With a major new report on climate change coming this week, here is Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signing California’s landmark legislation last fall on Treasure Island in
San Francisco Bay in this NWN video.
** OIL HITS A FOUR-WEEK HIGH. Crude oil prices have further moved up to around $58 per barrel. The theory that Saudi Arabia is keeping prices substantially lower as part of an overarching strategy to pressure Iran now looks very flawed. The Saudis have actually cut their oil production. And there are signs they want to work with Iran to stabilize the region.
** MCCAIN HOUSE WHIPS. Senator John McCain announced a team of a half-dozen Republican members of Congress to serve as his whips to build congressional support. They are Michigan’s Fred Upton, Alabama’s Spencer Bachus, Arizona’s John Shadegg, Illinois’ John Shimkus and Mark Kirk, and California’s Dan Lungren.
Lungren is a long-time favorite of conservative Republicans in California. The amiable former state attorney general of California was the 1998 Republican nominee for governor of California. He ran a staunchly conservative race and lost to Democrat Gray Davis.
** GIULIANI IN CALIFORNIA. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is in California today raising money in the southland. He’ll be back in state next month for a keynote address to the California Republican Convention and a few days of campaigning.
** FAST TRACKING THE EARLY CALIFORNIA PRIMARY. State Senator Ron Calderon’s aide Rocky Rushing says the senator’s bill for an early California presidential primary is moving on to a fast track with action in the Senate Rules Committee this week. It could move to the state Assembly by next week. Democratic and Republican leaders there say they back the bill.
Biden rejects both the Bush policy for Iraq and a rapid withdrawal, instead saying that Iraq should be “federalized” with Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis given “breathing space in their own territories” and a sharing of oil revenues. He would have a phased withdrawal of US combat troops and major reconstruction aid. Biden would convene a regional security conference which would include Iran and insist that all parties concur in the power-sharing arrangement and respect Iraq’s sovereignty. “Iraq,” he says, “risks becoming what it was not before the war: a haven for radical fundamentalists.”
** GIULIANI KEYNOTE AT CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CONVENTION. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be the keynote luncheon speaker at the California Republican Party Convention on Saturday, February 10th in Sacramento. NWN will, of course, cover this live, with accompanying video later. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will give the Friday night banquet speech.
** A NEW BUZZWORD IN THE CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE DEBATE. With the proposals-offering and posturing now fully joined, California Senate Republicans having offered a much more limited and market-oriented plan and Assembly Republicans having offered nothing else yet, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has offered … a new buzzword. (That’s an old Jerry Brown term for words/phrases that go buzz in your head.)
While not agreeing with criticism that new payments by business constitute a tax (requiring a two-thirds legislative vote) rather than a fee (requiring a majority vote), Team Arnold has come up with a new perspective on the matter. You remember the “hidden taxes,” some $14.65 billion per year in unreimbursed cost due to the lack of insurance for millions of Californians? You should, they spent weeks talking about it before introducing the plan earlier this month. Well, the hidden tax will be more than balanced by the new mandates/fees. This will lead to lower costs overall. Or, in the new term, a “net tax reduction.”
** ARIANNA REVELS IN RILING MCCAIN. Back in the day, the day in question being the year 2000, right wing-turned-left wing commentator Arianna Huffington, then in the midst of metamorphosis, was a great fan and friend of John McCain. So much so that she had him deliver the keynote address at the first of the two Shadow Conventions that she and others sponsored to, well, “shadow” the Republican and Democratic national conventions of that year in, respectively, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. I was senior advisor to the Shadow Conventions and suggested — unsuccessfully, as it happens — that climate change be one of the issues highlighted on successive issues days at the conventions. A story in itself. In any event, McCain was a great Huffington fave, whose keynote ended up getting booed in Philadelphia when he worked in an endorsement of George W. Bush for president.
** EARLY CALIFORNIA PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ON FEBRUARY 5, 2008 LOOKING GOOD. I dropped by a reception for California’s new state legislators last night hosted by the Sacramento Press Club at the state Capitol. There were a few dozen on hand. It’s interesting to see a lot of people I wouldn’t otherwise recognize, with a few exceptions, if they dropped through my skylight. Hey, it’s a term limits world there.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez was in a very upbeat mood after his fairly triumphant visit to Davos. He told me the early California presidential primary is on. As did a couple of ranking Republican legislators, who preferred to talk on background. More to follow as the week goes on.
