Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, speaking here during the Armed Services
Committee hearing on the new US commander in Iraq, appears today at
the campaign’s first presidential forum, in Carson City, Nevada.
As presidential candidates converge last week and this on likely early primary state California, they flock to Nevada for today’s first campaign forum of the season, among the Democrats, in what will be the second-in-the-nation caucus contest, following Iowa.
But first a word on the only Democratic presidential candidate who will not be in Carson City today, Barack Obama. The freshman Illinois senator wowed a crowd of several thousand yesterday at a rally in South LA, heart of the Southland’s African American community, before his big fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton. While the event is said to have raised in excess of $1 million, it was far from one of the most star-studded of such affairs. One star I spoke with said that she and many of her friends thought it was too soon to get so publicly identified with a candidate. And the Clintons have many friends.
California and Nevada, both very familiar states in my political past, seem destined to become a Western two-step, at least in the Democratic presidential race, the Republicans having chosen, so far at least, not to move the Silver State up to the front of the lineup.
While he won’t be showing his mettle on the same stage as his competitors today, Barack Obama did make his first trip to Nevada over the weekend. Delivering his familiar thematic message of a politics of hope, the keynoter of the 2004 Democratic National Convention wowed a crowd of some 3500 Sunday afternoon in a rally at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas. Obama, citing a tightened schedule, did not take questions from the media before leaving.
John Edwards also campaigned in Las Vegas over the holiday weekend, appearing before a crowd of 300 at the electrical workers union headquarters Saturday in Las Vegas. Edwards, who is making a strong pitch to labor as part of his push in the second-in-the-nation Nevada caucuses, touted his plan for universal health care, expressed skepticism about Bush administration intelligence on the role of Iran in Iraq while not ruling out a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, and called for the immediate withdrawal of as many as 50,000 troops from Iraq. He’ll be one of the leading contenders participating in the Nevada presidential forum Wednesday in Carson City.
Delaware Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, campaigned in Northern Nevada on Monday and Tuesday, concentrating on Reno and Carson City, focusing on his plan for Iraq.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, will do her first campaign tour of the second-in-the-nation Nevada contest today. The former first lady will participate in the Nevada Democratic presidential forum at noon in Carson City at the Nevada state capital’s Carson City Community Center. Then at 5:20 PM, she will address the Nevada State Educational Association meeting at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. Clinton leads in private polling in the Silver State.
Then Clinton comes to Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
There are three presidential debates and two candidate forums now scheduled around the Nevada caucuses. Today is the kickoff issues forum in Carson City, the capital city, in Northern Nevada. On March 24th, there will be an issues forum on health care in Las Vegas. Both events are sponsored by big unions, a stick to ensure that Democratic presidential candidates show up.
In mid-August, the first Nevada presidential debate will take place, in Reno. On November 2nd, there will be a second debate, in Las Vegas. Finally on January 15th of 2008, just after Iowa and four days before the Nevada caucuses, there will be a third debate in Las Vegas. It will be sponsored by civil rights organizations, taking place on Martin Luther King Day.
It’s all part of a big move West on the part of national Democrats, something advocated for decades by former Senator Gary Hart, whose strategy memo last year emphasizing the West was influential in Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean’s pick of the site for the 2008 national party convention.
First, Nevada was moved to the head of the pack in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Then Denver was selected as the site for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Next, California is moving its primary to February 5th, making it the big enchilada among the early states even with the likelihood of other primaries occurring that day.
The net effect is that the Democrats will have a major new component to the struggle for national political power, a very active Western strategy. And in particular, since Democrats have already successfully implemented a West Coast strategy, a very active Mountain West strategy.
Whereas Nevada — which for many years was part of “Reagan Country” — went for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. And John Kerry nearly beat George W. Bush there in 2004, losing by little more than two percent.
Nevada, one of the fastest-growing states in the country, had 2.4 million people in 2005, giving it the characteristic of a dynamic, larger place yet the scale that allows retail politicking. Like most of the West, Nevada is a high growth/environmentalist state. It wants to grow, and it wants to conserve.
Nevada moving into the lead group in presidential nomination politics means that Western issues of development, water, energy, the environment, and immigration will move to the fore. And labor is happy because Nevada, contrary to its old image as an anti-labor haven, is one of the most unionized states in the country. Nearly a quarter of the state’s population is Latino, and roughly a quarter of its voters are in union households.
But while uniquely Western issues, which in many respects are also national issues, now move to the fore, the overall questions of the Terror War — the collapsed Iraq policy, the unpopular new Iraq policy, the confrontation with Iran, and the resilience of Al Qaeda — remain overarching.
