The new national health care law came under heavy fire today during questions from conservative members of the U.S. Supreme Court.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … MAD MEN (FINALLY) RETURNS: WORTH THE WAIT?
TEEING UP TUESDAY.
There’s no Republican primary this week, after Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney traded wins in Louisiana and Illinois last week. The next primaries on tap are next Tuesday, in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, leaving the candidates free to frenetically troll for cash in California as they campaign frantically on several fronts.
But there is plenty of thunder on the right this week, with the US Supreme Court hearing oral arguments pro and con on the national health care bill finally pushed through in 2009 by President Barack Obama and then majority Congressional Democrats. And Obama is coming under some fire for having told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, in front of a hot mike during the weekend’s Nuclear Security Summit in South Korea, that he’ll be more flexible with Russia after the election. That’s in reference to the European missile shield project ostensibly about Iran but really about Russia, that is so vexing to the Russians and of such little apparent concern to the Iranians.
Meanwhile, back in California politics, Governor Jerry Brown got some excellent news in the form of a new USC Dornsife/LA Times poll on his November revenue initiative. But he continues to have trouble with his legislative party, which is balking at budget cuts and public pension reforms.
The US Supreme Court is in the midst of hearing three days of arguments on Obama’s national health care law, and the federal mandate that all individuals must purchase health insurance coverage is coming under heavy fire. The legislation may not survive as a result.
This reminds that health care is a big morass of an issue. Looking back to some of the things I wrote about its passage, predicting, as former President Bill Clinton did, that it would catch on in popular support once it was enacted, I wish I’d stuck with my more cynical traditional view. Which I’ll get into more if the Court strikes down the law in the next few months.
Is it a disaster for Obama if the law is struck down? I suspect not. He will then have some folks to blame and no downside with the law’s actual implementation.
While the wheel spins and spins and spins on health care, as it has for many decades, Obama wrapped uo the global Nuclear Security Summit and his all-important side meetings with top world leaders.
Are we any closer to a resolution of the Iran crisis? Or of the renewed North Korea crisis? Which was precipitated when the Hermit Kingdom opted to launch a satellite next month — which also doubles as the test of a long-range missile delivery system — just a few weeks after agreeing to back away from its nuclear weapons program in exchange for massive food aid?
That will be clearer as the week goes on.
I suspect that China will help with North Korea. But that Iran and Israel are still on course for a potentially explosive showdown.
The news is bad yet again in Afghanistan. Three more NATO soldiers were murdered on Monday by their Afghan colleagues. Two were Brits, one was an American. Even if we keep giving in on conditions for an ongoing status of forces agreement for a small residual force past 2014, the transition to getting there is still falling apart.
But there is good news on Syria, where the Assad regime, having spent months assaulting its democratic opposition, says it has accepted former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s ceasefire proposal.
Here’s what the rest of Obama’s week looks like. As always, his public schedule does little to reflect his crisis management, and has plenty of space and flexibility built in for all of that.
On Tuesday, Obama wraps up the Nuclear Security Summit and departs Seoul en route to Washington, where he arrives on Tuesday evening.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Obama will attend meetings at the White House.
On Friday, Obama will attend campaign events and fundraisers in Burlington, Vermont, and Portland, Maine, returning to Washington in the evening.
Jerry Brown’s public schedule for the rest of the week is as unclear as usual. But we have a good idea of what he is working on.
He received excellent news over the weekend and on Monday from the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Dornsife, incidentally, is the name of the patrons of USC’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.
USC runs the poll and the LA Times publishes its results a bit in advance of everyone else.
Brown’s new hybrid initiative, result of a compromise with the California Federation of Teachers and other members of a left-liberal coalition, tested very well in the soundings done by two national polling firms run by Democrat Stan Greenberg and Republican Linda DiVall, both of whom joined the poll’s director, USC Unruh Institute of Politics director Dan Schnur, in a conference call to discuss the poll and its findings on Monday.
Schnur, former communications director for Republican Governor Pete Wilson and John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign, declared: “Governor Brown has pulled off a political coup” with his revised initiative. He has “removed the principal impediment to his plans with minimal substantive changes.”
Unless significant financial opposition arises, he said, “It’s a very adroit move by the governor.”
And if that opposition comes from the business community and/or the very rich, it won’t be that hard to demonize it.
The poll shows the revised Brown initiative ahead by a whopping 64% to 33%.
In contrast, the last remaining rival measure, heiress Molly Munger’s plan to raise the income tax for virtually everyone, trails 64% to 32%.
As I’ve said all along, she has no chance of winning and is wasting her money in proceeding and my time in having to keep typing the obvious.
Brown’s own ratings are constant, with 49-35 on job approval and 51-34 favorable/unfavorable.
The poll found major concern about public pensions, but not a great sense of urgency. But it also found that a key symbolic element to maintaining support for the expanded public pension system enacted more than a decade ago is losing its potency.
It’s interesting to note that voters are “plus seven for public employee pensions and only plus 13 for teachers and police and firefighters,” as Greenberg pointed out.
