What would McCain’s LXG do? Act against the genocide in Darfur, fight AIDS around the world, work on the greenhouse effect, promote free trade, and intervene against dictatorships when Russia and China hold the UN Security Council back.
** AARP STARTS TV AD CAMPAIGN FOR COMPREHENSIVE CALIFORNIA HEALTH CARE PLAN. The American Association of Retired People today began a $3 million TV advertising campaign on behalf of a comprehensive California health care program not unlike that talked about by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Expect more such advertising campaigns to emerge in the next few weeks.
** VILLARAIGOSA. WHY SO LOW PROFILE? For someone who’s become so unrelentingly prominent, LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was remarkably low key at the convention this past weekend. He made no public appearances other than the Saurday night banquet honoring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which only a couple of journalists bothered to attend.
** ANTONIO AND GAVIN. I WONDER WHAT THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom are said to have met privately during the California Democratic Party convention. The two were supposed to be hot rivals for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination, until Newsom stumbled into a sex scandal earlier this year. From which he seems to be emerging relatively unscathed, at least insofar as his re-election this year as mayor is concerned.
** A NEW LEADER? OBAMA OVERTAKES CLINTON IN A POLL. Longtime NWN readers know that I am not a fan of the Rasmussen poll. It’s a robopoll, and I like those about as much as Internet polls. And while the Rasmussen ending numbers are usually on the money, my experience in California is that the numbers can be way off with regard to other, highly accurate polls while the campaign is still underway. That said, a trend is a trend, particularly when the methodology remains the same. And the trend in Rasmussen, as in last week’s Wall Street Journal poll, in which Hillary Clinton’s lead dropped to five points, is all towards Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential race.
In this poll, Clinton still has a two-point edge among Democrats. But among independents judged likely to vote in the Democratic primaries, Obama has a clear edge.
If this is accurate, the stubborn Republican position here in California against allowing independents to vote in their primary may help swing the biggest primary election against Hillary, who they say they want to run against.
** EDITING. Incidentally, I have a lot of video to go through and edit. And some rest and other life things wouldn’t be a bad idea before the Republican presidential debate at the Reagan Library. All the video footage was shot handheld with a pocket video camera, some of it on the move. I have a small tripod, but it still gets in the way and is a bit too conspicuous. There’s not going to be a lot of slick, action movie-style special effects. Although I do shake the camera some for that handheld, cinema verite look …
** BAY AREA FREEWAY COLLAPSE. By now, many of you know, perhaps all too well, of the collapse early Sunday morning of a portion of the freeway maze leading off the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland. A speeding gasoline truck, out of control, crashed and the ensuing fire was so hot that it melted the metal undergirdings. This was much like the phenomenon which brought down the World Trade Center. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency, but it will probably take months to repair the damage. Here is a list of alternate routes provided by Schwarzenegger’s longtime press aide Darrell Ng, now spokesman for the state’s Business, Transportation & Housing Agency. Today is a free public transit day in the Bay Area.
From San Francisco to Hayward
· Eastbound I-80 to South bound I-880
From San Francisco to Walnut Creek
· E/B I-80 and exit West Grand
· Left on NorthGate Street
· Enter on ramp to Eastbound I-580 towards SR-24
· Take E/B SR-24 to Interstate 680
From San Francisco to Sacramento
· Eastbound I-80 to Sacramento (no detour)
From San Francisco to East Bay
· S/B US-101 to E/B SR-92
· SR-92 to Interstate I-880 North or South bound
From San Francisco to East Bay (2nd alternate)
· S/B US-101 to E/B SR-84
· SR-84 E/B to Interstate I-880 North or South bound
From San Francisco to East Bay (3rd alternate)
· N/B US-101 to Richmond/San Rafael Bridge Eastbound (I-580)
· Westbound Richmond/San Rafael Bridge (I-580) to Interstate 80 West
From Richmond to San Jose
· W/B 80 to E/B I-580
· From E/B I-580 to W/B 980
· W/B 980 to S/B I-880
From Richmond to San Francisco
· W/B I-80 to San Francisco Bay Bridge (no detours)
San Francisco to East Bay
· E/B I-80 and exit Albany/Buchanon ramp.
· Turn left under the freeway
· Left onto W/B 80
· Take W/B 80 to E/B I-580
Senator Hillary Clinton, in this NWN video with Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez
and many legislators at her post-speech presser, is lining up California’s Democratic
establishment, usually a questionable strategy in the Presidential primary.
On a big weekend for California Democrats, two presidential candidates dominated, one more than another, a couple others shined, and a record crowd of delegates, guests, and media types found the inside of a cavernous concrete convention center to be more sparkling than the San Diego harbor resort attractions within easy walking distance just outside.
Despite being obviously under the weather with an audibly sore throat, frontrunning Senator Hillary Clinton gave the best speech Saturday morning I’ve ever heard from her. She talked about her background, her mother’s humble beginnings, how she herself became engaged with public service, how she pledged to end the war in Iraq, a moving story about an uninsured man who died from an abscessed tooth after $300,000 was spent in a fruitless effort to save him, and so on.
She got a good response, with only a few scattered catcalls for her past support of the Iraq War. That good response was swallowed up by the overwhelming response won later in the day the rival close on her heels in the latest Wall Street Journal national poll, Senator Barack Obama.
Clinton is an extraordinarily formidable politician, deeply experienced, skilled, with a powerful machine. Obama is a sensation, a superstar, an extraordinary talent, hitting a strong popular chord that resonates on both the left and the center.
