The Kurdish Regional Government’s security chief discusses
the prospective Turkish military incursion into northern Iraq.
** BIG LEAD FOR HILLARY IN NEW CBS NATIONAL POLL. UNTIL AL GORE IS ADDED TO THE MIX. A new national poll of Democratic voters for CBS News gives Hillary Clinton a commanding lead over Barack Obama for president, 51% to 23%. John Edwards has 13%. But the impact of Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize has apparently had time to sink in.
If Gore is added to the mix, the race is virtually a dead heat, with Clinton holding a narrow 37% to 32% advantage over Gore. Obama trails in that scenario with 16%.
Gore says he’s not running, and I don’t expect him to run. But he hasn’t run this well in previous polls. His favorable rating among all voters is higher than that of any other Democrat, including Clinton and Obama.
Senator Clinton today issued a statement supporting the lastest Bush move against Iran. But she positioned it within the context of additional diplomacy. There has been, incidentally, a report that while Secretary of State Condi Rice called for the new sanctions discussed below, General David Petraeus is reaching out for further negotiations with the Iranians.
** SCHWARZENEGGER AND COMPANY DISCUSS SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CRISIS AMIDST VERY CHUMMY ATMOSPHERE. Following the tour and events with President George W. Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, running quite late of course, toured the evacuation center this afternoon at Escondido High outside San Diego and delivered his assessment of the Southern California crisis. He was joined by a host of state political leaders, local officials, and union leaders.
It had something of the air of a victory dance. Schwarzenegger, now apparently getting major help from a federal government anxious to erase the stain of Hurricane Katrina, clearly feels the corner has been turned on the crisis, and he thanked the firefighters and the people of the region for their efforts and praised most of the dignitaries in attendance.
The governor continued his mutural admiration society with Democratic state Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, calling him “my great partner in Sacramento.” Nunez, in a Republican area of the state — the anti-tax San Diego area was hit far harder than LA, though the Malibu fires got the initial media attention — refrained from any sort of I-told-you-so regarding the area’s lower-than-normal firefighting capacity for a California metro region and praised everyone, including Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines and Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman.
Joining in the lovefest was the president of the International Association of Firefighters, Harold Scheitberger. The IAFF is the huge national firefighters union. You may recall that it is very much at odds with Republican presidential frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. But the firefighters union chief, who came out from Washington at the beginning of the week to observe the crisis, had nothing but praise for Schwarzenegger.
“This governor has great leadership,” said the union chief, who went on to say that California under Schwarzenegger has improved its emergency response capability tremendously over the past four years.
Some of you will see the irony in this state of affairs, since the California firefighters union was at Schwarzenegger’s throat in his ill-fated “Year of Reform” ballot measures campaign of 2005. Yet California Professional Firefighters union president Lou Paulson, who went out on a big limb for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides in 2006, was also on hand at Escondido High.
In 2005, Schwarzenegger’s very high-priced political team didn’t bother to develop their own public pension reform initiative for the rookie politician, instead allowing it to be outsourced to then Republican Assemblyman Keith Richman. Who screwed up, devising an initiative that would have removed benefits from the survivors of firefighters and cops killed in the line of duty.
After going through an agonizing period of denial, egged on by conservatives then around him, Schwarzenegger finally acceded to the obvious and dropped his support of the initiative.
** ROHRABACHER COMPLAINS THAT RUSSIAN HELP NOT ACCEPTED FOR SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRES. Orange County/LA beach area Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a conservative Republican and one-time junior Reagan speechwriter known as one of the biggest surfing aficionadoes in the House, complains that a massive Russian aircraft was not accepted to fight the Southern California wildfires.
Rohrabacher told the Russia Today news channel that he wanted the Ilyushin-76 brought over to help handle the crisis. But American officials, including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, reportedly would not go along with the scheme.
** SCHWARZENEGGER LIVE WEBCAST AT 1:30 PM FROM ESCONDIDO HIGH SCHOOL EVACUATION CENTER. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will conduct a live briefing on the Southern California fire situation at 1:30 PM today from the evacuation center at Escondido High School outside San Diego. The event will be webcast via this live link.
Schwarzenegger toured the fire zone this morning with President Bush in the Marine One helicopter. They made an impromptu stop at a center helping fire victims, then did a scheduled neighborhood tour. With things running over 90 minutes behind the original schedule, Bush made a brief statement of support on national TV with Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein by his side.
Bush praised Schwarzenegger’s crisis leadership, saying California has “a governor who’s not afraid to charge up any hill.” Bush had the commander of US Northern Command on hand as a sign of further support, pledged prompt federal financial assistance, and urged viewers who need help to call 1-800-621-FEMA. He took no questions from the few reporters who were allowed in. (The event was pooled.) Bush, Schwarzenegger, and Feinstein then went to a lunch meeting with first responders.
