Thursday, December 09, 2004

Questions for the questionable Simon Rosenberg

Type the name "Simon Rosenbergs" and the e-mails flood in. In the "Red" States series, an e-mail referred to, but did not name, Rosenberg. Didn't matter, you all knew whom the e-mailer was speaking of. And the response to him from readers of this site is overwhelmingly negative. How can that be?

An appearence on Unfiltered with Rachel Maddow & Lizz Winstead didn't seem to help judging by the blog comments. But what is it about Simon Rosenberg that upsets?

Rosenberg will be on The Majority Report Friday, December 10th to answer questions from Sam Seder and Bill Scher (Liberal Oasis) (Scher's filling in for Janeane Garofalo). With that in mind, here are some issues and some questions they should raise.

From the BBC's "Democrats Look for a Leader" by Michael Buchanan (

Many Democrats are calling for that direction to be leftwards, making the party more distinctive from the Republicans on a raft of issues like health care, social security and education.
But Simon Rosenberg, head of the New Democrats Network - a progressive think tank - says that is to fight the wrong election. He says that only two issues will matter in the next election.
"The Democratic nominee in 2004 has to understand how important the war on terrorism is and frankly have a better plan for keeping the country safe than Bush," he said.

Mr. Rosenberg, is that accurate? Was your response indeed a rejection of the party heading "leftwards from the Republicans on issues like health care, social security and education?" Or was something left out of the report?

On November 18th of this year, the AP ran a story entitled, "Democrat Slams Kerry on Hispanic Outreach." That Democrat was Rosenberg.

Maria e-mails, "When I heard Simon Rosenberg trashing Kerry for not reaching out to Latinos, I had to think, 'Gee Simons, you spent $6 million. Ever think that you MADE mistakes in your spending or advertising?' Isn't this more cover your rear nonsense? Oh, it wasn't me! It was him! I'm sick of b.s. artists like Simon."

On May 16, 2004 an AP article in The Guardian quoted you as saying:

"You are key more than any single group of people,'' said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, a Democratic-aligned advocacy group that has launched a multimillion dollar campaign on Spanish-language television and radio.

Mr. Rosenberg, you faulted Kerry in the post-election AP article for not doing more to outreach to Latinos. Earlier that year, you'd stated that Latinos were the "key more than any single group of people." So one would assume, if you weren't attempting to "cover your rear" (as Maria suggested), that you believed that. Did you?

I've been through your blog entries at New Democrats Network. The first mention of advertising to Hispanics came not from you but from "Buck" who wrote of the then one-month old (this is April, 2004) Hispanic media campaign.

If this were such a pressing issue, shouldn't you have mentioned it? Why did you start so late if it was so important and why did you wait until August 11th to blog on this (and then only to trumpet your own horn for being a "such as" group among some credited by a Bush advisor) taking credit for Kerry's perceived gain among Hispanics?

On September 14, 22, 25 & 30th & October 28th you wrote about media buys by NDN but no mention of Hispanics. Why?

On, Oct. 5, 2004, Rosenberg did blog on it for the first time. His entire remarks on the subject:

This new effort builds on NDN's $6 million Spanish-language campaign that has been running ads in five battleground states for months. To date NDN has run television ads in seven battleground states this year - Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

He "touched" on it again on October 6, 2004:

This week, fueled by an overwhelming responsibility to have our case heard, NDN took our powerful message to new parts of America that have not been in the middle of this critical debate – the Cuban-American community in Miami, and the citizens of Alaska, Colorado and Oklahoma. Through new television ads in English and in Spanish, banner ads on national and local web sites and a new series of blog ads, NDN is stepping up its national campaign to convince Americans that together we can “Restore the Promise of America.”

Only after the election (November 10, 2004), did Rosenberg devote significant attention to the issue of Latino voters with a twelve paragraph blog entry.

Mr. Rosenberg, where were you? Presumably, your blog entries were you calling attention to what you felt were important issues. In the fourteen months preceding the election, you only blogged on it twice unless I'm missing something. The first time you deal with the subject in depth is after the election. Yet on November 18th, you told the AP, "John Kerry did not compete adequately for Hispanic votes, period." Was this a concern you had during the election? You never blogged on the Kerry campaign's efforts to reach out to Hispanics during the election and you yourself only saw fit to blog on this issue two times. Two times? Your statement, with the "period," would seem to indicate that this was an important issue to you, that's what it would convey to a reader. But in a blog when you decide what you will and will not write about, you made the decision to address this only twice over fourteen months. Period.

And what's more interesting is that the day after the election there was no mention of Hispanics in his post. Strange. In a post that began "We have much to think about today" Rosenberg never mentioned Hispanics. Much to think about, but apparently not the Hispanic vote. That wasn't on his mind then. There was time for giving thanks/shout outs. There was time to emphasize three examples of how NDN "aggressively made the case" but not one of the three examples included work on the Latino vote.