Still, while Obama had the biggest response, as well as the biggest volunteer operation, and I’ll focus on Obama in the next column, Clinton is doing all she can to build the strongest possible conventional campaign. She stuck around for several hours after her speech, meeting with key Democratic interest groups and politicians. Her campaign may soon name as state director Ace Smith, a very experienced operative who recently played top roles in the campaigns of LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Attorney General Jerry Brown. (Brown, the former governor and two-time Democratic presidential runner-up, gave a powerful speech to the convention while Villaraigosa played a much more low-key role, appearing only at an emotional Saturday night banquet honoring House Speaker Nancy Pelosi which was all but ignored by the press.)
While Obama was accompanied in his convention sojourns, which were extensive, by former state Controller and eBay honcho Steve Westly, San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris, and state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero of LA, Clinton was attended by a phalanx of politicians, led by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
“We have the biggest endorsers, a lot bigger than Obama’s,” said one of the state’s top Democratic strategists, now supporting Clinton. Former Governor Gray Davis and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer endorsed Clinton — no surprise, since they gave maxed out personal contributions during her big fundraisers last month — along with a host of other prominent names.
Speaker Nunez brought along 15 other state assemblymembers to endorse the former first lady at her post-speech press conference. State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata — whose name Clinton mispronounced as “Peretta” — is expected to endorse the New York senator soon.
But the track record of California’s Democratic political establishment in presidential primaries is not promising. Especially in time of controversial war. Just ask the backers of Edmund Muskie and Hubert Humphrey. And Obama, who raised more money in a quarter than any presidential candidate in American political history, much of it from some of the sharpest players in technology, finance, and entertainment, is anything but a fringe figure.
Obama didn’t do a press conference, choosing instead to communicate with the voters through the footage and reports of his powerful appearance. Clinton, along with the others, did appear at a press conference with Nunez and the posse of legislators seen in the NWN video above.
She took about a half-dozen questions, two of them from Democratic bloggers which she easily slipped with boilerplate. Her responses were skilled and polished, and could have been delivered most anywhere in the country.
While the huge press contingent, much bigger than at any other press conference, was happy to have seen her up a little closer, not much light was shed. Incidentally, some of her key California supporters were noting the challenge of working with Clinton’s Secret Service detail. They have many requirements, which I know from personal experience, but they also come in very handy.
The Secret Service held the press in the press conference room after Clinton departed. As a security precaution. This also prevented the press from knowing that she wasn’t actually leaving the convention center, or, of course, from following her to the private meetings I mentioned above.
In the face of these two juggernauts, the other candidates struggled. Former Senator Mike Gravel was a curiosity at state Democratic chairman Art Torres’ welcome reception Friday night, which I did not attend. (I’ve learned at a couple dozen of these conventions that generally nothing happens on Friday of any interest to those not directly participating themselves.) Gravel did reportedly say at a press conference that the budget gap could be partially filled by going after “ladies of the night” who don’t pay their taxes and that the government should stop spending like “drunken Indians.” Moving right along.
With most of the press disappearing after Obama’s speech, Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Dennis Kucinich struggled for attention on Saturday afternoon. I saw Dodd, a powerful committee chairman in the Senate, hanging out on a veranda after a very lightly-attended press conference. Meanwhile, Obama was on his way to LA for a big Hollywood fundraiser.
The candidates appearing Sunday, former Senator John Edwards and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, fared substantially better. But they suffered from a big drop-off in the crowd and among the press.
Edwards gave an outstanding address, which easily ranked with those of Obama, Clinton, and Brown as among the best of the convention. A very polished and passionate figure, Edwards would be leading were he not in a field packed with such firepower at the top. Initially a more centrist Democrat, Edwards clearly pitched himself as the candidate of labor in his address, as well as a passionate opponent of the Iraq War he once supported.
For his part, Richardson, perhaps the most qualified of the field, is still searching for an opening into the top tier. Richardson’s solution on Sunday was to go long, telling a lot about his background and his plans on education, health care, energy, the environment, immigration, taxes, and foreign policy, in frequently amusing fashion. He did this both in his speech and in a lengthy press conference, which top aides several times tried to get him to halt so he could make his flight to San Francisco, where he appeared at an afternoon rally on Darfur before continuing to Carson City, Nevada for the beginning of a tour of that second-in-the-nation contest state where he hopes to break through.
In all, a very interesting weekend, and I’ll have more items, columns, and videos today and the next few days.
William Shatner (not playing Kirk) and James Spader discuss the presidential
race on Boston Legal.
The presidential candidates who will appear, minus one, this weekend at the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego, all debated last night in South Carolina in an interesting, though hardly dramatic event that will change little in the race. Meanwhile, Democrats are preparing for what might, or might not, be their most consequential state convention in over 20 years.
Not since the 1984 presidential race, when the state Democratic convention in Sacramento was the site of the first “cattle call” of the entire Democratic presidential field, have so many high profile candidates put in appearances. The 2003 convention featured many candidates as well, but the field was generally more obscure than this one.
Yet the California convention takes place this time in an accelerated environment. While California has moved its primary to February 5th, now following only Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, there have already been several major encounters amongst the presidential contenders, including a February issues forum in Carson City, Nevada, a March issues forum in Las Vegas, and last night’s debate in South Carolina.
Nevertheless, this will be an intriguing weekend, as the campaigns begin to gear up their California political operations. The fundraising operations here are already in full swing, with New York Senator Hillary Clinton having raised over $5 million here and Illinois Senator Barack Obama checking in with over $4 million.
