President Barack Obama was received like a rock star yesterday in Canada, where he promised that America will not become protectionist in the midst of the global economic crisis.
** CALIFORNIA 2010. GOP gubernatorial hopeful Meg Whitman announced today that Congressman Darrell Issa is supporting her. Thus dashing plenty of informed word that the funder of the 2003 California recall was taking a hard look at the race himself. And removing any real interest in his speech to this weekend’s California Republican Party convention. Hmm, maybe Issa should have teased the situation some more and then announced his endorsement in the speech …
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn’t addressed a Republican state convention since he delivered a famous lecture to the Palm Springs convention in the fall of 2007 on the party’s declining relevancy, has just left the state after signing the controversial state budget into law. But before he did, he cut the budgets of the other statewide elected officials. (He’s also reduced his own budget.) Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, is hopping mad. His office received a 62% reduction. Garamendi ripped Schwarzenegger for the move, saying in a statement, implying the move was made because he’s been too outspokenly critical: “Let me assure the people of California, that even though the Governor has cut my office by 62 percent, I will continue to do the work they elected me to do. For some time I have been an outspoken critic of the budget process and the governor’s leadership because of the impact this budget will have on California’s education system, ability to compete in the world market place, and on the most vulnerable Californians.”
With conservative GOP activists in an uproar over the state budget deal that combines tax hikes and an open primary (which still has to be approved by voters next year), both of them anathema to their ideology, the self-styled moderates in the gubernatorial race, Whitman and Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, continue to blast the budget.
In other words, they move themselves over to the right. Whitman’s given two speeches advertised as major this week, and several interviews, but has yet to suggest how she would actually balance the budget otherwise. Neither has Poizner, but he did have a realistic suggestion of passing a budget revision through the end of the fiscal year – without taxes, of course – and then working anew to find more places to cut.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … CALIFORNIA: FAR RIGHT FURY OVER TAXES AND OPEN PRIMARY.
** UPDATE: SCHWARZENEGGER WILL SIGN NEW CALIFORNIA BUDGET AT 2 PM PACIFIC. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will now sign California’s hard-fought new state budget at 2 PM in the Capitol.
** AMERICANS BACK AFGHAN WAR, WITH RESERVATIONS. With President Barack Obama having this week ordered another 17,000 American troops in to Afghanistan, the new Gallup Poll shows that US voters support the war effort against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Only 30% say it was a mistake to send American troops into Afghanistan. 66% say it was the right thing to do.
For more than two years, a strong majority of Americans have said it was a mistake to send American troops into Iraq.
But there are clear limits on what most Americans want the US to do in Afghanistan. 54% say the mission should be to disrupt Islamic terrorists’ ability to stage attacks against the US. Only 30% say that the goal should be to build a stable democratic government in Afghanistan.
Apropos that, Defense Secretary Bob Gates said today in Poland that the US should be open to a truce with the Taliban.
President Obama’s decision, announced on Tuesday, to send 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan was accompanied by a White House statement stressing that urgent action was needed because “the Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan.” This assertion would appear to reflect the opinions of a majority of Americans. When surveyed about Afghanistan earlier this month, Americans overwhelmingly said they would expect Afghanistan to fall under the Taliban’s control if the United States and its allies withdrew their forces. Only 21% said they did not expect the Taliban to retake control, and 9% had no opinion.
The harsh realities of the United States’ continued involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq amid a precarious economic situation at home likely weigh on many Americans. In fact, Americans are almost evenly divided about whether the United States should keep a significant number of troops in Afghanistan until the situation improves (48%) or whether it should set a timetable for withdrawal (47%). Those who support a timetable mostly favor getting troops out sooner rather than later. But at least 6 in 10 Americans either favor keeping troops in Afghanistan with no timetable, or favor a long-range timetable of more than two years.
** GALLUP POLL ON OBAMA AT ONE MONTH. Barack Obama has been president for a month now. And though he is governing at a time of tumult, and there have been some missteps, his job approval rating in today’s Gallup tracking poll is about what it was when he delivered his inaugural address on January 20th.
