This mash-up of Gladiator director Ridley Scott’s famous “1984″ ad for the Macintosh
launch, which actually did little to supplant the IBM PC, is entertaining at least.
In a speech to a think tank crowd yesterday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger laid out the case for using California’s newfound prominence in presidential politics from the early primary to press the candidates, now flocking here earlier and more often than before, to address California issues.
“As important as the Iraq War is,” declared the former action movie superstar, “this presidential campaign needs to be about so much more. The people of California want to hear the candidates’ specific plans on immigration, health care reform, education, climate change, infrastructure, social security, water, energy.”
But Schwarzenegger will have to do his megastar best to help drive attention onto those issues, because this presidential campaign is dominated by geopolitics as none has been since 1980. Before getting back to that, here’s more of Schwarzenegger’s pitch.
“I want to hear specific plans,” he said, rather amusingly given his own notable lack of specificity at times in his own campaigns. “Not just applause lines or rhetoric. Hope is on the Way, Compassionate Conservatism, Building a Bridge to the 21st Century. Don’t tell us you invented the Internet. We’re tired of all the sound bites.”
“On immigration, for example, how many times have you heard a politician say: “We should be firm but compassionate?” But what does that mean? …
“On health care, again we want to hear the details. …
“What is their plan on climate change? How many times have you heard a candidate say: “We have to leave this world a better place than we found it.” “Our children deserve clean air clean water.” “We have to fight global warming.” OK. Tell us how. America isn’t even in the game on global warming. It’s embarrassing. What’s your specific plan to roll back greenhouse gas emissions?
“Do you favor a cap and trade system? How will you make us less dependent on oil? What is your belief about off shore oil drilling? What’s your energy policy? How will you promote alternative fuels? What kind of example will you set for the rest of the world so we can make global progress on climate change? …
“I could go on and on. Every politician in America talks about “We have to give our kids the education they need to compete in a global economy.”
“But what are your specific plans? How do you intend to get more dollars in the classroom? How will you attract and keep the best teachers? How will you get rid of bad teachers? How will you increase accountability? How will you get information about schools in every state on the Internet so parents can find the best place to send their kids? …
“Now that California is in a position to have influence in the presidential primaries, we need to ask these tough questions.”
Fair enough, and all good points. But Schwarzenegger and other Californians will have to struggle to get the candidates to focus on these issues. The acceleration of the presidential campaign has the candidates scrambling to find and hone their messages, not to mention develop their organizations.
And at the core of the semi-crisis in messaging is the fluid nature of the central issues of the election, the Iraq War, the Middle East crisis, and the overall Terror War. It requires a lot of bandwidth to be fluent and up to speed on these issues, and a rare sort of cunning to figure out where things are going and how to articulate a winning political message.
Only Republican Rudy Giuliani and Democrat Barack Obama appear comfortable so far in campaigning publicly in California. Giuliani, capitalizing on his can-do 9/11 fame, has positioned himself in the Churchill and Reagan mold, while emphasizing his reasonableness and flexibility. He was careful not to become too closely associated with past and current strategies in Iraq.
On the Democratic side, Obama draws big crowds, much bigger than past candidates at this stage of a campaign, striking a post-partisan tone and emphasizing his longstanding opposition to the Iraq War. But it’s all still pretty vague. Though as former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown has noted, “A little vagueness goes a long way in this business.”
To a point.
Both candidates have much to flesh out in their geopolitics. The other candidates, even more so, with the possible exception of ultra-longshot Dennis Kucinich, who simply wants to cut off funding for the Iraq War now. Everyone else is engaged in their own forms of crystal ball-gazing and nuance development.
Schwarzenegger has his work cut out for him to tear the candidates’ attention away from that. We see how difficult a task the candidates have when the Democratic majority House of Representatives struggles mightily within its own party caucus to pass an anti-Iraq War bill that won’t be signed anyway, and will very likely fail in the Democratic majority Senate.
John Edwards, seen in this NWN behind-the-scenes video of last month’s Nevada
Presidential forum, shows his sophistication and humor on the campaign trail.
** UPDATE: Pelosi’s struggle seems to have paid off, with the aforementioned Californians agreeing to remove roadblocks to passage of the Iraq pull-out measure.
