President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy did a little crowd-plunging before walking into the G-8 summit together today in Deauville, France.
** QUICK HITS. Notorious accused war criminal Ratko Mladic was captured today and hauled before a judge in Belgrade. As head of the Bosnian Serb military in the early and mid-1990s, Mladic is widely reported to have engaged in vicious ethnic cleansing operations against Muslims and Croatians, including ordering the infamous Srebrenica massacre of 1995, wiping out the entire male population of 8000 and engaging in systematic raping and abuse of women. The Balkan wars ultimately ended after the intervention of NATO in 1999. Mladic will be shipped to the Hague to face the International Criminal Court, just as Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi, also indicted by the ICC, can expect in the end. … NATO is again hitting Tripoli tonight, according to reports. How is Gaddafi surviving? He is hiding out at night in hospitals. … In California politics, the state Assembly today passed Democratic legislation to end California’s participation in a U.S. Department of Justice program in which arrestees’ fingerprints are checked for immigration status. If someone is an illegal immigrant, he or she is deported. As state attorney general, Jerry Brown signed the agreement making California part of the program and as mayor of Oakland Brown supported the idea. …
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … BENEATH THE POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE, AN OBAMA DOCTRINE EMERGES.
** SURPRISE VOTE: AFGHAN WAR OPPONENTS NEARLY WIN IN CONGRESS. In a surprise this afternoon, the House of Representatives nearly passed a bill requiring the U.S. to accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan slated to begin in July. The July withdrawal is expectd to be token, even after the death of Osama bin Laden.
The vote was 215 to 204. Last summer, Afghan War opponents garnered only 162 votes, only eight of which were from Republicans.
This time around, a whopping 26 Republicans joined 178 Democrats in the vote. Eight Democrats voted against.
The amendment would have required the administration to give Congress a plan with an expedited timeframe to transfer U.S. military operations back to Afghan control, accompanied by negotiations for a political solution there. It also required an updated intelligence assessment into the strength of al Qaeda – which supporters of the proposal say may be much diminished now, in part by the death of Osama bin Laden.
In what’s clearly a major development. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer spoke out on behalf of the anti-Afghan War move.
The legislation was an amendment to the annual Department of Defense authorization bill.
By coincidence, nine NATO troops were killed today in Afghanistan, nearly all of them Americans.
** NEW POLL: ROMNEY AND PALIN AT TOP OF REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PACK. With fresh signs that she might run after all, Sarah Palin, in the wake of several high-profile departures from the race, has returned to a leading role in the, well, drama is not exactly the word, that is the Republican presidential race.
A new Gallup Poll shows a statistical dead heat at the top between Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, with the ex-Massachusetts governor at 17% and the ex-Alaska governor at 15%.
This all comes in the wake of the departures from the race of Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Indiana Governor and former federal budget director Mitch Daniels.
Palin had seemed out of it, her numbers down and her interest waning. But she’s touring American historical sites and a two-hour movie about her will premiere next month in Iowa, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential contest. She’s apparently moving to Arizona, which will figure into early presidential campaign calculations. And she’s brought a few old political hands back on board.
Is she really running? Or is she campaigning to raise her profile and make it easier to keep cashing in on her celebrity?
Mitt Romney (17%) and Sarah Palin (15%) now lead a smaller field of potential Republican presidential candidates in rank-and-file Republicans’ preferences for the party’s 2012 nominee. Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain essentially tie for third, with Cain registering 8% support in his initial inclusion in Gallup “trial heat” polling. Notably, 22% of Republicans do not have a preference at this point. …
The May 20-24 poll is the first update of Republican nomination preferences after a recent flurry of activity in the race for the 2012 nomination, with several formally declaring their presidential candidacies, including Paul, Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Cain.
Perhaps as significant were the decisions by Mike Huckabee, Donald Trump, and Mitch Daniels to forgo the race. In Gallup’s April update, Huckabee and Trump were the co-leaders, with Huckabee placing first in the other Gallup updates this year.
Of the 10 candidates included in the newly reduced list, 7 have either officially announced their candidacies or established exploratory committees. Jon Huntsman and Michele Bachmann are nearing decisions and are expected to get in the race, while Palin’s status as a candidate is less certain.
