NWN interrupts its coverage of Tony Blair to bring you this message from Apple:
“By Friday, we expect to control the country.” It’s Friday. Actually, it’s iFriday.
** SETTING THE TABLE FOR THE BUSH-PUTIN NON-SUMMIT AT KENNEBUNKPORT THIS WEEKEND. President George W. Bush is up at the old Bush family coastal compound at Kennebunkport, Maine readying to receive his weekend visitor, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Lurking in the background is the president’s far more diplomatic father, George Herbert Walker Bush, the former president/CIA director/UN ambassador whose old hands dominated the Iraq Study Group. (Reviled by the right, rejected by W, now seeing their recommendations slowly but surely adopted.)
In classic Russian fashion, Putin made ready for his social call by having the Russian Navy successfully fire off a submarine-launched missile. They’ve done those before, but have had a little trouble with the newer model. Make that a lot of trouble. With US-Russian relations in a bad patch, the meetings on July 1st and 2nd will be important. The US increasingly feels it needs to settle the Iraq War, and Russia can be helpful there. Britain, just as Tony Blair was in the midst of leaving, has floated a compromise with Iran, which would freeze further development of its nuclear enrichment program but allow current enrichment activities to proceed. That might allow Iran the space to continue dealing on Iraq.
The US also needs to determine precisely what Russia wants, and how much to confront and how much to accommodate. Under Bush, the US looked the other one while Russian forces ruthlessly largely crushed the rebellion in Chechnya. That helped gain bases in Central Asia — all but one of which, the one in Kyrgyzstan, are no longer — and critical help in the takedown of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. It’s not clear that Bush, transfixed by Iraq and fresh from a crushing defeat on his immigration bill, and his team will have thought through all the angles on this summit that is not a summit. But perhaps his father the former president and his old hands have.
** D.C. TERM LIMITS ORGANIZATION LOSES IN CALI COURT OF APPEALS. US Term Limits, the Washington-based group running the campaign to stop a bid to change California’s term limits law lost again before the state appelate court in its effort to challenge Attorney General Jerry Brown’s ballot description of the measure likely to be voted on in the February 5th presidential primary election.
“We are grateful that, once again, the courts have told the out-of-state opponents of reform to stop their cheap political grandstanding,” said Gale Kaufman, chief strategist for the term limits change, which would cut the total time allowed in the Legislature from 12 to 14 years but allow members to serve all those years in one house. Currently, members can serve only six years in the Assembly and eight years in the Senate. The US Term Limits group wanted a description in the ballot pamphlet that emphasized the fact that some current members will be able to stay on longer. But the courts have held that Brown’s description is accurate, and seem to feel that what the group wants is something it can say in a campaign.
** LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD. READY FREDDY IN THE GRANITE STATE. Fred Thompson waltzed right up to the edge of an official presidential candidacy last night at a state Republican fundraiser in Manchester, New Hampshire. Telling the crowd of several hundred that he expected they’d be “seeing a whole lot more of me,” Thompson called for small government, individual liberty, and free trade. Government has to recognize that there is “such a thing as human nature,” which can lead people to do terrible things but can also raise them to the heights.
Thompson hasn’t been running as well in New Hampshire polling as he has elsewhere. He currently leads in two of the four earliest states. Nevada, which has its own brand of living free, and South Carolina, a diehard state of the old Confederacy which still flies the rebel flag outside its capitol. Here in California, he runs well back. Thompson may be coming off as too conservative for the Golden State’s Republican voters.
** THAT CALIFORNIA REPUBLICAN PARTY CONTROVERSY. Oh, that California Republican Party staffing flap. It has two big components. One is the hiring of non-citzens for top jobs, including as the party’s director a fellow from Australia named Michael Kamburowski who spent a month in jail on an immigration law charge and benefited from two marriages in gaining a green card. (Readers recall I had cared less about the other guy, the deputy political director from Canada, not thinking it worthy of an item while the San Francisco Chronicle made that a front page story.)
The other big component is the Grover Norquist factor. He’s the longtime controversial Washington conservative power broker and associate of disgraced stringpuller Jack Abramoff. Norquist, according to various press reports used his issue-related committees to funnel money from Abramoff clients to various PR campaigns. He was the longtime boss of new California Republican Party chairman Ron Nehring and of the short-lived party director from the land down under, who also had a particularly skimpy political background for such a key post. While Nehring no longer works for him — as he told me when I asked a few months ago — I did subsequently learn that Norquist is a client of Nehring’s new consulting firm.
With the state party leadership leaning hard to the right after last February’s convention, the party’s new leaders are sensitive to anyone forming the impression that they are part of a right-wing cabal with controversial Washington ties. Follow the sequence from Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.
