Foreign Policy

What a Difference a Family Can Make

This morning, among the sea of 30,000 people participating in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll were a small band of parents and their children whose arrival on the White House lawn signaled a quiet, but significant, change in the way our country, and our president, sees the American family. For the first time, families including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were officially invited, and welcomed, to participate in the First Family’s celebration.

At 9:30 this morning, several of those families gathered with me at the offices of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) as they prepared to head to the White House.  The children among the group, who ranged in age from 1 to 13 years old, were simply excited to be part of this festive day in the nation’s capital.  But the parents, including a gay dad and his 6-year-old son, a lesbian mom and her 13-year –old, and two mothers and their children’s grandmother, understood all too well the change that their event tickets, given to PFLAG by White House staff, represented.

We Must Solve the Immigration Issue and We Can

How can we reform our broken immigration system when the economy is in shambles and unemployment continues to rise?  In fact, successful economic recovery requires that we fix our broken system.  The Obama Administration’s recent statements that it plans to roll up its sleeves and start making progress on this challenging issue is welcome confirmation of the views of the President.  And it is clear that the promise of reform will require a creative partnership between the Administration, Capitol Hill, grassroots communities, and businesses around the country where employers, families, communities of faith, and workers all firmly support forward-looking and comprehensive reforms that will put our nation’s immigration system back on track to meet the needs of a 21st century America.

Moving forward with comprehensive immigration reform will ensure that all workers are here legally, will punish unscrupulous employers who undercut their honest competitors, and will restore integrity to the labor market.  It will lift wages for workers, ensure all workers are paying taxes, and restore fairness to our immigration system.  It will eliminate punishing family backlogs and restore unity to divided families.  And it will create a new legal framework that will allow future temporary and permanent immigrants to meet the needs of the U.S. economy in a highly regulated and tightly controlled manner.

The Big Question for April 3rd: England vs. China

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:
Which is more daunting: Diplomacy with the Chinese premier, or tea with the Queen of England?

Read responses below from Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Dean Baker, Grover Norquist, Dr. Larry Sabato, and Dr. Herbert London.

Read the last Big Question here.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) said:
The Queen’s life is marked by great formality and dignity.  It is extraordinary to watch the recordings of her speeches during World War II, as a young woman during Great Britain’s darkest days.  Frankly, she very much reminds me of my great-grandmother, and this way of life is rapidly and regrettably fading from our Western culture. Read the full response here.

Dean Baker, Co-Director at the Center for Economic Policy and Research, said:
They both sound like a tea party. Actually, President Obama should be pushing the Chinese to carry through on their recently implied threat to stop buying U.S. Treasury bills.

If China stops buying U.S. debt, then the value of the dollar will fall relative to the yuan and our trade situation deficit with China and other countries would fall. This is what Congress has been asking China to do all along. Read the full response here.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, said:
Tea with the British Monarch is silly, inconsequential and a nod to a dying past. Who cares…well, more Americans will respond to how Obama deals with an unemployed descendent of British mobsters (i.e. nobles who stole everyone’s property around them and set the peasants to work for them.) aka the Queen. Read the full response here.

Larry Sabato, Director of the Center for Politics, said:
With all due respect to the Chinese, the answer is tea with Her Majesty, hands down. I’ve had the honor of seeing the Queen twice, once in the U.K. when I lived there, and once in the U.S. on the day of our Bicentennial. I was a nervous wreck both times. When greeting big-shot politicians, they always tell you to imagine them in the bathtub, and that brings them down to earth. It’s sacrilegious to even compose a sentence with “Queen” and “bathtub” in the same sentence. Read the full response here.

Herbert London, President of the Hudson Institute, said:
If you are unaware of tradition or have limited diplomatic training tea with the queen can be a daunting challenge. However, the dangerous challenge, the one that makes a difference, is dealing with a Chinese government increasingly concerned about its dollar assets... Read the full response here.

Keeping Intelligence Accountable

The Hill's Jim Mills interviews Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) about the committee’s work with National Intelligence accountability and protecting National security hot spots.


No "Other Gitmos"

Late last Friday, the Justice Department made a familiar and disappointing argument that the 600 or so detainees at the U.S.-run Bagram prison in Afghanistan should be denied the right to challenge their detention. It's disappointing because President Obama has followed the Bush administration's lead by refusing this basic right to detainees in overseas U.S. prisons. It's familiar because the courts have already seen this case. It was called Boumediene v. Bush, and it ended when the Supreme Court found that Gitmo detainees have the right to challenge their detention at Guantánamo. Bagram should not be a Constitution-free zone any more than Guantanamo should.

The detention facility at Bagram was set up by the U.S. military after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Like Guantánamo, it was designed to be out of the reach of U.S. courts – a legal black hole – during the so-called "war on terror," which itself lacks geographical or durational boundaries. Like Guantánamo, Bagram holds individuals from all over the world, including locations where there are no combat operations taking place. Like Guantánamo, Bagram holds terrorism suspects who were not captured on the battlefield and has imprisoned victims of the Bush administration's illegal extraordinary rendition program. And like with Guantánamo, there are well-documented reports of serious prisoner mistreatment and torture at Bagram. But in some ways, Bagram is even worse than Guantánamo because there is less judicial oversight, process and public scrutiny.


Sleepless Nights For The Torture Team: Gallup Poll Says To Obama "Go Get 'Em"

If I were one of the torture team, and by torture team I mean Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo and others, I would not be sleeping well. According to a recent Gallup poll two-thirds of Americans want to see former administration officials investigated for torture and wiretapping and forty percent want prosecutions. That is an astounding percentage in a country where press and pundits have led us to believe that Americans don’t care, or worse, supported torture and the wiretapping of our phones. I am sure it made the torture team run to their shredders and their lawyers. It should have.

Skilled Foreign Workers Create New Employment For Americans

There is no doubt that the immigration system needs reform, but efforts to attach immigration issues to every proposal moving through Congress are no way to fix a broken system. In the current stimulus bill, an amendment has been proposed (the Sanders-Grassley amendment), which would bar recipients of TARP funds from hiring foreign workers under the H-1B temporary visa program for one year. The proposal reflects a failure to grasp the role of immigration in creating U.S. jobs and enhancing the international competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Recent studies make clear that the presence of skilled foreign workers whose abilities and talents complement those of native-born workers actually creates new employment opportunities for American workers.

Gore Wants Stimulus for the Environment

Former Vice president Al Gore testified before the Senate Foreign Relations committee, urging Congress pass negotiate a Global Climate Change treaty and pass President Obama's economic recovery package.