The latter was a very effective symbol in defeating then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2005 initiatives but it may since have becoming overused.
The pollsters also noted a huge gender gap in that regard, with women plus 26 while men were minus 1.
Brown got more good news in the form of winning the Ocean Champion Award last night from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
And Be is moving to revive the Hydrogen Highway fueling stations proposed by Schwarzenegger to provide a needed infrastructure for hydrogen-fueled vehicles, just as he is for electric vehicles. Schwarzenegger launched the program in 2004 but it has languished since, with oil companies refusing to participate in the partnership. Now the state, through its Air Resources Board, will require it.
Speaking of ocean champions, Schwarzenegger’s friend and frequent director, James Cameron, on Monday became the first solo explorer to reach the deepest point in the oceans, the Mariana Trench. Cameron descended to a depth of nearly seven miles in a small submersible vehicle, spending over three hours in its Challenge Deep in the Pacific Ocean 200 miles from Guam. Cameron’s explorations will assist future plans by the space program with Jupiter and its moons.
Brown may also benefit from this revealing Sunday piece by Steve Harmon in the San Jose Mercury News on the meaning of Ronald Reagan in today’s politics.
It yields this priceless quote from far right blogger Jon Fleischman, a former state party vice chairman and ranking California Republican ideologist: “Raising taxes is a legitimate part of his history. But as a practical matter, a great number of conservatives will first learn that Reagan signed tax increases when they read this story. It’s just not a part of the narrative.”
Nope. Reality is just not a part of the narrative.
That’s all on the plus side for Brown, and it is quite a lot. On the minus side is that legislative Democrats are balking on his latest budget cuts. And there is little appetite among Democratic pols for public pension reform.
The public, as the USC poll shows, isn’t all that eager for it, either. But more efficiencies in government will have to be demonstrated to ensure the passage of Brown’s revenue initiative. And the public pension question is a very real problem.
The U.S. chief of naval operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, commenting yesterday at a conference in the Gulf, said he is “very confident” that the Navy can keep the Strait of Hormuz open in the event of an Iranian move to close it, which Tehran has threatened to do on several occasions in response to sanctions against its nuclear program.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is wrapping up his major trip around the global Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea.
Obama attended a second plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit, then held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani of Pakistan.
Following that, very early this morning Pacific Time, he departed Osan Air Base outside Seoul on Air Force One en route to Washington, DC.
At 4:55 PM Pacific, Obama lands at Joint Base Andrews, where he boards Marine One.
At 5:10 PM Pacific, Obama lands on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, and AfPak.
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.
** THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE. The term “game change,” like so many sports-oriented terms in politics, is decidedly over-used. But the events depicted in the Game Change film really do constitute just that, though not in the way that my friend Steve Schmidt, the top John McCain advisor who utters the phrase in the film and with whom I communicated throughout the period of the film, intended it.
The pick of Sarah Palin was intended to be a dynamic game changer in McCain’s 2008 race against Barack Obama. But it proved to be a different sort of game change. It was the harbinger of a virulent rightward move in Republican politics as we see in today’s presidential primaries, and the further devolution of the media culture into hysteria and hyper-partisanship. And it showed just what going for the win, the sine qua non of consultant culture, can end up meaning.
Now that Game Change has emerged as one of HBO’s biggest movies ever, in a steady rotation on the cable network, and the film itself has yielded widespread acclaim outside of the Palinista camp, it’s useful to pull back and look at the bigger import of the events the film depicts and the background against which they played out. … From my March 23rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME. There’s a lot of hissing and moaning on the right in California, and among some avowedly middle-of-the-road pundits, about Governor Jerry Brown’s compromise with a left-labor coalition on his November revenue initiative. What’s the complaint? More taxes on the rich. Part of the complaint is about the fiscal volatility of relying more on people whose incomes can fluctuate. Part of it is about protecting the rich, a bottom-line GOP issue these days.
The fact is that if the Republican Party hadn’t determinedly taken itself even further to the right over the past several years, they wouldn’t be facing what shapes up in polling as popular soak-the-rich solutions. Republicans took themselves out of the governance play in California several years ago, ignoring what turned out to be a fateful warning speech about their steep decline from then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, turning into a reflexive Party of No. … From my March 22nd essay.
** JERRY BROWN DEALS AWAY TROUBLE ON THE LEFT. … From my March 16th column.
** MAKING SENSE OF KALEIDOSCOPIC PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS. … From my March 7th essay.
** IMPOSSIBLE MISSIONS AND 50 YEARS OF BOND. … From my March 6th essay.
** JERRY BROWN MAKES SOME SPLASHY MOVES. … From my March 1st essay.
** THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE: IRAN, ISRAEL, AFGHANISTAN. … From my February 29th 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.
The Hunger Games, based on the best-selling series of dystopic scifi novels, enjoyed the third biggest opening weekend in history, and largest ever for a non-sequel.
** 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 state-run 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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