** PELOSI STRUGGLES WITH LEFTY CALIFORNIANS ON IRAQ PULL-OUT MEASURE.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the longtime San Francisco Democrat, is struggling to pass her measure calling for a pull-out of American troops from Iraq by September 2008. On the one hand, she has newly elected moderates who are not anxious to appear too dovish even as they seriously question the Bush war strategy. On the other, she has her fellow Californians, including several who are actually well to her left, liberal though she is. Four of them vow to vote against her measure, even as they promise not to campaign against it. They are LA’s Maxine Waters (perhaps last seen here, before the report of her in-caucus tiff with Pelosi on this issue — personally leading protesters heckling black ministers meeting with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, then declining to comment on her actions to me), LA’s Diane Watson, Oakland’s Barbara Lee (the only House member to vote against the Afghan War in the immediate aftermath of 9/11), and the North Bay’s Lynn Woolsey. The Senate defeated a measure that seems less stringent, on a 50 to 48 vote, and President George W. Bush has, of course, already vowed to veto Pelosi’s measure, should it ever reach his desk.
** DEMOCRATS HEADING WEST. The Democratic presidential candidates are all going to be in the West tomorrow. At 6 PM, there is a big rally in Las Vegas, sponsored by the Culinary Union. All the candidates are slated to be there, although John Edwards is reportedly, and not surprisingly, a bit iffy. Barack Obama has a fundraiser tomorrow night at the Mandalay Bay resort on the Vegas Strip. (Which is where, by an odd coincidence, I’m staying.) Tomorrow afternoon there is a press briefing by Democratic leaders, including Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern. Then Saturday morning all the candidates participate in the second Nevada Presidential forum, at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. This event, moderated by Time Magazine’s Karen Tumulty and co-sponsored by the Center for American Progress liberal think tank and SEIU, focuses on health care issues. C-SPAN is taping it, but I don’t know yet when it will air. For those of you with satellite access, the event is available live on LV1, affiliated with CBS.
I wrote dozens and dozens of columns for the LA Times but stopped some years ago when the inscrutable but brilliant Bob Berger left as the Op-Ed Page Editor. You had to be a pretty good interviewer to draw Berger out, which is how I decided to approach conversations with him, but once you did he was wicked smart in his insights. But he left as I was getting busy with other things, the Times continued its slide, which only accelerated with its failed, Ahab-like attempt to destroy Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 2003 recall election, and today we have this sad spectacle.
All three Democrats best Mitt Romney by huge margins, basically by two to one. All three Democrats lead John McCain, but by the mid to high single digits. Obama is tied with Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. Edwards is in a statistical dead, with a one-point edge. Clinton does the best against Giuliani, with a three-point lead.
** GIULIANI TO CALIFORNIA. Rudy Giuliani returns to California this weekend for some fundraising and meetings with supporters. After one meeting, the Republican presidential frontrunner will hold a press availability late Saturday afternoon in Newport Beach.
** BIDEN TO CALIFORNIA. Senator Joe Biden, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman and Democratic presidential candidate, brings his campaign to California today for some fundraising. And an appearance tonight on The Tonight Show. Joining Biden and host Jay Leno on the show will be actor Will Farrell and musicial guest Paolo Nutini.
** EDWARDS CAMPAIGN CONTINUES. After revealing that things looked brighter with later consultation than they did at first, John and Elizabeth Edwards have announced that her cancer has returned in the bone, making it incurable, but his presidential campaign will continue.
UPDATE: A source associated with the Edwards campaign says that the presidential candidate intends to suspend his campaign.
** JOHN EDWARDS ANNOUNCEMENT FORTHCOMING. Former Senator John Edwards, leading in Iowa and running third in national Democratic presidential polling, has an announcement at 9 AM this morning regarding his wife’s health and the future of his campaign. Elizabeth Edwards suffered from cancer, as announced the day after Edwards lost the vice presidential race in 2004, but has been in remission. Edwards left the campaign trail earlier in the week to visit his wife’s doctor with her. Then late yesterday he scheduled today’s news conference, which comes at noon in his home state of North Carolina.
** HILLARY TO NEVADA AND CALIFORNIA. Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton journeys from Washington to Nevada on Friday. At 6 PM, she speaks at a Culinary Union rally in Las Vegas. Several other Democratic presidential candidates will also be in attendance. On Saturday morning, she appears with the entire Democratic presidential field at a Nevada presidential forum, focused on health care issues, at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Then she flies to California for fundraising events. On Saturday afternoon, she has a private fundraiser in San Diego. Saturday night, she has a very big-time fundraiser at the Green Acres estate of billionaire Ron Burkle in LA. On Sunday, she has a few fundraisers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
** RUSH VS. ARNOLD, ROUND TWO. Not a terribly eventful event, which may have come as something of a letdown to the radio talk show host’s devoted followers. After lambasting the governor as a sell-out yesterday — showing his ignorance or simply distortion of actual contemporary political history — the ferocious Limbaugh didn’t manage to get much done during his actual encounter with the former action superstar. In no small measure because he could barely get a word in edgewise.
