Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays & New Year!!!
Thanks for supporting the site!

December 26, 2008: President-Elect Barack Obama Completes his Cabinet

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

President-elect Barack Obama met with Senator John McCain, his Republican rival, after the election in November.

In Focus:

  • Barack Obama: Yes, He Could Quite A Year, As Illinois Senator Claims Presidency: In the first week of 2008, Barack Obama rocked the political world with a win in the Iowa caucuses. But the question remained: Could this black man with a rich personal history and sparse elective resume make it all the way to the presidency? Yes, he could.
    Obama took us along on a wild ride, smashing political and racial barriers as he was elected the nation’s 44th president in an electoral landslide. His message of hope and change – and the viral YouTube mantra of “Yes, we can” – resonated with millions of voters after eight years of George W. Bush. – CBS News, 12-24-08
  • 2008: The Political Year in Quotes FOXNews.com runs down the most memorable lines of the 2008 political year:
  • John Edwards: “I don’t talk about these tabloids. The tabloid trash is full of lies.”
  • John Mc
  • Barack Obama: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”
  • Cain: “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.”
  • Tina Fey: “I can see Russia from my house!”
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson: “I want to cut his nuts off.”
  • Bill Clinton: “Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ’84 and ’88, and he ran a good campaign, and so did Obama.”
  • Rev. Jeremiah Wright: “I believe our government is capable of doing anything.”
  • Rod Blagojevich: “There’s nothing but sunshine hanging over me.””Although we weren’t able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it.”
  • Ted Kennedy: “Together we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat. But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you that I will be there next January.” – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Barack Obama just added you as a friend on Facebook: (Humor) Washington: Despite the assumption that President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet nominees are told of their selection via phone calls, the Los Angeles Times has learned that the Obama is actually notifying his picks by “friending” them on the social networking site Facebook. Requests to Obama for comment on the following transcript have gone unanswered, though he did “poke” us just as this went to press…. – LAT
  • Name by name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape 12-11-08

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Obama Should Heed the Advice of George H.W. Bush: There has been much talk about President-elect Barack Obama looking to Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt for inspiration and insight on building his administration and charting his first 100 days in office. But some of the most helpful guidance available could come from an over-looked source — George H.W. Bush. – WaPo, 12-24-08
  • Obama’s Zen State, Well, It’s Hawaiian: NYT, 12-24-08
  • Obama Sets Ambitious Bar in Pledge to Rein In Executive Power: Barack Obama promised during the campaign to “reverse” the expansions of executive power under the Bush administration — but will he follow through? – Fox News, 12-24-08
  • Bush withdraws 1 of 19 pardons he issued Tuesday: President George W. Bush on Wednesday revoked a pardon he had granted only a day before — a step unheard of in recent memory — after learning in news reports of political contributions to Republicans by the man’s father and other information. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Resistance to Kennedy Grows Among Democrats – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Kennedy’s pursuit of Senate snared in NY politics: Caroline Kennedy’s bid to get appointed to the Senate and extend the Camelot dynasty has run into the bare-knuckle world of New York politics, where a backlash appears to be building against her. – AP, 12-24-08
  • Top Bush Aides to Linger on High-Profile Boards: As President Bush settles in for his last Christmas in office, he has been busy handing out presents to some of his top aides. And they are not the kind that require wrapping paper or a bow. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • For Now, Obama Proves to Be Elusive Target for G.O.P.: Almost two months after Barack Obama’s election, Republicans are struggling to figure out how — or even whether — to challenge or criticize him as he prepares to assume the presidency. – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Bush pardons man who helped Israel during wartime: The last words Charles Winters spoke to his son nearly 25 years ago — “Keep the faith” — guided the Miami businessman as he sought a rare presidential pardon for his late father’s crime: aiding Israel in 1948 as it fought to survive. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Blagojevich questioning takes up Obama’s time: President-elect Barack Obama has said all along that neither he nor his team was involved in any eye-popping dealmaking over filling his vacated Senate seat. Obama’s hand-picked investigator agreed. – AP, 12-23-08
  • Obama to release review on Blagojevich contacts: President-elect Barack Obama plans to reveal on Tuesday his staff’s conversations with the Illinois governor accused of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat, transition officials said Monday. “We have a report,” said Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. “It’s been ready for release for a week. We’ve held off at the request of the U.S. Attorney’s office and that continues to be the case, though we expect to be able to release the report shortly.” – AP, 12-22-08
  • Ill. impeachment panel awaits word from prosecutor: The legislative committee considering impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich could be at the beginning of its work or nearing the end, depending on the wishes of federal prosecutors. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Senate-for-sale case threatens new chief of staff: But there was always one call Blagojevich regularly took, say his aides, and that was from Rahm Emanuel — his congressman, his one-time campaign adviser and, more recently — and troubling for Emanuel — one of his contacts with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition staff. – AP, 12-21-08
  • Automakers grab loans, look to Obama White House: The long-term fate of the auto industry rests with Barack Obama now that President George W. Bush has given car companies $17.4 billion in emergency rescue loans. – AP, 12-20-08
  • Bush orders emergency bailout of the auto industry: Citing imminent danger to the national economy, President Bush ordered an emergency bailout of the U.S. auto industry Friday, offering $17.4 billion in rescue loans and demanding tough concessions from the deeply troubled carmakers and their workers. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: A combative Gov. Rod Blagojevich served notice Friday that he has no intention of quitting over his corruption arrest, declaring: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.” The forceful three-minute speech marked the first time the former amateur boxer directly addressed the allegations since his arrest 10 days earlier. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Obama fills econ team, says business will revive: Completing his Cabinet a month before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama named officials to oversee transportation, labor, trade and small business policy Friday but warned that economic recovery won’t be nearly as swift. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Mark Felt, Watergate’s ‘Deep Throat,’ dies at 95: W. Mark Felt, the former FBI second-in-command who revealed himself as “Deep Throat” 30 years after he helped The Washington Post unravel the Watergate scandal, has died. He was 95. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Elizabeth Alexander, Yale poet prepares for inauguration: Alexander, professor of African-American studies at Yale University, was chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to compose and read a poem for his inauguration on Jan. 20. – AP, 12-19-08
  • Trade policy unclear in pick of former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, some say: The choice of Ron Kirk as the nation’s top trade negotiator disappointed Barack Obama’s union supporters and left trade experts wondering Thursday how hard the president-elect will push against business interests in future deals. – Dallas Morning News, 12-19-08
  • In Transition Labor Secretary, U.S. Trade Representative: Hilda L. Solis: Current job: Democratic congresswoman from California… – WaPo, 12-19-08
  • Impeachment drive slowed against Illinois governor: Illinois lawmakers could be forced to build their impeachment case against Gov. Rod Blagojevich on a raft of relatively small grievances, rather than the blockbuster Senate-seat-for-sale allegations, for fear of undermining federal prosecutors’ criminal investigation. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: President-elect Barack Obama is laying the groundwork for a giant economic stimulus package, possibly $850 billion over two years, in his first test of legislative give and take with Congress. – AP, 12-18-08
  • Ill. parties clash over potential special election: Illinois Republicans have launched a political ad campaign demanding a special election to fill the Senate vacancy that Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell, hoping to pick up a seat they had no shot at before the scandal. – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama announced Arne Duncan, the head of the Chicago school system, as education secretary Tuesday and declared that failing to improve classroom instruction is “morally unacceptable for our children.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Obama “Review shows no inappropriate contact”: President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Ill. lawmakers take first step to oust Blagojevich: Illinois lawmakers took the first step Monday toward removing Gov. Rod Blagojevich from office as the disgraced Democrat conferred with a bulldog defense attorney known for taking cases to trial. – AP, 12-15-08
  • Caroline Kennedy Is Seeking Seat Held by Clinton: Caroline Kennedy, the deeply private daughter of America’s most storied political dynasty, will seek the United States Senate seat in New York being vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton. – NYT, 12-15-08
  • Obama to announce environment, energy team: President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to adopt an aggressive approach to global warming and the environment, will announce his choices to lead the effort at a news conference on Monday. – Reuters, 12-14-08
  • Iraqi journalist throws shoes at Bush in Baghdad: A man identified as an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at — but missed — President Bush during a news conference Sunday evening in Baghdad, where Bush was making a farewell visit. – CNN, 12-14-08
  • Spousal Ties to Lobbying Test a Vow From Obama: Linda Hall Daschle is one of the most important aviation lobbyists in town. Ms. Daschle is also the wife of Tom Daschle, whom President-elect Barack Obama has chosen to be the next secretary of health and human services. – NYT, 12-14-08
  • Awwww! Joe Biden gets a new puppy The Vice President-elect’s grandchildren will pick out a name – MSNBC, 12-14-08

