Egyptian film star Omar Sharif, who starred in a little movie called Lawrence of Arabia, today called on President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Opposition leaders have called for a million people to protest Mubarak’s rule on Tuesday, and the army is pledging not to interfere.
** QUICK HITS. In his State of the State address, which you can read here, Governor Jerry Brown called for a public vote on his rescue package for California’s chronic budget crisis, noting the irony of Republican efforts to block democracy as pro-democracy protesters in Egypt and Tunisia fire the world’s imagination. He also pointed out that naysayers are continuing the practice of providing no alternatives. … As he prepared to deliver his State of the State address, Brown revealed through his campaign filing that he spent $36.7 million to win the governorship of California last November. … Billionaire Meg Whitman, who lost to Brown in a 54% to 41% landslide, reported spending $178.5 million. Of which over $144 million came from herself. … But her true total is much more than that, as it does not include the million-plus “investment” she made in consultant Mike Murphy’s credit-free Hollywood production company two days after he ankled GOP rival Steve Poizner’s campaign, or any of her unreported heavy spending early on on consultants, research, and travel. … A federal judge in Florida today declared the national health care reform bill to be unconstitutional, saying that the mandate requiring all individuals to purchase health insurance is illegal. … U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, scion of the Huntsman Corp. and a relatively moderate one-term Republican governor of Utah, is resigning to return to the U.S. and explore a run for the Republican presidential nomination. Huntsman worked with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on climate/renewable issues and is one of the highest profile Obama Republican appointees.
** NEW POLL: NO GETTING RID OF THE TEA PARTY. A new Gallup Poll shows how difficult it will be for Republican presidential candidates to distance themselves from the Tea Party.
A whopping 71% of Americans think it’s at least somewhat important for Republican leaders to strongly consider Tea Party positions.
That includes 88% of Republicans.
It also includes 53% of Democrats, and that is surely not because Democrats like the Tea Party.
Think mischief there.
When it comes to Republicans, the answer is far more straightforward. 52% of Republicans nationally count themselves supporters of the Tea Party. Only 5% are opponents.
About 7 in 10 national adults, including 88% of Republicans, say it is important that Republican leaders in Congress take the Tea Party movement’s positions and objectives into account as they address the nation’s problems. Among Republicans, 53% rate this “very important.” …
Although few Democrats (6%) are supporters of the Tea Party or even have a favorable view of it (11%), more than half say it is important that the Republican Party take the Tea Party’s positions into account. Why this is the case is unclear, although Democrats may simply feel that the opposing party should pay attention to all of its constituencies.
Perhaps underscoring the same principle, Republicans overwhelmingly feel their leaders should take the Tea Party’s positions into account, even though barely half are self-identified as Tea Party supporters.
Despite Americans’ willingness to have Tea Party voices heard, it is not clear that the Republican Party benefits when Tea Party leaders publicly overshadow its own. Indeed, the GOP confronted that issue last week when Rep. Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party-sanctioned response to Obama’s State of the Union address seemed to draw attention away from the Republican Party’s official response given by Rep. Paul Ryan. …
While media commentators duel over whether Bachmann’s response to the State of the Union address deserved prime-time coverage, the Republican Party has its own dilemma: how much deference to show Tea Party activists and their generally conservative proposals in crafting public policy. Almost all Republicans say it is at least somewhat important for GOP congressional leaders to take the Tea Party’s views into account, with about half saying it is very important. More broadly, the Tea Party has neither lost nor gained strength since the midterm elections. It remains popular with about 3 in 10 Americans who call themselves supporters of the movement, and it continues to generate as much opposition as support overall.
President Barack Obama delivered his widely heralded speech to the Islamic world, “A New Beginning,” on June 4th, 2009 at Cairo University. Today Cairo, and the rest of Egypt, is in a deep state of turmoil, along with Obama’s geopolitical strategy.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
It’s a very big week in presidential politics, and a big week in California politics.
In presidential politics, Barack Obama deals with one of the ultimate X-factor issues, the possible collapse of America’s longest standing ally in the Arab world.
In California politics, Governor Jerry Brown emerges from stealth mode and delivers his State of the State address. He is now nearly midway through his own schedule of getting a budget plan approved allowing him to take needed revenue solutions to a projected June special election.
What a difference a week makes. A week ago, Obama had confounded most experts by emerging in a strong position for re-election following widespread Democratic defeats in the mid-term elections.
Obama had a string of major successes in the lame duck Congress and delivered an elegant, moving speech in the wake of the Tucson tragedy that reminded people of why they liked him so much following his great keynote address at the 2004 Democratic national convention.
His State of the Union address was, as expected, quite successful.
And his Republican opponents for the 2012 presidential race are, not to put too fine a point on it, unimpressive.
Then came Egypt.
It was clear after the uprising in Tunisia that tectonic plates were beginning to shift in the Arab world, with people stirring against poverty, inflation, corruption, and decades of authoritarian rule. Beyond a certain point, things simply can’t be blamed on Israel.
But the Obama Administration was largely caught flat-footed by the uprising in Egypt, which is merely America’s longest standing ally in the Arab world and the site of Obama’s landmark address to the Islamic world in 2009.
