In Las Vegas today, President Barack Obama, who has said on a few occasions that it’s a bad idea to take the kids’ college money to Vegas, declared: “I love Vegas!”
** QUICK HITS. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, heading out of state for the Democratic Governors Association meeting in Washington, will meet with President Barack Obama on Monday. On Sunday, he appears on ABC’s This Week. Schwarzenegger has so far secured nearly half the federal assistance he was looking for. … Getting a boost last night and today from Obama in home state Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled qualified support for using the majority vote budget reconciliation process to pass the public option as part of the national health care bill. …
** THE BIGGEST SPENDING RACE IN AMERICA IS UNDERWAY! (WELL, SORT OF.) The biggest spending race in America is fully underway! Or not.
That would be the California governor’s race. With billionaire Meg Whitman, the ex-eBay CEO and national co-chair of the McCain/Palin campaign, spending like a Russian oligarch, it’s inevitable that this will be the most expensive race in the country. But aside from Whitman blanketing the state for months with her robotic ads, it’s not there yet.
Her trailing Republican primary rival, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, figuring that the primary election is in June, is sitting on a near $20 million campaign warchest. He hasn’t come close to running an ad. State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the storied maverick Democrat who won his party’s nomination by quietly clearing the field last year, is sitting on the $13 million he’s raised. And Democratic independent expenditure committees, launched with a flourish last week — complete with press reports of $40 million in advertising about to be unleashed against Whitman — are, in reality, still getting organized.
Which hasn’t stopped the Whitman campaign — trailing Brown, used to trying to control everything and, faced with a much diminished state press corps, used to getting away with it — from looking rather rattled. For one thing, the aloof former Goldman Sachs board member, no doubt painfully aware that super-rich business people are not exactly wildly popular and that she in no way fits the Scott Brown profile for success in a largely Democratic state, is going to a Nascar race to show her common touch. For another, her operatives reacted to the ballyhooed emergence of what are actually nascent Democratic committees as though they’d been jabbed by a hot poker. …
** NEW POLL: CONCERN ABOUT NATIONAL DEFENSE UP SHARPLY OVER THE PAST YEAR. A new Gallup Poll indicates that concern about U.S. national security has increased significantly over the past year.
In Februry 2009, 54% said tht America’s national defense is about right where it needs to be. Now 46% agree with that. A year ago, only 37% said American’s national defense isn’t strong enough. Now that number is up to 45%, on parity with those who believe the situation is okay.
Those who believe that the national defense is stronger than it needs to be are still at the same low level: 6% a year ago and 7% now.
Gallup has asked Americans to evaluate the national defense of the United States periodically since 1984 and yearly since 1999. Americans typically say the U.S. national defense is about right or not strong enough, with relatively few saying it is too strong. Currently, Americans are equally likely to say national defense is about right or not strong enough.
The current figures are similar to the opinions Gallup measured from 2006 to 2008, and the 45% who now believe the nation’s defense is not strong enough is just two points shy of the 2008 high. Last year’s rosier assessment may have been a temporary shift owing to positive feelings toward the new president, as the poll was conducted during the initial weeks of Barack Obama’s administration.
Another factor is likely the near disastrous Christmas Day bombing episode.
When asked about the government’s spending on the military and national defense, Americans do not show a great degree of consensus — 36% say the government is spending “about the right amount,” 34% say “too much,” and 27% “too little.”
Compared with last year, slightly fewer Americans now say defense spending is about right, with small but equal gains in the percentages who say the United States is spending too much and too little.
Gallup has asked this question since 1969, and the current results are similar to the historical average over this time.
The high point in the percentage saying the U.S. is spending too much, 52%, came in that initial 1969 measurement, as the U.S. was engaged in the Vietnam War. The high point in saying the U.S. is spending too little on defense came at the very beginning of the Reagan administration, in January 1981. Reagan campaigned on strengthening the military, and greatly increased defense spending during his presidency. By November 1982, the percentage of Americans who said the U.S. was spending too little on defense dropped to 16%.
Today is Tiger Woods day, the day on which he addresses the controversy swirling around him. To be clear, I don’t care about golf, I don’t care about Tiger Woods, and I don’t care about his private life. The only thing I find interesting in this ridiculous media/cultural circus is the exercise in brand management. (I’m also not a fan of branding.) What would Don Draper do?
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Nevada and Washington, D.C. today.
Obama has received the daily intelligence briefing in Las Vegas.
Obama arrived last night in Las Vegas. He put in an appearance at the Bellagio on the Vegas Strip, then was hosted by Sacramento Kings co-owner George Maloof at a private fundraiser at Maloof’s house in the Spanish Trail Country Club. The event for the Democratic National Committee raised over a million dollars.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on hand, as were Democratic members of Congress who greeted Obama when he arrived at McCarran International Airport.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was not on hand. He says he won’t see Obama unless the president apologizes for saying that people shouldn’t blow their kids’ college money on trips to Vegas. The flamboyant former lawyer for mob figures also says that Obama has to buy him a martini.
