President Barack Obama talked up his economic program this morning before the Business Roundtable in Washington.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THAT CALIFORNIA “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND BROWN.
** QUICK HITS. The die is cast for tomorrow’s high-stakes Washington summit at Blair House on national health care reform. President Barack Obama has gone through prep, and will have the first and last word in tomorrow’s session with Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate. The summit runs from 10 AM to 4 PM Eastern time, with a 45-minute lunch break. Obama speaks first to open the summit, the Republicans say their piece, followed by Democrats. Then four specific topics are addressed, with Obama discussing cost controls, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius introducing insurance reform, Vice President Joe Biden handling deficit reduction, and Obama the cleanup hitter focusing on expanding health care coverage. … I took another look today at Meg Whitman’s new TV ad about what a great corporate executive she was. Yesterday I was transfixed by all the unnamed validators in the spot, and then by the coincidence that they’d all made a lot of money from Whitman. Today I noticed that Whitman speaks on camera for only two seconds in the 60-second ad. … Call me psychic, but my guess is that we will see a lot more of Steve Poizner when Whitman’s rival in the California Republican gubernatorial primary puts his TV ads on the air.
** BIG PAKISTANI CRACKDOWN ON THE AFGHAN TALIBAN’S LEADERSHIP. President Barack Obama’s prodding of and diplomacy with Pakistan appears to be paying more dividends. In addition to the capture earlier of the Afghan Taliban’s number two leader, who is providing intelligence to Pakistani authorities, seven of the 15 members of the organization’s leadership council have been taken prisoner in recent days.
In the past, Pakistani authorities have allowed top leaders of the Afghan Taliban safe haven in Pakistan. After all, the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, practically created the Taliban in the ’90s as a way of stabilizing an Afghanistan torn by civil war in the wake of the defeat of the Soviet Union there.
Now that is changing.
Pakistan has arrested nearly half of the Afghanistan Taliban’s leadership in recent days, Pakistani officials told the Christian Science Monitor Wednesday, dealing what could be a crucial blow to the insurgent movement.
In total, seven of the insurgent group’s 15-member leadership council, thought to be based in Quetta, Pakistan, including the head of military operations, have been apprehended in the past week, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
** NEW POLL: AMERICAN SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL NEAR RECORD HIGH. Israel may be increasingly isolated around the world in terms of public opinion — although its leaders have been engaged for months in feverish global diplomacy, which shows signs of paying off — but one place where it is very popular is America. In fact, a new Gallup Poll shows its popular support here near a record high.
At the same time, fewer Americans side with the Palestinians than before, and belief in the Israeli/Palestinian peace process is near a record low.
The 63% sympathizing with Israel today is statistically unchanged from the 58% to 59% seen from 2006 to 2009; however, it is considerably higher than most of the previous readings on this Gallup measure since 1993. The trend includes two 38% readings in 1996 and 1997.
Only in January 1991 — shortly after Israel was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles during the Gulf War — did U.S. support for Israel register as high as it does today.
Over the last five years, support for Israel has increased slightly among Republicans (rising from about 77% for each of the past several years to 85% today) and independents, but has stayed roughly the same among Democrats. Since 2001, however, there has been a more dramatic shift in partisan attitudes: a 25-point increase in sympathy for Israel among Republicans and an 18-point increase among independents. Even on this longer-term basis, support for Israel among Democrats has been relatively flat.
The latest findings come from Gallup’s annual World Affairs survey, updated Feb. 1-3, 2010. In the same poll, Americans were asked to give their opinions of 20 countries, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel’s 67% favorable rating ranks among the highest and the Palestinian Authority’s 20% among the lowest. …
Additionally, the poll asked Americans about the chances that peace will eventually come to the Middle East. Currently, 30% think “there will come a time” when “Israel and the Arab nations will be able to settle their differences and live in peace”; 67% are doubtful.
