The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bush's Mafia Whacks the Republic

Bush's Mafia Whacks the Republic
By Robert Parry
Consortium News

Wednesday 20 June 2007

In years to come, historians may look back on U.S. press coverage of George W. Bush's presidency and wonder why there was not a single front-page story announcing one of the most monumental events of mankind's modern era - the death of the American Republic and the elimination of the "unalienable rights" pledged to "posterity" by the Founders.

The historians will, of course, find stories about elements of this extraordinary event - Bush's denial of habeas corpus rights to a fair trial, his secret prisons, his tolerance of torture, his violation of Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, his "signing statements" overriding laws, the erosion of constitutional checks and balances.

But the historians will scroll through front pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post and every other major newspaper - as well as scan the national network news and the 24-hour cable channels - and find not a single story connecting the dots, explaining the larger picture: the end of a remarkable democratic experiment which started in 1776 and which was phased out sometime in the early 21st century.

How, these historians may ask, did the U.S. press corps miss one of history's most important developments? Was it a case like the proverbial frog that would have jumped to safety if tossed into boiling water but was slowly cooked to death when the water was brought to a slow boil?

Or was it that journalists and politicians intuitively knew that identifying too clearly what was happening in the United States would have compelled them to action, and that action would have meant losing their jobs and livelihoods? Perhaps, too, they understood that there was little they could do to change the larger reality, so why bother?

As for the broader public, did the fear and anger generated by the 9/11 attacks so overwhelm the judgment of Americans that they didn't care that President Bush had offered them a deal with the devil, he would promise them a tad more safety in exchange for their liberties?

And what happened to the brave souls who did challenge Bush's establishment of an authoritarian state? Why, the historians may wonder, did the American people and their representatives not rise up as Bush systematically removed honorable public servants who did their best to uphold the nation's laws and principles?

One could go down a long list of government officials who were purged or punished for speaking up, the likes of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

The Taguba Purge

Yet possibly the most troubling case was revealed in mid-June by The New Yorker's investigative reporter Seymour M. Hersh, the case of Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and issued a tough report that prevented the scandal from being swept entirely under the rug.

Rather than thank Taguba for upholding the honor of the U.S. military, the Bush administration singled out this hard-working, low-key general for ridicule, retribution and forced retirement in early 2007.

In an interview with Hersh, Taguba described a chilling conversation he had with Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, a few weeks after Taguba's report became public in 2004. Sitting in the back of Abizaid's Mercedes sedan in Kuwait, Abizaid quietly told Taguba, "You and your report will be investigated."

"I'd been in the Army 32 years by then," Taguba told Hersh, "and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia."

It was also an early indication that Taguba's military career was nearing its end. In January 2006, Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's Vice-Chief of Staff, called Taguba and without pleasantries or explanation told Taguba, "I need you to retire by January 2007."

So, the general who had violated the omerta code of silence was banished from Bush's Mafia.

Hersh wrote that the sensitivity over Taguba's report went beyond its graphic account of physical and sexual abuse of Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib; it also brought unwanted attention to a wider pattern of criminal acts committed with the approval of President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

"The administration feared that the publicity would expose more secret operations and practices," including a special military task forces or Special Access Programs set up to roam the world and assassinate suspected terrorists, Hersh wrote.

Hersh quoted a recently retired CIA officer as saying the task-force teams "had full authority to whack - to go in and conduct 'executive action,'" a phrase meaning assassination.

"It was surrealistic what these guys were doing," the ex-officer told Hersh. "They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the [CIA] chief of station." [New Yorker, June 25, 2007, edition]

In other words, President Bush not only had arrogated to himself the right to snatch people off the street and lock them up indefinitely without trial but he had dispatched assassins around the world to eliminate alleged "bad guys."

The bigger picture - the stark and grim image of what had transpired over the past half dozen years in the name of the American people - was that the United States could no longer claim to be a nation of laws and liberties. It had become a country governed by a criminal mob deploying an unsavory collection of capos, consiglieres and hit men.

In this view, George W. Bush was no longer President of a Republic but Godfather of the world's most intimidating crime syndicate. But that was a reality that the U.S. news media could not afford to acknowledge in real time, though it might become the unavoidable conclusion of future historians.


Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy 7 Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press 7 'Project Truth.'

Bush domestic spying program flawed, former FISA court chief says

Bush domestic spying program flawed, former FISA court chief says
Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers

last updated: June 23, 2007 02:49:59 PM

WASHINGTON -- The former chief judge of a secret national security court took a swipe Saturday at the administration’s recently halted domestic spying program and said he insisted from the outset that the information gleaned must not be co-mingled with intelligence gathered under court warrants.

Because of that precaution, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said, he never had to rule on whether President Bush had the power to launch the separate, warrantless spying program in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Lamberth's seven-year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ended in May 2002.

In a rare public appearance, at the American Library Association’s annual conference and a brief chat afterward with reporters, Lamberth also said that the FBI could have avoided a huge flap over its mishandling of thousands of letter demands for phone, email, bank and other private records with a more centralized procedure. If FBI Director Robert Mueller had required that a supervisor at bureau headquarters approve each of those National Security Letters, he said, uniform standards could have been applied and mistakes eliminated.

He also assured librarians that members of the secret court are sensitive to civil liberties. "The judges understand that the war has to be fought, but not at all costs," he said.

Lamberth declined to say whether he believes the National Security Agency’s wiretap program was illegal.

But he said he has "never seen a better way" to conduct domestic spying than under the national security court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The court secretly approves warrants for wiretaps and searches in counterterrorism and espionage investigations.

"I’ve seen a proposal for a worse way," Lamberth said. "That’s what the president did with the NSA program."

When the NSA program to monitor overseas calls was first proposed in late 2001, Lamberth said, he had "many discussions" with Attorney General John Ashcroft and John Yoo, a Justice Department lawyer whose legal opinions argued that the president has expansive emergency powers during wartime.

"My primary motivation was, if the president was going to assert this authority … that it be done totally separately," he said. "If anything was presented to the FISA court that came from that program, the FISA court had to be told about it. Then we had to rule on whether it was illegally obtained or not."

In January, partly in response to an outcry from civil rights groups that challenged the program’s legality, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales disclosed that the NSA program would be put under the auspices of the FISA court.

Lamberth said he would not be surprised if Congress also requires the court to approve all National Security Letters sent by the FBI requesting phone, email or financial records.

"I can’t say it would be a great burden on the FISA court," he said.

Recent internal audits found that FBI agents had violated the law or agency rules in sending letter requests in national security investigations, including instances in which agents sought information to which the bureau was not entitled.

Lamberth attributed the problems to "bureaucratic bumbling," which he blamed partly on policies requiring special agents who head FBI field offices to approve the letters, rather than a central office at headquarters.

But he heaped praise on FBI Director Mueller, who has taken personal responsibility for the privacy breaches, saying he is "absolutely top notch … an absolutely phenomenally qualified lawyer and a master at running government agencies."

"There’s no question about integrity, no question about competence, no question that he’s trying to do the right thing," Lamberth said.

Asked his view of Gonzales, who is under fire amid a furor over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys and allegations of partisanship in the Justice Department, Lamberth declined comment.

2007 McClatchy Newspapers

Army Officer Says Gitmo Panels Flawed

Army Officer Says Gitmo Panels Flawed

- - - - - - - - - - - -

By BEN FOX Associated Press Writer

June 22,2007 | SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Army officer with a key role in the U.S. military hearings at Guantanamo Bay says they relied on vague and incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants," often without any specific evidence.

His affidavit, released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.

Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and those intelligence agencies.

"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence," Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an "enemy combatant."

Abraham "bravely" agreed to provide the affidavit when defense lawyers contacted him, said al-Odah attorney David Cynamon.

"It proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham," he said.

Matthew J. MacLean, another al-Odah lawyer, said Abraham is the first member of a Combat Status Review Tribunal panel who has been identified, let alone been willing to criticize the tribunals in the public record.

"It wouldn't be quite right to say this is the most important piece of evidence that has come out of the CSRT process, because this is the only piece of evidence ever to come out of the CSRT process," MacLean said. "It's our only view into the CSRT."

The military held Combatant Status Review Tribunals for 558 detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and 2005, with handcuffed detainees appearing before panels made up of three officers. Detainees had a military "personal representative" instead of a defense attorney, and all but 38 were determined to be "enemy combatants."

Abraham was asked to serve on one of the panels, and he said its members felt strong pressure to find against the detainee, saying there was "intensive scrutiny" when they declared a prisoner not to be an enemy combatant. When his panel decided the detainee wasn't an "enemy combatant," they were ordered to reconvene to hear more evidence, he said.

Ultimately, his panel held its ground, and he was never asked to participate in another tribunal, he said.

Abraham did not immediately respond to a message left at his law office.

A Pentagon spokesman said the Department of Defense was preparing a response.


Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to this report.

Salon provides breaking news articles from the Associated Press as a service to its readers, but does not edit the AP articles it publishes.

© 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
From the wires

Glenn Greenwald - Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida"

Everyone we fight in Iraq is now "al-Qaida"

Josh Marshall publishes an e-mail from a reader who identifies what is one of the most astonishing instances of mindless, pro-government "reporting" yet:

It's a curious thing that, over the past 10 - 12 days, the news from Iraq refers to the combatants there as "al-Qaida" fighters. When did that happen?