In San Diego, Clinton and Obama, the two frontrunners, will be accompanied by some top California backers. Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez will be on hand with Clinton and former state Controller-turned-Silicon Valley venture capitalist Steve Westly will be with Obama.
All the other candidates, including the other top tier contender, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, will be on hand, from credible dark horse candidates New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd to bomb-throwing longshots Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Senator Mike Gravel. Only Delaware Senator Joe Biden will skip the affair. He participated in last night’s debate, and was on hand for the first forum of the season, in Carson City in February, but also skipped the Las Vegas forum last month.
As mentioned, last night’s debate was interesting but hardly earth-shattering. Considering it after viewing it and writing my initial quick takes, and after taking in a ton of after-action analysis and commentary, I’m inclined to the view that there’s not much more to say about it because it did little to change the dynamic of the race.
Hillary Clinton, a vastly experienced figure benefited by having as her spouse perhaps the master politician of his generation around the world, was very much on the money. Barack Obama, an extremely talented orator who may be in tune with an emerging national mood, isn’t quite ready for the more focused and brief format of a multi-candidate debate. None of the others, including Edwards, a skilled speaker and accomplished trial lawyer who hovers a notch or two below the frontrunners, made enough of a move to alter the dynamic, though most had their moments.
Hillary Clinton was crisp, measured, modulated, focused, always employing the particular in the midst of the general, the embattled frontrunner did quite well. She was firm on ending the war in Iraq and firm on confronting future terrorism. Barack Obama was impressive but suffered from the debate format and its emphasis on brevity. His tendency to the abstract burns up precious time before getting to the answer. He stumbled on the hypothetical terrorist attack question, talking about first responders but forgetting about retaliation.
John Edwards delivered a typically smooth performance, but he didn’t wedge himself in between Clinton and Obama. Bill Richardson impressed with specifics and brevity on withdrawing from Iraq, and with candor on why he was last to call for Alberto Gonzales’s departure as attorney general as a fellow Latino. Joe Biden is beginning to pick up support for his plan to partition Iraq, and impressed with his one-word answer as to whether he would be a long-winded “gaffe machine.” Chris Dodd tried to turn his 32 years in the Senate and House as giving him the ultimate experience card, without evident success.
Dennis Kucinich scored with his consistent point that he has been the only Iraq War opponent who has effectively moved to end the project by defunding it. Mike Gravel delivered a very entertaining take on the bomb-thrower role, harkening to his ’70s vintage Senate role as opponent of the draft and the Vietnam War by proposing to have Congress proclaim President Bush to be a “felon.”
The candidates are all competing to be the most anti-Iraq War without seeming to give up the fight against Islamic jihadism, a balancing act between the primaries and the general election. That balancing act is made easier by several new national polls — Wall Street Journal, Pew, CBS — ranging, from 56% to 64%, showing large majorities of voters nationally supporting a timeline for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
They will have ample opportunity to test the applause meter at the San Diego Convention Center, where in October 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger launched his dramatic statewide bus tour the week before his victory in the California recall election. California Democrats are strongly and deeply opposed to the Iraq policy, and the war is widely unpopular around the state.
With the Democratic candidates splitting time between South Carolina in the aftermath of last night’s debate, and at this weekend’s South Carolina Democratic convention, and the California convention, they won’t all be appearing at in succession in San Diego. Gravel will be at the chairman’s welcoming reception tonight. Clinton will address the convention tomorrow morning. Obama, Dodd, and Kucinich will speak Saturday afternoon. Edwards and Richardson will speak Sunday morning.
Many top California politicians will speak as well. Former Governor Jerry Brown, now the attorney general, will address the convention Saturday morning and Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, Controller John Chiang, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, and Senate President Pro Don Perata will speak at various point during the day. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will appear at the convention banquet honoring her Saturday night. But U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer will be absent, due to a Senate policy retreat.
Yet it is possible to make too much of this convention, which, unlike last year’s convention during the governor’s race, will issue no endorsements. This will be about the 30th of these things that I’ve attended, beginning at the age of two, so the thrill factor does not come easily. In the early days, they were mostly in Sacramento during that city’s then very moist and cold winters. Dashing hither and yon, I would invariably end up with a bad cold that would last for weeks. And that was without fiddling with smartphone, vidcam, and laptop.
This is a marathon campaign, following on the heels of last year’s marathon campaign. The first Republican presidential debate is next week. A Nevada campaign trip is coming up. Posting here will be light over the weekend, as befits the weekend pattern of Internet traffic generally, with full reports on Monday and later in the week if developments warrant. Lots of video footage will be shot. Much intel will be gathered. Some will actually be relevant. If something dramatic happens, I’ll write about it.
Will what seem to be the news events of the weekend matter all that much? Well, back in that ‘84 campaign, after driving in from the airport with Senator Gary Hart and commenting on the then less than imposing Sacramento skyline — there was the Holiday Inn and that was about it — we had a huge volunteer operation for a longshot candidate (a few hundred people, probably larger than anything this weekend) but a convention speech that largely bombed.
Hart, as was not infrequently his wont, notwithstanding his glamour image, chose to deliver a long, policy wonk sort of address. (I remember his first big Hollywood fundraiser, at which he discussed his thoughts on a “new automobile.” Decades ahead of its time, but not a big thrill then.) The excitement ginned up at the beginning of his speech had dissipated long before he concluded. The convention wasn’t a disaster, but it was something of a disappointment. But so what? Hart won big in the California presidential primary itself a year later.
