Saying his economic policies have helped prevent a depression, President Barack Obama retooled his health care message today at a town hall in North Carolina.
** NEW CALIFORNIA POLL OFF EMBARGO, SHOWS CAUTION ON ENVIRONMENT DURING RECESSION. The latest Public Policy Institute of California poll came off embargo at 10 PM tonight. It shows that California voters, while still strongly pro-environmental protection, are more cautious in the depths of economic recession. While big majorities favor state policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions (66% now, compared to 73% a year ago, with the decline due to Republicans), Californians are split on whether to take action during the recession. Of course, little action will be taken during the recession, not that poll respondents were told that.
What is extremely popular is new regulations tightening vehicle fuel efficiency, which is at the heart of climate change action. 75% favor more public transit and more efficient use of existing transportation infrastructure, while less than 20% want more freeways.
Californians also, by a narrow majority, favor some expansion of offshore oil drilling. They remain split on new nuclear power plants.
Job approval ratings for politicians are down. President Barack Obama remains extremely popular in California, with a 65% job approval rating. But that’s down seven points since May.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s job approval rating is just 29% with likely voters, while the state Legislature is at 17%. But the poll, which is focused on environmental issues, was taken in a leisurely fashion over a two-week period from July 7th to July 21st. This is the period in which Schwarzenegger was struggling to get the Legislature to pass a new state budget.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHEN SHOULD GAY MARRIAGE ADVOCATES TRY TO REVERSE CALIFORNIA’S PROPOSITION 8?
** QUICK HITS. Health care reform gained renewed traction this afternoon when word came from the US Senate Finance Committee that a draft plan is about to emerge from it and that it will be fully funded for the next decade. The so-called “public option” may give way to a “co-op option.” This comes after a deal was reached for a key House committee vote on Friday, as reported below. Congress then goes on August recess, with full votes in September. … But while legislation is moving for him again, President Barack Obama has some bad news in several polls that came out late today. Voter views of his health care plan have turned decidedly mixed, though when the particulars of his plan are tested, it’s popular. … There’s also major unease at the level of spending in Obama’s budget. It’s not unlike the situation in California, where most voters want continued levels of service but less government spending. … Obama is by far the most popular politician in the country, and his job approval is still in the low to mid-50s. … Sarah Palin, on contrast, is notably unpopular, with two-thirds saying she should never be president. Other leading Republican presidential hopefuls lack popularity, as well. … Meanwhile, in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger called a special legislative session for September to consider recommendations by a special commission on the state’s tax structure. The commission has delayed its report till then. … And some Democratic legislators are challenging Schwarzenegger’s line-item vetoes yesterday, occasioned by his receiving an underwater budget from the Legislature, on the grounds that they inserted special language to classify social spending as simply a continuation of an already enacted budget. But since the budget had to be redone, for more than two months since the failure of the May 19th special election initiatives, there would be no budget, and hence no appropriations, in the absence of action.
** OBAMA GETS A BREAK(THROUGH). After extensive negotiations, the Obama White House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, LA Congressman Henry Waxman, and moderate “Blue Dog” congressional Democrats have come up with a deal to move ahead on sweeping health care legislation. Waxman now plans to have his pivotal House Energy & Commerce Committee vote out a bill by the end of the week. The original plan to have the full House of Representatives pass a bill prior to the August Congressional recess has gone by the boards.
Legislation has already been passed by the House Ways & Means and Education & Labor Committees.
The deal calls for exempting more small businesses from a requirement to offer coverage, trimming subsidies to help people buy health insurance, and making any government-sponsored insurance plan negotiate payment rates with medical providers — instead of dictating them. …
_Exempting businesses with payrolls of $500,000 or below from a requirement to provide insurance to employees or pay a penalty. The existing bill had set the level at $250,000. The penalty would hit businesses with payrolls between $500,000 and $750,000 on a sliding scale before kicking in fully at 8 percent of payroll.
_Poor people would get subsidies to help them buy care after spending 12 percent of their income on premiums, instead of 11 percent in the existing bill.
_Payment rates to doctors and other medical providers would be negotiated with the secretary of Health and Human Services, instead of tied to Medicare rates as the bill now says. The Blue Dogs contend that change will lead to fairer payment rates.
_In addition to the public plan, states will have the option of setting up health care co-ops. Details on that were still being worked out.
_Instead of the federal government picking up the full cost of an expansion of Medicaid, states would pick up part of the costs.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: WITH CITY HALL AND POLITICAL OPERATIONS WRACKED BY DEPARTURES, WHAT’S WITH TUMULTUOUS “TEAM” NEWSOM? It’s been a tumultuous week for San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. On Monday, his longtime campaign manager Eric Jaye left his longshot campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. So did his campaign finance director, Paige Barry Arata.