Political Quotes

  • Obama’s Night-Before-Christmas Address: “This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent, and sometimes in danger. In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child’s face as they open a gift back home.” – NYT, 12-24-08
  • Condoleezza Rice in an interview with AFP, the chief US diplomat conceded that eight years after President George W. Bush came to power, his administration’s popularity was “not very great” in the Arab world. “I understand that a lot of the history between the US and the Arab world is one that Arabs look to as a time of humiliation and of lack of respect. That did not start with President Bush and it will not merely end with President Bush,” she said. …Rice, whose job ends when Bush hands over the presidency to Barack Obama on January 20, predicted the Arabs will change their view of the Bush administration. “Over time I think that the fact that America has stood for the Arab world and for the Arabs to have the same rights and the same ability to live in freedom as we have, that that will ultimately be respected,” Rice said. History will vindicate Bush, she said, by showing that Iraq, in the wake of the 2003 US-led invasion, will change the face of the Middle East and will be the first multi-ethnic and multi-confessional democracy in the Arab world. …The war on terror has failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, but the US-led coalition and Iraq are close to defeating the group’s Iraq branch, she said. – Pam’s House Blend, 12-24-08
  • Cheney says Congress failed struggling automakers on “Fox News Sunday.”: “The president decided specifically that he wanted to try to deal with it and not preside over the collapse of the automobile industry just as he goes out of office.” Lawmakers “had ample opportunity to deal with this issue and they failed. The president had no choice but to step in.”…
    “If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II. They went far beyond anything we’ve done in a global war on terror.”…
    “I’d want to see what they’re going to spend it on. There usually are fairly significant differences between we Republicans and the Democrats on how you stimulate the economy.”
    On Sarah Palin in 2012: “I don’t think she has any kind of lock on that. She’ll have to go out and earn it just as anybody else would have to.”
    On bin Laden: “He’s been holed up in a way where he’s not even been communicating and there are questions about whether or not he’s even running the operation.”
    “It wasn’t my decision to make,” Cheney said of firing Rumsfeld. “The president doesn’t always take my advice.”
    did not regret using an obscenity beginning with “f” in an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor in June 2004. “I thought he merited it at the time,” Cheney said with a chuckle in the interview. “And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.” – AP, 12-21-08
  • Ill. Gov. Blagojevich pledges to fight, won’t quit: “I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong.”…. “I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob.”… “I’m here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way.”…. “Merry Christmas, happy holidays.” – AP, 12-19-08
  • Harry Reid: Obama team weighs up to $850 billion economic jolt: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Obama has indicated that Congress will get his recovery recommendations by the first of the year.
    “He’s going to get that to us very quickly, and so we would hope within the first 10 days to two weeks that he’s in office, that is after Jan. 20, that we could pass the stimulus plan. We want to do it very quickly.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Bush says he didn’t compromise soul to be popular: “Look, everybody likes to be popular.” “What do you expect? We’ve got a major economic problem and I’m the president during the major economic problem. I mean, do people approve of the economy? No. I don’t approve of the economy. … I’ve been a wartime president. I’ve dealt with two economic recessions now. I’ve had, hell, a lot of serious challenges. What matters to me is I didn’t compromise my soul to be a popular guy.”
    “I’m a free market guy. But I’m not going to let this economy crater in order to preserve the free market system. So we made a lot of very strong moves and it’s been painful for a lot of people, particularly because, you know, this — the excesses of the past have caused a lot of folks to hurt when it comes to, like, their 401(k)’s or, you know, their jobs.”
    “I think the incoming administration’s going to have to fully analyze the risks and the tools and — come to their own conclusion. But one thing’s for certain. I’m confident that President-elect Obama knows that one of his most solemn duties is to protect the American people.”
    “They’re going to have to sort it through in Illinois. Obviously anytime anybody allegedly betrays the public trust there’s got to be great concern because, you know, democracy really is, you know, really rests on the trust of the people. It’s a system of people and by people and for people. And, therefore, the public trust is important.” – AP, 12-18-08
  • Obama chooses Chicago schools chief Ed. Secretary: “When it comes to school reform, Arne is the most hands-on of hands-on practitioners. He’s not beholden to any one ideology, and he’s worked tirelessly to improve teacher quality.” – AP, 12-16-08
  • Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: “Everybody calm down please,” he said over his attacker’s shouting from the next room, before a small grin returned to his face. “First of all, thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn’t bother me. If you want the facts, it’s a size 10 shoe.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • McCain on ABC’s “This Week” I can’t promise to support Palin for president”: I can’t say something like that. We’ve got some great other young governors. I think you’re going to see the governors assume a greater leadership role in our Republican Party…. The greatest appreciation for Gov. Palin and her family, and it was a great joy to know them. She invigorated our campaign….
    Have no doubt of my admiration and respect for her and my view of her viability, but at this stage, again … my corpse is still warm, you know?
    I think that the Obama campaign should and will give all information necessary. You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody — right now, I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy, stimulus package, reforms that are necessary.
    I don’t know all the details of the relationship between President-elect Obama’s campaign or his people and the governor of Illinois. But I have some confidence that all the information will come out. It always does, it seems to me.
    I think my job is, of course, to be a part of, and hopefully exert some leadership, in the loyal opposition. But I emphasize the word loyal. We haven’t seen economic times like this in my lifetime. We haven’t seen challenges abroad at the level that we are experiencing, certainly since the end of the Cold War, and you could argue in some respects that they’re certainly more complex, many of these challenges. So let’s have our first priority where we can work together… Will there be areas of disagreement? Of course. We are different parties and different philosophy. But the nation wants us to unite and work together.
    That would sound like I am detracting from President-elect Obama’s campaign. I don’t want to do that… Nobody likes a sore loser. Get busy and move on. That’s the best cure for it. I spent a period of time feeling sorry for myself. It’s wonderful. It’s one of the most enjoyable experiences that you can have. But the point is: You’ve got to move on… I’m still a senator from the state of Arizona. I still have the privilege and honor of serving this country, which I’ve done all my life, and it’s a great honor to do so. – CNN, 12-14-08

Historians’ Comments

  • David Greenberg ‘Buff’ Obama Images Cause Stir in U.S. David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University who is working on a history of political spin, said no one should be surprised by the latest development. When then-president John F. Kennedy was pictured shirtless, there were media accounts then fretting about the threshold Americns had crossed as a country, he said. “There was John F. Kennedy by the beach, shirt off, this young, glamorous president,” Greenberg said. “So in a way this is 48 years old now that we’re having this.” Since then, Lyndon Johnson lifted his shirt to show reporters his surgery scar and there have been pictures of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton in swim trunks.
    “It was kind of an erosion of what had been boundaries of formality between the president and the public,” Greenberg said. “We’ve had ‘boxers and briefs’ and a real acquaintanceship with a personal side, an uninhibited side, an unclothed side of the president.”…
    But such personal shots – dropping the girls off at school, hitting the gym, practising his golf swing – also serve to humanize the president. Greenberg can see why Obama might allow the beach photos to be taken. “I’m sure if he didn’t do it on purpose, he’s not exactly crying in his coffee about it,” he said. “I don’t see any downside.” – AP, 12-24-08
  • James M. McPherson Historian sees lessons, Lincoln parallels for Obama: …Georges Clemenceau, the French prime minister during World War I, famously said that “War is too important to be left to the generals.” Lincoln certainly would have agreed with that. What Clemenceau meant is that every activity involved with fighting a war has political consequences, has consequences far beyond the battlefield, has an impact on the entire society and therefore can’t really be decided strictly on military criteria. And I think that Lincoln certainly learned that and that’s something Obama will have to keep in mind. I think he probably is well aware of it, that, for example, whatever decisions he makes about withdrawing troops from Iraq or beefing up troops in Afghanistan don’t take place in a social and cultural and political vacuum. They all have consequences far beyond the battlefield itself.
    Lincoln had the ability to communicate ideas and communicate policy to the average person. He could make things clear, even complicated things clear, to the average person, and I think Obama has that gift, too.
    I think I do. … Lincoln occasionally did lose his temper, but he usually managed to maintain his cool. … This kind of temperament — keeping your cool, keeping your temper, trying to base your decisions on rational thought rather than emotions or temporary explosions of temper — I think they’re similar in that respect and that was a really important factor in Lincoln’s leadership qualities.
    Well yes, it’s almost exhilarating to have a president who reads history, knows history and realizes the value of understanding history. “Pleasure” is the right word. – CNN, 12-23-08
  • E.J. Dionne: Obama team may be more left than it seems: Oh, my: Barack Obama is still more than a month away from assuming the presidency and already there are reports about “the left” being dispirited about change they no longer believe in. These fears — in this case expressed by a rather small number of bloggers and writers — are aggravated by praise for Obama’s transition choices from conservatives who seem relieved the president-elect is neither Lenin nor Robespierre…. This means that parts of the political left will have some differences with Obama over the next four years, but it doesn’t mean that most on the left are already disillusioned with him. Take it from Schlesinger. In his 1960 diary entry he ascribed to Kennedy the view that “especially with a liberal Congress, conservative-appearing men can win more support for liberal measures than all-outers.” Schlesinger added: “Of course, there is something to this argument.” – Newsday, 12-24-08
  • A changing Washington: Obama’s new home was slow to integrate McClatchy Newspapers, 12-24-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama completes cabinet of ‘rivals’ line-up”: “This was one of the more well-organized and well-prepared transitions that we have seen,” Princeton University historian Julian Zelizer said. “Not only has he appointed some very high-quality picks in terms of intellectual capacity and experience, but on key areas — including economics and defense — he has been able to move to the center without alienating his core supporters,” he said. By common consent, Obama has filled his cabinet quickly but also with much thought to ability as he emulates the “team of rivals” assembled by his political hero, Civil War president Abraham Lincoln. AP, 12-19-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Contrasting views of Cheney”: Historian Julian Zelizer calls Vice President Dick Cheney the most influential vice president in history. – Poitico, 12-22-08
  • Michael Beschloss: Obama Cabinet Picks Create Open Senate Seats, and Controversy: As top Democrats move from the U.S. Senate into jobs in President-elect Barack Obama’s White House, the process of filling those Senate seats without elections has, in some instances, led to charges of nepotism or bribery.
    According to presidential historian Michael Beschloss, the process of selecting senators via state legislators bred corruption. “The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, ‘This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,’ they felt you needed direct election,” Beschloss told the NewsHour. – PBS Newhour, 12-16-08
  • Gil Troy: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: According to Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University, Mr. Bush handled the potentially embarrassing situation with a grace that could benefit the way people remember him. “One of the things that he has always had as an advantage as part of his skill set has been a very fluid and smooth physicality,” he said. “At his best, when he’s been most effective, he has been able to use a kind of sheer physical presence and fluidity, the grace of an athlete — and he has the grace of a jogger. I think that helped him in this incident.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Elena Razlogova: Will deft shoe-dodge improve Bush’s image?: Elena Razlogova, an assistant professor at Concordia University, surmised in an e-mail from Moscow that regardless of how Mr. Bush reacted to the situation, the damage has been done. “However graceful Bush was, he’ll never live this down,” she wrote. “In Russia, the networks reported on this at length and with glee. I think people everywhere are just happy his presidency is over…. True, Bush did seem to dodge shoes better than reporters’ queries, but throwing a shoe seems so much more pithy and symbolic than a question.” – National Post, 12-15-08
  • Fred Greenstein “Obama faces heady challenges, and they’re growing”: “There’s a lot of ground giving under him. It’s a terrific challenge,” said Fred Greenstein, a Princeton University professor emeritus of politics and a presidential historian.
    “From one perspective, it’s as if he’s about to take over the captain’s job on a sinking ship. From the other perspective, he could be on a glide path to Mount Rushmore if he does a combination of morale building and energizing people while dealing with the economic distress by producing some constructive changes in the society and in the economy.”
    “The striking thing is he doesn’t seem scared,” Greenstein added.
    “Part of what he’s doing is paying lip service to the notion that there’s only one president while sucking up all the oxygen,” Greenstein said. – AP, 12-14-08
  • Gary Mormino: “Fla.’s First Ladies Have Rich History Carole Rome to join unusual cast of characters when marrying Gov. Crist”: One of the earliest intersections of matrimony and politics in Florida comes from 1929, according to historian Gary Mormino, an author and professor at the University of South Florida. The Florida Legislature convened in a special session that year to censure the wife of President Herbert Hoover, Lou Henry Hoover, who had offended state lawmakers by inviting the wife of a black congressman for a White House reception. Mormino said the role of first lady has only recently shifted toward the caretaking of pet causes. The wife of Gov. Spessard Holland had dubious timing with her announcement that she would push for cleaner public restrooms. Mary Holland’s statement was released on Dec. 7, 1941, as Pearl Harbor was attacked. The Ledger, 12-14-08

