In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama talks about doing away with “old habits and stale thinking” in government.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S AFPAK CRISIS.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: ANGST AND IRONY FOR SUCCESSFUL DEMOCRATS.
** IN SUNDAY VOTE FILLED WITH ANGST AND IRONY, CAL DEMS BACK TWO OF THE KEY SPECIAL ELECTION INITIATIVES, GO NEUTRAL ON OTHERS. Although all five of the key state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot received majority votes to sustain the recommendation of the party’s resolutions committee during a floor fight at the California Democratic Party convention, only two were endorsed.
That’s because the floor vote required a super-majority for endorsement, 60% of those delegates voting. Ironically, the opponents to the initiatives all oppose the super-majority requirement in the Legislature on budget and revenue votes.
Prop 1A, the state spending limits and rainy day fund measure which also extends temporary tax hikes, looked at first like it won in a show of delegate cards on the convention floor. But it fell just short, with 58% in favor. Props 1D, shift of funds tobacco tax revenues from special purpose early childhood development, and 1E, shift of high-income taxpayer revenues from special mental health programs, both redircted for general fund uses, received smaller majority votes, also falling short of the party endorsement.
The delegates, in their wisdom, voted by big supermajority margins to endorse Prop 1B, which carves out big bucks for the education budget, and Prop 1C, which would “securitize” future lottery earnings to provide billions more in revenue. But Prop 1B doesn’t work without Prop 1A. So angst, understandable or not, trumped logic.
The party also endorsed Prop 1F, a totally symbolic measure which would block legislative pay increases during budget deficit years.
** INTO THE NIGHT WITH CAL DEMS. The terribly dramatic California Democratic convention continued into late Saturday, naturally, and will culminate on Sunday with an expected floor fight over the proposed endorsement of all six state budget compromise-related initiatives on the May 19th special election ballot. The party’s resolutions committee overwhelmingly endorsed the initiatives, despite opposition on the left to the new state spending limits in the budget agreement worked out by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders.
First to recap some some convention business, then a bit on parties. Between this convention stuff and the Formula One race in Bahrain, it’s not good for my frequently battered sleep cycle.
Former state Senate President Pro Tem and Congressman John Burton (Barbara Boxer started out in his district office) was overwhelmingly elected state party chairman, as expected, with some 76% of the vote. A salty, classic character who is either a coolly casual or utterly atrocious dresser, take your pick, Burton said something especially memorable when he was arrested for bookmaking from a San Francisco parking lot payphone in the 1960s. Use your imagination.
He’ll provide endless color, of course (I’ve written a lot about him), and pledges to push the party to repeal the two-thirds vote requirement for passage of a state budget and revenue measures and to oppose the open primary initiative, which the Republican Party leadership also hates.
Burton replaces Art Torres, the former state senator and ex-United Farm Workers lobbyist who has been party chairman since 1996. Torres, who chaired the Joint Legislative Committee on Science & Technology (he was a member when I was its chief consultant) and the Assembly Health Committee, moves on to help lead the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, the state’s groundbreaking stem cell research program. Under Torres’s leadership, the party has made huge advances in California, winning the governorship twice following the Republican Pete Wilson era, along with three presidential elections in California, and driving Democratic registration to a big edge over the Republicans even while learning how to flourish in the age of the rising independent voter.
Torres was honored at the party banquet last night, which was attended by a fairly glittering array of party notables, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who closed out the festivities.
I talked with Pelosi, who I’ve known for a long while, at the banquet. She’s in great spirits with Barack Obama, the candidate she not so privately liked in the primaries, in the White House. And quite serious about the torture issue.
Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom were there, of course, with Brown and wife Anne Gust Brown, his special counsel in the Attorney General’s office and 2006 campaign manager, having come over from their spirited “recession reception” and tour of the historic Governor’s Mansion.
Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom, an actress, were seated at the California Strategies table at the party banquet. CalStrat is the premier corporate consulting firm in the state, headed by former Governor Pete Wilson’s former longtime chief of staff, Bob White. Newsom chief strategist Garry South, also at the table with the Newsoms, works for California Strategies now.
Some thought Newsom was late to his own high-energy party late Saturday night, but he was never supposed to arrive till 10 at the earliest, due to the banquet honoring Torres. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson closed off a small stretch of road for the Newsom block party and concert with hip hop star Wyclef Jean.
Perhaps a thousand enthusiastic fans crowded into a cramped space to enjoy the high-energy performance. Newsom, who took his tie off after the banquet, spoke for only a few minutes and no politics was committed. Gavin and his guys held court in a bar next to the stage during the concert, greeting various well-wishers and party-goers. It was a nice show, with Wyclef Jean having moved beyond rap per se, thankfully, as I got my fill circa Bulworth.
