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President-elect Barack Obama (center) during his first press conference, in Chicago, following his election victory, Nov. 7, 2008.

President-elect Barack Obama (center) during his first press conference, in Chicago, following his election victory, Nov. 7, 2008.

It’s proving difficult to peer inside Obama’s still tightly closed Cabinet. But so far his presidential transition has looked deliberate and impressive.

Nov. 11, 2008 | Amid the fervid speculation over the identity of the next secretary of state or even the next assistant secretary of labor for administration and management, there is a truth that is galling to gossip-mongers — Barack Obama and his closest advisors know how to keep secrets. With nearly 10 percent of the transition period between administrations already gone, we know more about the factors that will dictate the selection of the White House puppy than we do about the reasoning behind the choice of a would-be Treasury secretary.

As Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team, put it with deliberate blandness on “Meet the Press” Sunday: “I think one of the real strengths of Sen. Obama’s campaign and now President-elect Obama’s transition is that he really does like to think this through thoroughly and not telecast what he’s going to do until he’s ready to make a decision.”

No one wants to read articles titled “Entire Obama Administration Shrouded in Mist and Mystery.” So to accentuate the positive, we do have a pretty reliable handle as to who will be in the room with Obama (and presumably Joe Biden) when the major personnel decisions are made. There will be Jarrett, an African-American Chicago real estate entrepreneur who has been close friends to the president-elect and the incoming first lady for two decades; Pete Rouse, the press-shy former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who performed the same role for a newly elected Illinois senator named Obama; the Chicago-born John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, who stealthily organized the Obama transition during the fall campaign from his Washington perch at the Center for American Progress; David Axelrod, the Chicago-based political strategist, who was the inspiration behind both Obama’s up-from-nowhere 2004 Senate victory and his 2008 run for the Rose Garden; and incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a sharp-elbowed veteran of the Clinton White House who was elected to Congress in 2002 (from Chicago, natch) with the help of Axelrod (double natch).

With all these Chicagoans (aside from Rouse) creating the Obama administration, it is time to drop the Second City urban inferiority complex. If there is an ideological orientation to this team, it seems to be Democratic centrism rather than full-throated liberalism. Bill Galston, a former top domestic advisor to Clinton now at the Brookings Institution, notes that Obama “has a great respect for expertise. His instinct is that in any field, gather the leading experts and go after them.” As Galston puts it, “This is not amateur hour — this is not crony time.” Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and an expert on governmental organization, said admiringly, “Obama is extremely well-prepared. There is a lot of talk coming out of the Bush administration about a seamless transition. But in many instances, the Obama people know as much about what is happening in the Cabinet agencies as the Bush people do.”

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The full Democratic caucus will vote on whether Joe Lieberman is allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee at its caucus meeting next week, a leadership aide confirms to us.

Previously, Reid’s office had held this possibility out but hadn’t made a final decision on whether to throw Lieberman’s fate to the full Dem caucus for a vote.

In the wake of Obama’s statement today that he doesn’t hold any “grudges” against Lieberman and his decision not to take a position on whether Lieberman keeps his chairmanship, I emailed a leadership aide to ask whether the vote would definitely go forward. His response:

    “Yes — this is a decision that will be made by the caucus next week. Absent a stunning series of events there will be a vote next week in the caucus on whether to strip Senator Lieberman of the chairmanship.”

That would appear to make it official.

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A U.S. newspaper says President-elect Barack Obama is considering a more regional approach to the war in Afghanistan that could include talks with Iran.

The Washington Post Tuesday cites unnamed national security advisers to Mr. Obama, who also say he intends to deploy thousands more U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden Message

The newspaper also reports Mr. Obama plans to intensify the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who is widely blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The Post quotes one of Mr. Obama’s advisers as saying bin Laden is America’s enemy and should be its principal target.

Mr. Obama has pledged to end the war in Iraq, and defeat al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The Post quotes a senior U.S. military official explaining mainly-Shi’ite Iran’s interest in cooperating as saying Iran does not want “Sunni extremists in charge of Afghanistan any more than” the U.S. does.

