President Barack Obama met today in the Oval Office with NATO Secretary General Jan de Hoop Scheffer. The principal topics were Afghanistan – the new US strategy will be released soon – and improved relations with Russia. Obama takes part in the 60th anniversary NATO summit next week.
** PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING. We can’t afford to go back, and things are on course. That’s the meta-message from six days of very high-profile appearances by President Barack Obama, culminating with Tuesday night’s prime time news conference.
“We can’t afford to go back,” as in, “We can’t afford not to transform this economy as we revive it.”
Stanch the hemorrhaging of our personal and governmental financial base on health care by reforming it. Transform our resource base by shifting from non-renewable energy sources dominated by countries we can’t count on to new, greener technologies that curtail the greenhouse effect, create jobs, and position America for leadership in new industries. Recreate our knowledge base by improving a slumping education system. Revive our physical base by investing in infrastructure.
As for the “things being on course” part of the message, what struck me most about Obama’s prime time news conference, the second of his young presidency — George W. Bush and Bill Clinton did only four apiece during the 16 years they served — was how routine it felt.
While the nation’s media culture seems only slightly less hysterical, Tuesday night’s White House event had little of the crisis-ridden atmospherics of Obama’s first prime time presser. …
** SCHWARZENEGGER SAYS HE’S NOT RUNNING FOR ANYTHING, JOINS WITH EX-NBA STAR JOHNSON TO END SACRAMENTO’S TENT CITY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared at the state fairgrounds at mid-day today with Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the ex-NBA All-Star, to announce that homeless people living in a tent city will now be housed at Cal Expo.
Both men described it as a temporary and situation-specific solution on homelessness, targeting a tent city that has drawn international media attention on Al Jazeera, the BBC, and other major outlets.
Schwarzenegger also said that he is not running for office, making it easier for him to “do the right thing” in an emergency to raise taxes. Specifically, he’s not running for Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat, he’s not running for Congress, he’s not running for re-election as governor since the state’s term limits law applies to him, and he can’t run for president due to the arcane Constitutional stricture that naturalized citizens are not eligible. (This was placed in the Constitution for fear that agents of a foreign power, namely the British, would regain leadership of the then young nation.)
The San Francisco Chronicle had a curious story over the weekend which seemed to say that Schwarzenegger is running for the Senate. It was largely based on Democratic consultant Garry South’s insistence that Schwarzenegger will run.
South, currently strategist for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s exploratory bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, was chief strategist for former Governor Gray Davis.
South, who predicted that Hillary Clinton would beat Barack Obama, insisted in 2003 that Schwarzenegger would never run for governor. He was wrong about that, too.
** CLINTON SAYS U.S. SHARES BLAME FOR MEXICAN DRUG WARS. En route to Mexico, a relatively new trouble spot on the American geopolitical agenda, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that America’s demand for drugs and inability to stop the flow of weapons are major reasons why Mexico’s government is in increasing danger of destabilization at the hands of powerful drug cartels.
The Mexican government is increasingly battling with heavily-armed drug cartel members. The cartels, which sometimes fight one another, have also infiltrated the government and its forces. Some 6300 people were killed in drug cartel violence last year, with more than 1000 killed in the first two months of this year. The violence is increasingly prevalent along the border.
The principal mission for Clinton, a former first lady and runner-up for the Democratic presidential nomination, is to meet with officials in Mexico City and Monterrey to offer assistance and coordination in the anti-drug cartel fight.
Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, announced that the US will spend $700 million on a new program to use technology and security forces to better secure the border.
** AFSCME OPPOSES THE CALIFORNIA SPECIAL ELECTION INITIATIVES. The state council of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has come out against the six state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot. Though a major AFSCME local is for all six initiatives.
The AFSCME state council dislikes the state spending limits in the budget comprise. And its solution to California’s chronic budget crisis? Removal of the constitutional requirement, one which only two small states share with California in the US, for passage of a budget and raising of taxes.
The California Teachers Association and the state’s building and construction trades unions support all six initiatives.
** IS OBAMA HAPPY ABOUT CARD CHECK BEING OFF THE TABLE IN THIS SESSION? As I noted yesterday, Senator Arlen Specter’s announcement that he will not vote against a Republican filibuster on card check, the labor bid to make union organizing easier, essentially kills the proposal in this session of Congress. MSNBC’s First Read suggests that President Barack Obama is probably quietly pleased about this.
Not that he’s not for it, but because his agenda is so expansive and immediate it might have been pushing things too far in picking a big fight with business.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING.
President Barack Obama held his second prime time news conference last night in the East Room of the White House.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has a somewhat less high-profile day today in the wake of last night’s prime time news conference, the second of his young presidency, which again is earning mostly good reviews.
Obama receives his daily intelligence and economic briefings and meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He meets this morning in the Oval Office with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Obama participates in the 60th anniversary NATO summit next week in Brussels, following the G-20 (group of 20 advanced economies) summit in London.
Obama has lunch with the Senate Democratic Caucus in the Mansfield Room of the Capitol. Some moderate Democrats are trying to alter his budget, including cutting spending on new energy sources and health care and stripping out the middle class tax cut.
