October 25, 2014

Bush 43: Worst Prez Ever?

Mercifully, George W. Bush’s White House days are winding down. And that tees up an important question: Was he the worst President ever?

Consider this prescient 2006 piece from Rolling Stone:

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a “failure.”

I nominate George W. Bush as the second-worst President in U.S. history — behind only James Buchanan.

Why did “W” lose out on the top honors? Let’s examine the competition:

James Buchanan (1857-61). Under his watch, the country careened from “Bleeding Kansas” to a far bloodier Civil War — leaving Abraham Lincoln to pick up the pieces (we can take up Best Presidents later).

Richard Nixon (1969-74). Although he was forced to resign in disgrace over Watergate , “Tricky Dick” had at least a couple positive traits. Unlike Bush 43, Nixon cared about the environment and actually believed in diplomacy. Indeed, Nixon launched the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), signed the Clean Air Act, opened relations with China, and promoted peace in the Middle East.

Now let’s turn to our final contestant:

George W. Bush (2001-09). In eight years as “Decider-in-Chief“, he tricked the nation into a ruinous war, enabled his cronies to corrupt the U.S. Justice Department, and did nothing to prevent Hurricane Katrina from killing almost 2,000 New Orleans residents.

So what’s worse? Failing to prevent a catastrophic civil war (Buchanan)? Or recklessly going to war while disregarding public safety and civil liberties (Bush)? Let us know what you think: please comment below, or send us a blog post.

While my vote is for Buchanan, I must confess it’s a close call. At a recent Rosenkranz Foundation debate, two-thirds of the audience agreed that Bush was the worst President in the last 50 years.

Come Jan. 20, it’s time for change.

— Gautam Dutta

Advantage: Franken

The Democrats may get to 59 U.S. Senate seats after all. AAA-Fund endorsee Al Franken, who is locked in a bitter recount against GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, just got a huge boost.

The Minnesota canvassing board overseeing the recount just made two rulings in Franken’s favor. First, it ruled that nearly 1,600 absentee ballots that had been rejected because of clerical errors should be counted. Since everyone agrees that the absentee vote favored Franken, this is big news. Going into the recount, Franken was 205 votes behind Coleman.

Second, the canvassing board voted to count the 133 ballots that had gone missing in Minneapolis. Franken won 87 of those votes.

As my colleague Blair Bobier pointed out in the LA Times, the Franken/Coleman race provides yet another compelling reason to adopt Instant Runoff Voting.

Late update:  Al Franken has most likely defeated Sen. Norm Coleman, after the Minnesota Supreme Court rejected Coleman’s last-gasp challenge of the bitter recount.

— Gautam Dutta

Hey There, Good Lookin

In this month’s issue of Asian Fortune, AAA-Fund Executive Director Gautam Dutta is featured as an instrumental force behind AAA-Fund, “a major difference-maker on the state, local and national levels in the Nov.4 elections.”  Read on for Gautam’s interview.

Gautam Dutta of the A-Team
Gautam Dutta: AAA-Fund as a Major Player 

Gautam Dutta, the smart, good-looking and popular executive director of Asian American Action Fund, or Triple-A Fund, has every reason to walk on air these days. The Democratic political action committee, based in the nation’s capital, has been a major difference-maker on the state, local and national levels in the Nov.4 elections.

“We are very proud of every one of our 2008 endorsed candidates,” Gautam said of nearly 40 endorsees. “In all, over two-thirds of our endorsees won.”

And one of them just happened to be the presidential candidate. In June, a smiling Gautam presided over a fundraiser at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the capital, with everyone chanting, “Victory in November!”

Remarked former AAA-Fund Executive Director Irene Bueno, now a principal at Nueva Vista Group LLC in the nation’s capital: “Under Gautam’s leadership, the AAA- Fund has engaged a larger number of Asian American and Pacific Islanders around the country in the political process through efforts such as the expansion of AAA Fund chapters, and also increasing visibility and online dialogue through the AAA Fund Blog.”