Americans’ attitudes about the prospects for peace are little changed from last year, but are among the more pessimistic Gallup has found since initiating the question in 1997. The only time fewer Americans were optimistic about Arab-Israeli peace (27%) was in July 2006, during the Israeli-Hezbollah war in southern Lebanon. While public optimism has since remained low, it has shown longer-term variations, and has a history of rebounding — particularly after U.S.-brokered peace talks in 1999, 2003, and 2005.
** CALIFORNIA 2010: HERE COMES STEVE POIZNER. In an interview late yesterday with the Associated Press, super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner said that he will soon launch his advertising campaign in his race with billionaire Meg Whitman for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.
Whitman has built a large if gossamer primary lead with an endless series of vague, positive, yet unmemorable ads.
The Whitman camp worked hard for months trying to clear the Republican primary field of rivals Poizner and ex-Congressman Tom Campbell. The latter departed for the presumably greener fields of a third try at the U.S. Senate, with some newfound support. (Though he will not have an easy time of it in that primary, either.) But Poizner’s not going away.
In a 90-minute interview with The Associated Press, Poizner challenged reports that he intends to wait until the month before the June primary to launch his own TV and radio ad campaign.
“That speculation is just false,” Poizner said. “And we’re going to have an aggressive, bold campaign based on a very specific set of core principles and ideas that will get this broken state back on track.”
Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, has dominated the airwaves for months while avoiding the kind of wide-ranging interview with California political reporters to which Poizner agreed. Her campaign has not agreed to an AP request for a similar interview. …
Poizner acknowledged that Whitman has had free rein to define herself to voters in part because of his failure to launch a paid
media campaign, but he said that would soon end. …
Poizner declined to be specify on when he would begin the advertising, other than to say it would be soon. He said he intends to lay out detailed plans about changes he would make to the way California operates so Republican primary voters can draw clear distinctions between himself and Whitman. He said he believes Californians “have had enough” of having a celebrity in the governor’s office and challenged Whitman’s assertion that her corporate business experience has prepared her for the job.
“If people are looking for that, if they’re looking to rebrand the state, I mean they’re going to be attracted to that,” he said. “But she’s short on details, short on experience. And in contrast, I’m the problem-solver, the engineer, the entrepreneur, with this track record.”
He contrasted Whitman’s background as a “Wall Street type” with his own experience as an entrepreneur who has had varied experiences, including a year teaching U.S. government at a low-income high school and a fellowship in the White House that coincided with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, President Barack Obama’s harshest critic on security issues, is recovering from his fifth recorded heart attack.
** 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.
At 10 AM Pacific, Obama addresses the Business Roundtable at the St. Regis Hotel.
At 12:15 PM Pacific, Obama participates in a credentialing ceremony for ambassadors from other nations in the East Room of the White House.
At 1:15 PM Pacific, Obama and Biden meet with Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke in the Oval Office.
At 4 PM Pacific, Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a reception in honor of Black History Month at the Naval Observatory.
Obama is prepping for tomorrow’s high-stakes health care summit with leading Democratic and Republican members of the House and Senate.
He is also overseeing negotiations on what will almost certainly be the last attempt to pass a major national health care reform bill in the foreseeable future.
As discussed here on Monday, 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, Obama is also managing geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran.
In the fall of 2006, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, toured Bloom Energy in Silicon Valley.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley today.
At 8:30 AM, Schwarzenegger will deliver remarks at an event in San Jose hosted by Bloom Energy, a new energy firm which he visited in 2006 while running for re-election. Bloom now has what may be a breakthrough energy device.
At 11:15 AM, Schwarzenegger joins former President Bill Clinton to convene the 2010 Governor’s Summit on Health, Nutrition and Obesity: Actions for Healthy Living in Los Angeles. Schwarzenegger and Clinton will participate in a discussion, moderated by California Endowment President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert Ross, on ideas and policies to combat obesity.
The California Channel will broadcast the discussion live. It will be available online at www.calchannel.com/channel/live/.
Following the discussion with Clinton, Schwarzenegger will hold a press conference to announce specific actions he will pursue to support healthy living.
** 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.) … From my February 23rd column.
** 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. … 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 $80 per barrel.
This is up about $46 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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