In his joint press conference today with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to mark the final withdrawal of US forces from the Iraq War, President Barack Obama, in answer to a question, reiterated his desire that Iran return the sophisticated CIA surveillance drone aircraft brought down earlier this month.
** QUICK HITS. Plenty of back and forth today between Republican presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich and former frontrunner Mitt Romney. The financier and ex-Massachusetts governor hit Gingrich this morning on Fox and Friends, challenging him to return his fee for working with Freddie Mac. Gingrich said he would think about it as soon as Romney gave back what he made for stripping assets from takeover targets and laying off workers. It went from there. … Romney stopped trying to pretend he had nothing to do with nasty surrogate attacks on the former House speaker’s character. But he was alternately threatening and waffley on whether he would run negative ads, saying at one point that he didn’t want to give Obama ammunition to use against Gingrich. … The Occupy movement today attempted to shut down every major port on the West Coast, from San Diego in the south to Anchorage in the arctic north. They failed. But they did disrupt some port activities. In Oakland, several terminals were shut down for part of the day, to the displeasure of the unions working in the movement of commercial goods. Somewhere along the way, Occupy has lost the thread. … Governor Jerry Brown’s California Finance Director Ana Matosantos holds a noon briefing tomorrow in the Capitol to discuss revised revenue forecast for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which “will determine the extent to which pre-approved changes to state spending will be implemented beginning on January 1st.” This refers to the trigger cuts contained in the state budget if revenues fall short of forecasts.
** NEW POLL: CONGRESSIONAL ETHICS RATED VERY LOW. (YES, I KNOW, “FILM AT 11.”) A new Gallup Poll survey reveals yet another reason why this Congress is fated to be the lowest rated on record.
A whopping 64% rate the ethics and honesty of members of Congress as low or very low. This ties the record for the lowest rating ever for an American profession.
That record was set by, not surprisingly, the lobbying profession, in 2008.
In contrast, another profession set a record this year for being most highly rated in terms of ethics.
That is the nursing profession. With a whopping 84% rating its practitioners as ethical and honest.
This year’s update, from a Nov. 28-Dec. 1 Gallup poll, finds Americans rating the honesty and ethical standards of 3 medical professions — nurses, pharmacists, and doctors — the highest of the 21 professions tested. At the other end of the spectrum, Americans give the least positive honesty and ethics ratings to members of Congress, lobbyists, car salespeople, and telemarketers. …
** TOP DOG IN THE BIG DES MOINES DOGPILE? IT’S NEWT! They said it was going to be a joint rumble against new frontrunner Newt Gingrich, a veritable dogpile in Des Moines. But the ex-House speaker showed that he is the smartest guy on the stage, that stage. And that all those years of honing his media chops on C-SPAN and his study of media dynamics underlie the game changer in this race.
In contrast, Mitt Romney, as I suggested in my piece yesterday on the Huffington Post, “Newtonian Motion: Action Begets Flawed Reaction,” revealed live and in person that he really doesn’t know how to get after Gingrich. And that he is a guy who doesn’t realize that slick and shallow only works in a commercial.
Media skills were dominant in this debate, and Gingrich has them. He parried every attack from every direction, and turned some of them to his decided advantage. And then there was Romney. Remind me, where did people get the idea he’s a good debater? From “debates,” really joint appearances, in which, oddly, no one asked him tough questions, perhaps? …
A lighter and brighter note to begin a darker and heavier week. President Barack Obama joined the “Christmas in Washington” celebration at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC on Sunday.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A very big week in presidential politics is on tap, as well as a consequential week in California politics.
This week is the consecration, if you will, by President Barack Obama of the end of the massive US intervention in Iraq, with a visit from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and a visit by Obama to Fort Bragg, home to the Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps, its rapid deployment paratroop command, and U.S. Special Operations Command. There are 6,000 US troops left in Iraq, literally lining up to board convoys headed out of the country. Obama also continues his push for congressional passage of measures to aid the struggling middle class and working class in the form of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance.
As he does so, his would-be Republican rivals continue their dramatic face-off, with ex-frontrunner Mitt Romney trying to come back against Newt Gingrich, and the whole crew gathering for a final pre-Iowa caucuses debate on Thursday night in lovely Sioux City.
In California politics, Governor Jerry Brown prepares to deal with the eventuality of trigger cuts in the state budget, hosts a major conference on climate change, and continues dealing with 2012 initiative politics.
In my view, Saturday night’s big debate in Des Moines, the biggest so far, was no contest, with Gingrich getting much the best of it, even without Romney betraying his Richie Rich financier roots once again, this time by trying to make a $10,000 bet.
Iowa ain’t Monte Carlo, Mitt. Hmm, Monte Carlo Mitt …
Gingrich has big leads in polls of the South Carolina and Florida primaries. These, of course, were taken before Saturday night’s debate. The NBC News/Marist polls show Gingrich soaring far above Romney.
It’s 42-23 Gingrich in South Carolina and 44-29 Gingrich in Florida.
