Testifying today in London, former Prime Minister Tony Blair defended his decision to take Britain into war with Iraq, telling an investigative panel that he would do the same again even though the weapons of mass destruction used to justify the invasion did not exist.
** WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO MONTHS MAKES AS THE FATE OF OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY PLAYS OUT FAR FROM WASHINGTON. What a difference two months makes. Way back then, as it were, the staunchly resolute talk on Afghanistan was all about the big military surge just announced by President Barack Obama, with NATO leaders pledging to ante up lots of troops, too. (Even as actual national commitments were, well, lacking.) Now the talk coming out of Thursday’s big 70-nations conference in London on Afghanistan centers on talking with the Taliban, and on exit strategies.
While all the attention — in the hyperventilating aftermath of the Democrats’ eminently avoidable Massachusetts special election loss — was on Obama’s State of the Union address, an event of far greater relevance to the fate of his presidency played out not in Washington, but in London.
In Washington, there was barely a word on the issue on which I think Obama’s re-election will turn, that of getting further into, and then out of, Afghanistan.
The economy is slowly recovering. One way or the other, Obama will be able to campaign for re-election in 2012 having staved off another Great Depression inherited from the Bush/Cheney Administration. Which he focused on effectively in his big speech. 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. …
** WHITMAN SKIPS CALIFORNIA APPEARANCES IN JANUARY, BUT IS ABOUT TO RESURFACE. Billionaire Meg Whitman, the ex-eBay CEO who is running for the Republican nomination for governor of California, really hasn’t done a public event in California this month. She’s been doing some other things (more on that later), which includes her spending this week back East promoting her CEO memoir, “The Power of Many.”
But she will make public appearances next week in California, after going, as far as I can tell, more than a month-and-a-half without doing so.
She’s continuing to promote her book, of course. Whitman will appear in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sacramento.
While Whitman has been off the campaign trail, at least in the state which she seeks to govern in her first foray into public affairs, her Republican rival, Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, has appeared at events all around the state.
That included a speech and extended question and answer session with journalists at the California Newspaper Publishers Association conference.
Whitman, who had two disastrous press conferences last year (one of which I filmed), has been dodging California political reporters for months.
But she has found the time to talk to East Coast media types, who naturally know little about California, usually of the conservative variant.
You’ll recall I referenced her interview on Fox News earlier in the week, in which she said that she trails Jerry Brown by 10 points.
She also appeared on The Today Show and other outlets promoting her book.
In the wake of the 12/25 attack, opposition to holding the trial of accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City has intensified and broadened. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has reversed his earlier position and both of New York’s Democratic senators are now opposed.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington and Maryland today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then went to Baltimore, Maryland, where he has toured a small business.
At 8:25 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks on a jobs tax credit in Baltimore.
At 9:10 AM, Obama delivers remarks at the House Republican Issues Conference at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel.
At 10:55 AM Pacific, Obama returns to the White House.
At 1:45 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
Democratic congressional leaders are still trying to work out the path forward on the national health care bill.
Obama has a new domestic problem to contend with, 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, including Senators Chuck Schumer and 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.
I think the Obama Administration will move the trial.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq.
Iran has again made a vague offer of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency on its nuclear enrichment program. Is it genuine? Or merely another attempt to buy time?
The big international conference on Afghanistan took place yesterday in London. And negotiation with the Taliban, as well as amnesty for many, is suddenly all the rage.
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.
I have a column coming up on this.
Meanwhile, Taliban forces today came close to overrunning government troops in the capital city of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.
This comes less than two weeks after a small Taliban team paralyzed the national capital of Kabul for hours with a daring raid.
A fierce battle broke out on Friday between Afghan security forces and a team of Taliban fighters targeting UN and government buildings in the capital city of southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province.
In Iraq, security forces are still hunting for the planners of a bloody series of bombings in Baghdad. And the crisis over the banning of hundreds of Sunni candidates from the national parliamentary elections in March continues.
And today in London, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has given his first public testimony on the hotly disputed origins of the Iraq War. Appearing before the Chilcot Inquiry, Blair was forced to come up with a new rationale for the invasion, as the previous rationale of WMD obviously proved to be wrong.
I’ll have more on this later.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Fresno today.
At 11 AM, Schwarzenegger joins U.S. Deputy Secretary of Transportation John Porcari, Congressman Jim Costa, and other business, labor, environmental, and community leaders in an event at the Fresno Amtrak station to discuss and celebrate the $2.3 billion in Recovery Act funding awarded to California for high-speed rail.
California garnered over one-fourth of the rail funding announced yesterday in Florida by President Obama, by far the most of any state.
** MAD MEN SWEEPS THE LATEST AWARDS AND LOSES A KEY CHARACTER. … From my January 27th 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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