President Barack Obama commented on the Egyptian crisis late today, following President Hosni Mubarak’s post-midnight TV address in Cairo. Obama, who had just spoken with Mubarak, called for an end to violence on both sides and recognition of fundamental human rights.
** QUICK HITS. The Obama Administration, which will hold a National Security Council meeting tomorrow on the sudden crisis in Egypt, has placed aid to America’s longstanding top ally in the Arab world into review. The head of the Egyptian military was in the U.S. on a regular trip to confer with American officials and look at military hardware, but flew back to his country today. … Governor Jerry Brown today issued an executive order to cut the California state government’s car fleet in half. Brown delivers his State of the State address at 5 PM on Monday.
** 3 PM UPDATE: U.S. GEOPOLITICS IN TURMOIL. The Obama Administration is in the midst of an unprecedented challenge with the government of Egypt, America’s longest standing major ally in the Arab world, teetering from widespread popular protests by Egyptians fed up with poverty, inflation, corruption, and authoritarian rule.
After being absent from public view for the past several days while Tunisia-inspired protests grew, President Hosni Mubarak appeared live on television in Cairo in a post-midnight address — Egyptian time is 10 hours ahead of California time — to announce that he is sympathetic to the protesters’ cause and is sacking Egypt’s prime minister and the rest of the national cabinet. (I watched Mubarak’s speech live via the NWN live link to Al Jazeera below.)
In other words, he threw the rest of the government under the bus and said the problems are not caused by him. Since Mubarak has been in power for decades, it’s questionable whether or not this gambit will have much credibility with Egyptians.
What will the Obama Administration do? And will it matter?
The Egyptian security forces placed Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency and former aide to the Egyptian foreign minister, under house arrest not long after he returned to the country to help lead protests.
He would presumably be an acceptable alternative for the U.S. and other Western countries. But I don’t know that a former law professor at NYU has the Arab Street cred he needs, though getting arrested is a good start.
The Obama Administration appears to have been caught off-guard by the mass protests in Egypt. Just the other day, the State Department’s sub-cabinet official for the region was saying that the revolt in Tunisia was unique to Tunisia, and not applicable to Egypt. In reality, Tunisia-style protests have spread not only to Egypt but also to Yemen and Jordan.
Needless to say, the White House is heavily focused today on the Egyptian crisis, with Obama receiving repeated briefings on the situation.
Tomorrow there will reportedly be an emergency meeting of the full National Security Council to go over the Egyptian situation.
Egyptian security shut down the Internet and mobile phone service prior to today’s planned post-Friday prayer protests. It hasn’t made a difference, and may actually lead to more chaos if protesters act in spasmodic fashion.
In an unprecedented post-midnight address, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, long America’s biggest ally in the Middle East, fired his prime minister and the rest of the cabinet and pledged to respect protesters’ concerns.
** 2 PM UPDATE: THE REVOLUTION WILL BE TELEVISED. While I’m supposed to be wrapping up a piece on how Jerry Brown’s governorship is going so far, and focusing in conversation on domestic U.S. politics, I’ve actually been transfixed by the live TV feed from Cairo on the revolt in Egypt. The Egyptian police have failed to quell the protests, the governmental shutdown of the Internet has failed to quell the protests, people are out on the streets in violation of a curfew, army units are in evidence, but the government has been oddly absent.
You can watch this live on Al Jazeera by clicking on the live link below here on NWN.
The time in Egypt is 10 hours ahead of the time in California. But as you will see, things are very lively on the streets, as Egypt’s ruling party headquarters burns next to a national museum.
** NEW POLL: AMERICANS ARE DIVIDED ON OBAMA AND REPUBLICAN SPENDING PROPOSALS, MOSTLY LIKE OBAMA’S STATE OF THE UNION. Central to the Republican strategy for the 2011 congressional session and the 2012 presidential race is the notion that President Barack Obama is a wild, socialist big spender.
But he seems to be neutralizing that issue as both the session and the presidential race get underway.
According to a new Gallup Poll, 39% prefer Obama’s proposed five-year spending freeze on discretionary federal spending, while 41% prefer the Congressional Republicans’ proposal to cut discretionary spending back to 2008 levels.
Of the remainder, 7% prefer neither approach and 13% aren’t sure.
Which amounts to a wash.
And a wash on this issue is a win for Obama.
President Obama’s proposal to freeze discretionary domestic spending for five years was one of the key elements of his State of the Union address. Americans are generally divided when asked whether they favor his proposal (39%) or the Republicans’ plan (41%) to roll discretionary domestic spending back to 2008 levels. Democrats and Republicans generally line up behind their party’s plan. Independents tilt toward the GOP proposal, though many do not have an opinion either way. …
These results are based on a Jan. 26 USA Today/Gallup poll conducted the day after Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Overall, 34% of Americans say they watched the speech, and another 28% saw, heard, or read news coverage of it.
The poll finds that 65% of those who watched or saw coverage of the speech rate it positively, including 25% who say they have a very positive opinion of it. Those who watched the speech are more positive about it than are those who only saw news coverage of it.
That more positive response to the speech among those who watched is due in large part to the composition of the viewing audience for it. As is typical of most presidential speeches, the viewing audience for Obama’s speech was more friendly than not — 41% of those who watched the speech are Democrats, 33% independents, and 23% Republicans.