Until a few days ago, the combatants in Iraq were "insurgents" or they were referred to as "Sunni" or "Shia'a" fighters in the Iraq Civil War. Suddenly, without evidence, without proof, without any semblance of fact, the US military command is referring to these combatants as "al-Qaida".

Welcome to the latest in Iraq propaganda.

That the Bush administration, and specifically its military commanders, decided to begin using the term "Al Qaeda" to designate "anyone and everyeone we fight against or kill in Iraq" is obvious. All of a sudden, every time one of the top military commanders describes our latest operations or quantifies how many we killed, the enemy is referred to, almost exclusively now, as "Al Qaeda."

But what is even more notable is that the establishment press has followed right along, just as enthusiastically. I don't think the New York Times has published a story about Iraq in the last two weeks without stating that we are killing "Al Qaeda fighters," capturing "Al Qaeda leaders," and every new operation is against "Al Qaeda."

The Times -- typically in the form of the gullible and always-government-trusting "reporting" of Michael Gordon, though not only -- makes this claim over and over, as prominently as possible, often without the slightest questioning, qualification, or doubt. If your only news about Iraq came from The New York Times, you would think that the war in Iraq is now indistinguishable from the initial stage of the war in Afghanistan -- that we are there fighting against the people who hijacked those planes and flew them into our buildings: "Al Qaeda."

What is so amazing about this new rhetorical development -- not only from our military, but also from our "journalists" -- is that, for years, it was too shameless and false even for the Bush administration to use. Even at the height of their propaganda offensives about the war, the furthest Bush officials were willing to go was to use the generic term "terrorists" for everyone we are fighting in Iraq, as in: "we cannot surrender to the terrorists by withdrawing" and "we must stay on the offensive against terrorists."

But after his 2004 re-election was secure, even the President acknowledged that "Al Qaeda" was the smallest component of the "enemies" we are fighting in Iraq:

A clear strategy begins with a clear understanding of the enemy we face. The enemy in Iraq is a combination of rejectionists, Saddamists and terrorists. The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein -- and they reject an Iraq in which they are no longer the dominant group. . . .

The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller, but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein -- people who still harbor dreams of returning to power. These hard-core Saddamists are trying to foment anti-democratic sentiment amongst the larger Sunni community. . . .

The third group is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda.

And note that even for the "smallest" group among those we are fighting in Iraq, the president described them not as "Al Qaeda," but as those "affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda." Claiming that our enemy in Iraq was comprised primarily or largely of "Al Qaeda" was too patently false even for the President to invoke in defense of his war.

But now, support for the war is at an all-time low and war supporters are truly desperate to find a way to stay in Iraq. So the administration has thrown any remnants of rhetorical caution to the wind, overtly calling everyone we are fighting "Al Qaeda." This strategy was first unveiled by Joe Lieberman when he went on Meet the Press in January and claimed that the U.S. was "attacked on 9/11 by the same enemy that we're fighting in Iraq today". Though Lieberman was widely mocked at the time for his incomparable willingness to spew even the most patent falsehoods to justify the occupation, our intrepid political press corps now dutifully follows right along.

Here is the first paragraph from today's New York Times article on our latest offensive, based exclusively on the claims of our military commanders:

The operational commander of troops battling to drive fighters with Al Qaeda from Baquba said Friday that 80 percent of the top Qaeda leaders in the city fled before the American-led offensive began earlier this week. He compared their flight with the escape of Qaeda leaders from Falluja ahead of an American offensive that recaptured that city in 2004.

The article then uses the term "Qaeda" an additional 19 times to describe the enemy we are fighting -- "Qaeda leaders," "Qaeda strongholds," "Qaeda fighters," "Qaeda groups," the "Qaeda threat," etc. What is our objective in Iraq? To "move into neighborhoods cleared of Qaeda fighters and hold them."

In virtually every article from the Times now, anyone we fight is automatically designated "Al Qaeda":

* June 21 (by Michael Gordon and Alissa Rubin):

American troops discovered a medical aid station for insurgents -- another sign that the Qaeda fighters had prepared for an intense fight . . . In a statement, the American military said it had killed 41 Qaeda operatives.

* June 20 (by Michael Gordon):

The problem of collaring the Qaeda fighters is challenging in several respects. . . The presence of so many civilians on an urban battlefield affords the operatives from Al Qaeda another possible means to elude their American pursuers. . . . Since the battle for western Baquba began, Qaeda insurgents have carried out a delaying action, employing snipers and engaging American troops in several firefights.

* June 19 (by Michael Gordon and Damien Cave):

The Qaeda and insurgent strongholds in Baquba are strongly defended, according to American intelligence reports [though even that article described the enemy in Baquba as "a mix of former members of Saddam Hussein's army and paramilitary forces, embittered Sunni Arab men, criminal gangs and Qaeda Islamists"]

*June 17 (by Thom Shanker and Michael Gordon):

With the influx of tens of thousands of additional combat troops into Iraq now complete, American forces have begun a wide offensive against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia on the outskirts of Baghdad, the top American commander in Iraq said Saturday.

The commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, in a news conference in Baghdad along with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, said the operation was intended to take the fight to Al Qaeda's hide-outs in order to cut down the group's devastating campaign of car bombings. . . .

The additional American forces, General Petraeus said Saturday, would allow the United States to conduct operations in "a number of areas around Baghdad, in particular to go into areas that were sanctuaries in the past of Al Qaeda."

From The Washington Post today:

The battle came Friday to the town of Khalis, about 10 miles northwest of Baqubah. U.S. forces saw a group of al-Qaeda in Iraq gunmen attempting to avoid Iraqi police patrols and infiltrate Khalis from the southwest, according to a U.S. military statement. . . . .

With those deaths, at least 68 suspected al-Qaeda operatives have been killed in the offensive, according to the U.S. military's tally.

And here is the headline from CNN's article yesterday:

Note that, in the sub-headline, CNN totals the number of "militants" killed as 68, which, in the headline, magically becomes "68 al Qaeda militants killed." That is because, in our media, everyone we kill in Iraq, and everyone who fights against our occupation, are all now "al Qaeda."

Each of these articles typically (though not always) initially refers to "Al Qaeda in Iraq" or "Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," as though they are nothing more than the Iraqi branch office of the group that launched the 9/11 attacks. The articles then proceed to refer to the group only as "Qaeda," and repeatedly quote U.S. military officials quantifying the amount of "Qaeda fighters" we killed. Hence, what we are doing in Iraq is going after and killing members of the group which flew the planes into our buildings. Who could possibly be against that?

Are there some foreign fighters in Iraq who have taken up arms against the U.S. occupation who are fairly called "Al Qaeda"? Probably. But by all accounts -- including the President's -- they are a tiny part of the groups with guns who are waging war in Iraq. The vast, vast majority of them are Iraqis motivated by a desire to acquire more political power in their own country at the expense of other Iraqi factions and/or to fight against a foreign occupation of their country. To refer to them as "Al Qaeda" so casually and with so little basis (other than the fact that U.S. military officials now do so) is misleading and propagandistic in the extreme.

Making matters much worse, this tactic was exposed long, long ago. From the Christian Science Monitor in September, 2005:

The US and Iraqi governments have vastly overstated the number of foreign fighters in Iraq, and most of them don't come from Saudi Arabia, according to a new report from the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS). According to a piece in The Guardian, this means the US and Iraq "feed the myth" that foreign fighters are the backbone of the insurgency. While the foreign fighters may stoke the insurgency flames, they make up only about 4 to 10 percent of the estimated 30,000 insurgents.

And in January of this year, the Cato Institute published a detailed analysis -- entitled "The Myth of an al Qaeda Takeover of Iraq" -- by Ted Galen Carpenter, its vice president for defense and foreign policy studies, documenting that claims of "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is "a canard that the perpetrators of the current catastrophe use to frighten people into supporting a fatally flawed, and seemingly endless, nation-building debacle."

What is always most striking about this is how uncritically our press passes on government claims. War reporting in Iraq is obviously extremely difficult and dangerous, and it takes a great deal of courage to be in Iraq in order to file these stories. There is no denying that.

But precisely because of those dangers, these reporters rely almost exclusively on the narratives offered by U.S. military officials selected by the Bush administration to convey events to the press. Almost every one of the articles referenced above is shaped from start to finish by accounts about what happened from American military commanders (with, in isolated instances, accounts from Iraqis in the area). That is inevitable, though such accounts ought to be treated with much greater skepticism.

But what is not inevitable is to adopt the patently misleading nomenclature and political rhetoric of the administration, so plainly designed to generate support for the "surge" (support for which Gordon himself admitted he has embraced) by creating the false appearance that the violence in Iraq is due to attacks by the terrorist group responsible for 9/11. What makes this practice all the more disturbing is how quickly and obediently the media has adopted the change in terms consciously issued by the Bush administration and their military officials responsible for presenting the Bush view of the war to the press.