** RUNNING ROCKY? LA City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, wiped out in a Democratic primary race for California attorney general by former Governor Jerry Brown, is said by political insiders to be mulling possible runs for Los Angeles county district attorney or Los Angeles city controller. He’s termed out of his current post in 2009. Delgadillo was on hand for Jerry Brown’s inaugural earlier this month in San Francisco, and said there was much he could learn from the two-time Democratic presidential runner-up.
Russia and Iran, by some estimates, have the world’s largest reserves of natural gas. (The US, increasingly dependent on natural gas as the cleanest burning fossil fuel for electric power generation, is sixth.) Although Russia is officially against the idea of a “gas OPEC,” it’s an idea that has previously floated around there with some approval. Russia is the principal supplier to the rest of Europe, as a brief cut-off last month during the Russia-Belarus dispute reminded everyone. Other top candidates for a gas OPEC include Algeria and Turkmenistan.
** GIULIANI IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, TIED WITH MCCAIN. Rudy Giuliani had a generally successful trip to New Hampshire last weekend, with a few caveats. He was well received in his major speech to a state GOP conference, but not rapturously received. He still sounded less than definite in his commitment to the campaign. Several press reports, local and national, noted a somewhat imperious style about his operation.
A new private poll has Giuliani tied with John McCain in New Hampshire’s Republican presidential primary, with neighboring former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a distant third. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has a clear lead, with Barack Obama and John Edwards in a dead heat for second.
I don’t know how Giuliani gets along with Hillary Clinton, whom he began to run against for the U.S. Senate in 2000 before dropping out of the race. McCain gets along well with Clinton, reportedly the result of a 2004 vodka drinking contest between the two, and a few other senators, all male, in Estonia.
“What in my background equips me to deal with evil and bad men?” — Senator Hillary Clinton
** L.A. LIVING WAGE LAW. Organized labor in LA has a poll that it say shows that any election move by the business lobby to try to overturn the city’s “living wage” law — which grants airport area hotel service workers a higher minimum wage than others, $9.30 per hour, plus another $1.25 an hour for benefits — would be a slam dunk failure. The numbers show the law supported, 74% to 23%. Indeed, backers say that voters want to go further with the law. There’s no real reason to doubt that. Public support for an increased minimum wage is broad throughout California. But campaigns are campaigns, and what LA labor is not mentioning is that a living wage law in even more liberal Santa Monica was defeated in a public vote.
Actually, some other people thought of this before Jeff Sessions. They include quite a few new Democratic members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Which is why comprehensive changes to the immigration laws were not a part of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s big change agenda.
** SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS.Is there a bit of a p.c. backlash underway in Hollywood against the very strong storyline in 24‘s Season Six, in which Islamic jihadist terrorists have just detonated a suitcase nuke in LA? The acclaimed Fox TV show won Emmy Awards last fall for its fifth season, for, among other things, best television drama and best actor (Kiefer Sutherland as counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer). But last night at the SAG Awards, the show lost out for both best actor and best ensemble (the SAG rough equivalent of best drama). The material being judged by the SAG membership was from the same Season Five which swept the Emmys. And Sutherland has previously won a couple of SAG best actor awards for the same role.
Most of the people I voted for in the Screen Actors Guild Awards didn’t win, as it happens, with the notable exception of Helen Mirren winning best actress in a feature film for The Queen.
** GIULIANI’S MOVES. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s presidential exploratory committee has just announced a New Hampshire chair. It’s former New Hampshire Republican Chairman Wayne Semprini. Giuliani has previously brought on board a New Hampshire political director and a “coalitions director” for the Granite State. The 9/11 standout, a frontrunner in the polls, ventured to New Hampshire over the weekend for only the second time in three months. As reported over the weekend, he was received respectfully, but not rapturously, at a state Republican conference. Giuliani, according to the Washington insiders’ Hotline, really didn’t knock ‘em dead in New Hampshire over the weekend.