Such national security questions are even more timely today. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is announcing the withdrawal from Iraq of much of the British contingent of troops. And the deadline for Iran to comply with UN sanctions against its nuclear program is nearly upon us.
This is an NWN travel day, of course, with the trek to Northern Nevada.
Senator Barack Obama, then a little-known Illinois state legislator, shot to fame
with his electrifying keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
** OBAMA IN L.A. Senator Barack Obama, declaring that “we can transform politics,” got a roaring reception this afternoon from a crowd of several thousand at an LA park. Tonight he is expected to raise a million dollars at a Hollywood fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton.
** MORE IRANIAN SABER WRATTLING. Iran is in the second of three days of massive war games engaging some 60,000 ground troops, and various naval and air units, including the now familiar missile launches. Meanwhile, the Iranian government says that the triggers used in recent lethal bombings inside the country were made in the USA.
** SCHWARZENEGGER TO APPEAL LOWER COURT RULING AGAINST PRISONER TRANSFERS. A Sacramento Superior Court judge has sided with the state’s prison guards union in their bid to block the state from transferring prisoners to out-of-state facilities as part of the effort to reduce the extreme overcrowding crisis in the prisons. Fewer customers, the less need to hire more potential union members. Schwarzenegger is appealing the ruling, and said in a statement: “Today’s disappointing ruling is a threat to public safety. I will not release dangerous criminals to relieve overcrowding. The transfer of inmates is imperative to relieve the pressure on our overburdened prison system.” Schwarzenegger communications director Adam Mendelsohn says the administration is confident of prevailing with the state’s court of appeals.
** ARNOLD AND LEGISLATIVE LEADERS APPOINT PENSION REFORM COMMISSION. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced the formation of a pension reform commission to review the underfunded public pension crisis this year and report back recommendations. The chairman will be Gerald Parsky, the billionaire Southern California investor who was President Bush’s point man in the California, served as chairman of the University of California Board of Regents, and was assistant secretary of the treasury for international affairs in the Nixon and Ford administrations. Also appointed to the commission by Schwarzenegger is former Republican Assembly Speaker and current Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle. Democratic appointees include leaders from three big public employee unions. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata as well as Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines all praised the commission and the appointees. The commission buys time politically for the various politicians and interest groups to see if they can find some consensus on this potentially explosive problem.
** OBAMA IN CALIFORNIA. A big day for Senator Barack Obama, who has what he hopes will be a large afternoon rally in Los Angeles, followed by what he hopes will be a star-studded fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton hosted by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffrey Katzenberg. A caveat or two. The ticket price, $2300 (maximum presidential primary contribution) is not a major amount to much of the Hollywood crowd. Obama is a cool celebrity who inspires, a hot trend package. Expect many Hollywood folk to contribute to several candidates. Indeed, Spielberg has actually endorsed Hillary Clinton.
In projected general election matchups against the top Republican contenders, the New York senator and former first lady is in a dead heat with both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain. She holds big leads over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is not formally exploring a presidential race but is keeping up a very active schedule. She leads Romney by 13 points and Gingrich by 20 points.
With California in the process of moving its primary near the front of the pack and neighboring Nevada hosting on Wednesday the first presidential forum of the season for its second-in-the-nation caucuses, candidates are heading into the Golden State.
Democrat Barack Obama is in California now. Late Monday he had a fundraiser in San Diego. Last night he had a fundraiser and fundraising meetings in the Bay Area and appeared at a big fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel. (Where Boxer, who is neutral in the presidential race, announced her candidacy for re-election. Attention, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.) Today Obama does a rally in Los Angeles prior to a Hollywood fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton and private dinner at the home of music/movie magnate David Geffen.
On Sunday, giving his now familiar speech on the politics of hope, Barack Obama wowed a crowd of some 3500 in a rally at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas. Obama, citing a tightened schedule, did not take questions from the media before leaving. He is the only Democratic presidential candidate who will not participate in the first presidential forum of the campaign season, Wednesday in Carson City, Nevada, where NWN will be on hand.
Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton heads West for a few days in the Golden and Silver States. She does so in the wake of non-binding votes of majorities in both houses of Congress against the latest Iraq policy, emerging concern about the situation in Afghanistan and the reconstitution of an effective Al Qaeda leadership infrastructure in a remote sector of Pakistan, growing Democratic moves to limit President Bush’s room to maneuver on Iraq and Iran, and the announcement of her latest position on Iraq. The former first lady-turned-U.S. senator says that America should cap the number of troops in Iraq and begin redeploying forces outside the strife-torn country in 90 days.
