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At 6 PM Pacific, President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address at the United States Capitol. Following the address, White House advisors will take part in an interactive online town hall. The event is netcast live on New West Notes. If you want to mute the audio, click on the pause button.
** LIVE FROM THE WHITE HOUSE.
With massive geopolitical events swirling and the 2012 presidential race unfolding, the White House is increasingly a pivot point for the day’s events. Live streaming of key presidential events is now available as a matter of course here on New West Notes. You can mute the audio by clicking on the pause button.
NWN will continue to present other live netcasts in full streaming mode, as it did with the Ronald Reagan Centennial events from the Reagan Library, as they emerge and are technically available and as significance dictates.
** QUICK HITS. With the State of the Union, netcast live here on NWN, coming up shortly, it’s been a big day in presidential politics. There were even a few developments in California politics. … A part of a wild day in Florida with a California connection saw Palm Springs Congresswoman Mary Bono’s husband, Florida Congressman Connie Mack, crash a Newt Gingrich event trying to embarrass the ex-speaker on “unanswered questions” about his consulting work for Freddie Mac. The outfit is in conservative lexicon as the cause of the financial crisis, at best a very incomplete view. … Of course, in the course of going through Mitt Romney’s release of tax information since 2010, it emerges that he invested in Freddie Mac. But there are bigger fish to fry in that catch, and the DNC is focusing heavily on the fact that Romney is studiously not revealing much about his finances during his leveraged buyout heyday, from which he gained the fortune which yields him more than $40 million in investment income in two years while he was running for president. (But still a Bain Capital partner.) … Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of Steve Jobs, will be sitting with First Lady Michelle Obama tonight as the president delivers his speech which will provide a meta-context for Romney’s views that no criticism of financialized capitalism is legitimate. … Speaking of what is and is not legitimate, California Democratic legislators are showing their special tone deafness with a lawsuit attempting to take away the ability of state Controller John Chiang to block their paychecks until they produce a legitimate budget, as he did to great acclaim last June. … The Democratic legislators are more reality-based than their Republican counterparts, but it is, unfortunately, all relative. … The state auditor issued a report saying that the Brown Administration has not finished fixing the previous management problems at the High-Speed Rail Authority. I’ll have more on that.
The pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future has just gone up in Florida with an apparent huge buy for this ad, hitting Mitt Romney for being the intellectual author of “Obamacare,” and for being a self-described “moderate” and “progressive,” complete with footage of President Obama praising Romney.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … NEWTONIAN MOTION: WILL GINGRICH BLOW IT (AGAIN)?
** GOING FOR THE KILL. It’s thermonuclear political warfare in the Florida Republican presidential primary between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. The latter, who’s lost his big lead over Gingrich, has been blasting him for weeks on the airwaves in Florida and started an even tougher round of ads after losing in a landslide in South Carolina.
Then Romney tried an oppo dump on Gingrich in last night’s debate in Tampa, even as word came that the $7 million-plus already spent on Romney’s behalf in the Sunshine State would be augmented by another $5.5 million in the next week.
Now the main pro-Gingrich super PAC is getting in the act in a big way. With the ad you see above.
It doesn’t focus on Bain Capital or various other controversies around Romney’s wealth. After all, the big story today in the race is Romney’s limited but still very striking financial revelations. And the Democrats are going after Romney directly on that front now.
This ad seeks to define Romney for all time as what more conservative Republicans call a squish.
I particularly enjoy the still shot of Romney, which makes him look quite Transylvanian.
Here’s the text below. The narrator is female, incidentally. How much is the buy? “Multi-million dollar,” as it’s described to me. Others report $5 million. Or $6 million. But don’t be surprised if the ad mix is adjusted down the stretch.
Announcer: “Think you know Mitt? Think again.”
Romney: Those who follow the path we pursued will find it’s the best path and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.”
Announcer: “When Mitt Romney invented government run healthcare, Romney advisers helped Barack Obama write the disastrous Obamacare.
Romney: “We put the two together and exchange and the President’s copying that idea. I’m glad to hear that.”
Obama: “I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he’s proud of what he accomplished on healthcare.”
Announcer: “Romneycare sent costs spiraling out of control, hiking premiums, squeezing household budgets.”
Romney: “I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive.”
Obama: “I agree with Mitt Romney.”
Announcer: “Now desperate to save his failing campaign, Romney promises to repeal Obamacare. How can we trust him? Think you know Mitt?”
Romney: “I’m not a partisan Republican. I’m someone who is moderate and my views are progressive.”
Announcer: “Think again?”
