President Barack Obama stepped up his criticism of Wall Street on Thursday with a far-reaching proposal for tougher regulation of the biggest banks.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008.
** OBAMA’S PIVOT TO POPULISM. In the wake of the eminently avoidable loss of the late Ted Kennedy’s old seat in the Senate, President Barack Obama is striking tones from his 2008 campaign which were oddly ignored by the Democratic candidate who allowed herself to be upset in Massachusetts, Martha Coakley. Obama has been pinned down for months, painstakingly trying to work a dysfunctional system in Washington that is dominated by special interest lobbyists on one of the most complex and historically change-resistant issues of all, health care. The negativity and compromise have added up.
First, Obama rolled out a tax on big banks bailed out as part of the controversial Wall Street rescue, financial institutions that just paid big bonuses to their executives. That was last week. This morning, he moved to restore some of the financial regulations that were undone by Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
Then the U.S. Supreme Court handed him another opportunity, with its aggressive decision — on a 5 to 4 vote — to allow corporations (and unions, which have less money) to spend unlimited amounts to influence federal elections.
Here’s Obama’s statement: With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
Ironically, Coakley had the ideal office with which to emphasize a stance against rich and powerful interests gaming the system against the average American. She’s the state attorney general, an office in which it is possible to compile an impressive record on that score. She could even have brought suit during her campaign for the Senate to upstage anything that Scott Brown, a state senator, could do on his own.
She failed to do so, thus allowing Brown to seize the mantle of champion of the angry and disaffected. It helped Brown greatly that he was not a plutocrat himself, though hardly the regular guy he made himself out to be. It also helped that Coakley did next to nothing to establish a counter-narrative on Brown, giving him a free ride in the process.
** WHITMAN MATCHES AL CHECCHI’S PERSONAL SPENDING RECORD. The campaign of billionaire ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman, the California Republican gubernatorial hopeful, announced this morning that she has contributed another $20 million from her personal fortune to her campaign. This brings her personal spending thusfar to about $40 million, already matching the record for a California campaign set by former Northwest Airlines CEO Al Checchi in his losing bid for the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nomination.
And it’s only January. The Republican primary, in which Whitman faces fellow super-rich hopeful Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, is in June. Former Governor-turned-Attorney General Jerry Brown cleared the Democratic field for governor last year without officially announcing. Brown’s former chief of staff, Gray Davis, won that 1998 Democratic primary against Checchi despite being heavily out-spent.
Whitman’s campaign says she now has $30 million cash on hand. Which may again put her ahead of Poizner, who donated $15 million to his campaign last month.
** CALIFORNIA FIELD POLL: BOXER LEADS ALL REPUBLICANS IN SENATE RACE, CAMPBELL LEADS IN REPUBLICAN PRIMARY. Former Silicon Valley Congressman Tom Campbell, the 2000 Republican nominee for the Senate, leads ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina in the Republican primary for Senator Barbara Boxer’s seat, 30% to 25%. Far right Orange County Assemblyman Chuck De Vore trails with 6%.
In general election match-ups, Boxer leads all Republicans by double digits.
Boxer leads Campbell, 48-38; Fiorina, 50-35; and De Vore, 51-34.
During his Tuesday night victory speech, Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown declared that his daughters are “available.”
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
He has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 8:10 AM Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Economic Recovery Advisory Board Chair Paul Volcker in the Oval Office.
Obama may be edging away from Wall Street-friendly Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and chief economic advisor Larry Summers, Bill Clinton’s former treasury secretary, toward former Federal Reserve chief Volcker for his economic counsel. Summers was one of the principal players in the Clinton era financial deregulations.
At 8:40 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on financial reform in the Diplomatic Reception Room. He will push back toward the Glass-Steagal law which formerly regulated Wall Street and other big financial firms.
At 9 AM Pacific, Biden meets with British Foreign Secretary David Milliband at the Naval Observatory.
At 11 AM Pacific, Obama addresses a delegation from the U.S. Conference of Mayors in the East Room.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
What remains unclear is the future course of the national health care reform bill. Which has dragged on seemingly forever, despite passage in both houses of Congress, and was on the verge of finalization when one of the worst Democratic campaigns in American history ended the Democrats’ (somewhat illusory) 60-vote filbuster-proof majority in the Senate.
The Obama White House is assessing this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance. In a 5-4 decision, with Sacramento’s David Kennedy the deciding vote and author of the decision, the Court ruled that corporations and labor unions may now spend directly, without limits, on independent expenditure campaigns on behalf of federal candidates. Direct contributions to federal candidates from corporations and unions are still prohibited. They are still required to set up political action committees to do that.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, as well as the Ukrainian presidential election, the first round of which took place on Sunday. Both run-off candidates are pro-Russian, so the pro-American administration there, which sought membership in NATO and has long been unpopular, is kaput. The current Ukrainian president, celebrated in the Bush/Cheney White House and vilified in the Kremlin, got 6% of the vote.
Obama is also stepping up the relief effort in Haiti, which is struggling amidst chaos and unrest.
Former Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards finally acknowledged the obvious today, that he in fact did father a child with his mistress while running for president.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Washington today.
Schwarzenegger flew to Washington on Tuesday night to press his case for more federal assistance for California. The chronic state budget crisis became chaotic with the advent of the global near financial meltdown and a consequent sharp decline in revenues, especially from its top-heavy tax structure.
Today he meets privately with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, later, with the entire California Congressional delegation.
Last week’s tension with Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein appears to have been smoothed over.
** 24 NATION. Well, 24 has returned, with a vengeance. The controversial hit TV series, one of the key shows of the past decade, is proving relevant in this decade, too. As recent polling clearly shows, it turns out that its hardball ethos on terrorism resonates just as well in the Obama Era as it did in the Bush/Cheney years. … From my January 19th column.
** THE LAST CLINTON MELODRAMA? (AND OTHER SENSATIONALIST GAME CHANGE GOSSIP) Is this the last Clinton melodrama? There is a certain air of finality to it. Not because nothing more can happen, but because the most likely melodramas of the future (and most recent past) are laid out and have received far less pushback than they would have before. … From my January 14th column.
** OBAMA’S SECURITY PROBLEMS: THE MEDIA, CHENEY AND, OH YES, THE ISSUE. President Barack Obama does have a big problem on security. Well, more accurately, he has big problems. But not all the problems that are trumpeted are real, for the trumpeting itself is a big part of the problem. … From my January 12th column.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE LONG GOODBYE. … From my January 6th essay.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! What does it say that the biggest musical group of the first decade of this new millennium recorded its last album 40 years ago? … From my January 1st essay.
** DOCTOR WHO: THE ENDING IMPENDING. … From my December 28th essay.
** THE COMMON THREADS OF AVATAR. Is Avatar the future of cinema? Probably. … From my December 22nd essay.
** COPENHAGEN BLUES: OBAMA’S WEAK HAND ON CLIMATE, AND THE CALIFORNIA OPTION. … From my December 16th column.
** OBAMA’S LINCOLNESQUE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE. … From my December 11th column.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th 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, 2009 Huffington Post column.
** HELP FOR HAITI.
** 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 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, 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.
** 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 $77 per barrel.
This is up about $43 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
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