When did the Latino vote become a talking point?

Francisco writes, "I live in New Mexico and I found the NDN ads insulting. I also found Rosenberg's remarks that Bush had the vote sewn up because Jeb speaks like a Cuban [insulting]. What was that supposed to mean? Insulting it was that he thought anyone of Latino heritage belonged to some monolithic vote. Or that visiting Columbia, Bush scored with Latinos. What was that supposed to mean? Does he think we go 'Oh Columbia' in hushed voices? Does he think Columbia the motherland to every Latino? He [does] not know me, my friends, my family. I do not know who he speaks for but it is not for the Latinos in my area. He wasted six million and now he wants to blame Kerry? Kerry's wife [Teresa Heinz Kerry] reached out more to my area than Jeb Bush or the other one Rosenberg named, the nephew [George P. Bush]. And he talks about how Bush had stolen the legacy of my party by nominating a few tokens to office and whined about how my party would never think to do that."

That's how Francisco feels. That's how he interprets Rosenberg's statements.

Is Francisco's interpretation accurate? I don't know.

We do know that on the morning of the election, Rosenberg elected to blog his dream team of various possibilities for offices in a Kerry administration. By my count, there are 52 names on that list. Some appear more than once, such as Cal Dooley. I'm only counting 4 Hispanics on the list of fifty-two names. Am I adding wrong? (Wouldn't be the first time.) Even the post of Ambassador to Mexico gets dream listed to Cal Dooley. If Bush did indeed make headway via token appointments, would four out of fifty-two be representative enough? This was Rosenberg's dream list, he could have named anyone he wanted. Strange though, he could only think of four Latinos.

Women didn't fair any better. If my math is correct (always a big if), of the fifty-two names,
women are named a whopping eight times. Note, and this is true for Latinos and African-Americans, that doesn't mean they'd get every post they're mentioned for because on some posts, Rosenberg listed multiple names. For instance, two female names and one male name are mentioned for Attorney General -- Eliot Spitzer, Jamie Gorelik and Jennifer Granholm. Would Rosenberg care to count how many African-Americans make the list? Hint, it's not good news there either. What we have is a dream list thought up by Rosenberg that is overwhelming white and male.

Mr. Rosenberg, when you have vacancies to fill, why is it that you think overwhelming in terms of white male? Should that worry Democrats since you may or may not become the new chairman of the DNC?

Rosenbergs blogs on No Child Left Behind a few times. Always the problem with No Child Left Behind is the funding -- it wasn't given the funding. Standardized testing and teaching for the test is apparently fine -- the only problem is no funding.

Mr. Rosenberg, have you ever observed a classroom where they were being taught for testing? If so, did you notice that the bulk of the "education" relies on memorization? If so, did you wonder where the time for critical thought would
be scheduled in? Does that worry you?

Joe Klein wrote (,9565,641110,00.html) of Hillary Clinton addressing the NDN:

And the New Democrats she was talking to weren't the usual suspects either: not the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which provided the intellectual muscle for Bill Clinton's presidency but a younger, newer group, the New Democrat Network, which has emerged as a significant force in Democratic politics, home to a more moderate form of moderation.

So possibly the NDN isn't "a DLC clone" (Klein) and the DLC provided the intellectual muscle for Bill Clinton's presidency. Is that true? The reason I ask is Rosenberg wrote:

If Dean wins the nomination and hopes to unify the Party behind him he must create a different narrative of the 90s then the one he has been flirting with in recent days. In this process he cannot leave any doubt that he believes the 90s were a time of tremendous progress for the country and the Party. His goal should be to build on the success of Clinton and the New Democrats, and to develop a new synthesis that addresses the new challenges and new opportunities facing the country. (

That was December 29, 2003. How could the DLC give "the intellectual muscle" in the nineties(Klein) and at the same time "Clinton and the New Democrats" build "the success" of the nineties (Rosenberg)?

In the same piece, Rosenberg wrote of "the historic contribution New Democrats have made to our Party." But these roots were when the group was tied to the DLC.

Mr. Rosenberg, if the NDN is no longer tied to the DLC, is it fair for you to claim the DLC's contributions as the NDN as late as December of last year? Isn't that a bit like Teenager Skipper being responsible for all the sales of Barbie? If the NDN has no ties to the DLC, should it be taking credit for the work the DLC did?

Here's Klein again (same source, the date is May 23, 2004):

Enter the New Democrat Network, which began life in 1996 as a political action committee—that is, a group able to raise money and donate it to candidates. It was led by a From and Joe Lieberman protege named Simon Rosenberg who, at age 40, is a generation younger than From and markedly less combative. Until this year, the ndn was regarded, accurately, as a DLC clone.