Brown’s scene earlier at the Governor’s Mansion was rather different. An operation magically appeared, as always happens with the Browns even when they’re not officially running, to move the crowd lined up on the sidewalk onto the historic grounds and keep the delegates adequately lubricated with beer and white wine. There were about 800 people there, with many repeatedly enjoying the Brown trademark chips and salsa. Brown, who wasn’t sure if he’d give another speech, having just given a mostly off-the-cuff address to the same people earlier at the convention, did end up giving one of his typically ironic, teasing impromptu talks.
Anne Gust Brown showed off the infamous “blue Plymouth,” the cheapskate official gubernatorial car during Brown’s first two terms as governor, which was towed over for the occasion from the California Automotive Museum. For his part, Brown, who hadn’t known his old state car would be there, seemed more engaged by a typewriter upstairs, which he said served him in good stead studying for the bar exam, which the Yale Law grad took glee in reminding that he’d flunked the first time out.
But what about the car? Brown told me he is going to get it tuned up. “So it’ll be fired up and ready to go!”
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama has no public events today. He will play his first round of golf as president this morning on a course at Andrews Air Force Base.
There will be a White House briefing today on the swine flu outbreak with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acting Centers for Disease Control director Richard Besser.
Obama, naturally, is monitoring that situation – which has led to the cessation of public events in Mexico City – as well as the crisis in Pakistan.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Lebanon, on an unannounced visit, following her surprise trip yesterday to Iraq.
** CAL DEMS: THE BIG SATURDAY MORNING SPEECHES. So, the morning session has come and gone. And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks this afternoon, the main show was in the morning.
US Senator Barbara Boxer, not surprisingly, formally announced her bid for a fourth term in a rousing speech to the convention. There was a huge demonstration for her, and lots of obvious enthusiasm. What did she say? Well, lots of good stuff for the convention. Like what a night and day experience it is to have Barack Obama as the president rather than George W. Bush. Boxer is feisty, smart, and charming, and is Californians’ designated fighter in the Senate. She says she will have a tough race. But with Schwarzenegger having no interest in running, and the Republicans seemingly relying on either far right Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore or former Hewlett-Packard CEO (and McCain campaign official) Carly Fiorina, it’s hard for me to do anything other than describe her as a mortal lock for re-election.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and his team have been working for months to organize a strong convention presence. And some would have it that this kept Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also may run for governor, home for the weekend. Ostensibly to work on his city’s big budget crisis. But, while Newsom’s operation impressed in the context of a start-up operation, if Villaraigosa stayed away because of that it was probably a mistake.
Newsom had a loud cheering claque up at the very front. But I roamed across the convention hall filming while he spoke, and the reaction in most of the crowd was tepid at best. Newsom, perhaps coincident with his name, emphasized the “new.” (On Monday I’ll recount what one of his aides had to say, rather amusingly, about signs, positioning, buttons, and “Secret Service-like” pins for backers.)
Looking over his prepared text here, I recall that Newsom called for “a new direction for California,” which happens to be the title of the speech. A new direction in … health care, education, government (extolling his city’s fiscal health, though actually San Francisco has a larger budget deficit for its size than LA has for its size), and economy.
Newsom is running on his record in San Francisco, brandishing the City by the Bay as a sort of paradise. He’s also running as NEWsom, in contrast to the old ways of doing business. Taking some shots at, presumably, former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, Newsom closed by asking if Democrats will “take a stroll down memory lane, or a sprint into the future? … Will we choose the past, or will we embrace the future? … We’re not a state of memories, we’re a state of dreams. We’re not content to re-live history, we’re going to keep making it.”
When that famed avatar of the past and champion of the status quo, the aforementioned Brown, got around to taking the stage some time later, he ignored Newsom. Speaking mostly off-the-cuff, sans moveable cheerers with signs, he talked about the new day under Barack Obama without torture as national policy.
He noted that Obama, in his Earth Day address, praised California as the model for the rest of America on energy, for policies that Brown put into place and that other governors have since followed. He talked about his work as attorney general on greenhouse gas reduction around the state and in suing the Bush/Cheney Administration. He talked about the corruption of the economy, and moves he is making as attorney general to bring corporate wrongdoers to heel. And he spoke philosophically about education, decrying the one-size-fits-all mentality. He also said some other stuff the delegates liked.
And so the not-so-great drama drew to a close.
Brown hosts a reception for delegates tonight at the historic Governor’s Mansion in downtown Sacramento. The Eagles won’t be there. And Newsom hosts a concert and block party featuring Grammy-winner Wyclef Jean.
