Back in the White House this afternoon following his trip to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, President Barack Obama pressed the new Israeli government and Palestinians to drop current obstacles to peace.
** QUICK HITS. At his hybrid Hummer event late this afternoon in Capitol Park, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed that he will address a joint session of the Legislature next Tuesday on the California budget crisis, after the legislators have finished their budget hearings. A top aide says that, in addition to state worker lay-offs and furloughs, a 5% across-the-board pay cut is in the works. I’ll have more about the Hummer tomorrow, but for now, the action superstar allowed as how he is quite pleased that the new vehicle is far more fuel efficient than the old. … Meanwhile, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said today that Schwarzenegger ruined California, and his supposed presidential future (which requires a constitutional amendment), by governing as a moderate, not as a conservative. What else is new? … After meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas today at the White House following his return from LA, President Barack Obama announced that Israel must halt its continued settlement of the West Bank. And that Palestinians must rein in anti-Israel violence.
** WASHPOST BLOGGER THINKS SOTOMAYOR REPRESENTS A PATH TO REPUBLICAN VICTORY. Washington Post blogger Chris Cilizza, who makes a lot of references to the power of the Matt Drudge and also thinks that Prop 8 was a big boost for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, opined today that President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court is a big boost to Republican hopes in 2012. Why? Because she’s a super-liberal and that will show that Obama is a super-liberal, too, and not a post-partisan as he’s positioned himself.
Well, if you think Matt Drudge is a mainstream fellow, then you might think Sotomayor is some sort of ultra-lib. But for one thing. She’s not.
Here’s his reasoning, as it were: If the ultimate goal for Republicans is to defeat Obama in 2012, then the Sotomayor pick presents them with a golden opportunity to cast the president as a traditional liberal — far from the post-partisan figure he was able to present to the American public in the 2008 election.
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who has made no secret of his interest in a 2012 bid, made the same point in a statement released Tuesday on the Sotomayor selection.
“The appointment of Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court is the clearest indication yet that President Obama’s campaign promises to be a centrist and think in a bipartisan way were mere rhetoric,” said Huckabee.
Alex Conant, a Republican consultant and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee, added that that while Obama was able to remain an “enigma” during the campaign, the American public is now getting a “better sense of who he is. And on domestic policy, he’s proving to be a liberal partisan.”
Mike Huckabee and a former RNC spokesman certainly represent a well-grounded perspective … Well, okay, they don’t. This is non-serious. But typical of too many in the Beltway chattering class.
** A.F.S.C.M.E. CALLS FOR BIG CALIFORNIA TAX HIKES. AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees was a key part of a public employee union coalition that opposed the state budget compromise-related initiatives in this month’s California special election. They are opposed to limits on government spending.
They ran a TV ad around the state attacking the key measure, Prop 1A – which contained a state spending limit, a rainy day fund, and extension of temporary tax hikes – not on the basis of their ideology, that it would rein in spending too much, but using a right-wing argument. Namely, that Prop 1A would be an ineffective spending limit.
Today AFSCME released a plan to avoid the big state budget cuts predicted if the initiatives went down, which will greatly affect unionized public employees by depriving many of their jobs. The plan, not surprisingly, does not have a more effective state spending limit, as their TV ad called for, but it does call for maintaining government through a big round of new tax increases. The effective spending limit rhetoric was fodder for winning an election.
The AFSCME plan amounts to what it says is $44 billion in new revenue every year from here on out: The recommendations were delivered to state legislators on Wednesday and consist of a combination of measures including the imposition of an oil severance tax, an alcohol tax, the closure of existing corporate tax loopholes, an extension of a reduced sales tax to services such as entertainment and sporting events, the ending of offshore tax havens used by multinational corporations, and the restoration of high-income tax brackets to their levels under Republican Governors Reagan and Wilson.
Somehow, this is not a surprise.
There are two major political problems from the get-go. First, tax hikes require a two-thirds legislative vote in both houses. Both Republican legislative leaders lost their posts after barely delivering enough votes for a first round of temporary tax hikes. AFSCME wants a much more sweeping round of permanent tax hikes. Second, the alternative is to attempt to pass off taxes as fees, and raise these “fees” on a majority vote. That’s going to run afoul, let’s say, of strong legal challenges. If Democrats went along with the move, which former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown calls “a trick.”
** ODD AS IT MAY SEEM … Star Trek is now the number one movie of the year, so far, in America. The movie reboot passed the animated hit Monsters vs. Aliens last night to grab the honor. Star Trek‘s domestic gross was $194.8 million going into today’s showings. It should go over $200 million on Friday, and this weekend will pass Batman Begins to become the most successful franchise reboot in recent memory. It blew past the other big hit franchise reboot, the Bond film Casino Royale, last Friday. The movies on the horizon that have a good chance of overtaking Star Trek for the yearly domestic box office crown are the new Harry Potter and Transformers pictures.
Considering that the Star Trek franchise was absolutely dead in the water from 2002 on, this is an incredible turnaround for what began as a TV series back in 1966. Hell, that’s before Jerry Brown ever ran for office.
With a Pakistani Army offensive underway against the Taliban, jihadists have carried out several major terrorist bombings in recent days.
