So much for the schedule provided by the White House. President Barack Obama today named a new secretary of labor, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez. He is a native of snowy Buffalo in upstate New York, where his Dominican Republic emigre parents settled. If confirmed as expected, he will replace the already departed Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, formerly an L.A. congresswoman who’s returned to the City of Angels to seek a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Soon there will be no Californians in the Obama Cabinet.
** QUICK HITS. Governor Jerry Brown will continue his post-Prop 30 victory practice of spending extensive time meeting with the leadership of California’s public university systems on Tuesday when he goes to Long Beach for the California State University’s Board of Trustees meeting. … The California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors today authorized the issuance of $8.6 billion in bonds. (Only $3 billion would be used to start with, combined with an equivalent amount of federal funding.) It also approved plans to integrate the bullet train project with local rail in the San Francisco Bay Area. … In a massive non-surprise, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today endorsed same-sex marriage in a five-minute video for an LGBT rights group. Before she became secretary of state, she had only endorsed civil unions. But the issue has advanced significantly since then. Of course, she’s retired now, so why go to such an effort? Right? I jest, naturally.
** NEW COLUMN COMING UP … THE ALLURE OF ARABIA (IN ANNIVERSARY YEARS).
** NEW SURVEY: NEWS MEDIA CONTINUES DECLINE IN INFLUENCE, WITH INCREASINGLY SHALLOW COVERAGE AND HEIGHTENED NEGATIVITY IN POLITICS. A new survey by Pew Research indicates that Americans continue to abandon news media outlets and that journalists had less influence over the perception of last year’s campaign than at any equivalent time in history.
A third of Americans have abandoned having a news outlet.
Local TV news viewership is down sharply.
Cable news viewership is flat.
Newspapers, however, have arrested their slide. But coverage is increasingly shallow, due to reduced resources and a lower base of expertise among remaining journalists.
Not surprisingly, those who would make and shape the news are gaining the very decided upper hand over their erstwhile news interpreters. And their messages are increasingly negative.
The five key lessons about the media and the 2012 presidential race include evidence of how the candidates and their allies were more effective in getting their messages through.
1) In the 2012 race for the White House, journalists played a smaller role in shaping what voters heard about the presidential candidates. In the 2012 campaign, only about one quarter of the statements in the media about the character and records of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney came directly from journalists while about half came from political partisans. In 2000, half of the statements about the presidential candidates came from the media and only about one-third from the partisans.
2) The candidates and their allies used that leverage to push negative messages about their opponent through the media. Almost three-quarter of the statements about each candidate’s character and record were negative compared with less than 30% positive. In 2008, most of those statements about Obama were positive while McCain’s was moderately more negative than positive.
3) Horserace coverage was down, but coverage of the issues didn’t fill that gap. In 2012, the amount of coverage devoted to tactics, strategy and polls declined to 38%, down from 53% in 2008. But that attention to policy issues—both foreign and domestic—barely budged, inching up from to 22% in 2012 compared with 20% four years earlier.
4) Obama made greater use of social media messaging than Romney, but the overall conversation in social media was negative toward both men. In the period studied by Pew Research, for example, the Obama team produced about 25 times more Twitter posts than the Romney campaign. But on blogs, Twitter and Facebook, users were consistently more negative than positive about both candidates—although Romney fared somewhat worse.
5) More spending on political ads did not translate into a bigger audience for media outlets. A record $2.9 billion was spent on political advertising on local television, but news audiences fell in the key local news timeslots. The overall audience for broadcast network news also declined and on the three major cable news channels, CNN, MSNC and Fox News, the overall audience barely inched up.
In an exclusive interview last week with Israeli television, President Barack Obama said Iran is at least a year away from being able to produce a nuclear weapon. Obama’s week is dominated by his trip to Israel and the Middle East.
MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK.
A big week on tap in presidential politics, with some intriguing things going on in California politics. (I will have a longer form piece this week on potential pitfalls for Dems in the Golden State, and prospects for still reeling Republicans.)
March 20th marks the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, and President Barack Obama’s week is dominated by his trip to the Middle East from mid-week on. But Iraq is not on his schedule. Instead, it’s mostly Israel, with side trips to the Palestinians and to longtime Arab friend Jordan.
