President Barack Obama told the nation’s governors this morning during a White House meeting that he is directing $15 billion of federal funds into Medicaid health care programs in the states.
** NEW POLL: THAT TERRIBLY CONTROVERSIAL MICHELLE OBAMA … I remember hearing all the time last year about what a problem Michelle Obama was going to be for Barack Obama’s campaign. She was angry, had a chip on her shoulder, wasn’t proud of America, wrote a bad senior thesis at Princeton, or so the stories went. The brand new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that Michelle Obama is the most popular first lady in decades. She starts off much popular than did Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Bush, or Nancy Reagan. She is viewed favorably by 49%, unfavorably by only 5%. 44% have no opinion of her. Hillary Clinton started off with a 44% favorable rating, to 16% unfavorable, while Nancy Reagan had a 28% favorable rating at the start of her husband’s presidency. And another myth bites the dust.
** ABC/WASHPOST POLL: BIG BACKING FOR OBAMA AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY PROGRAM. The new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds President Barack Obama’s job approval rating at 68%. And support for the economic recovery program he got through Congress – despite lots of media flak – at a whopping 64%. Oddly, I just heard right-wing Congressman Tom McClintock, citing spurious polling numbers, tell the California Republican Party convention over the weekend over the weekend that the stimulus plan was wildly unpopular and had already brought Republicans back to political parity in America. Now resuming discussion of the real world … Obama’s popularity is extraordinarily high amongst Democrats, and very high with Republicans. But less than half as high with Republicans as with Democrats. Obama gets the nod on the economy over Republicans by a whopping 61% to 26%. He also gets credit for reaching out to Republicans, even though few GOP politicians are reaching back to him. But was predicted …
** RIGHT TRACK/WRONG TRACK TICKS UPWARD. The latest AP poll measuring whether voters think America is on the right track or the wrong track has ticked upward since the enactment of President Barack Obama’s phase one economic recovery bill.
It’s now at 40% right track/49% wrong track. Before Obama’s inauguration in January, it was at 35% right track/54% wrong track.
In early December, it was 32% right track/60% wrong track.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHITMAN’S SAMPLER: FORMER EBAY CEO JOINS THE CONSERVATIVE REPUBLICAN CULTURE IN EARNEST.
The Morning Column: MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
Another big week in presidential politics, and a more relaxed week in California politics.
President Barack Obama delivers his first address to Congress, Tuesday night in prime time. He will discuss his first federal budget – he is seeking cuts even as he implements one of the largest economic programs in American history – the economic crisis, and some moves in America’s geopolitical crises.
After meeting with many of the nation’s mayors last week, and admonishing them to spend new federal funds with care, Obama had dinner last night with most of the nation’s governors and met again in a more business-like setting this morning.
While Obama has had very little luck with House Republicans, and only some luck with Senate Republicans, he is forging alliances with top Republican governors, most notably Florida Governor Charlie Crist and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Both praised him yesterday on Sunday TV chat shows. His Republican gubernatorial critics of the day? South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Lousiana’s Bobby Jindal, who may, somewhat incongruously, hope to run for president in 2010.
Jindal will deliver the Republican response Tuesday night to the president’s address.
Having the governors of South Carolina and Louisiana – both of whom have said they won’t take federal economic recovery dollars – as the face of the opposition is good for Obama. It shows the Republican Party pinned back into a geographical and ideological corner.
On the geopolitical front, the Obama Administration continues its complex dance with Russia, which is now aiding the supply of US troops fighting in Afghanistan, but wants more concessions on its influence in its “near abroad” and so is still providing some assistance to Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel’s unsettled governance continues in the wake of elections two weeks ago. (See item just below.) Europe is in in economic turmoil, with Central and Eastern European nations sliding toward insolvency.
And Mexico is becoming a sleeper issue of major concern, as drug cartels alternately battle and infiltrate the government, sometimes forcing temporary bridge closures along the border with the US.
In California politics, a quieter week. Gubernatorial hopefuls continue their moves, which are still pretty low-key, and I have a column coming on this.
The dust is settling from the controversial state budget compromise, with California’s Republicans still reeling over the breaking of their budget blockade and historic tax increase occasioned with key Republican votes.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be increasingly evident in public later this week, following his return from Washington, talking about the budget and the economic crisis.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama meets with most of the nation’s governors in the White House, then holds a press avail on the White House lawn. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is there for both.
Obama is releasing another $15 billion from the economic recovery program to pay for health care costs.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden host a fiscal responsibility summit in the White House in advance of Obama’s big address tomorrow and release of a proposed federal budget. Which he proposes to cut, with major cuts coming in the Terror War effort around the world.
Meanwhile, back from what looks like a successful tour of Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that she will go to the Middle East next week
Perhaps the cloudy Israeli political scene will be more settled by then. Though centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s Kadima finished first, conservative former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s Likud finds more splinter right-wing parties as allies. So President Shimon Peres, a former Labour prime minister, gave the nod to Netanyahu to try to form a government.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. After he and First Lady Maria Shriver attended a dinner in the White House last night, he participated in a private meeting with President Obama and other governors in the White House this morning and then appeared publicly with the president on the White House lawn.
Schwarzenegger is expected to return to California later today.
He will then work with Californian voters to explain the controversial new state budget and deal with the economic crisis.
After five previous Academy Award nominations, Kate Winslet won the Best Actress Oscar last night for The Reader. Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture, Sean Penn nabbed another Oscar as Best Actor for Milk, and the late Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for a performance for the ages as the Joker in The Dark Knight.
** FAR RIGHT FURY OVER CALIFORNIA TAX HIKES AND OPEN PRIMARY. Bill Bennett told conservative California Republican convention delegates meeting in Sacramento just what they wanted to hear today. In a speech that sounded exactly like what he was saying 20 years ago — aside from substituting Islamic terrorists for Soviet Communists as the big bad — the veteran right-wing pundit and former Reagan era education secretary soothed the audience by telling them that their ideology hadn’t really lost in November. Because John McCain didn’t run as a conservative. Enough of a conservative, that is. And, besides, Barack Obama won big because the education system has brainwashed younger voters.
However, much as they liked being pandered to by Bennett’s old-time religion, California’s far right Republicans are fit to be tied now. After half of their state convention, they’re engaging in a
festival of recriminations over a half dozen of their legislators breaking ranks to pass a big tax increase to help out the strapped state budget, as well as another 15 GOP legislators voting to pass an open primary system in the Golden State. The two moves are viewed as anathema by the far right. …
** 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 around $40 per barrel.
This is up several dollars per barrel since the enactment of the Obama economic recovery bill, which may stimulate the economy into greater activitiy and, hence, energy use..
The drop of $107 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.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.