Meanwhile, Clinton has a new state campaign chairman in Nevada. He is Rory Reid, the chairman of the Clark County (Las Vegas) Commission and former chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party. Reid, 44, will also serve as a senior advisor on Western issues to the New York Senator. He’s the son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who says he is neutral in the presidential race.
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, perhaps the leading longshot contender in the field, is also in California now for a series of meetings with potential supporters.
With Rudy Giuliani having stolen something of a march on the Republican side with his successful tour of California, John McCain comes to the Golden State this week for a few days of campaigning, private meetings, and fundraising. Sources said he will appear on Wednesday in LA with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the threat of the greenhouse effect. McCain and his frequent ally in the Senate, independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, said last week that they believe that there will and should be new national regulations to begin combating climate change by the end of this two-year session.
Meanwhile, a familiar presence in California, former Vice President Al Gore, winner of the national popular vote in his 2000 presidential campaign against President George W. Bush, last week ruled out a 2008 bid for the presidency. He did so in a BBC interview conducted in Los Angeles. Gore has been announcing a LiveEarth series of concerts around the world featuring some of the biggest names in popular music set for July 7th as part of his crusade against the greenhouse effect.
A few of the biggest names in Hollywood tell NWN that Gore is a lock for an Academy Award for best documentary for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. Schwarzenegger touted the film to NWN last spring. Giuliani criticized the film on his California campaign swing last week — for not laying out enough solutions to the problem. Gore is a senior advisor to the British government on climate change, extolled by Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative Party leader David Cameron alike.
There is a bear in the woods. But where, and how best to deal with him?
** HILLARY HEADS WEST. With the nature of the debate over the Terror War in flux and the first presidential forum of the season coming up on Wednesday in Nevada, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton heads West for a few days in the Golden and Silver States. She does so in the wake of non-binding votes of majorities in both houses of Congress against the latest Iraq policy, emerging concern about the situation in Afghanistan and the reconstitution of an effective Al Qaeda leadership infrastructure in a remote sector of Pakistan, growing Democratic moves to limit President Bush’s room to maneuver on Iraq and Iran, and the announcement of her latest position on Iraq. The former first lady-turned-U.S. senator says that America should cap the number of troops in Iraq and begin redeploying forces outside the strife-torn country in 90 days.
Meanwhile, Clinton has a new state campaign chairman in Nevada. He is Rory Reid, the chairman of the Clark County (Las Vegas) Commission and former chairman of the Nevada Democratic Party. Reid, 44, will also serve as a senior advisor on Western issues to the New York Senator. He’s the son of the former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Who also happens to be the majority leader of the United States Senate.
** JOHN MCCAIN TO CALIFORNIA. With Rudy Giuliani having stolen something of a march with his successful tour of California, John McCain comes to the Golden State this week for a few days of campaigning, private meeting, and fundraising. He will appear on Tuesday in LA with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the threat of the greenhouse effect. McCain and his frequent ally in the Senate, independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, said last week that they believe that there will and should be new national regulations to begin combating climate change by the end of this two-year session.
** OBAMA TO CALIFORNIA. Barack Obama is in California. Late yesterday he had a fundraiser in San Diego. Tonight he appears at a fundraiser for Senator Barbara Boxer in San Francisco. Tomorrow he does a rally in Los Angeles prior to a Hollywood fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton and private dinner at the home of music/movie magnate David Geffen. The rally will be at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex, 5001 Rodeo Road. Doors open to the public at 2 PM, ticketing free through barackobama.com.
** BIDEN TO NEVADA. After campaigning yesterday for the Democratic presidential nomination in Iowa, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will campaign in Northern Nevada today and tomorrow, concentrating on Reno and Carson City. On Wednesday, he joins all the Democratic presidential candidates other than Barack Obama in the first presidential forum of the season, the Nevada Democratic presidential forum in Carson City.
** GAVIN NEWSOM AGAIN. How’s San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom doing in the wake of that MSM/blogosphere firestorms a few weeks ago about his brief past affair with the wife of his former campaign manager? If a poll by a well-known San Francisco consulting firm — Barnes, Mosher, Whitehead, or something and other — is to be believed, just fine. Polling on other matters, they threw on a question about Newsom’s job approval in the wake of the scandal. Newsom came back with a whopping 70% favorable rating, pretty much the same as before.