Re-allocating Palin supporters’ votes to the candidate who is their second choice gives a sense of where current preferences would stand without Palin in the mix. Under this scenario, Romney leads with 19%, followed by Gingrich and Paul with 12% each. …
Romney’s and Palin’s status at the top of the field is owing in large part to their high name identification among rank-and-file Republicans. Gingrich and Paul are also well-known among the party base. Cain, on the other hand, is far less well-known, but he has generated a strong positive reaction among those who do know him, which allows him to place ahead of slightly better-known candidates such as Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Santorum. …
In the short term, Romney and Palin seem to have benefited most from several prominent potential Republican candidates’ decisions not to run for president. Should Palin follow suit and not enter the race, Romney would be the clear front-runner, but arguably the weakest front-runner in any recent Republican nomination campaign.
As such, the race remains wide open, which is underscored by the fact that one in five Republicans currently have no preference.
President Barack Obama addressed the British Parliament yesterday in London’s historic Westminster Hall. The US and UK, Obama declared, will serve as “catalysts for global action.” Obama was introduced, incidentally, by House of Commons Speaker John Bercow.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Britain and France.
Obama received his daily intelligence briefing this morning at Buckingham Palace in London.
British time is eight hours ahead of Pacific time.
French time is nine hours ahead of Pacific time.
At 1:20 AM Pacific, Obama departed London on Air Force One en route Deauville, France
At 1:55 AM Pacific, Obama arrived in Deauville, France.
This French resort, best known internationally for a film festival, is the site of the G-8 summit.
At 2:45 AM Pacific, Obama held a bilateral meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia at Hotel Royal Barriere in Deauville.
At 3:55 AM Pacific, Obama arrived at Villa La Cercle and was welcomed by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
At 4 AM Pacific, Obama attended a working lunch with G-8 Leaders at Centre International de Deauville.
At 5:45 AM Pacific, Obama participated in a G-8 Working Session at Centre International de Deauville.
At 7:30 AM Pacific, Obama participated in another G-8 Working Session at Centre International de Deauville.
At 8:45 AM Pacific, Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan of Japan at Hotel Royal Barriere.
At 10:30 AM Pacific, Obama has dinner with G-8 Leaders at Le Ciro’s Barriere Restaurant in Deauville.
For his part, Vice President Joe Biden holds the next meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral group of members of Congress on comprehensive deficit reduction at the U.S. Capitol.
Meanwhile, Britain and France are squabbling over increased strikes on Tripoli, and on who should play the lead role in introducing helicopter gunships to provide closer air support.
And the Gaddafi regime is floating a ceasefire offer to various European nations, moving beyond its peace feeler to Russia, which is unhappy about the Libyan War, and the vague response it is getting from the Obama Administration on missile defense.
Obama is quietly savoring the Democratic upset Tuesday night in the longtime Republican stronghold of New York’s 26th congressional district, and yesterday’s follow-on vote in the U.S. Senate, in which the highly-touted, extraordinarily flawed Republican fiscal scheme known as the “Ryan Plan” was defeated, 57 to 40.
Democrat Kathy Hochul upset Republican frontrunner Jane Corwin, 47% to 43%, after making Corwin’s backing for what is increasingly clearly the albatross of Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan the central issue of the special election.
I believe only four House Republicans, most of whom are safe in gerrymandered districts, voted against this, and radio talkers like Rush Limbaugh have obligingly made it a litmus test for the Republican presidential race.
But Republicans are clearly coming to fear the issue, with several Senate Republicans having backed away even before Tuesday’s election results.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a dinner last night at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London for Queen Elizabeth. You will note that this footage gives a lengthy view of the royal Rolls Royce in the driveway as the queen arrives, and that one of the two Marine guards needs some serious work on his salute.
Obama is also monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises.
War Zone Times: Libya is nine hours ahead of Pacific time, Iraq is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
Brown is working on California’s chronic budget crisis and his nascent administration.
Brown has a new, if unsurprising, problem in dealing with the budget.
