French aircraft are continuing to target jihadist bases in northern Mali while Malian and French ground troops allied with West African soldiers prep for a major assault.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE: THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS.
** QUICK HITS. President Barack Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taped a joint interview with 60 Minutes to air Sunday night. I believe this is the first joint interview Obama has done with anyone other than his wife. … Clinton just weathered Senate and House oversight hearings on the Benghazi disaster with her typical aplomb, albeit with flashes of her not atypical combativeness. She was helped by virtue of the fact that she described the attack as, well, a terrorist attack (rather than a protest gone, er, sour) from the beginning. … Rush Limbaugh is still complaining about how Clinton fared on Capitol Hill. … Still more positive reviews for Governor Jerry Brown’s State of the State address on Thursday. …
** NEW SURVEY: KUMBAYA ELUDES, WITH OBAMA’S FOURTH YEAR IN OFFICE TYING BUSH II’S AS THE SECOND MOST POLARIZED EVER. A new Gallup Poll survey reveals what we should already know; namely, that America is as hyper-partisan as it’s ever been.
And it may well be getting more so.
During his fourth year in office, an average of 86% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approved of the job Barack Obama did as president. That 76-percentage-point gap ties George W. Bush’s fourth year as the most polarized years in Gallup records. …
The list of most polarized years makes it clear that Obama’s highly polarized ratings may be as much a reflection of the era in which he is governing as on Obama himself. The last nine presidential years — the final five for Bush and Obama’s first four — all rank in the top 10. Thus, it appears that highly polarized ratings are becoming the norm, as Americans aligned with both parties are apparently not looking much beyond the president’s party affiliation to evaluate the job he is doing. …
The average party gap in ratings of President Obama during the four years of his presidency is 70 percentage points. If that average holds, it would surpass Bush’s record 61-point average polarization during his eight-year presidency by a considerable margin. Bush also finished his presidency with a significantly larger party gap in job approval ratings than the previous leader, Bill Clinton (55 points). …
Both Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, have made overtures toward bringing Americans together. The reality is that under both of their presidencies, Americans have been more politically divided than ever before. It is not clear how much of that is due to their governing styles and how much is just a reflection on how Americans approach politics and the presidency these days.
Regardless of the causes, the more polarized political environment certainly creates challenges for governing, as the president’s ability to use the bully pulpit may be limited if a substantial minority of the population will ostensibly not support him almost regardless of what he proposes. …
Meet the next White House chief of staff, current Deputy National Security Advisor Dennis McDonough.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE: THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Biden then holds a roundtable discussion on efforts to reduce gun violence at Virginia Commonwealth University.
At 9:15 AM Pacific, Obama makes a personnel announcement.
He will appoint Dennis McDonough as his new White House chief of staff. McDonough is currently deputy national security advisor. He was a traveling foreign policy advisor to Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and before that was a senior advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
McDonough will be Obama’s fifth White House chief of staff.
Senator John Kerry sailed through his Senate confirmation hearing yesterday to be secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote him out in a few days, with the full Senate to follow shortly after.
Former Senator Chuck Hagel, whose appointment to be the new secretary of defense has garnered vehement opposition from neoconservatives, has received another big boost in his confirmation fight.
Former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Bob Gates issued a strong endorsement of Hagel. He did this along with a group of bipartisan former secretaries of defense and state and national security advisors.
Some had already endorsed him, of course.
Here’s the full list, which includes Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, Californian George Shultz.
Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State; Samuel Berger, former National Security Advisor; Harold Brown, former Secretary of Defense; Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor; William Cohen, former Secretary of Defense; Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense; James Jones, former National Security Advisor; Melvin Laird, former Secretary of Defense; Robert McFarlane, former National Security Advisor; William Perry, former Secretary of Defense; Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor; George Shultz, former Secretary of State and Secretary of the Treasury; Brent Scowcroft, former National Security Advisor.
Hagel’s Senate confirmation hearing is January 31st.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving Mali and Algeria, the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: Mali is eight hours ahead of Pacific time, the Persian/Arabian Gulf is ten hours ahead of Pacific time, and Afghanistan is eleven and a half hours ahead of Pacific time. The time in Manila, on the South China Sea, is fifteen hours ahead of Pacific time.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public event.s
Plenty of kudos for Brown, who with his State of the State address yesterday morning tied late Governor-turned-Chief Justice Earl Warren for the most such addresses in California’s history.
Brown will pass Warren as the state’s longest-serving governor this fall.
The California Labor Federation and the California Chamber of Commerce both issued fulsome praise for Brown’s address. The Sierra Club was notably less positive; they don’t like the big water conveyance program he is proposing and are concerned about potential changes to the California Environmental Quality Act.
Even most Republican politicians were largely positive about Brown’s speech, which you can read below,minus a few ad libs. That may be in part because they see no realistic alternative to Brown, their party notably lacking in any remotely serious candidate. (A far right assemblyman who founded the Minuteman group in California is running.)
But some Republican operatives, perhaps sensing another big payday with another rookie politician, are talking up the idea of another super-rich candidate. There is a fellow out there, but it’s a non-serious proposition. A bit more to follow.
Brown also called a special legislative session to continue implementing the new national health care law, something which California has led on since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship.
Brown got another boost with the announcement that Karl Rove will be the keynote speaker at the California Republican Party convention the first weekend in March.
Rove, the “architect” of George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns, more recently heads up two big super PACs which avail themselves of a lot of secret money.
All the better for Brown’s Democratic allies to remind that the biggest anonymous contribution in California history — $11 million to the No on 30 effort funneled through Virginia-based outfits with Rove ties — still remains secret despite the intervention of the Republican majority California Supreme Court.
I never cease to be marvel at the moves of the California Republican Party.
** OBAMA’S CLEAR YET MUTED TRUMPET: HOPE’S AUDACITY MEETS LOWERED EXPECTATIONS. … From my January 23rd essay.
** HOW NOT TO STAGE MANAGE THE WORLD. … From my January 18th column.
** POWELL POSITIONS THE DEBATE OVER CHUCK HAGEL. … From my January 14th essay.
** JERRY BROWN’S NEW BUDGET FOR POST-CRISIS CALIFORNIA: DISCIPLINE BEGETS OPPORTUNITY. … From my January 11th essay.
** WHY THE HAGEL BATTLE MADE MORE SENSE FOR OBAMA THAN THE RICE BATTLE. … From my January 9th essay.
** CALIFORNIA’S FUTURIST AGENDA: A TALE OF THREE GOVERNORS. … From my January 4th essay.
Director J.J. Abrams will re-boot the Star Wars franchise for its new owner, Disney, which acquired Lucasfilm last fall, with the new film slated for 2015. Abrams, a major backer of Jerry Brown and Barack Obama, re-booted Star Trek to great effect in 2009 and directed the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness. Before that, the creator of Lost and Alias, the latter of which intrigued star Tom Cruise, injected fresh life into the Mission Impossible franchise.
** 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 $96 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $62 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 $18 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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