Noting that there were long stretches of talk with no applause, and no humor, the publication seemed unimpressed. Here’s my observation. Unless you have total commitment to presidential politics, entering a campaign is like playing at half-speed in the NFL. It’s a good way to get hurt.
** HILLARY’S JOKE. Some of the press, ever linear, think Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton made a gaffe yesterday in Iowa when she deadpanned an audience member’s question about what qualified her to deal with evil guys. The audience roared at her response, as you’ll see, in which she repeats the question and stands there at first quietly, then breaks into a big grin as she sways relaxedly on the stage. On one level, she’s obviously making a reference to her sometimes wayward husband, the former president of the United States. Not to mention, on another level, the various guys like Ken Starr and Rush Limbaugh and the Fox News personalities who went after her hammer and tong. Trust a political reporter to ask for an explanation of a joke. Not to mention to expect an answer.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the UN and secretary of energy, makes a pitch as a Democratic presidential candidate. He is emphasizing a Western strategy.
As Democratic superstars Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama prepare to come to California next month, two other presidential hopefuls stole a march on them over the weekend in the second-in-the-nation contest, Nevada. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark campaigned in the Silver State, part of what Richardson, the former U.S. energy secretary and ambassador to the UN, says is his “Western strategy.”
Both men spoke in Minden, an hour outside Reno, at the annual Douglas County “Turn Nevada Blue” Democratic dinner. But Richardson spent the most time, campaigning in a series of appearances and private meetings around Northern Nevada, far from the evershining lights of Las Vegas.
Clark, who won one primary, Arizona, in the 2004 Democratic presidential contest, but is much better known as the commander in the successful Kosovo War of the ’90s, talked about what he says is the failed policy of President George W. Bush in the Middle East. (CORRECTION: Clark won the Oklahoma primary, not the Arizona primary.)
“It’s amazing to me that the president doesn’t think he has enough leverage yet to deal with the Iranians.” Clark, the former military commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization went on to say, according to Nevada news reports, that he sees “a buildup to a strike on Iran – and I don’t believe we should ever go to war with a country unless it’s the absolutely, absolutely, absolutely last resort. When you want to initiate combat operations, when you won’t deign to speak to the country, what in the world is the matter with this leadership?”
For his part, Richardson, who has won two elections as governor in a swing state, the last with 69% of the vote, acknowledges that he is a longshot candidate. He’s presenting himself as a candidate of Western individualism, a backer of the Second Amendment, someone who wants to bring American troops out of Iraq, fight climate change and advance renewable energy, and stimulate the economy with new industries.
Richardson has worked closely with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Western Governors Association, and hits the bipartisan progress theme as well. Richardson was chairman of the Western Governors Association and of the Democratic Governors Association, giving him valuable contacts. He especially touts his background as a troubleshooter and negotiator in foreign crises, something he began while a mere congressman — which brought him squarely into the focused attention of then President Bill Clinton — and has continued as New Mexico’s governor.
In order to win the Democratic presidential nomination, Richardson will have to overcome much better known and financed candidates in the form of Clinton, Obama, and John Edwards, the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee. It’s not impossible. Clinton has real problems in the early line-up of states. Obama lacks experience and a resume. Edwards is well-positioned early but likely to take a pounding from others in the first tier.
If Richardson breaks through early, the limelight could well turn to him. He has not only a glittering resume and experience on the global stage to offer it, but something else. He is the first major Latino politician to run for president. That could be a tremendous plus in the likely early California presidential primary.
Nevada is key for Richardson. As it happens, he knows a bit more about the state than other Western politicians might. The New Mexico governor was co-owner of a casino in Southern Nevada, with the family of Nevada’s Republican Senator John Ensign.
Richardson will pursue what his campaign calls a “rural strategy” as well as a Western strategy. In Iowa, that would take him to farflung parts of the first-in-the nation caucus state. Just as it did over the weekend in Nevada.
Richardson has committed to campaigning in all 17 counties in the Silver State. He’ll need real support in every one of those counties if his gamble is to succeed.