The AAA-Fund has been successful in raising funds to support campaigns of new candidates and incumbents who champion and advocate for the AAPI community, she stressed, adding, “This has brought the AAA-Fund to the national stage.”

Gautam said he spent Election Night in Los Angeles, watching CNN, ABC, and MSNBC. Like President-elect Barack Obama, he savored the historic win, but quickly turned his sights down the road. He said AAA-Fund “looks forward to doing our part to help the Obama Administration succeed in improving the lives of every American.”

In an email interview, Gautam cited some specific priorities. “We must ensure that everyone can get quality healthcare. Too many Asian Americans lack healthcare coverage,” he lamented. “And we need a government that respects civil rights and civil liberties. Ethnic and racial profiling must stop.”

He added: “We need comprehensive immigration reform. Currently, our country turns away many eager students and professionals who want to study and start a new life here. What’s more, some Asian Americans must wait as many as 20 years before their families are allowed to join them in the US. Immigration reform cannot wait.” He said more details are available on www.aaa-fund.org

Asked why the mainstream media did not mention the contribution of the Asian American vote, Gautam began, “Asian Americans voted for Obama over Senator John McCain by a margin of two to one, and played a critical role in Obama’s victories in the swing states of Virginia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.”

He added: “We are a diverse community that has only recently become of political age. Also, most Asian Americans do not live in ‘swing’ states, which determine the presidential winner under the Electoral College. The vast majority of Asian Americans live in non-swing states like California, Texas, Hawaii, and New York. That’s why AAA-Fund has endorsed the National Popular Vote Plan, which will ensure that every state will count in presidential elections.”

Excellent match

Gautam and AAA-Fund are a good fit. He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. He earned his undergraduate degrees in Economics and German Literature from Yale University. He’s fluent in Spanish, German, Hindi and Bengali. He was editor in chief of the Yale Political Monthly. His views on the AAA-Fund Blog are notable for their insight.

He has always been active in the community. He was president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association Educational Fund, vice chair of the D.C. Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, and vice president of the South Asian Bar Association.

Ms. Bueno said he has many qualities that make him an effective leader. “He’s an extremely hard worker and has the ability to juggle many things,” she told Asian Fortune. “He works well with leaders in AAPI community and has gained its respect.”

Gautam works at the New America Foundation (newamerica.net/politicalreform) as deputy director of political reform. The Foundation is a national, nonpartisan think tank based in the nation’s capital. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

Gautam served as Tax Counsel to California State Controller John Chiang, an enforcement attorney for the US Securities and Exchange Commission. He worked as a commercial litigator at the Los Angeles firm of Buchalter Nemer, and also as a law clerk for a D.C. federal judge. In 2006, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed him commissioner on the Los Angeles Industrial Development Authority, where he served for a year.

Q & A

What challenges did you overcome in your life and career? My family ran a small business, dry cleaners and Laundromat, when I was growing up. Our landlord, who was an attorney, always gave us a hard time. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to become a lawyer-so that I could use the law to help other people.

Please tell us about your family. My father, Shyamal K. Dutta, is a retired chemical engineer. My mother, Sunanda, is a retired businessowner. My parents have always supported me, and I could never have made it far without them. They live in Calcutta, India. I have two older sisters, Smita and Sheila, who both lived in the D.C. area. I was born in Boston and lived in India from age 6 to 10. I grew up in Arlington, Texas. My wife, Marybelle Ang, is an energy lawyer.

What would you advise the young people on the smart way to succeed today? Take school seriously, and then follow your passion. If you really enjoy doing something, odds are you will probably succeed at it.

Who are your role models? Robert F. Kennedy, US House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, and Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Rep. Mike Honda.

What is your philosophy in life? Give back to the community and never stop learning.

What are your hobbies? I love to read. Currently, I’m reading “The Worst Hard Time,” about the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. I also love to travel, hike, and visit museums.