Schwarzenegger is an excellent filibusterer. In the course of it all, he defended his raising the minimum wage — Rush is one of those conservatives who is against the minimum wage, a position held by only a tiny fraction of the members of the Republican Party he purports to speak for — his moves on health care, climate change, and so forth. More about this later.
** A USEFUL ERRAND. The thing about travel on the political trail is that it is expensive. In terms of time, money, and energy. Just in the last few days, I managed to lose my glasses. Which at first I hoped were merely misplaced. No such luck, as it turns out. So today I spent hours of time and hundreds of dollars replacing them. Last year, between items lost and items stolen on the campaign trail, there was a cost of at least a thousand dollars. So it goes. Which meant I was able to listen to the Schwarzenegger sojourn on the Limbaugh show, but not write about it till now. Meanwhile, my eyes are still somewhat blurred from the dilation, since it was timely to get a full checkup while getting the eyewear replaced. It’s all good, but my eyes are still pretty sensitive to light.
** STEM CELL RESEARCH OPPONENTS LOSE AGAIN IN COURT. A California state appelate court yesterday turned down two petitions for rehearing after opponents of the state’s landmark stem cell research program lost again earlier in the month. Despite being adopted by California voters in November 2004, the state’s $3 billion worth of bonding authority for embryonic stem cell research has been tied up in court by conservative opponents. Nevertheless, the agency created by Proposition 71, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, has moved forward with the aid of $150 million in state loans authorized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and $45 million in bond anticipation notes from Silicon Valley philanthropic interests.
“One by one, we are clearing the legal hurdles that are delaying the issuance of bonds to fund stem cell research,” said Robert Klein, chairman of the CIRM governing board. “We are absolutely confident in the strength of our legal position. Our opponents have not prevented us from pursuing the will of seven million California voters. We are, however, anxious to access the bond market and fully fund the essential research that holds such promise for patients and families across the nation and throughout the world.”
** RICHARDSON IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson brings his Democratic presidential campaign to Southern California today, with a fundraiser tonight in Laguna Beach.
** DRAFT FRED THOMPSON COMMITTEE FORMS. Republicans looking for a staunch, mediagenic conservative can find one in former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson. The former Watergate counsel and protege of the late Senator Howard Baker is a star of the Law and Order TV series and played notable supporting roles in The Hunt For Red October and Clint Eastwood’s In The Line Of Fire. Now he has a draft committee backed by two Tennessee congressmen, one of whom used to back Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor is coming under fire for switching his positions on abortion and gay rights, and lately for telling a Cuban exile crowd in Miami of his great love for a catch-phrase of Fidel Castro’s which he mistakenly thought meant something else.
** SHAHEEN BACKS CLINTON IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign picked up a major player in New Hampshire with the announcement of William Shaheen as her state co-chairman. He played the same role for the last two winners of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary, John Kerry and Al Gore. Shaheen is the husband of former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now head of the Institute of Politcs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Jeanne Shaheen rocketed into prominence as director of Gary Hart’s dramatic victory in the 1984 New Hampshire primary, hard on the heels of his surprise second place in Iowa. The former governor herself, who served as national chair of the Kerry campaign, has not endorsed.
Rush Limbaugh doesn’t heart fellow cigar aficionado Arnold Schwarzenegger
anymore after the Governor of California called him “irrelevant.” Here the
radio talk show host plays the President of the United States, with potty-mouthed
columnist Ann Coulter as the Vice President.
How about that smackdown yesterday between Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and right-wing talk radio host Rush Limbaugh?
When Today Show interviewer Campbell Brown told the governor that Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives are saying he’s “a Democrat pretending to be a Republican,” the former action superstar said this: “All irrelevant. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I am not his servant. I am the people’s servant of California. What they call me — if it’s a Democrat or it’s a Republican or an assenter or changer or dissenter — that’s not my bottom line. This is for them to talk about.”
This brief statement ended up prompting several thousand words of wisdom from Limbaugh to his ardent “Dittoheads.” Schwarzenegger, incidentally, will probably be on Limbaugh’s show this morning, around 10 AM Pacific time.
Limbaugh: “Gov. Schwarzenegger ran for office as a conservative after the recall of the dry and dull Gray Davis. And he was subject of many hit pieces in the drive-by media out there, the L.A. Times tried to destroy him with all these womanizing stories and so forth, and it actually drew people to him because he’s a likable figure and has, you know, an image and a reputation forged on celluloid in Hollywood movies.”
Actually, Schwarzenegger didn’t run as a conservative. Unless you think a conservative is someone who is pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-gay rights, pro-gun control, pro-stem cells, and supportive of all kinds of government programs. Schwarzenegger ran as a centrist populist.
