The Night Beat: What to Expect From Obama Tomorrow

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Good evening. On the Night Beat:

1. A surprise: According to a POLITICO News Alert which, two hours after it was sent out, had not been turned into a website story, the new commandant of the Marine Corps will be a Marine aviator by trade, Gen. James F. Amos, currently the assistant commandant. 

The news alert definitely surprised people inside the building, who've long expected that Gen. James Mattis, currently the head of the Joint Forces Command, would be the new commandant.  Then again, maybe it was all RUMINT.

Although the White House and the Defense Department did not respond to e-mails seeking comment, two officials with knowledge of the pending appointment, after being asked to ask about it, responded that they believe that Amos is Secretary Robert Gates's pick.

Here's what you need to know: Amos made his Pentagon bones during the Bush administration. He flew F-4 phantoms and knows power projections: he was in a bunch of fighter squadrons in the 1980s. He might be deferential to the Navy, given his regular interaction with that branch. He's had lots of experience with NATO. And he commanded the air operations over Serbia from 1998 to 2000.

A Marine aviator who is familiar with Amos: "This is a great opportunity that breaks a glass ceiling for many Marines- Aviators, until now, were precluded from the office."

Sen. James Webb (D-VA) will be interested in this appointment. To be blunt: a lot of Marines will wonder whether Amos is a Marine's Marine. It's an unfair question to ask, and bizarre to those of us outside the military, but I've gotten emails to that effect already, and the news is hours old!  (He went through ground combat training, just like other Marines.)

Amos, one presumes, supports ending the ban on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which was a prerequisite for the appointment, although no one will admit that publicly. Being a retired Marine Corps general, what role did National Security Advisor Gen. Jim Jones play in this?

2. Aside from regulation, a strong confrontational tone against BP, and an acknowledgment of reality, the White House is remaining mum on whether the President will use the 20 minutes the networks have given him to call for -- and push for -- a comprehensive energy policy. One clue: is Organizing for America readying an energy push? Today's email from the President to his list may have been a trial balloon, for "we're certainly going to direct people's energy to it who are interested in the issue as appropriate," says a party official, which is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the "Go Big" position.

Whatever the President calls for tomorrow, the Senate hopes he has the votes for it. And House Democrats hopes he makes clear distinctions between the Democrats and Republicans AND puts pressure on the Senate to "go big."

If the Center for American Progress really is pulling the strings on the President's energy policy, then POTUS will go medium big: check out this memo from Dan Weiss, CAP's director of climate strategy: 

President Obama must use this moment to rally Americans to support a sweeping oil reform agenda that permanently changes the way big oil does business. This means building public demand for standards and investments that deeply cut the $1 billion per day spent on foreign oil, ending tax loopholes for big oil companies, and beginning to crack down on global warming pollution.

If "Go Big" means a strong push for carbon pricing, then this would be the middle ground -- a speech that focuses on the oil industry, pollution reduction (including renewable standards and CAFE standard enhancement), lots of money for relief and reconstruction, and an assumption of responsibility for the clean-up.

By the time POTUS visits the beaches of Pensacola, those beaches should be oiled.

3. President Obama plans to campaign for Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in July, according to Jon Ralston. ... The New York Times reports that California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman paid to settle an incident where she allegedly shoved an employee who displeased her.

From the Times:

The employee, Young Mi Kim, was preparing Ms. Whitman for a news media interview that day. Ms. Kim, who was not injured in the incident, hired a lawyer and threatened a lawsuit, but the dispute was resolved under the supervision of a private mediator. Two of the former employees said the company paid a six-figure financial settlement to Ms. Kim, which one of them characterized as "around $200,000."

Whitman's campaign called Kim a "valued" employee and conceded that the corporate environment can be "tense."  The Times recounts other employees who witnessed Whitman's "sharp bursts of anger."
 
4. If the officials who spoke to the New York Times' James Risen about the vast deposits of mineral ore underneath the razed villages of Afghanistan were trying to reset perspectives on the war on terrorism, they failed. Skepticism about the story was immediate and instantaneous. The Obama administration still governs in prose -- the New York Times is the favored outlet for these sorts of divulgences, but the administration's claims had a gossamer-like quality to them, and frankly, in the United States, no one fell for them. The story itself included plenty of caveats, but it seems to have been driven by the availability of the new report (which summarized two decades worth of research) and the ability to get people like David Petraeus on the record. In Afghanistan, however, the story worked. Per a New York Times follow up:

As they waited to hear Mr. Karzai's spokesman, some Afghan reporters were excitedly calculating among themselves how much each Afghan would theoretically get if the mineral treasure trove were divided equally. Assuming the $1 trillion valuation and Afghanistan's population of 29 million, that would give each Afghan man, woman and child $34,482.76.

If the goal was to focus the Afghan press on the future and the benefits of a strong government, then for a moment, that goal has been attained.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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