** STUDIO 60‘S LAST CALL? No new TV series this season was more anticipated or, for that matter, ballyhooed than Aaron Sorkin’s Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. The pilot generated great buzz from critics and from the many who saw most if not all of it on YouTube. The series about the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of a late night sketch comedy show boasted a star-studded cast and marked the return to television of the man created and principally wrote during its glory years one of the greatest shows ever, The West Wing, winner of the most Emmy Awards in history. (Despite its largely liberal politics, West Wing attracted a huge Republican audience, though not exactly a right-wing audience, perhaps because of the show’s witty dialogue and depiction of an idealized political universe in which things were largely done for the right reasons, if not the Right reasons.)
But Studio 60, after a promising beginning, swiftly became somewhat problematic. As on West Wing, the characters acted as though what they were doing had great import. But after all, they were doing a Saturday Night Live-type TV show, not running the White House, so it seemed more than a bit precious. There was a bit too much Sorkinesque liberal preaching, of which a little goes a long way. The show wasn’t actually funny, a problem for a show about a comedy show. Sharply written, yes. Funny, no. And the cast, while impressive, wasn’t all that appealing. Matthew Perry as the neurotic head writer was excellent. Amanda Peet as the network head was bright, though perhaps better cast as one of the comedians, since she actually is funny. Bradley Whitford, so good on West Wing as ace political operative Josh Lyman, started out as Josh moved to producing a sketch comedy show. Later he seemed written to be annoying. The people who played the star comedians were, for the most part, while fine actors, notably unfunny.
Then the show became very problematic. With the behind the scenes version of the show falling in the ratings, the show was pulled for awhile and retooled as a romantic comedy. But we didn’t really care about the people who were paired off, the ratings declined to a new low last week, and tonight is the last scheduled episode. There are six more episodes in the can and NBC says they will be shown sometime later. Perhaps. But it’s impossible to see this once most promising of shows renewed.
** WHO SAID THIS?“Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the presence of justice.”
** IS 24 HEADING SOUTH? Is NWN’s official show, 24, at last heading in the wrong direction? While pacifists and deniers of the existence of the Terror War would certainly say the show has been wrong from the beginning, it’s generally done a good job of being politically confounding, with the ultimate bad guys not infrequently on the starboard side of the political spectrum. This notwithstanding the fact that the principal creator of the show, Joel Surnow, is a conservative. Surnow, most unfortunately, has just demonstrated an axiom of life. That just because you’re really good at something, in this case crafting a brilliant thriller, does not mean you’re good at everything. Um, in this other case, creating a comedic faux news show. Don’t get me started on that on such a fine holiday weekend.
Anyway, to the matter at hand. Is 24 waterskiing towards a shark? (You know, hoping to jump over it, like the Fonz in Happy Days.) The show was brilliant last year, sweeping the Emmy Awards as a result. This year started off with, literally, a bang, with a suitcase nuke going off in LA after four hours of nonstop intrigue and action. Which, among other things, brought an Islamic jihadist terrorist leader who might actually want a peaceful accommodation.
But since then, things have gotten rather wobbly. With the revelation that Jack Bauer’s own family was indirectly responsible for providing the nuclear devices after purchase from a corrupt Russian general, then the revelation that one of the shadowy figures puppet-mastering events last season was actually Jack’s brother, and then the revelation that the even worse figure behind the brother is his father … Well, we may be at last suspending disbelief even for the most gymnastic of fans. Still, the show has put itself way out on limbs before — the nefarious bad guy is the weak-sister Republican president of the United States? — and more than avoided falling.
** THE HILLARY FIXATION. Dick Morris is an intriguing character. A brilliant, erratic political strategist who played a critical role in engineering Bill Clinton’s dramatic mid-’90s comeback, he departed in the wake of his own sex scandal (ironic, isn’t it?) and then became one of the Clintons’ sharpest critics in the wake of Clinton’s sex scandal, reinventing himself as a Fox News favorite. It’s really not the sort of thing one does.
While he’s been critical of both Clintons, he seems to rather like Bill still. It’s Hillary Rodham Clinton who draws his most consistent wrath. Morris has set himself up as one of her most persistent antagonists, is whipping up some sort of anti-Hillary documentary film working with professional right-wing muckrakers and propagandists, making dire predictions about the fate of former first lady, New York senator and Democratic presidential frontrunner. One thing to keep in mind with all this. Morris evidently believes that Hillary Rodham Clinton will nonetheless be the next president of the United States. So why bother? While Clinton has been having the various problems mentioned by Morris and others, she has actually been going up in the polls.