Meanwhile, back on the governmental side, on Tuesday Newsom lost San Francisco City Budget Director Nani Coloretti and his chief environmental advisor, City Climate Change Director Wade Crowfoot.
Former campaign manager Jaye, who nurtured Newsom through both mayoral runs and the decision to declare gay marriage legal in the City by the Bay, is pursuing his other private political consulting concerns. Former campaign finance director Arata is returning to a City hall job.
Former city budget director Coloretti is taking a job as an assistant to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. And former city environmental chief Crowfoot gets a newly created position as West Coast political director for the Environmental Defense Fund.
This much high-level turnover in a very short period of time is highly unusual. What’s up with all the turmoil in “Team” Newsom?
If a TV series were made about Newsom, it might be called Entourage. He frequently rolls with a big group of people, almost all guys. There are many agendas.
For months, I’ve been hearing about intense infighting in the Newsom circle as the young mayor has tried to move out from what he frequently calls “47 square miles surrounded by reality” — a line he never attributes to its author, Jefferson Airplane singer Paul Kantner — to run for governor against frontrunner Jerry Brown, whose family is in many ways responsible for Newsom’s own prominence. It is a big step to take, and a tough row to hoe for a politician whose only real contested race was against a Green who subsequently dropped out of politics. And in that race in 2003, Newsom had to be bailed out by national Democrats, otherwise the Greens would have embarrassed the party by winning the mayoralty of a large city.
Gang Gavin has had a lot of different ideas about how to go about all this. Tensions were exacerbated by the presence of an outsider, veteran Democratic strategist Garry South, who I’ve known well since he moved to California and emerged in the state’s politics in the early ’90s. Much more vulnerable than he seems with his bluff exterior, South is a smart guy who has trouble stopping talking. His lengthy monologues tended to grate. But he has more experience and knowledge than Newsom or the rest of the entourage, so his views increasingly held sway.
This is beginning to get into what will, I suppose, be a longer piece at some point or another, so suffice for now to say that South’s arguments outlasted Jaye’s. South has focused on essentially sophomoric attacks against Brown — he’s too old and out of it! — while Jaye wanted a more Obama-like campaign focusing on Newsom’s personality and use of social media. Which has been totally overblown, as I’ll explain at some point. Incidentally, none of these people were actually for Obama in the primaries, and Newsom was a national co-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Nothing has really been working for Newsom in his governor’s race, and some around him see that his quest is quixotic. So Jaye left and South, who is getting paid more by Newsom at this point in the race than super-rich Steve Westly was paying him in his unsuccessful Democratic primary run for governor in 2006, remained. Newsom is far behind on fundraising, with only as much money as it takes to run for a lesser statewide office, so why not get a new finance director?
The turmoil in Newsom’s City Hall is intriguing. Newsom has been touting his mastery of the city’s budget, but the fact is that San Francisco has serious ongoing budget problems, even after big budget cuts. And he hasn’t been around much, so being his budget director is a difficult position.
The departure of his city environmental chief came with most of the policies Newsom is touting in place, to the extent they will be in place. What’s left is an uphill primary race against Brown, who is much more famous than Newsom for his championing of the environment.
With all this internal turmoil surfacing, South employed his trademark attempt at distraction, placing a story with his old friend Carla Marinucci at the San Francisco Chronicle about Brown having raised $10 million for his “charities.” Which are actually two charter schools in Oakland for low-income kids. The money, from big companies and foundations, goes directly to the schools, with the only overhead being a small fraction in the raising of the funds themselves. Unmentioned in the article is that Brown himself is the largest contributor, with a million dollars coming from his family foundation.
If Brown gave favors to the companies and foundations in exchange for the donations to the schools — which are hurting for funds in this environment — that would be a problem for him. But there’s no allegation of that.
In any event, South’s messaging is incoherent. Either Brown is a doddering relic, or he’s not. Showing him to be one of the biggest charitable fundraisers for education in the state is more than a bit of a backfire.
President Barack Obama held a “tele-town hall” on health care reform yesterday at AARP headquarters in Washington. Today he holds health care reform town halls in North Carolina and Virginia.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is on the road today. He holds town halls on health care reform in North Carolina and Virginia, two heretofore red states he captured last November.
Obama received his daily intelligence briefing in the Oval Office, then departed for Andrews Air Force Base where he boarded Air Force One and flew to Raleigh, North Carolina.
At 8:15 AM Pacific, Obama arrives in Raleigh, North Carolina.
At 8:55 AM Pacific, Obama holds a town hall on health care reform at Broughton High School.
At 11:45 AM Pacific, Obama departs Raleigh, North Carolina en route on Air Force One to Bristol, Virginia.
At 12:40 PM Pacific, Obama arrives in Bristol, Virginia.
At 1:15 PM Pacific, he holds a town hall on health care reform with Kroger Supermarket employees in Bristol, Virginia.