** GENERAL WESLEY CLARK IN NEVADA, ON IRAN. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was joined last night in Nevada by General Wesley Clark, the former NATO Supreme Commander who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and might run again in 2008. Both men spoke at the annual Douglas County Democrats Turn Nevada Blue dinner. Clark said: “It’s amazing to me that the president doesn’t think he has enough leverage yet to deal with the Iranians.” He went on to say that he sees “a buildup to a strike on Iran – and I don’t believe we should ever go to war with a country unless it’s the absolutely, absolutely, absolutely last resort.
“When you want to initiate combat operations, when you won’t deign to speak to the country, what in the world is the matter with this leadership?”
** AS SEEN ON TELEVISION. It’s the most dramatic story of the era, to say the least, but the Terror War is virtually invisible in feature films. Only on television, principally in the now sixth season form of 24, where it is always front and center, is the drama visible in a major long-term Hollywood manifestation. (There is another new TV series, The Unit, about special forces operators out in the field and dealing with their families.)
24 won Emmy Awards last fall for its fifth season, for best drama and for best actor on television, Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the heroically tortured counter-terrorist agent, Jack Bauer. This season, the tension — always near a fever pitch with the show’s format of an extremely bad day, depicted in 24 one-hour episodes, hence the title — boils over with Islamic jihadist terrorists setting off a suitcase nuke in town outside the center of LA. It will be interesting to see if there’s a backlash against this ratcheting up of the stakes tonight, when the Screen Actors Guild Awards are presented. (I’ll let you know how my vote stacked up in the various categories tomorrow.) The series is up for best television ensemble, as well as best actor, which Sutherland has won a couple of times already.
As for the realism of the suitcase nuke scenario. There is a lot of missing nuclear material after the fall of the Soviet Union. Russia, a secular materialist society under Communism in which all but a few were unable to indulge in materialism, exploded into radical materialism after the Berlin Wall came down. Everything was “Chanel” in Moscow for quite awhile. Now it’s that, and everything else. Which is another way of saying that, given Al Qaeda’s known desire to attain nuclear weapons, of course it’s possible. Perhaps a better question is why it hasn’t happened yet.
Two-term governor of a swing state, re-elected with a record 69% of the vote, holder of two posts in former President Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, as US ambassador to the United Nations and US secretary of energy, he has what looks like an impressive record of trouble-shooting international crises, which he began as a veteran congressman, and has continued as New Mexico’s governor.
He’s doing some intensive retail campaigning in Nevada this weekend that could begin laying the groundwork for a strong showing in the second-in-the-nation Nevada presidential caucuses next January. As a Westerner, he knows the turf. He’s working the less populated Northern Nevada first, with two days of appearances and meetings in and around Reno. Richardson vows he will campaign in every one of Nevada’s 17 counties.
Meanwhile, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is campaigning a second day in Iowa. Her tour there started with a roar with yesterday’s standing room only town hall meeting at a Des Moines high school.
Giuliani reminded the crowd of his much-praised role on and after 9/11. “When I say we have to bring peace and security — I saw that happen in New York and I made it happen.” He also cautioned the crowd that the military effort in Iraq — he has endorsed the Bush surge strategy there, but has not championed it — may well fail.
For his part, Blair said he sensed that attitudes in America are in the midst of “a quantum shift,” saying the world seems “on the verge of a breakthrough” on climate change.
Blair praised California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had been slated to give a major address before his doctor forebade extensive air travel while his leg, injured last month in a skiing mishap, heals. Said Blair: “Many individual American states -notably California, with whose Governor I signed a bilateral agreement on this subject last year – are setting targets for reducing emissions and taking far-reaching action to achieve them. American businesses – including many of their major power companies – have become advocates of a binding cap and trade system.
“The German G8 Presidency gives us an opportunity to agree at least the principles of a new binding international agreement to come into effect when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012; but one which is more radical than Kyoto and more comprehensive, one which this time, includes all the major countries of the world. It is a prize of tantalising significance and I think it is possible.”
Despite criticism from many on the left, Clinton made no apologies for her vote to authorize the Iraq War. “There are no do-overs in life,” she said. She criticized the information offered by the administration of President George W. Bush to justify the invasion.
