Haass on Obama's Biggest FP Quandry

January 26, 2010

I recently had a question and answer session with CFR Consulting Editor Bernard Gwertzman regarding President Obama's upcoming State of the Union address. There is no doubt that the President will focus far more on economic and domestic issues than foreign affairs. This is partly for political reasons, but also because the world is relatively calm right now compared to the economy. But be ready for Iran to be the dominant foreign policy issue of 2010.
President Obama has indicated that he's going to stress "fighting for the middle class" in his State of the Union address. In fact, he hasn't really talked about foreign affairs lately, and it is uncertain how much attention it will get in the speech. Has foreign affairs dropped to the bottom of his priority list?  

There are two reasons that the speech is virtually certain to focus on the domestic economy. The first is the actual state of the domestic economy and the politics that surround it. Obviously that's the subject that's most on the minds of the American people. But secondly, it also reflects the fact that by contrast, the world of foreign policy and national security is relatively calm. Even though American forces are in large numbers in Afghanistan and Iraq, mercifully, U.S. casualties are low. The attempted terrorist attack in the airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day did not succeed, which made it a several-day story but not a lingering one. Even the attention to Haiti is beginning to fade because what grabbed peoples' attention was the human emergency, but the long-term challenge of developing Haiti is not going to be a front page story. So again, the reason for the domestic economic focus is a recognition that foreign policy and national security have receded from the forefront of the American political conscience. And there is an awareness that economic issues remain paramount. 

Recent polls show that the only foreign issue the public is very interested in is protecting the country against terrorists.

Which in some ways is as much a domestic issue; it's an extension of homeland security and again, it ought not to be surprising. Foreign policy begins at home. People think about economic issues in terms of "What does some policy mean for jobs?" So one of the reasons, for example, that trade is not getting the emphasis that I would like it to is because of domestic politics, and the fact that in a high unemployment situation, many Americans are worried more about imports than in seeing the opportunity in increasing exports.

Obama took office with a very full foreign policy agenda. On his second day in office, he announced that former senator George J. Mitchell would be his Middle East negotiator. He had an early study done on Afghanistan. What's happened to these issues? On Afghanistan, we know he announced in early December that he would send thirty thousand more troops and try to withdraw them by July 2011.

Which, in the end, may not be the most important part of the decision. The reorientation of policy: the reaching out to the Taliban, attempts to build relationships with tribal leaders, attempts to improve Afghan governance may be at least as important as the troop increase in Afghanistan. But you're right: Afghanistan was the most consequential national security decision by Mr. Obama's first term. But again, in the short run, his decision has taken it off the immediate front burner.

If he had not sent the thirty thousand troops, it would have been a big political issue.

Or maybe not, if things were relatively calm. Iraq is off peoples' radar screens, because again, U.S. casualties have reached a seven- or eight-year low. The Iraqi elections in March will be a few days' story, but Iraq won't resurface as a major issue unless things were to get quite bad again. As for the Middle East negotiations, trying to get the Palestinian-Israeli talks underway again, the administration launched what I believe was an ill-designed initiative that has come and gone.

That became a clear failure so far.

It was a misguided approach. On the other hand, Americans have discounted the reality of an Israeli-Palestinian impasse. So it's not an issue that most Americans wake up every day focused on. Many of the most important issues in the world--say China's trajectory, or Russia's, or India's--again are part of the architecture, but they don't get much in the way of day-to-day notice.

Let me say one or two other things. One issue that has clearly receded in attention in this country is climate change. It's the result of the poor economy; also the failure at Copenhagen, continuing debate over science, and new important debates over this or that policy prescription. That's an issue that clearly has less traction domestically in early 2010 than it had in 2009.

Obama has given considerable thought to nuclear weapons reductions. He gave a big speech on this in Prague, and we're negotiating with Russia on a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) treaty, which Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the other day was close to agreement.

All indications are we will get an agreement sooner rather than later, and it's good that you mention the nuclear issues because that cluster of issues is going to get more attention over the next six months than perhaps it has in any time over the last six or sixteen years.

We've got these big conferences coming up.

We've got two big conferences. You've got the Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in New York in May, and before that, in March, you have this Global Nuclear Security Conference, which Obama is hosting. So this combination of the Russian negotiations, as well as these two big international conferences, will remind people that this set of issues, which many think of as having disappeared along with the end of the Cold War, is still very much with us.

