Leaders from 70 nations meeting today in London at an international conference on Afghanistan have agreed on a timetable of sorts for foreign forces to exit the country. The delegates also backed the Afghan president’s plan to lure Taliban fighters to renounce violence.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFGHANISTAN AGAIN: THE FATE OF OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY UNSPOOLS NOT IN WASHINGTON BUT IN LONDON.
** QUICK HITS. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was confirmed for another four-year term today by the U.S. Senate. The vote was 70 to 30. California’s senators split on the vote, with Dianne Feinstein in favor and Barbara Boxer opposed. … Feinstein, the very active chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg today in coming out against the Obama Administration’s plan to hold the trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. Feinstein, Bloomberg, and a host of New York politicians now want the trial held on a military base. … The buzz coming out of the big London conference on Afghanistan is all about exit strategies. But it’s not exactly clear what the exit strategy is, or how it might work. … Proponents of legalized marijuana turned in petitions they say hold more than enough signatures to qualify an initiative for the November California ballot. The proposal had majority support in polling last year. … Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair testifies tomorrow in London at the Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War. Blair insisted at the time that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which could be deployed in 45 minutes. …
** VERY GOOD NUMBERS FOR OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS. Polls by CNN and CBS News show a strongly positive response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last night.
In the CNN poll, 78% had a positive response to the speech and the goals outlined within it.
But the number who reacted very positively is down from the reaction to Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress last February 24th. Which, of course, was at the height of the euphoria over Obama’s historic election.
Nearly half of Americans who watched President Obama’s State of the Union address said they had a very positive reaction to his speech, according to a poll of people who viewed the address.
A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey indicated that 48 percent of speech watchers had a very positive reaction, with three in 10 saying they had a somewhat positive response and 21 percent with a negative response. …
The poll also indicated that before the speech, 53 percent of people questioned said they thought Obama’s policies will move the country in the right direction. That increased to 71 percent when questioned after the speech. …
Six in 10 of those asked said they thought Mr. Obama conveyed a clear plan for creating jobs, and seven in 10 said his plans for the economy will help ordinary Americans. Another seven in 10 said President Obama has the same priorities for the country as they have.
The same individuals were interviewed both before and after Wednesday’s State of the Union, and after the speech, 70 percent said Mr. Obama shares their priorities for the country, up from 57 percent before the speech.
However, a sizable 57 percent said the President will not be able to accomplish all of the goals he set out in his speech. Most Democrats who viewed the speech (63 percent) said the man they elected would be able to accomplish all of his goals, but only 11 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of independent voters agreed.
Most Democrats and independents who watched said the president shares their priorities, while most Republicans did not.
I thought was good, but a laundry list, as is typical for State of the Union addresses. At least it hung together better than Bill Clinton’s State of the Unions, which really came off as strung together issues discussed in a typically discursive manner. And which, nonetheless, were generally more popular than the State of the Unions delivered by other presidents.
To me, Obama’s speech was more of a repackage than a reboot.
Of course, had the Massachusetts special election not been blown, no one would have expected a reboot. Instead, Obama would be moving past the months of mud-slinging, negotiation, and deal-making on health care and trumpeting the bill’s virtues.
Instead, Democrats are still searching for a path forward on health care while Obama pivots back to the economy.
There was barely a word on the issue on which I think Obama’s re-election will turn, that of getting into, and out of, Afghanistan.
The economy is slowly recovering. One way or the other, Obama will be able to campaign for re-election having staved off another Great Depression inherited from the Bush/Cheney Administration. Which he focused on effectively last night.
The question is how quickly and fully the recovery comes prior to the mid-term election, in order for Obama and the Democrats to limit expected losses.
In my view, the fate of Obama’s own first term hinges more on what is happening today in London, where 70 nations have come together to confer on Afghanistan, than what happened last night in Washington.
Nevertheless, the speech was effective. Obama laid out additional, if not new, ideas on stimulating the economy. He inveighed against the investment banking crisis which nearly crashed the global economy. He promised more reforms and railed a bit against the Supreme Court’s unleashing the floodgates of corporate money in politics. He promised to move forward on gay rights, ending the “don’t ask/don’t tell” policy in the military. He promised continued action on the environment, and on growing the green tech economy. The Bush/Cheney tax cuts for the rich and oil companies — which contributed greatly to the record deficits Obama inherited — are coming to an end. And Obama is reining some discretionary government spending — clearly a concern for worried independents — to the dismay of some of the left, while increasing spending on jobs and education.