Speaking of the overall Terror War, which she says Bush is thoroughly botching, Clinton struck a very somber note. “I do think we are engaged in a war against heartless, ruthless enemies,” she said. “If they could come after us again tomorrow they would do so.”
** SABERS RATTLE.While American sabers rattle, with a second aircraft carrier underway to the region and new presidential authority to kill Iranian agents in Iraq, Iranian sabers have continued their rattling, with the second major missile exercise in three months.
Meanwhile, two politicians who may have a fair amount of saber rattling in their futures, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Rudy Giuliani, venture into somewhat unfamiliar territory.
Senator Clinton will be in Iowa this weekend, for the first time in three years. Although the national Democatic frontrunner, she currently trails John Edwards by a substantial margin in polling for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses, and is also well behind Barack Obama.
Former New York Mayor Giuliani heads to New Hampshire for the second time in three months. He’s running a little behind John McCain there. The trip is important because there are still quite a few people who don’t think he’ll really run, although he has just sold the investment portion of his portfolio of companies. (Another reason he may have sold it is it was reportedly not a big moneymaker.) The Washington insiders’ Hotline rates him only third among Republican contenders, despite the fact that he actually leads in many polls, behind McCain and Mitt Romney. But he has hired some major staff of late, and is coming to California next month to keynote the California Republican Party Convention in Sacramento.
Now back from the moves of leading potential future saber rattlers in the White House to the drama of the moment. With American politics dominated by the crisis in Iraq, and the Middle East in general, attention is beginning to turn to the US face-off with Iran.
Noted military blogger Bill Roggio thinks that the Iranian leadership is feeling the hit from economic, diplomatic, and military moves. Pressure on the Iranian regime, he says, may be paying off, as this report notes.
Meanwhile, Iran is figuring in the dramatic crisis in Lebanon.
But he sees Edwards as running in the open field with his clearcut opposition to the Iraq War. The former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee leads all the polls I have seen from the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. And although Hillary leads in the private polling I’ve seen from second-in-the-nation Nevada, I know from also having done Nevada that an attractive and articulate trend presidential candidate, which Edwards is, can sweep to victory in the Silver State. And that is without factoring in the union support that Edwards will have in the Las Vegas market, which should comprise about 70% of the Democratic vote in Nevada come next January 19th.
** AFGHANISTAN COMMITMENT COMING UP SHORT.Secretary of State Condi Rice gave a strong pitch today at the NATO meeting in Brussels for more troops and more aid to Afghanistan.Citing an anticipated “bloody spring offensive” by the Taliban, the former Stanford University provost came away with no firm commitments for new military forces from the NATO allies, who in turn were looking for more of a commitment from the US, fearing that America was fatefully preoccupied with the collapsed policy in Iraq. Rice said that the Bush Administration will seek another $10.6 billion — a tiny fraction of what is being spent on Iraq — from Congress in training and equipment for the Afghan Army and financial aid for the government. Defense Secretary Bob Gates yesterday announced that several thousand American light infantry troops would find their deployments in Afghanistan extended to meet the threat of the resurgent Taliban, who appear to have a safe haven in the form of America’s putative ally in the Terror War, Pakistan.
Nevertheless, no firm commitments of more troops from NATO allies has been forthcoming. Of the more than 42,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, 24,000 are Americans. In fact, the European Union will actually cut its level of financial aid to the Afghan government.
** PETRAEUS CONFIRMED BY SENATE. Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus has just been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as America’s new commander in Iraq. The vote was 81-0.
** OIL UP TO $55 PER BARREL. The price of crude oil has jumped up to $55 per barrel on colder weather in much of the US — the spring-like weather last month in New York City has turned to an arctic chill — and an OPEC production cut next week. What does this do to the theory that Saudi Arabia was working to pressure Iran by keeping oil prices lower?
** NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH GENERAL JACK D. RIPPER. America’s new commander in Iraq, anointed by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to save their scalded bacon, is Lieutenant General David Petraeus. (For the uninitiated, that means he wears three stars.) Some on the left, given the avidity with which this appointment has been greeted by many war hawks, seem to think Petraeus is some sort of yee-haw figure out of Dr. Strangelove.