Barack Obama, shown here with a crowd of 10,000 on Earth Day in Iowa City,
has closed to within five points of Hillary Clinton in a new Wall Street Journal poll.
** DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE: QUICK TAKES ON THE LATE AFTERNOON SHOW FROM SOUTH CAROLINA. A full report tomorrow morning before hitting the road for the California Democratic Party convention in San Diego, where nearly all the field will appear this weekend.
Hillary Clinton: Crisp, measured, modulated, focused, always employing the particular in the midst of the general, the embattled frontrunner did quite well. She was firm on ending the war in Iraq and firm on confronting future terrorism.
Barack Obama: Impressive but suffered from the debate format and its emphasis on brevity. His tendency to the abstract burns up precious time before getting to the answer. Stumbled on the hypothetical terrorist attack question.
John Edwards: A smooth performance, but he didn’t wedge himself in between Clinton and Obama.
Bill Richardson: Impressed with specifics and brevity on withdrawing from Iraq, and with candor on why he was last to call for Alberto Gonzales’s departure as attorney general as a fellow Latino.
Joe Biden: Beginning to pick up support for his plan to partition Iraq, and impressed with his one-word answer as to whether he would be a long-winded “gaffe machine.”
Chris Dodd: Tried to turn his 32 years in the Senate and House into the ultimate experience trump card.
Dennis Kucinich: Scored with his consistent point that he has been the only Iraq War opponent who has effectively moved to end the project by defunding it.
Mike Gravel: Very entertaining take on the bomb-thrower role, harkening to his ’70s vintage Senate role as opponent of the draft and the Vietnam War by proposing to have Congress proclaim President Bush to be a “felon.”
** JACK VALENTI DIES. The longtime head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a former top aide to LBJ who took the movie industry post back in the day of colorful power broker studio chiefs and held it till earlier this decade in the day of studio heads as division chiefs in transnational conglomerates, died today. He was 85, and had suffered a stroke last month.
** ARNOLD EDUCATION SECRETARY ON THE PPIC EDUCATION POLL. State Education Secretary David Long, who will help craft Schwarzenegger’s “Year of Education” for next year: “Governor Schwarzenegger firmly believes that the key to real education reform requires bringing people to the table early to discuss solutions in the same spirit of cooperation we have with other major issues.
“California’s highly regarded academic standards will continue to be the cornerstone of our K-12 system. Recent studies have confirmed that pouring more and more money into a broken system will not improve student achievement. Our focus must first be on these necessary changes before we can determine where additional resources may be needed. The Governor has said, and I agree, that students and schools benefit from a strong accountability system, teachers and administrators need more flexibility and parents need more information about how their children are performing.”
** REMINDER: PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE BEGINS AT 4 PM PACIFIC TIME. The Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina begins at 4 PM this afternoon, Pacific time, and runs until 5:30 PM. It will be cablecast on MSNBC and can be viewed on the Net at msnbc.com
** CONGRESSIONAL DEMOCRATS, BUSH, AND IRAQ. As the House did yesterday, the Senate passed another anti-Iraq War measure today, on a 51-46 vote. This would begin a pullout of US troops this fall, but set no deadline for withdrawal. It’s tied to funding the war effort. President Bush will of course veto it, and then the process goes into another phase. Ultimately, it will lead to some negotiation and probably performance benchmarks for the Iraq effort. Which, given the state of the surge so far, won’t be easily met. In the end, the Democrats will force Republicans to vote again and again on Iraq.
** VICTORY LAPS IN THE CAPITOL ON THE PRISON CRISIS. Legislative leaders and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared at various press conferences this morning on their deal to defuse the California prison system crisis in advance of a potential federal takeover. I discussed the political implications of the deal this morning and last night.
** ANOTHER UPDATE, ANOTHER POLL. Here’s another poll on the California Democratic presidential primary, this from the organized labor-backed Working Californians. This one has Hillary Clinton leading with 38% to Barack Obama at 19% and John Edwards at 17%. Other polls have Clinton with a significantly smaller lead. The poll was conducted by Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. This will be a pattern in the race, incidentally, of interest groups producing horse race polls accompanied by questions and answers related to their agenda. Good bait for coverage of that agenda. An environmental group earlier this week did the same thing in South Carolina, in advance of tonight’s Democratic presidential debate. Here are the findings related to Working Californians’ issue agenda:
Nearly half (49%) say their family incomes are not keeping up with the cost of living, while only 14% say they’re getting ahead. (Some 35% said they’re “staying even,” hardly the American Dream.)
90% rank health care affordability as “one of the most important” (40%) or “very important” (50%) to their decision. And according to the average response, as opposed to the most intense, health care costs (4.29 on a 1-5 scale) actually outrank “dealing with the war in Iraq” (4.18.)
These voters are almost unanimous in wanting the government to take a larger or more aggressive role in fixing health care (93% agree, with 71% strongly agreeing), in reducing carbon pollution to address global warming (92% agree, with 65% strongly agreeing), and in making us independent of foreign oil (92% agree, with 63% strongly agreeing).
The results are Clinton 36%, Obama 31%, John Edwards 20%. (Obama, incidentally, as you see in the video above, endorses the California program on greenhouse gases, coupling the low carbon fuel standard ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with cap and trade on overall emissions.)
On the Republican side, frontrunner Rudy Giuliani has dropped five points in the last month. Now the results are Giuliani 33%, John McCain 22%, Fred Thompson 17%, Mitt Romney 12%.
Voters don’t believe that the Iraq surge strategy is working. And by a wide margin, they side with the Democratic-led Congress over President George W. Bush. 56% want a timeline for a US withdrawal from Iraq, while only 37% back the president and his more open-ended commitment.
