President Barack Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan Sunday, after a non-stop overnight flight from Andrews Air Force Base.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … 24: DOWN FOR THE COUNT.
** OBAMA TODAY – SUNDAY. President Barack Obama is in Afghanistan.
In one of the great change-ups in presidential scheduling, Obama used the cover story of a weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland to actually fly on Air Force One to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.
After landing at the U.S. base there, once the main base of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, Obama then flew by helicopter to the presidential palace in the Afghan capital of Kabul.
Here are pool press reports from the ground in Afghanistan.
WH pool – Aghan #1
POTUS helicopter touched down shortly after 8pm local time at presidential palace in Kabul in unnanounced visit to Afghanistan.
POTUS arrived aboard AF1 at 7:25pm local time (10:55am DC time) at Bagram Air Base after 12hr, 46min nonstop overnight flight from Andrews AFB. Met by Gen Stanley McChrystal and Amb. Karl Eichenberry after walking off AF1 10mins after landing in darkness.
Pool and POTUS immediately transferred to helos for 15min flight into Kabul.
WH pool – Afghan #2
Pool was briefed on AF1 shortly before landing by NSA James Jones and LTG Doug Lute, top AfPak official at NSC.
Jones said POTUS would “engage” with Karzai on benchmarks. Please check against transcript, but some quotes:
POTUS will “engage President Karzai…to make him understand that in his second term, there are certain things that have been not paid attention to, almost since day one. That is things like…a merit-based system for appointment of key government officials, battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers, which fuels, provides a lot of the economic engine for the insurgents.” He also said they would dicuss the importance of the reintegration and reconciliation process. More to come.
WH pool – afghan 3
Potus and Karzai emerged from palace along red carpet to parade grounds in middle of palace complex. Men were talking, but unheard by pool.
Men proceeded to raised platform in front of Afghan color guard where national anthems were played. After anthems, presidents stepped down from platform and reviwed troops. Walked shoulder to shoulder, Potus on Karzai’s left. No words spoken. Presidents have reurned inside palace. Whole welcoming ceremony lasted about 10mins.
WH pool – Afghan 4
Pool now holding as presidents meet in palace. Before arrival, staff said Karzai and Potus would meet for a 1 on 1 first. Staff said Potus would be joined by NSA Jones, Amb. Eichenberry and deputy NSA McDonough.
Following that meeting, session is broadened for 45min meeting with Karzai’s cabinet. In that meeting, US side to include NSA Jones, CoS Rahm, deputy NSA Donilon, LTG Lute, Amb. Eichenberry, Gen. McChrystal, Deputy Amb. Riccardoni, deputy NSA McDonough.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SUNDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles.
He has no planned public events.
In his weekend video/radio address, President Barack Obama described what he calls “an historic week for America,” reforming the nation’s health care system and making student aid for higher education work for college students, not banks and middle men.
** OBAMA TODAY – SATURDAY. President Barack Obama is at Camp David today.
Obama has received his daily intelligence briefing.
He has no planned public events today.
He and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev struck a final agreement by phone yesterday on a new treaty to greatly reduce both countries’ nuclear weapons arsenals.
Obama and Medvedev will hold a U.S/Russia summit meeting in Prague on April 8th, where they will sign the nuclear arms reduction treaty. The signing will come nearly a year to the day from the Prague address in which Obama laid out many of his geopolitical goals, including the reduction of nuclear weapons.
Planning is now ongoing for this event.
Congress is off for spring recess.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq.
Preliminary results of the March 7th Iraqi national parliamentary elections were delayed several times; they are out now.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lost in the national popular vote. Maliki has called again for a manual recount of the national vote. But the elections commission has again turned him down.
So now he is threatening legal action.
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s more secular slate finished first in the vote and in parliamentary seats.
Allawi is now proposing to form a government with coalition partners.
The Tea Party crowd shows up in Searchlight, Nevada, home town of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, to try to defeat him this November.
Senator John McCain reunited with his former running mate Sarah Palin at a rally in Arizona Friday where McCain is fending off a primary challenge from the right and facing the toughest re-election campaign of his Senate career.
John McCain and Sarah Palin are back together again. This time the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee is coming to the rescue of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
McCain has a tough primary fight against far right former Congressman J.D. Hayworth. So Palin, the toast of the far right, is campaigning with McCain yesterday and today. The two appeared together at a fundraiser last night at the same Phoenix hotel from which McCain conceded the 2008 presidential race to Barack Obama.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE – SATURDAY. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Los Angeles today.
He joins First Lady Maria Shriver for the WE Connect Weekend event at the Forum in Inglewood. There families in need will gain access to various forms of assistance.
The state Legislature is off on spring break, which continues next week.
** NANCY PELOSI’S TRIUMPH: A LONG TIME COMING. It’s been a very heady few days for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman called her “a Speaker for the ages” after she ramrodded the national health care reform bill through the House of Representatives. “The most powerful woman in American history,” declared The Economist.
Which had not been my immediate expectation when I met Pelosi, whose 70th birthday is tomorrow, three decades ago at a party at her San Francisco home.
While recollections from the age of four (that’s a little joke) can, as we all know, be decidedly hazy, I remember some clear impressions. Though the daughter and sister of Baltimore mayors, Nancy D’Alesandro Pelosi was relatively new to being in politics on her own hook. … From my March 25th column.
** THE GHOST(S): OF TONY BLAIR, ROMAN POLANSKI, AND A WAR ON TERROR. Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer is one of the best films I’ve seen in recent years. It has masterful suspense, wit, humor, excellent casting and acting, fascinating design and music, and a highly relevant story which does not hit one over the head with a message. Yet it seems unlikely, at least in America, to break out beyond the art house hit status of The Hurt Locker and other much-admired and not widely-seen films.
Why? I think the first two words in the lead sentence provide the explanation. It’s a Roman Polanski film. And the distributor either doesn’t know how to market a film made by so notorious a figure that he is practically a pariah, at least now in America, or has found it to be impossible. It’s certainly an intriguing challenge, one that would tax the talents of a Don Draper.
In a real sense, as a filmmaker, Polanski is already a ghostly presence in America. One could note that he hasn’t had a big hit here since 1974’s Chinatown, which not coincidentally was made before his utterly unacceptable encounter with an underage girl. But one could also note that The Ghost Writer is a more commercial film than the films he’s been doing since his exile from the world’s movie-making capital of Los Angeles.
The Ghost Writer is a very well-reviewed, and widely reviewed, film, a roman a clef about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Which indicates that it has vibrancy beyond whatever it winds up doing at the domestic box office. It’s that good.
It’s based on the best-selling novel “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, which was bad enough for Tony Blair. But a book is one thing; a film is quite another. The novel by Harris — he was a friend of Blair who broke with him over the Iraq War — is very good. As is the basic story, good enough for me to know the novel well and still enjoy the twists and turns of the film. … From my March 22nd essay.
** 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. … From my March 12th column.
** IS MEG WHITMAN LIKE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER? YES (IN THE WRONG WAYS) … 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.
** THE BAND OF THE DECADE: THE BEATLES?! … From my January 1st, 2010 essay.
** HOW JERRY BROWN CLEARED THE DEMOCRATIC FIELD FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. … From my December 9th, 2009 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.
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** 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 $80.00 per barrel on Friday. Energy markets are closed on the weekend.
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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