The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming

The Secret Campaign of President Bush's Administration To Deny Global Warming


Posted Jun 20, 2007 12:49 PM

>>> This article is from the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on news stands until June 29th

"That's a big no. The president believes . . . that it should be the goal of policymakers to protect the American way of life. The American way of life is a blessed one."

- Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary responding in May 2001 to whether Bush would ask Americans to curb their first-in-the-world energy consumption

Earlier this year, the world's top climate scientists released a definitive report on global warming. It is now "unequivocal," they concluded, that the planet is heating up. Humans are directly responsible for the planetary heat wave, and only by taking immediate action can the world avert a climate catastrophe. Megadroughts, raging wildfires, decimated forests, dengue fever, legions of Katrinas - unless humans act now to curb our climate-warming pollution, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "we are in deep trouble."

You would think, in the wake of such stark and conclusive findings, that the White House would at least offer some small gesture to signal its concern about the impending crisis. It's not every day, after all, that the leading scientists from 120 nations come together and agree that the entire planet is about to go to hell. But the Bush administration has never felt bound by the reality-based nature of science - especially when it comes from international experts. So after the report became public in February, Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to offer his own, competing assessment of global warming.

"We're going to see a big debate on it going forward," Cheney told ABC News, about "the extent to which it is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man." What we know today, he added, is "not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that's going to 'solve' the problem."

Even former White House insiders were shocked by the vice president's see-no-evil performance. "I don't see how he can say that with a straight face anymore," Christine Todd Whitman, who clashed privately with Cheney over climate policy during her tenure as the administration's first chief of the Environmental Protection Agency, tells Rolling Stone. "The consequences of climate change are very real and very negative, but Cheney is not convinced of that. He believes - not quite as much as Senator James Inhofe, that this is a 'hoax' - but that the Earth has been changing since it was formed and to say that climate change is caused by humans is incorrect."

Cheney's statements were the latest move in the Bush administration's ongoing strategy to block federal action on global warming. It is no secret that industry-connected appointees within the White House have worked actively to distort the findings of federal climate scientists, playing down the threat of climate change. But a new investigation by Rolling Stone reveals that those distortions were sanctioned at the highest levels of our government, in a policy formulated by the vice president, implemented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and enforced by none other than Karl Rove. An examination of thousands of pages of internal documents that the White House has been forced to relinquish under the Freedom of Information Act - as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration scientists and climate-policy officials - confirms that the White House has implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming and to forestall limits on climate polluters.

"They've got a political clientele that does not want to be regulated," says Rick Piltz, a former Bush climate official who blew the whistle on White House censorship of global-warming documents in 2005. "Any honest discussion of the science would stimulate public pressure for a stronger policy. They're not stupid."

Bush's do-nothing policy on global warming began almost as soon as he took office. By pursuing a carefully orchestrated policy of delay, the White House has blocked even the most modest reforms and replaced them with token investments in futuristic solutions like hydrogen cars. "It's a charade," says Jeremy Symons, who represented the EPA on Cheney's energy task force, the industry-studded group that met in secret to craft the administration's energy policy. "They have a single-minded determination to do nothing - while making it look like they are doing something."

It's now almost impossible to fathom that back in 2000, after then-candidate Bush vowed to place caps on carbon pollution, top climate scientists believed he was just the man to take action on global warming. "It looked like we could finally get beyond the fray that had consumed the Clinton administration," recalls James McCarthy, a Harvard climate scientist who co-chaired the previous report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which gaveled down the very day Bush was inaugurated in 2001.

Even at that point, the science was in. The U.N. panel linked "most of the warming observed over the last fifty years" to "human activities." That judgment aligned with the National Assessment on climate change, a landmark federal report commissioned by Bush's father in 1990 and completed just before Bush was elected in 2000. The assessment projected dire impacts from global warming - from the extinction of maple trees in New England to a catastrophic loss of snowpack in California. "If we do nothing," McCarthy says, "the lack of water in California will force a mass exodus."

But those who were expecting a Nixon-to-China moment from Bush on climate weren't counting on the influence of the vice president and his industrial patrons. In March 2001, Whitman traveled to Italy for climate talks with European allies. She affirmed Bush's commitment to regulating greenhouse gases - a position she had vetted with Condoleezza Rice and Chief of Staff Andy Card. But what Whitman didn't grasp was that when it came to climate, the president was largely irrelevant.

Whitman should have had her doubts. Prior to joining the Cabinet, she sought personal assurance from Bush that the EPA would be able to call its own shots without deferring to the CEQ - the Council on Environmental Quality, a policy arm of the White House. As Whitman recalls it, Bush made no effort to mask his bureaucratic ignorance. "What's CEQ?" he asked blankly.

Cheney took full advantage of the president's cluelessness, bringing the CEQ into his own portfolio. "The environment and energy issues were really turned over to him from the beginning," Whitman says. The CEQ became Cheney's shadow EPA, with industry calling the shots. To head up the council, Cheney installed James Connaughton, a former lobbyist for industrial polluters, who once worked to help General Electric and ARCO skirt responsibility for their Superfund waste sites.

Industry swiftly took advantage of its new friend in the White House. In a fax sent to the CEQ on February 6th, 2001 - two weeks after Bush took office - ExxonMobil's top lobbyist, Randy Randol, demanded a housecleaning of the scientists in charge of studying global warming. Exxon urged CEQ to dump Robert Watson, who chaired the IPCC, along with Rosina Bierbaum and Mike MacCracken, who had coordinated the National Assessment.

Exxon's wish was the CEQ's command. According to an internal e-mail obtained by Rolling Stone, Connaughton's first order of business - even before his nomination was made public - was to write his White House colleagues-to-be from his law firm of Sidley & Austin. He echoed Exxon's call that Bierbaum, the acting director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, be "dealt." In the end, each of the scientists on Exxon's hit list was replaced. "It was clear there was a strong lobby and activity against me by some in the energy industry - especially ExxonMobil," says Watson.

A month after Exxon's fax, Whitman got her first sign that the EPA was no longer in charge of climate policy. "When I made the statement in Italy that something might happen on CO2," she says, "the utility industry got really engaged, and all of that caused a rethink." In a move Cheney is suspected of engineering, conservative senators Jesse Helms, Chuck Hagel and Larry Craig wrote the White House on March 6th seeking a "clarification" of the president's policy.

Two days later, the climate "rethink" was laid out in a memo by a team of advisers loyal to Cheney - two of whom, Andrew Lundquist and Karen Knutson, would go on to lead the vice president's energy task force. The memo - provided to Rolling Stone by a former administration official - concluded that Bush's campaign promise to regulate CO2 "did not fully reflect the president's position" and that "it would be premature at this time to propose any specific policy or approach aimed at addressing global warming." The authors dismissed both the IPCC and the National Assessment, writing that "the current state of scientific knowledge about causes of and solutions to global warming is inconclusive and . . . must await further scientific inquiry."

When Whitman heard that Bush was wavering on warming, she "broke through the palace guard," as the president had urged her to do, and marched into the Oval Office. "I wanted to tell him that there were ways to call for a cap on carbon that wouldn't hamstring the economy," she says, "and that it was vitally important we not be seen as ignoring the issue of climate change." But before Whitman could even present her case, the president cut her off. "It was clear the decision had already been made," she says.

As a dumbstruck Whitman walked out of the Oval Office, she bumped into the true Decider. There was Cheney, collecting the envelope from a secretary that contained Bush's "clarification" on climate-warming pollution - which he was on his way to deliver, in person, to his allies in the Senate.

Although the letter was signed by the president, it bore Cheney's unmistakable stamp. Quoting the language of the vice president's energy staffers almost verbatim, it not only reversed Bush's promise to regulate CO2, it also made a sweeping new declaration: that carbon dioxide "is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act." (The administration would cling to this untenable position for six years, until the Supreme Court ruled in April that federal law compels the EPA to take regulatory action on climate pollution.)

The letter concluded with a hint of things to come: "I look forward to working with you and others to address global climate change issues in the context of a national energy policy." Bush's about-face on planet-warming pollution thus enabled Cheney to take control of the White House's energy policy and to work with industry behind closed doors to craft a polluter-friendly approach to global warming. "By having control of the energy plan, the vice president also had the reins on the climate policy," says Symons, who sat in on Cheney's energy task force. "The ideology is simple: You don't put limits on greenhouse-gas pollution, because that might put limits on coal and oil - and that would hurt industry's performance. Everything else flowed from that."

As he shaped climate policy, Cheney took his cues from the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of anti-Kyoto polluters that included the top lobbying arms of the oil and coal industries. In June 2001, the administration dispatched Paula Dobriansky, the undersecretary of state for global affairs, to address the GCC at the headquarters of the American Petroleum Institute. In her speech, Dobriansky was glad to give the industry crowd credit for the president's decision to withdraw from the international treaty designed to slow climate change. Her talking points from that day read, "POTUS rejected Kyoto, in part, based on input from you."

