General Stanley McChrystal went on national television today in Afghanistan to apologize for Sunday’s wayward air strike on a caravan of civilian vehicles.
** QUICK HITS. In advance of Thursday’s big national health care summit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid adopted a flinty Nevadan pose and told his Republican colleagues to “stop crying” about the possible use of majority vote budget reconciliation to avoid a filibuster and finally pass a national health care bill. He noted that it has been most frequently used by Republican senators, notably passing big tax cuts. … Former Vice President Dick Cheney suffered his fifth heart attack on Monday. His staff says he will be discharged from a Washington hospital by the end of the week. … Dozens of senior military figures in Turkey, a major U.S. ally, have been arrested in what’s described as an investigation into a potential coup. President Barack Obama gave a major address in the storied city of Istanbul last April.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: GETTING A LITTLE CRAZY FOR FEBRUARY. While state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, the super-rich Republican gubernatorial candidate who trails billionaire ex-McCain/Palin campaign co-chair Meg Whitman, basks in praise for his citing health premium hiker Anthem Blue Cross for hundreds of alleged misdeeds, he also lost another state legislative endorsement. Which won’t matter in the least if his advertising strategy is good.
Speaking of advertising, Whitman rolled out a second introductory TV ad today. She’s in this one less than the first. It also has fewer specifics than the first, which had only her false claim that she’s lived in California for 30 years. (She’s actually lived here less than 20 years, according to her own previous statements.)
This TV ad has people talking about what a great corporate executive she is. None of them are identified, which makes them look like actors.
But they are not actors. They are all people who worked for her at eBay. One of whom, Rajiv Dutta, still works for her as a campaign consultant. She’s paid his firm, Tokoni, nearly $3 million already managing her web site and doing other Internet stuff.
Whitman also rolled out her latest radio ad today, featuring the endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. In that ad, lobbyist Jon Coupal says he can’t imagine any other candidate that the late Howard Jarvis would endorse besides Whitman.
Actually, Howard Jarvis did endorse someone else who is running for governor this year.
As Harry Truman put it: “The only thing new in this world is the history you don’t know.”
Speaking of which, the California Republican Party suggested in a statement today that Jerry Brown is “senile.” Citing a couple of writers I’d never heard of and, specifically, a right-wing blog I’d never heard of before called Hillbuzz.
** SO WHO IS THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FRONTRUNNER ANYWAY? PALIN, ROMNEY, PAUL (!) … Okay, so exactly who is the Republican presidential frontrunner now? Sarah Palin, the Tea Party darling/best-selling “author?” Mitt Romney, the moneybags ex-Massachusetts governor knocked out in the 2008 California and Florida primaries by John McCain? Mike Huckabee, the creationist talk show host who was the distant runner-up of 2008? Ron Paul, the cranky libertarian who embarrassingly actually won this past weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) over previous winner Romney?
If it matters, it’s hard to tell.
Palin is at or near the lead in some polls. As are Romney and Huckabee. Paul isn’t. Newt Gingrich, he of the disastrous reign as House speaker in the ’90s, is lower in the polls but in striking distance, armed with flash and frequently false rhetoric. (After complaining about would-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being read his Miranda rights under the Bush Administration and then being reminded that shoe bomber Richard Reid was also read his rights, Gingrich falsely claimed that Reid is an American.) …
** ABOUT OBAMA’S SUPPOSEDLY PLUMMETING JOB APPROVAL … I keep hearing talk about President Barack Obama’s job approval supposedly having fallen off a cliff. Actually, that is wrong. It’s been remarkably stable for months.
A survey of the Gallup daily tracking poll reveals that Obama, on a weekly average, has been in the high 40s to low 50s range since mid-November.
Obama’s job approval today is 51%, with 43% disapproving of his performance as president.
Obama used to be much higher, of course. The proximate cause of his descent from those Olympian heights seems to have been the fractious, complicated, and very muddled debate over health care reform.
And he certainly isn’t helped by dealing with the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Since mid-November, Obama’s daily approval ratings have ranged from a low of 47% (several times, most recently Jan. 27-29) to a high of 53% (three times, most recently Feb. 12-14).
Obama hopes to jump-start momentum for healthcare reform after it stalled following Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Jan. 19 special election for U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Obama has for the first time submitted his own version of healthcare legislation, after previously deferring to House and Senate Democrats to put forth a plan.
The most recent weekly approval averages by party nearly match those that Gallup has measured since mid-November — 83% approval among Democrats, 45% among independents, and 17% among Republicans.
Democratic approval of Obama has shown a small but noticeable decline since mid-November. Obama averaged 86% approval from Democrats the first two weeks of November, but his approval rating from his fellow partisans has since averaged 83%.
Independents’ weekly approval averages of Obama have exceeded 50% just once since early August, about the time the debate over healthcare reform intensified. Republican approval of Obama has not exceeded 20% since that time.
Given the reality of the stability in Obama’s job approval rating, arguments to the contrary are just so much hyperpartisan yapping.
Civilian deaths are again a serious problem for U.S. operations in Afghanistan, shadowing gains on the battlefield and in disrupting Taliban leadership.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Prior to this, Biden had breakfast with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the Naval Observatory.
At 9:15 AM Pacific, Obama and Biden have lunch in the Oval Office.
At 12 noon Pacific, Obama meets with U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk in the Oval Office.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Defense Secretary Bob Gates in the Oval Office.
At 3:45 PM Pacific, Obama has dinner with business leaders in the State Dining Room. Among the guests will be members of the executive committee of the Business Roundtable.
As discussed here yesterday, Obama has rolled out his version of the national health care bill, drawing heavily on the Senate bill with sweeteners through the House to be achieved through the budget reconciliation process, a majority vote procedure which circumvents the Senate filibuster.
In advance of Thursday’s high-stakes health care summit, Republican leaders have rejected this approach. Since Obama is not backing away — it will be very bad if he comes away from a year’s worth of work on health care with only a near miss — he and his people are figuring out their adjustments going into the event. I suspect the adjustments will be largely rhetorical, buttressed by a Republican idea here and there. The White House is already pointing up the fact that there is no Republican alternative.
As the national health care maneuvering heats up again, Obama is also managing geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran.
Today in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander there, General Stanley McChrystal, made a televised apology to the Afghan people for recent civilian deaths caused by U.S. air strikes.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearing on ABC’s This Week, said that the Tea Party movement isn’t going anywhere.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Schwarzenegger will engage in private talks around the state’s chronic budget crisis and upcoming elections.
Yesterday in the Capitol, the Legislature took a few steps toward dealing with the $20 billion shortfall in the current and projected fiscal year.
But most big moves were deferred. Democratic legislative leaders say they believe they have followed state law requiring the budget to dealt with in 45 days following the governor’s declaration of an emergency session. Which does not seem a reasonable reading of the law.
So why the delays?
The state government took in much revenue than projected in January, leaving some legislative leaders saying, very hopefully, that another round of big cuts should not happen now because there could be a huge turnaround in the revenue picture. But that doesn’t seem very realistic.
** MAD MEN: THE STREAK CONTINUES. … From my February 22nd column.
** 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. … From my February 19th column.
** 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. … From my February 16th column.
** 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.
** 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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