President Hosni Mubarak’s only plan for succession to his regime was his son. Which was not flying even before the uprising, with the Egyptian military, the most admired and stable institution in the country, frowning mightily on the notion. Egyptian political culture is deracinated, with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood the only coherent non-Mubarak political force in the country.
Following days of protest, in a dramatic midnight address Mubarak named his national intelligence chief, rather than his son, as his new vice president and possible successor. Mubarak had left the vice presidency unfilled since taking power decades ago. Now it’s the 74-year old Omar Suleiman, like Mubarak a product of the Egyptian military.
Mubarak also named the former head of the Egyptian Air Force, now Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq as the country’s new prime minister. Mubarak, too, was the commander of the air force prior to becoming president.
But this increasingly seems merely a transitory solution, and Obama must pick his way forward through a political minefield without alienating the Arab street and without totally destabilizing the country, each of which could easily deliver Egypt into the hands of Islamists.
Egypt has been a bulwark of America’s counter-jihadist strategies, serving also as a key counter-weight to Iran and a stabilizer of the situation with Israel. But like many Arab countries, it has failed to address basic needs of most of its people and has squelched political reform efforts.
The chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces, General Sami Anan, returned to his country on Friday from Washington, cutting short one of his regular visits to the US. The US announced that aid to Egypt, which amounts to $1.4 billion a year most of which goes to the military, is under review pending resolution of the crisis. (Egypt is the second biggest recipient of U.S. foreign aid, behind Israel.) Yet the military is only one part of this complex equation.
After a few days of uncertainty, the Obama Administration is making it clear to Mubarak that far more is expected of him than he’s offered so far. This is a wise rhetorical course, especially from a country that manufactures the tear gas used to suppress Egyptian protests, and which has propped up an authoritarian regime with military aid for decades.
Now there is talk of mobilizing mass demonstrations of a million people and more on Tuesday throughout Egypt. With the Internet cut off and texting on mobile phone networks disabled, organization will be more difficult.
But with the army refusing to suppress the protests so far, such things have a momentum of their own. And the reality is that huge demonstrations have been organized in the past without much in the way of technological aid.
Meanwhile, the administration is organizing an evacuation of Americans from Egypt. And that will be more difficult with the cut-off of the Internet and mobile phone texting. Undoubtedly some will be left behind.
In comparison to this, what Jerry Brown has to deal with is child’s play, certainly from an intellectual standpoint. Except it isn’t because the forces and figures involved in sustaining a chronic state budget crisis in one of the world’s largest and wealthiest economies are entrenched and intractable.
Brown, who has been unusually absent from the public eye during the first four weeks of his third term as governor, will speak to some familiar themes tonight in his State of the State address. I’ll have a full report on how he’s doing so far as governor.
But the reality is that the other actors have to get their heads out of, er, the sand in order for the state government to emerge from a crisis born of constitutionally hamstrung institutions and a dysfunctional political culture.
As is his custom, Brown has not laid out his week ahead. In fact, he does not lay out his day ahead, in contrast to Schwarzenegger, who no one would call a highly scheduled politician.
Here’s what Obama is doing this week, so far, with events in Egypt obviously overshadowing all.
On Monday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
On Tuesday, he will hold a Cabinet meeting at the White House.
On Wednesday, Obama will travel to the Penn State Campus at University Park in State College, Pennsylvania, where he will tour one of his administration’s new Energy Innovation Hubs and deliver remarks on innovation, energy efficiency, and clean energy. To, you know, “win the future.”
On Thursday, Obama will deliver remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC.
On Friday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
As always, Obama keeps his schedule in the latter part of the week vague and flexible to adjust for emerging events.
Opposition forces in Egypt are beginning to coalesce, with Nobel Peace Prize winner and former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei emerging as a prospective interim leader.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 8:10 AM Pacific, Obama meets with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Obama is extremely focused, needless to say, on the extraordinary crisis in Egypt.
He will be talking with world leaders and meeting with his national security team throughout the day.
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 delivers the State of the State address tonight at 5 PM in the Capitol. This is the latest State of the State address that I can recall.
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, which he is essentially writing himself.
You can watch the State of the State on the local TV stations around the state, on the California Channel on cable, and online at www.calchannel.com.
Brown will discuss the state’s chronic budget crisis, as well as prospects for California when it emerges from the crisis.
There’s nothing terribly mysterious about this. The state’s budget crisis is unnecessary and preposterous. Brown must convince some of the most recalcitrant and self-absorbed interests on the planet to undertake the obvious: Cut back on spending and bring in new revenues.
He must then take things to the ballot, including some form of tax hike, this year, preferably in June, and get a majority of voters to either vote to continue higher taxes on themselves, tax corporations more, or approve some combination thereof.
That’s the whole story, boiled down from its faux complexity.
** 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.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd 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.
Following its weekend victories at the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild Awards, The King’s Speech has overtaken The Social Network as the Oscar favorite for Best Picture.
** 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 $91 per barrel.
This is up about $57 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
It’s also up $5 a barrel since Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was finally forced to name a vice president, and picked his longtime intelligence chief.
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