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal that Dobriansky had received a copy of the GCC's "21st Century Climate Action Agenda," a game plan crafted by polluting industries that calls for "a new approach to climate policy" focusing on "voluntary actions" rather than mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. On February 14th, 2002, Bush gave a speech at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that laid out his policy on global warming for the first time. The speech was a Valentine's Day gift to polluters, officially enshrining the GCC's agenda, almost point for point, as the White House's climate policy. Under the plan, planet-warming pollution would actually increase by thirty-four percent by 2030. Bush vaguely promised to cut the "intensity" of carbon emissions by eighteen percent over the next ten years - neglecting to mention that the nation was already on track for a fourteen percent reduction. He touted $700 million in new funding for technologies that might someday reduce emissions - money that government auditors were later unable to find any trace of. And he promised that the entire plan would be thoroughly reviewed and re-evaluated - in 2012, four years after he left office.

The National Academy of Sciences blasted the policy, saying it lacked a "guiding vision, executable goals, clear timetables and criteria for measuring progress." Even the technology promoted in the president's plan was bogus. "It's as if these people were not cognizant of the existing science," one member of the academy remarked. "Stuff that would have been cutting-edge in 1980 is listed as a priority for the future."

In his Valentine's Day speech, Bush gave credit to the man who Cheney had placed in charge of crafting the nation's climate policy to suit the needs of big polluters. "I want to thank Jim Connaughton, who is the chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality," Bush declared. "He's done a fabulous job of putting this policy together."

Connaughton's mission at the CEQ was to make sure climate regulations never got in the way of energy development. A Yale-educated lawyer, Connaughton comes across like a slightly caffeinated Ron Howard, with a manic energy and a balding pate of wispy red hair. As head of the CEQ, he put a green spin on polluter-friendly measures: Lowering air quality became the "Clear Skies Initiative," while allowing timber companies to step up their clear-cutting was dubbed the "Healthy Forests Initiative."

To direct the White House's spin on global warming, Connaughton appointed Philip Cooney as his top deputy. Cooney had the right experience for the job: He worked as "climate team leader" for the American Petroleum Institute. In 1998, the API took part in an industry coalition that created the "Global Climate Science Communications Action Plan." The plan, recently entered into evidence by the House Oversight Committee, maps out an elaborate disinformation campaign to prevent "precipitous action on climate change." The strategy was to sow doubt about global warming, disseminating industry-funded research to challenge "the science underpinning the global climate change theory."

Now, with Cooney in the White House, the industry had its own anti-climate man running the disinformation campaign. As the "action plan" directed, Cooney set out to censor the EPA's science on global warming and inject the industry's denialist positions into government documents. "They decided they didn't need to win the debate on climate," says Piltz, the former official who exposed Cooney's tactics. "They just had to leave an atmosphere of uncertainty about it and dissipate the will for political action."

But for all his credentials as a master of spin, Cooney got off to a rough start. In May 2002, the administration released its Climate Action Report, a dispatch to the U.N. that documents progress on climate-treaty obligations. The report was developed by the EPA, but internal documents reveal that Cooney edited it to reflect positions advocated by the API and Ford. On the opening page of the chapter on climate impacts, Cooney inserted a litany of language in bold intended to cast doubt on the science: "the weakest links in our knowledge . . . a lack of understanding . . . uncertainties . . . considerable uncertainty . . . perhaps even greater uncertainty . . . regarded as tentative."

But the clumsy caveats weren't enough to obscure the report's real science. With the help of an EPA source, The New York Times filtered out Cooney's waffling and filed a front-page story that called the report "a stark shift for the Bush administration." The report, the Times observed, detailed "far-reaching effects that global warming will inflict" and "for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming."

Cooney was horrified: An obscure government report he had tried to whitewash now threatened to undermine his former employers in the energy industry. Panicked, he called on an old friend for help. Myron Ebell had been a key member of the coalition that crafted the disinformation "action plan." In fact, casting doubt on global warming is Ebell's full-time job: He heads the climate-denial campaign at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank that was underwritten in part by ExxonMobil.

Ebell recalls that Cooney was frantic over the story in the Times. "We tried to put some qualifiers on that chapter in the report," Cooney told him. "We'd take the text from EPA, and then we'd add a sentence like, 'We don't really know if this is really happening.' So we tried to do it, but I can see now that we made a total mess of it."

Ebell's advice to Cooney is contained in a e-mail dated June 3rd, 2002. "Thanks for asking for our help," he wrote. "I know you're in crisis mode. . . . I want to help you cool things down, but after consulting with the team, I think that what we can do is limited until there is an official statement from the administration repudiating the report."

That repudiation came the very next day. President Bush himself dismissed the report, saying it had been "put out by the bureaucracy." Forget the headlines, he said - there was no shift in the administration's policy.

What happened next, according to internal e-mails obtained by Rolling Stone, reveals just how seriously the White House took its intelligence fixing on global warming. Cooney was put in charge of damage control and was apparently instructed to craft a letter to the Times denying that the president had changed course on climate change. But this time, Cooney's editor was not just Connaughton, but Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove. The collaboration with Rove raises questions about Cooney's congressional testimony last March, in which he insisted, under oath, that he had not discussed with Rove his work at the CEQ.

The letter drafted by Cooney - and vetted by Rove - insists that the Climate Action Report "reinforces" the "significant scientific uncertainties" emphasized in the president's climate policy. Edits to the rough drafts of the letter were blacked out by White House censors, but Rove's pithy endorsement of the final draft survived. "Great," he wrote in praise of Cooney's spin. "Defends the report rather than staying focused on the policy." In other words, Cooney had succeeded in emphasizing the report's overhyped uncertainties, thus shifting attention away from the White House's do-nothing approach to global warming.

At the same time, Cooney got a pat on the back from Bill O'Keefe, his old boss at API. In a letter to Bush's chief of staff, O'Keefe - by that point a registered lobbyist for ExxonMobil - urged the president to tighten up the White House spin machine and make sure all communications were "on the same page, with the same message." O'Keefe also faxed a copy to Cooney with a handwritten note reading, "P.S. You are doing a great job."

From then on, Cooney wielded a heavier pen when editing official reports on global warming. Not content to obscure science with uncertainty, he began to rewrite the science itself. Draft documents made public by the House Oversight Committee reveal that Cooney now had veto power over federal scientists, including Richard Moss, coordinator of the Climate Change Science Program Office, and even James Mahoney, the assistant commerce secretary nominally in charge of America's climate science.

In one document, Moss and Mahoney attempted to push back on several of Cooney's more than 100 edits to an EPA document called "Our Changing Planet" - each of which served to amplify uncertainty and downplay the threat posed by global warming. Cooney repeatedly overruled Moss and Mahoney with an aggressive "no" scrawled in the margins. On another document Cooney marked up, he commanded EPA officials that "these changes must be made." Beside one strike-through marked with a star, Cooney wrote, "Red Flag: Do not cite National Assessment" - dismissing the landmark report commissioned by Bush's father.

Although some of Cooney's edits were revealed in a New York Times story in June 2005 that led to his departure, the full extent of his interference has never been reported. His commissarial coup came in April 2003, with his revisions to the EPA's Draft Report on the Environment. He began by deleting the sentence "climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." He then deleted the top-line assessment by the National Research Council, which establishes an unequivocal cause-and-effect link - "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere as the result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." In its place, Cooney wrote the following mishmash of his own creation: "Some activities emit greenhouse gases and other substances that directly or indirectly may affect the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation, thereby potentially affecting climate on regional and global scales."

The changes sparked a rebellion by the EPA's senior scientists. In an internal memo uncovered by Congressional investigators, they wrote that Cooney's edited text "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change" and "may leave an impression that cooling is as much an issue as warming." Whitman was also furious. "The language that CEQ found acceptable was such pablum," she says now. "It was so much below the level of sophistication of the report that I felt it would have denigrated it all." But her solution to this problem was to simply delete the section on climate change - handing Cooney a carte-blanche victory.

Whitman says she killed the section hoping that scientific documents included with the report would speak for themselves. But the capitulation helped drive her to the breaking point. Four days after bowing to Cooney, she resigned as head of the EPA.

Internal documents uncovered by Rolling Stone reveal that Cooney did far more than edit scientific reports to suit the administration's point of view. Just as neoconservative hawk Douglas Feith funneled false intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs to the vice president, Cooney steered industry-sponsored junk science on global warming to Cheney. "What disturbed me most," Whitman says, "was the administration's record of taking the most extreme of the science - what I call the 'political science' - and giving it the same weight as the real science."

The most egregious example of cooked intelligence was a study underwritten in part by the API, Cooney's former employer. The study, which purported to show that the twentieth century was not unusually warm, was authored by two astrophysicists, both of whom were on the payroll of the George C. Marshall Institute, a climate-denial group funded by ExxonMobil and now headed by Bill O'Keefe, Cooney's former boss. The paper's publication in a minor German journal in January 2003 quickly created a scandal, with the editor in chief and three other editors resigning in shame after acknowledging that the paper was fundamentally flawed and should never have been published.

"It was sham science," says McCarthy, the Harvard scientist. "It's almost laughable, except that this study was held up by the administration as a definitive refutation of the temperature record."

But even as the paper was being discredited, it was causing great excitement in the White House. When Kathie Olsen of the Office of Science and Technology Policy forwarded the study to Cooney, he responded with an enthusiastic, "Thanks, Kathie!" Six minutes later, according to internal e-mails, the study was in the hands of Kevin O'Donovan, who served as Cheney's point man on climate. The study also grabbed President Bush's attention, as revealed in an e-mail sent two days later to a high-ranking White House official: "Bob - if you din't [sic] already have, this is the study the President was talking about."

