President Barack Obama, vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, spoke cautiously today on the collapsing Gaddafi regime in Libya, and the role of the US and NATO in assisting the Libyan rebels. Gaddafi himself is still missing.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … WHY OBAMA WAS RIGHT ON LIBYA AND BIN LADEN, AND WRONG ON AFGHANISTAN.
** QUICK HITS. On October 13th, Governor Jerry Brown will join Michael Milken on-stage for a one-on-one discussion about California and its prospects at the Milken Institute’s annual State of the State conference in Los Angeles. … Amazon put another $2.25 million into its drive to knock out California’s online sales tax at the end of last week. That makes $5.25 million so far pushing its referendum drive. … But backers of a referendum campaign to block Brown’s anti-redevelopment agencies move have backed off, dropping the campaign. … California Attorney General Kamala Harris today filed a brief in the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis backing the national health care law and affirming its constitutionality.
** NEW POLL: OBAMA IN CLOSE RACES AGAINST REPUBLICANS. A new Gallup Poll indicates that President Barack Obama is in statistical ties against most of the leading Republican presidential candidates.
What do I think of this?
I think that the poll is presently all about Obama, and not at all about his prospective opponents. (A very safe assumption when Obama is only four points ahead of, say, Michele Bachmann.)
Which of course is not how an election campaign plays out.
And I think that Democratic critics from the left of Obama should gain some needed perspective on the nature of American politics.
Clearly the recent crisis-ridden caterwauling from both ends of the ideological spectrum and the shocking DC dysfunction around the debt/deficit deal have taken a big toll, at least for now. And just as clearly, that’s why Mitt Romney stayed out of the fray.
It’s Obama 46, Romney 48. Obama 47, Perry 47. Obama 47, Ron Paul 45. Obama 48, Bachmann 44. (And no, that is not Richard Bachman, aka Stephen King.)
President Barack Obama is closely matched against each of four possible Republican opponents when registered voters are asked whom they would support if the 2012 presidential election were held today. Mitt Romney leads Obama by two percentage points, 48% to 46%, Rick Perry and Obama are tied at 47%, and Obama edges out Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann by two and four points, respectively. …
With the first official votes for the Republican nomination more than five months away, and with the very real possibility that GOP candidates such as Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, and George Pataki may jump into the race, much could still change as the election process unfolds. A look at presidential election trial heats conducted in the late summer of the year before previous elections reveals that such change is quite common:
In August 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush led Vice President Al Gore by 55% to 41% in a Gallup trial heat poll. That race ended up in a virtual dead heat, with Gore ultimately winning slightly more of the national popular vote than Bush.
In August 1995, Kansas Sen. Bob Dole was slightly ahead of President Bill Clinton in a Gallup poll, 48% to 46%. On Election Day 1996, Clinton beat Dole by eight points.
In August 1983, President Ronald Reagan was ahead of Democrat Walter Mondale by only one point, 44% to 43%. Reagan went on to beat Mondale in a 59% to 41% landslide in the November 1984 election.
In August 1979, incumbent President Jimmy Carter was tied with former California Gov. Reagan — each getting 45% of the vote. Reagan ultimately defeated Carter by 10 points.
** OBAMA’S BIG DISCONNECT. There’s no question that President Barack Obama is an outstanding orator, able to articulate important messages. But he has a big disconnect going on the biggest issue for most Americans. Even on some things that he has actually focused on of great importance, like energy prices.
Through all of 2010, as I wrote in my November 2010 election “pre-mortem”, “Obama’s Big Mistake,” here on the Huffington Post, Obama was just about to “pivot” to the economy. But it never quite happened.
Actually, the ever abortive nature of the pivot to the economy began in December 2009, when Obama suddenly had to deal with the near miss attack of a jihadist bomber in the skies over Detroit. After that, it was always something, always a reason not to pivot to the economy.
Now Obama has a big disconnect, surprisingly so, on energy costs, a major downdraft for the stumbling economic recovery. Amidst the good news for his much-criticized Libya policy, and as he contemplates his post-Labor Day moves, he needs to correct some problems.