–Jennie L. Illustre

First Vietnamese American in Congress

In a final blow to scandal-hobbled Rep. William Jefferson, a Democratic, majority-black district just sent Republican Anh “Joseph” Cao to Congress. Cao, an immigration attorney and community organizer who immigrated from Vietnam when he was eight, becomes the first Vietnamese American to be elected to Congress.

What’s the deal with Cajun Asian Americans? Over the last four years, Louisiana has elected two Republican Asian Americans to Congress (in his previous incarnation, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was a Congressmember).

While we might not agree with some of his politics, we sincerely congratulate Congressmember-Elect Cao.

— Gautam Dutta

Still in the Cold?

Reliable sources tell us that Rep. Mike Honda, Tammy Duckworth, and former Washington Gov. Gary Locke are all being seriously considered for cabinet positions in the Obama Administration.  But at this point, there’s no guarantee that any of these outstanding candidates will be picked.

Asian Americans deserve a seat at the table.  Please tell the Obama Transition Team not to leave our community in the cold.

— Gautam Dutta

AAA-Fund Newsletter 12.2

Dear AAA-Fund Friends:

We want to share (1) a letter from Congressman Mike Honda and (2) a letter from AAA-Fund to President-Elect Obama, along with our latest DC event, “Career Panel for Change.”

********

Dear Friends:

As Chair of AAA-Fund’s Honorary Board, I bring tremendous news: 2008 was a banner year for AAA-Fund and the Asian American community!

For one thing, our votes sent Barack Obama to the White House! Kudos to AAA-Fund leaders Betsy Kim, Junelle Cavero, and Selma D’Souza. Betsy served as Deputy Director of the Obama campaign’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Program; Junelle served as the campaign’s Indiana Political Director; and Selma served as Illinois Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Director.

For another, AAA-Fund endorsed and supported a record 38 candidates in 2008. When the dust settled, a historic 63 percent of Asian Americans had voted for Obama, and over two-thirds of our endorsed candidates won!

Read on for an exciting chance to join AAA-Fund and the nation’s top Asian American leaders at the sold-out Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala.

We heartily congratulate Congressmembers (and AAA-Fund Honorary Board members) Doris Matsui, Mazie Hirono, Bobby Scott, and David Wu for their well deserved victories – and for continuing to fight for the Asian American community. Two of our endorsees are locked in tight races: U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken’s Minnesota race has gone to a recount, while U.S. House candidate Charlie Brown’s California race may be headed to a recount.

Out in the Midwest, AAA-Fund Honorary Board member Swati Dandekar became the first Asian American to be elected to the Iowa State Senate, while Honorary Board member Jay Goyal was re-elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. Down in Lone Star State, Honorary Board member Hubert Vo was elected to a third term at the statehouse. Furthermore, we salute AAA-Fund Treasurer Irene Bueno for her outstanding work on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton.

During the campaign, AAA-Fund teamed up with former Governor Gary Locke and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta of the America’s Opportunity Fund, and placed a nationwide full-page ad in the World Journal on the Saturday and Sunday before Election Day. We also placed full-page and half-page, in-language ads in three leading Vietnamese newspapers, two leading Korean newspapers, and a leading Filipino periodical, all with wide circulations in the battleground state of Virginia. We also helped to fund an independent GOTV effort in the Filipino community in the battleground state of Nevada.

AAA-Fund is currently working on placing outstanding Asian Americans in the Obama Administration, starting with the top of the cabinet. We strongly recommend Tammy Duckworth for Veterans Affairs Secretary.  I personally look forward to working with President-Elect Obama on all issues, especially education.  Toward that end, we have been in close touch with the Obama Transition Team.