Even though 78% are dissatisfied with the state of the nation, Obama’s job approval rating is a whopping 63%. Only 24% disapprove.
** UPDATE: SCHWARZENEGGER BUDGET SIGNING AT 1 PM PACIFIC. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signing of the hard-won new California state budget will now take place at 1 PM in the Capitol.
** OBAMA TODAY. Fresh off his first international trip as president, President Barack Obama addresses many of the nation’s mayors on the economic recovery program this morning in the White House. Vice President Joe Biden will also speak. Among those in attendance will be Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, both potential Democratic candidates for governor of California.
Along with his daily security briefing, Obama will go over the economic situation, confer with senior advisors, and have his weekly luncheon with Vice President Biden.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continues her Asian tour. She’s already spoken today in Seoul, South Korea, again warning North Korea against further long-range missile testing and threats against its southern neighbor. She also discussed with reporters traveling with her a possible succession crisis in the Hermit State, to which she just named former Ambassador to South Korea Stephen Bosworth as special envoy.
Meanwhile, Israeli politics remain unsettled more than a week after national elections there. Though centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima finished first, coming from behind to catch conservative former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud party, it’s Netanyahu who’s gotten the nod from Israeli President Shimon Peres, the former Labour prime minister, to form a coalition government. That’s because parties of the right, some of them far right, won more seats than parties of the center and the left.
Far right leader Avigdor Lieberman, whose anti-Arab Israel Beiteinu party finished third in the voting, came out for Netanyahu the day before, making it clear that Netanyahu could form a right-wing coalition government. He prefers a national unity government, with Livni’s Kadima and Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labour – once the dominant party in the country, but now relegated to fourth place – in prominent roles. So far, Livni has turned him down.
Netanyahu has a six week period in which he can try to horse trade his way to a national unity governement. Failing that, he can have the right-wing coalition government, but at the probably cost of more damage to Israel’s reputation around the world.
Californian Leon Panetta was sworn in yesterday as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In a less complicated development, Californian Leon Panetta, the former White House chief of staff, federal budget director, and Northern California congressman, was sworn in yesterday as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
He promised to be an honest broker of intelligence, in unspoken contrast with the heavy politicization of CIA for most of this decade.
Panetta was a controversial pick, drawing early opposition from the far right and from fellow Californian Dianne Feinstein, the new chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she quickly dropped. He ended up winning unanimous confirmation both in her Senate Intelligence Committee and from the full Senate.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold private discussions in and around the Capitol today, mostly on California’s chronic budget crisis … No, that’s not right. I have to stop typing that. Thank God.
Schwarzenegger will sign California’s new budget this morning in a brief ceremony in the Capitol called a “photo spray.”
The former action superstar heads to Washington later today for the National Governor Association winter meeting there.
He will appear Sunday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos and on CNN’s State of the Union.
He is not attending this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Sacramento, which promises to be a festival of recriminations on the right. Not only against Schwarzenegger and the half-dozen Republican legislators who voted for tax hikes, but also the many more who voted for the open primary. Which, in addition to being a blow against right-wing politics, enabled the tax hikes to pass.
** CALIFORNIA: THE FAR RIGHT’S RITUAL DANCE ON THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF. Yes, it is Groundhog Day. Again. California governance is poised on the edge of a cliff, for the sixth day in a row one Republican vote shy of passing a budgetary mix of spending cuts, tax increases, borrowing, and various reforms, real and otherwise, to plug the state’s $41-plus billion gap over 18 months. Meanwhile, an increasingly conservative Republican Party in this state Barack Obama carried by 24 points dances about in a ritual purification ceremony, promoting non-existent budget solutions and launching coups against conservative party leaders who prove too pragmatic for the true believers.