** CALIFORNIA PRISON DEAL A WIN FOR LEGISLATIVE LEADERS AND SCHWARZENEGGER. Democratic legislative leaders Fabian Nunez and Don Perata, Republican legislative leaders Dick Ackerman and Mike Villines, and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger all got a lot of what they wanted in the compromise deal on the state’s prison crisis. Losing out on some of their big demands were public employee unions and advocates of reduced sentencing standards.
Schwarzenegger got a program nearly as big as what he proposed, about $7.7 billion to his original $10.9 billion, and a big emphasis on construction in the form of 56,000 beds. He also got approval of his plan to reduce crowding by transferring thousands of inmates out of state. Democratic legislative leaders got what they wanted in phasing in the new construction and tying it to benchmarks on implementation of rehabilitation programs and management upgrades. Republican legislative leaders got what they wanted in the absence of automatic sentencing reforms or early releases. The unions, notably the big money prison guards union, which opposed Schwarzenegger and opposes this compromise, lost on the transfer issue and new emphasis on management reforms.
Not surprisingly, most Californians have become quite skeptical about the public education system and spending on it. A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows education falling to its lowest level of ranking as the state’s most important issue in three years. Most feel the system has not improved, despite constant infusions of public funds and the voters’ regular response to exhortations to do more in election after election.
Only 9% view education as the top issue in California, the lowest level since August 2004. But voters aren’t happy about education. One could say a certain ennui has set in, a sense of resignation, perhaps cynicism.
While Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a 62% job approval rating among likely voters, he rates only 34% approval on education. The Legislature is much worse, just 21% on education. Schwarzenegger says next year will be the Year of Education.
But this year, California voters are unhappy about education. And they aren’t necessarily buying the message set out by a big foundation study last month that called for massive new spending on education.
California has passed education bonds on most every ballot over the past decade, amounting to some $45 billion in education-related bonds. With the new spending, most voters think that California ranks at or above the national average in per pupil spending. In fact, it ranks 29th out of 50 states.
But even with the reality, not to mention the perception, which slightly outruns the reality, of new spending on education, most California voters do not think that educational performance is improving, believing instead that California ranks below average or near the bottom in performance compared to kids in other states.
Most want local control on education, in contrast to the reality of a system dominated by state government and a powerful education lobby.
In a further problem for the education lobby, the number of Californians who say their schools lack adequate funding has gone down sharply since 2000. Then 63% agreed with that notion. Today it is down to 48%.
And most tax increases to provide more school funding are rejected on principle, including sales tax and property tax increases. However, most say they could support an income tax hike on the wealthy. And two-thirds say they could support a bond measure for local school construction. But that is down from nearly 80% seven years ago.
Says PPIC chief Mark Baldassare: “State leaders have three steep challenges to overcome if they hope to rally support for additional education funding and reform: First, majorities of state residents are critical of the way the governor and state legislature are handling the issue. Second, residents clearly lack confidence in the state to allocate resources to schools. And third, residents are reluctant to increase spending on education without fiscal accountability.”
37% say that educational performance can be bettered simply by making more efficient use of existing funds. Only 11% think the answer is increased funding. Just under half think the answer is a blend of spending more efficiently and increasing funding.
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s funeral was today in Moscow. Yeltsin
faced down resurgent Communists at a critical moment in the final days of
the Soviet Union, but leaves a mixed legacy as Russia’s first democratically
** PRISON BREAK. There are many details in the compromise on the California prison crisis announced by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez. But I’m not a prison policy expert and will not become one late today.
To make a long story short, the plan calls for lots of new construction, though not so much as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed, tied to the implementation of more rehabilitation programs and a call for stronger management practices in the state corrections department. The deal provides for 53,000 new inmate beds, in two phases of construction. The second phase kicks in after benchmarks on delivering rehab and improving management are met.
The total cost of the program would be $6.1 billion, with $1.2 billion in local matching funds, funded by revenue lease bonds, along with $350 million from the state’s general fund. Revenue lease bonds do not require a public vote, but are usually more expensive than other bonds. There would be no early release of inmates.
** THERE IS A CALIFORNIA PRISON DEAL. MORE DETAILS TO FOLLOW.
** SCHWARZENEGGER SAYS HE WILL SUE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency providing legally required formal six-month notice of his intent to sue the agency if it fails to grant approval to California to regulate greenhouse gases. The former action movie superstar reiterated the threat in a phone call today to EPA chief Stephen Johnson.
The Bush Administration had maintained that there was no legal authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. But the US Supreme Court held differently a couple of weeks ago, saying that greenhouse gases are clearly pollutants covered by the act. California has the ability to regulate air pollutants on its own autority, but requires a formal waiver from the EPA do so. The Schwarzenegger requested that nod in 2005, after the Air Resources Board had developed regulations to implement a 2002 law to sharply curtail tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases. Last year, California enacted an additional omnibus act to cut greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming.
“I have called on the federal government to expedite California’s request, and now with a Supreme Court decision behind us, the time to act is now. If the federal government once again fails to act, we have an obligation to take legal action,” said Schwarzenegger. “Californians clearly want to protect our environment. The U.S. EPA must act aggressively to grant our waiver so we can begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
** SOUTH CAROLINA DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE TOMORROW NIGHT. Don’t forget that the first Democratic presidential debate takes place tomorrow night in South Carolina, from 4 PM to 5:30 PM Pacific time. You can watch it on MSNBC and msnbc.com.
