Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, today addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington, affirmed the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel but warned that new Israeli construction on land claimed by the Palestinians threatens peace efforts and undermines America’s ability to help end the Arab-Israeli conflict.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama will sign the national health care reform bill tomorrow on the South Lawn of the White House. … The London-based newsmagazine The Economist says that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is the most powerful woman in American history, which had not been my immediate expectation when I met her three decades ago at her San Francisco home. … Silicon Valley-based Google is in an even bigger hassle with the People’s Republic of China than before, refusing to censor Chinese language Google and directing Chinese users to its Hong Kong-based web site.
** DEMOCRATS HAVE A BIG CONGRESSIONAL FUNDRAISING EDGE. The Senate still has to go through a set of votes making adjustments in the national health care reform bill the House passed last night, and Senate Republicans will throw up some roadblocks. But with the main bill passed, the heavy lifting in the House is done.
Last month, as the chaotic health care debate raged, the National Republican Congressional Committee raised a little more money than did the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, $5.1 million to $4.4 million. (The Republican edge is due to a million dollars in transfers from the campaign committees of party leaders.)
However, the Democrats come out of the year-long health care free-for-all with a big financial edge. The Democratic committee has a warchest of $20 million. The Republican committee has only $6.1 million.
** NEW POLL: SUPPORT FOR NUCLEAR POWER HITS NEW HIGH. According to the new Gallup Poll, support for nuclear power as a source of electrical energy has reached a new high of 62%. I suspect this is because President Barack Obama supports it as part of the electric power portfolio.
A majority of Americans have typically favored using nuclear power to provide electricity for the United States since Gallup began asking about this topic in 1994. Support has edged up in the last two years, eclipsing 60% this year for the first time. In addition, 28% of Americans now say they “strongly favor” nuclear power, also the highest Gallup has measured since the question was first asked in 1994.
This year’s results, from a March 4-7 Gallup poll, came after President Obama announced federal government loan guarantees to build the first nuclear power plants in the United States in three decades.
Obama’s support for nuclear power apparently hasn’t done much to change how Democrats view the issue, as a slim majority of 51% favor it, virtually unchanged from last year. Most of the increased support for nuclear energy over the past three years has come among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, who have consistently been more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to favor the use of nuclear energy.
President Barack Obama spoke last night moments after the House of Representatives passed the Senate’s national health care refom bill. “Tonight, at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of our politics. … Instead we proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things.”
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
Following his triumph last night on the national health care reform bill — achieved with the enormous assistance of Californian Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House — it’s another big week in presidential politics for Barack Obama. It’s a big week in California politics, too, with Steve Poizner at last launching a major TV advertising drive in the Republican primary to succeed term-limited Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democrat Jerry Brown and others slicing away at the claims of billionaire GOP hopeful Meg Whitman.
But first on Obama.
Health care policy is hardly my area of expertise, but last night’s 219 to 212 victory for Obama’s national health care refom bill in the House is clearly a very major accomplishment. Especially coming after the issue seemed dead in the water after the special election victory of “regular guy” Republican in January’s Massachusetts special election for the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat.
The Republicans, as conservative pundit and former Bush speechwriter David Frum put it, followed the Talk Radio Wing of their party and pursued a scorched earth strategy of all-out nyet on health care refom, betting the ranch on making it Obama’s Waterloo. Instead, they made it their own Waterloo, suffering their “most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.”
Republicans have made extravagant claims about this bill, from “death panels” to “socialism” to economic collapse. But that sort of talk is poppycock, and in any event the elements that come online this year are amongst the least objectionable to anyone. Obama and the Democrats will work to redefine what has become — through endless dithering in the Senate, obstructionism on the right, and the need to deal with unreasonable expectations on the left — a very controversial bill into something else again.
And Obama will swiftly pivot to the economy, which was the original plan for January before it was derailed by the Christmas Day bombing attempt and the Scott Brown surprise. The economy is improving, much of the economic stimulus comes online this year, and Obama will heavily promote economic recovery activities — as well as reform of unpopular Wall Street practices that nearly tanked the global financial system — all the way through the November mid-term elections.
The Senate has to make some adjustments to the health care bill through the majority vote budget reconciliation process, and there will likely be some Republican attempts to delay that, even though the filibuster can’t come into play, but Obama will be out in the country again this week selling the bill and its passage.
All of which would make for a very full week. But there’s more, as there always is with this administration in this chaotic time.
Obama 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. The meeting comes as the international community protests and as new polls in Israel belied 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.
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.
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.
In California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the state Legislature are in something of an impasse on California’s chronic budget crisis. I know, you may have heard this before. The Legislature, whose Democrats want to put off big budget cuts and whose Republicans won’t okay new revenues, sent Schwarzenegger legislation which dealth with only a small fraction of the problem. He vetoed it, and there we are again.
In the governor’s race, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s claim that his protege, Meg Whitman, was “a different kind of CEO” who eschewed corporate perks is being exposed as wildly wrong. And Whitman, who revealed herself as a big business/Wall Street conservative at the state Republican convention the weekend before last, is being attacked now by Jerry Brown as the candidate of special privileges.
Whitman has a big lead over super-rich state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, and refused more debates at the end of last week. But she’s not feeling so confident that she hasn’t just dropped a big direct mail hit piece on him as a supposed closet liberal.
For his part, Poizner is launching a big TV advertising drive on Tuesday, introducing himself as a champion of efforts to stop illegal immigration. His past emphasis on the issue, which I think has a lot of resonance in a Republican primary, has moved Whitman, who aspires to appeal to Latino voters, to the right.
Last fall she said she was for “comprehensive immigration reform” after the fashion of that once championed by John McCain and the late Ted Kennedy. Now she says she’s against it, and she insists she will never support “amnesty,” one form or another of which is at the core of any immigration reform allowing illegal immigrants to remain in America.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco paid homage last night to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and urged the House to “make history.”
** OBAMA TODAY. 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 8:30 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
After the weekend passage of the national health care reform bill by the House, Obama is scheduled to spend today behind closed doors.
He is working on ensuring passage of several needed adjustements to the bill in the Senate through the majority vote budget reconciliation process. He is also planning for the week ahead, which will include a signing ceremony for the hard-won health care bill, several appearances in the country promoting its passage and immediate benefits, and a key meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden will have a higher public profile.
He’s already made an announcement about tax cuts in the economic recovery act. Contrary to what many believe, taxes have gone down under Obama, as about half the economic stimulus program consists of tax cuts.
This afternoon, Biden hosts conference calls with governors and mayors on Recovery Act implementation.
At 4 PM Pacific, Biden hosts a welcome dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu at the Naval Observatory.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles, the Mojave Desert, and Sacramento today.
During the noon hour in the Hinkley area of the Mojave Desert, Schwarzenegger and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar will tour the world’s largest operating solar plant, the NextEra Harper Lake Solar Electric Generating System, and a 250 megawatt proposed solar facility, the Abengoa Mojave Solar project.
Following the tour, Schwarzenegger, joined by Salazar and California Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow, will hold a press conference at approximately 1 PM to sign SBX8 34 by state Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).
The bill creates a new program that will make it easier to both conserve land for endangered species and build new renewable energy projects in California. It will also help further streamline and speed up the permitting and siting process for large-scale renewable energy projects.
** 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.
** 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 is trading around
This is up about $ 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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