The study gave Cheney's office the quasi-plausible refutation of climate science it was waiting for. According to a memo reviewed by congressional investigators, but which the CEQ refused to make public, Cooney was eager to promote the sham science. The study, he e-mailed O'Donovan, "represents an opening to potentially reinvigorate debate on the actual climate history of the past 1,000 years." The paper, he added, "contradicts the dogmatic view held by many in the climate science community that the past century was the warmest in the past millennium. . . . We plan to begin to refer to this study in administration communications on the science of global climate change."

One e-mail exchange about the study underscores just how many industry foxes were guarding the climate henhouse. When Matthew Koch (a White House energy adviser who today lobbies for API) saw the study, he wrote to Cooney (the former API lobbyist who is now "corporate issues manager" for ExxonMobil) and CC'd O'Donovan (who now works for Shell Oil).

"What??!!" Koch wrote in mock disbelief at the study's claim that the planet isn't really heating up. "I want to grow oranges in the Arctic!"

Such joking aside, the administration continues to hold up the discredited study as a counterweight to the IPCC's scientific, peer-reviewed findings on global warming. Testifying before the House Oversight Committee in March, Connaughton lauded the study as a "new and major piece of science." His only regret, he said, is that "I'm not a scientist, so I can't find it conclusive."

Although Cooney resigned in 2005, the campaign of disinformation he implemented had the desired effect. Two months after Cooney returned to work for ExxonMobil, the Cheney energy plan was passed into law. A massive giveaway for the fossil-fuel industry, the Energy Policy Act authorized $6 billion in subsidies for oil and gas production and another $9 billion for coal producers. Worst of all, the bill fast-tracked the construction of coal-fired power plants that would hasten global warming.

Nor did Cooney's return to the oil industry spell an end to the administration's meddling in climate science. Less than a month later, before the G8 summit on climate change, the administration killed the opening line of the eight-country report - "Our world is warming" - and quashed a section that cited "increasingly compelling evidence of climate change." Last month, in negotiations leading up to the newest round of G8 talks, the administration blocked another motion that "resolute action is urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions."

"It's the ideological bent of the current administration," says McCarthy. "They seem absolutely resistant to any call to action, no matter what the science says."

Indeed, the campaign to sow doubts about climate change has grown more aggressive in recent years. No longer is the administration simply censoring scientific reports - it has moved to silence the scientists themselves. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the administration refused to allow a top federal scientist whose research links increased hurricane intensity to global warming to speak to the press. It sent out a gag order to top government polar scientists, demanding that anyone attending international scientific conventions agree not to speak to reporters about "climate change, polar bears and sea ice." And it ordered a former intern from the Bush-Cheney campaign in the NASA press office to prevent Dr. James Hansen, the godfather of global-warming science, from talking to the media.

"Interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career," Hansen testified before Congress in March, suggesting that NASA's press office had become an "office of propaganda." This month, when news leaked that the Pentagon plans to kill a satellite program critical to monitoring the Earth's climate, NASA's scientists issued a confidential memo warning that the move "places the overall climate program in serious jeopardy."

In many ways, the administration's refusal to budge on global warming mirrors its intransigence on Iraq. No matter how bad the reports from the field get, Bush appears determined to stay the course. "Never once - not a single time - have they revisited the decision to not do anything serious about global warming," says Symons, who sat in on Cheney's task force. "They say it's more 'serious' now than they did earlier on. But the president has never said, 'Let's start over and come up with a real plan.' "

Even when Bush proposes what looks like a plan, it's designed to stall real progress on global warming. In May, America's allies in the G8 unveiled an ambitious proposal: Member nations would cut planet-warming pollution in half by 2050, accepting mandatory caps on carbon emissions. But the administration flatly rejected the plan, which it called "fundamentally incompatible with the president's approach to climate change."

Instead, at the G8 summit on June 6th, Bush pushed what he touted as his "new initiative" for combating climate change. For the first time, the president acknowledged that "long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gases" are needed. But his solution, in essence, is to take his do-nothing strategy global, turning our allies into a Coalition of the Warming. Under his proposal, mandatory caps on emissions would be replaced with "aspirational goals" to be met through voluntary cuts and futuristic technology. Countries would work independently for the next "ten to twenty years" to develop strategies to "improve energy security, reduce air pollution and also reduce greenhouse gases" - apparently in that order.

And when will the United States and other polluting nations be expected to meet the nonbinding targets they set for themselves under Bush's plan? Not until as late as 2075 - well past the point that global warming will have superheated the planet.

>> This article is from the latest issue of Rolling Stone, on news stands until June 29th

>>View our slide show, "Inside the Bush Administration’s Denial Campaign Against Climate Change," here.

Bush claims exemption from his oversight order

Bush claims exemption from his oversight order
By Josh Meyer
Times Staff Writer

7:44 PM PDT, June 22, 2007

WASHINGTON — The White House said Friday that, like Vice President Dick Cheney's office, President Bush's office is exempt from a presidential order requiring government agencies that handle classified national security information to submit to oversight by an independent federal watchdog.

The executive order that Bush issued in March 2003 covers all government agencies that are part of the executive branch and, although it doesn't specifically say so, was not meant to apply to the vice president's office or the president's office, a White House spokesman said.

The issue flared up Thursday when Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., criticized Cheney for refusing to file annual reports with the National Archives and Records Administration, spelling out how his office handles classified documents, or to submit to an inspection by the archives' Information Security Oversight Office.

The archives, a federal agency, has been pressing the vice president's office to cooperate with its oversight efforts for the past several years, contending that by not doing so, Cheney and his staff have created a potential national security risk.

Bush issued the directive in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a way of ensuring that the nation's secrets would not be mishandled, made public, or improperly declassified.

The order aimed to create a uniform, government-wide security system for classifying, declassifying and safeguarding national security information. It gave the archives' oversight unit responsibility for evaluating the effectiveness of each agency's security classification programs. It applied only to the executive branch of government, mostly agencies led by Bush administration appointees, as opposed to legislative offices such as Congress and judicial offices, including the courts.

In the executive order, Bush stressed the importance of the public's right to know what its government was doing, particularly in the global campaign against terrorism. "Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government," the executive order said.

But from the start, Bush considered his office and Cheney's exempt from the reporting requirements, White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in an interview Friday. Cheney's office filed the reports in 2001 and 2002 -- as did his predecessor, Al Gore -- but stopped in 2003.

As a result, the National Archives has been unable to review how much information the president's and vice president's offices are classifying and declassifying. And the security oversight office cannot conduct inspections of the executive offices of the president and vice president to see if they have safeguards in place to protect the classified information they handle and to properly declassify information when required.

Those two offices have access to the most highly classified information in all of government, including intelligence gathered against terrorists and unfriendly foreign countries.

Waxman and J. William Leonard, director of the archives' oversight office, have argued that the order clearly applies to all executive branch agencies, including the offices of the vice president and the president.

Fratto said that the White House disagrees.

"We don't dispute that the ISOO has a different opinion. But let's be very clear; this executive order was issued by the president, and he knows what his intentions were," Fratto said. "He is in compliance with his executive order."

Fratto conceded that the lengthy directive, technically an amendment to an existing executive order, does not specifically exempt the president's office or the vice president's office from the requirements. Instead, it refers to "agencies" as being subject to the requirements, which Fratto said did not include the two executive offices. "It does take a little bit of inference," Fratto said.

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project, disputed the White House explanation of the executive order. He noted that the order defines "agency" as any executive agency, military department and "any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" -- which he said includes Bush's and Cheney's offices.

Cheney's office drew criticism Thursday for claiming that it was exempt from the reporting requirements because the vice president's office is not fully within the executive branch, citing his role as president of the Senate when needed to break a tie among senators.

At a Friday news conference, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said that while constitutional scholars can debate that assertion, Cheney's office is exempt from the requirements because the president intended him to be from the outset.

Cheney's office did not comment Friday.

Several security experts said that they were not aware that the president had exempted his own office from the oversight requirements. But they said it fit a pattern in the administration of avoiding accountability, even on all-important matters of national security.

"If the president and the vice president don't take their own rules seriously, who else should?" said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, a nongovernmental research institute at George Washington University in Washington that lobbies for open government. "If they get a blank check, it's a recipe for disaster. I can't think of a quicker way to break down the credibility of the entire security classification system."

Blanton noted that the White House has acknowledged that as many as 5 million in-house e-mails have disappeared in recent years, at a time when investigators wanted to review them for possible evidence of inappropriate leaks of classified information.

"If there are all these great safeguards in place, then where are the 5 million e-mails?" Blanton asked.

Waxman, chairman of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote an eight-page letter to Cheney Thursday in which he complained about the vice president's refusal to adhere to the executive order. Waxman, citing the criminal investigation of Cheney's office related to the leak of a CIA agent's identity, suggested that the vice president's office was a national security risk.

He also accused Cheney or his staff of trying to have the archives' watchdog unit abolished after its director, Leonard, pressed for more oversight and for a legal opinion from the Justice Department as to whether the executive order applied to the vice president's office.