One of the major issues out there is still Iran, where Obama started out the year seeking to engage the Iranians in negotiations. Then we had these apparently rigged presidential elections in June. You earlier had supported the idea of negotiations. But you yourself wrote an article saying the United States should put more emphasis on changing the Iranian regime from within. What led you to change?

Let me say first if I were forced to predict, I would predict that Iran will prove to be the most compelling foreign policy issue of 2010. What led me to the view that the United States needed to reorient its policy away from a "nuclear first" or a "nuclear only" policy was several things. On the nuclear side, there was absolutely no evidence that the Iranians were either sincere about the negotiations or able to negotiate competently given the splits within the Iranian government. Secondly, the Iranians continue to go ahead in the laboratories, as we saw with the announcement of this secret facility outside of Qom. At the same time, they're clearly encountering difficulties in the laboratories, which perhaps gives us a little bit more time.

But most important, which you put your finger on, was the fraudulent June election and the emergence of a serious Iranian opposition. The stakes have now grown, given the degree of repression, and I believe that for the first time in the thirty years since the Iranian revolution, we have the emergence of a serious political opposition in that country that has significant and growing domestic support.

My view is that given that the negotiations are going nowhere, given that the Iranians continue to churn out enriched uranium at whatever rate they can in their labs, and given this political dynamic within Iran, the United States ought to find ways to support this Iranian dynamic--certainly rhetorically, but also in ways that would support the opposition rather than delegitimize it. The administration has to be careful. It has to be smart. But I do think there's a case for supporting the opposition. The president made a step in that direction on December 28 when he made some remarks about U.S. support for the rule of law, and freedom, and democracy in Iran. I believe that sort of an approach should be sustained.

The Iranians are not attending the Afghan conference in London later this week. I guess they don't want to show any support for the West right now?

Iran has reached a point where virtually everything that goes on needs to be looked at through the prism of what's going on domestically there. And it helps explain the variations in their posturing at the nuclear negotiations. It may well explain what's going on vis-à-vis Afghanistan. The fact is that historically, at times, Iran has played a helpful role in Afghanistan, and it's one of the important players there, obviously as it is in Iraq. It's a reminder how in the long run, Iran's reintegration into the region and the world in a constructive way would be a major, major positive development.

My sense is that Iran's domestic political dynamic, for the first time in three decades, holds out just that possibility. I don't think any of us know how close Iran is to meaningful political change--whether we're talking months, years, or whatever. But important things are going on there, and my only advice, or suggestion--to the U.S. government, to Congress, but also to other governments--is that rather than design and implement their policy solely with regard to the nuclear talks, which increasingly look like a long shot, they ought to increasingly design and implement their policy thinking about what effect it might have on the balance between Iran's opposition and Iran's government. What we really need is a reorientation of U.S. and European policy toward Iran.


State of the Union watch party at Local 16!

Join us for a State of the Union watch party

Wednesday, January 27

Program & Speech begins at 8:45pm

Local 16
1602 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 
(corner of 16th and U Streets NW)  

U Street Metro Stop (Green/Yellow line)

PLEASE RSVP ONLINE:  http://bit.ly/927SOTUrsvp

Co-Hosted by Generation Obama-VA/DC/MD, DC For Obama, DC Young Democrats, Democratic GAIN, DC For Democracy, Women's Information Network, New Latino Movement, Gertude Stein Democratic Club, South Asians For Opportunity, Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, Jobs That Are Left and more!

Republican attorney: Supreme Court decision means a drastically altered landscape

Ginsberg et al.: A drastically altered landscape

January 21, 2010
Posted by Ben Smith 02:50 PM

Leading Republican election lawyer Ben Ginsberg and four colleagues at Patton Boggs are circulating a memo today with the clearest outline I've seen of the consequences of a ruling that, they write, will "drastically alter the landscape for candidates and political parties."
They argue that, in particular, message control and coordination will be hard for candidates, amid an avalanche of outside spending; and that "the political party as we know it is threatened with extinction," because it will face spending limits outside groups don't.


To: Interested Parties
From: Benjamin L. Ginsberg, William McGinley, Glenn Willard, Kathryn E. Biber and John Hilton
Date: January 21, 2010
Subject: Citizens United v. FEC – Opportunities for Participation Grow

American campaigns and elections will change dramatically as a result of today’s Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC. The opinion provides new opportunities for many players in the process, but includes some large pitfalls for candidates and the political parties.
The most immediate and basic implication of the decision is that corporations and unions may now pay for unlimited independent expenditures directly from their general treasuries. And by invalidating a key portion of the McCain-Feingold law that barred such expenditures within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary, all entities will be able to directly advocate the election or defeat of specific federal candidates right through Election Day.