** OBAMA WILL HOST NEXT G-20 SUMMIT … IN PITTSBURGH. President Barack Obama will host the next summit of the G-20 (group of 20 leading economies) on September 24th and 25th in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The most recent G-20 summit was in London. The leaders participating in the G-20 represent 85% of the global economy. The G-20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
Pennsylvania was a cornerstone state for both campaigns in last November’s presidential election.
Obama, on his international tour next week, will also tour the US military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany.
** GALLUP POLL: STRONG POSITIVE REACTION TO SOTOMAYOR PICK. The early soundings of public opinion on President Barack Obama’s appointment of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court are good. In a Gallup Poll conducted Tuesday night, 47% rate the choice excellent or good, 20% call it fair, and only 13% say she’s a poor choice.
Of recent Supreme Court appointments, only Chief Justice John Roberts was viewed more favorably at this stage.
There is, of course, a pronounced partisan breakdown on the pick. 72% of Democrats call it excellent or good. 40% of independents do the same, while only 29% of Republicans take those views. It would probably be better for Obama if the number for independents was higher, but they are the most numerous in the no opinion category.
** CALIFORNIA’S TOP PUBLIC POLLSTERS TO GAY MARRIAGE ADVOCATES: WAIT TILL 2012. With emotions running hot in the wake of the California Supreme Court’s expected upholding of the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative, many advocates want to put a pro-gay marriage initiative on the 2010 ballot. And you thought state politics was complicated enough with the economic crisis and budget meltdown.
But the directors of the state’s two leading public polls, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll and the Field Poll, Mark Baldassare and Mark di Camillo, both agree that advocates would be smarter to wait until 2012.
Why? Because they see no movement in public support for same-sex marriage. And because 2012 will be another presidential election, with a much bigger turnout with President Barack Obama on the ballot. That will also give adocates more time to work on public opinion in less charged ways, and to put together a good campaign.
With some economic indicators rising at last, President Barack Obama took credit at last night’s Democratic fundraiser in Beverly Hills, saying: “We have stepped back from the brink.”
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is en route from Los Angeles to Washington on Air Force One, following a $4 million fundraiser last night for the Democratic National Committee at the Beverly Hilton.
He is receiving his daily intelligence and economic briefings during the flight.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama lands at Andrews Air Force Base, from which he will travel to the White House on Marine One, arriving at 12:15 PM Pacific.
At 1 PM Pacific, Obama meets one-on-one with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Oval Office.
At 1:45 PM Pacific, Obama holds an expanded meeting with President Abbas in the Oval Office.
At 2:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
At 3 PM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Vice President Joe Biden is back in Washington following his trip to Colorado and holds an Economic Implementation Cabinet meeting this morning in the Roosevelt Room.
During his speech last night at the DNC fundraiser, Obama said that the economy is beginning to turn around and that with regard to his promised change, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Quite a few celebrities were on hand with Obama, including Seth Rogin, Marisa Tomei, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Foxx, Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, and Tyler Perry.
Obama is also monitoring a few geopolitical crises.
The Pakistani Army offensive against the Taliban, urged by Obama, is continuing, with more signs that Taliban forces are being disrupted and driven back in various places. There is house-to-house fighting underway in at least one city.
But Pakistan now has a sizable refugee crisis, with some 2.4 million people displaced from their homes. Many are staying with friends or relatives, but the country’s support system is strained nonetheless.
North Korea set off what appears to have been an underwhelming nuclear device on Monday, prompting international condemnation. Obama put out a statement in the middle of the night on the move. And the UN Security Council, meeting in emergency session, thoroughly denounced it.
The Hermit State has launched several short-range missiles since then, further inflaming the situation. The missiles reportedly had a range of about 80 miles. North Korea has placed its forces along the border with South Korea on full alert, and threatens that any attempt to interdict any of its vessels to check for weapons of mass destruction will be considered an act of war.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger receiving his first Hummer in 1992.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger checks out a new electric Hummer prototype this afternoon at the Capitol.
Raser Technologies has worked with Hummer to produce a Hummer H3 powered by plug-in hybrid extended-range electric vehicle technology.
Schwarzenegger, of course, was the famed Hummer’s chief promoter. This became a problem for him as he focused on the environment, climate change, and renewable energy, and he switched his seldom driven Hummers to alternative fuels.
Meanwhile, protests are mounting about his proposed budget cuts in the wake of the downed special election initiatives. Legislative Democrats appear resigned to the cuts-based approach to bringing California’s budget into some semblance of balance.
** THE AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8. The California Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Proposition 8, last November’s successful initiative against same-sex marriage is all the more tragic in that the initiative never should have passed in the first place. …
The right to same-sex marriage will, in the end, win out. It’s the getting there that is messy. And it need not have been as messy as the passage of Prop 8, and its expected upholding by the California Supreme Court, has made it. …
Gay marriage opponents got a huge gift immediately from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s comments. Newsom had enraged top national Democrats, including Senator Dianne Feinstein and Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, by unilaterally declaring same-sex marriage lawful in San Francisco in the midst of the 2004 presidential race. Though it was a move that was predictably easily overturned, national Republican strategists credited the furor it caused with playing a propulsive role in turning out huge numbers of fundamentalist voters in Ohio, the lynchpin of George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election. … From my new column.
** 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 May 20th column.
** 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. … From my May 18th column.
** 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. … 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. … 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 $64 to $65 per barrel range.
This is up about $30 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 and North Korea.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.