December 11, 2008: Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich Arrested, Obama Handles the Scandal and Continues Filling his Cabinet

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

President-elect Barack Obama introduced former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary-designate on Thursday in Chicago. (Photo: Jim Wilson/The New York Times)

In Focus:

  • Name by name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape 12-11-08

The Headlines…

Brian Kersey/Getty Images

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich went to his office in Chicago on Thursday to work on the state budget, while state lawmakers worked on ways to remove him from office.

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Inauguration agenda runs 4 days: President-elect Barack Obama plans four days of events to mark his inauguration, including a day of service to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the eve of the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony. Other activities include a public kickoff on Jan. 18 to welcome visitors to the nation’s capital and a prayer service on Jan. 21, the day after Obama takes the oath. – USA Today, 12-11-08
  • Officials say obstacle remains to auto aid deal – AP, 12-11-08
  • Panel blames White House, not soldiers, for abuse: The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Obama picks Daschle to spearhead healthcare: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama on Thursday chose former Sen. Tom Daschle to spearhead healthcare reform — putting a Washington veteran in charge of one of the most ambitious and expensive gambles of his administration. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Officials: Obama chooses Chu for energy secretary: President-elect Barack Obama intends to round out his environmental and natural resources team with a Nobel Prize-winning physicist and three former Environmental Protection Agency officials from the Clinton administration. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Illinois governor ignores Obama’s call to resign: His career in shreds, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich clung defiantly to power Wednesday, ignoring a call to step down from President-elect Barack Obama and a warning that Senate Democrats will not let him appoint a new senator from the state. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Clinton to earn about $4,700 less than Rice: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would make about $4,700 less as secretary of state than her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice. Congress late Wednesday lowered the salary for the nation’s top diplomat to keep Clinton’s nomination from running afoul of the Constitution. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Influential Democrat asks Obama to keep spy chiefs: President-elect Barack Obama should retain the Bush administration’s top spy chiefs, the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee’s Democratic chairman said. – AP, 12-11-08
  • Illinois First Lady Faces Scrutiny NYT, 12-11-08
  • Officials Say Jackson Was ‘Candidate 5’ in Blagojevich Case: Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr., long seen here as someone who was willing, even happy, to clash with this city’s old power structure, found himself tangled up on Wednesday in the fallout from the arrest of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois — now a symbol of that old, unseemly political way. – NYT 12-11-08
  • Scandal Is an Early Test for Obama Team NYT, 12-10-08
  • La. Gov. Jindal: 2012 presidential bid unlikely: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said Wednesday he’s not interested in a 2012 Republican presidential bid and will seek a second term as governor in 2011. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Obama hopes to reboot US image among Muslims: President-elect Barack Obama says he will try to “reboot America’s image” among the world’s Muslims and will follow tradition by using his entire name — Barack Hussein Obama — in his swearing-in ceremony. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Auto rescue bill in peril, opposed by GOP senators: mergency aid for the nation’s imperiled auto industry was thrown into jeopardy Wednesday, opposed by Republicans who were revolting against a hard-fought deal between Democrats and the Bush White House to speed $14 billion to ailing carmakers. – AP, 12-10-08
  • Jackson Jr. denies wrongdoing in Ill. gov scandal: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. said Wednesday he openly sought appointment to Barack Obama’s Senate seat but denied offering favors in return to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and said he was not involved “whatsoever in any wrongdoing.” – AP, 12-10-08
  • Court: No review of Obama’s eligibility to serve: The Supreme Court has turned down an emergency appeal from a New Jersey man who says President-elect Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because he was a British subject at birth. The court did not comment on its order Monday rejecting the call by Leo Donofrio of East Brunswick, N.J., to intervene in the presidential election. – AP, 12-9-08
  • Cracks appear in Obama foreign policy team: As Secretary of State-pick Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. envoy-choice Susan Rice separately visited the diplomatic agency’s headquarters in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, persons familiar with the transition said that Rice wants to install her own transition team inside the department. – AP, 12-9-08
  • Illinois Governor Arrested: Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois was arrested by federal authorities on Tuesday morning and charged with corruption, including an allegation that he conspired to profit from his authority to appoint President-elect Barack Obama’s successor in the United States Senate, prosecutors said. – NYT, 12-9-08
  • Obama meeting with Gore raises eyebrows: Former Vice President Al Gore is set to meet with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden Tuesday, leading to speculation Obama is eyeing Gore for a slot in his administration. According to the Obama transition office, the meeting will focus on issues relating to energy and climate change, and how the new administration’s environmental policies can spur job creation. CNN, 12-8-08
  • In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone: President-elect Barack Obama has ordered his first new tuxedo in 15 years for his inaugural celebration. And he has invited the marching band from Punahou School, his high school in Hawaii, to join the parade. (Nearly 1,400 bands have applied; only a few dozen are chosen.) – NYT, 12-8-09
  • Congress sends White House $15B auto aid proposal: Congressional Democrats sent the White House an emergency $15 billion auto bailout plan Monday, complete with provision of a “car czar” to oversee the industry’s reinvention of itself. The Bush administration said there had been progress toward agreement but pressed further negotiations into the night. – AP, 12-8-08
  • Promises Promises: Obama budget cuts face hurdles: Barack Obama promises a line-by-line scrub of the federal budget to root out wasteful programs. But as a practical matter, entire chapters of the $3 trillion federal budget are off limits — and the president-elect’s Democratic allies in Congress are bracing to defend farm subsidies, weapons systems and home-state pork barrel projects. – AP, 12-8-08
  • Obama education pick sparks conflict: President-elect Barack Obama has not signaled what he will do to fix the country’s failing schools, but his choice of education secretary will say a lot about the policies he may pursue. – AP, 12-8-08

Robyn Beck/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado in August.