This affirmation of corporate and union First Amendment rights will also apply to state and local laws currently restricting corporations and unions from engaging in independent expenditures. Whether these provisions are in state law or in state constitutions, they are now unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

The Court left in place the prohibition on direct corporate or union contributions to candidates, as well as the current disclaimer and disclosure requirements on communications (although the precise level of reporting detail that will be required for corporate or union independent advocacy, including through 501c4 social welfare organizations and 501c6 trade associations is unclear).

The decision will drastically alter the landscape for candidates and political parties. While the limits and prohibitions on contributions to them remain in place, much more spending by outside groups throughout the election cycle specifically praising or criticizing candidates should be expected. There is no language in the opinion suggesting support on the Court for overturning the ban on the political parties raising non-federal funds, so parties, too, stand to be considerably outspent.

That means there will be extensive pressure in Congress to revisit those limits and prohibitions legislatively so that candidates are not drowned out in their campaigns and the public debate.

Here’s a quick analysis of what the decision means for key players in the political process:

Candidates: The limits placed on the size of contributions to candidates places them at a significant disadvantage compared to corporations and unions that will now be able to spend unlimited amounts on express advocacy right through Election Day. Controlling the issues they want to run on will become a real challenge, as will having sufficient funds to portray their positions and images.

Political Parties: Unless the laws change, the political party as we know it is threatened with extinction. The parties do several things for their candidates and supporters – raise money and conduct independent expenditures, conduct voter contact programs and describe the party’s position on issues, often through issue advocacy. With the limits on the amounts and sources of funds they can accept, the parties will be bit players compared to outside groups that can now conduct those core functions with unlimited funds from any source.

Corporations and Unions: Freed from their First Amendment shackles, corporations and unions can now engage fully in the political process. The reality of what this means is sure to be hotly debated depending on the speaker’s outlook. Republicans see a coordinated and extremely well-funded union effort that gives over 98 percent of its funds to Democrats, while corporations’ political giving tends to incumbent heavy and more evenly divided. Democrats see the size of corporate treasuries compared to unions and believe they are about to get swamped.

501c4s and 501c6s: Likely to emerge as the biggest players in the 2010 and 2012 elections, ideological groups and trade associations also have been granted the ability to engage much more robustly in the political process. Meager disclosure requirements of their donors will make them a favorite repository of funds for independent expenditures.

Wealthy Individuals: Ever since the 2004 elections when McCain-Feingold took effect, wealthy individuals have engaged in considerable spending. The Court’s opinion has significantly loosened what they may say. The decision, combined with the D.C. Circuit’s Emily’s List opinion of last fall, also eliminates the chances of Federal Election Commission enforcement actions that harassed many conservative donors off the playing field in the last two cycles. See Ginsberg, Politico op-ed from Jan. 21. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31669.html The decision will also lead to a number of new outlets who can carry the messages that these donors have wanted carried.

527s: This vehicle of choice for many outside, independent communications in the last three cycles has been rendered obsolete for this purpose by the Court’s decision.

Vendors: The opinion should drastically increase the number of voices singing in the First Amendment choir. This is very good news for those who assist those efforts.

We will provide further analysis and updates in the coming days. Please feel free to contact any of us with any additional questions.

Rogin: International affairs budget not impacted by proposed spending freeze

Phew... International affairs budget exempt from Obama spending "freeze"

By Josh Rogin     

Foreign Policy Magazine

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 - 12:51 PM

The entire international affairs budget will be exempted from the spending freeze that President Obama will announce in his State of the Union speech Wednesday night.
When the news broke about the pending freeze, people in the aid community were worried that programs such as global health or food security initiatives might fall under  the "non-security discretionary funding" designation that makes programs subject to the freeze. But those programs are safe from this particular threat.

"The entire 150 account will be exempted," from the three- year freeze, Rob Nabors, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget said on a conference call Tuesday.

The “150 account” refers to the international affairs budget request, which will be the basis  for the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This includes spending on global economic, diplomatic and humanitarian programs by the State Department, USAID, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, among others.

Of course, foreign-aid programs could be cut anyway; there's no guarantee. Or they could receive only modest increases due to the shift of Iraq and Afghanistan obligations into the foreign ops accounts. Most insiders expect that when the budget request comes out on Monday, the foreign affairs topline will look like a big increase, but non-war related accounts will get little new money.

