President Barack Obama met with and addressed the House Democratic Caucus on Saturday. The House is scheduled to vote Sunday on the national health care reform bill. “We’re going to get this done,” vowed Obama.
** SUNDAY MID-AFTERNOON UPDATE: OBAMA TO ADDRESS THE NATION THIS EVENING. With an executive order reiterating the Hyde Amendment strictures against federal funding for abortion winning over a band of anti-abortion House Democrats, passage of the national health care reform bill by the U.S. House of Representatives is assured.
President Barack Obama will address the nation from the East Room this evening following the House vote.
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Obama has received the daily intelligence briefing and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
The U.S. House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on the national health care reform bill.
Obama has cleared his schedule for last minute lobbying and dealing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on various details.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Israel, and Iraq.
He is now scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu — who has alternated between defiance and some acquiescence in his dispute with America and the rest of the international community over settlements on the West Bank — who is now scheduled to arrive in Washington in the next few days.
Netanyahu is bringing along Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the former prime minister and chief of the Israeli general staff, who is trusted by Americans. Far right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is welcome in few foreign capitals, is again staying at home. Netanyahu and Barak will also meet with Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as address the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
Meanwhile in Iraq, where national parliamentary elections took place two weeks ago but no final count is yet available, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki wants a recount.
Because his slate is narrowly trailing that of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi in the national vote count.
But Iraq’s election commission has rejected Maliki’s call for a recount.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SUNDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
In his weekend video/radio address, with the Senate Banking Committee taking up financial reforms on Monday, President Barack Obama discusses the origins of the global financial crisis and the need for change.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington today.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 12:05 PM Pacific, Obama meets with members of the House Democratic Caucus in the Capitol Visitor Center Auditorium.
The national health care reform bill is getting down to the short strokes, and Obama has cleared much of his schedule to deal with details and lobby wavering members of Congress.
The House vote is slated for Sunday afternoon.
Heading into the weekend, prospects for passage appeared to be good. The American Medical Association and the American Association for Retired People endorsed yesterday, not unexpectedly, and a stream of House Democrats got down off the fence and announced their support.
Republicans, sensing impending defeat, vowed to try fresh delaying tactics in the Senate and vowed retribution.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Moscow to work on closing the new nuclear arms treaty with Russia, deal with NATO, Iran, and AfPak matters, and to meet with other members of the Quartet powers on the Middle East (U.S., Russia, European Union, and United Nations).
Clinton and U.S. special envoy to Middle East George Mitchell met yesterday on the stalled Israeli/Palestinian peace process with the Middle East Quartet powers. They included Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon, EU foreign secretary Catherine Ashton, and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Quartet special envoy.
The Quartet (U.S., U.N., European Union, and Russia) called on Israel to halt its settlement activities in the disputed West Bank.
The Quarter calls came as new polls in Israel belied Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s claim that the settlements pushed by his right-wing coalition represent a consensus point of view. They show that nearly half of all Israelis think the settlements should be frozen.
President Barack Obama has a special message for Iranians on the occasion of Nowruz, the traditional Iranian New Year festival, lamenting the course of the Tehran regime in closing down society and pursuing a nuclear program beyond peaceful purposes.
Clinton will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. They will discuss NATO, AfPak, and the Iranian crisis.
Obama has forged a very good relationship bordering on friendship with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. But with Putin, not so much. As I reported last year, Putin had Obama come out to his dacha for a private breakfast meeting, which not coincidentally ran long and made Obama late for his big Moscow speech, which was notably underplayed in the Russian press.
Putin, who I’ve studied at length and as I’ve always suggested, remains the real power in Russia. (Medvedev is very important, but in short form plays good cop to Putin’s bad cop. He was Putin’s chief of staff and was picked by the United Russia party, which Putin heads.) I would love to be present for the meeting between Putin and Hillary, two tough cookies.
Though Putin’s toughness is of a type unfamiliar to most Americans. He is not a monster nor a mobster. What he is is a very sophisticated intelligence officer with real management skills and more than a bit of charisma. And a substantial degree of ruthlessness.
Putin just declared that Russia will complete the oft-delayed Bushehr nuclear power plant for Iran this summer. The U.S. would prefer that it not be completed until Iran’s nuclear program is defanged into a state in which only civilian applications are possible.
Russia, an historical rival of Iran though now an ally of sorts, says it wants that, too. But it also wants to use as much leverage as possible to pursue its goal of reconstituting its sway over the post-Soviet space.
While the U.S. is no longer pushing for the expansion of NATO, it has not abandoned Georgia and is pushing back against Russian moves in the Baltics, having just completed a large air exercise there with the tiny Baltic air forces.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran.
In Iraq, former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s slate has taken a slight lead in the overall count over that of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the slow count of March 7th’s national parliamentary elections. But Maliki leads in more provinces.
