Hillary Clinton formally resigned Friday afternoon as America’s 67th secretary of state, capping a four-year tenure and telling State Department staffers “I was honored to serve and lead as part of a huge extended family.”
** QUICK HITS. As discussed here sometime back as a likely prospect, former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has decided not to set himself up for a possible three Senate runs in rapid succession. Just defeated this past November by Elizabeth Warren, he won’t run for John Kerry’s Senate seat in an upcoming special election. That removes a big worry that man Democrats had about Kerry’s appointment as secretary of state. Brown might run for governor. Or he might not. … John Kerry was sworn in this afternoon as secretary of state by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan. The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee served 28 years in the U.S. Senate, the last four of them as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. … In California politics, the Democratic Party has over $10 million in the bank. The Republican Party has about $10. Governor Jerry Brown, who spent his time helping raise over $50 million for his landslide-winning, game-changing Proposition 30 revenue initiative, has over $7 million in the bank. (Over half of that is money he saved from his 2010 campaign against the biggest-spending non-presidential campaign in American history, that of billionaire Meg Whitman.)
** COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER: IN THE SHADE OF IRAQ. You could tell on inauguration day how determined President Barack Obama was about his pick of Chuck Hagel to be the new secretary of defense. As he signed the warrants officially forwarding his choices for several offices to the Senate, he dropped the levity when it came to the former Republican senator and Vietnam War infantry sergeant. “Charles Timothy Hagel,” he intoned, with a determined note of sober formality.
While it’s probably not a saying the president uses, Hagel is his choice, come hell or high water. Obama’s getting more than a little of both in the bargain. He’s going to get Hagel, too. But not thanks to Hagel’s public performance skills.
For all the valid skepticism about politicians as creatures of circumstance, there are moments when deeper imperatives hold sway. We’re seeing this in the Hagel confirmation fight, with grim determination about the merits of the Iraq War animating several of the biggest actors.
Obama knows that, while there were several good reasons why he defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, his views on the Iraq War were probably determinative. In his speech as a U.S. Senate candidate opposing the invasion of Iraq, Obama declared himself to be not an opponent of all wars, just dumb wars. More about that in a moment. When he launched his presidential campaign in 2007, the war was foremost on his agenda. He probably had no idea he’d be called on to deal with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In contrast, Obama’s 2008 general election opponent — and Hagel’s chief antagonist in his Senate confirmation hearing — Senator John McCain, was a great champion of the Iraq War, both the initial invasion and the later surge designed to salvage the war.
It’s one of history’s little ironies that the two men, who each fancied himself a master of geopolitics, should have ended up fighting over how to revitalize the economy.
Just as Obama is sure he was right about the Iraq War being not just wrong, but wrong-headed, McCain is grimly determined to admit no error. You could see that clearly in Thursday’s confirmation hearing, where he began by badgering his one-time compadre Hagel, who gingerly backed the president of his party, George W. Bush, in authorizing the invasion despite his clear public misgivings, then became one of the war’s sharpest critics.
Tellingly, McCain didn’t zero in on Hagel’s openness to talking with terrorist groups or his lack of any enthusiasm for a war with Iran over its nuclear program, he went straight to Iraq. Wisely, he didn’t go to the Iraq War in general, now extremely unpopular, but to the Iraq surge, on which he has a better argument to make, especially since it’s widely regarded as a success that allowed the U.S. to save face in the short-term, which is where our news media lives.
With a notable undercurrent of anger for so early in the day, McCain confronted Hagel, insisting on a “yes or no” answer on whether the Iraq surge was a good thing or not. …
** NEW SURVEY: A PROFILE OF GUN OWNERS. A new Gallup Poll survey is intriguing when it comes to gun ownership.
It’s a guy thing. And a married thing. And a conservative thing. And a white thing. And a Southern thing.
Accordingly and not surprisingly, two-thirds of married men in the South own guns.
Nearly one in three Americans personally own one or more guns and nearly half of all households contains at least one gun.
Men are three times more likely than women to personally own guns, representing one of the largest demographic differences in gun ownership, according to an analysis of Gallup polls from 2007 to 2012. Gun ownership also varies significantly by region, with Southerners more likely to own guns than those living in other regions of the United States. Marriage is also a strong predictor of gun ownership. …
In addition to gender, Southern residence, and marital status, personal gun ownership also varies significantly by age, race, and political ideology.
Non-Hispanic whites (33%) are significantly more likely than nonwhites (22%) to own guns. Hispanics (18%) in particular show below-average gun ownership. Twenty-one percent of blacks own a gun.
Younger Americans (20%) are much less likely to own guns than older Americans. There are only minor differences among adults 30 and older by age group (ranging between 31% and 34%).
Gun ownership is much higher among those who are politically conservative (39%) than among those who are politically liberal (17%).
However, gender is by far the strongest predictor of personally owning a gun. A statistical model shows the odds of a man owning a gun are five times greater than the odds of a woman owning a gun, once the influence of other factors related to gun ownership is taken into account. Being from the South and being married are the next-most influential predictors; each is associated with 1.7 times greater odds of owning a gun than among those who are not married and among those who do not live in the South. Being Hispanic and being from the East are associated with lower gun ownership, but on a relative basis, these are the next strongest predictors of gun ownership, followed by race, ideology, and age.
A suicide bomber hit the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey today, killing himself and at least one other. It was not a protest gone sour. No group has publicly claimed credit for the terrorist attack.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
At 11:15 AM Pacific, Obama awards the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation in the East Room.
Obama got mixed to good news this morning with word that nearly 160,000 new jobs were added to the economy in January. If the economy contracted ever so slightly in the fourth quarter, that has certainly stopped now.
But some economists had hoped for and expected better numbers. This has proved to be a rickety recovery for most Americans.
Now to the bad news. On Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s last day in office, the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey was the site of a terrorist attack. See the relevant news video. The suicide bomber detonated his device just inside the entrance, causing little damage to the embassy itself and apparently a minimal loss of life. No group has taken public credit for the attack yet.
In a bigger and stranger story, the Mexico City headquarters of Petroleos Mexicanos, the state oil giant, was hit by a massive explosion that killed more than 30 people. No clear explanation has been offered for the blast, which took place late yesterday afternoon.
Two days after an Israeli air strike deep inside Syrian territory, there is still confusion over what took place. Israel, as is its practice, is not commenting publicly.
Was it a strike against a research facility, as the embattled Assad regime maintains? Was it an attack against an attempt to move chemical weapons? Was it an attack against the movement of advance anti-aircraft weapons to bolster Hezbollah’s defenses?
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Steve Chu is stepping down. The Nobel Prize-winner was head of the Lawrence Laboratory in California before joining the Obama Cabinet.
As for former Senator Chuck Hagel, he certainly didn’t star in yesterday’s confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense, but his confirmation still looks very likely.
Hagel 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.
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.
A huge blast rocked the headquarters of Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil giant, late yesterday in Mexico City. More than 30 people were killed in the explosion, which is still unexplained.
** FROM THE JERRY FILES. Governor Jerry Brown is in Northern California.
He has no scheduled public events as of this morning.
** 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.
In a first of its kind joint news conference by opposing Super Bowl coaches, San Francisco 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, the first brothers to oppose on another in the Super Bowl, held forth this morning in New Orleans.
** 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 $98 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $64 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 $16 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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