But Obama has the lead over both Republicans in both states. Which is especially striking with regard to South Carolina, a cradle of the old Confederacy where the Civil War began.
Team Obama has begun attacking Gingrich, dubbing him “the original Tea Partier.”
Which, actually, if you think about it, helps him further in the Republican primaries.
But the Obama crew ought to be careful what they wish for. Gingrich is a formidable debater, and these are unstable times.
Gingrich actually campaigns in Iowa this week — something which has happened far less often than past campaigns not only for him, but most of the candidates this time — after a stint in New Hampshire. His NH push includes an unusual Lincoln-Douglas style debate tonight with Jon Huntsman, who is betting the ranch on a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary. By promoting Huntsman, Gingrich can draw from Romney’s natural yet declining lead in the Granite State.
Romney’s also campaigning this week in New Hampshire and Iowa, in advance of the Thursday night debate in Sioux City, but his schedule is much murkier. It is known to include, however, major stops in New York to replenish his campaign funds from his Wall Street backers.
Meanwhile, in Durban, South Africa, where the United Nations climate summit went into extra innings over the weekend in order to avoid having no agreement in place to extend the fundamentals of the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement was cobbled together.
Nations agreed to establish rules to cut greenhouse gases. But not until 2020. Here in California, we are already working toward major reductions BY 2020.
The UN has another four years to develop the needed regulations. There are, needless to say, many potential slips twixt the cup and lip.
As those desperate moves to avert complete failure in global climate politics, even as the effects of climate change became all the more apparent, played out, there were very big doings over the weekend in Russia.
The Russian weekend saw big protests against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in the wake of the disputed narrow victory by the ruling United Russia Party a week earlier.
Moscow saw 50,000 people take to the streets, and sizable demonstrations took place in cities across the nation of nine time zones.
With global news media on hand, Russian security forces stayed their hand.
These are already the biggest protests in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its immediate aftermath.
Opposition to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is burgeoning. Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest tycoons and the owner of the New Jersey Nets basketball team, said Monday he will run against Putin in the March presidential election.
Today, more shoes dropped.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokorov, owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, announced that he will challenge Putin in the March presidential election. And former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who resigned after Putin announced his intention to return to the presidency, said that he will create a new political party.
Signs of promise continue to emanate from Brussels, where European Union leaders worked until early Friday morning to try once again to quell the Eurozone crisis.
France and Germany cobbled together a plan, with most nations agreeing to implement austerity programs and new financial regulations, with a major infusion of funds from the International Monetary Fund.
Nations will submit their budgets to the European Union for a form of approval and agree to new regulations of the financial sector. With the exception of Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron held out against new regulations on the City of London, the UK’s equivalent of Wall Street.
Cameron is facing big problems now. He may have pleased the UK’s financial industry, but he may also have isolated Britain from the EU, and has potentially shattered his governing coalition in the process.
Deputy Prime Minister Nicholas Clegg of the Liberal Democrats, who may Cameron’s minority Conservative government possible, denounced Cameron’s move. There may need to be new elections in Britain. They may not go so well for Cameron, especially given his government’s links to the ongoing Murdoch phone hacking scandal.
Back in California politics, as Brown deals with the issues I mentioned above, he also has a potential economic disruption on his hands.
The Occupy crowd on the West Coast says it will try to shut down ports from Anchorage to San Diego. Occupy Oakland briefly shut down the Port of Oakland during its unsuccessful general strike. This time around, the longshore workers union is making its opposition to Occupy’s efforts plain from the beginning.
Assuming that California’s export commerce is not paralyzed by demonstrations, Brown can focus on other areas, including potentially competing revenue initiatives.
I expect the Think Long Committee to avoid going to head to head with Brown’s initiative. Think Long can’t win next November with its plan, which cuts taxes for the wealthy and large corporations and extends the sales tax to all manner of services.
I also don’t see how the California Federation of Teachers-led tax the rich initiative moves very far ahead, with the bulk of the labor movement and the Democratic coalition backing Brown.
That leaves the imponderable of heiress Molly Munger’s plan to raise everyone’s income tax to fund the schools. Which also is unlikely to win, but she may not yet understand that.
Brown is analyzing the situation surrounding state budget shortfalls and trigger cuts allowed for in the budget he enacted at the end of June.
He is also prepping for his conference on climate change, taking place, as discussed here quite awhile ago, on December 15th in San Francisco.
This event, at the lovely California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, will be on a smaller scale than former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s three Governors’ Global Climate Summits and will focus on the need to mitigate the effects of climate change as well as efforts to prevent it.
It all comes in the wake of the disappointing UN global climate summit in Durban, South Africa.
Schwarzenegger had been mentioned as a likely attendee there, but did not go. He didn’t go to the UN climate summit last year in Cancun, Mexico, either.
He was last at the annual climate summit in 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark, which was a cobbled-together vague semi-success where Schwarzenegger announced that he would form the R20 group of subnational governments around the world to work on renewable energy and climate change issues.
Here’s what Obama’s week looks like. It is dominated, as you can see, by the end of the Iraq War.