On the larger picture, the freeze doesn't mean all non-exempted departments will feel the pain. "Not every agency that is subject to the freeze is being frozen," Nabors said. He also brushed off the reservations of some lawmakers, who will surely want to test the boundaries of the freeze.

"I understand the appropriators' initial reaction," said Nabors. "But there's a lot of time before these bills start moving."


Politico: After Brown's win in MA, Dems predict a more cautious foreign policy

Dems predict cautious foreign policy
By Laura Rozen
January 22, 2010 08:37 PM EST

Add one other thing to the list of consequences for President Barack Obama of the Massachusetts Senate race: a diminished ability to take risks in his foreign policy.

Democratic foreign policy observers predict that a weakened domestic political position will make Obama inclined to be more selective in choosing when and with whom to engage, focusing on opportunities where he can demonstrate success over more ambitious but less certain efforts, such as trying to achieve Middle East peace.

They also predict a more populist president focused more on job creation than the globe-trotting and triumphal speech making in Cairo, Istanbul, Prague, Moscow, Beijing and Ghana that Obama took time for in his first year.

From his seemingly stillborn efforts to revive Middle East peace talks to his ambitious arms control agenda, the sense that Obama has been weakened at home could factor into the calculations of foreign leaders sizing up the president and determining whether they should risk their own domestic political standing to accommodate U.S. policy.

“What really counts is the perception among friends and adversaries of whether or not he can deliver,” says veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller, now with the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. “Obama’s premier legislative accomplishment — that would legitimize his political standing in the U.S. — is now literally up for grabs. There’s no doubt that he has been badly wounded.”

Some of the foreign coverage of the Massachusetts race certainly came to that conclusion.

“Obama’s loss is Netanyahu’s gain,” argued Aluf Benn of Israeli daily Haaretz, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “For nine months, Netanyahu held his ground against pressure by Obama. ... From now on, Obama will be much more dependent on support from his Republican adversaries, who are supporters and friends of Netanyahu.”

“The world bids farewell to Obama,” mourned German magazine Der Spiegel.

The White House discounted any foreign policy impact to the lost Senate seat.

“The president’s responsibility to protect the American people is in no way affected by politics,” National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer told POLITICO. “His national security agenda is driven by America’s national security interests and not by anything else.”

Likewise, Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said that it a was mistake to think Obama was “mortally wounded” by Republican Scott Brown’s victory. But he nonetheless foresees an impact: “The question becomes: How does the president respond to this? Is he more selective in his priorities, and what are those priorities?”
Maybe by being more selective in the problems he tackles.

"Hypothetically, if the Iranians or Arabs and Israelis presented the president with the prospect of success, then what happens in Massachusetts does not affect him in the least,” Woodrow Wilson Center’s Miller said. But failing that, “he cannot look for additional vulnerabilities.”
“What he can’t afford now is the foreign policy equivalent of a Massachusetts’ Democratic meltdown.”

Former Clinton administration speechwriter Heather Hurlburt predicts the loss of his veto-proof majority in the Senate will reinforce a trend “over the last six months, ... of [the White House saying], ‘Let’s pick spots very carefully.’ Rather than backing down, ‘let’s be sure to pick the right battles.’”

An administration foreign policy official agreed that any effect would be indirect — but argued that wouldn’t make it any less real.

“To the extent that 67, not 60, is the relevant number when it comes to the Senate and U.S. foreign policy, the Brown victory carries less direct impact on the Obama foreign policy agenda than on his domestic policy goals,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to the number of Senate votes needed to ratify treaties such as the one on strategic arms reduction in the final stages of negotiation with Russia.

“It is the more indirect impact that may prove more significant,” the official continued. “Will Republicans now be emboldened to hand the president another political defeat by rejecting what the White House will tout as a significant foreign policy achievement? …. Will Republicans start finding a more aggressive voice in criticizing the president's overall handling of U.S. foreign policy? Will they start asserting he is too soft on Russia and China? Too hard on Israel? Will there be a renewed clamor for military action against the Iranian regime?”

There were already signs this week that congressional Republicans were raising the volume on familiar criticism that the Democratic approach to counterterrorism is overly legalistic and insufficiently hard-nosed.

Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, seized on testimony by Obama’s intelligence chief Dennis Blair describing how Nigerian terrorism suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was questioned by the FBI, provided a lawyer and read his Miranda rights after his arrest in Detroit.

“The Obama “administration [should] change course from their pre-9/11 mentality of treating terrorists like common criminals,” Bond argued.