South Carolina will be the fourth state in the presidential nomination contests for both the Democratic and Republican parties in 2008, following Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire. During the debate, John Edwards will urge the firing of presidential political counselor Karl Rove.
** NUNEZ CO-CHAIRS CLINTON’S NATIONAL CAMPAIGN. As first reported here yesterday, and again in the morning column, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez has endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton for president. In addition to a leading role in her California campaign, Nunez is a national co-chairman of her presidential campaign. Clinton and Nunez made the announcement via conference call, Nunez in Sacramento and Clinton in Washington, where she is preparing for tomorrow’s debate in South Carolina.
** MCCAIN FORMALLY ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY. Senator John McCain formally announces his candidacy today in a New Hampshire address. His announcement tour takes him to Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada before ending up at home in Arizona on Saturday. McCain is languishing in national polls, well behind Rudy Giuliani, but is strong in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Among his announcement remarks: “We are fighting a war in two countries, and we’re in a global struggle with violent extremists who despise us, our values and modernity itself. If we are to succeed, we must rethink and rebuild the structure and mission of our military; the capabilities of our intelligence and law enforcement agencies; the purposes of our alliances; the reach and scope of our diplomacy; the capacity of all branches of government to defend us. We need to marshal all elements of American power: our military, economy, investment, trade and technology. We need to strengthen our alliances and build support in other nations. We must preserve our moral credibility, and remember that our security and the global progress of our ideals are inextricably linked.
“We all know the war in Iraq has not gone well. We have made mistakes and we have paid grievously for them. We have changed the strategy that failed us, and we have begun to make a little progress. But in the many mistakes we have made in this war, a few lessons have become clear. America should never undertake a war unless we are prepared to do everything necessary to succeed, unless we have a realistic and comprehensive plan for success, and unless all relevant agencies of government are committed to that success. We did not meet this responsibility initially. And we must never repeat that mistake again.
“We must also prepare, far better than we have, to respond quickly and effectively to another terrorist attack or natural calamity. When Americans confront a catastrophe, natural or man-made, they have a right to expect basic competence from their government. They won’t accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don’t have the same radio frequency. They won’t accept government’s failure to deliver bottled water to dehydrated babies or rescue the infirm from a hospital with no electricity. They won’t accept substandard care and indifference for wounded veterans. …
“Our dependence on foreign sources of energy not only harms our environment and economy, it endangers our security. So much of the oil we import comes from countries in volatile regions of the world where our values aren’t shared and our interests aren’t a priority.”
But Russia’s new democracy and capitalist economy proved quite chaotic. The Yeltsin transition led to the rise of a highly-connected oligarchy controlling the key elements of the post-Soviet economy, as the dash for cash led to astounding riches for a few (Moscow leads the world in billionaires) and endless disappointment for most of the rest. The political transition was wracked by chaotic alignments, violence and contract murders, all of it with an overlay of regret and shame over the nation’s precipitous fall from superpower status.
Vladimir Putin was his handpicked choice as successor. Putin has stabilized the country and restored a greater sense of pride, but in so doing made it much more authoritarian. Yet Yeltsin did hold the country together and prevented its vast storehouses of advanced weaponry from destabilizing the world. His frequent public drunkenness embarrassed, but he had a good heart. If he lacked the vision of Gorbachev, he possessed more than enough of the Russian soul to see his rodina through one of its most difficult passages.
In a conference call this morning with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez will endorse the former first lady for president of the United States, according to sources close to the Clintons. Nunez will participate in the call with the frontrunning Democratic presidential candidate from a site at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.
“This is a great ‘get” for Hillary,” says a longtime friend of President Clinton and Senator Clinton of the 40-year old speaker. “Fabian Nunez is one of the brightest new figures in American politics. He is smart, he is charismatic, he is a leader on global warming, and he’s shown how to work across the aisle with a complicated guy like Arnold Schwarzenegger. What’s not to like?”
Nunez is one of the first major California Democrats to endorse in the early California presidential primary, which he, Governor Schwarzenegger, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata worked successfully to move to February 5th next year. Only four much smaller states will vote before the Golden State next year: Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
“Hillary was already strong with Latinos,” says the Clinton friend. “With Fabian Nunez, she is that much stronger. He has a great network in LA and around the state.”
Nunez spoke with a number of Democratic presidential candidates before making his endorsement, including Illinois Senator Barack Obama, former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, and New Mexico Governor and former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson, the first major Latino presidential candidate. But the New York senator and former first lady proved to be his choice.
While there is nothing to report on this score at the moment, Nunez is known to have discussed presidential endorsements on a number of occasions with other members of the Assembly Democratic caucus.
Prior to his election to the Legislature, Nunez, a close friend of Los Angeles Mayor and former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, was the political director of the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. In that capacity, he worked closely with the late Miguel Contreras, a near legendary figure as head of the labor federation whose widow, Maria Elena Durazo, is the current head of the union coalition.
Clinton leads in public and private polling for the California primary and is the national frontrunner among Democrats. But she is being seriously challenged in other early states and nationally by Barack Obama and John Edwards. A victory in the California primary is imperative for her candidacy.
This footage shows glacier melt in Greenland. A large chunk of Greenland
has split off into a separate island.
** UPDATE: The Nunez endorsement of Clinton is confirmed by sources with the Clinton campaign.
** HILLARY CLINTON TO ANNOUNCE MAJOR CALIFORNIA ENDORSEMENT. Senator Hillary Clinton will hold a conference call tomorrow morning to unveil a major endorsement in the California presidential primary.