The speech afforded the president a prime opportunity to tell Americans how he plans to lead the country in the wake of the midterm elections, which returned the Republicans to majority status in the House.
However, Americans in general do not expect Obama to make significant changes in the types of policies he will pursue in the next year. Thirty-four percent say the speech was a signal that Obama will change course, but 47% disagree. About one in five have no opinion.
Those who watched the speech are more likely to believe it is a sign of a new Obama policy course, though even this group is divided in its views. …
Protests expanded today across Egypt, America’s longtime leading ally in the Arab world, with the police overwhelmed in many areas and army forces moving in.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 7:20 AM Pacific, Obama addressed Families USA’s 16th Annual Health Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill.
Upon returning to the White House, Obama then convened a meeting with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama’s national security team is all hands on deck with regard to the situation in Egypt.
Today is the largest day of protests yet in Egypt, America’s longest-standing ally in the Arab world, following on the example earlier this month of popular uprising in Tunisia.
It’s a chaotic situation, but in many areas the police have been overwhelmed by protesters, and in some areas replaced by units of the Egyptian Army.
The ruling party headquarters in Cairo, not far from where Obama made his major address to the Muslim world in 2009, was set on fire by protesters.
The Obama Administration has notably not made any particular show of support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, instead calling on the government to respect the human rights of protesters outraged by poverty, inflation, and corruption.
In the wake of the Tunisian uprising, waves of protest, fed by social media, spread through Egypt, a key US ally, on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and today. Security forces are cracking down, but apparently not effectively.
The unrest in Tunisia has spread to Egypt, where dissatisfaction with autocratic rule grew with help from social networks. But mobile phone service, Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet itself are running afoul of the authorities.
Massive protests were planned for today, when masses of people were already in the streets following Friday prayers.
Expectations proved accurate.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which helped give rise to Al Qaeda, is lending its support to the protests.
And Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has returned to the country and helped lead protests on Friday.
Some members of his party were set upon by police in the streets and beaten, but ElBaradei himself is reportedly well.
Egypt is America’s biggest ally in the Arab world. But longtime leader Hosni Mubarak is 82 and ill, and has been attempting to foist his son off as his successor, to the notable disapproval of the country’s military.
As is the case in much of the Arab world, the leadership is autocratic and unresponsive, most of the populace under-privileged and reeling from economic dislocations.
Tunisia-inspired protests are also widespread in Yemen, a much poorer nation where US forces find themselves engaged, barely behind the scenes, against Al Qaeda.
Speaking this morning at the Families USA conference in Washington, President Barack Obama said that, while he is open to “tweaking” the national health care refom bill, he will stop any efforts to roll it back.
Obama is also monitoring geopolitical crises in Tunisia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and the Korean peninsula, as well as the Wikileaks crisis.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento today.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and on developing his nascent administration.
He is also working on his State of the State address, now set for 5 PM next Monday.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrapped up a three-day speaking tour of Canada yesterday and spoke to students in upstate New York at the University of Buffalo last night.
He was in Montreal yesterday for a noontime address at Le Centre Sheraton for the Montreal Board of Trade.
Then he went to upstate New York for an evening speech in the University of Buffalo’s Alumni Arena as the Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker.
Press reports are of big crowds and enthusiastic responses.
Schwarzenegger did misspeak, however, and it is not what some California press report with regard to him saying that politicians who refuse to act boldly are “girly men.”
In Montreal, Schwarzenegger hailed the bravery of Canadian troops in Iraq. The problem is that Canada did not back or take part in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, due to its lack of support from the United Nations. Canadian troops have not participated in the Iraq War or subsequent operations there.
Canada has instead been very active in the war in Afghanistan.
A very small number of Canadians did take part in Iraq, but only as part of a regular exchange program with the U.S. military.
** OBAMA AND THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE JFK INAUGURAL 50 YEARS ON. Why, 50 years after the fact, did official Washington celebrate the inauguration of a most imperfect man who served less than one term as president, and had far fewer accomplishments than many other presidents?
The answer undoubtedly lies in why John F. Kennedy continues to be rated higher in polling than all other modern presidents, and why Barack Obama became a major political figure in the first place and is resurgent today. Ideology, policy, even accomplishment has remarkably little to do with it. …
From my January 22nd essay.
** THE JERRY BROWN ERA UNFOLDS (AGAIN). And he is off and running as governor of California. Again. The first week of Jerry Brown’s governorship told us a lot, and set the stage for the second week, in which a hellacious state budget proposal is dominating.
First, let’s look at that, and then at the first week of the Brown governorship as he took over from Arnold Schwarzenegger. A week that was telling and even, in its way, festive. At least at first. … From my January 11th feature.
** 2010: A JERRY BROWN ODYSSEY. … From my December 20th feature.
** 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.
Russia is holding a day of mourning today in the wake of Monday’s devastating terrorist bombing at Moscow’s busiest airport.
The U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger, carrying the first non-astronaut, a New Hampshire schoolteacher, into space, exploded in the skies over Florida not long after lift-off 25 years ago today. It was the first of two space shuttle disasters. When the Challenger disaster occurred, NASA was planning as many as 15 flights a year.
** 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 $86 per barrel.
This is up about $52 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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