Klein says the NDN didn't begin until 1996. Why is Rosenberg speaking of the DND's "historic contribution?" Does Klein have the date wrong? No, on the DND's own web site, the same date is used. So is Rosenberg lumping together the work of the DLC in the nineties with the work of the emerging DNC in the nineties? Why is he lumping together in 2004 if they do not have the same goals. Is it fair to claim credit for something you really can't take credit for?

Klein's article again:

"There's a debate in the New Democratic world about where we are going," Rosenberg told me diplomatically. "And if it's true that the ndn and DLC are no longer 100% aligned, it's a sign of health and maturity."

Oh. So in May of 2004, Rosenberg still wasn't sure whether the two organizations were "100% aligned." If it's true that they are no longer aligned, when did the split happen?

Mr. Rosenberg, you also mention Clinton's success in reinventing government. Is that a bumper sticker or have you read the book (as a DLC-er or former DLC-er, I'm guessing you have)? If so, please explain to everyone what reinventing government is in terms of it's two-ways-to-do-things-and-here's the-right-way strategy.

Now Mr. Rosenberg, if in your answer, you didn't discuss the "two ways" of doing it, could you please attempt an explanation again? Only this time could you address the fact that "reinventing" can be read, basically, as outsourcing the jobs and tasks of government to the private industry? Do you support that concept? If that's not how you read the book, would you care to explain how you read the authors' proposals?

Perhaps Rosenberg hasn't read Reinventing Government by David Osborne and Ted Gaebler, perhaps he's just tossing out the bumper sticker slogan that was glommed onto? But this was the book that Kirkus Reviews said was, "[r]equired reading for burned-out civic reformers, and stirring stuff for socially concerned businesspeople."

Rosenberg also wrote (July 23, 2004):

In the 90s, the New Democrats were the innovators, the modernizers, the architects, the writers of a new operating system for progressive politics. And Clinton's eight years of remarkably successful government showed that this effort to adapt our principles to new times could work, and produce one of the most progressive and effective governments in our history.

That's a lot of things to be in one decade for an organization that was only created in 1996. He
also wrote this (March 18, 2004):

It is going to be interesting to see how our echo chamber grows in the years ahead. Certainly the rise of blogs like Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and Atrios was an unanticipated but very welcome development.
Will the new progressive media infrastructure be more Internet based than the conservative one built in the 70s, 80s, and 90s? What do we do about the rise of Fox News? Do you know that for the first time in history more people watched the State of the Union on Fox than any of the three major networks?
We would love to hear from you. What websites, blogs, and magazines do you read? Will you listen to Al Franken in the afternoons?

Rosenberg, writing about the network, only mentions a white male? "Will you listen to Al Franken in the afternoons?"

Isn't it a little strange (and not unlike his dream casting) that although press accounts prior to March 18th had already mentioned Janeane Garofalo and Chuck D (both famous in their own fields), they're not mentioned by Rosenberg? Nor is Randi Rhodes who was already a name in radio? She's not cited either.

Mr. Rosenberg, do you feel you have a tendency to cite males over women? Whites over people of color? Reading through your blogs, I noted that repeatedly as you cited one article after another. Was that accidental? Should anyone worry?

In the December 24, 2003 L.A. Times Rosenberg was quoted as saying of Dean:

Is he going to present a new synthesis that incorporates all the best of all the traditions in the party … or is he going to be the leader of the counterrevolution?

Mr. Rosenberg, could you please define your term "counterrevolution?"

On December 15, 2003 Rosenberg wrote:

The capture of Saddam Hussein is an important step towards democracy, peace and prosperity in the Middle East. A hearty thank you to our military men and women on the ground in Iraq who brought Saddam to justice and continue to serve our country with honor and dignity every day, and to the administration for achieving this important milestone.
Let us all hope that Saddam's capture will bring an end to the organized opposition to our presence on the ground there, and accelerate the careful transfer of sovereignty to the people of Iraq already underway.

Mr. Rosenberg, has your hope been realized? Was it a foolish hope? Howard Dean didn't think it would result in any huge changes and he's been proven right. But was it his remarks on Hussein's capture that led you to raise the issue of "leader of the counterrevolution?"

On December 2, 2003 Rosenberg wrote:

Today, for the first time since FDR was President, more Americans identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats. It is close – 33-34% for the GOP, 32-33% for the Dems – but it represents a gradual, historic shift in American politics. The Republicans have formable majorities in Congress, more control in the states, and have broken the back of our governing consensus.

Mr. Rosenberg, do you have a background in the social sciences? You're citing a poll. Polls have margins of errors. Assuming that this poll had a margin of error of plus or minus five percent, then it's not true that "more Americans identify themselves as Republicans than Democrats," is it? In fact, it's probably too close to call. It's what's known as a statistical dead heat. Is that correct? You don't credit an actual poll or link to one. Did NDN do the poll? Does the "33-34%" and "32-33%" suggest that you are claiming, in a scientific poll, that you've managed to get the margin of error down to one percent? If so, will you be sharing this revolutionary way of polling with Zogby, Pew and others? From research and methodology classes, I must say that it is amazing if you've managed to reduce the margin of error to one percent.