Source: VOA News

Mr Obama’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said yesterday that the plight of automakers was one of a number of issues discussed in a two-hour meeting with Mr Bush to discuss the transfer of power at a time of war and financial crisis. Other issues included housing, mortgage foreclosures, and, more generally, “the need to get the economy back on track”.

The parlous state of the American car industry was highlighted last Friday when General Motors – the biggest US car manufacturer – reported a $2.5 billion net loss for the third quarter, bringing its total losses to nearly $57 billion since the beginning of 2005.

Ford Motor Company’s $129 million quarterly loss, meanwhile, brought to nearly $24.5 billion the deficit it has run up since plunging into the red in 2006. The privately-held Chrysler LLC is also thought to be fast running out of cash – one reason, analysts believe, why its parent, Cerberus Capital Management, was so eager to sell Chrysler to General Motors.

The New York Times, citing unnamed people familiar with the discussion, said that Mr Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr Bush primed to urge him to support emergency aid for the car industry.

The Bush Administration is reluctant to give carmakers access to the bailout fund, even though the Democrats say it could legally do so.

Linking the issue with the Colombia free trade deal could delay any move until after Mr Obama’s inauguration on January 20. US union leaders oppose the agreement because of numerous murders of trade unionists in Colombia at the hands of right-wing paramilitary squads closely linked to the Colombian armed forces.

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The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.

Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.

Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.

Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”

He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.

Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.

Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.

John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.

He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”

Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.

These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.

Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.

He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama could reverse some of President Bush’s most controversial executive orders, including restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, shortly after taking office in January.

Two other executive orders from Bush — one dealing with a so-called “gag” order on international aid organizations regarding abortion, the other with oil and gas drilling on federal lands — also are receiving increased scrutiny.

Obama’s transition team is reviewing hundreds of Bush’s executive orders, according to John Podesta, Obama’s transition co-chair.

New presidents often use executive orders to put their stamp on Washington quickly. Unlike laws, which require months to complete and the consent of Congress, presidents can use their executive authority to order federal agencies to implement current policies.

“Much of what a president does, he really has to do with the Congress — for example, budgeting, legislation on policy — but executive actions are ones where the president can act alone,” said Martha Kumar of the White House Transition Project, a nonpartisan group established to help new presidential administrations.

Source: CNN

Colleagues coined a phrase during the Clinton years to fit Emanuel's ability to mangle the English language. AP

Colleagues coined a phrase during the Clinton years to fit Emanuel's ability to mangle the English language. AP

Newly coined Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was on his best behavior during his Sunday show debut this weekend – measured, calm, bi-partisan.

But when it came to the notorious ability of the Illinois political street fighter to mangle the English language – well, let’s just say Rahm hit a touchdown.

Friends and colleagues – particularly in the Clinton White House – have dubbed this phenomenon “Rahmbonics” over the years and on “Face the Nation” and “This Week,” Emanuel engaged in a veritable festival of mixed metaphors.

The jumbling began during a discussion of how Washington leaders have put off dealing with energy issues since the oil crisis in 1974 and health care for nearly just as long.

“We had a crisis, we kicked it down the can,” Emanuel explained to “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer.

“These are – just taking those two examples, these are crises you can no longer afford to kick down the can,” he continued. “The crisis we have here, the American people know we have one and they are ready and willing to start to tackle those problems. You cannot afford now to kick those down the can any longer.”

To which Schieffer simply replied, “All right,” and moved on.

“Kicking the can down the road” has been a favorite metaphor politicians have used to describe someone who is postponing a decision or avoiding an issue.

But Emanuel’s Yogi Berra-style translation of the phrase should come as no surprise to those who know him well. Speechwriters in the Clinton White House, where he was an aide, used to collect choice examples of “Rahmbonics” and post them on a bulletin board. Oftentimes they involved sports.

