Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bombed at New York’s Columbia
University in 2007. But now he has been invited to Baghdad. As the saying
goes, “The ball keeps bouncing.”
** CALIFORNIA POLL: BIG LEADS FOR MCCAIN AND HILLARY. The new Public Policy Institute of California poll is now out, off embargo at 10 PM, and shows big leads for John McCain in the Republican primary and Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. The term limits revision initiative is tied, below 50%. More to follow tomorrow morning. Other findings: A majority of adults (64%) say they support the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment to stabilize the budget. Nearly eight in 10 adults (78%) are at least somewhat concerned about the effects of spending reductions in the governor’s 2008-09 budget proposal. A majority of Democrats (52%) want to deal with the budget gap through a mix of cuts and taxes while most Republicans (56%) prefer spending cuts. Sixty-two percent of all adults oppose extending the state sales tax to services such as legal assistance, auto repairs, and haircuts. But 56 percent support taxing all goods sold over the Internet.
** REPUBLICAN DEBATE. A good performance by Mitt Romney. John McCain also did well, as did Mike Huckabee. A peaceful debate, actually. More tomorrow.
** KEY REPUBLICAN DEBATE TONIGHT. We’ve had a lot of these things, but tonight’s debate in Boca Raton, Florida, is very important. The Florida primary on Tuesday will determine whether or not the Republican Party has a presidential frontrunner. If John McCain wins — and he is in a neck-and-neck race now with Mitt Romney — the Vietnam War hero and famously maverick Western senator is the frontrunner. If he loses, and he may, since independents are not able to vote in the primary in Florida, the Republican race is once again a muddle.
In my view, the Republicans are an even stranger political party than the Democrats. And that is pretty strange. I know who is the most dangerous Republican for Democratic hopes. But those sorts of calculations seem lost on the ideologues whose voices are loudest and most persistent in Republican circles.
The yack show hosts/columnists/commentators/bloggers/activists mostly seem to hate McCain. While actual officials and strategists, for the most part, do not. Why do they hate him? Because they are, to be blunt, hyperpartisans, on the same wave length as the Democratic hyperpartisans who picked, um, John Edwards.
The doctrinal right-wingers — epitomized by my friend Hugh Hewitt, who told me that Chuck Poochigian would be the next Governor of California (insert sound effect) — are for Mitt Romney. Who, to be blunt, and I find Mr. Romney quite charming and all that stuff, is to my left on social issues, and perhaps military issues. (Referring to earlier Romney incarnations.) Since when I was in the Navy, well, more than a few years after, he was a Mormon missionary. In France. Yet they buy his current far right incarnation.
McCain barely genuflects in these folks’ direction.
“I respect Rush Limbaugh,” McCain said of the enforcer of right-wing doctrine who despairs about an impending McCain victory, today in Florida. “He is a voice that is respected by a lot of people who are in our party.”
Which, of course, means that McCain, an Annapolis grad and highly-decorated war hero thinks the guy — a perpetually overweight, determinedly non-veteran, who dropped out from some half-baked college after flunking most of his courses and spent many of his early years yakking away on a Sacramento radio station — is essentially a loud-mouthed buffoon.
It should be an interesting debate.
** CLINTON CAMPAIGN PULLS REAGAN HIT AD ON OBAMA. It’s about time. The charge is absurd. And that is putting it in a positive context.
** KUCINICH TO DROP FROM DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL RACE. In the last presidential election, I broke the somewhat surprising news that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. How did I do that? I ran into famed New Age author Marianne Williamson, an old friend of mine, at a bank of pay phones at the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown LA. I wondered what she was doing there. She was, as fate would have it, accompanying her friend Dennis Kucinich, who I’d also known for a long time. We were all there for the annual California Democratic Convention. He was there because he was serious about running for the Democratic presidential nomination of 2004.
This time, as distinguished from that particular surprise, I learn of something more obvious via the wire services. Kucinich is dropping out of out his race for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The one-time boy Mayor of Cleveland will return home to seek to shore up what may be a tough race for re-election to Congress. He’s a good guy. Quirky, and frequently wrong, but a valuable voice.