Needless to say, we are especially proud of our amazing AAA-Fund Blog and Blogteam, led by Editors-in-Chief Caroline Fan and Justin Gillenwater. In just one short year, AAA-Fund Blog has become the nation’s most distinguished Asian American political blog. Last summer, the Library of Congress honored us as one of the internet’s best sources of political information. What’s more, we were one of only two Asian American blogs to be credentialed for the Denver 2008 Democratic National Committee Convention! We are proud of our top-flight political commentary, as well as exclusive interviews with luminaries ranging from John Chiang to James Carville to Norman Mineta to Gary Locke to Sam Yoon to Kelly Hu to Yul Kwon to Antonio Villaraigosa.

A number of rising leaders will be running for office in 2009, and we need your help to help them succeed. What’s more, AAA-Fund Blog needs your support to continue giving a powerful voice to the APA community. (And if you’d like to advertise with us, all you need to do is click here.)

Your thoughtful donation, large or small, will go a long way towards electing our next generation of leaders. As a small token of our thanks, if you donate $500 or more, AAA-Fund will send you one free ticket to the sold-out Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala.

Please do contact us if you need to get in touch with AAA-Fund. Thanks in advance for your leadership and generosity.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Michael M. Honda
Member of Congress
Chair, AAA-Fund Honorary Board

Click here for online version of letter.

********

Dear President-Elect Obama:

We at the Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) would like to express our deepest congratulations, and utmost excitement and hope, on your historic election to the highest office in our country. The AAA-Fund is a progressive political organization dedicated to empowering Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) across the nation. We do this by helping to elect AAPI and other political candidates who have a demonstrated commitment to the community, and by engaging AAPIs in the political process. In line with our mission, and in recognition of your support for the AAPI community, it has been an honor to support your historic candidacy for the White House.

We thank you for signaling your continuing involvement in the AAPI community through the appointment of people such as Pete Rouse, Chris Lu, Sonal Shah, Parag Mehta, Nick Rathod, and Ginger Lew to your transition team, not to mention the announcement of Pete Rouse as Senior Advisor and Chris Lu as Cabinet Secretary. The appointment of these individuals, as well as other talented, well-qualified members of the AAPI community, help empower and correct the under-representation of AAPIs in this country’s political decision-making processes. We also look to the Obama administration to move forward policies that intimately affect the lives of AAPIs everywhere. Due to your familiarity with our community, as you may know, these policies include strengthened family reunification provisions, full benefits to Filipino World War II Veterans, federal representation of Native Hawaiians, continued preservation of historical Japanese internment sites, as well as the many others listed in your AAPI Blueprint for Change.

We want to help the Obama administration achieve its policy goals, building a stronger and more vibrant America, and would humbly suggest that the AAPI community has much to offer in a deep bench of individuals with records of exceptional service and accomplishment. Individuals such as former Washington State Governor Gary Locke, Illinois Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, and Congressman Mike Honda of California (also AAA-Fund’s Honorary Board Chairman) have shown the desire to serve the public good and carry out much-needed reforms, and could do great things as cabinet members in your new Administration. They would follow in the path of trail-blazing AAPI Cabinet members like the honorable Norm Mineta. It is our hope that the placement of such high-caliber individuals from the AAPI community to positions of power in our government will help include the diverse points of view from our community in the discussions that shape American policy. We also seek the appointment of AAPIs at all levels throughout your administration. If nothing else, the inclusion of AAPIs in your Administration would inspire others in the community to strive harder and reach farther knowing that there is a place for AAPIs in your vision for our country.

Once again, our warmest congratulations to your victory, we look forward to working with
you as your new Administration helps shape the vision and path for America’s future.

“Yes we can!”

Sincerely,

Yeni Wong
Chair & Co-Founder

Gautam Dutta
Executive Director
Asian American Action Fund

Click here for online version of letter.

HuffPost Features AAA-Fund ED

The Huffington Post just ran this piece written by AAA-Fund Executive Director Gautam Dutta:

Keep Him Honest

Over 15 million Asian Americans live in the US, and almost two-thirds of them voted for Obama. Yet only one Asian American leader is being seriously considered for his entire cabinet: Illinois Veteran Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.

