Cuban President Raul Castro welcomed recent overtures from President Barack Obama and said he is ready to talk about all aspects of life on the Cold War flashpoint island, a statement hailed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE STATE OF PLAY ON STATE OF PLAY.
** RAPPROCHEMENT WITH CUBA? As the Summit of the Americas begins on the Caribbean island of Trinidad, Cuban President Raul Castro is nowhere to be seen. As a non-democracy, Cuba is the only nation in the Hemisphere not taking part in the summit. But speaking at a summit in Caracas with his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Castro said he is willing to discuss all aspects of his country’s policies, including human rights and the remaining political prisoners, with the Obama Administration.
Obama took what he described yesterday in Mexico City as “the first step” by ending restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba by Cuban-Americans with relatives on the island nation. The next move, he says, is up to Cuba. And so far at least, that move is strictly rhetorical.
Still, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hailed the move by Castro, who replaced ailing but still active brothel Fidel a couple of years ago.
The head of the Organization of American States said today he will push for Cuba’s reinstatement. Cuba was ousted 47 years ago from membership.
While I’ve never been caught up in the cha-cha-cha Marxist romance of Cuba, the Cuban Missile Crisis was a long time ago and the reality is that we have closer relations with countries that are at least as problematic in their practices.
** SCHMIDT LAYS OUT HIS VIEWS ON THE FUTURE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND WHY REPUBLICANS SHOULD EMBRACE GAY MARRIAGE. As mentioned in an item early this morning, Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s former presidential campaign director and manager of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s big re-election win as California’s governor, spoke today to the Log Cabin Republicans national convention in Washington.
Schmidt, who I profiled on the Huffington Post after he took over the McCain campaign last year, is a hardball political consultant but not a hardline conservative. He encouraged Schwarzenegger to champion the climate change issue and push for the state’s biggest infrastructure investments in two generations. Schmidt, former counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a moderate on social issues, and not merely because his sister is a lesbian.
Speaking publicly for one of the first times since the end of the presidential campaign, John McCain’s campaign manager Steve Schmidt painted a dire portrait of the state of the Republican Party, arguing that the GOP has largely been co-opted by its religious elements.
“If you put public policy issues to a religious test, you risk becoming a religious party,” Schmidt declared. “And in a free country, a political party cannot be viable in the long term if it is seen as a sectarian party.”
The remarks came in a passionate, roughly 20-minute speech before the Log Cabin Republican’s national convention, in which Schmidt laid out the case for a far more open party — one which did not consider gay marriage to be a “litmus test” issue. And while he made it a purpose not to offend social conservatives — they “remain an indispensable part of the Republican coalition,” he said — Schmidt did not hide his concerns that religion had become the predominant thread of the GOP. …
Looking beyond the issue of marriage, Schmidt’s diagnosis of the GOP’s ills was fairly ominous. “Our coalition,” he declared, “is shrinking and losing ground to segments of the population that is growing, whether it is with suburban voters, working class, college educated voters, Hispanics, or left handed Albania psychics, the percentage voting republican has declined precipitously.”
Schmidt warned, particularly, that losses among Hispanic voters threatened to “cost the Republicans the entire southwest,” a development that would make winning 270 electoral votes a near impossibility. “Had Sen. McCain not been the nominee in 2008,” he said, “I am convinced we would have lost the state of Arizona.”
The road back would be arduous, he added, even if politics are inherently cyclical. “I think Republicans ought to embrace this ‘Lord of the Flies’ period,” he said at one point, “when there is no clear leader in the party. And the problems of the party are not going to be corrected by any single big day event, you know, tea parties for instance. The problems of the party will be fixed over time and as we go through this period of time. There needs to be an opportunity for new leaders to emerge.”
And while the chance for an Obama-backlash was apparent — “should the recession grow deeper or longer” — and the likelihood of a “national disaster or any number of other contingencies” remained, Republicans, Schmidt added, should not “take comfort from knowing our party’s success could come at the expense of the country or rely on blunders of the administration.”