Limbaugh: “Now, here’s the truth of the matter. Arnold Schwarzenegger has done the typical sellout move. He has sold out. And there are too many conservatives selling out these days. You can find ‘em all over Washington, D.C.”
Limbaugh, I’m told, has been ragging on Schwarzenegger’s climate change stand, saying he is the “same as Greenpeace.” This is perhaps the talk show host’s Exhibit A of the ex-Mr. Universe “selling out.” Actually, the truth is this. Schwarzenegger made it clear in conversations before he ran, in 2002 and 2003, that he wanted to be a leader on climate change, to go beyond what then Governor Gray Davis was doing. He made it clear in policy statements and a major campaign appearance in 2003. In his first year as governor he pursued major renewable energy programs.
Schwarzenegger wanted to announce a major climate change proposal in his State of the State address of 2005 — which of course would have made it much harder for hardcore Democratic partisans to type him as a “right-winger” that year — but was talked out of it by his then staff and political team, who were steering him to the right in the predicted-here debacle that would become his “Year of Reform.” Yet he did roll out the climate change proposal in the middle of 2005, which was the core of what we see now. So, while this may be “new” and “selling out” to tunnel visioned ideologues, it is not new in any real view of the universe in which we actually live.
Limbaugh: “There isn’t a Reagan out there. There was one Reagan. We can dream that there might be another. We can’t be imprisoned by that, but conservatism is what it is.”
As is reality. And the reality is that even the sainted Ronald Reagan, who I am also a fan of, as governor of California, raised taxes, promoted environmental programs, allowed abortion to become widespread, and supported gay rights. And as president, he pursued a hard and effective line with the Soviet empire, but also avoided foolish confrontations and pulled back from the abyss of nuclear MADness, at one point proposing to abolish nuclear weapons. Wimp.
Limbaugh: “So what happens when Schwarzenegger or other former conservatives sell out, they attract a certain percentage of people who will vote for them because of party identification, so he stays a Republican but starts talking like a liberal Democrat. I don’t know what happened to Arnold. I–I don’t–he may–obviously didn’t have the leadership skills to articulate conservative principles and win over the public as Reagan did.”
Government was bigger after Reagan than before Reagan, both the state government and the federal government. The right to an abortion was enshrined in state and federal law and gay rights continued their advance. Reagan even went so far as to oppose and defeat a major anti-gay rights initiative in California, the Briggs initiative, enlisting none other than John Wayne in the effort.
Limbaugh: “Because if he had the leadership skills to articulate conservative principles and win over the public as Reagan did, then he would have stayed conservative. But he felt like he was unable to do that and so in order to get reelected and become popular and be liked and so forth, he–he broomed the conservatism, became a liberal while calling himself a Republican.”
Aside from the Arnold of today having much the same views as the Arnold of four years ago, which of course he doesn’t say, that is highly accurate. As for Schwarzenegger proposing a comprehensive health care program, which also seriously chaps Limbaugh, a couple of reality checks are in order.
When Schwarzenegger first seriously contemplated running for office, at the turn of the decade, he and his advisors, such as Bob White and George Gorton, discussed the idea of doing an initiative to re-introduce himself to the public in a different vein and identify him with an issue of personal concern. Schwarzenegger wanted to do, yes, a comprehensive health care initiative. He was talked out of that, of course, but when he ran in 2003, he said then that the main reason he was against then Senate leader John Burton’s employer mandate program for health coverage, which he called a good idea, was that the economy wasn’t good enough. When the economy was doing better, he said, then he could be for something like it. Which turns out to be his program.
Limbaugh: “Are we supposed to sit around and let anybody who wants to call themselves a Republican say they are, when there’s very little of what they believe that is actually Republican or conservative? When was the last time liberal Republicans argued we had to elect conservatives in order to ensure we had a big tent? The liberal Republicans want to force conservatives out of the party. I’m tired of these people telling me we’ve gotta have a big tent to include liberals in our party. No way. Not under my watch.”
“Under” his “watch?” Rush Limbaugh does a radio talk show and pretends to be president on a comedy show.
Limbaugh is probably the largest exemplar of the Mullah Mentality that has crept into the culture through talk radio and the blogosphere. Fervent ideologues who spend all their time opining, anointing themselves as arbiters of political purity. It’s pretty silly, be it the hyperpartisans of the left or the hyperpartisans of the right, like Limbaugh and his running mate Ann Coulter, who plays Limbaugh’s vice president on the Fox News “Half-Hour News Hour.”