Will Obama show up relatively unannounced in Baghdad? It’s an intriguing thought. Though I’m not sure what he would do there, other than remind everyone that we’re gone.
So, too, is the natural check on Iranian aggressiveness in the region that Saddam Hussein provided. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, who has been warning of an impending Iranian nuke for the past 20 years, finally cobbled together what looks like an unwieldy coalition government more than seven weeks after national elections.
According to Israeli reports, he’ll press Obama, as he has in the past, for commitments to strike against Iran once it achieves nuclear weapons capability, which is not the same as having a nuclear weapon. Iran has increased its production of enriched uranium of late, but has also plowed much of it into nuclear fuel.
Obama is unlikely to go along with Netanyahu on his decades-long quest, and Netanyahu seems unlikely to move much on Obama’s counter-priority, moving the Palestinian peace process along. Which leaves Syria. Will the US go into the arms providing business for Syrian rebels? Perhaps more to the point, will it agree to strikes against Syrian targets if chemical weapons or rocketry appears to be on the verge of being moved?
Speaking of rocketry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s announcement at the end of last week of enhancements over the next four years to West Coast missile defense as a counter to increasing North Korean capabilities (and outright, if outlandish, threats of nuclear strikes) came with a telling sidebar.
The final stage of Central European missile defense, the one which would have the theoretical capability to directly block Russian ICBMs, has been canceled, with those resources redirected to West Coast missile defense. Will that thaw the recent chill in relations with Moscow?
I outlined Obama’s week ahead, dominated by the Middle East trip which begins with his flight to Israel late Tuesday night, in the NWN Weekend Edition.
Things are not nearly so high-key in California politics, where Governor Jerry Brown is on a strong trajectory, his perilous passage having come late last year, though course adjustments will undoubtedly be necessary, as is always the case.
Brown (who likes to keep his staff and everyone else on their toes with regard to what he does and, especially, when) and First Lady/Special Advisor Anne Gust Brown will welcome the newest class to the California Hall of Fame this week.
This year’s honorees are the late anthropologist Gregory Bateson, acclaimed actor and filmmaker Warren Beatty, legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, visionary designers Charles and Ray Eames, United Farm Workers co-founder and Latino rights leader Dolores Huerta, famed Native Californian Ishi (who was the last surviving member of his tribe), and motion picture pioneers the Warner brothers.
Meanwhile, as Republicans continue to struggle, their best bet for a special election legislative win having demurred over the weekend (see the Weekend Edition), the high-speed rail program moves on with bond sales contemplated and Democratic legislators introduce a plethora of specialty tax and fee hike bills.
None are across-the-board measures, yet I suspect that they will be mostly if not entirely ill-fated when they reach the Governor’s Office. If they get that far.
Much talk of re-branding, re-positioning, re-building the Republican Party in the wake of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference and Monday’s release of a Republican National Committee report calling for comprehensive immigration reform, outreach to Latinos, improved organizing and information systems, more marketing, fewer presidential primary debates, a shorter primary season, and an earlier national convention. Reality check: Mitt Romney received kid gloves treatment in all the early GOP debates, from media and from rivals, so that excuse won’t work.
** OBAMA TODAY. President Barack Obama is in Washington.
Obama received the intelligence and economic briefings in the Oval Office.
He then met with senior advisors in the Oval Office.
At 1:40 PM Pacific, Obama and First Lady Michele Obama deliver remarks at a Women’s History Month Reception in the East Room.
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.
** PIVOTING, DRONING, AND OUR MAN IN KABUL. … From my March 13th essay.
** FOR CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS, STUNT POLITICS WORKED FOR AWHILE AND THEN BACKFIRED (YET DEMS CAN STILL BLOW IT). … From my March 12th column.
** THE SUDDENLY SCRAMBLING OBAMA. … From my March 8th column.
** CALIFORNIA REPUBLICANS: OUT OF STUNTS. … From my March 6th column.
** WILL JERRY BROWN BE UNOPPOSED FOR RE-ELECTION? … From my March 4th feature.
** 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 $92 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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