On Tuesday, I reported the following: In an op-ed piece in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Republican National Committee member Tim Morgan, the sole vote on the state party’s board against hiring Australian citizen Michael Kamburowski, decries the lack of thorough review in his appointment by state Republican chairman Ron Nehring as the party’s top staffer. Morgan says he was slated to head up a search effort for what is in essence an executive director but that new state chairman Ron Nehring immediately short-circuited the process. He also mentions that controversial Washington conservative power broker Grover Norquist came to California to help Kamburowski get the post, appearing before state party board members.
Jon Fleischman, proprietor of the conservative Republican Flash Report web site and Southern California vice chairman of the party, told me the decision was taken in a conference call, and that Norquist was not on the call. But he confirms that Norquist came in to California on Kamburowski’s behalf.
“Grover was out,” Fleischman told me this morning, “and traveled with Ron and Michael around California to meet with folks,” talking with key Republicans just prior to the decision.
Late that afternoon, I got a message from Jon: “I think I have made an assumption that wasn’t accurate. So I think I should clarify: I went to a meeting down in San Diego at which Grover spoke, and afterwards a few of us had lunch, including Kamburowski.
“I didn’t speak with Grover about Kamburowski, as I had already met him earlier that week when he along with Ron Nehring came up to Orange County. I knew that Grover was heading off to Sacramento and I assumed that it was with Nehring and Kamburowski. I assumed incorrectly. (There’s a saying, you know what happens when you assume…)”
Prior to that message, I’d heard that Nehring had told at least one reporter that Norquist hadn’t really been in California pushing for Kamburowski’s appointment. Although he was out, coincidentally, just prior to the decision. I decided to wait.
The next morning, the Chronicle reported, again on the front page, that the party may have violated federal law by not inspecting Kamburowski’s green card. Okay, didn’t look at his green card. Wow. Nehring strongly pooh-poohed the idea that Norquist had pushed for Kamburowski’s hiring. Then came this passage.
“But Jon Fleischman, publisher of the widely read GOP Web site FlashReport.org. and a member of the state GOP board of directors, told The Chronicle that he was invited to at least two meetings with Nehring, Norquist and Kamburowski in March, when the state’s chief operations officer job was open. Those included a March 12 meeting of Nehring’s “San Diego Center-right Coalition,” held at the offices of the San Diego Republican Party, which Kamburowski attended and later an intimate lunch the same day with Norquist and other top party insiders.
“Grover was there, as was Nehring and Kamburowski and some of the other people who worked for Grover, and we spent a little time talking to him,” recalled Fleischman.
“It was very clear, it was a ‘Come on down to this meeting, meet Mike Kamburowski, say hi to Grover’ and all mixed together,” he said. “It was clearly part of the credentials that were presented — the work (Kamburowski) had done for Grover. Clearly.”
“Other Republicans said Norquist and Kamburowski then went on to Northern California and Sacramento for similar meetings with other influential party insiders.
I asked Jon how this was all to be reconciled.
“There seems to be an over-fixation on whether Grover lobbied CRP officials to hire Mike Kamburowksi. As far as I am aware, he did not. Grover and I never spoke about it.
“That said, does anyone really care? If he had mentioned something to me, I would not have thought it odd. Grover Norquist and his organization, Americans for Tax Reform, have been a fixture on the GOP side of the aisle going back many years. Ron Nehring worked for ATR for years. I guess that might disqualify him from being a union-organizer, an advocate for tax increases?”
Meanwhile, Fleischman published a small column on his site called “Get Over It.” And his associate from the Young Americans for Freedom, Brandon Powers, attacked RNC member Tim Morgan for allegedly misusing party funds in various trips on party business, saying Morgan’s account was fictitious. Other senior Republicans described this as an attempt at distraction.
** LONDON TERROR SCARE. I’m caught up as anyone in the unfolding terror scare in London, and know nothing more than anyone else watching cable news. One bit of speculation on my part, and it’s only that, is that it may be an attempt to pressure the new British government to step away from Afghanistan, where British forces have actually become more involved as their involvement in Iraq slowly diminishes.
** DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL FORUM, AND A POLL. The Democratic presidential field had another forum last night at Howard University, focused mostly on African American issues. Hillary Clinton won widespread plaudits for another polished performance, and Barack Obama also scored well. Clinton, of course, leads in the national polls of Democrats, with Obama running second.
The Clinton campaign is saying she is raising more money this quarter than in the first, but less than Obama is raising. Obama is mum on the question of how much money he’s raised — as he was in the first quarter, when he let Clinton reveal her numbers first — but has announced that he now has 250,000 contributors. He’s more than doubled the number of contributors he had in the first quarter, which was easily a record.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST FROM FIRE SITE AT 10 AM. This morning Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tours the site of another large fire, this in Kern County in the southern part of the Central Valley, then at 10 AM conducts a press conference and live webcast. The Lake Tahoe fire, incidentally, is now over 70% contained.
** AL QAEDA’S AMERICAN PRISONERS STILL NOT LOCATED. American troops are now in the midst of a 48th 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 up over $70 per barrel. Prices are at a 10 month high.
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