President Barack Obama talked with business leaders today about cutting health care costs and expanding coverage.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHAT DOES OBAMA’S AFGHAN COMMAND CHANGE MEAN?
** QUICK HITS. Senator Dianne Feinstein today repeated what Senator Barbara Boxer did yesterday, i.e., endorse Props 1A and 1B on the May 19th California special election ballot. The two measures, trailing in the polls, would create a state spending limit and rainy day fund, extending temporary tax hikes in the case of 1A, and ensure education funding in the case of 1B. Neither senator endorsed any of the other four initiatives. … Dick Cheney says he’d like to see former Florida Governor Jeb Bush run for president in 2012. Let’s see, super-unpopular ex-veep insists on staying in the spotlight, with Rush Limbaugh, as the most prominent Republicans, and calls for a Bush restoration to try to take down popular President Barack Obama. Okay then … Obama is pushing hard to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago, detailing his confidante, White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, to quarterback the effort. Obama is drawing on his global celebrity to secure the Games, which would be quite a going away party towards the end of a second term.
** CHENEY CONTINUES HIS CURIOUS STRATEGY. Former Vice President Dick Cheney continued his very public role as principal defender of the Bush Administration and principal antagonist of the Obama Administration in a wide-ranging appearance today on Fox News.
Cheney recently attacked Colin Powell for his criticism of right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh. Amusingly, Powell’s approval rating of 80% if much more than those of Limbaugh and Cheney combined.
Dick Cheney said Tuesday that he’s not going to “roll over” while Democrats accuse the Bush administration of breaking the law with its anti-terror policies. The former vice president defended his decision to stay in the public eye during an interview Tuesday on FOX News, his latest appearance in a media blitz since leaving office.
Cheney, who has taken heat for remaining so vocal, told FOX News that the Obama administration is “dismantling” the national security policies that kept the country safe since the Sept. 11 attacks. He said he continues to speak out to combat the mounting criticism of Bush-era interrogation policies and weigh in on what he called the “outrageous” debate over whether to punish the officials involved with designing those policies.
This is a great boon for Obama and the Democrats. With one caveat. Torture used on occasion is more popular than a lot of liberals can imagine. But a policy of torture is not. Democrats need to keep the focus on the latter. To the extent they are absolutists on torture, Cheney has an opening.
** GALLUP POLL: TALIBAN SEEMINGLY UNPOPULAR IN PAKISTAN. With a military offensive underway against the Taliban in the one-time resort Swat Valley region, a Gallup Poll from December indicates that the Islamic jihadists aren’t very popular. Only 14% say the Taliban presence in parts of the country is a positive influence. 47% say no. The other 39% aren’t sure or won’t say.
Of course, that’s an awfully high number of people who don’t have an opinion, or won’t offer one. And they might be pretty popular in forbidding Baluchistan, which could become a haven for the Taliban even if the Pakistani Army offensive is successful.
Relief agencies estimate that the number of Pakistanis fleeing the Swat valley and nearby districts could soon swell to as many as 1 million, further inflating the number who have been displaced since last August. This mass exodus poses a humanitarian crisis in a country where many are already struggling to provide the basics: More than 3 in 10 Pakistanis told Gallup that there had been times when they could not afford food for their families in the last year and nearly 2 in 10 said they had been unable to buy adequate shelter. In NWFP, roughly a third of residents said they were unable to afford food or shelter at times.
** THE BIZARRE NEW ANTI-PROP 1A TV AD. There are two great contesting factions in California’s Capitol. An anti-government faction, comprised mainly of far right ideologues, which wants to shrink government for this growing state and presents an anti-tax mantra as the solution to nearly all woes. And an ultra-government faction, comprised of public employee unions and left-wing ideologues, which wants to grow government with no limits and is constantly looking for ways to raise taxes.
Major elements of both intractable factions are opposed to the state budget compromise, because it violates both their dogmas in providing limits on spending and in raising taxes.
Both factions speak the language of principle, overarching all obvious self-interest, naturally.
So it’s bizarre to see that a new TV ad put out by an ultra-government coalition of public employee unions – which opposes Prop 1A on next Tuesday’s special election ballot because they oppose any state spending limits – attacks the measure from, not the left, but the right.
The problem with 1A, according to this TV ad, isn’t that it has the state spending limits which caused this coalition to oppose it in the first place. No, the problem is that the spending limit is a phony, and would secretly allow the politicians to spend still more billions.
To describe this as cynical, and remarkably lacking in faith in their own message, is to understate severely.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the coalition tries to explain itself on these massive contradictions.
Controversial Miss California Carrie Prejean, backed by pageant owner Donald Trump, retained her title today.