“He’d say something like you can’t kick a field goal in the ninth inning,” recalled Jake Siewert, a longtime friend as well as a former Clinton press secretary and longtime admirer of Emanuel’s verbal skills.

Shutting a revolving door was another Emanuel classic. He used the phrase in 1998 to explain a Clinton plan to require states to report illegal drug use among inmates before receiving federal money for prisons.

“We have to slam shut the revolving door between drugs and crime,” he told The New York Times.

“We kept tabs on them,” said a former Clinton speechwriter who asked not to be named. “There was a certain kind of admiration in involved in this.”

The mix-ups that made it into newspapers, as opposed to those he blurted out in staff meetings, were the ones that intrigued Emanuel’s White House colleagues the most.

Quoting Emanuel-style metaphors even became a game among some members of the Washington press corps.

“You figure if he’s quoted in the newspaper he’d given it more thought,” said Siewert, adding that Emanuel has a sense of humor about his way with words. “He’s pretty well aware of it. I mean he thinks fast and talks fast.”

Emanuel’s appearances last Sunday made clear his metaphor mixing is a treat the public will get more of in coming months.

Despite the disorienting image of “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos addressing his longtime friend and former Clinton White House colleague with the formal “Congressman Emanuel,” Emanuel kept familiar when he attempted the “kicking the can down the road” line again in reference to energy, health care and economic crises.

“So this provides an opportunity to finally tackle the issues that for too long have been postponed, kicked down the road – kicked down the road, basically,” he said.

He also suggested bridging the auto industry, when discussing government’s role in helping country’s struggling car manufacturers.

“President elect Obama has asked his economic team to look at different options of what it takes to help bridge the auto industry,” he said. “So they are part of not only a revived economy but part of an energy policy going forward.”

So, to sum Emanuel up: don’t expect an Obama administration to let the clock run out in the final quarter when the bases are loaded – even if the blitz of crises facing the country makes them want to kick the road down the can.

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A Toyota Venza nears the end of the assembly line at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky plant in Georgetown, Ky., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. AP

A Toyota Venza nears the end of the assembly line at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky plant in Georgetown, Ky., on Monday, Nov. 10, 2008. AP

The change we need! It just doesn’t make sense to continue to give the auto-industry money to make gas-guzzlers. We should still be able to have big cars – but a big car run on electric or hybrid electric is a lot cheaper to run. Electric cars cost 2cents/mile to run and are more powerful and faster than cars run on gas. If the tax payers’ money should be given for anything – it should be for the cars of the future. If the auto-industry was reluctant to move on these new technologies – because of some regard for the oil industry – well the oil industry is doing fine and the auto industry is hanging on for dear life.

President-elect Barack Obama wants a high-profile point person to oversee reforms in the ailing auto industry, according to members of Obama’s transition team.

Specifics about the proposal remain unclear. But the transition team says Obama suggested to President Bush on Monday that aid to the auto industry could be coupled with the appointment of “someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority” to push for reforms. The details came from a more extended readout of the White House meeting provided Tuesday.

The person would assist in efforts to create an “economically viable auto industry,” a transition aide said – a move that could alleviate concerns about protecting taxpayer interests if more money is directed to assist automakers.

The financially reeling American auto industry has emerged as a top issue facing Obama and Bush as they work through the two-month transition period, and for Congress as it plans to convene next week for a lame duck session.

Automakers have asked for up to $25 billion in emergency loans in order to keep the industry from collapsing amid slumping sales. General Motors, the biggest U.S. automaker, reported a $4.2 billion operating loss last quarter and has warned that it may run out of cash by the end of June. Ford Motor Co. reported a nearly $3 billion for the quarter.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Tuesday that Bush was open to considering proposals to accelerate loans from $25 billion funds that have already been appropriated through a recent law aimed at helping automakers retool their business.

“We’re open to ideas from Congress to accelerate funds they’ve already appropriated in the auto loan program – as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections,” Fratto said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter Saturday to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asking that the administration consider tapping another source of funds: the $700 billion bailout to include car companies.