Here’s an extended excerpt from his new column:
During the last week, wherever Hillary Clinton campaigned, she faced one dogged question that wouldn’t go away: “Are you sorry for your 2002 vote in favor of invading Iraq?”
But try as they might, neither reporters nor voters can pry the “S” word out of Hillary. She refuses to apologize for voting to authorize the use of our military.
Instead, she repeats that she “takes responsibility” for her vote and that had she “known then what I know now,” she would have voted against the resolution. …
Iraq is not her mistake; it’s President’s Bush’s mistake. End of story.
But the questions persist. So, why has she chosen to take on an unnecessary fight about whether to apologize for a vote she cast five years ago? Her fellow candidate John Edwards and 2004′s Democratic nominee, Sen. John Kerry, both have used the “S” word and apologized for their votes. Likely her advisers have warned that the perception that she flip-flops on the issues is a key negative and have urged her not to change her position. She doesn’t want to look like Kerry in 2004.
But her refusal to apologize is typical of two other characteristics that so frequently land her in trouble: her stubbornness and belief that she is always right.
We’ve seen this before.
Urged to compromise on health-care reform in 1994, she refused. Counseled by most of her staff to release the Whitewater documents when The Washington Post first requested them, she said no and triggered the designation of a special prosecutor. When Whitewater co-conspirator Jim MacDougal suggested that he buy her out of the investment to avoid political embarrassment, she refused, saying that she planned to use the proceeds for Chelsea’s college tuition. When Bill Clinton had the opportunity to settle the Paula Jones lawsuit, Hillary vetoed that possibility, paving the way for her husband’s impeachment.
When Hillary takes these positions, she believes that she is right – and no one can convince her otherwise.
When Hillary is right, this stubbornness is commendable. But when she is wrong, it is frustrating to her supporters and infuriating to her advisers.
But there’s another reason for her stubbornness. Hillary, for all of her vaunted independence, depends on gurus to guide her every move. She falls under their spell and, while thus mesmerized, she believes they can do no ill or make no mistake. …
Sometimes the gurus are right (as on Iraq). Sometimes they’re wrong. But Hillary can’t tell the difference.
That’s a key reason why she shouldn’t be president.
This apparent Al Qaeda video purportedly shows the shootdown of a
U.S. Marine Corps helicopter over Iraq.
** OBAMA TO VEGAS ON SUNDAY. Although he is the only Democratic presidential candidate who has declined to participate in the first presidential forum of the season — next Wednesday in the Nevada state capital of Carson City — Senator Barack Obama will kick off his campaign in the second-in-the-nation Nevada presidential caucuses tomorrow with a rally in Las Vegas.
The Obama rally is at noon Sunday in the Clark County Government Center in downtown Vegas. This is the old Vegas, several miles north of the glittering Las Vegas Strip. The event is open and free to the public, but tickets are required. They can be had from the nascent Obama campaign, the Nevada Democratic Party, and organized labor.
Obama has raised eyebrows with his decision to skip the Nevada forum on Wednesday, raising questions of just how prepared he is for this race. He’ll be in LA the night before for a Hollywood fundraiser, and will be flying over Nevada the next day on his way to Iowa for an undisclosed schedule there.
** BIG U.S. SENATE VOTE AGAINST IRAQ POLICY, BUT BUSH WINS ON PROCEDURE. The Senate just, in essence, voted against President Bush’s new Iraq policy, 56 to 34 with seven Republican senators joining 49 out of 51 Democratic senators. (South Dakota’s Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke-like illness and Joe Lieberman voted with the president.)
The vote was not actually on the resolution, but on a procedural move to get to the resolution identical to that passed yesterday by the House of Representatives. Under Senate rules, the minority can block certain votes. In this case, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refused to consider a vote on a pro-war resolution. Minority Republicans then invoked a Senate rule requiring 60 votes to override their objection to the vote on the anti-surge resolution.
** IRAQ WAR DEBATE, PARTY LINE CALIFORNIANS. In an unusual holiday weekend move, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is trying to have the U.S. Senate follow suit with regard to the House of Representatives in passing a resolution disapproving President George W. Bush’s new Iraq policy.
The House voted 246-184 against the Iraq “surge” strategy. Only 17 Republicans joined majority Democrats in the move, about half as many as had been expected early in the week.
California has 53 members in the House. Their votes split strictly on party lines. The 34 Democrats voted yes on the resolution. The 19 Republicans voted no on the resolution.