** CONTROVERSIAL MISS CALI KEEPS HER CROWN – THE DONALD THINK SHE’S A HOTTIE. Miss California Carrie Prejean, the 21-year old glamour model who stoked national consternation and controversy when she came out against gay marriage in the Miss USA pageant – preferring, um, “opposite marriage,” instead – keeps her title with Miss USA pageant owner Donald Trump siding with her. Not on the issue, but on her looks.
Trump dismissed the inevitable surfacing of risque pix of Prejean, retaliation for her views on same-sex marriage cast as showing her to be a hypocrite, as “part of the 21st century.” I do try to keep you informed here on NWN …
President Barack Obama held a White House forum on health care yesterday. He has another roundtable today.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and has met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 8:30 AM Pacific, Obama participates in a roundtable with business leaders to discuss cutting employer health care costs in the Roosevelt Room.
At 11:25 AM Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden deliver remarks at a ceremony honoring Top Cops award winners in the Rose Garden.
At 12:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with General Raymond Odierno and Ambassador Chris Hill in the White House Situation Room to discuss the situation in Iraq.
Obama fired America’s Afghanistan commander yesterday, and I have a column on that coming up.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 4:45 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attend an evening of poetry, music and the spoken word in the East Room featuring James Earl Jones and other artists.
So, another day of major focus on health care reform, and a focus on America’s other long troubled war, the one in Iraq.
Obama got good news this morning with the Iranian government releasing Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, a former Miss America finalist imprisoned for supposed espionage. Obama had insisted on her release, and had it not occurred, a potential rapprochement between the US and the Islamic republic would likely have proved impossible.
However, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, incidentally, who had come under public fire recently from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, was endorsed today by Khamenei. Ahmadinejad, head of government to Khamenei’s religious head of state, is up for re-election next month.
Attention, Arnold! James T. Kirk demonstrates why he doesn’t believe in “the no-win scenario.”
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger focuses again on California’s troubled budget politics.
At 10:30 AM in Silicon Valley, he participates in a roundtable discussion with local government officials to discuss budget options and impacts on local communities.
Schwarzenegger then holds a press avail.
The focus is on the annual May budget revise, when the current budget is looked at for needed adjustments. In this case, with revenue running well short of projections – due to the global economic downturn – the currrent budget is in big trouble even before the potential defeat of next week’s special election initiatives.
Schwarzenegger released the numbers, reported here first yesterday afternoon, for two scenarios: Passage of the initiatives, and defeat of the initiatives. He puts out the actual budgets themselves on Thursday.
** THE HYPE FLU’S BIG FADE. Remember that big, dangerous swine flu threat that the cable culture was going on about round the clock, still scaring the sweat out of people a week ago? Why, it’s going to … er, never mind.
It was all very breathless and alarming. …
** STAR TREK‘S NEW COMING-OF-AGE SAGA FOR GENERATION O. Let’s get the straight-up politics out of the way up front. Barack Obama, as he says himself, grew up on Star Trek. And both the new Spock, young Heroes TV star Zachary Quinto, and the classic Spock, Leonard Nimoy, each of whom star in the new movie, backed him for president, with Quinto campaigning around the country.
Obama even flashed the Vulcan hand sign — not so easy to do the first few times you try — at Nimoy at an Obama fundraiser in, for those of you who were johnnies-come-lately, January 2007.
Now for the part that’s not quite so obvious. This Star Trek hinges on the original captain of the Enterprise. But not the one you’re thinking of.
In rebooting the saga, the new stewards of Star Trek have neatly set up a classic coming-of-age journey for a new generation, the Obama generation. …
** OBAMA’S TROUBLED AFPAK SUMMIT. The optics seem more telling than the rhetoric.
President Barack Obama is hosting his first summit of his wartime allies, the presidents of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the so-called “AfPak” summit, dealing with what Obama calls the biggest geopolitical threat to America’s security. But there’s no state dinner in their honor. No address to Congress, which must fund Obama’s plans (and may attach conditions).
And the principal social event, a dinner for the presidents hosted by Vice President Joe Biden at the Naval Observatory, has its own ironic backstory. Biden famously walked out of a dinner last year with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
After their meetings today, Obama struck a note of optimism. …
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: OF FLU AND AFPAK. … From my May 4th column.
** THIS X DOESN’T MARK THE SPOT. WOLVERINE MISSES THE SERIES’ DEEPER THEMES. … From my May 2nd column.
** OBAMA’S DEEPENING AFPAK CRISIS. … From my April 30th column.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA: ANGST AND IRONY FOR WINNING DEMOCRATS. … From my April 28th column.
** OBAMA’S EARTH DAY ENERGY DECLARATION: CALIFORNIA MAY BE THE NATIONAL MODEL HE SAYS, BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. … From my April 23rd 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 last fall, prior to the global economic meltdown, 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 $59 to $60 per barrel, a six-month high.
This is up about $25 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.