Let's now focus on three specific people.

1) Mr. Rosenberg, what is the nature of your disagreement with Marian Wright Edelman of the Childrens' Defense Fund? On your blog you saw fit to quote a jab at her. Is "liberal" a bad thing?

In addition to that, The New Democrat ran an article (July/August 1996) on Marian Wright Edelman while Rosenberg served on the editorial board:

Until liberals confront the real choices facing the country, they will continue to lose ground in the political wars. Stand for Children was a prime example of what Bill Galston and Elaine Kamarck so aptly described a few years ago as “the politics of evasion,” a liberalism so deeply involved in the denial of its creeping irrelevance that its progressive energy is entirely sapped.
So come to the Mall. Help build Marian Wright Edelman’s mailing list. Pray to the god of your choice. Sing “Kum Bah Ya.” Catch some rays. Take a nap.

Mr. Rosenberg, did that article strike you then (or now) as being snide and smary? Or perhaps you thought Marian Wright Edelman had it coming to her?
If so, why?

The article maintained that "current programs" were "undermining the family structure." Did you share that sentiment? If so, what were the programs threatening "family structure?"

2) Rosenberg wrote (August 17, 2004 ) in praise of a Bernard Aronson (George H.W. Bush's assistant secretary "for interAmerican affairs" -- PBS Think Tank bio) article on the recall election in Venezuela:

the victory of Hugo Chávez poses a very significant challenge to American foreign policy in the years ahead. [. . . . Note: here you quotes Aronson] While we should be relieved that the recall was without incident, we should not take comfort in the increasing power of Latin America's most powerful autocrat.

Mr. Rosenberg, would you care to explain your position re: Chavez and why you feel he is "a very significant challenge to American foreign policy in the years ahead?" Would you advocate regime change in Venezuela?

3) Ten months after Cal Dooley voted for the Bush Medicare plan (one of only 16 Democrats in the House to do so, 189 voted against it according to LA Weekly), Rosenberg wrote (September 29, 2004) a puff piece praising him for his leadership and "fighting hard for good legislation."

Mr. Rosenberg, were you praising his vote on the Medicare plan? Was this an example of how he was "looking always, always at the long term?" (Your words.)

Rosenberg also wrote "There is no one I've worked harder with, or respect more, than Cal Dooley. As I've often said I moved to Washington in 1993 to work for Bill Clinton but have ended up following Cal Dooley. Congratulations Cal!"

Mr. Rosenberg, the same month that you wrote these words of praise to Dooley you also noted that "Medicare premiums increased by the largest amount in history." How do you reconcile that statement and your praise of Dooley in the same month?

Remember when Rosenberg's made this statement: "John Kerry did not compete adequately for Hispanic votes, period." That was when (as the same AP article carrying Rosenberg's statement noted):

Exit polls found Bush won 44 percent of the Hispanic vote -- up from 35 percent four years ago. Kerry won 53 percent -- down from the 62 percent Al Gore won.

Since then Ana Maria Arumi of NBC News has corrected those findings. Bush's 44% lead now stands at 40%. Arumi still calls this a signficant gain; however:

Another pollster, Antonio Gonzalez, president of the Velasquez Institute in Los Angeles, said the group's exit polls showed Bush receiving 35 percent of the Hispanic vote, the same percentage as in 2000.
"There was not a significant change in the partisanship of the Latino vote," Gonzalez said.


Mr. Rosenberg, you said, "John Kerry did not compete adequately for Hispanic votes, period." Do you feel the need to retract or modify any of the statements you made on this topic back when you believed Bush had 44% of the Hispanic vote? Would you consider retracting the "period?"

Lastly, Mr. Rosenberg, Rachel Maddow gave you the opportunity to comment on the disenfranchisement of African-American voters when she and Lizz Winstead interviewed you, would you like to comment on that now?

In fact, maybe you'd like to answer what Carol posted to the blog during that show:

After asking the question re: where is the Democratic party's outrage over black voter disenfranchisement and hearing him segue quite nicely to Hispanics without ever addressing the original question, I expected either Rachel or Liz to return to the question to get his take on the problem. More blacks were disenfranchised in 2004 than in 2000. Can we expect that ALL blacks will be disenfranchised in 2008. Is black support a liability to the Democratic party since it seems that white male voters, high on viagra, are voting nearly en masse in the Republican Party?

I think Carol deserves an answer. In fact, I think we deserve answers to all these questions.

[Note: this post has been edited. Thanks as always to Shirley for e-mailing typos and clarifications needed.]