Another Washington Democratic foreign policy hand said the Obama White House is likely to disengage from extraneous foreign policy engagements in stages: “By early-midsummer, the political folks will tell the policy folks that it’s only Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan that is on the president’s schedule,” he predicted.

Leading to the midterms, he added, the president is going “to be on the plane" to every political battlefield across the country. If the Democrats suffer serious losses in November, the message from the White House political shop is likely to be more pointed: “The president is now a war president and an economy president.”

View the original article here:  http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0110/31881.html

Jan 25, 12:00pm WEBCAST of Jim Jones on US Strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan

***EVENT FULL:  To watch the live webcast please click here.***

As the international community prepares to convene in London on January 28 to coordinate its efforts in Afghanistan, please join the Center for American Progress for remarks by National Security Advisor James L. Jones on January 25, 2010 on the administration's strategy in Afghanistan and the region.
Jones' speech will be followed by a panel of experts on Afghanistan analyzing the upcoming London conference, the state of the Karzai government in Afghanistan, and the international community's nonmilitary efforts in the country. The panel will include Paul O'Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy at Oxfam International, J. Alexander Thier, director for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the United States Institute of Peace and James A. Bever, Director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force at USAID. Panelists will assess U.S. progress on the "civilian surge," efforts to improve Afghan governance and tackle corruption, recent proposals for reconciliation with elements of the insurgency put forth by the Karzai government, and ways in which the United States can improve its own coordination and capacity on the civilian side.