** BUSH SAYS GONZALES HAS HIS “FULL SUPPORT.” Uh-oh. That’s what he said about Donald Rumsfeld, too. The difference is he already had Rumsfeld’s replacement as defense secretary when he said it last November. That, according to Republican sources, is not yet true with regard to the embattled attorney general, who has swiftly become a political liability. Bush also says the White House will resist congressional subpoenas around the U.S. attorneys controversy. Alberto Gonzales is one of the few old Texas hands Bush has left around him, so cutting him loose can’t be easy, especially since he once wanted to elevate his then White House counsel to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Actually, Schwarzenegger ran as a centrist, not as a conservative. And when you read through Limbaugh’s statement, if you are so inclined to do, you see that it doesn’t really hang together too well, being inherently contradictory. You see, he says he warned listeners that Schwarzenegger wasn’t a conservative. More on this in the morning column.
** ARNOLD SAID SOMETHING MILDLY CONTROVERSIAL TODAY … RUSH LIMBAUGH IS IRRELEVANT! Here’s a link to the NBC footage from The Today Show. When interviewer Campbell Brown told the governor that Rush Limbaugh is saying he’s “a Democrat pretending to be a Republican,” the former action superstar said this: “All irrelevant. Rush Limbaugh is irrelevant. I am not his servant. I am the people’s servant of California. What they call me — if it’s a Democrat or it’s a Republican or an assenter or changer or dissenter — that’s not my bottom line. This is for them to talk about.”
** FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY, AMERICA INVADES IRAQ. It hasn’t really gone as advertised. Rather than be financed by Iraq oil revenues (the oil infrastructure there has remained very challenged, like most of the infrastructure after the war), it’s been one of the most costly wars in American history. The situation in-country proved to be far more complex and problematical than the glib exiles and eager enthusiasts who professed knowledge said it was. Popular support for the war has plunged 40% in four years, and has not improved a bit since the latest change in strategy announced earlier this year by President George W. Bush, seen in the video above declaring victory in Iraq on May 1st, 2003. While there are some signs of success for the “surge” strategy, it is a longstanding pattern in unconventional warfare for insurgents to disperse when massed forces arrive in their neighborhoods.
** WILL THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS PARTNER WITH FOX NEWS? Here we go again. The Congressional Black Caucus is looking to partner with Fox News on a Democratic presidential debate. The netroots folks are opposed and vow the usual jihad. Perhaps Roger Ailes won’t give a speech joking only about Democratic candidates in the midst of this particular controversy. Or feature an unchallenged Ann Coulter on his air.
** SLOW TIMES IN CALIFORNIA POLITICS. In case you hadn’t noticed here and elsewhere. Meanwhile, 30 members of the state Assembly, Democrats and Republican, Speaker Fabian Nunez and Minority Leader Mike Villines, are in Washington for meetings. Mostly with other Californians, actually, who presumably are on California’s side in federal appropriations battles already. And with Senator Ted Kennedy, who assures that the comprehensive immigration bill will at last be tried again, sometime.
** SCHWARZENEGGER ANNOUNCES TRADE MISSION TO CANADA. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger chose Canada Day in California to announce a trade mission to the massive yet relatively sparsely populated land to the north. He will visit Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver between May 29th and May 31st.
“I am very excited to visit Canada – our state’s second largest trading partner,” noted the former action superstar in his statement. “Californians share so much with our neighbors to the north – whether it is a desire to protect our environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions or our entrepreneurial spirit. I look forward to meeting with Canadian government officials to share the benefits of our state’s burgeoning cleantech industry, promoting California as a travel destination and encouraging Canadians to buy California’s goods and services. We have already seen great success from our past trade missions to Mexico, China and Japan, and this mission will continue on in that tradition of success.”
Canada is also the second largest source of tourists for California, after Mexico. Schwarzenegger met last week in LA with British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell to explore another greenhouse gas reduction agreement.
** A FLOCK OF PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES SET FOR NEXT MONTH’S CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich will all speak at the state Democratic convention in San Diego April 29th and 30th.
** IRANIAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM LIKELY TO BE SANCTIONED AGAIN THIS WEEK BY U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL. One of the key events of the week will be a UN Security Council session on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Extremist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to attend the Security Council session and make a statement and answer questions. The program, which is ostensibly for the development of nuclear power rather than nuclear weapons, is backed by Iran’s top leadership, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
** AFGHAN SUICIDE BOMBER MISSES U.S. AMBASSADOR. A suicide bomber today drove into a U.S. Embassy convoy in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. While several people were wounded, the ambassador was reportedly not in the convoy.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Most crude oil prices have dropped near the $56 per barrel level. China is raising interest rates, which raises the prospect of lower economic growth. And Ahmadinejad is expected to be somewhat conciliatory this week at the UN, lowering the “risk premium” associated with the Iran crisis.
Now that California has the early presidential primary, what kind of campaign can we expect? The candidates are coming more frequently, but still mostly to raise money.
