President Barack Obama, flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, held his first official Cabinet meeting earlier in the week.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S AFPAK CRISIS. Meanwhile, I’ll be spending a fair amount of time the next few days roaming around the California Democratic convention, gathering information.
** CALIFORNIA 2010. Pakistan, merely one of America’s most critically important topics of concern, may be going critical, but I’ll spending most of the next couple of days at a California Democratic Party convention. Counter-intuitive, no?
Actually, I wouldn’t be writing a column over the weekend anyway, and I always attend these conventions. Though after dozens of state party conventions, and quite a few national conventions, the thrill of the events has largely dissipated.
They are good for networking and string-gathering, as well as updating scouting reports.
This convention focuses on the early stage of an underwhelming gubernatorial race, and the party’s angst over the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot. Angst because the party’s elected leaders are, however, reluctantly, for them and some activist opponents, who hate constraints on government, have no real world alternatives to them.
As for the prospective candidates for governor, we have the obvious frontrunner, former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown. Who is not a candidate yet, you see, because he hasn’t declared and hasn’t hired a retinue of aides and advisors. What he is doing is raising a lot of money, far more than his prospective rivals, and, as attorney general, involving himself in key issues that have ongoing public resonance.
As for the retinue of aides, I don’t know that he’s into that at all. He certainly doesn’t have to carry a big consulting payroll to tell him how to win elections, either in California, or in the various states in which he’s won presidential primaries. Brown usually shows up for key events by himself, or with a driver.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, running second behind Brown in most of the polls, won’t be on hand this weekend. There’s been a twitter or two of excitement about what it means, with most of it centering on how Villaraigosa supposedly can’t compete with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s months-in-the-making convention organization – he’ll hold a block party Saturday night sponsored by College Democrats featuring rap star Wyclef Jean – or Brown’s reception and somewhat sardonic tour of his father’s Governor’s Mansion.
Villaraigosa took a shot at Newsom in canceling, with an aide saying the mayor isn’t going to “Twitter while Rome burns.” Newsom, of course, formally announced his candidacy the other day with a tweet to followers – with a big assist from Newsom’s friend Ashton Kutcher, the King of Twitter (who tweeted to his more than one million followers about Newsom’s virtues) – and an appearance at Facebook headquarters.
The LA mayor and former Assembly speaker’s express reason for not attending is that he has a big city budget crisis to attend to. But San Francisco’s city budget crisis is proportionately bigger than LA’s, and that’s not stopping Newsom.
It may be, as I’ve suspected, that Villaraigosa, who would very much like to run for governor, has some hesitation about his ability to come from second (or third, in a new private poll put out by some consultants using a lot of pro-Newsom analysis) to first over Brown.
Villaraigosa is not a terrific platform speaker, as I noticed when he gave a speech at my invitation at a conference I helped organize some years ago.
Brown will give his usual strong speech. Newsom will give his usual good, charismatic speech. And I expected Villaraigosa to suffer some in comparison. It’s interested me that Villaraigosa has passed up other convention speaking opportunities.
But it’s far too early to count Villaraigosa out, as I’ve noticed some in the business are trying to do. Though both he and Newsom were hurt by personal scandals in their first terms as mayor, Villaraigosa is mayor of the state’s most important city, he’s charismatic and shrewd, he had success as Assembly speaker so he’s not a beginner at the state level, he has a bully pulpit in the LA media market, and he’s very popular with Latinos. (Though Brown, who was a close friend of Latino icon Cesar Chavez, has long been a champion of Latinos, he’s not actually Latino himself.)
Although he’s dropped out of the race, the first to declare, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, will also speak. He’s running for Congress now. He was always going to find it very hard to break through, especially since fundraising – always an achilles heel for him – was not going well.
So, another state Democratic convention. I just hope the Taliban don’t take Islamabad while I’m listening to Gavin Newsom sing the praises of a Grammy winner.
Incidentally, I had a long talk about all this stuff – well, not the Pakistan or Twitter stuff – last night with former Governor Gray Davis. More to follow on that.
** SCHMIDT AND PLOUFFE COMPARED NOTES YESTERDAY IN DELAWARE. The campaign directors of the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns, David Plouffe and Steve Schmidt (also Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign manager), appeared together late yesterday at the University of Delaware. Which, interestingly enough, they both attended.
Here’s some of what they had to say …
Schmidt, the father of hundreds of attacks on Obama, spoke of the president’s political skills with unabashed admiration.
“This was, in my view, the unfinished Bobby Kennedy campaign – the idealism, the passion, the inspiration he gave to people, it was organic and it was real and it wasn’t manufactured at a tactical level in the campaign.”
The McCain campaign, Schmidt said, was “the strategic equivalent of throwing a football through a tire at 50 yards,” an analogy that Plouffe agreed with – though he said he hadn’t seen it that way at the time. …
Plouffe was not quite content to grant Schmidt that the campaigns’ managers had nothing to do with the outcome. In fact, he said, he sympathized with Schmidt’s position of seeing only one, narrow path to victory because he’d faced it himself – in the primary. “We thought that nine times out of ten Hillary Clinton would probably win the primary,” he said. “If we made one big mistake we’d be out of the race.” …
What Schmidt was, mostly, was resigned: He recounted the frustrations and desperation of the campaign, culminating with the decision that insiders continue to debate: To nominate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, rather than McCain’s first choice, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, for vice president.