** IRAQ AND IRAN CONFIRM AHMADINEJAD VISIT TO BAGHDAD. While American politicians in both parties busy themselves barking at one another, the foreign ministries of Iraq and Iran have confirmed that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accepted the invitation of the Iraqi government to visit Baghad. The date is not yet set, but the visit of the erstwhile uber-villain of the Iranian regime is a signal event.
In the wake of the US National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which downplayed any potentially imminent threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, the US and Iran have continued talks, through various means — including a direct meeting in Washington between President Bush and the leading pro-Iranian Iraqi politician — about the security situation in Iraq.
The truth is, both countries need to achieve a certain comity with one another. The US is too strong a player in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East for Iran to risk an actual confrontation. Iran is too powerful, both regionally and in terms of asymmetrical warfare — and the US military too over-stretched — for America to pretend that it has ready military options against the sometimes schizophrenic Islamic republic.
The US military surge in Iraq has had a certain level of success, but it is time-limited. It has created a space for the ultimate solutions — which as the Iraq Study Group pointed out in late 2006 — are finally political. Yet it is clear to Iran that the US is not leaving the Middle East.
And while Russia has emerged as a patron of Iran — and thus a potent blocking force to notions of US military strikes on Tehran — the Putin regime is playing its own multi-faceted game. And a very powerful Iran is not in Moscow’s long-term preferred scenario.
So both the US and Iran will have to engage in a somewhat complex walk-back from the brink for both of their credulous polities. And so it begins. Actually, continues.
** BREAKING AN EMBARGO. Some of you, well, actually, one reader, have asked why the right-wing California web site called the Flash Report has reported a new Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll on the term limits revision initiative, Proposition 93, and NWN has not. That is because the poll is under embargo until 10 PM tonight.
The poll is actually about a great deal more than Prop 93, including the presidential primary and the state of governance in California. I have had the poll for a few days, and will get into all of it when the time comes, under the established rules. I will also get into why the Flash Report’s proprietor, Jon Fleischman, saw fit to break those rules. One clue. He does not disclose this, but he works for the No on 93 campaign. So he is, as usual, an avid hyperpartisan propagandist.
John McCain talks about Islamic jihadism and economic insecurity
in this new Florida TV ad. Stallone just endorsed him.
** REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE TONIGHT. Live from Boca Raton, Florida, at 6 PM Pacific time, the remaining Republican presidential candidates debate for 90 minutes on MSNBC. The participants are John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Ron Paul. The somewhat outcast libertarian Paul, incidentally, is included because he has run far better in the primaries and raised vastly more money than his long-shot Democratic counterparts, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, both of whom have done nothing to date in the primaries and are now excluded from debates after many appearances last year.
Incidentally, Sylvester Stallone has just endorsed John McCain. McCain’s reaction: “I’m going to Philadelphia to run up the steps.” Take that, Chuck Norris.
National liberal talk show host Ed Schultz says former President
Bill Clinton is a consistent liar.
** SOUTH CAROLINA TRACKING POLL: BIG OBAMA LEAD, EDWARDS GAINING ON HILLARY. This morning’s Zogby tracking poll for Reuters of Saturday’s South Carolina Democratic primary has Barack Obama slipping a bit, especially among black voters, but still holding a big lead. Intriguingly, in last night’s numbers alone, John Edwards pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton.
For the three-day rolling track, it’s Obama 39%, Clinton 24%, Edwards 19%. In last night’s track, which has an unreliable sample size, Edwards pulled ahead of Clinton with 27% of the overall vote, and leads among white voters.
Hillary left South Carolina after Monday night’s tumultuous debate, campaigning out here in California and elsewhere, leaving the state to former President Bill Clinton. (Though she is back today.) Bill Clinton has made himself a lightning rod for controversy, alternately making a strong appeal to black voters — hence the slippage for Obama — and attacking the press and Obama.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s item, “Backlash Bill?,” a little Bill Clinton goes a long ways.
Mitt Romney, a center-left candidate for U.S. Senate and
Massachusetts governor, says he is the true conservative for President.
** MISUNDERSTOOD MITT? The New York Times has an interesting piece on why his Republican rivals in the presidential race each dislike him more than any of the other candidates.