Word is that it will be Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez.
This is not, however, confirmed by the speaker’s office or the Clinton campaign.
** EXPANDED CASINO TRIBE LOBBYING EFFORT. In addition to the multi-million dollar TV advertising campaign revealed on NWN to pass tribal gaming compacts negotiated by the Schwarzenegger Administration and swiftly approved by the state Senate, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians has a larger program underway to gain approval in the Assembly, where union interests seeking greater organizing opportunities in the casinos vow opposition. It includes targeted direct mail and robocalls into 22 Assembly districts, live phone banking into 12 Assembly districts, and precinct walking in 10 Assembly districts.
** SCHWARZENEGGER WATER PLAN VOTED DOWN BY STATE SENATE COMMITTEE. The California state Senate natural resources committee today voted down Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s water plan, which includes provisions for two dams to capture run-off from a more rapidly melting Sierra snowpack in the greenhouse era. Relations between Schwarzenegger and Senate leader Don Perata have been more strained since the late Phil Angelides for Governor campaign leaked purloined private tapes of Schwarzenegger’s conversations to the Los Angeles Times in which the governor described Perata, during a tense moment of negotiation last year on the big infrastructure bonds package, as “sick in the head.” The longstanding conventional environmentalist view, reflected in the career Senate staff structure, is anti-dam.
Said Schwarzenegger in a statement following the legislative committee defeat: “Our water infrastructure plan is critically-needed to address California’s growing water needs that include storage, conveyance and conservation. With shrinking snow packs from a changing climate, above-ground water storage will be a central part of California’s water future. It is early in the legislative process and water planning is one of the most difficult and complex issues facing California. My administration will continue to utilize all available means to push for a solution that includes surface storage, allowing California to implement a water plan to endure longer drought periods and higher flood peaks.”
The Schwarzenegger plan includes $5.9 billion in water bonds, including $4.5 billion for increased water storage, $1 billion for the Sacramento River Delta at the top of San Francisco Bay, and $450 million for conservation and restoration.
** YELTSIN FUNERAL TOMORROW. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, architect, for better of for worse, of much of post-Soviet Russia, will have a fairly elaborate funeral ceremony tomorrow in Moscow. It comes at an intriguing moment, as an increasingly authoritarian Russia under Vladimir Putin attempts to reassert itself as a great power on the world stage. More coverage to follow. Yeltsin, unlike most recent former Russian heads of state, will be buried in a cemetery outside Moscow where Chekhov, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich are also buried.
For her part, former Army soldier Jessica Lynch, who was captured during the invasion of Iraq, testified that heroic actions ascribed to her never took place, and that wounds said to have been inflicted by Iraqi soldiers were actually the result of an accident. The fictional version, which resulted in her being awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, resulted in much stirring media coverage and a movie-of-the-week.
** MCCAIN LEADS IN SOUTH CAROLINA POLL. A new Zogby telephone poll of South Carolina Republican voters finds John McCain holding a slender lead over Rudy Giuliani, 22% to 19%, with Fred Thompson at 11%, Mitt Romney at 10%, and South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a rumored favorite son candidate, at 8%. South Carolina is the fourth state in the presidential nomination race, following Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
Says Zogby: Overall, a majority of likely primary voters (69%) said they would be most likely to vote for a candidate who is generally more conservative, while one in four (26%) would prefer a more moderate candidate. Giuliani (20%), McCain (19%), Romney (11%) and Thompson (11%) lead among self-described conservatives, although a sizable percentage (27%) said they are unsure for whom they would vote. Among self-described very conservatives, Thompson (19%), McCain (18%) and Romney (15%) lead. Moderates prefer McCain at 32% support, with Giuliani at 27% and Thompson trailing in third place at 8% support.
The telephone survey of 512 likely South Carolina Republican primary voters was conducted April 16-17, 2007, and carries a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points.
Among evangelical Christians, McCain (22%) and Giuliani (16%) are out front, as Fred Thompson (10%) barely edges Romney and Sanford, who are tied at 9% support. One in four men (24%) support McCain, while 18% would vote for Giuliani, 13% for Thompson and 10% for Romney. Giuliani (20%) and McCain (19%) are the leading candidates among women, with Romney and Thompson tied for third at 10%.
Thompson enjoys the strongest intensity of support at 95%, with Giuliani at 91%, McCain at 87% and Romney trailing at 78%. Of the top four candidates, 84% of Romney supporters said it is likely they could change their minds about voting for him before the primary, compared to 81% who said the same about McCain and 74% who feel that way about Giuliani and Thompson.
While 81% said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who stands by what he or she believes in – regardless if they can win the general election – 13% said they would instead favor a candidate who can win the White House.
** GREENHOUSE ISLAND.A big chunk of Greenland has split off from the whole, forming a new island. The glacier that held it to the mainland melted away. This is a dramatic development in the global pattern of increasingly melting glaciers, seen in the video above shot last year in Greenland.
Greenland, once green before an earlier ice age, is the second largest ice sheet in the world. That ice sheet is melting faster than anticipated in a 2000 report by global climate scientists. The new island, dubbed Warming Island, was discovered by Californian Dennis Schmitt who’s been going to Greenland for 40 years.
The Democratic presidential field gathers Thursday night at the University of South Carolina for their first debate, following two issue forums in Nevada, before coming West for the California Democratic Party convention this coming weekend in San Diego.
The compacts were negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration and easily approved by the state Senate. But passage in the Assembly may be more problematic.