On Monday, Obama welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to the White House. The two leaders will hold talks on the removal of U.S. military forces from Iraq, efforts to achieve a comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq, and honors for the sacrifice of American troops.
On Tuesday, Obama will conduct interviews with local television anchors from across the country about the end of the war in Iraq and the extension of the payroll tax cut.
On Wednesday, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will travel to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina where they will deliver remarks to troops regarding the end of the Iraq War.
On Thursday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House and on Friday, Obama will deliver remarks at the Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 6:45 AM Pacific, Obama held an expanded bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq in the Oval Office.
At 7:15 AM Pacific, Obama held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the Oval Office.
This ran nearly an hour late, throwing off the rest of the day’s schedule.
Obama and Maliki then held a joint press conference in the South Court Auditorium, netcast live here on New West Notes.
Following the press conference, TBA Pacific, Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attend a wreath laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office.
Obama is monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, and Iraq.
War Zone Times: Iraq is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
West Coast ports and law enforcement are preparing for possible disruptions, as Occupy protesters plan to blockade ports from San Diego to Anchorage. Demonstrators briefly closed down the port of Oakland earlier this fall.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: ACTION BEGETS FLAWED REACTION. Mitt Romney sure doesn’t think Newt Gingrich is a “flavor of the month.” The ex-speaker’s Newtonian motion has propelled him into polling leads in all the state polls I’ve seen except for New Hampshire, and he’s closing there. So Gingrich’s action has sparked a strenuous reaction.
Which has seen new ads from the official Romney campaign and its no limits “super-PAC” sibling run by his 2008 campaign aides, the unleashing of official campaign surrogate attack dogs led by former Bush I White House chief of staff and New Hampshire Governor John Sununu, Sr., and all too predictable statements from Romney himself that he has nothing to do with any attacks on the latest usurper of his long-standing supposed frontrunner status.
In classic Gingrich fashion, the ex-speaker moved to reclaim the spotlight from such tactical maneuverings by bashing the opponents of Israel, describing Palestinians as “an invented people.”
Romney’s throwing the contents of a kitchen sink at him, and is using too establishmentarian and out of it voices as anti-Gingrich surrogates (John Sununu, Sr. as lead dog?)
Romney had better figure out how to focus on one or two things or else it looks like a flailing attack from the establishment. Or at least the desperate candidate of a would-be establishment.
Sununu’s criticism of Gingrich seems grounded in old feuds from over 20 years ago. He actually began by attacking him for supposedly reneging on an agreement to support Bush’s move to raise taxes! In 1988, Bush had famously intoned: “Read my lips, no new taxes!” But his lips lied.
Romney has very little time in which to pull Gingrich down, especially without doing himself serious damage as well. He may have to let Gingrich win Iowa (or hope that Ron Paul, who is running at least even with Romney there, wins) and hope to rebound in New Hampshire, but he’s upped the ante by playing so heavily in Iowa.
In a quirky sort of way, Gingrich, not Romney, fills the traditional Republican bill for a presidential nominee who is the senior most figure of stature in the field. Plus he has the fire and antagonism to thrill the angry far right base. … From my December 10th column.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: IN IOWA, A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN FOUR WEEKS. Newt Gingrich. Iowa caucuses. To say it seemed an unlikely prospect that the candidate whose staff famously quit because of disorganization would have what looks like a commanding lead in a state that supposedly requires a premium in organization would be gross understatement.
Yet here it is, a sign of a potentially major shift in modes of campaigning, or maybe just evidence that establishment political culture generates a lot of unnecessary and expensive activity, and evidence of how rapidly things can change in presidential politics, as I know from personal experience.
In four weeks in first-in-the-nation contest state Iowa in 1984, we in the Gary Hart campaign went from fifth to second, as the Colorado senator rocketed into the center of the national scene and set the stage for his big win in the New Hampshire primary eight days later. … From my December 6th column.
** JERRY BROWN AND THE 2012 INITIATIVE WARS. … From my December 3rd feature.
** ALTERNEWT: GINGRICH “ALTERNATE HISTORY” NOVELS REVEAL MUCH ON PRESENT POLITICS. … From my December 1st essay.
** A SUBLIME AND RIDICULOUS DAY: MARS MISSION AND AFPAK DEBACLE. … From my November 28th essay.
** SOUND AND FURY: THE UTTERLY UNSURPRISING “SUPER-COMMITTEE” FLOP. … From my November 22nd essay.
** DARWINIAN: OBAMA GOES POST-IRAQ IN OZ, REPUBLICANS RACE TO THE PAST. … From my November 21st essay.
** ALI, FRAZIER, JACKSON, STALLONE: OF IMAGE, RACE, POLITICS, AND MYTH. … From my November 16th essay.
** VETERANS DAY IN A FRACTURED AMERICA. … From my November 12th 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.
Early Saturday morning saw this total eclipse of the Moon, a once in a decade event.
** 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 $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $64 from the low of $34 per barrel prior to enactment of the Obama economic recovery program, reflecting a low point in global economic activity, and down $16 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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