Because no matter what we think about George Bush, he's going to be gone in January 2009. He's not on the ballot. This election is about ending the Iraq War, but even more it's about moving beyond it. And we're not going be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq. We're not going to unify a divided America to confront these threats with the same old conventional politics of just trying to beat the other side.

In 2009, we will have a window of opportunity to renew our global leadership and bring our nation together. If we don't seize that moment, we may not get another. This election is a turning point. The American people get to decide: are we going to turn back the clock, or turn the page?

I want to be straight with you. If you want conventional Washington thinking, I'm not your man. If you want rigid ideology, I'm not your man. If you think that fundamental change can wait, I'm definitely not your man. But if you want to bring this country together, if you want experience that's broader than just learning the ways of Washington, if you think that the global challenges we face are too urgent to wait, and if you think that America must offer the world a new and hopeful face, then I offer a different choice in this race and a different vision for our future.

The first thing we have to do is end this war. And the right person to end it is someone who had the judgment to oppose it from the beginning. There is no military solution in Iraq, and there never was. I will begin to remove our troops from Iraq immediately. I will remove one or two brigades a month, and get all of our combat troops out of Iraq within 16 months. The only troops I will keep in Iraq will perform the limited missions of protecting our diplomats and carrying out targeted strikes on al Qaeda. And I will launch the diplomatic and humanitarian initiatives that are so badly needed. Let there be no doubt: I will end this war.

But it's also time to learn the lessons of Iraq. We're not going to defeat the threats of the 21st century on a conventional battlefield. We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors. We're not going to win a battle of ideas with bullets alone.

Make no mistake: we must always be prepared to use force to protect America. But the best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons - it's to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists. That's why I've worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law accelerating our pursuit of loose nuclear materials. And that's why I'll lead a global effort to secure all loose nuclear materials during my first term in office.

But we need to do much more. We need to change our nuclear policy and our posture, which is still focused on deterring the Soviet Union - a country that doesn't exist. Meanwhile, India and Pakistan and North Korea have joined the club of nuclear-armed nations, and Iran is knocking on the door. More nuclear weapons and more nuclear-armed nations mean more danger to us all.

Here's what I'll say as President: America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons.

We will not pursue unilateral disarmament. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we'll retain a strong nuclear deterrent. But we'll keep our commitment under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty on the long road towards eliminating nuclear weapons. We'll work with Russia to take U.S. and Russian ballistic missiles off hair-trigger alert, and to dramatically reduce the stockpiles of our nuclear weapons and material. We'll start by seeking a global ban on the production of fissile material for weapons. And we'll set a goal to expand the U.S.-Russian ban on intermediate-range missiles so that the agreement is global.

As we do this, we'll be in a better position to lead the world in enforcing the rules of the road if we firmly abide by those rules. It's time to stop giving countries like Iran and North Korea an excuse. It's time for America to lead. When I'm President, we'll strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions.

This will require a new era of American diplomacy. To signal the dawn of that era, we need a President who is willing to talk to all nations, friend and foe. I'm not afraid that America will lose a propaganda battle with a petty tyrant - we need to go before the world and win those battles. If we take the attitude that the President just parachutes in for a photo-op after an agreement has already been reached, then we're only going to reach agreements with our friends. That's not the way to protect the American people. That's not the way to advance our interests.

Just look at our history. Kennedy had a direct line to Khrushchev. Nixon met with Mao. Carter did the hard work of negotiating the Camp David Accords. Reagan was negotiating arms agreements with Gorbachev even as he called on him to "tear down this wall."

It's time to make diplomacy a top priority. Instead of shuttering consulates, we need to open them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world. Instead of having more Americans serving in military bands than the diplomatic corps, we need to grow our foreign service. Instead of retreating from the world, I will personally lead a new chapter of American engagement.

It is time to offer the world a message of hope to counter the prophets of hate. My experience has brought me to the hopeless places. As a boy, I lived in Indonesia and played barefoot with children who could not dream the same dreams that I did. As an adult, I've returned to be with my family in their small village in Kenya, where the promise of America is still an inspiration. As a community organizer, I worked in South Side neighborhoods that had been left behind by global change. As a Senator, I've been to refugee camps in Chad where proud and dignified people can't hope for anything beyond the next handout.

In the 21st century, progress must mean more than a vote at the ballot box - it must mean freedom from fear and freedom from want. We cannot stand for the freedom of anarchy. Nor can we support the globalization of the empty stomach. We need new approaches to help people to help themselves. The United Nations has embraced the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. When I'm President, they will be America's goals. The Bush Administration tried to keep the UN from proclaiming these goals; the Obama Administration will double foreign assistance to $50 billion to lead the world to achieve them.

In the 21st century, we cannot stand up before the world and say that there's one set of rules for America and another for everyone else. To lead the world, we must lead by example. We must be willing to acknowledge our failings, not just trumpet our victories. And when I'm President, we'll reject torture - without exception or equivocation; we'll close Guantanamo; we'll be the country that credibly tells the dissidents in the prison camps around the world that America is your voice, America is your dream, America is your light of justice.

We cannot - we must not - let the promotion of our values be a casualty of the Iraq War. But we cannot secure America and show our best face to the world unless we change how we do business in Washington.