Political Quotes

  • A friendlier McCain visit with David Letterman: “I don’t want to talk about the bleeping campaign. Understand? If you think I’m going to go back to that bleeping situation, then bleep you.”…
    “She is extremely knowledgeable on the issues,” he said. “I think it’s a good team and I think it’s a very wise choice. And I would like to say that I think President-elect Obama has made a number of very wise choices which I think shows a centrist approach to government, which, obviously, the way America and the world is today, is necessary.”…
    “I applaud his selections.”…
    Letterman said that people consider Blagojevich either stupid or nuts. “What do you think?” Letterman asked. “I think it’s a rare combination of both,” McCain replied.
    “You know, you don’t get a lot of statues. At least before you die.” – AP, 12-11-08
  • The Obama Press Conference: I was as appalled and disappointed as anybody by the revelations earlier this week. I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I’m confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact. I’ve asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor’s office about this vacancy so we can share them with you over the next few days.
    Finally, on this matter, let me say that this senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade. It belongs to the people of Illinois. They deserve the best possible representation. They also deserve to know that any vacancy will be filled in an appropriate way so that whoever is sent to Washington is going to be fighting for the people of Illinois. I hope and expect that the leaders of the legislature will take these steps to ensure that this is so.” NYT, 12-11-08 Complete Transcript
  • Illinois governor ignores Obama’s call to resign: “The president-elect agrees with Lt. Gov. Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said in response to questions from The Associated Press. AP, 12-11-08
  • Representative Jesse L. Jackson Jr. — Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Press Conference Transcript: “I did not initiate or authorize anyone at any time to promise anything to Governor Blagojevich on my behalf. I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor to make an offer, to plead my case or to propose a deal about a U.S. Senate seat, period.” – NYT, 12-11-08
  • La. Gov. Jindal: 2012 presidential bid unlikely: “I think anybody who is even thinking of running would be well served to roll up their sleeves and support our new president. I told our people, ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re Republican, Democrat or independent, it doesn’t matter whether you voted for him or not, President-elect Barack Obama is our president.'” – AP, 12-10-08
  • U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald “Illinois Governor Arrested”: This is a sad day for government. It’s a very sad day for Illinois government.
    We should also note that the governor talked about appointing himself to the Senate seat for reasons not having to do with the better welfare of the citizens of Illinois.
    He wanted to do it to avoid impeachment in the Illinois legislature for his conduct. He wanted to do it to have access to greater financial resources, if he were indicted. He wanted to do it to see if he could help his wife work as a lobbyist. He wanted to do it to remake his image to run for office in 2016, and he wanted to do it to see if he could generate speaking fees.
    At the end of the day, the conduct we have before us is appalling. What I do want to note is that, at the end of the day, it’s very, very important that how we proceed from here be the right way to proceed. – NYT, 12-9-08
  • Obama speaks out in his first newspaper interview The president-elect discusses Gov. Blagojevich, the economy, Islam and civil rights, among other topics. This is an edited transcript of an interview conducted Tuesday in Chicago with President-elect Barack Obama. The interviewers were Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons of our Washington bureau and reporter John McCormick of the Tribune.: Have you ever spoken to [ Illinois] Gov. [ Rod R.] Blagojevich about the Senate seat? I have not discussed the Senate seat with the governor at any time. My strong belief is that it needed to be filled by somebody who is going to represent the people of Illinois and fight for them. And beyond that, I was focused on the transition.Are you aware of any conversations between Blagojevich or [chief of staff] John Harris and any of your top aides, including Rahm [Emanuel]? Let me stop you there because . . . it’s an ongoing investigation. I think it would be inappropriate for me to, you know, remark on the situation beyond the facts that I know. And that’s the fact that I didn’t discuss this issue with the governor at all.

    Could you talk to the point of whether an appointment by Gov. Blagojevich would taint whoever your successor would be, given what we know? I think what the people of Illinois deserve is somebody they can trust, somebody that’s going to fight for them and, you know, I think we’ve got to make sure that whatever process emerges gives them that assurance. I haven’t examined all the options that are out there at this point.

    Given the state of the economy, has that forced any changes in your priorities and could you talk about what you would like to roll out in terms of sequencing of the things you would like to accomplish? You’ve got an interesting convergence between the circumstances that we find ourselves in and the agenda that I have set. Because we need to jump-start the economy, all the proposals that I put forward earlier are ones that are directly designed to put people to work and get the economy moving: a tax cut for 95% of working families — I think that’s needed more than ever — a serious investment in infrastructure that lays the foundation for a green-energy economy, that’s a job-creator and makes our economy more competitive. Investing in technologies that can reduce healthcare costs and error; that is needed more than ever. So what you’re seeing is, essentially, an effort on the part of my transition team to develop an economic recovery package that is good for the short-term, gets people back to work, gets money to the states and local communities, gets people working again, but is also laying the foundation for the kind of competitive economy that we need over the long-term. And, you know, there may be issues of sequencing and the need to get certain projects more quickly out the door than we would have expected, in order for a stimulus package to work more effectively. Now, I also think that the economic crisis is going to make the issue of our long-term fiscal problems more severe. You know there are some estimates that I’m already going to be inheriting a trillion-dollar deficit, even before we get started on any of this stuff. And if you look at the glide path that we are on with respect to healthcare spending and a whole host of other areas, we’ve got some big problems. So I think that it is critical that whatever we do this year, or the next, to deal with economic recovery, anticipate the fact that we are going to have to rationalize and reform the federal government, we’re going to have to cut spending that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to reform how the budget operates. . . . ”

    Are you prepared to give a speech in an Islamic capital? Would that send a message about inclusiveness and tolerance given the mutual suspicion that exists between these different faiths? This is something that I talked about doing in the campaign and it’s something that I intend to follow through on. What the time frame is, how we structure that, you know, is something that I will determine with my national security team in the coming weeks and months. But I think we’ve got a unique opportunity to reboot America’s image around the world and also in the Muslim world in particular. So, we need to take advantage of that and the message I want to send is that we will be unyielding in stamping out the kind of terrorist extremism that we saw in Mumbai. We will be at the same time unrelenting in our desire to create a relationship of mutual respect and partnership with countries and peoples of goodwill who want their citizens and ours to prosper together. And I think that the world is ready for that message.

    Do you anticipate being sworn in as Barack Obama or Barack Hussein Obama? I think the tradition is that they use all three names, and I will follow the tradition, not trying to make a statement one way or the other. I’ll do what everybody else does.

    As the first black president, do you feel a special mission to fulfill the vision of the civil rights movement? And how can you use the office to make further progress in race relations? Obviously, I am honored and gratified to be part of this journey to change how race is viewed and dealt with in this country. But I think it’s important to understand, it’s not just me, or African Americans, that want to see better race relations. I think all Americans do. That’s part of the message that I delivered throughout this campaign. And so I think the burden is going to be on all of us to continue to make progress on these fronts. I think there are some specific things that we should do as a nation, some that are specific to civil rights. I think it’s important to make sure that our civil rights laws are enforced. You know, the Civil Rights Division [of the Justice Department] over the last eight years has had a lot of problems and really declining morale, and I want Eric Holder as the next attorney general to reinvigorate that office and its mission. I think it’s going to be important to make sure that on the criminal justice front that people have confidence that the laws are being evenly applied to everyone and that we are working with local and state as well as federal officials together to try to constantly improve, you know, the way we train people and how we think about the criminal justice system so that it gains confidence. But I think that the biggest challenges that we face right now in improving race relations have to do with the universal concerns of Americans across color lines. If we get a healthcare system that covers more people, is more affordable, reduces costs, emphasizes prevention, that’s going to be good for everybody. And it will be especially good for blacks and Latinos who are more likely to be uninsured and more likely to die of an early age of diseases that are preventable. If we are creating jobs throughout this economy, then, you know, African Americans and Latinos who are disproportionately unemployed, they’re going to be swept up in that rising tide. So, I think that more than anything is going to improve race relations, a sense of common progress, where everybody feels like they have a chance at the American Dream. If we can restore that sense, then I’m confident that the generation coming up behind me is going to be even more willing to embrace the diversity that makes America special.

    Do you expect to keep a long-term presence here [in Chicago]? You joked a couple weeks ago that it is a bad time to sell a house, but what really are your long-term expectations in terms of coming back here in four years or even coming back here in the summertime? Let me explain to you, my Kennebunkport is on the South Side of Chicago. We own one piece of property, and that is our home in Chicago. It is 10 minutes away from where Michelle grew up and where her mother still has a house. Our friends are here. Our family is here. And so we are going to try to come back here as often as possible. My expectation would be that, depending on what my schedule looks like, you know, we’re going to try to get back here at least once every six weeks or couple months.

    What’s it been for you to see Chicago in this national spotlight? It has to be sort of surreal for you to drive through the city and see your face painted on the sides of buildings and on lamp posts. What’s that like for you? You know, unfortunately, because I’m in this bubble, I don’t get to see all this stuff. It’s the hardest thing to adjust to about being president-elect. It was bad, you know, during the campaign and it got progressively worse the further along we got. And now it’s very tough. I don’t get a chance to wander around neighborhoods, interact the way I would like to interact. Probably the best moment I’ve had over these last two to three weeks was when we, on Thanksgiving, when we gave out that food, and then I had a chance to interact with those kids out at St. Columbanus [Catholic Church and school on Chicago’s South Side). Those kinds of interactions I really miss. I will say that the event in Grant Park [where he spoke on election night] was a wonderful symbol of what Chicago is all about. You know, you had people from everywhere converging and, you know, this incredibly peaceful and yet exuberant celebration. You know, I think that being broadcast around the world sent a pretty good message. And the fact that it was 65 degrees in November didn’t hurt. Maybe people will be fooled into thinking that’s our usual weather.

    Some of your more liberal supporters are concerned that you are being too centrist in putting together your administration. Look, I have chosen the people who I think are best equipped to carry out an agenda of change. And people haven’t been arguing somehow that my agenda has changed, because it hasn’t. You know, I want to change our tax code, so that it’s helping middle-class families. I want to get our troops out of Iraq in the 16-month time frame that I discussed during the campaign. I want to create a healthcare system that is affordable and works for all Americans. I want to have a energy transformation in this country so that we are reducing our independence on foreign oil. On all the promises I made during the campaign, there has been no sense that I’m backing off on them. What I’ve been putting in place is a Cabinet of extraordinarily qualified, competent people who would not have accepted my offer for them to join my administration unless they believed in my vision, and I think the proof of the pudding is going to be in what we get done.