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, seen in this NWN video, sued the Environmental Protection Agency in 2007 for ignoring greenhouse gases.
** E.P.A. – GREENHOUSE GASES ENDANGER PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE. The US Environmental Protection Agency today issued a long-expected finding that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare. EPA scientists mostly decided as long as two years that such was the case, but were blocked from issuing such a finding by Bush/Cheney political appointees.
This move clears the way for regulation by the EPA and/of legislation, after a 60-day public comment period. It also further clears the way for the EPA to grant the long-sought waiver under the Clean Air Act for California to implement its vehicle emissions law, enacted in 2002. The EPA noted in today’s finding that vehicles are a principal sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The Obama Administration would like to do an omnibus bill on greenhouse gas reductions, but will be hard-pressed to do so in the next year. The California program, which will encompass many other states able to follow California’s lead under the Clean Air Act, is a backdoor way to set up greenhouse gas regulation over most of the country via state regulation.
Obama endorsed the California approach in 2007, while a seeming darkhorse candidate, in Iowa, as previously reported. He pledged during the campaign to make sure the EPA granted California its waiver, which had been automatic prior to the greenhouse gas issue, something the Bush/Cheney Administration denied was a problem.
President Barack Obama, yesterday in Mexico City, pledged help for Mexico in curbing the flow of guns and money to the drug cartels, but will not push for reinstatement of the US assault weapons ban.
** OBAMA AND MEXICO: MANAGING INCIPIENT CHAOS. Another country, another crisis. President Barack Obama summited yesterday in Mexico City with President Felipe Calderon, pledging to help Mexico’s elected government beat back the challenge of powerful drug cartels that increasingly out-gun Mexican security forces. But Obama’s measures will only manage the incipient chaos, not end it.
Which has actually long been typical of America’s policies with regard to Mexico.
In his 1981 book “The Nine Nations of North America,” author Joel Garreau referred to the Border Patrol as “a regulatory agency.” In the sense that it was not set up to halt illegal immigration from Mexico but to manage it. To make it difficult enough to prevent an open border scenario, but not so difficult as to prevent American businesses from benefiting from the efficiencies of an influx of cheap labor, even as American social institutions struggled to provide services. …
** SCHMIDT URGES LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE IN WASHINGTON SPEECH. In a speech today to the Log Cabin Republicans national convention in Washington, former John McCain for President campaign director Steve Schmidt is urging the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Log Cabin Republicans are the principal organization for gays and lesbians in the Republican Party.
Schmidt, who is married to a former Navy nurse, managed the landslide re-election victory of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he continues to advise, and ran the war room in former President George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign.
He’s previously urged the legalization of same-sex marriage, but today he is arguing that the Republicans need to get on the side of history and push aside old prejudices. I’ll have more about this.
President Barack Obama, speaking yesterday in Mexico City in advance of today’s Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago – from which Cuba is excluded – noted steps he’s just taken to liberalize relations with Cuba and said it’s time for Cuba to make some moves.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama travels this morning from Mexico City, where he held a summit meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, to the Caribbean island of Trinidad, where he will take part in the 34-nation Summit of the Americas.
The only nation not represented in this collection of democracies is Cuba. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has already announced that he will not sign the summit’s communique in protest of Cuba’s exclusion.
Vice President Joe Biden is today again in Missouri.
Biden attends a morning meeting at the University of Missouri in St. Louis on making college affordable to the middle class. In the afternoon, Biden makes an announcement, also in St. Louis, of a new program to prepare Missouri youth for future jobs.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks this morning at the California March for Water rally at San Luis Reservoir in Los Banos, a community near the Central Coast.
This is the final day of the water march organized by the Latino Water Coalition, a bipartisan group backed by growers and Latino community organizations.
** EARL GREY, ANYONE? A CALIFORNIA CAPITOL TEA PARTY. Before a crowd that organizers claimed was 15,000 to 20,000, but these experienced ex-advance man’s eyes saw as about 3,000, a parade of right-wing personalities used tax day to decry taxation, government, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and President Barack Obama with a rally outside California’s state Capitol in Sacramento.