After taking soundings on Lieberman, Schmidt said, “It was communicated back to us very clearly from within the party that not only was Senator Lieberman not acceptable, but any pro-choice nominee was not acceptable, [and] it would lead to a floor fight at the convention with an alternate nominee for Vice President put into play.” …
Plouffe, still a key advisor to the White House political operation, also reflected on Obama’s first hundred days, and argued that his agenda is as ambitious as promised, and brushed off the notion that Obama is doing too much.
“Only in Washington would this be a credible debate – that maybe we should wait to make our country more energy independent and create cutting-edge green jobs, maybe we should wait to cut healthcare costs that are strangling business and families, maybe we should wait to create more graduates in math and science,” he said. “This isn’t even a decision for [Obama].”
“One of the tough things about this politically is that a lot of the progress we make in these areas won’t always be evident in the next election or the one after that or the one after that,” Plouffe said.
“In 20 or 25 years when we have wind turbines all over this country and solar panels and we’ve figured out how to deal with coal emissions and we’ve figured out how to deal with nuclear storage and we’re exporting jobs and technology around the world,” Plouffe said, it will be clear “that at this moment Washington for the first time in a long time answered the call and did the right thing.”
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama receives his daily intelligence and economic briefings this morning and meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama then has his weekly working luncheon meeting with Vice President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.
At 10:30 AM Pacific, Obama speaks on higher education and help for the middle class in the Diplomatic Room of the White House.
Which is a rather limited public schedule for this president.
Obama will be spending a good deal of time focusing again on the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Under the new administration, which replaced that of General Pervez Musharaff, the Pakistani Taliban have metastized through much of the country, and are edging perilously close to the capital of Islamabad.
Readers will recall reports here earlier this month of a virtual shutdown of activities at the US Embassy there, and subsequent arrests of 350 suspected jihadists in and around the capital in preemption of major terrorist strikes.
Obama is about to dispatch Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Islamabad to confer with the Pakistani leadership.
The deterioration of the state and rolling Talibanization of Pakistan is a huge challenge to America’s “AfPak” strategy.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE: HAPPY ABOUT IMPLEMENTATION OF HIS LOW-CARBON FUEL STANDARD. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no public events today. He is engaged in private meetings and discussions around the state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot.
Schwarzenegger was very heartened by the California Air Resources Board’s adoption of regulations late yesterday to implement his 2007 executive order establishing the first low-carbon fuel standard in America.
Schwarzenegger issued his executive order to further the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program. President Barack Obama has also called for a low-carbon fuel standard at the national level.
The Air Resources Board adopted regulations over objections from some business interests and corn-based ethanol producers, with a phased-in reduction beginning in 2011 and culminating in 2020 with the carbon content of fuels reduced by 10%.
Schwarzenegger, incidentally, who told me in my Tuesday afternoon live webchat with him that he planned to appear in the forthcoming Terminator Salvation movie if it worked out technologically, will be appearing in the film. More to follow on that. You can listen to the interview here.
** OBAMA’S EARTH DAY ENERGY DECLARATION: CALIFORNIA MAY BE THE NATIONAL MODEL HE SAYS, BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. President Barack Obama made a big show for Earth Day of his commitment to a much greener energy future, and in the process paid a huge compliment to California for dramatically altering its energy path three decades ago. But even though California, as Obama puts it, shows the rest of America what can be done, it’s not enough.
Obama spoke after touring a wind energy equipment factory, once a Maytag washing machine factory, in Newton, Iowa. While he talked up innovation in new technologies, he noted that, in our history, increases in innovation are generally coupled with big increases in consumption. And that that can lead to disaster.
Obama framed the the development of green energy technology — which includes energy efficiency tech as well as renewable sources such as wind, solar, waves, geothermal, and biomass — as the way out of the usual false choice on the environment. …
** THE REPUBLICAN CHOICE: REACT OR MODERNIZE. It’s been a strange week for the Republican Party, with noisy events pushing the old-time religion, a speech by a prominent consultant urging a new moderation, and back-to-the-future reactions to President Barack Obama’s friendly gestures to Hugo Chavez and other critics of America.
Who will prevail? The reactors or the modernizers? …
** THE STATE OF PLAY OF STATE OF PLAY. State of Play is a political thriller wrapped inside a journalistic thriller that works better as the latter.
It’s a good film with a strong cast that is based on a better BBC miniseries which is better cast than this American remake. Which is not the same as having a better cast.
The big bad here is a Blackwater-like security outfit called Pointcorp. In a sign of how the mighty have fallen, Blackwater already had to change its name to the faintly prepostereous Xe, so bad has its reputation become in the wake of being banned from Iraq. In a further sign, a Blackwater equivalent is the big bad — so far, at least — on this season of the longtime hit thriller series 24.
Which starts to get at a problem with the movie. There’s something very familiar about it, which may be inevitable as the story gets condensed into the customary thriller elements.
In the 2003 British miniseries, the big bad was an energy corporation. Which may actually be more timely than poor old Blackwater at this point, though it probably seemed very timely a few years ago when the American remake was being conceived. … From my April 18th column.
** 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. … From my April 17th column.
** 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. … From my April 15th column.
** 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. … From my April 13th column.
** 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. … From my April 9th column.
** TURKEY: NOT THE USUAL GEOPOLITICAL SANDWICH. … From my April 6th column.
** RE-SETTING THE GEOPOLITICAL TABLE: HOW OBAMA’S BIG TRIP IS GOING. … From my April 3rd column.
** AFGHANISTAN: THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM? … From my March 30th 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 in the $51 to $52 per barrel range.
This is up from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, due in part to some positive economic signs and in part to fresh geopolitical jitters over Pakistan.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.