Crude oil is down 29% since the death of Osama bin Laden. But gasoline is only down 9%. And prices should fall further with the fall of Moammar Gaddafi, removing more geopolitical risk premium from the oil price and bringing more capacity back online.
That’s an awfully big float for the oil industry, already rolling in incredible profits, with its core costs already factored in, to pocket. And an awfully big thing for Obama to keep quiet about, especially since he is anything but quiet about blaming energy prices for quashing the economic recovery and killing consumer confidence.
I don’t get it. It’s not like the oil companies are for Obama, since they mostly hate his environmental policies and his sweeping new standards on vehicle fuel efficiency. Or that big oil states, notably Texas, are likely to go for Obama. …
Muammar Gaddafi’s near 42-year reign over Libya was no less fascinating for being so erratic. He began as a self-styled Pan-Arab socialist and ended as an eccentric autocrat.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
It’s an historic week in presidential politics, even with President Barack Obama on vacation. Not so much in California politics, though there is some action, mostly not connected to the return of the state legislature last week from its month-long summer recess.
Over the weekend, as you may have heard, Tripoli suddenly fell to Libyan rebel forces and the 42-year reign of dictator Moammar Gaddafi came to an end. The cagy colonel hasn’t been found yet, at least publicly, and there is still substantial mopping up to do in Tripoli, where there are snipers and some pockets of resistance.
The largest of which is the Gaddafi compound in Tripoli, Bab al-Azizyah, where loyalists with heavy weapons are holed up.
Perhaps they can be negotiated out. As rebel forces approached the capital, and as a Tripoli underground secretly supplied with weapons rose up on Saturday, many regime forces, including most of Gaddafi’s presidential guard, simply surrendered or melted away.
Developments came with stunning swiftness, even for those of us who expected Obama’s policy to work in the end, even in the near term. As Sunday began, a tougher end game seemed likely.
Libyan rebel forces late on Saturday made a spectacular move inside Tripoli, with special forces linking up with rebels rising up inside the city using weapons smuggled in by boat.
Longtime Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi made an address to the populace very early Sunday morning, Libyan time, over state TV, which I watched live on Al Jazeera (on the live link here on NWN). He spoke via a very scratchy telephone hook-up, making his whereabouts quite mysterious, though he did correctly name the date and time on two occasions.
Gaddafi was rambling and near nonsensical, blaming it all on NATO, claiming that “the rats,” i.e. Libyan rebels inside Tripoli, had already been eliminated, closing with an imprecation to his followers to “march on.”
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reported that Libyan rebels moving to link up with the forces inside Tripoli captured the base of the Khamis Brigade, an elite Gaddafi unit 15 miles outside Tripoli, named after its commander, one of Gaddafi’s sons. The rebels availed themselves of the base’s vast ammunition and fuel supplies, left there for the the taking, before moving on into the city.
As the day began, I noted that as the fighting centered on Tripoli, a vast cityscape, NATO air power became more problematic for such close-in work where it is hard to distinguish between combatant and civilian. That’s why rebel leaders — on Sunday morning — were urging that low-flying, slower-moving Apache helicopter gunships be employed by NATO.
There have been, as readers know, no US or NATO casualties during the entirety of the Libyan War, quite contrary to the fears and fantasies of many critics.
President Bill Clinton deployed Apache helicopter gunships for use in the Kosovo War, but opted against using them for fear of such casualties. In the end, they were not needed to force Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic to end the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
But Gaddafi is a rougher and less rational customer than the brutal Milosevic, so a longer holdout seemed very possible. But most of his troops, who would have to do the actual fighting and, likely, dying, didn’t agree.
Libyan rebel forces approaching by land entered Tripoli, encountering mostly light resistance, and drove immediately to within a few miles of the city center, a position which they captured a few hours later.
It turned out there was an amphibious operation staged from Misrata up the coast involving hundreds of rebel special forces who traveled by ship and then by small boat to join with insurgents inside Tripoli, bringing them more weapons.
The end game in Libya, where Obama’s very controversial policy is on the verge of vindication, still has several big moves left.