Allawi, who’s lived half his life in Britain and whose family lives in London now, represents a more secular brand of politics than does Maliki. The vote was not expected to be close.
That may account for the slowness of the much delayed count, officially attributed to computer problems.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared yesterday in Silicon Valley with Apple co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs to promote a new organ donor registry. In the absence of such a registry, Jobs himself survived last year only by virtue of his wealth and fame.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SATURDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He has no scheduled public events.
Yesterday Schwarzenegger held a press conference at the Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto to announce the introduction of a bill by state Senator Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) to make it easier for Californians to affirm their preferred organ donor status and to create the nation’s first live donor registry, the California Living Donor Registry.
An unannounced star guest was on hand, Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs, who benefited last year from an organ transplant.
Had I known about the Schwarzenegger-Jobs pairing in advance — Jobs apparently wanted it to be a surprise — I would have played it up more.
Jobs made the point that his life was saved because of his wealth and fame. And that this legislation will make it easier for more Californians to have the access that he benefited from.
** THE MITT & MEG SHOW: “TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS” Billionaire Meg Whitman, the seeming political cipher who would be governor of California, is purchasing endless amounts of unanswered advertising. It’s propelled her into a slight lead over Democrat Jerry Brown in the new Field Poll, something which Brown (who’s held, lost, and held again leads in many campaigns) told me weeks ago that he expected.
Yet she has serious problems. At this past weekend’s state Republican convention, she tried to deal with two of them: Her avoidance of the press and her mysterious motivation as a newfound politician.
As a character, Meg Whitman lacks evident psychological credibility. Why is someone with no engagement in public affairs before her sudden leadership role in the 2008 Republican presidential campaigns — someone who couldn’t even be bothered to vote, and can’t say how long she’s lived in California — suddenly running for governor of the state?
Conservative Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Whitman’s business mentor, provides the answer. It was his idea that Whitman run for governor, and he convinced her to do it. … From my March 17th column.
** MEG WHITMAN’S NEW! IMPROVED! POST-JOURNALISM! POLITICS. Something new and more than a little bizarre is busy being born in California. Call it post-journalism politics. … From my March 12th column.
** IS MEG WHITMAN LIKE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER? YES (IN THE WRONG WAYS) Is billionaire Meg Whitman, the former McCain/Palin campaign co-chair who seeks to replace action movie superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger as the governor of California, like Schwarzenegger?
It’s a question that her ultra-megabucks campaign clearly doesn’t like. The heavily programmed career corporate marketing executive goes out of her way to distinguish herself from the multiple times Mr. Universe. She was a CEO, of a company you may have heard of, eBay. And in case you hadn’t heard that and you live in California, she’s spent many millions of dollars for months on ads telling you about it. After all, it is her sole claim to fame. Whereas, in her view, Schwarzeneggger was merely a jock turned entertainer. (Not that she mentions her not so excellent eBay era adventures with, say, Skype, Craigslist, and Goldman Sachs. So I won’t, either.)
Whitman hates the comparison with Schwarzenegger, a comparison which is nonetheless obvious as both she and Schwarzenegger are Republicans, both are super-rich, and neither had any experience in elected office before deciding to run for governor of California. Why does she hate it? Well, Schwarzenegger, while still personally popular, has seen his once record job approval rating plummet with the global recession and the state’s gridlocked budget process. And he’s turned out to be too liberal for the increasingly right-leaning party whose nomination she is trying to win.
As someone who knew Schwarzenegger and talked with him extensively before he ran for governor in the 2003 California recall election — and who began scouting Whitman, putting together several hours of film of her, when she suddenly emerged as national co-chair of the Republican presidential campaign in early 2008 — it occurs to me that Whitman is like Schwarzenegger.
But in the wrong ways. (Keep in mind that I’m referring to the Schwarzenegger who suddenly jumped from promoting Terminator 3 into running for governor in 2003.) … From my March 9th column.
** IS OBAMA’S AFPAK STRATEGY ACTUALLY WORKING? … From my March 5th column.
** THE CALIFORNIA AS FIRST “FAILED STATE” DEBATE: SCHWARZENEGGER, DAVIS, WHITMAN, AND JERRY BROWN. With Democrat Jerry Brown finally declaring his candidacy for California governor today and billionaire Meg Whitman’s super-rich Republican rival Steve Poizner starting his own TV ad campaign against her, this seems a good time to talk about a big new negative theme about the rather tarnished Golden State. Is California America’s first “failed state?” That’s what a lot of people are saying. So I talked about that with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; the governor he replaced, Gray Davis; and a famous former governor favored to be the next governor, Jerry Brown. … From my March 2nd column.
** SO WHO IS THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FRONTRUNNER ANYWAY? PALIN, ROMNEY, PAUL (!) … … 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.) … From my February 19th column.
** TONY BLAIR’S GHOST (WRITER). … From my February 16th 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 closed at $80.68 per barrel on Friday. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
This is up about $47 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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