Not only are Republican legislators balking at actually solving the problem with tax extensions — pretending instead that the economy, which they insisted was in the tank, will easily bail out the situation with new revenues — Democrats in the Assembly are pursuing their opposite fantasy: More money means that already enacted cuts can be reversed.
This is exactly how the state government got into this trouble in the first place.
** JERRY BROWN RETURNS (AGAIN!) ONLY TO DROP BACK INTO STEALTH MODE. Governor Jerry Brown is back. Again. For the third time. And not a moment too soon, as California needs to solve its chronic budget crisis and, after a Supreme Court ruling, deal with its chronic prison crisis. But will Brown try, once again, to do it all behind the scenes?
First, of course, he executed a spectacular political comeback, capped off by his landslide victory last November over the biggest spending non-presidential campaign in American history. (You can click here for my compendium of articles laying out the re-emergence of Jerry Brown as governor of California.) Brown celebrated briefly, then promptly disappeared for months into the underbrush of inside baseball politics, in interminable negotiations to try to solve California’s chronic budget crisis, making only a handful of public appearances. Not surprisingly, his standing in the polls suffered from his absence from the spotlight, as did support for his plans.When he surfaced at the end of March, nearly three weeks past his March 10th deadline for a budget deal, it was to announce that he had ended negotiations with Republican legislators.
He then engaged in a round of public appearances, seeing his standing in the polls go up, and have some big appearances on tap… only to pull back again as he underwent a relatively common procedure for a non-metastasizing skin cancer. Last week, none the worse for wear — which was no surprise as I’d spoken with him while he was conducting business in private and he had the same energy he’s had for the decades I’ve known him — Brown resurfaced to present the annual May revision of the budget proposal. But since that appearance, a wide-ranging press conference laced with his trademark humor, he’s been mostly back behind the scenes, with only two brief appearances in Sacramento and none around the state, unusual for a governor looking for support for his budget. Is he repeating past mistakes?
Brown ran into three very significant problems very early on.
First, he assumed that he could make a deal by dint of endless behind-the-scenes negotiations. He set March 10th as his target date for the deal. Which, of course, has long since come and gone.
Second, in his mono-focus on the inside game, Brown completely ignored the outside game. He brought no public pressure to bear, either from the governorship or from interested parties, on Republican legislators.
Third, he neglected his own public profile, making only a handful of public appearances, virtually none of them outside Sacramento, which most Californians have long since learned to tune out. As a result, his polling numbers went down,substantially lower than they should have for someone who won a landslide victory over the biggest-spending non-presidential campaign in American history. … From my May 25th feature.
** NCIS: AMERICA’S FAVORITE SHOW AND WHAT IT TELLS US. Tuesday night saw the season finale of NCIS, the most watched scripted television series in America. Indeed, if a national poll is to be believed, the veteran CBS procedural about Navy cops (NCIS standing for Naval Criminal Investigative Service), finishing its eighth season, is not only the most popular current scripted show in the country, it’s the favorite show of all time.
How was the season finale? On the anti-climactic side, actually, and not nearly as good as the penultimate episode, one of the show’s best. But it did set up an intriguing beginning to the show’s ninth season in the fall, one which says nefarious things about our national security apparat. More about that in a moment. There be some spoilers ahead.
So, NCIS, the most popular show of all-time? Really? … From my May 18th essay.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: THE CALIFORNIA CONNECTION. … From my May 11th feature.
** IN THE SHADOW OF BIN LADEN: REPUBLICANS AND THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE. … From my May 7th essay.
** CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATS: AN UNCERTAIN TRUMPET. … From my May 2nd feature.
** OBAMA’S BIGGEST PROBLEMS STILL LIE ABROAD. … From my April 29th essay.
** HAS CALIFORNIA’S REFORM MOMENT ARRIVED? … From my April 26th column.
** THE NON-IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY: OBAMA AND LIBYA. … From my April 21st essay.
** FROM GOVERNATOR TO MOONBEAM. … From my January 3rd, 2011 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.
** 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 three wars in the region, and the Arab uprising underway, 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 $100 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $66 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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