Obama will also be pushing his administration’s plan for greatly expanded powers to regulate the non-bank financial sector. The repeal of the Glass-Steagal Act at the end of the Clinton Administration – pushed by former Texas Senator-turned Swiss banker Phil Gramm, a financial deregulationist who served as a national co-chairman of the John McCain for President campaign – removed old boundaries between banks, insurance companies, brokerages, and various investment funds. But new regulation to reflect the new realities did not follow.
In the late afternoon, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden commemorate Greek Independence Day in the East Room of the White House.
Tonight Obama speaks at two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee, the first two he has attended as president.
Obama is putting the finishing touches on his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He’s also monitoring closely the governance situation in Israel, as well as the increasingly unstable situation in Mexico.
Expected last week, the new Afghanistan strategy seems now set to be released at the end of this week. That will be only a few days in advance of the international conference on Afghanistan and Pakistan set for next week in the Netherlands, and just as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization conference on Afghanistan begins in Moscow.
In Israel, a serious problem with a likely hard right coalition government – which would further isolate the country internationally – may be ameliorated with the more liberal Labour Party agreeing to enter the governing coalition. Labour, which finished fourth in last month’s vote behind the conservative Likud, the centrist Kadima, and the far right Israel Beiteinu, agreed in a split vote at a party conference to follow the lead of Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is a friend of Obama’s.
With regard to Mexico, Obama dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to visit Mexico City and Monterrey. Mexico is suffering from increasing violence caused by the nation’s powerful drug cartels.
Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor, announced a new program to combat the Mexican drug cartels along the Southwestern border. The cartels are receiving major armaments from sources inside the US, and are increasingly terrorizing citizens in Mexican border towns.
Obama will hold a summit meeting next month in Mexico City with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified yesterday in Congress that the federal government needs broad new powers to regulate non-bank financial firms.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private discussions in and around the Capitol, primarily around the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th California special election ballot.
He and the four legislative leaders who negotiated the compromise budget – state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, and former Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill – are meeting with editorial boards this week urging the passage of the special election initiatives.
Schwarzenegger joins Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, the former NBA star, this morning for a press conference to address the state capital’s tent city of homeless people.
** OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK. President Barack Obama faces a rugged week with multiple challenges on the economy and in geopolitics. … Is this another bailout to Wall Street? Or is it needed pragmatism to work with a deeply troubled, farcically entitled though still necessary private financial sector? … Obama’s new Afghanistan strategy review, expected to be completed last week, now apparently won’t be released until next week, when an international conference on the troubled nation convenes in the Netherlands at The Hague. …
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE ARNOLD ALLIANCE AND MORE. President Barack Obama is back in the East after a whirlwind visit to California which pointed up his strengths and suggested some things he can do differently.
Polling shows that Obama, who crushed John McCain here last November, 61% to 37%, is the only really popular politician in California now. The state is wracked by the recession, which took hold here earlier than most other places, and hampered by a largely dysfunctional state Capitol.
As important as Obama is for California, so, too, is California for Obama. …
** CNBC CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM ITS HOUSE, AND OTHER FIN DE SIECLE FOLLIES. CNBC can see Russia from its house. It’s just one example of a fin de siecle folly, albeit one of the the most recent and dramatic.This is clearly end-of-an-era time, but some of the old era standbys haven’t gotten the memo. Or been able to read it. …From my March 16th column.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL: BACKBITING ON THE EVE OF THE NEW OBAMA STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. With the Obama Administration’s strategic review of the Afghanistan crisis nearly complete — the report should be out sometime next week — the Afghan government seems pretty unhappy.
And not just about the situation in the country, which is not good, with successful Taliban attacks taking place even in the capital city of Kabul.
The current government, under the Bush/Cheney Administration’s choice for president, Hamid Karzai, seems disgruntled about a likely change in direction under President Barack Obama.
Publicly, Karzai supports Obama. But some of his top officials this week undermined likely key elements in the new strategy. …
** OBAMA’S DARING TOUR D’HORIZON: THE NEW PRESIDENT ENGAGES MULTIPLE CRISES AND PROBES FOR OPPORTUNITY. In the midst of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression, President Barack Obama is making major moves elsewhere. That doesn’t mean he’s not focused on the domestic economy; quite the contrary. To follow the conventional media, he’s doing little else. What it does mean is he pursuing a big agenda in geopolitics.
If the economic crisis were not so grave and the conventional media so insular, any one of these moves would be big news. …
** WHITHER WATCHMEN? IS THIS BIG, DARK, GEEKY, LEFTY MOVIE THE NEXT COMIC BOOK BLOCKBUSTER? … From my March 9th column.
** THE TROUBLE WITH TWITTER: WHY “TWEETS” ARE LIKE “BLIPVERTS.” … From my March 5th 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.
** 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 $53 per barrel.
This is up about $19 a barrel since enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, on anticipation of increased economic activity down the line, and on increased implementation of already agreed upon OPEC production cutbacks to support the price.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.