All of which makes a great deal of sense politically.
** ANOTHER CALIFORNIA POLL. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just added another poll alongside the Field Poll of this week. PPIC has a different methodology, which I think underestimates older voters.
In the governor’s race, PPIC came up with the same results it did last month. Where Jerry Brown led billionaire Meg Whitman by six last month, he led by five this month.
Whitman, incidentally, who polls extensively as you might imagine (Oh, does she poll.) just told Fox News that she is 10 points behind Brown.
Brown had the same big lead over Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner as he had last month.
And Whitman has a huge lead over Poizner in the Republican primary that she had last month. Of course, she has been advertising unchallenge for months, something which will change in the near future.
In the Senate race, Barbara Boxer is four points ahead of Tom Campbell. Who has a much bigger lead over Carly Fiorina than he has in the Field Poll.
President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Florida today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He and Vice President Joe Biden then flew on Air Force One to Tampa, Florida.
At 8:50 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden arrive in Tampa, Florida.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with service personnel at MacDill Air Force Base.
At 10:05 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden hold a town hall meeting at the University of Tampa. There they will announce the award of $8 billion in economic stimulus funds for high-speed rail.
Over a quarter of that money is actually coming to California.
At 11:55 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden depart Tampa, Florida on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 1:45 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden arrive at Andrews Air Force Base, where they embark on Marine One.
At 2 PM Pacific, they land on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama is assessing his performance in last night’s State of the Union address.
The early soundings are promising.
I’ll have more on the State of the Union later.
Democratic congressional leaders are still trying to work out the path forward on the national health care bill.
And Obama has a new domestic problem, related to geopolitics.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an Obama friend, has come out against holding the trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the Big Apple. And ranking Empire State pols, like new U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, are joining him in that.
Bloomberg complains that it will cost a billion dollars to provide proper security for the trial, which he says is best held on a military base.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
The big international conference on Afghanistan is underway today in London. And negotiation with the Taliban, as well as amnesty for many, is suddenly all the rage.
Leaders from 70 nations are in London today discussing the crisis of Afghanistan. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is representing the U.S. Much of the conference centers on winning over elements of the Taliban.
I think the play is to go for a coalition government in Kabul. Students of history will recall that Robert F. Kennedy proposed a “coalition government” for Vietnam in 1966.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley today.
Schwarzenegger will tour BNSF Railway’s experimental Hydrogen Fuel Cell Switch Locomotive in the LA area’s City of Commerce and hold a press conference.
The press conference is at 10 AM.
At 12:45 PM, Schwarzenegger will deliver remarks on his California Jobs Initiative at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce Annual Power Report Lunch. Schwarzenegger and state Senator Abel Maldonado, his appointee as lieutenant governor, will participate in a moderated Q&A.
** MAD MEN SWEEPS THE LATEST AWARDS AND LOSES A KEY CHARACTER. … From my new column.
** SCOTT BROWN NEED NOT APPLY: CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN THE POST-ARNOLD ERA. Is there a Scott Brown-like figure to surprise California Democrats this year? No. The politicians who are vying to replace Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as the ranking California Republican could scarcely be less like Scott Brown. Or, for that matter, Schwarzenegger.
The Republican who takes on wily Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown — the former governor, presidential candidate, and Oakland mayor — will be not a pickup truck-driving pseudo-independent but a plutocrat hugging the far right rail of the current Republican primary.
The Republican who takes on feisty Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer will be not a populist-sounding moderate inveighing against the manipulations of entrenched wealth and power but a golden parachute corporate CEO, a fringe right state legislator, or an intellectual ex-congressman whose faculty advisor was Milton Friedman.
And none of them will be a global icon with a common touch. … From my January 26th column.
** WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008. This past Tuesday night, the politics of positioning beat the politics of branding. As it frequently does. Scott Brown figured it would. As Barack Obama did in 2008. … From my January 22nd column.
** 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 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.
** THE COMMON THREADS OF AVATAR. Is Avatar the future of cinema? Probably. … From my December 22nd essay.
** 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 $74 per barrel.
This is up about $40 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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