We all know what Iraq has cost us abroad. But these last few years we've seen an unacceptable abuse of power at home. We face real threats. Any President needs the latitude to confront them swiftly and surely. But we've paid a heavy price for having a President whose priority is expanding his own power. The Constitution is treated like a nuisance. Matters of war and peace are used as political tools to bludgeon the other side. We get subjected to endless spin to keep our troops at war, but we don't get to see the flag-draped coffins of our heroes coming home. We get secret task forces, secret budgeting, slanted intelligence, and the shameful smearing of people who speak out against the President's policies.

All of this has left us where we are today: more divided, more distrusted, more in debt, and mired in an endless war. A war to disarm a dictator has become an open-ended occupation of a foreign country. This is not America. This is not who we are. It's time for us to stand up and tell George Bush that the government in this country is not based on the whims of one person, the government is of the people, by the people and for the people.

We thought we learned this lesson. After Vietnam, Congress swore it would never again be duped into war, and even wrote a new law -- the War Powers Act -- to ensure it would not repeat its mistakes. But no law can force a Congress to stand up to the President. No law can make Senators read the intelligence that showed the President was overstating the case for war. No law can give Congress a backbone if it refuses to stand up as the co-equal branch the Constitution made it.

That is why it is not enough to change parties. It is time to change our politics. We don't need another President who puts politics and loyalty over candor. We don't need another President who thinks big but doesn't feel the need to tell the American people what they think. We don't need another President who shuts the door on the American people when they make policy. The American people are not the problem in this country - they are the answer. And it's time we had a President who acted like that.

I will always tell the American people the truth. I will always tell you where I stand. It's what I'm doing in this campaign. It's what I'll do as President. I'll lead a new era of openness. I'll give an annual "State of the World" address to the American people in which I lay out our national security policy. I'll draw on the legacy of one our greatest Presidents - Franklin Roosevelt - and give regular "fireside webcasts," and I'll have members of my national security team do the same.

I'll turn the page on a growing empire of classified information, and restore the balance we've lost between the necessarily secret and the necessity of openness in a democratic society by creating a new National Declassification Center. We'll protect sources and methods, but we won't use sources and methods as pretexts to hide the truth. Our history doesn't belong to Washington, it belongs to America.

I'll use the intelligence that I do receive to make good policy - I won't manipulate it to sell a bad policy. We don't need any more officials who tell the President what they want to hear. I will make the Director of National Intelligence an official with a fixed term, like the Chairman of the Federal Reserve - not someone who can be fired by the President. We need consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence agencies. We don't need politics. My test won't be loyalty - it will be the truth.

And I'll turn the page on the imperial presidency that treats national security as a partisan issue - not an American issue. I will call for a standing, bipartisan Consultative Group of congressional leaders on national security. I will meet with this Consultative Group every month, and consult with them before taking major military action. The buck will stop with me. But these discussions have to take place on a bipartisan basis, and support for these decisions will be stronger if they draw on bipartisan counsel. We're not going to secure this country unless we turn the page on the conventional thinking that says politics is just about beating the other side.

It's time to unite America, because we are at an urgent and pivotal moment.

There are those who suggest that there are easy answers to the challenges we face. We can look, they say, to Washington experience - the same experience that got us into this war. Or we can turn the page to something new, to unite this country and to seize this moment.

I am not a perfect man and I won't be a perfect President. But my own American story tells me that this country moves forward when we cast off our doubts and seek new beginnings.

It's what brought my father across an ocean in search of a dream. It's what I saw in the eyes of men and women and children in Indonesia who heard the word " America" and thought of the possibility beyond the horizon. It's what I saw in the streets of the South Side, when people who had every reason to give in decided to pick themselves up. It's what I've seen in the United States Senate when Republicans and Democrats of good will do come together to take on tough issues. And it's what I've seen in this campaign, when over half a million Americans have come together to seek the change this country needs.

Now I know that some will shake their heads. It's easy to be cynical. When it comes to our foreign policy, you get it from all sides. Some folks on the right will tell you that you don't love your country if you don't support the war in Iraq. Some folks on the left will tell you that America can do no right in the world. Some shrug their shoulders because Washington says, "trust us, we'll take care of it." And we know happened the last time they said that.

Yes, it's easy to be cynical. But right now, somewhere in Iraq, there's someone about your age. He's maybe on his second or third tour. It's hot. He would rather be at home. But he's in his uniform, got his combat gear on. He's getting in a Humvee. He's going out on patrol. He's lost a buddy in this war, maybe more. He risked his life yesterday, he's risking his life today, and he's going to risk it tomorrow.

So why do we reject the cynicism? We reject it because of men and women like him. We reject it because the legacy of their sacrifice must be a better America. We reject it because they embody the spirit of those who fought to free the slaves and free a continent from a madman; who rebuilt Europe and sent Peace Corps volunteers around the globe; because they are fighting for a better America and a better world.

And I reject it because I wouldn't be on this stage if, throughout our history, America had not made the right choice over the easy choice, the ambitious choice over the cautious choice. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think we were ready to move past the fights of the 1960s and the 1990s. I wouldn't be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation - to unite this country at home, to show a new face of this country to the world. I'm running for the presidency of the United States of America so that together we can do the hard work to seek a new dawn of peace and prosperity for our children, and for the children of the world.

Posted by Duane Campbell. Progressive Alliance for Obama