Actually, he is not. Petraeus is a warrior/scholar, a paratrooper with a PhD. from Princeton who is friendly with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is also the principal author of America’s new counter-insurgency doctrine, which can be viewed here. As you will see, the Petraeus doctrine can be described as high-intensity community policing. Can it work in Iraq? Are there enough troops in the “surge” that is really a slow-rolling wave? Is the situation — one part insurgency, one part sectarian war, one part externally-directed (from Iranian elements) attack on American forces, one part a piece of a larger Al Qaeda design — too far gone for these techniques?
** THE WESTLY GROUP AND KLEINER PERKINS.Back on January 9th, in this NWN video and column, former California state Controller Steve Westly, the ex-eBay honcho who ran a near miss campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, laid out his future plans. Invest in and foster new greentech firms and run a political action committee with an eye to a future race for governor or senator. Since then, he’s further concretized those plans, establishing the Westly Group as a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. The Westly Group is housed in the offices of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, perhaps the most important venture capital firm in America. But, contrary to a press report, Westly is not on the board of Kleiner Perkins. For one thing, as he notes, Kleiner Perkins doesn’t have a board. For another, the relationship is more of a strategic alliance.
** A TEAM ARNOLD SHIFT. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s very able and well-liked campaign press secretary, Julie Soderlund, a deputy press secretary in the Governor’s Office before that, is shifting to the private side with Wilson-Miller Communications. Wilson being Schwarzenegger’s finance chief, Marty Wilson, and Miller being former Governor Pete Wilson’s former spokeswoman Beth Miller. But even though she’s brand new to the private sector, Soderlund already has her very own first client. It’s Schwarzenegger’s political committee. The new Team Arnold committee doesn’t have a name as yet. NWN will be suggesting one.
** TAUSCHER REMOVED FROM TARGET LIST. There’s been a fair amount of lefty blogosphere chatter about Bay Area Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher becoming the “new Joe Lieberman,” i.e., a target for removal in a Democratic primary. (Not that Lieberman got removed in the end.) Why? Because she’s something of a DLC type, has a chummy photo with George W. Bush, one of her advisors said mean things about lefty bloggers, etc. The folks who’ve been pushing this notion on the Net are largely a relatively small crew who used to try to swarm NWN, insisting that Phil Angelides was really a great candidate for governor of California and was really doing much better than I reported. (Actually, he was sometimes doing worse than I reported, but I don’t like kicking a dead horse every day.) It didn’t seem like a very big deal, especially since, when I asked, they couldn’t produce the name of a credible opponent.
Then a new labor/liberal outfit emerged to keep Democrats on the straight and narrow, i.e., left-liberal path. They put Tauscher at the top of a hit list. That seemed more serious.
But not for long. She’s off the list. It seems that everyone forgot something rather important, which I’m sure I mentioned at one point. Tauscher is part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s leadership team, as a regional Democratic whip in the Congress. I know Nancy Pelosi. She comes out of machine politics in Maryland. She is not going to allow a member of her leadership team to be defeated in a Democratic primary. Even if she deserves to be.
** IRAQ STUDY GROUP INFLUENCE. Anyone who thinks that the much-maligned-from-the-right-wing Iraq Study Group is not influencing the Iraq policy already is quite mistaken.This article for the Atlantic by writer Robert Kaplan, whose work anticipated the current post-Cold War, post-modern chaos in much of the world, points up what I’ve been hinting at, that in fact the ISG is quite influential, even now at what seems to be the moment of President George W. Bush‘s defiance of his defeat in the November elections, the acknowledged collapse of his Iraq policy, and overwhelming polling numbers against him.
The Iraq “Surrender” Group, as some of the quite fragrant right-wing critics have called it — bear in mind, as the ahistorical do not, that it contains two-thirds of the troika that ran the Ronald Reagan White House during the winning of the Cold War — called for a modest surge of US troops into Iraq to try to tame an out-of-control security situation. That’s what is happening. It suggested that this be a plan for this year. That’s what it seems to be. It called for an Iraq reconstruction plan. That’s what Bush is proposing. It called for a renewed Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Bush is pushing that.