Before getting to the unintentionally fascinating Republican politics, a word about the state budget. California has had a chronic budget problem dating back to the relatively short-lived dot-com boom, when it took on unsustainable spending programs and tax cuts, with both parties taking part in the party. Then Governor Gray Davis ended up going along, though he had told me he wouldn’t. The pressure from his own party was very strong.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger was swept into office in the 2003 recall, prompted mainly by Davis’s handling of the state’s electric power crisis early in the decade, the former action superstar promptly cut the car tax, to massive public approval. (Davis made two mistakes, incidentally, in the electric power crisis, which saw brief blackouts and skyrocketing rates in a partially deregulated system. First, in looking to Bill Clinton’s regulators (who didn’t help) and not immediately moving to long-term power contracts as the crisis began — Davis and his advisors shortsightedly didn’t want even a small increase in electric rates — and, later, in not moving very aggressively against merchant power generators manipulating the system.)
This combination of spending increases and tax cuts created a structural budget deficit, routinely papered over with accounting legerdemain and borrowing. The state made some progress, but everything went decidedly south with the advent of what is now the global economic crisis. Unlike the federal government, which can print money and borrow from China, as it did for eight years under George W. Bush, California has to balance its budget every year, or at least do a fairly convincing job of faking it. And unlike the federal government — and all but two other, much smaller states — California has the near unique requirement of a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Legislature to pass a budget or increase a tax. But not to cut a tax.
Enter the Republicans, who are getting more and more conservative as their ranks shrink. …
** AFGHANISTAN: RUSSIA TO THE RESCUE. In a very positive sign for the US effort in Afghanistan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that transit of US and NATO non-military supplies through Russia to troops in Afghanistan will begin within days.
Ironically, this comes on the 20th anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Kabul. And the man who commanded those Soviet forces, retired Lieutenant General Boris Gromov, warned the US today that a military surge in Afghanistan will not solve its problems there.
With our putative ally Pakistan increasingly unstable and jihadists carrying out many successful attacks on supply lines and convoys there — they seem to blow up the route over the legendary Khyber Pass every other week — alternative means of supply are increasingly necessary to sustain the US and NATO effort in Afghanistan.
That means, one way or another, Moscow, which can provide transit through its own territory and guarantee transit through Central Asian nations formerly part of the Soviet Union. There’s been a major dance underway for weeks on this, unreported by the conventional media, naturally. …
** “POST-PARTISANSHIP”: HOW IT WORKS, HOW IT DOESN’T. Back in 2007, when he was still an underdog candidate for president jousting with John Edwards (remember him?), Barack Obama said that he liked the “post-partisan” posturings of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the idea that people should set aside their partisan differences to solve big issues. Now, as president, he’s adopted much the same tack, to the dismay of hyper-partisans of all stripes.
They ought to be dismayed, because it works. To a point.
But not in a linear sense.
Let’s take a look at how it went in California, and how it may go in Washington. … From my February 12th column.
** OH, ABOUT THAT “END” OF THE OBAMA HONEYMOON … From my February 9th column.
** SMOOTH SAILING FOR PANETTA. … From my February 6th Huffington Post column.
** OBAMA IN THE TANK. … From my January 29th column.
** OBAMA AND THE CALIFORNIA WAY ON CLIMATE. … From my January 27th column.
** “MAC IS BACK?” HEY, IT NEVER LEFT. MACINTOSH TURNS 25. … From my January 24th column.
** OBAMA AND HIS COMMANDERS. … From my January 23rd column.
** OBAMA: RIDING WITH HISTORY. (NOTE: As Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States, this column was the featured column on the top of the front page of the Huffington Post.) … From my January 19th Huffington Post column.
** ANOTHER DAY: 24 AND THE AGE OF OBAMA. … From my January 13th column.
** 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, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. 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.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in two wars in the region, it’s valuable to keep up with news and perspectives from the leading Middle Eastern-based TV news network. Based in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Al Jazeera is very influential and more than a bit controversial.
Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer. The NWN live link to AJ does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading in the $37 to $38 per barrel range.
The drop of $110 per barrel since the record high over the summer comes on acknowledgment that the weak US and global economy will cut future demand and on the easing of previous geopolitical tensions in the Middle East surrounding a supposed attack on Iran.
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