Plouffe: November doesn't need to be a nightmare for Democrats

November doesn't need to be a nightmare for Democrats

By David Plouffe
Washington Post

Sunday, January 24, 2010; A17

The Democratic Party got a resounding wake-up call from the voters of Massachusetts on Tuesday. But it's long been clear that 2010 would be a challenging election year for our party.
With few exceptions, the first off-year election in a new president's term has led to big gains for the minority party -- this was true for Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. After two election cycles in which Democrats won most of the close races and almost all of the big ones, Democrats have much more fragile turf to defend this year than usual. Add to that a historic economic crisis, stubborn unemployment and the pain that both have inflicted on millions of Americans, and you have a recipe for a white-knuckled ride for many of our candidates.
But not if Democrats do what the American people sent them to Washington to do.
In 2006 and 2008, voters sent an unmistakable message: We want decisive change. This was not just a change of political parties. Instead of a government that works for the entitled and special interests, a government that looks out for Wall Street, they wanted a government that works better for them, a government that plays the role it should to help foster the security of the middle class.
Many of last year's accomplishments are down payments on those principles.
We still have much to do before November, and time is running short. Every race has unique characteristics, but there are a few general things that Democrats can do to strengthen our hand.
-- Pass a meaningful health insurance reform package without delay. Americans' health and our nation's long-term fiscal health depend on it. I know that the short-term politics are bad. It's a good plan that's become a demonized caricature. But politically speaking, if we do not pass it, the GOP will continue attacking the plan as if we did anyway, and voters will have no ability to measure its upside. If we do pass it, dozens of protections and benefits take effect this year. Parents won't have to worry their children will be denied coverage just because they have a preexisting condition. Workers won't have to worry that their coverage will be dropped because they get sick. Seniors will feel relief from prescription costs. Only if the plan becomes law will the American people see that all the scary things Sarah Palin and others have predicted -- such as the so-called death panels -- were baseless. We own the bill and the health-care votes. We need to get some of the upside. (P.S.: Health care is a jobs creator.)
-- We need to show that we not just are focused on jobs but also create them. Even without a difficult fiscal situation, the government can have only so much direct impact on job creation, on top of the millions of jobs created by the president's early efforts to restart the economy. There are some terrific ideas that we can implement, from tax credits for small businesses to more incentives for green jobs, but full recovery will happen only when the private sector begins hiring in earnest. That's why Democrats must create a strong foundation for long-term growth by addressing health care, energy and education reform. We must also show real leadership by passing some politically difficult measures to help stabilize the economy in the short term. Voters are always smarter than they are given credit for. We need to make our case on the economy and jobs -- and yes, we can remind voters where Republican policies led us -- and if we do, without apology and with force, it will have impact.
-- Make sure voters understand what the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act did for the economy. Rarely does a congressional vote or issue lend itself to this kind of powerful localization. If GOP challengers want to run ads criticizing the recovery act as wasteful, Democratic candidates should lift up the police officers, teachers and construction workers in their state or district, those who are protecting our communities, teaching our children and repairing our roads thanks to the Democrats' leadership. Highlight the small-business owners who have kept their doors open through projects funded by the act.
The recovery act has been stigmatized. We need to paint the real picture, in human terms, of what it meant in 2010. In future elections, it will be clear to all that instead of another Great Depression, Democrats broke the back of the recession with not a single Republican vote in the House. In the long run, this will haunt Republicans, especially since they made the mess.
-- Don't accept any lectures on spending. The GOP took us from a $236 billion surplus when President Bush took office to a $1.3 trillion deficit, with unpaid-for tax cuts for the wealthy, two wars and the Medicare prescription drug program. Republicans' fiscal irresponsibility has never been matched in our country's history. We have potent talking points on health care, honest budgeting and cuts in previously sacrosanct programs. Republicans will try to win disingenuously by running as outsiders. We must make them own their record of disastrous economic policies, exploding deficits, and a failure to even attempt to solve our health care and energy challenges.
During the campaign, who will be whispering in Republican ears? Watching GOP leaders talking about health care the past few days, it was easy to imagine lobbyists and big health insurance executives leaning over their shoulders, urging death to health insurance reform. When it comes to cracking down on the banks and passing tough financial regulatory reform, GOP leaders will be dancing to the tune of Wall Street lobbyists and opposing tougher oversight, as if the financial crisis never happened. We need to lay it out plainly: If you put the GOP back in charge, lobbyists and huge corporate special interests will be back in the driver's seat. Workers and families will get run over, just like they did in the past decade.
-- "Change" is not just about policies. In 2006, Democrats promised to drain the swamp and won back Congress largely because the American people soured on corrupt Republican leadership. Many ethics reforms were put in place by the Democrats. But a recent Gallup poll showed that a record 55 percent of Americans think members of Congress have low ethics, up from only 21 percent in 2000. In particular, we have to make sure the freshman and sophomore members of the House who won in part on transparency and reform issues can show they are delivering. The Republicans will suggest they have changed their spots, but the GOP cannot hold a candle to us on reform issues. Let's make sure we own this space.
-- Run great campaigns. Many Democrats won congressional and statewide races in 2006 and 2008 with ideal conditions. Some races could have been won with mediocre campaigns. Not this year. Our campaigns can leave no stone unturned, from believing in the power of grass-roots volunteers and voter registration, to using technology and data innovatively, to raising money -- especially with big corporate interests now freed up to dump hundreds of millions of dollars to elect those who will do their bidding. Democratic candidates must do everything well. Each one must make sure that the first-time voters from 2008 living in your state or district -- more than 15 million nationwide -- are in their sights. Build a relationship with those voters, organize them and educate them. On Nov. 3, many races are sure to be decided by just a few thousand if not a few hundred votes. These voters can make the difference. We have to show them that their 2008 votes mattered, and passing health insurance reform is one way to start.
-- No bed-wetting. This will be a tough election for our party and for many Republican incumbents as well. Instead of fearing what may happen, let's prove that we have more than just the brains to govern -- that we have the guts to govern. Let's fight like hell, not because we want to preserve our status, but because we sincerely believe too many everyday Americans will continue to lose if Republicans and special interests win.
This country is at a crossroads. We are trying to boost the economy in the short term while also doing the long-term work on health care, energy, education and financial reform that will lay a strong foundation for decades to come. Let's remember why we won in 2008 and deliver on what we promised. If Democrats will show the country we can lead when it's hard, we may not have perfect election results, but November will be nothing like the nightmare that talking heads have forecast.
David Plouffe, campaign manager of Obama for America and Obama-Biden 2008, is the author of "Audacity to Win."

Original article here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/22/AR2010012204216_pf.html 


Copenhagen and Beyond on 1/19

IFPRI is pleased to invite you to the following IFPRI Policy Seminar, which will be held in our fourth floor conference facility located at 2033 K Street, NW (entrance to building on 21st street between K & L streets). Please feel free to share this announcement with your colleagues.

Kindly RSVP to Simone Hill-Lee (Tel: 202.862.8107; s.hill-lee@cgiar.org).

****IFPRI Policy Seminar****

Copenhagen and Beyond: Three Perspectives on Agriculture and Climate Change


William Hohenstein, USDA

David Waskow, Oxfam America

Gerald Nelson, IFPRI


Mark Rosegrant, Director, Environment and Production Technology Division, IFPRI

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

12:15 pm – 1:45 pm

*Please join us for a light lunch beginning at 11:45 am*


The climate change negotiations in Copenhagen:

  1. failed miserably,
  2. were rescued at the last minute, or
  3. resulted in a promising set of new initiatives that will ultimately lead to a binding international treaty.