    Does it make sense to shoot for those things in your agenda that are agreeable to a larger group of people and leave the harder stuff for later? Look, there’s always a strategy that has to be put in place in order to get things done, and so how we shape our agenda, how we time it, who we work with, how do we build the coalitions, how do we persuade the American people. I’m not going to spill all the beans now. But, yes, we’re sitting there, trying to plan out how to get all this stuff done. And, you know, we’re inheriting probably the most crowded agenda that any president has inherited in a very, very long time. So, yeah, we’re going to have to prioritize, but I don’t think people should make assumptions until they actually see what we do, what we’re going to be prioritizing and how we’re going to do it. – LA Times, Chicago Tribune, 12-10-08

  • Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Mr. Obama’s inaugural committee: “There’s no question that people are in tough times. But we hope that this will be an event in which we celebrate our common values and shared aspirations. What we are looking to achieve is a tone that is hopeful.” – NYT, 12-8-09

Historians’ Comments

  • Donald A. Ritchie: “Senate Vacancies Leave a String of Sordid Tales”: Inevitably, in this kind of situation, said Donald A. Ritchie, associate Senate historian, “the governor makes one friend and a lot of enemies.” – NYT, 12-11-08
  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian “Blagojevich Scandal Shakes Politics in Illinois and Beyond” “‘Even the most cynical’ shocked”: A little bit. And thank you for mentioning I’m a Chicago native. I was born there, grew up there. I’m a Chicagoan even on the bad days like this.
    I think maybe, at lower levels — I was having dinner last year with a former governor of Illinois, an honest one who did not go to prison, I said, you know, two governors did go to prison for things they did in office.
    Otto Kerner in the 1960s was governor. He went to prison for essentially trading favors for getting something back, money, racing dates, and an exit on an expressway near someone’s racetrack.
    And then George Ryan much later, a secretary of state and governor, went to prison for taking money for doing things like giving people truck driver’s licenses.

    He’s there now. And my governor friend said, you know, a lot of this — it happens at the local level. It’s bad enough, but then they become governor. They don’t realize they’re under a different level of scrutiny.
    But having said all of this, what Rod Blagojevich is accused of doing puts all of this into shame. No one ever in Illinois or other places in recent times had evidence of selling a Senate seat.
    One quick thing: The Constitution originally did not have direct election of senators. They said the states should choose senators by their legislatures.
    The reason why the 17th Amendment in 1913 changed all that was that the Senate was brought so many cases where people said, “This guy became a senator because of bribery and intimidation,” they felt you needed direct election. Interestingly, look what happened when you did not have direct election this week. – PBS Newshour, 12-10-08

  • MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, presidential historian “Blagojevich Scandal Shakes Politics in Illinois and Beyond” “The silver lining of a scandal”: I guess I should defend the honor of Chicago a little bit. It does happen in other places.
    Spiro Agnew, when he was governor of Maryland, you know, took a lot of cash both there and as vice president, later on had to resign to avoid going to prison. It does happen in other places.
    But we Illinoisans cannot get away from the fact that two of our governors went to prison for things they did in office. Also, Dan Walker, who served in the early 1970s, went to prison for things he did after he was governor.
    But, you know, Laura was talking about this being an atom bomb in Illinois politics. I think she’s totally right, and there’s a precedent for that, which is that Otto Kerner was sent to prison by a U.S. attorney named Jim Thompson, a Republican. Thompson himself ran for governor, won 1976. The Republicans owned the governorship of Illinois for almost 30 years.

    You know, for instance, President-elect Obama encouraged the state legislature of Illinois recently to pass an ethics law. It’s a very good thing.
    But the way that this kind of corruption has been reduced in Illinois has not been so much from laws but from prosecutors like Thompson, who scare politicians into thinking that they might not get away with this kind of stuff. And I think, if you had to look at a silver lining to what we’re seeing this week, that might be one of them. – PBS Newshour, 12-10-08

  • Myra Gutin “For first lady, free work but no free time”: Myra Gutin, first lady historian and professor of communication at Rider University in New Jersey, agreed, noting that while the role is “kind of a throwback and anachronistic,” it needn’t be a “straitjacket.” She estimated that the duties of being first lady probably consume 15 percent to 20 percent of the average presidential spouse’s time. “I think it is fair to say that we don’t expect the first lady to hide out in the White House,” she said. But the role needn’t be all-consuming, either. As to whether the first lady should draw a salary, Gutin demurred: “I’ve thought about it for years, and I still don’t know entirely how I feel about it.” – Politico, 12-9-08
  • Robert Dallek “In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone”: You want the appropriate symbolism that goes with the inauguration of a new president,” said the presidential historian Robert Dallek. “Obama impresses me as a very intelligent politician who has been so in tune with the mood of the country that I can’t imagine he would be so ham-handed as to be unmindful of this, but it would be a gross error to have some kind of huge celebration that seems profligate” – NYT, 12-8-09
  • Donald Ritchie “In a New Tux, Obama Seeks the Proper Tone”: “The importance of the inauguration is that the new president can provide a sense of unity after a divisive campaign,” said Donald Ritchie, an associate historian of the Senate. “So the trappings of the inaugural are useful for the national psyche. If you cut it down too drastically, you lose some of the opportunity that the inauguration affords.” – NYT, 12-8-09

December 8, 2008: Obama on the Economy & Caroline Kennedy, New York Senator?

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08

The Headlines…

Scott Olson/Getty Images

President-elect Barack Obama introduced retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki as his nominee for secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department on Sunday.

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Democrats Pick Up House Seat: Mary Jo Kilroy, a Democrat, won the 15th District, which encompasses Columbus, the state’s capital and largest city, by a little more than 2,000 votes over Steve Stivers, a Republican. Representative Deborah Pryce, a Republican, announced in August 2007 that she was vacating the seat. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: In a move to reassert Congressional independence at the start of the new presidential administration, the vice president will be barred from joining weekly internal Senate deliberations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun. – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • 1st Vietnamese-American elected to US Congress: Republican immigration attorney Anh “Joseph” Cao defeated Democratic U.S. William Jefferson on Saturday in an election postponed for a month by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-7-08
  • What impact will Obama’s public works have on the American landscape?: President-elect Barack Obama is a student of history, as he has deftly demonstrated by following the model of Abraham Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in staffing his Cabinet. So as Obama pushes to pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the nation’s infrastructure, I hope he’ll direct his motorcade past some living architectural history in Chicago, such as the Art Deco-style Lake Shore Drive Bridge over the Chicago River. – Chicago Tribune, 12-7-08
  • The Brightest Are Not Always the Best: IN 1992, David Halberstam wrote a new introduction for the 20th-anniversary edition of “The Best and the Brightest,” his classic history of the hubristic J.F.K. team that would ultimately mire America in Vietnam. He noted that the book’s title had entered the language, but not quite as he had hoped. “It is often misused,” he wrote, “failing to carry the tone or irony that the original intended.” – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Academic elites fill Obama’s roster Critics worry about insularity as Ivy League graduates crowd Cabinet posts: Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser was one of the youngest people to be tenured at Harvard and later became its president. His budget director went to Princeton and the London School of Economics, his choice for ambassador to the United Nations was a Rhodes scholar, and his White House counsel hit the trifecta: Harvard, Cambridge and Yale Law. – Salt Lake Tribune, 12-7-08
  • H. Brandt Ayers: Abraham Obama’s cabinet: We do not yet know how Sen. Hillary Clinton was persuaded to accept appointment as secretary of state, but the process is likely to resemble Abraham Lincoln’s appointment of his chief rival in the presidential race, Sen. William H. Seward. – The Anniston Star, 12-7-08
  • Clinton’s Welcome Will Include a Plate of Global Crises: As a candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that Iran might be obliterated if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel and that Jerusalem should remain Israel’s undivided capital. As a senator, she voted to label Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization and to approve President Bush’s plan to go to war against Iraq. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obamaland ‘Partisan’ Seeks a Prefix: Bi- or Post- : Six weeks before taking office, President-elect Barack Obama can already boast one striking accomplishment: persuading partisan, ideological adversaries to see him in a less partisan, less ideological light. NYT, 12-6-08
  • Lawrence Summers: Harvard Lightning Rod Finds Path to Renewal With Obama – NYT, 12-7-08
  • AP IMPACT: Donors, lobbyists help Obama get ready: Faced with hiring a new administration, President-elect Barack Obama is learning how hard it is to keep his promise to avoid aides who have been entangled with the capital’s lobbying scene. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Kennedy Is Said to Cast Her Eye on Senate Seat: Caroline Kennedy, a daughter of America’s most storied political family who for many years fiercely guarded her privacy, is considering whether to pursue the Senate seat expected to be vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton early next year, a family member said Friday. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • “Car czar” proposed for any automaker bailout – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Obama speechwriter Favreau learns the perils of Facebook: Jon Favreau, future White House director of speechwriting, has so far been at a loss for words over Facebook pictures of him at a recent party. – CNN, 12-6-08
  • Louisiana voters oust indicted Rep. Jefferson: In a year when national Republican fortunes took a turn for the worse, Louisiana delivered the GOP two seats in Congress in elections delayed by Hurricane Gustav. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Rumsfeld nemesis Shinseki to be named VA secretary: President-elect Barack Obama has chosen retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary, turning to a former Army chief of staff once vilified by the Bush administration for questioning its Iraq war strategy. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Obama campaign mulls what to do with $30M surplus: Democrats carrying significant campaign debt after winning a string of House and Senate races are grumbling about President-elect Barack Obama’s financial reserves, saying the party’s leader is sitting on a pile of cash while Democratic leaders are broke. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama in the public eye Sunday: President-elect Barack Obama, who has been laying low the last few days, plans to be out in public in high-profile appearances on Sunday. In the morning, he’s the guest on NBC’s venerable “Meet the Press,” where he is certain to be questioned on the economy, his cabinet picks, and more. In the afternoon, he plans a press conference in Chicago. His office said this afternoon that “on the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, President-Elect Barack Obama will be speaking about the contributions of those that have served our nation.” – Boston Globe, 12-5-08
  • 3 Palin Stylists Cost Campaign More Than $165,000: Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign spent more than $165,000 over the course of nine weeks on a trio of stylists for Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, equivalent to what a Hollywood studio might invest in preparing an A-list actress for a movie premiere or publicity campaign, other stylists said. – N”YT, 12-5-08
  • Biden picks Bernstein as his economic adviser: Vice President-elect Joe Biden on Friday named Jared Bernstein as his chief economic policy adviser, a new post created as the nation faces a recession. – AP, 12-5-08
  • Obama donors urged to ease Clinton campaign debt: Hillary Rodham Clinton is scrambling to reduce her massive campaign debt before she becomes secretary of state, when federal ethics laws — and political sensitivities — will severely hamper her ability to do so. – AP, 12-5-08