Of course, part of that is driven by the internal jockeying to look powerful in the press and political communities with big fundraising numbers by the March 31st campaign finance reporting deadline. “Money begets money,” as more than a few shrewd consultants have put it. The appearance of strength in the report can lead to more strength in the campaign.
Most candidates just aren’t doing much public campaigning yet here. Hillary Clinton, conscious of the comparison to Barack Obama and the big crowds he draws around the country, tried to turn a fundraising luncheon in San Francisco into an impromptu town hall meeting. But it was still a fundraiser. When she came back to California, for a big dinner meeting at a billionaire’s house with her top fundraisers in Southern California, she threw on an event with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the ever pressing presidential topic of community clean-up.
But, of course, she’ll be doing a lot more down the line, as will all the candidates. The question is, what will that be? Campaigns are still trying to work out how best to campaign in the massive, sprawling Golden State. The conventional wisdom is that they won’t do Iowa/New Hampshire-style living room house meeting campaigning because that’s an inefficient and rather quaint way of reaching a sizable group of people over a year’s time. My guess is we will see some of that, as a simulacrum for the media of accessibility and interactivity.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama has his formula down. At least for now. He had a big, rollicking rally Saturday in downtown Oakland in the elevated plaza in front of city hall. Obama is an extremely good public speaker. I’ve never seen a candidate draw crowds like this at this stage of a presidential campaign. The Oakland Police Department, according to KCBS News Radio, estimated the size of the crowd at 7,000. Rally organizers claim 12,000. It all depends on your perspective. My perspective was that of someone looking to create a panoramic video of the entire crowd and Obama, which led to a lot of climbing around giant planters and lighting arrays.
So I can tell you that because of how the stage was set up — too low — much of the crowd that came couldn’t see a thing. With the plaza elevated, people in the back and on the sides would still have been able to see the low-set stage. But not with people standing in the plaza, packed to the sides and rear. Even some people who got into the plaza couldn’t see Obama. My guess is a few thousand people left as a result.
What was he saying as I was climbing around, straining to find a good, sustained video angle? Well, it was very familiar to those who’ve heard any of his speeches. And it was very familiar to Californians. Here is a key passage:
“The reason we have not been able to meet the challenges that we face, whether it is a war that should not have been waged, or whether it is a healthcare system that is broken or an education system that is inadequate, it is because at some level we have been so consumed by cynicism and pettiness and negativity in Washington, that we no longer recognize what’s at stake … we are here today because we said we’ve had enough. And we want change.
“There is an awakening taking place all across America. As people realize we can no longer afford such cynicism. That it’s time for us to step up and meet these challenges and create the kind of politics that’s not based on division, that’s not based on hatred, that’s not based on fear, but is based on hope. And that is the kind of politics that we expect to create in this election. A politics that’s based on all of us coming together instead of being driven apart. If we change our politics, then we will change the nation.”
Doesn’t that Obama passage sound like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “post-partisanship?” A different rhetorical style, and remove the reference to the Iraq War that would further scandalize much of the ex-Terminator’s Republican base, and you have the core theme of the two-term governor of California.
Of course, that may not be what a lot of Obama enthusiasts think. There was also a lot of talk about the Iraq War and his opposition to it from the beginning. And yet, ever mindful of his larger audience, how “We’ve got to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in.”
He talked about universal health care by the end of his “first term as president,” without specifics. And presented California’s approach on climate change and renewable energy as a model for the rest of the nation.
The crowd had a great many very young people, but nowhere near all. Many Bay Area lefty activist types, but not that general flavor. It was multi-racial and multi-generational, with many clearly there on a family outing.
As I was climbing about, and finding that the best panoramic, safe vantage points for filming had been taken by people who arrived more than an hour earlier, it occurred that the specifics of what Obama is saying, with the exception of the war, may have been less inspirational to the crowd than how he sounded saying it.
As a speaker, Obama has excellent cadence and tone, by turns soothing and surging. He is urgent without being too insistent, commanding without being demanding. He speaks without notes and clearly has a sense of audience feedback. Since he hasn’t been doing this for very long, the logical conclusion is that he’s a natural.
There’s a lot more to running for president than giving a very good speech, but having raised more than a million bucks a few hours after at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, Obama is clearly good at at least one of the other keys to presidential success. It will be interesting to see how he fares in upcoming policy forums, though there’s no reason to believe he won’t do quite well.
** 24‘s NEFARIOUS VICE PRESIDENT. In an interesting plot twist, Powers Boothe plays the new vice president of the United States on 24. Who after a series of terrorist attacks — seemingly directed by Islamic jihadists, but not really — pushes for suspension of the Constitution and the roundup of citizens of Arab descent. Did I mention that he covers up the near assassination of the president, who resisted his tactics, by members of the administration, and blames it on an Islamist who actually tried to prevent it? Or that, with the president incapacitated, uses his trumped-up scenario to threaten a Middle Eastern state with a nuclear attack? What will Rush Limbaugh say about his favorite show?