It also called for engagement with Iran and Syria on Iraq. Which Bush says he won’t do. Now. But his team says they will engage with a more amenable Iran. Which serious economic pressure and the dispatch of a second aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf may well produce. Of course, Bush himself did meet with the leader of a pro-Iranian faction in the Iraqi Parliament. Meanwhile, the British have been talking. And so has the Iraqi government we support. They apparently can’t have enough summits in Tehran.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger got some more very good news in the form of the Public Policy Institute (PPIC) poll showing big support for him, his “post-partisan” approach, and his signature issues. But, showing the learning curve from two years ago, he’s making adjustments rather than simply rely on his renewed lofty poll ratings.
Not only do big majorities of Californians like him and the bipartisan cooperation he brought to Sacramento last year, and feel good about the direction of the state because they expect it to continue, they like his signature issues. Schwarzenegger’s environmental moves on climate change and renewable energy are widely popular. Last year’s Big Bang Bonds infrastructure deal worked out with Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, with Republican legislative leaders Dick Ackerman, Kevin McCarthy, and George Plescia also playing important roles, turned out to be a big political success. So much so that 63% say they are on board with Schwarzenegger’s call for another $43 billion in infrastructure spending. And some 70% are for his comprehensive health care concept.
But Schwarzenegger knows that keeping the public on board with the agenda, not to mention somewhat fractious legislative Republicans, means that he can’t simply move on to the next thing, as he might have in the past.
So Schwarzenegger issued an executive order this week setting up accountability standards and performance reviews for the current crop of infrastructure bonds.
It made Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, a conservative who has shown distinct signs of not being a post-partisan kind of guy, quite happy. He appeared with the governor and penned a column praising his actions on the conservative Republican Flash Report.
Of course, a bit more will be required. For one thing, the former action superstar needs to get a new chief of the Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency, which will be responsible for much of the infrastructure spending. Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak announced her resignation months ago.
For another, Schwarzenegger will need to make sure the legislative Democrats, and a voracious Capitol lobbying corps, rein in even their subtlest moves toward a porkfest.
As for Schwarzenegger’s health care proposal, he is working assiduously to line up needed business support. People who don’t really want the government involved in health care, for a variety of reasons, point to a decision by a very conservative federal court in Maryland as making the governor’s employer mandates moot. That court said that the particular state law it ruled on was preempted by federal legislation.
Schwarzenegger’s lawyers think it doesn’t apply to his plan. In any event, he is full speed ahead on the issue. The plan, not unlike Hillary Clinton’s plan in the ’90s, could end up nibbled to death by vicious ducks. Or it may not.
Its passage is actually fairly straightforward. If Democratic legislative leaders hold their people together, it goes to the governor’s desk for signature.
After all, the Democratic majority Legislature passed a not dissimilar plan in 2002, by then Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, which was promptly signed by Gray Davis. A two-thirds vote was not required. It was only knocked out by a November 2004 referendum, which trailed until the rather late intervention of one Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger.
Meanwhile, the government of Kyrgyzstan, the former Soviet republic which hosts the last remaining major US base in Central Asia, which is crucial to effort in Afghanistan, is in total disarray, with parliament having today rejected the president’s choice for prime minister for the second time in a row.
** U.S. AUGMENTS FORCE IN AFGHANISTAN. With the Taliban making a comeback in Afghanistan, aided by their safe haven in Pakistan, the US is augmenting its force structure in the mountainous country. As reported here last week, new Defense Secretary Bob Gates toured the country and came away promising to take the advice of commanders on meeting new needs in-country.
Here is the rather terse statement from the U.S. Department of Defense: The Department of Defense announced today Secretary of Defense Robert Gates approved a request from commanders to extend for up to 120 additional days 3,200 soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division currently operating in Afghanistan. This extension will provide military capability for NATO to maintain the initiative and build upon the success achieved in promoting stability and security, while denying safe haven for the Taliban.