Political Quotes

  • Gen. Shinseki as Secretary of Veterans Affairs: President-elect Barack Obama announced today that General Eric Shinseki will be his nominee for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. General Shinseki is a former Army Chief of Staff and 38-year Army veteran who served two combat tours in Vietnam. He understands the changing needs of our troops and their families and shares President-elect Obama’s commitment to modernizing the VA to meet the challenges of our time. – You Tube, 12-7-08
  • Obama Sharpens Tone on Auto Industry: Part of what I’m hoping to introduce as the next president is a new ethic of responsibility, where we say that, if you’re laying off workers, the least you can do when you’re making $25 million a year is give up some of your compensation and some of your bonuses, figure out ways in which workers maybe have to take a haircut, but they can still keep their jobs, they can still keep their health care, and they can still stay in their homes…. They have been building better cars now than they were 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. They are making some investments in the kind of green technologies and the new batteries that would allow us to create plug-in hybrids. – NYT, 12-7-08
  • Obama Warns of Further Economic Pain: “This is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse.”….. “I don’t think it’s an option to simply allow it to collapse… I think Congress is doing exactly the right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the auto industry’s feet to the fire… If this management team that’s currently in place doesn’t understand the urgency of the situation and is not willing to make tough choices and adapt to new circumstances, then they should go. As part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center, is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.
    I am absolutely confident, that if we take the right steps over the coming months, that not only can we get the economy back on track, but we can emerge leaner, meaner and ultimately more competitive and more prosperous.” NYT, 12-8-08
  • Obama Noncommittal on Caroline Kennedy, and Smoking: Caroline Kennedy has become one of my dearest friends and is just a wonderful American, a wonderful person. But the last thing I want to do is get involved in New York politics….
    I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier. And I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House…. – N”YT, 12-7-08
  • Obama: Economy to get worse before it improves – on “Meet the Press”: “We’ve got to provide a blood infusion to the patient right now to make sure that the patient is stabilized. And that means that we can’t worry short term about the deficit. We’ve got to make sure that the economic stimulus plan is large enough to get the economy moving….
    Congress is doing the exact right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the industry’s feet to the fire and gives the industry some short-term assistance….
    What we need to do is examine, what are the projects where we’re going to get the most bang for the buck? How are we going to make sure taxpayers are protected? You know, the days of just pork coming out of Congress as a strategy, those days are over…
    We are going to maintain a large enough force in the region to assure that our civilian troops or our civilian personnel and our embassies are protected, to make sure that we can ferret out any remaining terrorist activity in the region. – AP, 12-7-08
  • The Saturday Word: Roads and Cars: In the wake of dismal job reports, President-elect Barack Obama called in his radio/YouTube address for the creation of “millions of jobs by making the single largest new investment in our national infrastructure since the creation of the federal highway system in the 1950s.” – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Barack Obama: Your Weekly Address from the President-Elect: December 6, 2008: This week President-elect Barack Obama addresses the job loss that our nation continues to endure and offers solutions to the challenges we face. – You Tube, 12-6-08
  • Obama vows vast public works program: He proposes rebuilding roads, extending access to Web as way to revive economy – “We need to act with the urgency this moment demands to save or create at least 2 1/2 million jobs so that the nearly 2 million Americans who’ve lost them know that they have a future.” Houston Chronicle, 12-6-08
  • Obama Statement: Town meetings start health reform effort: Providing quality affordable health care for all Americans is one of my top priorities for this country because our long-term fiscal prospects will have a hard time improving as long as sky-rocketing health care costs are holding us all down. Yet in order for us to reform our health care system, we must first begin reforming how government communicates with the American people. These Health Care Community Discussions are a great way for the American people to have a direct say in our health care reform efforts and I encourage Americans to take part if they are able. – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Tom Daschle “Town meetings start health reform effort”: The myth is that we have the best healthcare system in the world. We do have islands of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.” – Reuters, 12-6-08
  • Biden’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “Biden had no intention of continuing the practice started by Vice President Cheney of regularly attending internal legislative branch meetings — he firmly believes in restoring the Office of the Vice President to its historical role. He and Senator Reid see eye to eye on this.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Harry Reid: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: “He can come by once and a while, but he’s not going to sit in on our lunches. He’s not a senator. He’s the vice president.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Donald Ritchie: CONGRESS: Biden unwelcome in Senate huddles, where Cheney wielded power: Associate Senate Historian Donald Ritchie said Johnson was “hurt by the angry response.” Senators then, as they had throughout history, understood potential encroachment of the executive branch on their power. Similar rebuffs fill the pages of Senate history, from John Adams to Spiro Agnew. “Every vice president who has tried to be assertive has been restrained by the Senate,” said Ritchie, the historian. “Usually the vice president gets the hint and goes back to the White House.” – Las Vegas Sun, 12-7-08
  • Gil Troy “Will recession mean a toned-down inauguration?”: Though costly, an inauguration helps set the tone for a presidency, said Gil Troy, a visiting scholar at the Bipartisan Policy Center.
    The president shouldn’t be seen noshing on caviar, but neither should he dispense with glamour entirely, Troy said. Americans want their leader to be a man of the people and a celebrity superstar, both.
    “Americans are people who love to indulge, and deep in our hearts want our leaders to be like the king and queen of England — but not too much,” he said.
    President Ronald Reagan fit the bill best when he set a new standard of opulence for his 1981 inauguration, Troy said. Nancy Reagan wore a $10,000 gown to the three-hour gala with Frank Sinatra.
    “Reagan had the ability — and maybe the Obamas will — to somehow make spending look patriotic,” Troy said. – AP, 12-7-08
  • Donald A. Ritchie “Can’t Put a Price on History For Some, Preparing for Inaugural Events Is No Time for Frugality”: Donald A. Ritchie, associate historian at the U.S. Senate Historical Office, said atypical visitors also attended the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Blacks came because it was the first time they were allowed to march in the parade. “Probably the most popular so far was Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration in 1829, because he was seen as the people’s president,” Ritchie said. “The well-to-do of Washington were appalled at the common folk who showed up for Jackson’s inauguration.” – WaPo, 12-7-08
  • Carl Sferrazza Anthony “For Michelle Obama, great expectations”: Historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony said the public misperceived what Carter, who also maintained a weekly working lunch with her husband, was trying to do. “She was just avoiding having to bother him later with questions,” said Anthony, of the National First Ladies Library…. Dolley Madison, on the other hand, was admiringly called “Presidentress” by some for her role as a national symbol for all Americans, one who knew “how to strike the delicate balance between queen and commoner,” Anthony said. But Elizabeth Monroe, who came next and was much less popular, suffered from the comparison…. The wealthy Julia Tyler was deemed overly regal or queenlike, but then her successor, Sarah Polk, was called “monstrously small” (meaning small-minded) by President Tyler himself, Anthony said. – AP, 12-6-08
  • Michael Beschloss “300,000 Apply for 3,300 Obama Jobs”: The presidential historian Michael R. Beschloss said that “it’s hard to find a parallel in modern times to this degree of enthusiasm for going into government,” all the more striking in a period previously known for cynicism about government employment. – NYT, 12-6-08
  • Joan Hoff: ‘It was the best of times … worst of times:’ Presidential historian analyzes election: “Never before have we had a president coming in facing two wars, the collapse of a financial system and a country on the brink of decline in its great nation status.”…
    “Number one was the question of race. But also, we as a country are reluctant to vote for a president who does not try to hide his intellect. The last one before Obama was Woodrow Wilson. If you combine these two factors, it makes it a hugely unique vote.”…
    “The country is on a seismic brink,” Hoff said. “As foreign observers are now saying that all the time, we are on a downward slope in terms of economic footing and our position of power in the world. We are at the tipping point. And, if that is the case, any president will have to deal calmly and intellectually with our declining economic and diplomatic power in the world.”…
    “He has to be like Franklin Delano Roosevelt,” Hoff said. “FDR gave Americans the impression that he was solving the Depression. It was the second world war that brought the country out of the Depression.”…
    “Obama has become an international phenomenon like no other candidate has. It is said that as the U.S. goes, so goes the world. And people around the world were interested in what was happening in our election. There is the perception that Obama could bring change not only to the U.S. but also to the world.”…
    “I was in New York City during the election and it was fun to be there. People poured out into the streets and closed many of them off when it was announced that Obama had won. In addition, large crowds unprecedented in size gathered to watch the results in Times Square, Columbus Circle and Rockefeller Center.”
    “To be classified as a landslide, a candidate has to win at least 400 electoral votes, and preferably more than 500. So Obama’s 365 (current projections) was definitely was not a landslide, but it was a good mandate. Historians may, as they have with Truman and the Korean War, positively re-evaluate his Middle Eastern foreign policy if in 20 years or so it appears more successful than it does now. ” “This election was really something to experience. Obama will have to utilize his optimism and popularity to make changes following a failed presidency of unprecedented proportions. No previous president-elect has inherited two wars and a major recession. The situation is depressing, but it was such an upbeat election that I can’t be depressed. Obama has raised our expectations in a time of great need and I wish him well in trying to fulfill them.” – MSU News, 12-5-08
  • David Brinkley “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “The first year for every ex-president is really hard,” said David Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. “You have to raise all this money for your library, you’ve got to build an organization, you have to write a huge memoir, your papers are in disarray, and you suddenly realize your mistakes because your pace slows down.”…
    “This is going to be Bush vision.” Brinkley said of the institute. “Bush has never liked the academics, and this is a nonacademic institute aimed at cutting to the core of things: only pro-democracy foot soldiers who are green-lit by George and Laura Bush are in the mix.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Julian Zelizer “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “He is a president where people are expecting some kind of repair work,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton. “If he just goes on the speaking circuit and focuses his time making huge money, that would only tarnish a presidency that only has a low approval rating.” Instead, Bush is more likely to choose a similar post-presidential path, at least initially, as that of Jimmy Carter, who also left the White House with poor approval ratings, Zelizer said. “What Jimmy Carter showed is that you can be very active in your post-presidential years and help improve how people think of you as a leader and a policy maker,” Zelizer said. – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Stephen Hess “Bush must navigate a treacherous post-presidency”: “This president’s low approval rating is overwhelmingly connected to Iraq. It will rise and fall depending what turns out to be the history of that country and that part of the world,” said Stephen Hess, a former Eisenhower aide and a scholar at the conservative Brookings Institution. “That really is what his legacy for future historians is all about.” – CNN, 12-5-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil….
    Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Douglas Brinkley “Presidential Historian Obama Could Permanently Ban ANWR Drilling”: Douglas Brinkley tells CNN’s Lou Dobbs new president may turn Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to a national monument – “I think what they’re trying to do is in the Obama administration, start pointing out some clear divot spots where they’re going to deviate from the Bush administration –things like Guantanamo, things that, ‘No, we are not going to be for drilling around parks,'” Brinkley said. “I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming year if you see someplace like ANWR in Alaska turn from being a wildlife refuge run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and turn over to becoming a National Monument where you couldn’t drill. So you’re going to be, and that’s because you’re going to have to do some things sort of on the cheap,” he said. – Business and Media, 11-12-08