** OBAMA ROCKS THE BAY. Senator Barack Obama had a big, rollicking rally yesterday in downtown Oakland in the elevated plaza in front of city hall. Obama is an extremely good public speaker. I’ve never seen a candidate draw crowds like this at this stage of a presidential campaign. The Oakland Police Department, according to KCBS News Radio, estimated the size of the crowd at 7,000. Rally organizers claim 12,000. It all depends on your perspective. My perspective was that of somone looking to create a panoramic video of the entire crowd and Obama, which led to a lot of climbing around giant planters and lighting arrays.
So I can tell you that because of how the stage was set up — too low — much of the crowd that came couldn’t see a thing. My guess is a few thousand people left as a result. More to follow.
Barack Obama’s huge rally, in the rain, three weeks ago in Austin, Texas.
Video from the Obama campaign.
As he returns to California, is Senator Barack Obama surging in the polls? Obama, who speaks today at a rally in Oakland before a big San Francisco fundraiser tonight, has moved up in a new poll for Time Magazine. Obama trailed Hillary Clinton by 19 points in Time’s January poll. Now the margin is down to 8 points, 34% to 26%. Al Gore is at 13% and John Edwards is at 10%, down a point from last month.
Obama is drawing big crowds everywhere, including 20,000 in the rain in Austin, Texas three weeks ago. Crowds don’t mean everything, but they mean something. Especially when coupled with much improved showings against Republicans in general election match-ups.
Before going further, a little more perspective. The Time poll is not so much a question of Obama rocketing upwards but of Clinton moving down. Her lead over the freshman Illinois senator in January was 40% to 21%. Now it is 34% to 26%. Take Gore out of it and she leads Obama, 42% to 31%. In addition, other pretty recent national polls don’t show this somewhat dramatic closing.
While Obama hasn’t rocketed upwards in the Democratic numbers, he is looking good in the horse race with the Republicans. Rudy Giuliani leads John McCain, 40% to 20%, with Newt Gingrich at 10% and Mitt Romney at 7%.
Giuliani leads Clinton by four points, but now trails Obama by one point. Last month, Giuliani had a five-point lead over Obama. Both Democrats have three or four point leads over McCain.
Morris notes that Obama has moved up among black voters, aided by Clinton’s decision to attack him and the Clintons’ former friend-turned-major Obama fundraiser, Hollywood billionaire David Geffen after Geffen attacked them in a Maureen Dowd column. He also thinks that Clinton erred by trying to compete with Obama in the anniversary celebration of the great civil rights march in Selma, Alabama.
The other area of signficant movement for Obama, in addition to black Democrats, is among independent voters. This is why he’s erased Giuliani’s lead of last month. He now leads the former New York mayor and 9/11 icon by 10 points among independents. Clinton trails Giuliani among independents by eight points.
It will be interesting checking out Obama today.
But enough politics for now. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. The NCAA basketball tournament is ramping up. Major league baseball is in spring training. And Formula One racing returns tonight with the Australian Grand Prix.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to attend next week’s UN
Security Council vote on sanctions. Ahmadinejad, who has called for Israel’s destruction,
says: “Allah willing, I will never harm any living or inanimate object.”
** MCCAIN-GIULIANI DEAD HEAT IN NEW HAMPSHIRE REPUBLICAN POLL.In a new Franklin Pierce College poll for WBZ-TV in Boston, John McCain has 29% and Rudy Giuliani 28%. Mitt Romney, former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, checks in at a strong third with 22%. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trails with only 5%. While the first three presidential contenders are have high favorable ratings, with McCain and Giuliani roughly the same in the high 70s and Romney in the high 60s, Gingrich does not. Only a slight plurality of voters view him favorably. McCain and Romney both draw the greatest share of their support from voters who like their issues stands. Giuliani’s lofty rating is mostly due to his perceived strong leadership qualities.
** CALIFORNIA STEM CELL INSTITUTE RAMPS UP AGAIN. The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), at its board meeting today in Los Angeles, announced $75.7 million in near research grants to 29 recipients. Last month, CIRM kicked things off with $45 million in grants. The action came after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger kick-started things with a $150 million loan from the state’s general fund. The institute is the largest embryonic stem cell research operation in the world.
