U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, a longtime moderate Pennsylvania Republican, is now a Democrat.
** THEY LIKE HIM, THEY REALLY LIKE HIM. On the eve of his 100th day in office, the brand new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows 81% of American voters saying they personally like President Barack Obama. 64% view him favorably as a political figure. 61% approve of his job as president.
These figures are well above those for Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton at a comparable moment in their presidencies, and approach Reaganesque levels of popularity.
43% see America as being on the right track, up 17 points since Obama’s inauguration, while 43% see it on the wrong track.
Some warning signs. Growing numbers worry that Obama is trying to do too many things. And he is increasingly seen as an ideological liberal.
As I keep saying, America is a center/left country, not a center/right country. And not a left/liberal country.
** SPECTER AND THE J.F.K. ASSASSINATION. Something most people don’t know about Senator Arlen Specter is that he came up with the “magic bullet” theory of the John F. Kennedy assassination. Then a young researcher for the Warren Commission charged with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Specter solved a principal conundrum for the commission by positing that one bullet caused several wounds in the late president and Texas Governor John Connally, ending up, oddly enough, little the worse for all that wear when it was found on a stretcher at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. Absent the magic bullet, you have more than one shooter.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: ANGST AND IRONY FOR WINNING DEMOCRATS. It’s a great time in many ways for California Democrats, who just had their annual convention in Sacramento. Barack Obama carried the state with 61% of the vote and the party has a big registration edge over Republicans, as well as a much better handle on the large and growing number of independent voters.
No wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a longtime acquaintance, was so ebullient when I spoke with her over the weekend. But it’s also a time of angst and irony.
I talked with former Governor Gray Davis, the only Democratic governor since World War II not named Brown, who told me: “California may be at a tipping point.” And Democratic delegates were in disarray on what to do about it, even as they enjoyed speeches from their two most likely gubernatorial contenders. …
Officials around the world are scrambling to contain the swine flu outbreak, which is nonetheless short of pandemic status. Cases are reportedly declining in Mexico, where the outbreak began.
** SCHWARZENEGGER DECLARES SWINE FLU STATE OF EMERGENCY, OBAMA PRESSES FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING. Following two deaths of people with swine flu-like symptoms in the LA area, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency. (One of the two turns out to have reportedly died of something else.)
While this sounds very dramatic, it isn’t that dramatic, and Schwarzenegger adds “there is no need for alarm” in the statement accompanying the proclamation. Basically, it cuts through red tape to coordinate and assist public health personnel. Schwarzenegger also advises some common sense things about sneezing, washing one’s hands, avoiding sick people, and so on.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in emergency funding for flu prevention. There are 65 cases across the country, 10 of them in California. As Marc Cooper points out, the emergency funding is necessary because Maine Senator Susan Collins, one of the Republican moderates needed to avoid a filibuster on the Obama economic recovery program, succeeded in stripping out $1 billion in flu prevention funding.
** BROWN ORDERS CHANGES IN MAYWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT. Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown this morning announced the results of a 16-month Department of Justice investigation into the police force in Maywood, a south LA city. The city of 30,000 is 96% Latino.
Brown declared that the DOJ found “gross misconduct and widespread abuse including unlawful use of force against civilians,” with the department operating outside the control of the city manager and city council. He announced that he is seeking an immediate stipulated court order to ensure reforms and place the department under ongoing oversight by the Attorney General’s office.
It’s the latest in a series of high-profile moves by Brown, who has signaled his interest in a return to the governorship and whose off-the-cuff address was very warmly received by delegates to last weekend’s state Democratic convention. Brown has also recently sued Wells Fargo for $1.5 billion in allegedly fraudulent investments and, at the request of the state Supreme Court, issued a legal opinion that the Prop 209 anti-affirmative action initiative was unconstitutional.
** SPECTER SWITCHES FROM REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS POISED ON VERGE OF 60 VOTES IN THE U.S. SENATE. Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, facing defeat in an increasingly conservative Republican primary, is switching to the Democratic Party. When you add in the inevitable, though still delayed, addition of comedian Al Franken in the Minnesota recount case, that will give Democrats a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority in the 100-member U.S. Senate.
This reminds of Obama’s wisdom in blocking the expulsion of Joe Lieberman from the Senate Democratic caucus, which many on the left wanted. Lieberman, who sharply criticized Obama while campaigning with his friend, John McCain, has been singing Obama’s praises and providing key votes to the Obama Administration in moving the major elements of its agenda.
** NEW POLL: SLIM MAJORITY FAVORS TORTURE PROBE, BIGGER MAJORITY FAVORS TORTURE. The new Gallup Poll on the controversy over the use of torture in the interrogation of suspected terrorists brings very mixed tidings for liberal critics.
By a 51% to 42% margin, Americans want an investigation into the the use of torture, a crusade-level issue for much of the left.
But by a 55% to 36% margin, Americans say that torture was justified in defense of national security.
I think the poll is a little too broadly framed. I don’t believe that 55% support torture as a matter of national policy. A better way of asking would focus on the question of torture as a national policy, which it became in the Bush/Cheney Administration, as distinguished from torture in certain circumstances, and of course a strict abolition on torture in any circumstances. But either way, the results probably wouldn’t make a lot of liberals happy.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He meets at 8 AM Pacific with Federal Bureau of Investigations Director Robert Mueller and other top officials at FBI headquarters in Washington. Afterwards, he addresses the FBI staff.
At 11 AM Pacific, Obama meets with the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the East Room of the White House.
At 12:05 PM Pacific, he presents the National Teacher of the Year award in the Rose Garden.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Defense Secretary Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 4:30 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hold a reception with members of the Cabinet in the Blue Room.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is expected to be confirmed today by the Senate as US health and human services secretary. Her appointment has been held up by a Republican filibuster over abortion and her support of the pro-choice position on the issue.
The administration has decided not to close the border with Mexico, adopting a passive surveillance policy instead.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will hold state budget-related discussions in and around the Capitol.
He holds a press conference this morning in the Capitol Rotunda with former state Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill to urge passage of higher education-related legislation that will benefit members of the California National Guard.
This afternoon, Schwarzenegger will hold a press availability on the East Steps of the Capitol while viewing the Honda FCX Clarity. This is the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle built from the platform up and was researched, designed and co-developed by engineering teams in Tochigi, Japan and Torrance, California.
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.
A Russian tanker crew repelled a band of Somali pirates yesterday in the Indian Ocean.
** 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. … From my April 22nd column.
** THE STATE OF PLAY OF STATE OF PLAY. … From my April 18th column.
** OBAMA AND MEXICO: MANAGING INCIPIENT CHAOS. … From my April 17th column.
** EARL GREY, ANYONE? A CALIFORNIA CAPITOL TEA PARTY. …… From my April 15th column.
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: OF PIRATES AND MISSILES. … From my April 13th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW GEOPOLITICS: 10 KEY TAKEAWAYS. … 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 around $50 per barrel.
This is up about $16 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.