The head of Egypt’s still ruling military council says the decades-long state of emergency in the country will be lifted on Wednesday, except for cases of “thuggery.” (Is that anything like attacking protesters?) Islamist parties have won over 70% of the vote in national parliamentary elections.
** NEW SURVEY: ECONOMIC CONFIDENCE STILL LOW, BUT BEST IN EIGHT MONTHS. A new Gallup Poll survey on the eve of the State of the Union address indicates that economic confidence has continued to go up.
It’s just not very high at all.
But it is back to what it was a year ago.
U.S. economic confidence is at -25 in the week ending Jan. 22, improved from -29 the prior week and the best since the week ending May 22, 2011. …
The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is an average of two components: Americans’ ratings of current economic conditions and their outlook for the economy. Economic confidence is now not much different than the -23 for the same week a year ago and the -28 of the same week in 2010. Americans have grown steadily more positive about current economic conditions in the past three weeks. They are also now more positive about the future direction of the economy than they were three weeks ago, though these views have shown a less consistent pattern. …
U.S. economic confidence continues to improve, consistent with recent modest improvement in unemployment, positive news on jobless claims, and the general perception that the overall U.S. economy is getting slightly better. This seems like good news for the nation’s businesses as well as for President Barack Obama’s re-election chances as he presents his State of the Union message to the nation on Tuesday.
At the same time, U.S. gas prices have increased since late December and the European economy appears to be entering into a recession. In addition, this presidential election year is not only likely to produce a political stalemate but could lead to some political confrontations. So, current perceptions of the overall economic outlook could change in the weeks and months ahead.
In this regard, Americans are no more optimistic now than they were at this time in each of the past two years. In 2010 and 2011, perceptions of the economy waned as the year progressed. At this point, it is unclear whether that will also be the case in 2012. …
President Barack Obama delivers the final State of the Union address of his first term tonight at 6 PM Pacific. It’s a policy address, of course, which in this election year means it will be highly political.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 6 PM Pacific, he delivers the State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol.
The event will be netcast live here on New West Notes.
Obama is spending much of the day prepping for the State of the Union address, and for his subsequent three-day/five-state tour of the Midwestern state of Iowa and Michigan and the Western states of Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado.
The tour will focus on Obama’s themes of economic revival and modified populism, with sub-themes of developing American manufacturing, the new energy economy, and skills and innovation.
The remaining Republicans who hope to take him on debated last night in Tampa, Florida, with the Florida primary now one week away.
Mitt Romney has long counted it a major redoubt of his candidacy, but he’s lost a huge lead there to Newt Gingrich and now trails in several polls.
So Romney came out of the gate dropping his frontrunner’s pose and unloading a kitchen sink of opposition research on the former House speaker.
He scored some points, too, as Gingrich opted to look more presidential and less junkyard dog-ish last night, not getting into counters and counter-attacks while focusing more on his positive conservative message.
I’m not sure, however, that either man’s change in pose helped him all that much.
Ricn Santorum and Ron Paul were mostly afterthoughts in the debate. Poor Santorum. He was truly robbed by the media’s terrible reporting of Iowa.
The dust-up was only moderately engaging, and the event was a largely low-energy affair, in large part because NBC insisted that the audience remain silent. I don’t think they can really do that, actually, and I suspect that Gingrich, who seemed surprised and taken off his game, won’t allow that to happen on Thursday night.
The big news of the day on the Republican side is not the aftermath of the debate, but the release by Romney of his 2010 tax returns and 2011 tax estimate. Of course, he is avoiding revealing his records from the time in which he acquired most of his vast wealth, revealing only his dealings while a full-time candidate for president, presumably the most sanitized time of his life financially.
There’s plenty of coverage of this, but it seems obvious to me that Romney making well over $40 million off of investments, paying at a rate of less than 14%, with evidence of large holdings in Caribbean off-shore havens, and even a Swiss bank account, will play in perfectly to Obama’s themes of fairness tonight.
And they won’t help much with Republican voters in Florida, either.
Yesterday, prior to all this, there was ample evidence of the new reality in the Republican race.
Clearly alarmed by several polls showing his big Florida lead gone, replaced by a Gingrich lead, Romney attacked the ex-House speaker today on multiple fronts, zeroing in especially on his consulting work for Freddie Mac, which he claims was responsible for the mortgage crisis. Naturally, it turns out that Romney himself invested in Freddie Mac.
Gingrich, challenged to release his Freddie Mac consulting contract, did so late yesterday. It shows him to have been a consultant, not formally a lobbyist. Whatever that means.
Gingrich has been massively out-spent in Florida, with at least $7 million spent there on Romney’s behalf already and another $5.5 million now committed in new spending. That adds up to $13 million. Late yesterday the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future received a $5 million contribution from Miriam Adelson, wife of Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who himself previously gave $5 million to the super PAC.