California voters authorized the institute and $3 billion in bond funding by passing Proposition 71 in November 2004, but conservative opponents have slowed things down with legal challenges. They recently lost again in court. Here are some of the new research projects authorized today:
* A study of how chemical modification of DNA in hESCs (human embryonic stem cells) impacts nerve formation and the ability of stem cells to repair brain damage caused by stroke (UCLA)
* Development of new ways of deriving hESCs and investigating the special capabilities of newly-derived human cell lines. (UCSF)
* A proposal to develop neural cellular models of Parkinson’s disease and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) that could be used to screen chemical libraries for novel drugs and to develop preclinical models of human disease (Salk Institute)
* Building tools to better isolate heart and blood cells from differentiated populations of hESCs (Stanford)
* A proposal to optimize the creation of liver cells for transplantation, and be able to monitor their in-vivo fate non-invasively (UC Davis)
* A study of molecular mechanisms regulating hESC survival, focused on a very specific and promising class of growth factors (UC Irvine)
** WHAT’S NEXT FOR SENATE DEMOCRATS WITH THE FAILURE OF THEIR ANTI-WAR RESOLUTION? Following yesterday’s defeat on an Iraq pullout bill, the next move for Senate Democrats on the Iraq crisis is unclear. The bill to begin a pullout in four months, with the target (but not requirement) of completing it by next spring, lost on a 50-48 vote. Another bill, that would require a completed pullout by fall of 2008, is moving through the House, where it passed in the Appropriations Committee on a party line 36-28 vote. (Party line except for Oakland Democrat Barbara Lee, who voted against it because she thought it wasn’t strong enough. Lee was the only member of Congress to oppose the invasion of Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11.) Its prospects in the Senate are murk, at best.
** OBAMA TO CALIFORNIA AND NEVADA. Senator Barack Obama, running a strong second in the early going of the Democratic presidential race, comes to California this weekend and to Nevada in a week. Obama will do a large public rally tomorrow in downtown Oakland, then has a fundraising dinner high atop Nob Hill at San Francisco’s posh Mark Hopkins Hotel.
Next Friday, he returns to Las Vegas. Along with other Democratic presidential candidates, he speaks at a rally sponsored by the Culinary Union. Then he has a fundraiser at the Mandalay Bay resort at the southern edge of the Vegas Strip. On Saturday, he participates with the rest of the Democratic field in the second Nevada presidential forum, focusing primarily on health care issues at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Obama is currently running second in Nevada behind Hillary Clinton and ahead of John Edwards and Bill Richardson. He skipped last month’s kick-off forum in Carson City.
** RICHARDSON GEARS UP IN NEVADA. If you’re a presidential candidate who is not a famous frontrunner, you need to find a place to break through early on. If you break through, you can get famous really fast. And if you’re famous, you get more coverage and can raise more money, especially on the Internet.
For New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the first major Latino presidential candidate, that place is Nevada. Richardson, the former ambassador to the UN and former US secretary of energy, is an international troubleshooter known for successfully negotiating with some of the world’s ranking thugs, such as Saddam Hussein. Now the place most important to his plans is right nearby in the Mountain West.
Richardson is the first candidate to open a headquarters in Nevada — it’s in Las Vegas, naturally — and the first to staff up in the Silver State. He’s already seeing an uptick in his support there. Richardson, the only Westerner in the race, born in California and raised in Mexico City, has moved ahead of the rest of the longshot candidates into a clear fourth place, with 7% in a new poll. He’s still way behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but is getting within hailing distance of John Edwards. Soon he’ll be crisscrossing the state, joking that he looks forward to the debate “in Searchlight, Nevada.” It doesn’t sound like much, but this is how it gets done.
The new draft, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, would bar Iran from exporting arms and would urge all states to restrict the sale or transfer “of any battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large-caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles” and other arms.
It calls for a voluntary travel ban on additional officials and companies involved in Iran’s “proliferation sensitive” nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It also urges voluntary restrictions on “new commitments for grants, financial assistance and concessional loans to Iran” as well as extending an assets freeze to additional entities and individuals linked to Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.
The text would give Iran 60 days to comply with repeated UN demands or face “further appropriate measures” (economic sanctions but no military action) under Article 41 of the UN Charter.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S REFINED REFORM PROPOSAL. In recent weeks, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has introduced an interesting wrinkle in the potential California ballot mix next February of term limits and redistricting. He has revived his very early idea of banning fundraising during the budget period, defined as beginning with the regular “May revise” of the governor’s proposed budget and ending with the adoption of the budget over the summer, hopefully very early in summer. Yesterday, he revised that idea, adding the end of legislative year crush of activity and the 30-day bill signing period following that. Democrats aren’t very enthusiastic about this. It remains to be seen if Schwarzenegger is really serious about the proposal, if he sees it as part of the key to passing term limits and redistricting reform at the ballot box, or if it is a lever to get a redistricting reform bill.