Perino denied that attempts were made to abolish the unit.

A spokesman for the archives, Susan Cooper, would not comment Friday on whether the archives' watchdog unit ever tried to inspect the president's executive office or obtain annual classification reports from it.

Fratto said he was not aware of such an effort, but that it would be rebuffed. "I'm not going to get into hypotheticals, but the executive order does not grant them that authority," Fratto said.

He noted that the oversight requirements do, however, apply to the National Security Council, the president's principal forum for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisers and Cabinet officials.

Fratto also said that the White House and Cheney's office have a legal obligation to adhere to the executive order's guidelines regarding the proper handling of classified documents, even if they don't have to submit to oversight by an outside agency.,0,7611803,print.story?coll=la-home-center

Friday, June 22, 2007

The re-emergence of the emerging Democratic majority.

Back to the Future

The re-emergence of the emerging Democratic majority.

John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira | June 19, 2007

As conservative Republicans tell the tale, the 2006 election was merely a referendum on the Bush administration's incompetence in Iraq and New Orleans and on the Republican congressional scandals. The contest, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote, "was an event-driven election that produced the shift of power one would expect when a finely balanced electorate swings mildly one way or the other." Others insist that demographic trends continue to favor the Republicans. Seeing 2006 as an anomaly, political analyst Michael Barone argued that population growth patterns favor Republican-leaning areas in the interior of the country rather than Democratic-leaning areas on the coasts.

We take a different view: that this election signals the end of a fleeting Republican revival, prompted by the Bush administration's response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the return to political and demographic trends that were leading to a Democratic and center-left majority in the United States. In 2006 the turn to the Democrats went well beyond those offices directly concerned with the war in Iraq or affected by congressional scandals. While Democrats picked up 30 House seats and six Senate seats, they also won six governorships, netted 321 state legislative seats, and recaptured legislative chambers in eight states. That's the kind of sweep that Republicans enjoyed in 1994, which led to Republican control of Congress and of the nation's statehouses for the remainder of the decade.

Just as important as these victories is who voted for Democrats in 2006. With few exceptions, the groups were exactly those that had begun trending Democratic in the 1990s and had contributed to Al Gore's popular-vote victory over George W. Bush in 2000. These groups, which we described in our 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, included women, professionals, and minorities. But in 2006 they also included two groups our book slighted or ignored altogether: younger voters (those born after 1977) and independents. These voters can generally be expected to continue backing Democrats.

Finally, the 2006 election represented a shift in American politics, away from the right and toward the center-left, on a range of issues that go well beyond the Iraq war, corruption, and competence. Voters in 2006 returned to viewpoints on the economy and society that inclined them, even leaving aside the war, to favor Democrats over conservative Republicans. To understand how this could happen, and happen so suddenly, one has to appreciate the peculiar impact that September 11 had on what had been an emerging Democratic majority, and how, once the impact of that event dissipated, the earlier trends reasserted themselves with a vengeance.


In the 1990s the Democrats displayed the outlines of a new majority that would be different from the older, New Deal majority. The older majority had been based on the "Solid South," blue-collar workers, ethnics, and rural voters; the new would combine women voters, professionals, and minorities, primarily in the North, Midwest, and far West, with close to an even split of the traditional white working-class vote in those regions. Some of the groups making up the new majority were recent converts; others had gone from the edges to the center of the coalition.

* WOMEN: Throughout the 1960s, women voters had been disproportionately Republican; but in 1980 (partly in reaction to the Republican identification with the religious right) single, working, and college-educated women began voting disproportionately Democratic. In the 2000 congressional elections, for instance, single women backed Democrats by 63 percent to 35 percent.
* PROFESSIONALS: Professionals, who are, roughly speaking, college-educated producers of services and ideas, used to be the most staunchly Republican of all occupational groups. In the 1960 presidential election, they backed Richard Nixon by 61 percent to 38 percent. But in the 1980s these voters -- now chiefly working for large corporations and bureaucracies rather than on their own, and heavily influenced by the environmental, civil-rights, and feminist movements -- began to vote Democratic. In the four elections from 1988 to 2000, they backed Democrats by an average of 52 percent to 40 percent.
* MINORITIES: Latinos had been voting Democratic since the New Deal, and blacks since the 1960s; but in the 1990s they were joined by Asian-American voters. In the congressional race in 2000, minorities, who now made up about 19 percent of electorate, backed Democrats by 75 percent to 23 percent.

These groups have different, and sometimes conflicting, political outlooks. Professionals, for instance, are generally skeptical of large government spending programs, which minorities are inclined to support. They also are leery of tax increases, even those aimed at the wealthy. College-educated and single women often fervently back abortion rights and gay rights, both of which many black and Hispanic voters oppose. But in national elections, and in state elections in the Northeast and far West, the socially liberal and fiscally moderate views of the professionals have generally taken precedence. These "new Democratic" or "moderate" politics were at the heart of Democratic victories in the 1990s.

In states like California and New Jersey, these three overlapping and burgeoning groups, rather than the white working class, dominate the electorate. In California, for example, the white working class constitutes only 38 percent of voters. But in many Midwestern and Southern states, white working-class (non-college-educated) voters still dominate. In those states, the Democratic coalition is a sometimes-combustible mixture of old and new, including adherents of social liberalism and of New Deal and fair-trade economics. As long-term economic trends toward a post-industrial economy grow stronger, the white working class, in these states, and nationally, will shrink at the expense of professionals and minorities. But the Democrats have needed and will continue to need significant levels of white working-class support to supplement the newer parts of their coalition. Right now, Democrats need to win between 45 percent and 48 percent of the white working-class vote to carry states like Missouri, Ohio, or Pennsylvania, a little higher for Iowa, and higher still for West Virginia or Kentucky. (In presidential elections, a 43 percent to 44 percent share of the white working-class vote is adequate to win a national majority.) Democrats seemed to be moving in this direction during the late 1990s.


Bush's initial success in waging the war on terror disrupted these trends toward the Democratic majority. American politics became dominated by concerns over national security, an issue on which Republicans had enjoyed voters' confidence since 1980. Some voters who might have supported Democrats were distracted from economic or social concerns that had favored Democrats. They ignored Republicans' religious intolerance and indifference to environmental pollution, rewarding Republicans instead for their presumed success in the war on terror. In 2004 George W. Bush won victories in swing states like Ohio, Iowa, and Florida largely because of these voters' defection. Chief among the defectors were white working-class women voters. In 2000 Bush had won these voters by 7 percent. In 2004 he won them by 18 percent. That year a plurality of these voters identified terrorism and security over the economy and jobs or the war in Iraq as their most important issue.

But there was also evidence of another psychological process, which might be called "de-arrangement." The focus on the war on terror not only distracted erstwhile Democrats and independents but appeared to transform, or de-arrange, their political worldview. They temporarily became more sympathetic to a whole range of conservative assumptions and approaches. In the past, voters had trusted Democrats to manage the economy, and in 2002 that preference should have been strongly reinforced by a recession that occurred on Bush's watch. Instead, voters in that election believed by 41 percent to 37 percent that Republicans were "more likely to make sure the country is prosperous." Recessions could also be expected to reinforce populist perceptions of the economy, but in 2002 the percentage of voters who believed that "the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer" hit its lowest level in 15 years. Most interestingly, opposition to abortion also followed the same curve. The percentage of voters who believed that abortion should be "illegal in all circumstances" (based on Gallup Poll annual averages) rose from 17 percent, in 2000, to 20 percent, in 2002, and was still at 19 percent in 2004.

In 2002 Republican strategists had an easy time making the case for their superiority as the party of national security and putting this issue at the forefront of voters' concerns. In 2004 it was more difficult. Voters had to be convinced that the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror and that whatever setbacks the United States had encountered there should be viewed in the context of overall Republican success in keeping al-Qaeda at bay. Those voters who bought this argument tended to vote Republican; those who had become convinced that the war in Iraq was itself a distraction from the war on terror -- and a costly blunder -- primarily voted Democratic. These tended to be more-educated voters. In 2004, for instance, college-educated women, who had favored Republicans by 50 percent to 48 percent in the 2002 congressional elections, favored Democrats by 54 percent to 44 percent. Postgraduate voters supported Republicans by a margin of 51 percent to 45 percent in 2002; they backed Democrats by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent in 2004.

By the 2006 election, many more voters had become disillusioned with the Republicans as the party of national security. They now drew a distinction between the war in Iraq and the war on terror, and they saw the disaster in Iraq overshadowing any success in the war on terror. Others came to doubt the administration's overall ability to protect Americans' national security -- either from terrorists or natural disasters. As this change in perception took place, the foundations for the Republican majorities in 2002 and 2004 crumbled. What one sees in the 2006 election is not simply a revolt against the administration's conduct of the war but a return to the political perceptions of the two parties that was inclining the electorate before September 2001 toward a Democratic majority. Voters didn't simply reject the administration for its conduct of the war; angered by its conduct of the war, they reembraced a center-left worldview on a whole range of issues. The electorate of 2006 was like the electorate of 2000 -- only more so.