William Hohenstein (USDA), David Waskow (Oxfam), and Gerald Nelson (IFPRI) will provide perspectives on which of these three outcomes ultimately prevailed, how to remove the brackets in the negotiating text, and what the future might hold for policies and programs for agricultural climate change adaptation and mitigation.

William Hohenstein serves as the Director of the Climate Change Program Office (CCPO) at the USDA. The CCPO serves as a focal point for support to the Secretary of Agriculture on the causes and consequences of climate change, as well as for strategies for addressing climate change.

David Waskow is the Climate Change Program Director in the Washington office of Oxfam America. He was previously the international program director at Friends of the Earth - US.

Gerald Nelson is a Senior Research Fellow in IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division.

David Plouff speaks in DC on 1/19


On the eve of the first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, GW’s Graduate School of Political Management and the Progressive Book Club will host an evening Q & A discussion with David Plouffe, campaign manager and chief strategist of Obama for America. Mr. Plouffe will discuss his new book, “The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory,” and what’s next for the Obama administration after one year in office. Moderated by Sam Stein, White House Correspondent and political reporter for The Huffington Post, the event will feature a live audience at the GW campus and will be streamed live on the Internet. Questions will be taken from both the in-person and online audience.


Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2010; 7 – 9 p.m.


The George Washington University
1957 E St., NW, Rm. 113
Washington, D.C.
Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro (Blue and Orange lines)


To attend the event as a guest, visit: www.progressivebookclub.com. To view the event live on the Internet, visit: http://www.gspm.org/. Members of the media should contact Emily Cain, 202-994-3087 or eecain@gwu.edu.


In “The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory,” David Plouffe offers the ultimate insider’s view of the events that redefined so much of American politics. From the grassroots to the Internet, Obama for America changed how we think about campaigning and reenergized our spirit of activism.

The event is sponsored by GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at the Graduate School of Political Management and the Progressive Book Club.

For more information regarding The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, visit: http://www.gspm.org

US Inst of Peace: Haiti After the Quake, 1/19


Haiti after the Earthquake

Please join us at the Inter-American Dialogue for a discussion on the situation in Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck the country on January 12th. This discussion, jointly sponsored by the Inter-American Dialogue and the U.S. Institute of Peace, will examine the damage that has been done to Haiti and its people and the challenges the country now confronts. We will particularly focus on how Haiti’s political and economic prospects have been affected and what can be done by the international community to help aid in recovery and reconstruction.


  • Ambassador Albert Ramdin
    Assistant Secretary General, Organization of American States
  • Dora Currea
    Caribbean Country Manager, Inter-American Development Bank
  • Robert Maguire
    Chair, Haiti Working Group, U.S. Institute of Peace
    Former Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace
    Associate Professor of International Affairs, Trinity Washington University


Start Date:
January 19, 2010 - 3:00pm
End Date:
January 19, 2010 - 4:30pm


Inter-American Dialogue
1211 Connecticut Ave, N.W.
Suite 510
Washington, D.C. 20036

Short changing foreign aid?

With Haiti in the news, it's important to note the drastic change over the past several decades in how the US responds to crisis and development. USAID now has 10% of the staff once charged with managing America's assistance to foreign countries.

More details in the audio report by America Abroad Media "Arrested Development: Short-changing Foreign Aid," carried by NPR this week.

Haiti: How best to contribute

A [slightly edited] message from David Johns of the US Senate's HELP Committee:
A) The most reliable organizations seemingly best able to provide immediate assistance
These organizations already have people on the ground & tending to victims:
1. Go Free Ministries, www.gofreeministries.org
  • Mail: Go Free Ministries Intl. PO BOX 163108, Fort Worth, TX 76161-3108.
2. Partners in Health, www.pih.org/inforesources/news/Haiti_Earthquake.html
  • Partners In Health, P.O. Box 845578, Boston, MA 02284-5578

3. Doctors Without Borders, www.doctorswithoutborders.org
  • Online or toll-free at 1-888-392-0392 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • USA Headquarters 333 7th Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10001-5004.

B) Orgs that will provide longer-term support

1. Food for the Poor: http://www.foodforthepoor.org/

2. The Lambi Fund: http://www.lambifund.org/

3. World Vision: http://www.worldvision.org/

4. Haiti Lumiere www.haitilumiere.org

C) Those organizations with an uncertain time-table to get aid on the ground

1. YeleHaiti, http://www.yele.org/ (Wyclef's org)

2. Red Cross

D) For more complete lists of options, see:

USA Today


Facebook Haiti Earthquake relief page

Charity Navigator






A) Contact your Congresspeople (to get your Senator & Representative's number to MAKE A QUICK CALL, visit http://www.contactingthecongress.org/)

B) if you want to help & go the extra mile, please WRITE in to media outlets like your local newspaper, and/or newstation's website.