I’ve written about this before. To sum up, they consider him to have an unusually high level of fakery, changing his positions to suit every situation even on core values issues. They don’t like all the money he’s spent on attack ads. It goes from there.
I’ve met him and found him engaging, charming, funny, and smart. Of course, the first time I met him, he was to the left of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who Romney’s right-wing cheerleaders all call a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
** HUNTER HEARTS HUCK. For those who were wondering, California Congressman Duncan Hunter, the San Diegan who chaired the House Armed Services Committee when the Republicans ran things and withdrew the other day from the presidential race, has endorsed Mike Huckabee for president.
** FIELD POLL: TERM LIMITS REVISE INITIATIVE IN DEEP TROUBLE, CASINO TRIBE COMPACTS UP IN THE AIR. The latest installment of the Field Poll, conducted January 14-20, shows Proposition 93, the term limits revision initiative, continuing to slide. It’s now at 39% for, 39% against. The four casino tribe gambling compacts — negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration, approved by the Legislature, and opposed by other gambling interests and unions wanting a much easier shot at organizing Indian casinos — are holding steady. The numbers there are 42% yes, 37% no. Those numbers aren’t good, either, but the trend line is not negative.
What’s the big problem for Prop 93? I think I’ve mentioned it once or twice. Louis Vuitton. The initiative was doing okay before it emerged that Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez had used his campaign fund for splashy travel, entertaining, and gifts. The item that popped for me was $2600 at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Paris. That was coupled with Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata also using funds for entertaining and gifts, though not international travel. Perata has been the subject of a longstanding FBI investigation that has yet to go anywhere. But you toss those things together and, as the saying goes … Et voila!
The other big problem is the failure to follow through on the promise Democratic legislative leaders have made every year since before they defeated Schwarzenegger’s redistricting reform initiative in 2005. Now, I happen to have a lot of reason to believe that right-wing Republicans aren’t serious about redistricting reform, either. But the commitment was made by the Democratic legislative leaders. They consistently failed to follow through, with Democratic votes, including an absurd escapade with a “missing” bill in 2006. That lost them a lot of editorial support and, more importantly, overall credibility.
** THE TOM MCCLINTOCK ENDORSEMENTS. California’s leading conservative politician, state Senator Tom McClintock, has issued his endorsements for the February 5th primary election. He had endorsed Fred Thompson for president, serving as his state chairman, but he withdrew this week. McClintock has not jumped aboard another presidential campaign, but here are his picks on the statewide initiatives.
Prop. 92 Guaranteed Funding for Community Colleges: NO! This can best be described as a Prop. 98 for community colleges – guaranteeing them a growing level of funding from the state’s tax revenues regardless of their actual attendance, their performance or the state’s fiscal condition and priorities. If you like straight-jackets, you’ll love Prop. 92.
Prop. 93 Term Limits: NEUTRAL. Current term limits are a maximum of 14 years in the legislature: six in the Assembly and eight in the Senate – which is why you see so much office-hopping. Prop. 93 reduces the maximum to 12 years in the legislature, but allows them to be served in the same house. Since I’ve only served eight years in the Senate, Prop. 93 would give me one final term; if it fails I must retire this year. Because I have a conflict of interest, I’m staying out if it.
Propositions 94-97 Indian Gaming Compacts: YES! These propositions ratify the compacts that allow four tribes to expand their casinos. I’m not a gambler, but it’s none of government’s business how people spend their money. I’m tired of government restrictions on enterprise, and I’m tired of government telling us what we can and can’t do. And our economy desperately needs the new jobs and investment.
McClintock, by an odd coincidence, is termed out of the state Senate. His far right followers are all against the term limits revision initiative. To his credit, he can’t claim that he is, too, but he won’t endorse it. He has received enormous financial support from casino tribes in his career. When he ran for governor in the 2003 recall, finally finishing a distant third, it was casino tribe money that floated him as far as he went.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged 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 quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, the channel is very 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.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND U.S. ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. Crude oil is trading down around $87 per barrel on renewed fears of a global economic slowdown.
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