** LAW FIRM DROPS ANTI-JERRY BROWN LAWSUIT. You remember that lawsuit toward the end of the election, trying to disqualify former Governor Jerry Brown from being a candidate for or holding the office of California attorney general because he’d been an inactive member of the bar association? It didn’t go anywhere, of course, as predicted here, and Brown went on to crush conservative Republican Chuck Poochigian and was inaugurated as attorney general earlier this month.
The case did continue, in altered form. Now the law firm handling it has dropped out of the suit, leaving only the Contra Costa County Republican chairman, Tom Del Beccaro, coincidentally running for state vice chairman of the Republicany Party, handling his own case. It will be heard right before the state Republican convention next month. Coincidentally.
** HOLLYWOOD PRIMARY FOR DEMOCRATS?An early Hollywood primary of sorts in the Democratic presidential race will take place on February 20th. That’s when we see who shows at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for a big fundraiser for Barack Obama being thrown by longtime Clinton supporters Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. It’s hard to tell who will be there now because the invitations are just arriving. Here is the invitation. Only $2300 per person! Co-chairs, who sell 20 tickets, get a private dinner with Obama at David Geffen’s art-strewn home. Incidentally, that’s the night before the first candidates’ forum for the Nevada presidential caucuses, which will take place in Carson City (decidedly not to be confused with Beverly Hills).
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, inaugurated for a second term on January 5th,
has widely popular policies.
Californians are strongly in favor of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, very hopeful that last year’s bipartisan cooperation in state government will continue, greatly favor universal health care for children, and deadset against the war in Iraq, according to the new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll. Only 29% of Californians approve of President George W. Bush’s performance.
While Californians think their state is on the right track now, they don’t think America is. And this despite the Democratic takeover of Congress, which Californians support. Half have a favorable view of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was not very well known before. By a 53% to 30% margin, respondents in the poll believe that Congress should set the direction of national policy, not the president. But that’s not the way the system works, so 60% see America heading in the wrong direction as they doubt that the bipartisan cooperation they expect in Sacramento will work in Washington.
The dismay about America’s direction is driven by Californians’ views of President Bush. While clear majorities disapprove of his budget, tax, health care, and environmental policies, the greatest disdain is reserved for his handling of the Iraq War.
75% disapprove of Bush’s Iraq policies, including a near majority of Republicans and overwhelming numbers of independents. 91% of Democrats disapprove, 78% of independents disapprove, and 45% of Republicans disapprove of Bush on Iraq.
70% of Californians oppose the Bush “surge” strategy for Iraq, with 26% in support. Few expect a successful outcome in Iraq, with only 31% expecting a stable democratic government there, so perhaps it is not surprising that 69% now say it was a mistake for the US to invade Iraq. That’s up from 62% a year ago.
Meanwhile, in sharp contrast to their negative assessment of the national scene, Californians are upbeat about the California scene. 55% think California is headed in the right direction. 58% approve of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance, making him twice as popular as the president. That’s an 18-point increase for the former action superstar from a year ago, 11 points from the fall.
Even the Legislature is up to a fairly respectable institutional level, with 40% approval as an institution, much higher than in the past. That’s because 62% expect last year’s cooperation between the governor and the Legislature to continue.
Schwarzenegger’s policies are generally very popular. 76% approve of his latest anti-greenhouse effect effort, a new low carbon standard for motor fuels. 63% support his call for another $43 billion in infrastructure spending. 71% say they support his comprehensive health care plan — which includes employer mandates to offer health insurance or pay into a state insurance pool — including 68% of independents and a noteworthy 55% of Republicans. There’s even greater support for universal health care for children Support drops when illegal immigrants are factored in, however.
63% of Republicans approve of Schwarzenegger’s environmental policies, a sharp contrast with the criticism they receive from conservative Republican activists, bloggers, pundits, and gerrymandered legislators.
One part of Schwarzenegger’s agenda that is not favored is more spending on prisons. Most Californians are against it, despite the systems’s well-publicized crisis, preferring that money go to other concerns such as education or reducing debt.
The PPIC poll of some 2000, conducted by PPIC chief Mark Baldassare, was taken between January 11th and January 18th.