** CRUDE OIL RISES.Crude oil prices are up to $57 to $59 per barrel. Largely, it seems on expectations of increased guerilla attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria, one of the world’s key oil producing nations. But prices are expected to drop next week with warmer weather in the eastern half of the U.S.
A few of the biggest names in Hollywood tell NWN that Gore is a lock for an Academy Award for best documentary for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger touted the film to NWN last spring. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the film on his California campaign swing earlier this week — for not laying out enough solutions to the problem. Gore is a senior advisor to the British government on climate change, extolled by Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair and Conservative Party leader David Cameron alike.
** HILLARY DOES NEVADA. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, will do her first campaign tour of the second-in-the-nation Nevada contest next Wednesday, February 21st. The former first lady will participate in the Nevada Democratic presidential forum at noon in Carson City at the Nevada state capital’s Carson City Community Center. Then at 5:20 PM, she will address the Nevada State Educational Association meeting at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. Clinton leads in private polling in the Silver State.
** CALIFORNIA MAKES LARGEST STEM CELL RESEARCH AWARDS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was onhand for this morning’s late-starting event (see the webcast link below) announcing the awarding of 72 research grants totaling $45 million by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), the largest public stem cell research operation in the country. The federal government spends only $25 million per year on stem cell reseasrch.
CIRM was authorized by the statewide vote for Proposition 71 in November 2004, an initiative that was running close in the polls until Schwarzenegger intervened on its behalf. Prop 71 authorized $3 billion in bonds to fund stem cell research. The bonding authority has been tied up in court by opponents of stem cell research, who are expected to ultimately lose, but the former action superstar jump-started the program with a $150 million loan from California’s general fund.
“Today is a day for great hope,” said Schwarzenegger. “These initial grants are important because we all know that we cannot afford to wait when it comes to advancing potentially life-saving science.” CIRM’s board, meeting in Burlingame yesterday and today, had been expected to aprove only 30 grants totaling $24 million in this round. But the institute expanded the number and amount of grants made after receiving over 200 applications from three dozen California institutions.
In March, the institute says it will approve up to 25 more research grants for another $80 million. CITM has also received financing in the form of bond anticipation notes purchased by Silicon Valley philanthropic interests, principally associated with the Intel microchip empire.
Historians will say George W. Bush missed some real opportunities in the aftermath of 9/11 to call the country to some shared sacrifice, to be a unifier, to bring people together and reestablish community. There were hopeful signs at the beginning—bipartisan education reform, the first round of tax cuts—but it all got swallowed up by Iraq, which took over his presidency. …
Another disappointment is that his promise to reform government in a fundamental way never fully happened. He was going to appoint new people who would remake government in a way that fit the twenty-first century. In this respect, I think the president suffered from his success in the 2002 midterms. As most of us know—and it’s why I switched parties and went to work for him—he was best at what he did in Texas, which was working with Democrats like Bob Bullock and Pete Laney. The biggest hope and aspiration of those of us who were brought in as former Democrats was that we could make Washington into a place, like Texas, where people could sit down, have a conversation, socialize, not judge one another as good or evil, not question intentions, and actually get things done. …
Now, near the end of his presidency, when many of us thought we would have helped solve the problem of polarization, we’re in an even more polarized place.
How does he reestablish that gut connection he had with the American public? … First, a tremendous sense of compromise and consensus building—even if he has to sacrifice some of his principles along the way. Second, a resolution on Iraq that represents a significant shift in policy. Once you’ve lost the support of the public on the war, which is where we are today, sending in a small contingent of troops is likely going to be seen as not helpful. He’d be much better off with the public if he said, “This is a mess, we made mistakes, and the only way to fix it is a wholesale change.” And that could mean either a serious increase in troop strength or withdrawal.
** BUSH REMEMBERS AFGHANISTAN. While President George W. Bush and his administration have been preoccupied with the morass that Iraq has become, the US victory in Afghanistan has also been slowly beginning to unravel. Now everyone expects a major coming Taliban offensive, first reported in NWN a few months ago. Bush is trying to get the NATO allies to pony up more troops. Britain is coming up with a few thousand more. The British, Canadians, and Dutch have been the most consistent US allies in Afghanistan. And the US is sending a brigade previously slated for Iraq, the 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Italy, to Afghanistan.
The other shoe has dropped. Forces wanting to change California’s term limits law unveiled their proposal yesterday which, should they gather enough signatures, would appear on the same ballot with the February 5th California presidential primary now pending in the state Assembly after its passage in the Senate.