** NEW OIL PRICE CLOSING RECORD. Crude oil trading just closed today at a record $90.50 per barrel. According to the Wall Street Journal, OPEC won’t announce new ouput quotas when it meets next month.
** NEW INTRADAY TRADING OIL PRICE RECORD. Crude oil prices have climbed to record levels again, over $90 per barrel, in intraday trading. For largely geopolitical reasons outlined in items below, and the video above.
** IOWA DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CAUCUSES SET TO GO ON JANUARY 3RD. As predicted here, Iowa’s Democrats appear ready to follow Iowa Republicans’ lead in moving up their presidential caucuses from January 14th to January 3rd.
The Iowa state central committee will vote on the change, proposed by the state party chairman, this coming Sunday. January 3rd is a Thursday. Iowa has in the past been on a Monday.
Needless to say, this will be the earliest presidential nomination contest in history. In 1984, when I did first-in-the-nation Iowa for Gary Hart, the caucuses were on February 20th.
This will create a conundrum for New Hampshire, which has been eight days after Iowa, allowing time for those who stumble in the Hawkeye State to recover and those who do well to gather momentum. New Hampshire could go on January 8th. But that only allows five days for focused campaigning on New Hampshire. New Hampshire has held out the prospect of moving the primary to December.
Whatever happens, Iowa’s move is going to place peak presidential campaigning right in the middle of the holiday season. Which is more than slightly nuts.
** 11:10 AM UPDATE: President George W. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger are still touring Southern California fire damage in the helicopter designated Marine One. Needless to say, the scheduled 10:30 AM press conference is delayed.
The two made an impromptu stop to visit victims of the fires. Their press conference is now rescheduled to 11:40 AM.
** TURKISH LEADERS SAY U.S. WILL NOT STOP IRAQ INCURSION. Speaking separately, in different countries, the prime minister and president of Turkey said today that US objections will not stop them from pursuing Kurdish separatist PKK guerillas in their northern Iraq enclaves.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that he would stop the PKK from making its terrorist attacks inside Turkey. But he has no real ability to do that in largely autonomous Kurdish-dominated northern Iraq. Meanwhile, the Kurdish Regional Government says that there are no PKK enclaves that it is aware of.
Obviously that’s not going to work.
** BUSH VISITS THE SAN DIEGO AREA THIS MORNING. President George W. Bush arrives this morning for a four-hour visit to the San Diego area. He will take an aerial tour on Marine One with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, do a walking tour of a neighborhood, get a briefing from Schwarzenegger and firefighting officials, deliver a public statement on the crisis, have lunch with first responders, and depart on Air Force One.
The Bush public statement, which will come in a press conference with Schwarzenegger and other leaders, is scheduled for 10:30 AM. It will, of course, be carried live on all the cable news nets.
After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, President Bush did a flyover in his jet to inspect the destruction, but did not land.
** U.S. SANCTIONS IRAN AGAIN. Struggling for support from other countries in its campaign to isolate Iran, US officials today announced that they are designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guards “a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction” and the shady Quds Force “a supporter of terrorism.” The Bush Administration has supplied a good amount of information supporting the latter designation; the former is new. It’s not entirely clear what they’re referring to.
In addition, Iran’s top banks, such as Bank Melli, are targeted. Some say the move will prevent international banks from doing business with them.
** L.A. TIMES ACKNOWLEDGES EXAGGERATED EVACUATION NUMBERS. The Los Angeles Times acknowledged this morning that its report of 800,000-plus evacuees from the Southern California fires was wrong. The number is less. How much less, the paper doesn’t say. Other media outlets have reported that one million people were evacuated.
You’ll notice that NWN hasn’t reported any number higher than 500,000. I decided to invoke my common sense rule. Does it feel to me like a million people have evacuated? Of course not.
** SOCAL FIRES SLOWED BY BREAK IN WEATHER. The anticipated change in Southern California’s weather, reported here at the beginning of the week, is helping firefighters halt the advance of most of the fires. The unusually high winds and temperatures combined with drought conditions, patterns of development, poor fire suppression policies, and so on to create what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dubbed “the perfect storm” for fires.
** SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA FIRE UPDATES. Click here for the locations of and updates on the fires of Southern California.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia is fast re-emerging as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel.
You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is quite interesting nonetheless. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window. Moscow time is 11 hours ahead of Pacific time.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil prices have risen to the $88 to $90 per barrel range on concern over situations in Iraq and Iran.
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