Thursday, December 31, 2009

First is worst.... Second is best... but Fourth? Fourth is the one with the brains, beauty and braun

Voted # 4 in the running for Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year,” Nanci Pelosi continues to wow America. (Person of the Year #1 went to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernake; #2 to General Stanley McChrystal; and #3 the Chinese worker). Furthermore, Pelosi topped the list of most the admired House Democrats in a recent poll of Washington insiders by National Journal. Indeed, Nancy Pelosi holds the highest post ever attained by any woman in U.S. history. She also stands second in line to the President. Moreover, Time magazine remarks that she has consolidated more power than any other Speaker in modern history: in the first year of Obama’s presidency, she—and, of course, an 81-seat Democratic majority, passed every item on its list—health care, energy, regulatory reform, education, and pay equity. In my opinion, part of her outstanding current leadership is in keeping her background with the Appropriations Committee, [where matters what matters in the end is not so much what you believe as what you can deliver]-- but regardless, whatever her secret is, she's on fire.

Additional key accomplishments signed into law under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi include: the toughest ethics reform legislation in the history of the Congress, an increase in the minimum wage for the first time in 10 years, the largest college aid expansion since the GI bill in more than 60 years, and the largest increase in veterans health care funding in the 77-year history of the Veterans Administration, as well as a new GI education bill for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Nonetheless, in the coming year, a few recent retirement announcements of several Blue Dog Democrats votes raise the question: Can the recent slew of House Democratic retirements be a (short-term) blessing in disguise for Speaker Nancy Pelosi? Obviously, the first big test of this question will be health care reform, which the House will revisit next month. Two of the three retiring Blue Dogs (Tanner and Gordon) opposed the Democratic bill when it came up for a vote last month -- as did Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., who is also leaving the House next year.

For those who are interested, find Nancy Pelosi on twitter:

You can also access the speakers blog at:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Congratulations Martha Coakley, who just won the Democratic nomination for Senate!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fashion comes to the MA senate primary race

by: Elizabeth Rich

In the midst of phonebanking, canvassing, and doing visibility for all four candidates in the Democratic Primary for the Massachusetts Special Election, Smith Dems went to a Martha Coakley event today in South Hadley. Coakley spoke and answered questions related to higher education, disability services, and more. She also gave advice to women interested in running for office in the future and talked about the need for more women in public office. One of the many highlights of the day was Martha’s suit. Yes it’s a bit vain, and Smith Dems are concerned about things other than a politician’s attire, but you could not ignore her suit! It was gray, but a nice gray with a belted jacket. It was cut perfectly and fit her incredibly well. Even when Coakley was facing away from us, it looked great due to nice details on the back of the jacket. Needless to say it was a great and certainly fashion forward day!

Friday, December 4, 2009

This Tuesday, December 8th, Massachusetts voters will go to the polls to select the Democratic and Republican nominees for the Special Senate Election

by Kate Moore

I have looked up to Senator Kennedy my entire life. His passion, determination, and unwavering commitment to fighting for people whose voices often are not heard has always inspired me. The Democratic candidate chosen on Tuesday will hold this special Massachusetts seat for decades, and will make important decisions for both the citizens of the Commonwealth as well as for all Americans. This is why the Smith Democrats have committed so much of our time this semester to working for all four extremely qualified Democrats seeking Ted Kennedy's seat.

The Dems have had the honor of hosting Congressman Mike Capuano and City-Year Founder Alan Khazei at Smith this semester and we were able to meet Attorney General Martha Coakley in South Hadley this week. We have hosted phone banks for Capuano, Coakley, Khazei, and Steve Pagliuca. In addition, we have canvassed in Northampton for Khazei and Coakley and gathered as a group to watch the debates.

With 4 days left until the election, the Dems are in GOTV mode. Join us at the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton this Saturday where we will be doing visbility for all four campaigns. We will also be phone banking for all four candidates this Sunday from 12-3 and during our weekly meeting on Monday in CC 103/104. For more information about these upcoming events, contact Kate at

For more information about the four candidates please see their websites:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Will Obama's Troop Surge Make A Difference?

by: Caroline Sutcliffe, photo, the NY Times

President Obama has not, with his announcement of 30,000 more troops, reconfigured US military engagement with Afghanistan. He has simply confirmed General McChrystal's request for more troops and just reaffirmed his commitment to a military strategy that has been under discussion and in the pipeline since before his inauguration. Essentially, whether or not the troop surge will suppress the insurgency—much less 'finish the job' and 'bring a successful conclusion to the war—is extremely questionable.

My first premise is that early indications from the first troop increase of 21,000 soldiers announced earlier this year, points to an exacerbation and escalation of violence with record-high levels of military fatalities and civilian casualties. Regarding this, my question is: what these troops will do on the ground, and how will their increased presence is received by Afghans who are ‘war weary’? Accordingly, this week’s Economist asserts that uncertainty over the army’s progress may have dimmed support for the anti-Taliban campaign. Essentially, the problem is that if— the Obama administration has made it clear that the Afghan government needs to play its part in tackling the Taliban on its border—then the question that comes to mind is: will 30,000 more troops really renew the dimmed support of the Afghani people? Sure, the U.S. is setting out plans to quickly train large numbers of the Afghan army to take up their part in the fight, but this is not without its difficulties.

Second, remember: the Taliban presents a [transnational] threat. Thus my second problem with Obama’s strategy is that it has worrying consequences for Pakistan (which also houses the Taliban). For one, Pakistan fears that an American retreat from the region could mean an end to the lavish sum of U.S. aid—a figure of $7.5 million in the past five years. Pakistan is currently arguing for America to seek a high-level political settlement with its Taliban enemies [which won’t happen]. But— why it wants a hand in this settlement, which I find very interesting, is to exert its influence over Afghanistan—to India’s cost. (Intuitively, this reminds me of the ‘great game’ and the buffering of the British and Russia over Afghanistan, not too long ago). But arguably, such could easily fuel more Islamist blowback from its radicalized frontier.

Another factor on the transnational level, is that the U.S. is going to inevitably “butt heads” with Iran. Why Iran is one of Afghanistan’s most reliable trade partners, and through these economic activities its ties and influence over Afghanistan’s western provinces bordering Iran, particularly Herat, continue to grow. For example, Iran’s exports to Afghanistan amount to $500 million per year and it has pledged a generous reconstruction package to help rebuild Afghanistan’s infrastructure. This includes the plans to provide electricity to western Afghanistan through a multi-million dollar project.

The bottom line is that the Obama administration's answer to the worsening situation in the country appears to be: "more." More troops, civilians, tasks, and missions. And sure, there is nothing wrong with helping Afghans develop their country--however, if the goal is to give Afghanistan a strong, functioning central government and a viable economy, the task will require decades, not years. Obama's plan has no fix for the future. While I agree that Obama’s recently announced surge will definitely grey the hair on the Taliban and cause quite a few of their deaths, other options might be a more incremental approach. It’s a complex job. -This troop surge is framed within an exit strategy but you can’t simply [leave] things as they are. For instance, think of all the opium being smuggled out of its three drug trade routes--moreover, the high rates of attrition throughout the country, its ethnic imbalances—ex: Baluchistan, and on. So, will Obama’s counterinsurgency effort make a difference? Only time will see.