Voters returned to a more traditionally liberal view of the economy. Even though the economy is in better shape now than it was in 2002, proportionately more voters now believe that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The gap between those who believe this and those who don't has widened by 16 percentage points. More of today's voters believe it is the responsibility of government to take care of those who can't take of themselves. That gap has widened by 15 points.

The same results have showed up even in opinions about social issues. The average annual percentage of those believing abortion should be illegal dropped from 19 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2006, and the percentage believing it should be legal in "all circumstances" rose from 24 percent to 30 percent. Indeed, the outburst of religiosity that began a decade ago and sustained the Republican Party in the South and the prairie states seems to be abating. A 2007 study from the Pew Research Center reports "a reversal of the increased religiosity observed in the mid-1990s," along with greater tolerance among white evangelical Protestants toward homosexuals and working women. The Pew study finds, for instance, that among white evangelical Protestants, the percentage of those who completely disagree that "women should return to their traditional roles" has risen from 28 percent in 1997 to 42 percent today. That spells trouble for a conservative Republicanism rooted in religious conservatism.

As might be expected, the shift in worldview is reflected in identification with the parties themselves. In Pew surveys conducted in 2002, Republicans and Democrats each commanded the allegiance of 43 percent of the public. But five years later, 50 percent identified with or leaned toward the Democrats, and only 35 percent identified with or leaned toward the Republicans. A 15-percentage-point gap has opened up between the parties. The change is equally dramatic when one looks at specific groups in the electorate.


In the 2006 election, all the groups that had been part of the emerging Democratic majority in the late 1990s came roaring back into the fold. College-educated women backed Democrats by 57 percent to 42 percent. Single women backed Democrats by 66 percent to 33 percent. And the key swing group among women voters shifted. White working-class women, who had voted Republican by 57 percent to 42 percent in 2004, backed them by only 52 percent to 47 percent in 2006 -- a 10-point shift. This movement away from the GOP included a stunning 26-point shift by white working-class women with annual household incomes between $30,000 and $50,000, who went from pro-Republican (60 percent to 39 percent) in 2004 to pro-Democratic (52 percent to 47 percent) in 2006. Postgraduate voters, who are typically professionals, also moved decisively into the Democratic column. In 2002 these voters had backed Republican congressional candidates by 51 percent to 45 percent. In 2006 they backed Democrats by 58 percent to 41 percent.

Minority voters also increased their support for Democratic candidates, largely due to a shift among Hispanics. Hispanics had backed congressional Democrats in 2004 by 59 percent to 40 percent, but in 2006 they supported them by 69 percent to 30 percent. This partly represented a reaction to Republican anti-immigration politics, but it also reflected a shift back to the kind of support that Democrats had enjoyed among Hispanics in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Moreover, each of these groups will likely increase its share of the electorate over the years. Minorities made up 15 percent of the electorate in 1990; they are 21 percent today and are expected to be 25 percent in 2015. Their weight will be much higher in key states like California, Florida, and Texas. In 1970 single women made up 38 percent of adult women; today they are a majority. College-educated women have more than tripled as a percentage of women 25 and older since then, going from 8 percent to 27 percent. Professionals were 7 percent of the workforce in the 1950s; they are 17 percent today and are expected to be 19 percent in 2015. Insofar as they vote at the highest rate of any occupational group, they likely make up a quarter or so of the electorate in many Northeast and far West states.

In 2006 Democrats were able to supplement these votes with sufficient support from the white working class. Democrats had gotten only 39 percent of this vote in the 2004 congressional elections; in 2006 Democrats got 44 percent of the vote, which was enough to give them a solid majority in Congress. Democrats' success among these voters helped the party to pick up three house seats in Indiana (where the white working class makes up 66 percent of the voting electorate); two seats in Iowa (where it makes up 72 percent); a Senate seat in Montana (which is 68 percent white working-class); and a Senate seat, a House seat, and the governorship in Ohio (which is 62 percent white working-class). By 2015 the white working class is expected to fall from 52 percent to 47 percent of the U.S. electorate, but it will remain a critically important group nationally and in many elections in the Midwest and South.

In most of these states, white working-class voters returned to the Democratic fold because of disillusionment with Bush's foreign policy -- and because of a stagnant economy. While Democrats enjoyed significant gains among noncollege whites earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually, they made their most dramatic gains among white working-class voters making between $30,000 to $50,000. In the 2004 congressional elections, these voters had favored Republicans by 60 percent to 38 percent; in 2006 they divided their vote equally between Democrats and Republicans. That's a 22-point shift.


The Democratic majority in 2006 was also bolstered by support from voters ages 18 to 29. Almost all of these voters fall into the category that pollsters call "millennials" or "Generation Y" (those born after 1977). In contrast to the previous generation, dubbed "Generation X" (those born between 1965 and 1977), they prefer Democrats over Republicans and the center-left over the center-right. According to a 2006 Pew survey, 48 percent of 18- to 25-year-old millennials identify themselves as Democrats, and only 35 percent identify themselves as Republicans. In 2006, 18- to-29-year-olds voted for Democratic congressional candidates by 60 percent to 38 percent. By contrast, 55 percent of 18- to 25-year-old Generation Xers had identified themselves as Republicans in the early 1990s. Political generations don't often change their allegiance. The New Deal generation sustained a Democratic majority for decades; Generation X has remained a bulwark of the Republican vote; and the millennials can be expected to bolster a new Democratic majority.

Clearly, different political experiences have shaped these two generations. Generation X grew up during the Carter and Reagan years, which were marked by Democratic failure and Republican success. The millennials grew up in years of the Clinton boom and Bush's disastrous failure in Iraq. Their political outlook most clearly resembles that of postindustrial professionals: socially liberal, in favor of government regulation of business, more secular, and less inclined than any other generation to accept the Republican identification with the religious right. In a 2006 Pew survey, 20 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds reported they had no religion or were atheist or agnostic, compared with just 11 percent among those over 25.

The other group that has come to make up the Democratic majority is political independents. These voters, who identify themselves to pollsters and public opinion surveys as "independents," represent an ideology rather than a social group, but they overlap with some Democratic constituencies and also set limits on the politics of a Democratic majority. According to the American National Election Studies, they make up about 38 percent of the potential electorate and 33 percent of actual voters. States with the highest proportions of independents are concentrated in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and far West (including Alaska and Hawaii), plus several mountain states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana) and North Dakota. Interestingly, there is considerable overlap between these states and states where Ross Perot polled more than 20 percent in 1992.

Many independents are professionals, and there are striking similarities between independents' and professionals' attitudes, especially their respect for science and their support for social liberalism. In New Jersey, for example, independent voters support gay marriage at about the same level as Democrats do, while Republicans are solidly opposed. But independents tend to be moderate on economic policy, more skeptical than Democrats that large government programs can be effective, and resistant to tax increases. They are particularly wary of "special interests" in Washington (including the parties themselves) and often favor reforms in lobbying and campaign finance. In the Mountain States, they have a pronounced libertarian streak, both on social and economic issues. Many of them favor the right to an abortion and a handgun.

In the 1990s, independents began to lean Democratic in presidential elections. They moved back into the Republican column temporarily in 2000 -- perhaps because of the Clinton scandals. In 2002 they also backed Republicans in the congressional elections, but they have now scurried back to the Democratic Party. In 2006 they favored Democratic congressional candidates by 57 percent to 39 percent, far and away the largest margin that independents have given Democrats since the inception of exit polls.

In the 2006 congressional election, libertarian-leaning independents played a decisive role in Democratic victories in prairie and non-Pacific western states. In the Montana Senate race, independents voted 59 percent to 35 percent for Democrat Jon Tester against incumbent Conrad Burns, who had been linked to the Jack Abramoff scandal. In Arizona they strongly backed Gov. Janet Napolitano and even Democratic Senate challenger Jim Pederson, who lost to incumbent Jon Kyl. In Minnesota, where onetime Perot backer Jesse Ventura was elected governor in 1998 on the Reform Party ticket, independents backed Democratic Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar over conservative Republican Mark Kennedy by 63 percent to 28 percent. Independents also played a role in Democratic House pickups in Colorado, Kansas, Connecticut, and New Hampshire (where 44 percent of voters identify themselves as independents).

But it would be a mistake to identify independents as part of the Democratic base. The new Democratic coalition is center-left; independents are more toward the center, especially on fiscal and economic issues, than Democratic identifiers are. In California, independents backed moderate Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in November 2006 by virtually the same margin they had given John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004. Democrats will continue to attract independents -- and independents will make up a significant ideological segment of the Democratic majority -- so long as Democrats don't forget the "center" part of center-left and so long as Republicans remain on the right, especially on social issues.


Politics in America is organized around states, and the new Democratic majority can also be seen as a bloc of states and regions that regularly vote Democratic or are, at least, open to Democratic candidates. In 2006 Democrats consolidated their hold on the Northeast, strengthened their position in the Midwest, and made inroads in Southern border states (including Florida) and in the prairies and the non–Pacific West. In the Northeast, Democrats picked up three governorships, two Senate seats, 11 House seats, and 156 state legislative seats. In the Midwest, Democrats picked up one governorship, two Senate seats, nine House seats, and 106 state legislative seats (which translated into a gain of six state legislative chambers). In the non–Pacific West, where Democrats had done poorly in the past, they won a Senate seat in Montana, a governorship and a House seat in Colorado, and two House seats in Arizona.