Mitt Romney, now behind in Florida despite more than $7 million having already been spent on his behalf there, launched a flurry of personal attacks against Newt Gingrich in last night’s debate in Tampa, Floria.
Which can raise the specter of why a Vegas casino mogul is essentially floating the Gingrich campaign in the big primaries to date.
But Romney’s super PAC people aren’t revealing where the money supporting his campaign is coming from. It’s been anecdotally reported that much if not most of it comes from Romney’s old partners at Bain Capital.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, working it for Romney, blasted Gingrich as “an embarrassment to the party” for his controversies as speaker. Which prompted Sarah Palin to say that Christie, making a “rookie mistake” is playing into the media’s hands by “getting his panties in a wad” with wild attacks against the potential presidential nominee. Just what Christie needs, a slap fight with Sarah Palin.
In the Iranian crisis, European Union foreign minister Catherine Ashton is in Israel today, meeting with Israeli leaders on the day after the EU adopted a new round of tough sanctions on Iran, including an oil embargo.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak welcomed the EU embargo on Iranian oil, but said more may need to be done to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Ashton is also trying to help jump-start the Israeli/Palestinian solution.
Meanwhile, our friend India is not only continuing to buy Iranian oil but is also planning to pay in gold, which may help Iran deal with impending banking problems.
Obama is monitoring a variety of geopolitical crises, mostly related to the Arab awakening, AfPak, Iraq, Iran and Israel.
Military Crisis Zone Times: The Arabian Gulf is eleven hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is twelve and a half hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: UNDERLYING THE DECIDEDLY UNDEAD. Back from the dead. Again. Newt Gingrich. Amazing, isn’t it?
What’s actually amazing is that Gingrich was “dead” in the first place.
The fact is that the ex-House speaker had the Republican race in his hands last month and then proceeded to blow it.
And Mitt Romney is one of the most hollow, and hyped, political figures to come down the track in some time. He’s a consultant culture dream candidate: Big money and heavily into “messaging.” However, messaging, i.e., constantly repeating crafted talking points, is often not the same as having a message, which is why what he says is so malleable and chameleon-like. It’s obvious that there is very little that interests Romney besides success.
It’s a combination of unforced Gingrich errors, erroneous media coverage, and Romney’s nature peeking out all too often from behind the slick facade that has led to these seemingly shocking twists and turns.
Gingrich should have taken command of the race in December. Instead, he portentously declared that he would be the nominee and oddly proceeded to avoid any real campaigning, allowing Romney’s super PAC operatives to get the jump on tearing him down, until the tide had turned decidedly against him.
But Romney is Romney, and Gingrich has skills, so between Romney’s radical capitalist contradictions coming to the fore — complete with his bizarre attacks on any criticism of Wall Street ways — and Gingrich’s ability to get back in debates, the undead has risen. No wonder that Romney is now trying to skip future debates. … From my January 20th column.
** STATING THE STATE: JERRY BROWN GETS DISCIPLINED AND LAYS IT OUT. Straighten out the chronic crisis of the present and move the state forward into the future. That’s Jerry Brown’s mission as governor of California this time around, which he laid out rather clearly in his new State of the State address.
He’s also making progress early on in clearing the field for his revenue initiative in November.
Brown has articulated everything he said in this speech before. But he hadn’t framed it up and put it all together in a coherent way, preferring too often to rely on his improvisational rhetorical skills. And he certainly hadn’t ventured out from the capital in the North in any sustained manner to push his program around the state, yet he followed this State of the State address by, in essence, bringing the State of the State to several communities across Southern California on Wednesday and Thursday. … From my January 19th feature.
** EXTREMISM IN DEFENSE OF IRONY: BY ROMNEY’S RADICAL DEFINITION HIS OWN CHIEF STRATEGIST IS “ANTI-FREE ENTERPRISE.” … From my January 15th essay.
** BOMBING BAIN: HOW DOES THE POLITICS OF WALL STREET GREED PLAY IN THE G.O.P.? … From my January 10th column.
** JERRY BROWN 2.0 AT 1. … From my January 7th essay.
** IOWA THEN AND NOW. … From my December 30th essay.
** IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD CAST IN THE GOP’S RACE TO CASA BLANCA. … From my December 24th essay.
** KEYSTONE PIPELINE: SMALL PART OF A VERY BIG PICTURE. … From my December 21st essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION: THE BIG TALK CAMPAIGN. … From my December 17th 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.
** 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 $99 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $65 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 about $15 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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