December 5, 2008: The Obama Transition, Bill Richardson, Economy, Healthcare and Harper Dodges Non-Confidence

POLITICS & PRESIDENTIAL TRANSITION WATCH:

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Bill Richardson joined Barack Obama for the announcement Wednesday that Mr. Richardson was commerce secretary-designate.

Canada in Focus:

  • Dion’s Speech Beset By Technical Woes: In the battle of the airwaves Wednesday, Liberal Leader Stephane Dion showed up almost an hour late and a few pixels short in his duel with the prime minister he hopes to replace. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Gov. Gen. Agrees to Suspend Parliament: Prime Minister Stephen Harper has won a stay of political execution – at least until January. Harper convinced Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean to suspend Parliament on Thursday, delaying a non-confidence vote scheduled for Monday that would have brought down his beleaguered minority Conservative government. – Canadian Press, 12-4-08
  • Christopher Dummitt: Trent professor argues coalition government perfectly constitutional – Kawartha Media Group, Canada, 12-3-08
  • U.S. Worried Over Canada’s Political Drama: The whole world is watching and our closest ally – the United States – is worried as Canada goes through a “constitutional psychodrama,” Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Tuesday. – Canadian Press, 12-3-08
  • Canada PM calls for crisis talks with premiers: “A critical objective of this meeting will be to identify issues related to accelerating infrastructure investments, strengthening financial market regulation, improving competitiveness and ensuring labor market preparedness and flexibility where immediate government actions will make positive economic impacts,” Harper’s office said in a statement. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Tories Fuming Over Political Crisis: Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion of betraying Canadian voters with the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition to replace the Conservative minority government, saying Dion is “turning his back” on the results of the recent federal election. – CBC News, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Canada’s minority Conservative government may seek the temporary suspension of Parliament to stop opposition parties from voting it out and taking power, an aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.
    The Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois signed a deal on Monday committing them to bringing down the government, just seven weeks after it won re-election with a strengthened minority, and forming a coalition government to replace the Conservatives.
    The formal agreement quickly triggered one of the worst political crises in Canada’s history. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Canada government may seek to suspend Parliament: Harper told Parliament that the coalition deal was “the worst mistake the Liberal Party has ever made in its history”. Conservative legislators chanted “Shame, shame” at the opposition during an often charged session of Parliament. “The highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if you want to be prime minister, you get your mandate from the Canadian people, not the separatists,” said Harper.
    Dion shouted back: “Every member of this House has received a mandate from the Canadian people… The prime minister doesn’t have the support of this House any more.” – Reuters, 12-2-08

The Headlines…

    President-Elect Barack Obama Transition office: http://change.gov/

  • Obama Hauls in Record $750 Million for Campaign – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Obama’s donor list asked to help pay Clinton debt – AP, International Herald Tribune, 12-5-08
  • Richardson pledges seamless transition in NM: Gov. Bill Richardson and Lt. Gov. Diane Denish met Thursday to map out a transition of power in New Mexico as the governor prepares to assume new duties as commerce secretary in President-elect Barack Obama’s Cabinet. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Obama laying the groundwork for U.S. health reform – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • FACTBOX: Obama’s ambitious healthcare plan – Reuters, 12-5-08
  • A New Home, a Bit Smaller, for the Bushes: As hard as it may be to leave 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the president and first lady, Laura Bush, have settled on a new home in the upscale Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Bush said Thursday. – NYT, 12-4-08
  • Democrats: Obama needs hands-on economic approach: Democrats are growing impatient with President-elect Barack Obama’s refusal to inject himself in the major economic crises confronting the country. Obama has sidestepped some policy questions by saying there is only one president at a time. But the dodge is wearing thin. “He’s going to have to be more assertive than he’s been,” House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., told consumer advocates Thursday. – AP, 12-4-08
  • Save the date: Ala. county passes Obama holiday: In central Alabama’s Perry County, government workers already get a day off for President’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Veterans Day. In 2009, they’ll get one more: “Barack Obama Day.”
    The rural county, which overwhelmingly supported Obama in last month’s presidential election, has approved the second Monday in November as “The Barack Obama Day.” Commissioners passed a measure that would close county offices for the new annual holiday and its roughly 40 workers will get a paid day off. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Becerra a top candidate for Obama trade chief: – California congressman Xavier Becerra has emerged as a leading candidate to be the chief U.S. trade negotiator for President-elect Barack Obama, a Democratic official and lobbyists said on Wednesday. – Reuters, 12-3-08
  • Obama is delivering diversity, but some seek more: Barack Obama, soon to be the first black U.S. president, is on the road to making good his pledge to have a Cabinet and White House staff that are among most diverse ever, although some supporters are asking him to go even further. – AP, 12-3-08
  • Gates: Military looks to accelerate Iraq pullout: Defense Secretary Robert Gates signaled a willingness to forge ahead with two key priorities for the incoming Obama administration: accelerating the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and shutting down the Guantanamo Bay detention center. – AP, 12-3-08
  • A new poll shows Americans feel good about President-elect Barack Obama, seen here with his selections for his national security team in Chicago on Monday, and the choices he has made for his Cabinet.: More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far — broad-based support he’ll need as he faces tough decisions ahead. By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former Democratic primary rival, as secretary of State. By an even wider margin, 80%-14%, they favor his decision to ask President Bush’s Pentagon chief, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to stay on the job. – AP, 12-2-08
  • Republicans win crucial Georgia Senate seat: Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss won a run-off election in Georgia on Tuesday, CNN said, denying Democrats the chance for a 60-seat “super majority” in the Senate that would have enabled them to pass legislation virtually at will. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • Clinton for a Clinton? Senate guessing game begins: New York Gov. David Paterson has famous names to choose from in picking a replacement for Sen. Hillary Clinton, including a Kennedy, a Cuomo and even another Clinton, as in the former president of the United States. – Reuters, 12-2-08
  • TERROR WATCH: Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball: 1900 Days And Counting: In advance of a new report to the White House, Bob Graham talks about the possible nature and likelihood of a WMD terrorist attack over the next few years. – Newsweek, 12-2-08
  • Chinese-American activists oppose any Bill Richardson cabinet nomination: The group is upset at the New Mexico governor for his handling of the nearly decade-old case of Taiwanese- American Wen Ho Lee, a former nuclear scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. U.S. officials once suspected Lee of giving nuclear secrets to China when Richardson was President Clinton’s energy secretary. – San Jose Mercury News, 12-2-08

