Prime Minister Tony Blair and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger do a joint interview this past March in London, with Schwarzenegger participating by satellite.
** CASINO TRIBES WIN. The Indian gaming compacts negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are, as predicted, going through. Some side deals have been negotiated that address accounting issues — but do not make labor happy — and Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez is on board. More to follow.
** BLAIR STEPS DOWN AS MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT AS HIS NEW ROLE AS MIDEAST ENVOY IS STILL EVOLVING. Tony Blair, who resigned as British prime minister earlier today, then received a key new post as special Mideast envoy, returned to his picturesque Sedgefield constituency in northern England by train to tell local Labour Party members that he is resigning his seat in the House of Commons. That will set up a by-election for July 19th. Blair chose to give his only media interview of the day to his local newspaper, The Northern Echo, on his train ride from London. Amusingly, there was no car to meet him at the train station, so he and his wife Cherie waited for a few minutes before a car showed up and took him first to his home to freshen up, then to his local party gathering place. As you’ll see in tomorrow’s video of his final departure from Downing Street as prime minister, the British do things in a less grand way than is done in the American presidential system. Even as the outgoing prime minister ventures to an immense palace to tender his resignation to the Queen of England.
I’m also going to get hold of video of Blair’s last Question Time today, a weekly practice in which the prime minister goes to Parliament and, yes, answers questions from fellow MPs. It’s all very close-in, as you’ll see, about the scale of the town halls that Arnold Schwarzenegger does these days, as you’ve seen in NWN videos, though the questions are much more probing. Opposition Leader David Cameron was sitting about six feet away from Blair as he peppered away.
As for his new role as Mideast envoy representing the Quartet powers of America, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations, Blair — who is setting up his private office in London — will have a new office in Jerusalem. His charge is going to be evolving over time. At first, he will work with the Palestinians, who are in near total disarray. But since Blair, and most experts, believe that the crises in the Middle East are all intertwined, I suspect he’ll be doing still more than that.
** GIULIANI TO CALIFORNIA. Rudy Giuliani, who still holds a sizeable lead in the California Republican presidential primary in a forthcoming poll, will be in California tomorrow and Friday for fundraising and public events in Sacramento and Orange County.
** SCHWARZENEGGER IN A DAY OF CAPITOL MEETINGS, WITH GOOD NEWS FORTHCOMING IN A NEW POLL. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will spend tomorrow in a day of private meetings in and around the state Capitol. He has some very good news coming in a new poll.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CONTROVERSY. Yes, I do have more material on the controversy surrounding the hiring and departure of an Australian citizen with major immigration problems — and, as has new state Republican chairman Ron Nehring, longstanding ties to contoversial Washington conservative power broker Grover Norquist — as the party’s top staffer. But it’s a bigger day than that, not to mention a busy day, so it’s held for tomorrow.
** SCHWARZENEGGER AND GARAMENDI AT LAKE TAHOE FIRE. Just back from his conference in London yesterday with outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the special Mideast envoy, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger joined Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner in a tour of some of the fire devastation at Lake Tahoe and a briefing on the overall situation.
Joining Schwarzenegger and Garamendi in the event carried live on CNN were Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons and Nevada Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki. (The big blue lake in the Sierra Nevada is intersected by the state line between the Golden State and the Silver State.) With Schwarzenegger out of the country from Sunday through Tuesday, Democrat Garamendi, who has great knowledge of the region through his efforts as a state senator to preserve Lake Tahoe, functioned as Acting Governor and oversaw much of the emergency response effort. It was clear from viewing the event, and from what I know of their long history, that there is an easy rapport between Schwarzenegger and Garamendi — who is very familiar with these issues as the former state insurance commissioner and deputy US interior secretary — and the two frequently referred to one another during their statements and the press conference and chatted in the background.
