President Barack Obama today announced an agreement with the pharmaceutical industry to close a gap in Medicare coverage, making his universal health care plan more achievable.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama is dispatching National Security Advisor Jim Jones, former Marine Corps commandant and NATO commander, to meet with top officials in Aghanistan, Pakistan, and India to deal with America’s biggest ongoing trouble spot. Not counting Iraq. Or North Korea. Or … The new ABC News/Washington Post poll gives Obama a 65% job approval rating. But only 52% on his economic policy. … Even before Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stepped away from the race for the Democratic nomination for governor of California, Anne Gust Brown, 2006 campaign manager for (and wife of) frontrunning former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown sent out a missive directing folks to the new “Fighting for You” section of Brown’s web site, where Brown discusses his various ongoing moves as AG, asking for help in “cleaning up the mess” in California politics. Brown has not announced his candidacy but is well in front of constantly campaigning San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in fundraising. … I am certain that no one else is going to run for governor on the Democratic side.
** ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA MAKES IT OFFICIAL – HE’S OUT OF THE GOVERNOR’S RACE. LA’s mayor, in a five-minute appearance just now on CNN with Wolf Blitzer, made his position clear. In answer to a direct question as to whether or not he will run in 2010 for governor of California, Villaraigosa answered: “No.”
His reasons? He has too much to do as mayor of Los Angeles, the job for which he be sworn in for a second term next month. And he has a teenage daughter two years away from graduating from high school, and doesn’t want to devote what remains of his time when he’s not busy being mayor to campaigning rather than parenting.
Villaraigosa described the system of governance in California as “broken,” citing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a budget or raise a tax, term limits, intractable factions in the Capitol, and, in a slight eyebrow-raiser, the need for “open primaries” to select less partisan legislators.
Although many have been all atwitter, so to speak, about this, this is not a surprise here. While Villaraigosa, who was also a successful speaker of the California Assembly, could have been a very formidable candidate, he would have faced a difficult campaign in the Democratic primary.
And he has a lot of work to do in Los Angeles. Like San Francisco, where the only announced candidate, Mayor Gavin Newsom, is in his own second term as mayor, Los Angeles has big budgetary woes, though LA’s are actually smaller by proportion.
Villaraigosa has time on his side. If former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown, who will be helped by the LA mayor’s withdrawal because of his much greater familiarity with Southern California than Newsom and his longstanding ties with the Latino community – including his close friend and ally the late Cesar Chavez, for whom California has a holiday – serves another term as governor, there will be ample time for Villaraigosa and others, such as former state Controller Steve Westly, who still may have their eyes on the prize. To the extent that being governor of California can be described as a prize at this point.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … STAR TREK‘S FIRSTS…43 YEARS ON.
** A POIZNER WEB SITE. California GOP gubernatorial hopeful Steve Poizner, the present state insurance commissioner, announced this morning that he has again revamped his web site.
For what purpose? To make it easier to use social media, and to add a few bells and whistles. You can view it in its glory at www.stevepoizner.com.
** AN ANTONIO ANNOUNCEMENT? Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will be on CNN at 1 PM today talking with Wolf Blitzer, supposedly about his gubernatorial campaign plans, if any. If that is so, he seems likely to put an end to the gubernatorial campaign talk, which had become quite advanced.
After all, it’s not The Tonight Show. Nor is it the more conventional campaign kick-off setting. With the various troubles of Los Angeles, and most of his constituents desiring that he not run, it’s best to get the campaign stuff out of the way prior to his inauguration next month to a second term as LA’s mayor.
Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, purportedly defeated in a landslide by radical Islamist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, gave measured support to his supporters who had filled the streets in protest prior to the weekend.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK
Another big week in presidential politics, as the Iran crisis plays out and the North Korea crisis percolates. Has the dramatic protest movement n Tehran and elsewhere fizzled in the face of the regime’s force? And in California politics, a question: Is there anything happening besides stasis?
President Barack Obama keeps pushing his domestic agenda this week, accelerating economic stimulus spending and pushing health care reform, for which there is broad public support but also concern among some Senate Democrats about cost. The public supports having the so-called public option, i.e., government-sponsored health care. But the first cost estimates were eye-popping, and a recession is not the best time for talk of taxes.
But this is the week in which we’ll learn what sort of legs the dramatic protest movement in Iran has.
After six straight days of massive protest following the swiftly proclaimed landslide re-election victory of radical Islamist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the protesters fell silent on Friday when Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei delivered his sermon. In a rambling address, in which he denounced foreign meddling, Khamenei declared that the time for protest had passed, Ahmadinejad would continue to be president, and those who opposed this were opponents of the Islamic state and would be dealt with accordingly.