Political Quotes

  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen “Fla. rep. ‘flabbergasted’ Obama call wasn’t prank”: “I was just flabbergasted. I just hung up on the most powerful man on earth — twice….. But this one was just out of the blue he’s calling me. And I said, ‘Boy, you’re a much better impersonator than that guy on Saturday Night Live,’ and he’s laughing and he’s thinking I’m kidding.” She “wished him the best of luck and told him I was going to hang up on him.” “I said I really do appreciate it. I love these pranks more than anybody and I’m honored that you would prank me, but I’m gonna hang up.” When Obama finally called back, the congresswoman said they talked about policies on Cuba and Israel. He told her “anytime my ego gets too pumped up, I think Michelle will remind me that you hung up not once, but twice on me,” Ros-Lehtinen said. – AP, 12-4-08
  • President-elect Obama and governors tackle the economy: Speaking to an assembly of nearly all of the nation’s governors in Philadelphia this morning, President-elect Obama called for innovation and collaboration, and invited dissenting opinions on how best to fix the economy. YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary: President-elect Barack Obama tapped Gov. Bill Richardson to be Commerce Secretary at a press conference in Chicago on December 3rd, 2008. – YouTube, 12-3-08
  • Obama Names Richardson as Commerce Secretary: “Commerce secretary is a pretty good job,” Mr. Obama said, after being asked by a Hispanic reporter about the appointment of Mr. Richardson to a post not considered among the cabinet’s more prestigious or influential…. “his mixture of diplomatic experience, hands-on experience as governor, experience in the cabinet, experience in Congress, means that he is going to be a key strategist on all the issues that we work on.” “I think the notion that somehow commerce secretary is not going to be central to everything we do is fundamentally mistaken.” – NYT, 12-3-08
  • Biden “US must halt spread of nuclear, bio weapons” : “We’re not doing all we can to prevent the world’s most lethal weapons from winding up in the hands of terrorists,” Biden told reporters at Obama’s Washington transition headquarters. – Reuters, 12-3-08

Historians’ Comments

  • Harold Holzer, and H.W. Brands: Lessons From Presidents Past As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office amid an economic crisis and conflicts overseas, the experiences of former presidents Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt are being regularly recalled, including by Mr. Obama himself. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • HAROLD HOLZER, Author, “Lincoln-President-Elect”: Well, I think they were undervalued. I think they have been undervalued by historians. I think they’re the great Achilles’ heel in Lincoln’s otherwise sterling reputation, this prevailing idea that he was a docile president- elect who just dawdled away the hours while the secession crisis magnified. I took a look at the private correspondence and the conversations that Lincoln had during this period and found, in fact, that he did quite a bit, if not to prevent the union from fracturing, at least to preventing slavery from expanding and perpetuating….
    Well, the notion of gridlock, of political factions not being able to get along, which obviously reached the boiling point in the Lincoln era, is something that Sen. Obama has cited as a rationale for a different approach to government. Obviously, it’s a different time. Red state-blue state divisions are not the same as gray state-blue state divisions. And, of course, half of the country chose not even to recognize Abraham Lincoln’s election, but to react as if it hadn’t occurred, while half of the people in the states that did accept it had voted for someone else. So it was — there was none of the universal celebration of Lincoln’s election that took place. It’s the confrontation of division, the healing, the unifying, actually, that Lincoln did later in his term that I think Sen. Obama is looking to inciting now….
    Well, of course, the media focus is so much more intense now that it’s almost unavoidable. Lincoln certainly did not do any public statements, but, of course, he hadn’t campaigned for president, either. And yet there are things that Sen. Obama is doing that are so eerily like Lincoln, it’s as if he’s got a playbook that he’s — and it’s a very good playbook — that he’s referring to. I mean, he is considering the senator from New York whom he defeated for the nomination as his secretary of state, as Lincoln did with Seward. He even went back for a pilgrimage to the woman who raised him for a final goodbye, as Lincoln did, when he went to see his step-mother a few days before leaving for Washington, again, the last time he would see her. That sense of taking renewal from his roots was very important to Lincoln. And both of them are reading the works of former presidents in crisis. Lincoln read Andrew Jackson’s protests against nullification, just as Sen. Obama is reading Abraham Lincoln. So the arc of the presidency continues….
    I mean, in the case of Lincoln, I think not. This is really, in a large way, the culmination or at least a giant step toward completing the unfinished work that Abraham Lincoln spoke about at Gettysburg. The very notion that an African-American has been elected president of the United States fulfills those parts of the American dream that were unfulfilled. So I think it’s a magnificent moment and one that we should embrace as long as our honeymoon can last with a new president. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • H.W. BRANDS, Author, “Traitor to His Class”: I wanted to figure out how this son of privilege became the champion of the ordinary man and woman in America. Roosevelt was born wealthy. He had everything that wealth could buy and everything that opportunity could give. But he became in certain respects the most radical populist ever to occupy the White House. And I wanted to see how that came about….
    Well, circumstances now are looking eerily like the circumstances in 1932 and 1933. When Roosevelt was elected, the economy was at the bottom of the depression. Probably 25 percent of Americans were out of work. The financial system was in freefall. There was a clear repudiation of the status quo that is in Roosevelt’s election. And Roosevelt had four months to figure out what he could do between then and the inauguration. It was a very difficult transition, probably one of the most difficult in American history….
    Despite the efforts at cooperation, there is a definite difference in philosophy between the Bush administration and the Obama administration. And there will certainly be an effort by the Bush administration to preserve as much of that philosophy as possible. And Barack Obama would be well advised — assuming that he intends to take things in a different direction — to avoid making any commitments. He’s absolutely right. There’s only one president at a time. He can get his team together, and he can get his plans together, but he’s really not going to get anything done on his own authority until he’s sworn in….
    President-elect Obama can take comfort from the fact that the recession that the country seems to be entering will almost certainly not get as deep and severe as the Great Depression of the 1930s, in large part because of the reforms that Roosevelt and the New Deal Congress put into place. And I think he can take a lesson from Roosevelt’s example in connecting with the American people at an emotional level as soon as he became president. Roosevelt took charge very quickly. And one of the first things he did, after just five days in office, was to deliver the first of his fireside chats, in which he reached over the heads of Congress and over parties and made an emotional appeal to the American people, saying that everything that we’ve done, everything that we’ve started will only work if we have the support of the American people. So he made Americans part of his administration, and his administration benefited enormously from that. – PBS Newshour, 11-25-08
  • Gil Troy: Is Bush’s Greatest Achievement a Non-Achievement: No Subsequent 9/11s?: In yet another example of “blowback” actually undermining Islamist terrorism, the Mumbai mayhem may boost George W. Bush’s historical legacy. In the waning days of his presidency, the massacres highlighted one of Bush’s most significant but elusive achievements. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is a non-event. After September 11, most Americans assumed they would endure a wave of terrorist attacks. Even those Americans who hate Bush must grant him at least some credit for the fact that not one major attack has occurred again on American soil…. Despite all the hype during a presidential campaign about a candidate’s skills, judgment, character, experience, and potential, external events often define presidencies. George W. Bush himself entered office expecting to focus on domestic affairs. The horrific murders in Mumbai – along with the continuing economic roller coaster – illustrate that Obama’s legacy, like that all of his predecessors, remains in the hands of powerful actors and historical forces beyond his control, no matter how talented he is, no matter how focused on this one leader we remain. – HNN, 12-4-08
  • Julian Zelizer: Can President-Elect Obama Manage His Team of Egos?: Obama has assembled a powerful team that is full of experience, and opinions “He does have this challenge,” says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. “It’s not a modest cabinet by any stretch of the imagination. These are people of opinions and experience,” and they won’t be shy about “pushing the president” to adopt their ideas. The question is whether Obama will be strong enough to manage the egos around him—and distill from the resulting tensions and rivalries the best policies for the nation without allowing his government to descend into constant infighting, as happened under President Jimmy Carter and other chief executives. – – US News & World Report, 12-2-08
  • Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “Obama as Hoover: The Importance of Storytelling”: You may have heard of the late liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. How about Charley Michelson? As the Obama era takes shape, the roles of both Schlesinger and Michelson deserve attention. Particularly as Americans are seeing newsmagazines with cover stories comparing the President-elect who campaigned on a dour vision of scarcity with Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, a considerable leap to understate. – American Spectator, 12-2-08
  • Doris Kearns Goodwin on the relevancy of ‘Team of Rivals’: Number one, what you’ve got is a president-elect who reads history and values it, and that’s just a great thing…. He called me after he read the book, way back at the beginning of the primary. My cell phone rang, I picked it up and he just said, ‘Hello, this is Barack Obama.’ He talked to me even then about the book, and then throughout the campaign he kept talking about it, how he would want to put people around him who would argue with him, have a range of opinions. His first step seems to be totally in step with that concept, both in terms of possibly appointing Hillary to be secretary of state, talking with John McCain.
    I think it’s the combination of, you know, what we’ve gone through in the last eight years, and the awareness that we’re at one of those moments in time when we have a series of crises that have to be dealt with.
    Even Roosevelt, when WWII was on the horizon, FDR understood that, as he put it, Dr. New Deal had to become Dr. Win-the-War, and he brought in two top Republicans, [former Secretary of State Henry] Stimson and [former vice presidential candidate Frank] Knox, to be in his cabinet. He put out the olive branch to the business community…Not that he gave up his progressive goals, but he reached out more so he could bring them together at a moment of necessity. – Politico.com, 11-19-08
%d bloggers like this: