In a speech this morning before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, President Barack Obama said that a budget plan presented by House Republicans represents a “prescription for decline” that harms future generations and declared that Ronald Reagan couldn’t get nominated by the present Republican Party.
TEEING UP TUESDAY.
Mitt Romney is trying to become “inevitable” again with likely wins over Rick Santorum in Tuesday primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. And President Barack Obama is just fine with that, as he and his team are loaded for bear on Romney from an oppo standpoint. In fact, they are firing away, aided by the strains revealed in the long Republican primary fight.
Of course, Santorum doesn’t see things that way. His forces see a rough April followed by a fruitful May, as the geography shifts again. But he’ll have to fend off what’s been his biggest problem, a media that has overstated Romney as a default position from the very beginning, in order to get there.
One person who will not be getting there, at least as a major factor in the primaries, which he has been of late to Santorum’s detriment, is Newt Gingrich. He’s pretty much out of oxygen, though he keeps expelling its carbon byproduct.
Meanwhile, more momentous events are largely occupying Obama’s attention.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Arabian Gulf foreign ministers in Riyadh on Saturday. She confirmed that negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program will start up again on April 13th. And that they will take place in Istanbul, meaning the US accepted the proposal made at the end of the week in Tehran by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.
Clinton warned Iran that it must show it is serious in the upcoming talks and not simply stalling as she says they have done repeatedly
She and leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council discussed regional missile defense and how to keep shipping lanes open in the event of threatened Iranian attempts to disrupt them.
Then on Sunday, Clinton met with leaders from 70 countries in the Friends of Syria group. Gulf Arab states say they will pay the embattled Syrian opposition, and the US will provide “non-lethal aid.”
The Assad regime keeps saying that it has accepted the UN-brokered ceasefire. Now that it has broken the back of its opposition, as it claims.
But it is refusing to withdraw its forces from centers of opposition until April 10th. Assuming it keeps its word then, word it has broken in the past.
This is why foreign intervention slides forward.
In AfPak matters, seeming revelations about Osama bin Laden’s ramblings across Pakistan while the most wanted man in the world — discussed here last week — continue to reverberate. Contrary to initial word from the Pakistani government, they will not be hanging on to bin Laden’s widows and children, the better to keep a lid on what they have to say. Now the word is that they will be sent to Yemen and Saudi Arabia, after very short jail sentences which will be up soon. Of course, it hasn’t happened yet.
And the Afghan government continues to insist that the Obama Administration spell out precisely what sort of military presence it has in mind after the widespread withdrawal still slated for late 2014, and precisely what bases it wants to to be allowed.
Back in California politics, Governor Jerry Brown’s administration has unveiled its reworked revamp of the business plan for high-speed rail.
It’s much as discussed here last week, and in previous week’s comments by Brown. It accelerates and accordions some of its decades-long development, and cuts the cost of the system by more than $30 billion, back down to $68 billion.
A host of governmental and business leaders expressed their approval. In opposition, only the usual critics chimed in.
The spine of the system, which Brown and the Obama Administration want to begin work on soon, would run from Merced in the northern San Joaquin Valley to the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles.
Included in the plan would be near term upgrades of rail systems in the San Francisco Bay Area and LA areas to make them compatible with fast rail, and to provide more immediate sweeteners to major population centers from an historic project that will still take decades to complete.
I expect the plan, which you can look at here, to be accepted and to move forward this year.
But not right away. For one thing, the state legislature is away again, this time for a week of spring break. California will somehow make do.
Obama has a full week in terms of a public schedule, which of course does not reflect the big geopolitical crises he is attempting to manage.
On Monday, Obama hosted Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico for the North American Leaders’ Summit (NALS) in Washington.
On Tuesday, Obama will deliver remarks at the AP Luncheon during the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention in Washington.
On Wednesday, Obama will host an Easter Prayer Breakfast at the White House. Christian leaders from around the country will join the President at the breakfast. Also on Wednesday, Obama will sign the STOCK Act, making clear that Members of Congress are subject to the same insider trading laws that apply to everyone else.
On Thursday, Obama will sign the JOBS Act, which includes several initiatives Obama proposed last fall to help small businesses and start-ups grow and create jobs.
On Friday, Obama will deliver remarks at the White House Forum on Women and the Economy. In the evening, Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will mark the beginning of Passover with a Seder at the White House with friends and staff.
Mitt Romney hopes to sweep Tuesday’s primaries over Rick Santorum in Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia and assert a sense of command over the Republican presidential race.
** 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.
Obama then delivered remarks and did Q & A at the Associated Press luncheon during the American Society of Newspaper Editors Convention at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park.
At 1:30 PM Pacific, Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in the Oval Office.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Iraq, AfPak, and North Korea.
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.
** MAD MEN: WHOSE SIDE IS TIME ON, ANYWAY? The roar of generational change got ever louder in this week’s Mad Men, so much so that Roger Sterling plaintively wondered when things will go back to normal. That would be “Never,” Roger. At least for you. As always, there be spoilers ahead.