Obama used his meeting Monday with Bush to call for auto assistance, “including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law,” the transition team said.

Obama also pressed for passage of a second economic stimulus package, while Bush “raised the need” to pass the Columbian free trade agreement, the transition team said.

Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel suggested Sunday that the president elect wasn’t interested in a deal to remove White House opposition to a stimulus package in exchange for congressional approval of the trade agreement, which has been opposed by unions and some Democrats.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday that Bush did not link support for a stimulus package or auto industry aid to passage of the trade agreement.

“In no way did the president suggest that there was a quid pro quo,” said Perino. But Bush did, she said, “talk about the merits of free trade.”

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I think Palin was the golden goose who couldn’t lay McCain his egg.

Palin does interview with Greta at Fox News

Palin does interview with Greta at Fox News

Sarah Palin sat down with Fox News’ Greta van Susteren to discuss the 2008 campaign and her political future. The wide-ranging interview covered such familiar topics as the $150,000 spent on Palin’s wardrobe for the campaign, as well as the report that she was unable to name all the countries in North America and did not understand that Africa is a continent rather than a nation. Palin denied any knowledge of the RNC’s extravagant clothing bills, going so far as to say that she’s never set foot in a Neiman Marcus (one of the upscale stores where the RNC racked up a $75,000 bill). Palin also denied the report that she was unaware Africa is a continent.

The governor also lashed out at bloggers “sitting in their parents’ basement, wearing their pajamas” for some of the questions that were raised about her record and credibility. She was particularly incensed at the questions that were floated about whether or not she was the mother of her youngest son, Trig.

A gift for Sarah Palin as winking and nodding may not always be enough!

A gift for Sarah Palin as winking and nodding may not always be enough!

Palin refused to say whether she was planning a run for the White House in 2012, but the devoutly faithful governor said she would wait for a sign from God, and that she is confident God would show the way to the White House.

    Faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator’s hands – this is what I always do. I’m like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I’m like, don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.

Palin puts faith in God for 2012

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Fox News Greta Van Susteren interviews Sarah Palin Part 1

Fox News Greta Van Susteren interviews Sarah Palin Part 2

Fox News Greta Van Susteren interviews Sarah Palin Part 3

Source: HP

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(CNN) — As Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin heads to Florida to attend the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Miami, she says she’d consider a run for the White House in 2012 or beyond.

Less than one week after the victory by Barack Obama and Joe Biden over the GOP ticket in the presidential election, John McCain’s running mate is speaking out about her political future in national politics.

“Don’t let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is and even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll just plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door,” Palin said in an interview with Fox News Monday.

> Palin also sits down Wednesday for a one on one interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Tune into the Situation Room, starting at 4 pm ET Wednesday to see Wolf’s candid conversation with Palin.

Source: CNN

Palin told Alaska reporters the Republican ticket could not overcome the headwinds.

Palin told Alaska reporters the Republican ticket could not overcome the headwinds.

(CNN) – Sarah Palin told local reporters in Alaska that unhappiness with the Bush administration’s Iraq war policy and spending record were responsible for the GOP ticket’s defeat this year.

“I think the Republican ticket represented too much of the status quo, too much of what had gone on in these last eight years, that Americans were kind of shaking their heads like going, wait a minute, how did we run up a $10 trillion debt in a Republican administration?” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska’s KTUU Channel 2.

“How have there been blunders with war strategy under a Republican administration? If we’re talking change, we want to get far away from what it was that the present administration represented and that is to a great degree what the Republican Party at the time had been representing. So people desiring change I think went as far from the administration that is presently seated as they could. It’s amazing that we did as well as we did.”

Palin returned to Alaska last week amid growing speculation about her political future. The Alaska governor is slated to attend the Republican Governors Association’s meeting in Miami this week.

Source: CNN

Valerie Jarrett is one of Barack Obama's closest advisers.