** CALI DEM CONVENTION QUICK HITS. On Friday … The Democrats’ resolutions committee endorsed the package of state budget compromise-related initiatives by a wide margin. Opponents were spirited, but didn’t bring a strong fight. Not one but two reps from the college faculty union spoke in opposition, and were easily countered by the state building trades. Opponents of the measure were in a minority in the audience crowding into the committee room. But there will be a convention floor fight on Sunday. …
Before the convention started, I had a long talk Thursday night with former Governor Gray Davis. How does this very shrewd figure view the overall California political scene? I’ll have more on that to follow, but here’s his take on the undramatic California governor’s race. The obvious favorite to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor? Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown. Davis was his gubernatorial chief of staff, though they’re not buddies.
Davis thinks highly of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was speaker of the state Assembly during many of Davis’s gubernatorial successes, and the former governor thinks he would be a formidable candidate if he runs. Which he thinks he wants to do. Davis also thinks San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom might catch fire, if he can make a connection in the popular mind with President Barack Obama. (Newsom was national co-chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign, working against Obama in the primaries.)
Davis doesn’t think much of the Republican candidates, but thinks they could be dangerous if very well-funded. Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman doesn’t impress him. State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner has enough seasoning to be a threat against a candidate who isn’t combat-ready. …
Villaraigosa isn’t at the convention, of course, as discussed here on Friday. Newsom is omnipresent, resplendent in a silvery tie, rolling with a large staff and a moveable visibility/cheering claque, which I kept running into yesterday afternoon as they were receiving instructions. Brown is here, naturally, though he says he’s not a candidate yet. He rolls with himself. …
Brown came to the so-called “Hacks and Flacks” dinner last night at Lucca, a popular Sacramento eatery, That dinner is a fixture at state Democratic and Republican conventions, drawing the press and top political operatives. This year’s was organized by former San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury-News editors Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine, who wrote it up here at their CalBuzz blog.
It drew key remnants of the California political press corps and various well-known operatives and strategists. Brown showed up by himself and stayed till the event ended, talking at length with everyone there. And presumably dumbfounding Newsom strategist Garry South, who is trying to push the line that Brown has a very early bed time. …
Like Brown, Newsom made the rounds of the party caucuses in the afternoon. I caught him at the party’s computer and internet caucus, which I walked over to with former state Controller and top Obama backer Steve Westly, who chaired the Obama contingent of the California delegation to the Democratic National Convention and was a national finance co-chair for Obama. Newsom did well, talking about his “proud failure” of trying to get a municipal wifi program in place in San Francisco. The plan was blocked by liberals who didn’t want Google and Earthlink to dominate the system.
Westly was in good form, meeting with Obama backers during the day. The ex-eBay honcho, now a top Silicon Valley greentech venture capitalist, has considered a second race for governor following his near-miss run in the 2006 primary, but almost certainly will not make the race in 2010. He has a couple of young children. …
Had an interesting encounter with Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, who this week dropped from the governor’s race to become frontrunner in a likely special election for Ellen Tauscher’s East Bay congressional seat. In front of a small crowd, he declared, amusingly, that it all would have been different for him had I not convinced him in the 1980s not to have Arnold Schwarzenegger headline a big fundraiser for him.
I’ll tell the full story another time, but the short form is that I told Garamendi it was a very bad idea because, among other things, Schwarzenegger would never, ever be a big movie star. A story that Schwarzenegger finds more amusing than Garamendi …
Some big speeches on Saturday morning coming up …
** MORE THOUGHTS COMING ON THE CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION … After a late night of it.
** STEVE SCHMIDT ON THE STATE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. The former John McCain and Arnold Schwarzenegger campaign director says: “It is near-extinct in many ways in the Northeast, it is extinct in many ways on the West Coast, and it is endangered in the Mountain West, increasingly endangered in the Southwest. And if you look at the state of the party, it is a shrinking entity.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S AFPAK CRISIS. Meanwhile, I’ll be spending a fair amount of time roaming around the California Democratic convention, gathering information.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama receives his daily intelligence and economic briefings this morning and meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
He has no public events today.
Obama has dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a surprise trip to Iraq. She’s meeting in Baghdad now with top Iraqi leaders. There’s been a recent spurt in terrorist violence there, and Clinton is delivering the message that the US remains committed to Iraq even as it prepares to withdraw troops.
Clinton goes to Kuwait after Iraq.
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.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Baghdad early Saturday morning on a surprise trip to Iraq.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no planned public events this weekend.
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 – he didn’t act on set – will be appearing in the film in a cameo role via the wonders of digital mapping technology. More to follow on that. You can listen to the conversation 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 closed on Friday at $51.55 per barrel. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $18 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.