Iranian nuclear talks in Almaty, Kazakhstan ended today without a breakthrough.
** QUICK HITS. The US Senate easily confirmed former White House chief of staff Jack Lew as the new secretary of the treasury today on a vote of 71 to 26. … Veteran columnist Jules Witcover (I’m sure everyone remembers Germond & Witcover, that’s a little pre-Zoe Barnes) checks in with this syndicated Chicago Tribune column on Governor Jerry Brown, “Bringing California Back.” Speaking of back, so’s Brown, as in back in California following his rail adventure from the Beltway to the Big Apple. … He also approved state Attorney General Kamala Harris filing a legal brief on behalf of the State of California opposing the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative coming up before the US Supreme Court. Arguments are expected in late March.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … JERRY BROWN, EAST AND WEST.
** SECRETARY HAGEL AND THE SENATE’S MASSIVE WASTE OF TIME. So Chuck Hagel is now the secretary of defense after a grueling confirmation process that managed to ignore most of the big challenges he’ll face. That’s our political media culture in inaction.
Chuck Hagel and his allies spent months dealing with a string of mostly hysterical distractions — Did Hagel receive money from the non-existent “Friends of Hamas?” Is Hagel an anti-semite because he does not follow the agenda of the most conservative government in Israeli history (a government still having notable difficulty re-forming itself after elections more than five weeks ago)? Isn’t Hagel really an ally/agent of the mullahs of Iran and the hermit dictators of North Korea? — while massive real world issues went ignored.
Unfortunately, charges like these, the intellectual equivalent of tossing marbles down the hallway of an elementary school, prove all too distracting for the Zoe Barnes element of the media. Just as the cynics behind them knew they would be.
Deeper analysis told us that none of that stuff would matter in the end as far as the outcome was concerned.
Still, much was lost. Not Hagel’s nomination, of course. But something perhaps more important than that, important as the identity of the secretary of defense undoubtedly is. And that is time and space with which to consider what’s going on.
Consider what the Senate, which once dubbed itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” and a news media, which has greater access to information than at any time in history, didn’t deal with just in the last few days of the anti-Hagel filibuster. …
Instead of all these things, we had non-stop hysteria, driven by neoconservative folks like Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin, who used her perch at the Washington Post to reveal far more about her mindset than she realized when she wrote these bitter words following Hagel’s victory: “Let’s be clear: We have two parties: the Hagel Democrats and the pro-Israel Republicans. Only one party considers national security serious enough to place it above loyalty to the White House.”
Meanwhile, in Israel itself, where the debate naturally does not turn on what is best for America but on what is best for Israel, the question of what is best for Israel is far less clear than it seems to the zealots of Rubin’s type who place it, somehow, at the center of American national security. There the debate is more spirited than it is here, and questions of anti-semitism around those who don’t agree with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu — who lost a quarter of his party’s seats in the January 22nd election and still hasn’t formed a new coalition — aren’t relevant, for obvious reasons.
Meanwhile, we have a new secretary of defense, who has grave new challenges which went essentially undiscussed during his confirmation. A triumph for our democracy.
** NEW SURVEY: WE (WANNABE) NUMBER ONE! A new Gallup Poll survey reveals that Americans want — or, perhaps more accurately, I suspect — would like America to be number one in the world militarily.
62% say that’s an important goal; 37% say it’s “not that important.”
Among Republicans, those numbers are 80% to 19%.
Among independents, 62% to 37%, same as the overall national average.
Among Democrats, 48% to 51%.
Why do most Democrats hate America?
The good news is that we are number one militarily. It would be very hard not to be, out-spending nearly all the rest of the world combined.
Why do most Republicans doubt America exceptionalism?
Kidding aside, the point of a poll like this is to get at the impact of sequestration, which will lead to some across the board military spending cuts, something which, in the abstract, is anathema to Republicans. Yet they are letting it happen.
Which means it’s not as important as surface polling would suggest. Or Republican politicians are about to get caught in a squeeze play.
Or, perhaps, both.
A majority of Americans have said it is important for the U.S. to be No. 1 militarily each of the five times Gallup asked this question since 1993 — ranging from 59% on the low end to 70% on the high end. …
Americans are more likely to believe it is important that the U.S. be No. 1 militarily than to say the U.S. is in fact the No. 1 military power in the world. Exactly half of Americans now believe the U.S. is No. 1 militarily, essentially tying the low point — 51% in 1999 — in Gallup’s trend, which dates to 1993. …
The idea that major cuts in defense spending would upset Republicans — which is one of the beliefs behind the original sequestration legislation nearly two years ago — is reinforced by the results of Gallup’s question asking Americans if it is important that the U.S. be No. 1 in the world militarily. Eight in 10 Republicans say “yes,” while less than half of Democrats agree.
Additionally, just over half of Republicans now believe that the nation is still the top military power in the world. As recently as January 2010, 73% of Republicans said the U.S. was the No. 1 military power in the world. This would seemingly also support the idea that Republicans — and Republican leaders — would be concerned about the looming reductions in defense spending.
It is becoming increasingly evident, however, that the sequestration of defense (and domestic) spending will occur as scheduled on March 1 — despite Republicans’ worries about the nation’s military standing in the world.
Brand-new Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, just sworn into office, addressed his new Pentagon subordinates, saying: “We must use all tools of American power to protect our citizens and our interests; and America must engage – not retreat – in the world, but engage wisely.” Hagel cited his co-authorship, with former Virginia Senator and Navy Secretary Jim Webb, the most highly decorated Marine officer of the Vietnam War, of the post-9/11 GI Bill as one of his proudest accomplishments.
** NEW COLUMNS COMING UP … A NEW SECDEF AT LAST and JERRY BROWN, EAST AND WEST.
** 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 then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
Following that, he delivered remarks at the unveiling of a statue of Rosa Parks at the United States Capitol.
At 4:30 PM Pacific, Obama delivers remarks at the Business Council dinner and does a Q&A session at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
Two days to the Sequester. Not that much will actually happen in two days. The posturing continues, with Obama having the upper hand over congressional Republicans, for now.
Obama will meet congressional leaders at the White House on Friday.
Meanwhile, a two-day round of negotiations at ministerial level in Almaty, Kazakhstan between Iran and the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany over the Tehran regime’s nuclear program ended without apparent substantive agreement. Iran’s nuclear centrifuge program continues to advance.
Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is again banging drums of war with Iran. But, more than five weeks after the national election that he was supposed to dominate but did not, Netanyahu is still struggling in his quest to put together a new Israeli coalition government.
Obama is monitoring several geopolitical crises involving the Arab Awakening, Iran and Israel, Syria, Iraq, AfPak, and the South China Sea.
Military Crisis Zone Times: 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 events as of this morning.
Brown and First Lady/Special Advisor Anne Gust Brown are back from their trip to the East Coast, which included a surprise-to-some train trip from Washington to New York. (They’re very interested in train travel, though that particular train is hardly the 20th Century Limited.)
Meanwhile, the Republican Brown trounced in 2010, billionaire Meg Whitman, now presiding over big cuts at Hewlett-Packard, joined dozens of other conservatives and some major corporations in signing on to a legal brief opposing the Prop 8 anti-gay marriage initiative.
Whitman said she supported Prop 8 when she ran for governor.
The brief she and many others have now signed on to is part of a drive to use the argument coming in late March before the US Supreme Court to make same sex marriage legal.
You’ll note that almost all of those Republicans are “formers.” The party faithful are vehemently opposed to same sex marriage.
Meanwhile, in the latest of a string of Field Polls showing support for relatively liberal positions on climate change and gun control, a 54% to 43% majority of California voters now support legalizing marijuana.
This is the highest, as it were, level ever. In 1969, only 13% favored legalization.
The real story behind Argo has substantial differences from what was portrayed in the Academy Award-winner for Best Picture.
** OSCARMANIA! (OR NOT): A POLITICAL STEW ON LIGHT SIMMER. … From my February 25th essay.
** THE HAILSTORM AROUND HAGEL POINTS UP THE SYSTEM’S DYSFUNCTIONALITY. … From my February 21st essay.
** THE ANTI-HAGEL GAMBITS: CLEVER, BUT NOT REALLY THAT CLEVER. … From my February 15th essay.
** WITH LITTLE POLITICAL OR POLICY IMPACT AND DUMBED DOWN LANGUAGE, DOES THE STATE OF THE UNION EVEN MATTER? … From my February 12th column.
** JERRY BROWN FINDS FUN (IN NEW FOIL RICK PERRY) AND MORE THAN A BIT OF ILLUMINATION. … From my February 7th column.
** COME HAGEL OR HIGH WATER: IN THE SHADE OF IRAQ. … From my February 1st essay.
** THE STATE OF JERRY BROWN’S STATUS: AFTER THE STATE OF THE STATE. … From my January 30th 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 $93 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
This is up about $59 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 $21 per barrel from the price at the time of the Osama bin Laden raid.
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