** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS and MAKING SENSE OF KALEIDOSCOPIC PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A huge week on tap in presidential politics, and an intriguing week ahead in California politics.
President Barack Obama set the table for much of the week with his Sunday speech to American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington. Today he meets with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who along with the Republican presidential candidates his party encourages will speak at AIPAC this week in a week largely dominated by the Iran crisis and Israel’s threats to launch an air war to halt Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon. The Republicans also hold their Super Tuesday presidential primary and caucus contests.
In California politics, Governor Jerry Brown continues work on his November revenue initiative plans, deals with flare-ups on the chronic state budget crisis, and works on revamping the high-speed rail plan, among other priorities as protesters descend on Sacramento.
In his speech to AIPAC, Obama decried “loose talk” of war emanating from the pro-Israeli side as benefiting Iran by adding to the geopolitical risk premium in the price of oil, which adds to Iran’s bottom line. He urged that tough sanctions which biting deeply into Iran be given a chance to work but also held out the prospect of a US strike on Iran if it is about to get nuclear weapons, saying that the prevention of an Iranian bomb is his strategic, not containment of a nuclear Iran. More on this in a moment.
Meanwhile, the disarrayed Republican presidential race may be seeing signs of settling on Mitt Romney, though he is far from out of the woods and is quite capable of inciting his own demise. On Saturday, Romney took the lightly attended caucuses in Washington state, where Rick Santorum recently led and Ron Paul looked for his first victory, showing again the Santorum lacks organization and that Paul’s organization is both overly hyped and hampered by distinct ceiling to his rather cultish support.
The low turnout mirrored that of previous caucus contests in what many had thought to be a highly energized Republican Party.
On Tuesday, we have 10 states voting. It’s a smaller Super Tuesday than in 2008, when some 24 states held contests, the most ever on one day. It’s not easy to say what is happening in these races, because big news media organizations all shot their polling budget very early on, with endlessly repetitive polls of the same contests, anticipating a Romney romp. Oops.
There will be Super Tuesday contests in Idaho (no polling but heavily Mormon), Alaska (no polling but Romney won in 2008), Georgia (Newt Gingrich has a big lead in his home state), Massachusetts (Romney will romp in the state in which he was governor), North Dakota (no polling), Ohio (Santorum has a narrow in some polling, Romney has the same in other polling), Oklahoma (Santorum has a big lead), Tennessee (Santorum has a narrow edge with Romney closing in a wave of negative ads), Vermont (no polling), and Virginia (Romney wins easily, with only Paul joining him on the ballot as the state party for the first time checked qualifying signatures and tossed out the other candidates).
Meanwhile, elections in another country, Iran, have probably further ramped up the very tense geopolitical crisis in that region. Very conservative candidates reportedly did very well in Iran’s parliamentary elections, which will make life more difficult for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who backed a more moderate conservative faction in the elections. What about the ballyhooed Iranian moderates, and the Green Revolution of 2009 in which many hopeful types in the US and elsewhere imagined that a new day was dawning?
Iran’s theocratic regime has cracked down very effectively.
The more moderate Iranian presidential candidates of 2009 are under house arrest. Hundreds of parliamentary candidates were blocked from running. And the protests died under the harsh hand of a tough security state in which the Western boogeyman Ahmadinejad may well be one of the more moderate players in ongoing factional fighting.
Yesterday brought Russia’s presidential election, and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will return to the presidency he handed off to his former chief of staff, Dmitry Medvedev, four years ago, despite Putin’s substantially diminished popularity and a growing protest movement. Putin won with an official 64% of the vote, which is about five to six points higher than shown in exit polling, and probably too high to avoid inviting much cynicism about the result in a country in which cynicism is a fine art. More protests are on tap, as is a geopolitical stance that is significantly less pro-US than that of Medvedev, who enjoyed eating burgers with Barack Obama and trading quips with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As for the heightened crisis in Afghanistan, while public protests have ebbed, there is no sign of easing. US investigators say five service members made mistakes in handling the Islamic religious materials at the center of the controversy, and will be disciplined internally. That hardly seems likely to satisfy the Afghans, whose own investigators are saying that Afghans were repeatedly lied to about the disposition of the materials.
And, with the NATO summit coming up in Chicago in May, President Hamid Karzai is showing no sign of relenting on his insistence that the US agree to turn over all prisons to Afghan control and cease night-time raids in exchange for an ongoing status of forces agreement with the US from 2014 on.
Back in California, Jerry Brown faces a Monday march on the Capitol by thousands of students organized by the various state university student and faculty organizations opposing university budget cuts and tuition and fee hikes. They’ll hear from state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Assembly Speaker John Perez, and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who back Brown’s revenue initiative. But representatives of a left-liberal coalition behind the Millionaires Tax, including the smaller California Federation of Teachers, are trying to harness the energy of the student protest and turn it into support for their initiative. They may also try to “Occupy” the Capitol.
While Brown deals with these dynamics, his predecessor, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, over the weekend presided over his annual Arnold Sports Festival, now the nation’s largest multi-sport event, in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to a huge turnout of 185,000 for The Arnold, as it’s known, Schwarzenegger was also honored by the city placing an eight-foot statue of him in his bodybuilding heyday outside its event center, where he first won the Mr. World title in 1970.
Schwarzenegger shifts from sportsman mode to statesman mode this week as goes to Geneva, Switzerland to join United Nations and European Union officials in hosting a “Road To Rio” conference on climate, renewable energy, and sustainable development in advance of this summer’s Earth Summit in the Brazilian city.
Here, incidentally, is what Obama’s week ahead looks like. As usual, it has flexibility built in for crisis management purposes and, with the exception of the summitry with the Israelis, does not reflect much of what he is doing away from public view.
On Monday, Obama will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu at the White House. On Tuesday, Obama will meet with members of the Business Roundtable to discuss jobs and economic growth. On Wednesday, Obama will travel to Daimler Trucks North America Mt. Holly Truck Manufacturing Plant in Mt. Holly, North Carolina, to deliver remarks on the economy. On Thursday, Obama will host President John Evans Atta Mills of Ghana for a meeting in the Oval Office. And on Friday, Obama will travel to Prince George County, Virginia, to deliver remarks on the economy and then on to fundraisers in Houston, Texas.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama has received the daily intelligence and economic briefings and met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 7:45 AM Pacific, Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in the Oval Office.
At 9 AM Pacific, Obama attends an expanded lunch meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the State Dining Room.
At 12:45 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner in the Oval Office.
At 1:45 PM Pacific, Obama meets with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
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.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES. Governor Jerry Brown is in the midst of a series of moves to raise his public profile and set up much of his operations for the rest of this year and beyond. It’s a big change from most of last year, when he focused largely on inside baseball moves to manage California’s chronic budget crisis.… From my March 1st essay.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. It may well be time to start thinking the unthinkable on Iran, Israel, and Afghanistan. … From my February 29th essay.
** DEBATING IN DISARRAY: SEARCHING FOR SOME CLARITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL MESS. … From my February 24th essay.
** OBAMA’S CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH: ECLIPSING THE EMPIRE STATE. … From my February 21st essay.
** DRIFTING TO WAR WITH IRAN: BEWARE THE HYSTERIA. … From my February 16th essay.
** RICKROLLED: ROMNEY WILL BE “INEVITABLE” AGAIN WHEN … … From my February 9th essay.
** NEWTONIAN MOTION, THE BIG NEVADA BUST, THE ROAD AHEAD (AND THE RISE OF RICK?). … From my February 7th 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 AL JAZEERA. With the US entangled in major military operations 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. 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 from the Russia Today channel. 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 $107 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $73 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 $7 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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