C) Volunteer to go to Haiti
  • Plans are coming together for a trip of Matador volunteers to go to Haiti to assist in earthquake recovery and relief. http://matadorchange.com/ ; NOAH is also gearing up to head to Haiti.

Helping Haiti (CAP report)

Helping Haiti

By Andrew Sweet, Rudy deLeon | January 14, 2010

Tuesday’s earthquake in Haiti has piled more misery on an already hard-pressed population. The International Red Cross believes up to 3 million people—one-third of its population—could be impacted by the disaster. Haitian President René Préval has called the situation a “catastrophe,” and UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon said Haiti is now facing a “major humanitarian disaster.”

The first priority is finding and treating the survivors. U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah—the U.S. government’s point person for this disaster—said Wednesday that, “The goal of the relief effort in the first 72 hours will be very focused on saving lives. That is the president’s top priority and is what the president has directed us to do.”

American assistance will be crucial in these early days as the 7.0 magnitude earthquake has devastated the capital, Port-au-Prince. The hospitals that are not destroyed are overcrowded. Even the Presidential Palace and the Ministry of Justice have collapsed in a city that lay in ruins.

After the emergency response, the reconstruction and development phase will likely last for decades. Absent this commitment, already high levels of poverty will rise, emigration will likely increase as individuals look to escape the deteriorating environment, and the future of Cité Soleil—the densely populated shanty town in Port-au-Prince already known for high levels of poverty and violence—is of particular concern with its large, unemployed youth population.

This devastating news follows a difficult past few years. Soaring food prices led thousands to riot in Port-au-Prince in 2008. Students protested in support of a minimum wage increase in 2009, and the global financial crisis hit Haiti particularly hard. And four hurricanes ravaged the country just in the past year. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delayed her Asia-Pacific trip to deal with the crisis, said, “[i]t is biblical the tragedy that continues to stalk Haiti and the Haitian people.”

Unfortunately, the Haitian Government is not in position to respond to the deadly earthquake. The World Bank ranked Haiti in the bottom 6 percent on government effectiveness in 2006. And as CAP’s 2009 report, “Haiti’s Changing Tide: A Sustainable Security Case Study” highlights, “The government does not have adequate funds and systems to provide services to the people in a manner that meets their essential needs and builds governmental legitimacy.” Given limited capacity in non-emergency situations, the Haitian government will need the strong support of the international community to overcome this tragedy.

USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance is the lead government agency tasked with providing and coordinating American assistance to international emergencies and disasters. This office has deployed a team that arrived to Haiti within 24 hours of the earthquake to conduct a damage assessment.

USAID’s work in places like Haiti is largely unknown by the American public. But the agency is at the forefront of helping the world’s poor overcome such “biblical” disasters. In fact, OFDA has been responding to manmade and natural disasters since 1964. OFDA responded to 80 disasters affecting more than 202 million people in 62 countries in Fiscal Year 2008 alone.

USAID is at the forefront of such crises because it is the right thing to do and the American people are eager to alleviate disaster and poverty. These actions raise the United States’ standing in affected countries and around the world. In October of 2005, for example, an earthquake hit Pakistan, resulting in the deaths around 80,000 people. USAID responded and provided emergency relief to thousands of people affected by the earthquake. According to a public opinion poll conducted after the tragedy, support for Osama bin Laden declined significantly, opposition to terrorist tactics increased, and more Pakistanis were then favorable to the United States than unfavorable for the first time since September 11, 2001. The poll concluded: “The direct cause for this dramatic shift in Muslim opinion is clear: American humanitarian assistance for Pakistani earthquake victims.”

The point is not that the United States should provide humanitarian assistance to win friends. What is crucial to understand is that American values have far-reaching positive effects. Additionally, USAID is at the heart of U.S. foreign policy and its actions don’t usually make the headlines. The fact that U.S. values have found a voice through U.S. institutions is a sign of our common humanity.

Our hearts go out to the millions of victims of Tuesday’s earthquake. It is important that the international community help Haiti rebuild its already fragile infrastructure and institutions. But as the Haitian people have proved time and again, resiliency is one of their crowning characteristics.