I don’t see that on the schedule.
What is on the schedule is Obama’s announcement of a new program to aid still struggling homeowners. One of the purposes of the Wall Street bailout was to get credit unstuck. That didn’t happen.
So Obama is announcing a $1.5 billion program using TARP funds to aid homeowners and stabilize the housing market.
Nevada is one of the states hardest hit by the housing/credit crunch.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama holds a town hall at Green Valley High School in Henderson, Nevada. Henderson being the non-glitzy gambling mecca of Southern Nevada.
At 11:55 AM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority at the epic City Center development. He will be joined there by Reid, who helped quarterback the massive project into existence.
At 1:05 PM Pacific, Obama departs Las Vegas on Air Force One en route to Andrews Air Force Base.
At 5:05 PM Pacific, Obama arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, where he boards Marine One.
At 5:20 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
The ongoing U.S. operation in Iraq is being renamed.
Since the fateful 2003 invasion, it’s been called Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Now it is to be known as Operation New Dawn. The new name reflects the plan to have U.S. combat troops withdrawn from Iraq this fall.
Before that happens, the country has to get through next month’s national parliamentary elections. And that won’t be easy.
Earlier this week, in a speech in Washington prior to his meeting with the president, General Ray Odierno, the U.S. commander in Iraq, revealed that the principal politician blocking hundreds of Sunni candidates from running is, according to intelligence, a close ally of the Iranian government. That would be Ahmed Chalabi, the darling of U.S. neoconservatives who provided false intelligence to his patrons in the Bush/Cheney Administration in the run-up to the invasion. False intelligence that helped drive the invasion forward.
Chalabi’s strong ties to Iran are not new news.
Obama is also monitoring the U.S. led offensive againt the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in southern Afghanistan and the percolating crisis around Iran’s nuclear program. The Obama Administration is working on international support for a new round of sanctions against the Iranian regime unless it relents.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger will hold private talks.
On January 6th, Schwarzenegger declared a special legislative session on the state’s chronic budget crisis. Under state law he had enacted early in his governorship, if the budget is not resolved in 45 days all other legislative activity goes by the boards.
As a result, the Legislature, which has done little on the budget this year, is rushing to move other legislation forward this week.
The state Senate yesterday afternoon voted to roll back some Schwarzenegger unpaid furloughs of state employees it had previously approved (those involving agencies mostly funded by non-general fund sources) and to impose a sales tax on online purchases through Amazon.com and other outlets.
With regard to furloughs, Schwarzenegger is looking to save money. With regard to Amazon sales taxes, it’s fairer for local merchants and a new source of revenue. However, it would be very unpopular.
The Ghost Writer had its New York premiere last night. Former James Bond star Pierce Brosnan, who lives in Los Angeles and plays a Tony Blair-like politician in the roman a clef, discusses the film and its controversial director, Roman Polanski.
** TONY BLAIR’S GHOST (WRITER). Roman Polanski’s new film, The Ghost Writer, had its world premiere on Friday at the Berlin Film Festival and is getting good early reviews. Count it as more bad news for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair complained last week on Fox News — a few days before the film premiered, in fact — that his widely panned January appearance in London before the Chilcot Inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War stirred up so much negativity because people are hungry for conspiracy involving him.
If that is so, this is the movie. …
** THE MACHINATIONS OF MEG WHITMAN: BEHIND HER ATTEMPTS TO ELIMINATE COMPETITION AND HER WHOPPER ABOUT HOW LONG SHE’S LIVED IN CALIFORNIA. In her spend-whatever-it-takes bid to jump from being a billionaire ex-CEO to the governorship of California, Republican Meg Whitman presents herself and her ideas in very simple, straightforward terms. The reality behind the facade, as we see from her attempts to avoid a primary contest and duck debates and the press, as well as her false claim about herself in her introductory TV ad, is different. … From my February 10th column.
** LOST IN LOST. … From my February 4th essay.
** SELLING MEG WHITMAN: GLITCHES EMERGE IN THE BILLIONAIRE’S PLAN TO ACQUIRE THE CALIFORNIA GOVERNORSHIP. What would Don Draper do? … From my February 2nd column.
** WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO MONTHS MAKES AS THE FATE OF OBAMA’S PRESIDENCY PLAYS OUT FAR FROM WASHINGTON. … From my January 29th column.
** 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. … From my January 26th column.
** WHAT SCOTT BROWN KNEW IN 2010 AND BARACK OBAMA KNEW IN 2008. … From my January 22nd column.
** 24 NATION.… From my January 19th 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 $79 per barrel.
This is up about $45 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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