There are more than a few Asian Americans, including Duckworth and DNC Vice Chair (and Congressmember) Mike Honda, who deserve to be seriously considered for the Presidential cabinet.

After all, even George W. Bush appointed a record two Asian Americans to his cabinet. And in 2012, an Asian American named Bobby Jindal may well emerge as Obama’s GOP opponent. What’s more, many Asian Americans live in the battleground states of Virginia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. If it wants to maintain control of the White House and Congress, the Democratic Party simply cannot afford to take any community for granted, whether Asian American, Latino, or African American.

President-Elect Obama — whose own sister and brother-in-law are Asian Americanhas repeatedly pledged to appoint a “diverse” cabinet.

Let’s help him keep his promise.

— Gautam Dutta

Kids’ Letters to President Obama Book

Attention parents and kids ages 5-15!  The following request was sent to AAA-Fund:

I am working on a book called Kids’ Letters to President Obama.

We are looking for letters from children ages 5 – 15, and I thought that this might be a fun activity for children. We’re very excited about Kids’ Letters to President Obama, which will be published by Random House in 2009.

Could you post a query about Kids’ Letters to President Obama on your group?   We think that parents on Asian American Democrats might like to have their child’s letter in the book.

Children can write a letter to Barack Obama that is up to a page long. The letter can be about anything he or she would like to say to the new President. Letters could give the President advice, or talk about problems that the President should address, or ask Obama questions about his childhood or why he wanted to be president. Or the letter could be about your own child life and feelings about the future. In short, whatever kids are interested in is fine for a letter.

The letter should start out “Dear President Obama” and should be emailed to obamakidsletters@gmail.com or sent by regular mail or fax to:

Bill Adler
Adler & Robin Books, Inc.
3000 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008

You can find out more information on our website:

http://sites.google.com/site/kidsletterstopresidentobama/letters

or

http://preslets.notlong.com.

If you have any questions about the book, please let me know. The deadline for letters is December 31, 2008, but the sooner the letter is in, the better the chance that it will be published in Kids’ Letters to Barack Obama.

Thanks,

Bill Adler

A Letter from Mike Honda

Dear Friends,

As Chair of AAA-Fund’s Honorary Board, I bring tremendous news: 2008 was a banner year for AAA-Fund and the Asian American community!

For one thing, our votes sent Barack Obama to the White House! Kudos to AAA-Fund leaders Betsy Kim, Junelle Cavero, and Selma D’Souza. Betsy served as Deputy Director of the Obama campaign’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Program; Junelle served as the campaign’s Indiana Political Director; and Selma served as Illinois Asian American and Pacific Islander Vote Director.

For another, AAA-Fund endorsed and supported a record 38 candidates in 2008. When the dust settled, a historic 63 percent of Asian Americans had voted for Obama, and over two-thirds of our endorsed candidates won!

Read on for an exciting chance to join AAA-Fund and the nation’s top Asian American leaders at the sold-out Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala.

We heartily congratulate Congressmembers (and AAA-Fund Honorary Board members) Doris Matsui, Mazie Hirono, David Wu, Bobby Scott, Neil Abercrombie, Xavier Becerra, Madeleine Bordallo, Eni Faleomavaega, and Al Green for their well deserved victories — and for continuing to fight for the Asian American community. Two of our endorsees are locked in tight races: U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken’s Minnesota race has gone to a recount, while U.S. House candidate Charlie Brown’s California race may be headed to a recount.

Out in the Midwest, AAA-Fund Honorary Board member Swati Dandekar became the first Asian American to be elected to the Iowa State Senate, while Honorary Board member Jay Goyal was re-elected to the Ohio House of Representatives. Down in Lone Star State, Honorary Board member Hubert Vo was elected to a third term at the statehouse. Furthermore, we salute AAA-Fund Treasurer Irene Bueno for her outstanding work on behalf of Senator Hillary Clinton.