And the denouement, in which we see how well the rebels can run this large nation of only six million people, will be even more interesting. NATO leaders say they are pushing to avoid the mistakes of Iraq. Let’s hope so.
The fall of Tripoli triggered a night of tumultuous celebration.
As Obama monitors the suddenly winding down Libyan War, his Republican opponents are up to a few things.
Putative frontrunner Mitt Romney is quadrupling the size of his Southern California vacation home. The better to make it a Western White House? Or the better to make it an even more luxurious retirement abode?
Romney is planning to bulldoze his 3,000 square foot La Jolla beachfront house and replace it with an 11,000 square foot mansion.
Romney is fundraising as the week begins, and doing remarkably little to engage the rise of Texas Governor Rick Perry.
And Jon Huntsman, relatively silent of late, blazed into the conversation over the weekend with an appearance on ABC’s This Week and a series of tweets in which he spoofed and excoriated Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann for their incredible anti-science attitudes.
Huntsman has apparently decided to see if there is a market for engaged reasoning in the Republican primaries. He doesn’t have much to lose. And if he does lose this time, he may position himself for a more rational period ahead in Republican politics, assuming that time comes.
Meanwhile, the US stock market has seen its biggest four weeks of losses since March 2009. Concerns about a faltering US economy are being more than compounded by bad news from Europe.
The overall market lost about $3 trillion of value over the past month, a drop of approximately 16%.
However, while Asian markets fell earlier today on recession fears, troubled European markets — whose woes are at the center of global economic concerns — actually rose.
With the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting of heads of state coming up in just one month in New York, Israel reacted to the Palestinian move to gain national recognition there by cracking down on Hamas in Gaza, having launched a series of air strikes over the past few days.
As a result, Hamas declared that its de facto ceasefire with Israel was over. And rockets were launched into Israel.
But after strikes and counter-strikes over the weekend, both sides agreed to another ceasefire.
Back in California politics, where things are far more sedate and folks have to gin up controversy, a few things are happening.
Jerry Brown has begun moving on water policy, deciding to block the previous appointments of two Republicans, including former state Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill, to the California Water Commission. Brown intends to proceed with a big water program, a version of which was wrestled through the legislature by predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger after decades of gridlock, but wants to put his own stamp on it, especially in this time of greater austerity.
He will push for a less expensive version of the $11.1 billion water bond program passed by Schwarzenegger awaiting enactment in a popular initiative.
Prior to Schwarzenegger getting his program through the Legislature, the last governor to push a major water program was Brown, who was unsuccessful at the ballot box with his Peripheral Canal plan.
Brown also moved late last week to begin revitalizing the drive for high-speed rail in California, appointing former advisor Dan Richard to the agency’s board.
I wrote about this at some length last week.
Former Governor Pete Wilson has joined with right-wing Republicans in backing a redistricting referendum to block the districts produced by the Citizens Redistricting Commission, including majorities of Democrats, Republicans, and independents. They just don’t like the reality that Republicans are sharply declining in California, and so should their representation.
Wilson and company have just over 10 weeks to gather the signatures, using a party apparatus that has little in the way of resources.
There’s still some buzzing about Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s speech last week calling for higher taxes on commercial property owners, a call that Brown is not joining. Brown, of course, is working on forging a business-labor-citizens coalition to deal with the revenue side of the state budget solution in the 2012 elections. He figures that moving to change Prop 13 will not work, but will kill any coalition efforts.
Villaraigosa won a very underwhelming re-election against a parade of nobodies and oddballs before dropping out of the Democratic primary against Brown. Now, having gotten himself elected head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he is termed out of office and looking at future moves. I can tell you that a primary race against Brown in 2014 won’t be one of those moves.
And there is a lot of talk that Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is feeling a bit bent out of shape by Brown’s announcement of a new senior jobs advisor, about whom I wrote at some length last week. This talk was prompted in part by his press secretary telling a newspaper writer that the Newsom crew felt “blindsided” by the announcement, a comment later said to have been thought to be off the record.