On Saturday, protesters came out in much smaller numbers than before and were alternately turned back by security forces or brutally dispersed. Sunday was quiet. As has been Monday.
Meanwhile, there is a power struggle amongst the ruling elite. If serious and persistent opposition to Khamenei does not emerge there, whatever slim chance there was for a revolution from below will be ended.
Five relatives, including the daughter, of former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a pragmatic cleric who heads the Assembly of Experts (the oversight council for the supreme leader), were arrested over the weekend, but all have been released.
Opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, prime minister under Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s but now a modernist, is mostly absent now in the wake of Khamenei’s Friday address, despite many twitter reports to the contrary. He is asking his supporters to take care to avoid harm, and to turn on car headlights during the late afternoon as a form of protest.
At the moment, this is not adding up as a big battle.
Meanwhile, Iran is dealing with foreign criticism by threatening some European ambassadors with expulsion.
Obama, for his part, has made made measured criticism his stock in trade, focusing much more on the bloody crackdown than the suspicious election results. He’s long had an agenda to pursue with Iran (see my column linked below). He’s getting a lot of gas from the American right-wing, who don’t have much in the way of real world alternatives other than harsh words, but also support from the realpolitik crowd such as Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft.
The North Korean crisis is also percolating this week, with the Navy dispatching a destroyer named, ironically, USS John McCain to shadow a ship believed to be carrying contraband missiles, and with the North Korean regime threatening to test fire a long-range missile toward Hawaii on the 4th of July. Obama has moved missile defense units to protect Hawaii, which is of course his home state.
Now to California politics. Will the usual stasis continue this week as well?
With regard to California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis, the usual suspects are saying the usual things.
Liberal Democrats in the Legislature, pushed by the Capitol’s ultra-government faction, want some tax increases and a drawdown of budgetary reserves to avoid some further cutting.
Conservative Republicans in the Legislature, pushed by the Capitol’s anti-government faction, oppose taxes and want big cuts.
The chronic crisis, managed for years in a variety of ways, became chaotic with the sharp downturn in state revenues caused by the global economic recession. This was further exacerbated by the state’s revenue system, which is overly reliant on booms and busts affecting the fortunes of high-income Californians.
Democratic legislative leaders say they’ll take up a budget with some tax hikes this week.
Meanwhile, the desultory 2010 governor’s race continues.
On the Republican side in this blue state, ex-eBay chief Meg Whitman, a top official in the Mitt Romney and John McCain presidential campaigns, picked up a few endorsements last week and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who made his tech fortune in cell phone tracking technology, added a few presidential campaign veterans to his staff.
On the Democratic side, a Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner poll for the LA Times – the Times had to drop its poll, but is now sub-contracting on occasion – of Los Angeles city voters found that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who I’ve doubted for some time will run, retains popularity but has problems in his home city.
Most LA voters don’t want Villaraigosa to run for governor. If he were to run against frontrunner Jerry Brown, the state attorney general and former governor, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, the only announced candidate, he would lead. The Los Angeles city numbers amongst registered voters? Villaraigosa 38%, Brown 31%, Newsom 13%.
Villaraigosa’s lead in LA is based on Latino voters. Brown, a longtime advocate for Latinos, has a big lead amongst whites, 41-22, with 19% for Newsom, and the most reliable voters over 50, 45-31, with 11% for Newsom.
I’ll do a California 2010 piece this week. You sense my excitement about the “race,” naturally …
U.S. Marines recently arrived in Afghanistan as part of President Barack Obama’s surge of forces there engaging the Taliban in Helmand Province. New commanding General Stanley McChrystal, former head of Joint Special Operations Command, arrived last week.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have had the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors, all in the Oval Office.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama delivers a statement on the agreement by pharmaceutical companies to lower drug costs for seniors in the Diplomatic Reception Room. This agreement is worth $80 billion.
At 11 AM Pacific, Obama signs the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act in the Rose Garden.
First Lady Michelle Obama is on her way to San Francisco, where she will be hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver.
This afternoon, Obama and Shriver are at Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco to help hundreds of volunteers build a school playground.
From there, they go to the National Conference on Volunteering and Service at Moscone Center, the world’s largest conference on volunteerism, attended by some 4500 people.
Michelle Obama gives the keynote address at 5 PM Pacific.
Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, co-chairs of the conference, also speak.
Obama is of course monitoring the situation in Iran, where protests Saturday fizzled in the face of a massive security presence ordered by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Sunday and now Monday in Iran have mostly passed without a renewal of street protests.
The time in Tehran is eleven-and-a-half hours ahead of California.
Obama is also closely monitoring several other crises: In North Korea, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.