At 3 PM Pacific, he departs Bristol, Virginia en route to Andrews Air Force Base on Air Force One.
At 4:10 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he gets on Marine One.
At 4:25 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
The two-day US/China Strategic & Economic Dialogue between high-level US and Chinese officials led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner on the American side and Vice Premier Wang Qishan and State Councillor Dai Bingguo on the Chinese side wrapped up late yesterday.
This first of the US-China Dialogues turned into a table-setting and air-clearing exercise.
Nothing new was decided. China expressed disquiet with US budget deficits. America suggested that China can’t rely on US consumers to buoy the Chinese economy with purchases, as the revived US economy is expected to shift some from consumption to saving.
The US and China are by far the two leading economies in the world and share a symbiotic relationship. America is China’s biggest market and China is America’s biggest creditor.
California’s health care programs were especially hard hit by the meltdown of the state budget.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has no scheduled public events today.
He is in Los Angeles, where he will hold private meetings and discussions.
Schwarzenegger will also do a TV interview with Fox News, as he did with MSNBC last Friday in the Capitol.
** ANOTHER ‘60S ANNIVERSARY: THE UR-ACTION BLOCKBUSTER GOLDFINGER. We have two iconic ’60s anniversaries this week. Ironically, it’s the least known by far of the two that continues to resonate most in the culture. On July 20th, 1969, a human being first walked on the Moon. On July 21st, 1964, Goldfinger wrapped principal photography.
We haven’t gone to the Moon for 37 years, nor can we go to Mars, as the Apollo 11 astronauts are urging, anytime soon, but we sure go to blockbuster action movies. And Goldfinger is the ur-action blockbuster. … From my July 21st essay.
** WHY THE BIG FADE FOR BRUNO? Bruno, the follow-up to ace comedy star Sacha Baron Cohen’s 2006 smash hit Borat, is one of the most hyped movies of the year. It’s gotten so much publicity it feels like it’s about to come out on DVD. But after a fast start on Friday, July 10th, the mockumentary about a gay Austrian fashionista has been fading badly ever since. This past weekend, it’s down 73% from the opening weekend.
Why the big fade? It’s actually not much of a mystery.
Once you see the movie, the only mystery is why it wasn’t predicted in the first place. … From my July 19th column.
** HILLARY’S BACK! (OR NOT). Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s ballyhooed address Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington fell decidedly flat. For a few fairly obvious reasons.
First, President Barack Obama, like a number of other presidents before him, starting with Thomas Jefferson, is his own secretary of state. Second, Obama has already laid out America’s new geopolitics, in a series of major addresses in Prague, Cairo, Moscow, and Accra, Ghana, as well as in announcements here in the US on new policies with regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. Thus making Clinton’s speech an exercise in echo. Third, Obama has other very powerful geopolitical counselors, including Vice President Joe Biden (whom a mutual friend told me when he was tapped for the ticket really wanted to be secretary of state), a coterie of special envoys reporting to the White House, and National Security Advisor Jim Jones, the former NATO commander and Marine Corps commandant.
And fourth, Clinton has been neatly mouse-trapped by Obama. She and her husband have been moved off the political gameboard by Team Obama. As I expected when I wrote about her appointment here on the Huffington Post when it was rumored last November. … From my July 15th column.
** DIMINISHING RETURNS FOR OBAMA’S SUMMITEERING? President Barack Obama returned early Sunday morning from a near week-long international tour that took him to a key summit in Moscow, a G-8 summit, and his first appearance in Africa as president. But some suggested, with his poll numbers down a bit and media attention mostly elsewhere, that his summiteering is having diminishing returns.
Perhaps. But I think it has at least as much to do with the media culture.
American media, especially cable TV news, is moving more into infotainment mode, stuck on a few areas. Geopolitics has never been its strong suit, and political coverage is mostly focused on food fights. Which was unfortunate, as following on to his addresses in Prague and Cairo, Obama gave the final two of his advertised four major speeches on his new geopolitics last week, in Moscow and in Accra, Ghana. … From my July 12th column.
** OBAMA DOES MOSCOW, AND VICE VERSA. … From my July 8th column.
** OBAMA’S CONSEQUENTIAL FIRST 4TH: NOKO, AFPAK, IRAQ, RUSSIA, PALIN (PALIN?!) … From my July 4th column.
** THE GOP’S PALIN FOOD FIGHT: WHY NOW? … From my July 2nd column.
** TRANSFORMATIVE: LE CINEMA DE MICHAEL BAY. … From my June 29th essay.
** STAR TREK FIRSTS … 43 YEARS ON. … From my June 23rd essay.
** OBAMA AND THE AYATOLLAH. . … From my June 19th 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, 2008, crude oil is trading around $65 per barrel.
This is up $31 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program.
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