An initiative to change California’s term limits law has just been submitted to the California Attorney General Jerry Brown for the normal legal vetting before signature gathering commences to place it on the ballot. The measure would allow state legislators to serve 12 years total in office, all of it in one house should they and their voters so choose. Current law limits legislators to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate, for a total of 14 years for legislators able to play the increasing musical chairs game. Current members would be able to continue in office in the current house in which they serve until they reach the 12 year limit. This would allow Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, both of whom are termed out of office at the end of 2008, to continue in their leadership positions. Although some believe there is a glitch in the current wording that could negatively impact Perata.
Two consultants are heading up the campaign. Democrat Gale Kaufman, who quarterbacked the successful campaign to defeat Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 special election agenda and is chief political consultant to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. And Republican Matthew Dowd, who was chief strategist for Governor Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign and pollster for President George W. Bush. There’s probably not enough Republican support in the Legislature to win the necessary two-thirds vote, hence the initiative drive, signature gathering for which would begin in April.
Kaufman and Dowd played it very close to the vest under my questioning yesterday afternoon about what their polling and focus groups show. When I asked point blank how the election would turn out were it held in a week, I received no direct answer. Although Dowd noted that the Legislature is now at a recent high point in public approval. Last month’s Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll gave the institution a 40% job approval rating, up sharply from the 20s in which it has previously languished.
Both consultants acknowledged that Schwarzenegger’s very active support would be critical. The former action superstar, his approval ratings restored to near the stratospheric levels he enjoyed prior to his 2005 special election debacle, says he will entertain a change in term limits if it is coupled with reforming of redistricting, in which politicians currently essentially select their own voters.
It is clear that the proponents of this change are relying, as they acknowledged under questioning, on the demonstrated continued performance of the governor and state legislature this year. And upon a massive bipartisan campaign that may yet emerge, but has not yet emerged. So far the head of the California Chamber of Commerce on the right and the head of the California Teachers Association on the left have expressed support. But this effort will need more crediblity than that. Insiders are simply not enough.
There’s no question that California’s term limits, the most stringent in the country, have a negative impact on the levels of experience and expertise in the Legislature. I won’t soon forget walking into the office of the Assembly speaker some years ago, where the vastly experienced and savvy Willie Brown once reigned, to meet with the new speaker. Who had been one of my volunteers in the Gary Hart for President campaign, and happily reminded me of the occasion when I’d given him a prized pin in his collection, which he had on his desk. A very smart man who had had little experience in organizing things, and precious little time in the speakership to gain that needed experience and then, with term limits, he was gone.
The two current leaders, Nunez in the Assembly and Perata in the Senate, have proved to be very effective, working in a strong partnership with Schwarzenegger. Nunez in particular, who had much less political experience than Perata, has improved dramatically as he has gained experience. For the first time in years, major things are happening in the state Capitol. Yet experience in power is no guarantee of good government.
Willie Brown was and is a brilliant, extraordinarily experienced figure. A pragmatic leader rather than an ideologue. His nearly 15 years as California Assembly speaker was, ultimately, brought to an end only by the passage of the term limits law.
Yet the law passed in large part because Willie Brown came to be seen as a symbol of institutional excess in power. Many made fortunes off of what was known as Willie Brown, Inc. Brown played into his own demonization — much of partisan and racial in character, to be sure — by calling himself the Ayatollah of the California Legislature.
So far, there is little reason to believe that most voters regret the term limits decision. While there has been kvetching for years about term limits in and around the state Capitol, little has been done to educate the public about its perceived ills. The last statewide attempt to alter term limits, a few years ago, failed miserably. This will be an uphill struggle, requiring a very sophisticated campaign, continued achievement in the Capitol, and the heavy intervention of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Iranian forces test Sunburn anti-ship missiles. The US will soon have two
aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf.
** OBAMA TO NEVADA. Senator Barack Obama, under some fire for being the only candidate to skip the first Nevada Democratic presidential forum next week, in the somewhat prosaic state capital of Carson City — hey, I once got once married there, on a semi-lark! — even as he flies over the state en route to a somewhat vague schedule in Iowa at the time after a Hollywood fundraiser the night before at the Beverly Hilton — says that he will participate in the next forum for the second-in-the-nation Nevada caucuses. This event will be a forum sponsored by by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Nevada Democratic Party, and the Service Employees International Union in fabulous Las Vegas on March 24th.
** BILL RICHARDSON ALERT. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the former US Ambassador to the UN, US Secretary of Energy, and first major Latino presidential candidate, says he will raise $2 million dollars for his campaign tonight in Albuquerque. Cue the Neil Young song about that fab city.