The Deep South remains strongly Republican. In 2006 Democrats made no net gains across the five contiguous states of Louisiana (which, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's depopulation, can be expected to become more Republican), Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. But Democrats picked up one Senate seat, six House seats, one governorship, and 31 state legislative seats in the other Southern states. Democrats are competitive in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Florida. They have the upper hand in Arkansas and West Virginia, where the latest Gallup party-identification data give them stunning advantages of 26 and 24 points, respectively.

In Florida Democrats picked up two U.S. House seats, six Florida House seats, and the position of state chief financial officer. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson easily won reelection. And opinion polls indicate that Florida's electorate is moving back toward the center. From 2004 to 2006, the percentage of Floridians identifying themselves as "conservative" dropped from 31 percent to 27 percent, while the percentage of those identifying as "middle-of-the-road" or "liberal" rose from 35 percent to 42 percent.

No state or region is as uniformly in one party's camp as the old Solid South used to be. Democrats, for instance, have a 74-to-46 majority in the Mississippi state House, and Maine has two Republican senators. However, the Democrats can generally count on winning a majority of races in the Northeast (from Maine to Maryland), in Pennsylvania and across the upper Midwest (including Illinois), and on the Pacific Coast (except Alaska). That's a total of 248 electoral votes. Republicans can count on the Deep South, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. That's a total of only 154 electoral votes. The parties are more evenly matched in every other state, including formerly Republican states such as Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Virginia, and even Indiana. In these states, Democrats' success will depend on the skill and representativeness of their candidates and on the issues that most concern the electorate at election time.

Democrats also have an important base in large postindustrial metropolitan areas -- what we have called ideopolises. These are large areas that merge suburb and city, and that specialize in producing services and ideas. They often generate a distinctive culture of arty boutiques, restaurants, cafés, and bookstores, and they take their political cues from the professionals who live there. The white working class in places like greater Portland or Seattle doesn't vote dramatically differently from the professionals whose culture dominates these areas. And the culture of the ideopolises is spreading to such smaller cities in the heartland, such as Omaha, which now sports an "Old Market District" (similar to Denver's Lower Downtown) and a Democratic mayor.

During the dot-com bust of 2000–2001, many of the ideopolises lost population, but, according to demographer William Frey, they are bouncing back. "It's a tale of two kinds of cities," Frey told The New York Times in April. "Growing and ‘new economy' metros that have rebounded from early decade woes, and large coastal and Rust Belt metros where high housing costs or diminishing employment prospects propel continued out-migration … Among the former are a series of high-tech-driven centers like Austin, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Salt Lake City, Boise, Raleigh and Atlanta, where growth slowdowns were reversed or modest growth has accelerated."

The Democratic percentage of the Senate vote in these ideopolises expanded from 52 percent in 2002 to 58 percent in 2006. Democratic House pickups in areas like suburban Denver, suburban Philadelphia, Connecticut, and southern Florida were powered by ideopolis coalitions where professionals and minorities take a leading role. Jim Webb's Senate victory in Virginia was largely due to his margin in Northern Virginia's high-tech suburbs. Democrats also made headway in districts that aren't yet ideopolises but contain significant towns and cities devoted to the production of ideas of services. Democrats now control two House seats in Kansas: one includes the University of Kansas and the high-tech suburbs of Kansas City, and the other includes Kansas State University. In Iowa, Republican Rep. Jim Leach was defeated in a district that includes the University of Iowa. In southern Indiana, the district where Baron Hill defeated a Republican incumbent includes the University of Indiana.

The Democrats also did well in medium-size, older industrial cities in the Midwest, reflecting their increased support among the white working class. In Ohio, Democratic Senate candidate Sherrod Brown picked up 60 percent of the vote in midsize metro areas like Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown. In Indiana, Democrats carried the House vote 62 percent to 38 percent in the Evansville area -- an area that Bush carried 61 percent to 38 percent in 2004. And in Iowa, Democrats got 54 percent of the House vote and 57 percent of the governorship vote in the Davenport area.


This new Democratic majority should result in Democrats maintaining control of Congress for most of the next 12 to 16 years. But it won't necessarily result in Democrats consistently winning the White House. To win elections, a Democratic candidate for Congress or governor has to maintain the support of the party's base while reaching a sufficient percentage of the swing voters in a given state or district. In Ohio, Iowa, or Indiana, that can mean appealing to white working-class voters in small towns. In Colorado, Arizona, or Montana, that can mean appealing to libertarian independents. In these local and state elections, Democrats can run candidates who reflect the special political mix of their state or congressional district. For example, in Ohio last year, Democrats ran a gubernatorial candidate who opposed gun control and a Senate candidate who campaigned against free trade. In Colorado, Democrats ran a gubernatorial candidate who opposed abortion and gun control. In Pennsylvania, Democrats ran a Senate candidate who was pro-life who appealed to working-class Catholics. And in every one of these cases, the Democratic candidate was elected.

But in presidential elections, parties don't have the luxury of appealing to individual states and regions. A candidate can't favor gun control in New Jersey but oppose it in West Virginia, or be pro-choice in California but pro-life in Indiana or Kentucky. To win national elections, Democrats have to win not only their base in the Northeast, the upper Midwest, and the far West, but also swing states such as Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Missouri, each of which contains large numbers of voters who might be uncomfortable with a platform that would appeal to a voter in Massachusetts or California. That puts a premium on the political skill and background of the presidential candidate.

Since 1964 the only Democrats who have won the presidency are white Protestant males from the South who appeared to be moderates rather than liberals and whom white working-class voters could envision as "one of us." Candidates from the Northeast or upper Midwest have been trounced, in part, because they were unable to bridge the political and cultural divide between the Democratic base and the swing voters in the Midwest and border South. As the Democrats prepare for the 2008 election, their two leading candidates are Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Clinton, who is seen by voters as a Northeastern cultural liberal, will also probably face resistance from some white working-class males because she is a woman. Obama, a black man from Chicago, will also likely be seen as a cultural liberal; in addition, he could be at a disadvantage among many white voters in the South, lower Midwest, and interior West because of his race.

None of this suggests that the Democrats can't win the White House. Indeed, they will enter presidential elections with a slight advantage because of the tilt in the country toward the political center. But whether they can win will depend on how well they can maintain the Democratic base while reaching out to swing voters, and on the strength of the opposition. Republicans, obviously, will face problems of their own in placating their conservative Christian and pro-business base while reaching out to suburban professionals and the white working class in the North and West.


One way that the new Democratic majority could be sustained, and even grow, over the next decade is for Democrats to enact popular, landmark legislation. The passage of Social Security legislation helped keep New Deal Democrats in power for decades. The creation of an effective national health-insurance program, despite Republican opposition, might do the same for today's Democrats. But there are major obstacles facing the Democrats in getting major reforms like these through Congress. First, the Democratic coalition itself is not a left-wing coalition but a center-left one, in which the views of independents and professionals have considerable weight. Democrats will have difficulty agreeing among themselves on new, large government programs that may require higher taxes. In 1971 and 1979, disagreements among Democrats played a role as central as Republican opposition in blocking new health-care legislation. That could happen again.

Second, Congress, and particularly the Senate, is structured to prevent the passage of dramatic reform measures, which can be stopped through filibuster or even bottled up in conference. Labor-law reform, which is vital to reviving unions, faces a stiff test in having to overcome a filibuster. Third, given these structural obstacles, adopting major reforms has been easiest during periods of crisis and popular upsurge, such as the Progressive Era, the 1930s, and the 1960s. But we are not presently in such a period.

Lacking such favorable social conditions, Democrats have found it difficult to pass major legislation even when they have controlled the White House and Congress. Jimmy Carter failed in 1977–1978, and Bill Clinton failed in 1993–1994, to pass any major social legislation, even though they had that control. A more tractable alternative in the short run is to do what the Clinton administration attempted (not often successfully) during its second term: to introduce incremental reforms that are not just cosmetic but put in motion a process that can eventually lead to dramatic reforms. For instance, extending eligibility for Medicare to everyone under 21, or to adults 55 and over, could lead toward national health insurance. But incremental reform, by definition, has a smaller effect on voters' lives and will do less to weld the Democrats' coalition firmly to the party.

If the Democrats are limited to incremental reform, what we foresee is a realignment similar to the Republican realignment of the 1980s but different from the massive, dramatic realignment that occurred in the crisis of the 1930s. Democrats will hold Congress and the White House for most, but not all, of this period, and they'll suffer intraparty recriminations (as the Democrats of the 1990s did) from their failure to do better. But if they are able to anchor their majority in landmark legislation, they could achieve the kind of historic realignment that Franklin D. Roosevelt's Democrats enjoyed. At minimum, that would require Democratic politicians to put aside their own differences and mobilize pressure from below. The past record on this is not encouraging, but there's always the chance that today's Democrats will rise to the occasion.

John B. Judis, is a senior editor at The New Republic.
Ruy Teixeira is a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, and the Center For American Progress, as well as a fellow at the New Politics Institute.