Meanwhile … She’s baaack. It’s around the 4th of July, 1966, and the character so many love to hate, and whom many thought had slipped away from the storyline, Betty Draper Francis, has returned to the show in a big way. Literally. Well, not that big. But the svelte Grace Kelly lookalike has put on a lot of weight. (This is how creator Matthew Weiner deals with star January Jones’s real-life pregnancy, which arrived not long after she wrapped her co-starring role as wintry telepath Emma Frost in X-Men: First Class.)
Absent an untimely demise, Betty is forever a key character in the show. She and Don were the perfect couple at the dawn of the ’60s, “the pair on top of the wedding cake,” as Roger Sterling admiringly and enviously put it. She was Don’s trophy wife with a brain, a multi-lingual graduate of a top college, Bryn Mawr, who wanted to partner with Don as he rose in advertising, as we saw in the Rome episode in which she dazzled Conrad Hilton, but was shunted to one of Don’s compartments as a suburban housewife, bitterly left only with a new charm for her bracelet.
Now she’s married to a doting older man, Henry Francis, a top advisor to the liberal New York Republicans who once played so large a role in American politics. (And if that doesn’t date this show, nothing will.) But though she’s had a chance to be part of the glittering circle around New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller — which we sadly never see — and Henry is now a chief advisor to glamorous new New York Mayor John Lindsay, she’s depressed. (In six years time in the Mad Men universe, Lindsay will be an anti-war Democrat running for president.) So much so that she’s taken to constant snacking, which makes her heavier, which makes her more depressed. Funny how that works.
And the doctor she’s gone to for diet pills, also known as speed, tells her she’s a depressed “middle-aged woman.” Middle-aged? She’s, like, 34 or 35! Even more depressing, but a typically sexist and ageist view. (If I don’t mention the sexism that permeates the show, it’s because it permeates the show, and the era. It’s like mentioning the color of the sky. Feminism doesn’t become a big thing till another decade and Mad Men is not scifi. This is not a show about enlightened heroes and heroines.) Then Betty discovers she has a tumor.
It turns out to be benign, of course, but not until the Don-Betty connection rears its head again (she craves his reassurance and he’s clearly worried about his “Birdie,” and not sold on Megan as the mother of his children) and a fortune teller — of all story-telling devices! — makes Betty see the irony of an errant reading of tea leaves. Our Betty, in the reading, is a wonderful person and a light to the world. Er, no. And she knows it.
While that plays out, under Jon Hamm’s steady direction, the drumbeat of generational change and ethnic change gets ever louder for the gang at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
Much of that drumbeat is a Charlie Watts backbeat as the music of the Rolling Stones takes center stage. Those zany execs at Heinz didn’t buy Peggy’s rather daft pitch about dancing beans, but they do want SCDP to get the Stones to turn “Time Is On My Side” — which the exec calls “Time Is On Your Side” until Megan, youngest in the room, tellingly corrects it as “Time Is On MY Side” — into a jingle. You know, “Heinz Is On My Side.”
This is the comic centerpiece of the episode, as Don and Harry Crane venture to a Stones concert in Forest Hills to try to sign the band. (Which had already done a commercial, incidentally. Mick Jagger did go to the London School of Economics, you know.) …
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS IN CRISIS: ANOTHER BIG SHOE DROPS. Another big shoe dropped Wednesday in the ongoing crisis of the California Republican Party. One of its young rising stars, state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a decorated Marine veteran of the Iraq War, dropped his party registration to become an independent. Which might be a path forward for Republicans who don’t reject modernity and governance.
Ranking Republicans privately bemoaned the fact that their party has a very thin bench when it comes to people who might win a future statewide election. Fletcher was part of a very short list.
Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown continued to get good news moving forward toward his November revenue initiative, a measure that would have been unnecessary had Republicans last year not rejected him and his more moderate course at that time on taxation. …
Fletcher’s move sets up a very intriguing test case for Republicans who haven’t turned their backs on modernity and governance. … From my March 29th essay.
** MAD MEN (FINALLY) RETURNS: WORTH THE WAIT? Mad Men is back, finally, after the biggest series hiatus since The Sopranos. Was it worth the wait? …
Part of the brilliance of Matthew Weiner’s conception of the show is that it has shown us a world we haven’t really seen otherwise. Yes, it’s set in the ’60s, but the bulk of it has been about the early ’60s. Which for most is terra incognita, aside from hazy images of JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the civil rights movement, Sinatra and the Rat Pack, and the early days of the Beatles.
The massively over-exposed part of the ’60s, which gave rise to culture wars which still exist in this country, not to mention a baby boomer cultural dominance which has become more than a little dull even as it has persisted for decades, is still yet to come. …
But the rumblings of change — in this case racial change and generational change — are getting much louder. And the drumbeat of dissatisfaction despite success, a constant in the show, is louder than ever. … From my March 27th essay.
** THE REAL GAME CHANGE: PALINISM’S RISE AND MODERATE REPUBLICANISM’S ECLIPSE. … From my March 23rd essay.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS HAVE ONLY THEMSELVES TO BLAME. … 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.
** 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 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 $104 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $70 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 $10 from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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