I’ve been flyin’
down the road,
And I’ve been starvin’ to be alone,
And independent from the scene
that I’ve known.
** AFTERNOON CONFERENCE CALL WITH CALI TERM LIMITS CHANGE PROPONENTS. Democratic strategist Gale Kaufman and Republican strategist Matthew Dowd played it very close to the vest under my questioning this afternoon about what their polling and focus groups show. When I asked point blank how the election would turn out were it held in a week, I received no direct answer.
It is clear that the proponents of this change, described just below, are relying, as they acknowledged under questioning, on the demonstrated continued performance of the governor and state legislature this year. And upon a massive bipartisan campaign that may yet emerge, but has not yet emerged. So far the head of the California Chamber of Commerce on the right and the head of the California Teachers Association on the left have expressed support. But this effort will need more crediblity than that. Insiders are simply not enough. See tomorrow’s AM leader for more.
** THE OTHER SHOE DROPS. CALI TERM LIMITS CHANGE INITIATIVE SUBMITTED. An initiative to change California’s term limits law has just been submitted to the California Attorney General Jerry Brown for the normal legal vetting before signature gathering commences to place it on the ballot. The measure would allow state legislators to serve 12 years total in office, all of it in one house should they and their voters so choose. Current law limits legislators to six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate, for a total of 14 years for legislators able to play the increasing musical chairs game.
Two consultants are heading up the campaign. Democrat Gale Kaufman, who quarterbacked the successful campaign to defeat Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 special election agenda and is chief political consultant to Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. And Republican Matthew Dowd, who was chief strategist for Governor Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign and pollster for President George W. Bush. There’s probably not enough Republican support in the Legislature to win the necessary two-thirds vote. This initiative would appear on the ballot with the February presidential primary elections.
The signal comes as the US and other nations have reached an accord with North Korea on its nuclear program, an accord which will provide great material benefit to the Hermit Kingdon. And as President George W. Bush appeared to back away from the brink of war with Iran in yesterday’s nationally televised press conference. Contrary to the assessment a few days earlier by some military briefers, an assessment subsequently disputed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, Bush said that he is not at all certain that lethal Iranian meddling in Iraq is being undertaken at the direction of Iran’s central government.
And so the presidential campaign suddenly lurches into gear in California, with the Reagan Library announcing a May 3rd debate, and John McCain coming to the state next week, following on the heels of Rudy Giuliani’s just completed successful tour. On the Democratic side, frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will also visit California next week.
Former First Lady Nancy Reagan said in a statement that she will be issuing debate invitations to major Republican candidates.
“Ronnie always hoped the Library would be a place where policy makers could debate the future,” said Reagan. “This presidential debate provides the opportunity to fulfill his wishes.”
But who is a major Republican presidential candidate? McCain and Giuliani, certainly. But while the Republicans have a raft of candidates, after that it gets a bit unclear.
As Republican commentator and consultant Karen Hanretty notes, “Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who formally announced this week that he is running for president on the GOP ticket, only gets single digit support in all the major polls. In fact, the Real Clear Politics poll average for Romney is a mere 6.3%.”
And Romney has been considered a leading contender, raising some big money. Then there is the question of Newt. As in former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The provocative semi-brainiac hasn’t said he is running, but shows up a solid third in most polling. As Hanretty and other Republicans point out, not unlike Al Gore on the Democratic side, Gingrich is keeping up a steady schedule of appearances.
So perhaps the former first lady will clarify things about the campaign when she issues the actual invitations to participate in the Reagan Library debate.
As for other candidate forums and debates in California, that’s up in the air. I asked new state Republican chairman Ron Nehring if the party will be staging such events — as the Democratic Party in the second-in-the-nation contest of Nevada is — and he noted that he has just come on board and that is something they will be looking at.
It’s also not yet clear what the California Democratic Party will be doing in that regard with the Democratic presidential candidates. But all this is still new, with the actual bill by state Senator Ron Calderon to move the presidential primary to February 5th having just passed the Senate.
Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, who has had a low public profile in California of late, will be back in the state next week on the heels of Rudy Giuliani’s successful tour.
“We’re thrilled with how this trip went,” says Giuliani communications director Katie Levinson, who was also campaign communications director for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As it happens, McCain may appear next week with Schwarzenegger to promote the climate change issue. McCain co-authored a bill to begin controlling greenhouse gas emissions in the last session of Congress with independent Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
But the landmark California legislation that Schwarzenegger produced with the bill’s authors, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez and LA Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, is tougher and more expansive.