President Barack Obama refused to retreat this morning on the closure of the notorious Guantanamo Bay prison, despite a Senate vote denying funding for the closure and opposing bringing any suspected terrorists to the US.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … TERMINATING THE DARKNESS?
** QUICK HITS. Admiral Mike Mullen, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, says the Pakistani offensive against the Taliban is going pretty well, and that the danger of the slow-rolling jihad is receding somewhat. There are 2.4 million refugees inside Pakistan now as a result of the conflict. … Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger put aside the notion of more borrowing, at higher cost, to balance California’s budget, now in extraordinarily serious straits with the global recession tanking revenues and voters shooting down the special election initiatives. I have more on this, but have been hung up much of the day. Asked about the new Terminator movie, Schwarzenegger quips: “I’ll be back.” … The state’s Legislative Analyst puts the latest deficit at about $24.3 billion, $3 billion worse than the worst case scenario Schwarzenegger laid out last week. When critics on the far right and left claimed he was using “scare tactics.” … There seems to be little appetite amongst Democratic legislative leaders for more tax hikes to make up the budget gap. … Meanwhile, Republican legislative leaders continue to refuse to spell out the cuts they have been demanding for more than a year. … And San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, trying to run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, unveils his new “Buck the System” slogan tonight at his latest kick-off event in the City by the Bay. Newsom is actually more a part of “the system” than any potential candidate.
** POOR MARKS FOR PELOSI ON TORTURE AND C.I.A. The new Gallup Poll finds that a plurality of Americans disapprove of how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California has handled the question of torture in the past interrogation of suspected terrorists. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama gets high marks, as does the CIA.
Last week, Pelosi attempted to respond to allegations that she learned of the use of waterboarding in September 2002 during a CIA briefing of congressional leaders. In her press conference, she asserted that the CIA misled her by denying that waterboarding was being used, even though government reports indicate it had been used on an al Qaeda terror suspect in the month prior to that briefing. The CIA responded and disputed her assertions that the agency misled her. Republican leaders have roundly criticized her remarks.
Sixty percent of Americans say they are following the news about the government’s use of harsh interrogation techniques closely, including 22% who say they are following it “very closely.” Republicans (66%) are slightly more likely than independents or Democrats (each 59%) to be following the matter closely.
The May 19 poll finds Pelosi largely losing the public relations game, as she gets a significantly more negative review for her handling of the matter than do the other major players in the controversy, including the CIA. Also, notably, Americans are much more critical of Pelosi’s handling of the matter than they are of the broader group of the Democrats in Congress she leads as speaker of the House.
Those who are paying the closest attention to the matter are especially critical of Pelosi, with 63% of this group disapproving of her, compared with just 30% who approve. This highly attentive group is generally somewhat more critical than the general public is of each of the actors — aside from the CIA, which is rated much more positively by those who are following the matter closely (63% approve) than by the broader population (52% approve). …
** OBAMA’S NEW CALIFORNIA-BASED CLIMATE POLICY: SIX KEY THINGS TO KNOW. When President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday that he is making California’s standard for vehicle fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions the new national standard, he accomplished a number of things. … From my new column.
** EXCERPTS FROM OBAMA’S SPEECH ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND GUANTANAMO. From Europe to the Pacific, we have been a nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law. That is who we are. And where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and institutions are more resilient than a hateful ideology.
After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era – that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.
Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that – too often – our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us – Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens – fell silent. …
First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America.
I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence, I bear responsibility for keeping this country safe, and I reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. …
The second decision that I made was to order the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
For over seven years, we have detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system of Military Commissions at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat that: three convictions in over seven years. Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setbacks, cases lingered on, and in 2006 the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system. Meanwhile, over five hundred and twenty-five detainees were released from Guantanamo under the Bush Administration. Let me repeat that: two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and ordered the closure of Guantanamo.
There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. …
The third decision that I made was to order a review of all the pending cases at Guantanamo.
I knew when I ordered Guantanamo closed that it would be difficult and complex. There are 240 people there who have now spent years in legal limbo. In dealing with this situation, we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. We are cleaning up something that is – quite simply – a mess; a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my Administration is forced to deal with on a constant basis, and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.
Indeed, the legal challenges that have sparked so much debate in recent weeks in Washington would be taking place whether or not I decided to close Guantanamo. For example, the court order to release seventeen Uighur detainees took place last fall – when George Bush was President. The Supreme Court that invalidated the system of prosecution at Guantanamo in 2006 was overwhelmingly appointed by Republican Presidents. In other words, the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place. …
President Barack Obama had his quarterly meeting with his Economic Recovery Advisory Board yesterday in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama has a busy day.
At 7:10 AM Pacific, he makes a major speech on national security at the National Archives Museum Rotunda.
The event will be roadblocked on all cable news nets.
Obama then returns to the White House and receives the daily intelligence and economic briefings and meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 10:30 AM Pacific, he welcomes the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (his pick to win) to the White House. Obama and the team then participate in a service event at the South Portico, putting together care packages for American troops.
At 1:15 PM Pacific, Obama meets with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania in the Oval Office.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Kosovo today.
Biden addresses the Assembly of Kosovo and then visits Camp Bondsteel to meet and speak to U.S. troops taking part in the NATO mission in Kosovo.
Right after Obama speaks this morning on national security – in which he will explain again the shutdown of the prison at Guantanamo Bay – former Vice President Dick Cheney will again assail Obama’s policies in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.
This will be a big deal in the media.
Vice President Joe Biden is in the Balkans, where he visits Belgrade, Serbia.
Terminator Salvation opens wide today. Arnold Schwarzenegger had a more musical conception of the new Terminator movie.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger holds private meetings and discussions today in Sacramento and Los Angeles.
After attending the annual Legislative prayer breakfast, Schwarzenegger will hold a press availability at the Sheraton Grande Hotel in Sacramento.
First Lady Maria Shriver unveils the first edible garden in Capitol Park, also this morning.
** 24 AND THE TORTUOUS POLITICS OF TORTURE. The longtime hit TV series 24 has just wrapped a tumultuous seventh season in the midst of national debate about the past national policy of interrogation by torture of terror suspects. And, while 24 returned to past form as a crackling thriller, it’s done it in the midst of presenting a running debate about torture, mostly coming down on the side of torture.
Which, in its way, is appalling. There’s one thing, though. Torture may be more popular than many of us would like to think. …
** ANGELS AND DEMONS AND RELIGIOUS POLITICS. The sequel to one of the most controversial movies in recent memory is opening this weekend. And the collective response is a mild “hmm.” … From my May 15th column.
** WHAT DOES OBAMA’S AFGHAN COMMAND CHANGE MEAN? For the first such change in wartime since Harry Truman replaced General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War in 1951, Barack Obama is replacing General David McKiernan in Afghanistan. Obama is moving both to change a stalemated war in Afghanistan and to scale back expectations there.
In the process, the Obama Administration is signaling that there will be no massive military surge preferred by General David Petraeus, as well as, seemingly, an end to nation-building fantasies and a preference for more special operations while searching for compromise.
McKiernan, the commander of conventional ground forces for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is being replaced by a rather controversial special operations expert, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal. As head of Joint Special Operations Command, McChrystal oversaw the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and the killing of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. … From my May 13th column.
** 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. … From my May 11th column.
** 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. … From my May 8th column.
** OBAMA’S TROUBLED AFPAK SUMMIT. … From my May 6th column.
** 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 $60 to $61 per barrel range, near a seven-month high.
This is up about $26 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 geopolitical jitters over Pakistan.
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