Valerie Jarrett is one of Barack Obama

(CNN) — Two Democratic sources close to President-elect Barack Obama tell CNN that top adviser Valerie Jarrett will not be appointed to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

“While he (Obama) thinks she would be a good senator, he wants her in the White House,” one top Obama advisor told CNN Monday.

Over the weekend, Democratic sources had told CNN as well as Chicago television station WLS-TV that Jarrett was Obama’s choice to fill his Senate seat.

Jarrett, a Chicago attorney and one of Obama’s closest advisers, is a leader of the president-elect’s transition team.

Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, praised her as a “valuable ally.”

“People should know that Valerie Jarrett is — and people do know — she is a very dear friend of the president-elect and a valuable ally of his, not only prior to running for president, in his Senate life, and just personally for Michelle and Barack,” Emanuel said on ABC’s This Week.

Valerie Jarrett Obama’s secret campaign weapon:

Several other Illinois Democrats have expressed interest in the seat, including Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will make the final decision on Obama’s successor.

Source: CNN

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On the day that President-elect Barack Obama visited the White House, a new national poll illustrates the daunting challenges he faces when it becomes his home next year.

Only 16 percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say things are going well in the country today. That’s an all-time low. Eighty-three percent say things are going badly, which is an all-time high.

“The challenge Obama faces has never been greater. No president has ever come to office during a time when the public’s mood has been this low. In the 34 years that this question has been asked, the number who say things are going well has never fallen below 20 percent,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.

The 83 percent saying things are going badly is “more than in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted because of ‘the economy, stupid.’ That’s more than in 1980, when President Carter got fired after the malaise crisis. That’s more than in 1975, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon,” said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.

So far, Obama seems to be meeting the public’s high expectations. Two-thirds of all Americans have a positive view of what he has done since he was elected president, and three-quarters think he will do a good job as president.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The all-time low on the public’s mood may have something to do with the poll’s finding that President Bush is the most unpopular president since approval ratings were first sought more than six decades ago. Seventy-six percent of those questioned in the poll disapprove of how he is handling his job.

That’s an all-time high in CNN polling and in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.

“No other president’s disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year,” Holland said. “That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating.”

Before Bush, the record holder for presidential disapproval was Harry Truman, with a 67 percent disapproval rating in January of 1952, his last full year in office.

Source: CNN

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This failing economy and troubled auto industry is the perfect storm for Obama and the Democrats, if the auto industry was strong — how could you get it to change direction? The writing was on the wall some eight years ago that the oil age was coming to an end – that to continue to pursue it would lead us into difficulty. And it was one of the hallmarks of Al Gore’s presidential campaign. Now we have seen the results of continuing down the same path. But with this disaster or more stripping of the sector – there is opportunity; the free market idea is to allow the auto industry to fail, or it can be bailed out under conservative socialism, or we can forget about the old titles and give the auto-industry the money it needs but with the strings attached – that it retools for the future car. Why can’t we have a hybrid/electric or an electric SUZ? And this merchandise can be exported – the market should be thrilled.

Bush is arguing – he’ll give Obama this – if in return Obama cedes with the Republican position on trade with Columbia. And it is a weak argument – because what Obama is saying – we will be happy to trade with you – but you are going to have to pull your act together when it comes to workers rights. This carrot and stick approach may do more to change conditions in Columbia – than all the diplomacy in the world. Doubtful if this is a chip that can be traded because it has a long term goal.

WASHINGTON — The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush in a meeting at the White House to support immediate emergency aid.

Mr. Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a measure for which Mr. Bush has long fought, people familiar with the discussion said.

The Bush administration, which has presided over a major intervention in the financial industry, has balked at allowing the automakers to tap into the $700 billion bailout fund, despite warnings last week that General Motors might not survive the year.

Mr. Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders say the bailout law authorizes the administration to extend assistance.