During the campaign, AAA-Fund teamed up with former Governor Gary Locke and former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta of the America’s Opportunity Fund, and placed a nationwide full-page ad in the World Journal on the Saturday and Sunday before Election Day. We also placed full-page and half-page, in-language ads in three leading Vietnamese newspapers, two leading Korean newspapers, and a leading Filipino periodical, all with wide circulations in the battleground state of Virginia. We also helped to fund an independent GOTV effort in the Filipino community in the battleground state of Nevada.

AAA-Fund is currently working on placing outstanding Asian Americans in the Obama Administration, starting with the top of the cabinet. We strongly recommend Tammy Duckworth for Veterans Affairs Secretary. I personally look forward to working with President-Elect Obama on all issues, especially education. Toward that end, we have been in close touch with the Obama Transition Team.

Needless to say, we are especially proud of our amazing AAA-Fund Blog and Blogteam, led by Editors-in-Chief Caroline Fan and Justin Gillenwater. In just one short year, AAA-Fund Blog has become the nation’s most distinguished Asian American political blog. Last summer, the Library of Congress honored us as one of the internet’s best sources of political information. What’s more, we were one of only two Asian American blogs to be credentialed for the Denver 2008 Democratic National Committee Convention! We are proud of our top-flight political commentary, as well as exclusive interviews with luminaries ranging from John Chiang to James Carville to Norman Mineta to Gary Locke to Sam Yoon to Kelly Hu to Yul Kwon to Antonio Villaraigosa.

A number of rising leaders will be running for office in 2009, and we need your help to help them succeed. What’s more, AAA-Fund Blog needs your support to continue giving a powerful voice to the APA community. (And if you’d like to advertise with us, all you need to do is click here.)

Your thoughtful donation, large or small, will go a long way towards electing our next generation of leaders. As a small token of our thanks, if you donate $500 or more, AAA-Fund will send you one free ticket to the sold-out Pearl Presidential Inaugural Gala.

Please do contact us if you need to get in touch with us. Thanks in advance for your leadership and generosity.

Sincerely,

The Honorable Michael M. Honda

MEMBER OF CONGRESS
Chair, AAA-Fund Honorary Board

Si Se Puede: A View from Spain

Ed. Note:  Blogger Priya Kumar is currently spending a semester in Spain.

The moment finally arrived, the victory of Barak Obama. The scene in central Madrid was one of complete chaos. Spaniards flooded the streets chanting, “Si se puede” the Spanish translation of Obama’s notorious campaign slogan, “yes we can.”

Why is there such an interest in American politics? After a Spanish election, not only do Americans not rejoice over a victory but they rarely even know of the existence of the election to begin with.  Does this point towards ignorance of Americans?  The general American population may lack the international political knowledge citizens of other countries boast.

However, the foreign interest in the 2008 election was not a result of foreigners’ extensive political knowledge. Rather, the president of the US seems to have an impact on the rest of the world. Our president seems to be in their interest. We are currently in the midst of an interconnected world. As evident in the recent domestic US crisis turning global, what affects the US seems to affect the rest of the world as well.

Many may think this notion is simply a result of an American pride, that we Americans merely like to think of ourselves at the center of the world. While we may not be of utmost importance, it is clear that our political, economic and social actions affect the entire world. Thus, why wouldn’t other countries be interested in the person employing these actions?

In an article in a Spanish newspaper following the victorious election, a Spanish journalist explained the euphoric reaction to Obama’s victory. While he mentioned Obama’s support for Zapatero, the current Spanish prime minister, as a major reason, the underlying basis of his reasoning was that Obama’s victory gave a hope for change for the rest of the world. If the US can undergo such a drastic change, the rest of the world can too.

The victory of Obama gives us all hope, not merely for the future of the US, but for the future of the world.

— Priya Kumar