The event, like other so-called tea parties around the country, was heavily promoted by the Fox News channel, right-wing talk radio hosts, and the right-wing blogosphere. …
If you are wondering what Fox News is doing organizing anti-administration rallies around the country, its obvious strategy is to aggregate all the already existing opponents of Obama into one audience. …
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: OF PIRATES AND MISSILES. Barack Obama’s management of two flashpoint crises — both relatively minor but caught up in the now typical hysteria of our media culture — gives us some good clues about his crisis management style.
The just concluded hostage crisis off the coast of Somalia and the launch early this month of a new North Korean missile showed Obama in “no drama” mode, determined to avoid distraction and continue with his core messaging strategy.
Obama actually took a lower profile public role with the more consequential of the two crises, the Somali pirate hostage crisis, than he did with the North Korean missile launch. But he seems to have spent more time behind the scenes on the crisis on which he spent the least amount of time before the cameras. …
** OBAMA’S NEW GEOPOLITICS: 10 KEY TAKEAWAYS. President Barack Obama’s just concluded big international tour is part of a major reshuffling in geopolitics. Here are 10 key takeaways from happenings in and around his trip. …
** TURKEY: NOT THE USUAL GEOPOLITICAL SANDWICH. In the wake of some desultory results over the weekend at the NATO and European Union summits, President Barack Obama is in Turkey Monday and Tuesday making a hard bid for what could be a huge new alliance for America.
The US has long had cordial relations with Turkey, the only Muslim nation in NATO. But after the end of the Cold War, things drifted between the two countries, only to turn downright frosty during the Bush/Cheney years.
The principal problem was the previous administration’s insistence on the Iraq War, with the overarching problem that of the administration’s dominant neoconservative ideology lending the distinct atmospherics of a “clash between civilizations.” … From April 6th column.
** RE-SETTING THE GEOPOLITICAL TABLE: HOW OBAMA’S BIG TRIP IS GOING. One down, three to go. At a time when the geopolitical table is being re-set, President Barack Obama is in the midst of a huge international tour. London’s G-20 summit – with several bilateral mini-summits having taken place on the side — has concluded. The NATO summit is underway in France and Germany. Waiting not far off in the wings are the European Union summit in Prague and an intriguing summit in Turkey.
With NATO’s future mission very unclear, I suspect the two most successful stops will be the first and the last. … From my April 3rd column.
** AFGHANISTAN: THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? America has won two wars in Afghanistan in the past quarter-century. First against the late Soviet Union, then against the radical Islamist Taliban. But each time, eminently distractable America has taken its eye off the ball, and the victories have proved evanescent.
Now, under new President Barack Obama, the U.S. is hoping the third time’s the charm. But does the new strategy miss the reasons why America succeeded — to the extent it did — the first two times around in Afghanistan? Does it meet the announced mission, or lead to something else? And how is it faring so far, in the midst of international conferences and at the beginning of a tour by Obama that takes him to summits in Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Turkey? …
** PRIME TIME O: HOW THE OMNIPRESENT PRESIDENT IS DOING. … From my March 25th column.
** OBAMA’S RUGGED WEEK. … From my March 23rd column.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: THE ARNOLD ALLIANCE AND MORE. … From my March 20th column.
** CNBC CAN SEE RUSSIA FROM ITS HOUSE, AND OTHER FIN DE SIECLE FOLLIES. …From my March 16th column.
** OUR MAN IN KABUL: BACKBITING ON THE EVE OF THE NEW OBAMA STRATEGY FOR AFGHANISTAN. … From my March 13th column.
** OBAMA’S DARING TOUR D’HORIZON: THE NEW PRESIDENT ENGAGES MULTIPLE CRISES AND PROBES FOR OPPORTUNITY. … From my March 11th 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. Having crashed over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading around $51 per barrel.
This is up about $17 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.