North Korea may launch a long-range missile toward Obama’s home state of Hawaii on the 4th of July, and continues saber-rattling rhetoric and acts. The US Navy is following the passage of a suspect North Korean ship, which is hugging the China coast, first believed headed to Singapore and now believed headed (with a cargo of missiles) to Burma.
The Pakistani Army offensive against the Taliban is widening. There have been no major terrorist bombings in reprisal for most of the last week.
And Obama’s new Afghanistan commander, General Stanley McChrystal, has been in country with his new leadership team for a week.
Iran, of course, is the big ponderable, if not imponderable. See my column linked below.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger engages in private meetings and discussion around California’s chronic-turned-chaotic budget crisis.
Schwarzenegger also addresses the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this afternoon at Moscone Center in San Francisco.
He and First Lady Maria Shriver serve as honorary co-chairs of the conference, which is the world’s largest gathering of volunteer and service leaders from the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors.
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, hosted today in San Francisco by Shriver, keynotes the conference at 5 PM, and Shriver speaks as well at 5:30 PM.
** OBAMA AND THE AYATOLLAH. Two weeks after his landmark address in Cairo, where he honored traditional Islam and extolled engagement with modern Islam, President Barack Obama finds himself in a conundrum. Determining what to do about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who just told the people of Iran, in an unusual nationally-televised sermon at the end of Friday prayers, to stop acting like they live in a democracy.
It’s a particularly tricky question for Obama, because he has an unusual dual role to play: Inspirational global icon and president of the United States.
As the president of the United States, it’s Obama’s job to figure out the needs of America and go about meeting them. As a global icon, he is expected to inspire. …
** OBAMA’S CRISIS MANAGEMENT: NORTH KOREA, AGAIN. President Barack Obama changed the old kabuki in dealing with his second North Korean crisis. The first time around, back in April, dealing with a long-range missile test that failed to place a satellite in orbit, Obama treated the effort as more of the same rather baffling attention-seeking by the Hermit Kingdom. This time, after a string of provocations including an underwhelming underground nuclear detonation, a series of missile launches, and the imprisonment of two California-based journalists, Obama went in another, tougher, direction that may lead to a naval confrontation. … From my June 12th column.
** REMEMBERING AMERICA: OBAMA’S D-DAY SPEECH AND TWO DAYS IN JUNE. There’s no question that timing is, as it were, of the essence in politics. Consider the timing of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world, coming as it did just two days before the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
Most focus simply on the Cairo speech. But that speech exists in a larger context, alongside the speech over the weekend in Normandy which bookended it on Obama’s second big international tour.
On Thursday in Cairo, Obama gave his rhetorical best to reposition a mostly peaceful America in the future of the Muslim world. On Saturday in Normandy, he reminded of America’s glittering, and far more martial, past. … From my June 8th column.
** REPOSITIONING AMERICA: OBAMA’S CAIRO SPEECH AS THE ULTIMATE IN EVENT MARKETING. In the biggest example of event marketing that comes to mind, President Barack Obama used his ballyhooed speech today at Cairo University to reposition America in the Muslim and Arab worlds.
“I have come here,” he said, “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
The fact is that Obama didn’t really say anything new. The positions he laid out are positions he had in his campaign. But he did say it all at once, and quite well. He did say it in a 50-minute address aimed directly at the Muslim and Arab worlds. He did say it in Cairo, largest city in the Arab world and a critical city in the history of Islam. And he did say it at the leading modern university in Egypt in an event co-sponsored by the world’s chief center of Arabic literature, the ancient Al-Azhar University.
In that sense, to borrow a phrase from Marshall McLuhan, the medium is the message. The context is the key to the effort.
In an even larger sense, the message is himself. Both who he is, and who he is not. … From my June 4th column.
** TERMINATING THE DARKNESS: HOPE FLOATS, BUT ANXIETY ABIDES. … From my May 31st column.
** THE AVOIDABLE TRAGEDY OF CALIFORNIA’S PROP 8. … From my May 26th column.
** OBAMA’S NEW CALIFORNIA-BASED CLIMATE POLICY: SIX KEY THINGS TO KNOW. … From my May 20th column.
** 24 AND THE TORTUOUS POLITICS OF TORTURE. … From my May 18th column.
** ANGELS AND DEMONS AND RELIGIOUS POLITICS. … From my May 15th column.
** WHAT DOES OBAMA’S AFGHAN COMMAND CHANGE MEAN? … From my May 13th column.
** THE HYPE FLU’S BIG FADE. … From my May 11th column.
** STAR TREK‘S NEW COMING-OF-AGE SAGA FOR GENERATION O. … From my May 8th 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 last July 11th, crude oil is trading in the $67 to $68 per barrel range.
This is up about $33 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 North Korea and Iran. The price is down a few dollars over the past few days, reflecting an easing of some tensions in Iran.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.