The ad is in two versions, 30 seconds and 60 seconds. It begins with the image of a bald eagle soaring and features a host of Native Americans.
“California and California Indian tribes. Together, we soar,” the narrator declares. “Not so long ago our tribes were but a small part of California’s economy, and now we soar.”
Calling the casino tribes “good, responsible neighbors that bring thousands of jobs,” the ad tells people to urge legislators to approve the compacts, which will generate revenue to “help balance the budget, improve education and provide high-quality healthcare for those who need it most.”
“Don’t let special interests stand in the way,” says the narrator, referring to the union opposition.
The ads come out of Schwarzenegger’s 2006 re-election campaign shop, courtesy of campaign manager Steve Schmidt and media consultant Fred Davis, who produced the advertising.
While the first week of TV advertising will cost $1.25 million, weeks of media buys are planned. The advertising, paid for by the Morongo, pushes the Asssembly to ratify all the tribal pacts. Assembly Democratic leaders say they will take their time on this. But while they do, they can expect the advertising to continue.
The TV ads support a massive expansion of casino gambling in California. Five tribes in Southern California would increase the number of their slot machines from 10,000 to 32,500. Schwarzenegger has included revenue from the deal in the current budget, some $500 million, and it’s needed given lower than anticipated tax receipts so far.
Those tribes are the Morongo, who operate in the Palm Springs area, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuila Indians in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians in San Bernardino, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula, and the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in the San Diego area. (The latter have the distinction of being the first tribe to intervene in the 2003 recall election, against Schwarzenegger.)
A sixth tribe, the relatively poor Yurok, would benefit by gaining 99 slot machines in a remote part of Northern California. This will help the tribe keep its gas station open during the winter. There will be no gambling Xanadus in Klamath.
The compacts failed passage last year in the Legislature. Democratic legislative leaders complained that Schwarzenegger got them to the Legislature too late for considered judgment.
But there was another factor at work. Organized labor was strongly opposed. In fact, it still is. The casino and restaurant workers union, in particular, wants more protections for labor organizing in the deals, some of which was present in previous compacts negotiated by the Schwarzenegger Administration. Labor also wants an audit done of the casino tribes books.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, speaking in Las Vegas this past January
in this NWN video, announces the importance of Nevada in the
Democratic presidential race. Nevada Republicans, meeting in Carson City
over the weekend, matched the Democrats by moving their caucus to January 19th.
Halberstam, who had spoken over the weekend at one of my alma maters, the University of California at Berkeley, on the always timely topic of turning journalism into history, something at which he was especially adept, was being driven by a Berkeley student. They had crossed the Dumbarton Bridge and were making a left turn across highway traffic heading towards Menlo Park, a somewhat hazardous turn I’ve made a hundred times, when their vehicle was broadsided by another. Halberstam, riding in the passenger’s seat, was dead on the scene, victim of massive internal injuries. The student was also injured.
** IRAQ WAR PULLOUT MEASURE HAS BIG LEAD IN CALIFORNIA POLL. Democratic pollster Jim Moore, one of the best in the business, has more numbers for California. In this case, regarding the advisory measure proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata for next February’s presidential primary ballot. Perata wants Californians to vote for a referendum calling for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. In Moore’s poll, the measure is ahead by a big margin, 62% to 31%, among all voters. Among California Democrats, the measure leads 86% to 11%.
** NEW CALIFORNIA PRESIDENTIAL POLL. Democratic pollster Jim Moore has a new poll for the California Democratic presidential primary. Hillary Clinton is in the lead with 31%. Barack Obama is second with 21%, closely followed by John Edwards at 19%. Bill Richardson is fourth with 3%.
** MOST RIDICULOUS DRUDGE HEADLINE OF ALL TIME. It’s a crowded field, but here, from today, is a good candidate.
WIPE OUT GLOBAL WARMING: CROW PROPOSES LIMITS ON TOILET PAPER
I propose it for a number of reasons, but for now let’s settle with the fact that Drudge began with two claims to “fame.” His inveterate dumpster diving (he worked in a studio gift shop, and sifted through studio garbage for stories) and his belief that extreme weather events were important. He was right about the latter, although perhaps for reasons best explained by a psychiatrist.
** YELTSIN DEAD AT 76. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, for better or for worse the architect of post-Soviet Russia, has just died at the age of 76. Of what is described by Russian officials as heart failure. As science fiction master Robert Heinlein frequently noted, all forms of human death can be described as heart failure. Which is not to suggest that Yeltsin was murdered. Actually, given his extreme alcoholism and the generally tense circumstances of his life, it is something of a miracle that Yeltsin lasted this long. There is a lot to say about Yeltsin. Which NWN will get into in the not terribly distant future. I remember the time he visited the US and, after disappearing for a few hours, was found dead drunk underneath a Texas freeway overpass. But there are many other things to remember him for. Such as when he personally confronted, in a Moscow street, reactionary elements in the military seeking to reinstall the Communist state.
** NEVADA REPUBLICANS GO SECOND IN PRESIDENTIAL SWEEPSTAKES, TOO. As I’ve been reporting for weeks, Nevada, which is second in the nation for the Democratic presidential race, over the weekend became the second in the nation contest for the Republican presidential nomination. Meeting in Carson City over the weekend, the Nevada Republican state central committee, in a unanimous voice vote, decided to move its presidential caucus to January 19th, matching the Democrats.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Most crude oil prices rose to the $63 to $64 per barrel range on concern that widespread charges of fraud in last weekend’s Nigerian presidential election will lead to more violence affecting the country’s oil output.