The fire is less than half-contained, yet officials are fairly confident they’ll have it fully under control in the next few days. In any event, Schwarzenegger, who called firefighters “the true action heroes,” says it will be safe for people to visit Lake Tahoe over the 4th of July, when it is a huge tourist and vacation attraction. 3500 acres have been burned and about 200 homes destroyed so far, along with other structures. Fortunately, no lives have been lost. Despite the presence of the lake, the terrain around Tahoe is quite arid now, with the Sierra snow pack for the year having been at a 30-year low at just 29% of normal capacity. Schwarzenegger, Garamendi and others attribute this to the greenhouse effect. To the extent there is a controversy so far, it’s over how much brush and trees should have been cut back in the vicinity of homes and structures. Some say environmentalists are to blame. Some point the finger at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. There will be plenty of time to sort that out.
** BLAIR FORMALLY APPOINTED SPECIAL MIDEAST ENVOY, WELCOMED BY SOME. As anticipated, Tony Blair has stepped down as prime minister and as member of Parliament for Sedgefield, accepting the difficult post of special Mideast envoy. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed Blair in his new role, and Israel is supportive as well. But the Palestinians are divided now, with Hamas taking the Gaza Strip from Abbas’s Fatah organization. And while Blair has generally good relations with most Arab leaders, he brings substantial baggage from the Iraq War.
But Blair achieved a lasting settlement of the seemingly intractable Northern Ireland crisis, also involving diametrically opposed religious groups.
** L.A. CONGRESSIONAL SPECIAL ELECTION. State Assemblywoman Laura Richardson, an African American, has won the Democratic nomination over state Senator Jenny Oropez in yesterday’s special election to replace the late Congresswoman Juanita Millender McDonald, who died two months ago. Richardson, backed by most of labor, defeated Oropeza, backed by casino tribes, by what looks like a 38% to 31% margin. The district is a safe Democratic seat, traditionally a black seat, and Richardson’s victory in a run-off is assured.
** BLAIR STEPS DOWN AS BRITISH PRIME MINISTER, SLATED FOR LATER ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY AS SPECIAL ENVOY TO THE MIDDLE EAST. Tony Blair stepped down as prime minister earlier today, handing off the office to Gordon Brown, and according to CNN International will be announced as the new special envoy to the Middle East later today. A recent phone conversation between Blair and Russian President Vladimir Putin is said by other sources to have smoothed the way. Russia and Britain have had rocky relations of late, as discussed yesterday in NWN.
** NEW IOWA POLL, FRED THOMPSON SECOND AMONG REPUBLICANS. A new poll of the first-in-the-nation Iowa presidential caucuses by the Strategic Vision PR firm has some interesting results. On the Republican side, it’s Mitt Romney 23%, Fred Thompson 17%, Rudy Giuliani 14%, and John McCain 11%.
On the Democratic side, it’s John Edwards 26%, Barack Obama 21%, Hillary Clinton 20%, and Bill Richardson 11%.
** FROM LONDON TO LAKE TAHOE. SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST FROM TAHOE AT NOON TODAY. Just back in Sacramento from conferring in London with outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair and leading executives and environmental experts, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger journeys to the Sierra Nevada Mountains today to tour the big fire at Lake Tahoe. Along with Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who oversaw the fire emergency in Schwarzenegger’s absence, and state Insurance Commissioner Stever Poizner, Schwarzenegger and several state officials, legislators and local officials will view damage from the fire and receive a briefing from fire officials. At noon, Schwarzenegger will do a live webcast and press conference from Lake Tahoe.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 46th day of searching for the remaining two US soldiers captured by Al Qaeda in an ambush south of Baghdad. They have had no luck so far. A video put out by Al Qaeda forces in Iraq claims that all three men were executed after being captured. But, with the exception of the Californian found floating in the Euphrates River, that claim can’t be confirmed. The US high command in Baghdad has revealed that ID cards for the other two American prisoners were found in an Al Qaeda safehouse on June 9th.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Most crude oil prices are in the $67 to $68 per barrel range.
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