POLITICS IN 60 SECONDS: What You Need To Know Right Now

Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend
Marilyn Monroe wears diamonds

Good morning.  Here’s what you need to know:1. President Obama will address the nation tonight at 8pm eastern time. He will reveal his schedule for the draw-down of US forces fighting in Afghanistan.  

2. Americans are increasingly weary of the war in Afghanistan, increasingly leery of the rationale for its continuance and increasingly reluctant to pay for it.

3. US Federal Reserve policies are unlikely to change. The Washington Post reports: “While Fed officials are concerned about the ominous signs in the economy, they still expect growth to pick up in the second half of the year. And with their controversial effort to pump $600 billion into the economy expiring in mere days, they see little wisdom in expanding the program anew.”

4. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said yesterday that the debt-reduction package emerging from the so-called Biden Group would not “fundamentally change” the alarming rate of growth in the national debt. Conrad said the goal of slicing more than $2 trillion from the federal budget by 2021 falls well short of what is needed to stabilise borrowing, re-energize the economy and avert the threat of a debt crisis.

5. Greece’s government won a vote of confidence in parliament early today, clearing a significant obstacle to a fresh €120bn bail-out by international lenders. The confidence motion in George Papandreou’s reshuffled team passed by a vote of 155-to-143. 

6. Does Greece default to the public sector “years of agony hence” or does it default to the private sector now?  Martin Wolf argues that default is inevitable, that it should be planned for and that it is better done sooner rather than later.

7. The cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran continues.  The Wall Street Journal reports: “A leading member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family warned that Riyadh could seek to supplant Iran’s oil exports if the country doesn’t constrain its nuclear program, a move that could hobble Tehran’s finances.”

8. Transnational drug cartels now control much of the territory along the Mexico-Guatemala border.  Drug cartel influence throughout Latin American is rapidly expanding.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Guatemala today for a security conference on this very subject.

9. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) will formally announce her candidacy for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination next week.  Former US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman did so yesterday.  Newt Gingrich’s quest for the nomination continued its downward trajectory. Turns out he had a second line of credit of up to $1 million at Tiffany’s.

10. Rep. Michele Bachmann’s political awakening began when her kids entered the public school system. She didn’t like what they were being taught and she became a political activist.  She’s raised five children of her own and, over time, has taken in 23 foster children. The New York Times has a front-page profile.

11. Washington can agree on one thing.  The US Senate yesterday voted 100-0 to confirm CIA Chief Leon Panetta as the nation’s next Secretary of defence.