Newsom wasn’t consulted on the timing (though I’m told he was aware of the appointment itself). Which some evidently feel he should have been, given the warmed-over collection of economic ideas he presented as an economic strategy earlier in the summer.
Not that the ideas were bad. Many of them looked like things I wrote in similar reports a few decades ago. But they were mostly obvious, and relatively small-bore, and in any event highly reminiscent of, among other things, old Jerry Brown ideas.
Is Newsom really mad? I’m told he’s not. Is Brown really focused on snubbing Newsom? To ask that question implies a belief that anyone views the lieutenant governor, whose office has been repeatedly downgraded by previous governors to next to nothing, as being in charge of economic policy.
Brown made it clear months ago that he would appoint someone to an economic advisor/coordinator post. I wrote last Monday that he would do it in a few days, which he did. There was no mystery about it.
But such is the level of drama in California politics these days.
Mixed market tidings, with Asia down on recession fears but troubled Europe up later in the day.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … OBAMA’S BIG DISCONNECT.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Massachusetts.
He has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings at Blue Heron Farm on Martha’s Vineyard.
Obama is on family vacation there for the rest of the month.
He has no scheduled public events.
Obama is monitoring a variety of other geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
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 Northern California.
Brown appears tonight at the Citizen Hotel in Sacramento at a private fundraiser for the California Democratic Party and efforts to increase permanent vote by mail registrants.
** OF “A THEORY THAT’S OUT THERE,” GOP STRAW POLLS, MARTHA’S VINEYARD VACATIONS, AND OTHER FOLLIES. Who says that August is the silly season?
* “A THEORY THAT’S OUT THERE.” I love Rick Perry. I really do. With Michele Bachmann, even though she’s listening to her smart advisors and doing things Sarah Palin can’t, like speak in sentences and even paragraphs, you know you’ve got a fringe character no matter how many supporters she’s attracting. That’s supporters in a party in which half the members believed that the president of the United States is really an illegal alien, and maybe even the Manchurian Candidate.
But Perry is a different kind of deal. He’s the governor of a big state, the second biggest, in fact. He has to be a serious figure. Right? I mean, he’s got that whole Texas Mirage, er, Miracle thing going and all.
Barack Obama thinks he’s the man of balance between extremes. He’s got nothing on the governor of Texas who wants to be president in the worst way. And I do mean the worst.
A schoolboy asked Perry today at one of his appearances in New Hampshire about evolution. Perry told the lad that evolution is “a theory that’s out there” about the world, and went on to explain that in Texas, the schools teach creationism, too.
Cool. Because it’s good for kids to be able to pick and choose between science. And anti-science. … From my August 18th essay.
** HARRY POTTER: A CONFESSION, AND AN APPRECIATION. I’m a bit behind the curve on Harry Potter. The last movie in the series has, astonishingly, grossed over $1 billion in worldwide box office after only its third weekend in release. In fact, having just passed the final Lord of the Rings picture, it’s the highest grossing movie around the world not directed by that James Cameron guy. But I haven’t seen it yet.
In fact, I haven’t seen the two movies prior to it. Okay, so that’s more than a bit behind.
So I did something terribly old-fashioned. I read the book. … From my August 11th essay.
** LESS THAN MEETS THE EYE: THE BIG BUDGET DEAL AND OBAMA’S REAL PROBLEM. … From my August 8th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME MOVES. … From my August 1st essay.
** OVER AND OUT, ABOVE AND BEYOND: IS THE SPACE AGE OVER OR JUST BEGINNING? … From my July 28th essay.
** OBAMA KABUKI: THE BUDGET AND THE POLITICS OF POSITIONING. … From my July 13th column.
** 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.
** UNIVERSIADE LIVE. You can watch a live feed of events of the biennial Universiade, also known as the World University Games, taking place in Shenzhen, China, a major new city outside Hong Kong, where the time is 15 hours ahead of Pacific time, through August 23rd. The Universiade is bringing together student athletes from more than 150 nations competing in 24 sports.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in three wars in the region, and the Arab awakening 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.
** 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.
** 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 $83 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $49 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum. You can send me a private tip by clicking on the “Contact” button in the upper right.