Senator John McCain had some very testy moments this morning with Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel when he tried to get a “yes or no!” answer on the wisdom of the Iraq surge.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER.
** QUICK HITS. Well, it wasn’t exactly the Leffingwell hearing, especially in terms of have at least some moments of elevated debate. Though there seemed to be a few who were trying for the other side of that famous fictional encounter, including ranking member Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, who snidely asked why the nominee is favored by Iran. Not a fabulous performance by former Senator Chuck Hagel in today’s Senate confirmation hearing on his appointment to be the next US secretary of defense. He didn’t seem prepared to deal with some very obvious questions, instead opting for a frequently dull sort of rope-a-dope. But I don’t think anything happened to derail him, though new Texas Senator Ted Cruz, an excitable sort, certainly seemed to think so as he brandished some Al Jazeera footage that didn’t say what he said it did. … Which gets at the other less than uplifting thing about the six hour-long hearing (which I did not watch in its entirety). The Senate committee was underwhelming as well, managing to avoid deep questions of policy — what are our top priorities, especially given fiscal constraints? what is an acceptable expenditure of American lives, and in which circumstances? — in favor of the usual partisan ping-pong and transparent efforts to nail down the likely next SecDef on home state spending projects. … Something I didn’t mention this morning about that latest Public Policy Institute of California poll: Just 32% favor expanding the sales tax to include services, a favored trope of would-be reformers who want to move away from reliance on high-income Californians.
** NEW SURVEY: ECONOMIC CONFIDENCE REACHES A FIVE-YEAR HIGH. Further muddying the waters of perception around the surprise 0.1% drop in gross domestic product in the last quarter, a new Gallup Poll survey finds that economic confidence in the US surged to a five-year high in January.
But we still haven’t reached a majority saying things are getting better.
Americans were more positive about the economy last week than they have been at any time since Gallup began tracking economic confidence daily in January 2008. Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index improved to -9, from -13 the prior week and -22 during the last week of December. This just beats the previous weekly high of -10 set during the week ending Nov. 4, just before the U.S. presidential election. …
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index has not entered positive territory since Gallup began tracking it daily in 2008. If and when that happens, it will mark the first time since the recession and global economic collapse that Americans on average are more positive than negative about the U.S. economy. Gallup did see that happen at times prior to 2008, when it asked about economic confidence on a less frequent basis.
Americans’ views about the economy going forward are poised to cross this threshold first. Last week, 46% of Americans said the economy is getting better while 49% said it is getting worse, for a net score of -3. This is improved from -7 the prior week and -19 during the last week of December. …
Americans’ current views of the U.S. economy clearly indicate a new wave of optimism during the start of 2013. Americans are now more positive about the economy — taking into account current conditions and the outlook for the future — than at any time since the recession and global financial crisis. This likely reflects a combination of factors, including the recent surge in U.S. stock markets, Democrats’ becoming more confident about the economy after the U.S. presidential election, and the lifting of the uncertainty that surrounded the election and the fiscal cliff budget negotiations toward the end of 2012.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered a ringing endorsement for Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel, rejecting conservative Republican claims that his appointment means the Obama Administration is more “dovish.”
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
Obama has no scheduled public events.
A fair amount of fireworks are ensuing in this morning’s Senate confirmation hearing on Defense Secretary-designate Chuck Hagel. The first current Republican senator to endorse Hagel did so late yesterday. He is Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran.
Hagel was introduced/sponsored at the hearing by former Senate Armed Services Chairmen Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) and John Warner (R-Virginia).
But it didn’t take long before Senator John McCain, with a notable undercurrent of anger, confronted Hagel, urging a “yes or no” answer on whether the Iraq surge was a good thing or not.
Hagel did not rise to the bait, which only seemed to make McCain madder.
My view of the Iraq surge?
Which yields an answer of yes. And no to McCain’s seemingly simple question.
I found Hagel’s op-ed of the time a bit over-wrought, but not surprising from a former Vietnam War infantry sergeant worried about the impending loss of American lives. Which numbered, I believe, more than some 1200 American soldiers lost in the surge, which served to ease our way out of Iraq without helicopters taking off from the embassy roof as happened in Saigon. But it failed in setting up an Iraqi polity not favorable to Iran, whose position in the region was greatly enhanced by the Iraq War.
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.
The New York Times says virtually all its computer systems were hacked for four months by Chinese hackers while the newspaper developed its story on how the family of PRC Premiere Wen Jiabao acquired billions of dollars during his career in public service.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Sacramento.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
He spent Tuesday evening at the old Governor’s Mansion, last occupied by his dad and mom, having dinner and spending time in conversation with new members of the state legislature.
It’s one of several such sessions he has going.
Brown is also recruiting business delegates for his April trade mission to China.
Hopefully, his efforts aren’t running afoul of Chinese intelligence. (See the above news video.)
And he is welcoming the news that Standard & Poor’s has upgraded California’s bond rating.
The latest Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) poll shows overwhelming support for Brown’s state budget proposal, nearly 70%, along with a 51% job approval rating.
51% say California is on the right track now, with only 40% saying no.
Last May, only 30% said California was on the right track, while 63% said California was on the wrong track.
In eight months, that is a massive 44-point turnaround, from minus-33 to plus-11.
In addition, 57% back lowering the two-thirds requirement for local parcel taxes to 55%.
** THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS: AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE. … From my January 30th essay.
** 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.
** 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 $97 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $63 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 $17 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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