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Click to enlarge+

Mr. Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr. Bush on Monday primed to urge him to support emergency aid to the auto industry, advisers to Mr. Obama said. But Democrats also indicate that neither Mr. Obama nor Congressional leaders are inclined to concede the Colombia pact to Mr. Bush, and may decide to wait until Mr. Obama assumes power on Jan. 20. […]

As the auto industry reels, rarely has an issue so quickly illustrated the differences from one White House occupant to the next. How Mr. Obama responds to the industry’s dire straits will indicate how much government intervention in the private sector he is willing to tolerate. It will also offer hints of how he will approach his job under pressure, testing the limits of his conciliation toward the opposition party and his willingness to stand up to the interest groups in his own. [….]

Obama has called on the Bush administration to accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law specifically to help automakers retool. Late in his campaign, Mr. Obama proposed doubling that to $50 billion. But industry supporters say the automakers, squeezed both by the unavailability of credit and depressed sales, need unrestricted cash now, simply to meet payroll and other expenses.

On Friday, Mr. Obama said he would instruct his economic team, once he chooses it, to devise a long-range plan for helping the auto industry recover in a way that is part of an energy and environmental policy to reduce reliance on foreign oil and address climate change.

[….]

Democrats close to both Mr. Obama’s transition team and to Congressional leaders seemed willing to call Mr. Bush’s bluff, calculating that he would not want to gamble that G.M. — an iconic, century-old American corporation with business tentacles in every state — would fail on his watch and add to the negative notes of his legacy. Also, economists as conservative as Martin Feldstein, an adviser to a long line of Republican presidents and candidates, have called more broadly for stimulus spending of up to $300 billion.

The major automakers — G.M., Ford and Chrysler — are each using up their cash at unsustainable rates. The Center for Automotive Research, which is based in Michigan and supported by the industry, released on Election Day an economic analysis of the impact of one or all of them failing. If the Big Three were to collapse, it said, that would cost at least three million jobs, counting autoworkers, suppliers and other businesses dependent on the companies, down to the hot-dog vendors and bartenders next door to their plants.

[…]

Organized labor is not the only interest group with influence in the Democratic Party that is weighing in as Mr. Obama plans his transition. Environmentalists are adamant that any aid be conditioned on the auto industry’s dropping of its opposition to higher fuel-efficiency standards and investing more in new technology. That puts them at odds with unions, who oppose any strings, leaving it to Mr. Obama to mediate.

Both as a candidate and now as president-elect, Mr. Obama has been in contact with former Vice President Al Gore, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. In a column published in Sunday’s New York Times, Mr. Gore wrote that “we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new start-up companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available.”

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Barack Obama toured Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus in July of this year.

Barack Obama toured Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus in July of this year.

American elections are a powerful drug: they bring delusions of omnipotence. All that talk of “change” and “hope” brings demands for swift action: “Do it now,” “first six months,” “hundred days.” The economic crisis may indeed demand speed, but in foreign policy the reality is that, on the afternoon of Jan. 20, President Obama will face the same challenges that President Bush did that morning. And none presents much opportunity for bold new initiatives.

That’s fortunate. Incoming presidents making big decisions in a hurry is a surefire recipe for error. Think JFK and the Bay of Pigs. More recently, George W. Bush’s reflexive ditching of the Clinton administration’s strategy on North Korea was a misstep it has taken years to retrieve.

The foreign-policy and national-security inbox shows that, even on pressing issues, Obama has the luxury of time. A quick overview:

Iraq. Obama has pledged to withdraw U.S. troops. But that’s already getting under way. At issue still: the pace of the drawdown, a date for final disengagement and the number of U.S. troops who should then remain as last-ditch guarantors of a democratic government in Baghdad. No Iraqi politician is going to be able to engage seriously on those topics until after their own elections next fall.

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For several years, I’ve been writing about Bushenfreude, the phenomenon of angry yuppies—who’ve hugely benefited from President Bush’s tax cuts—funding angry, populist Democratic campaigns. I’ve theorized that people who work in financial services and related fields have become so outraged and alienated by the incompetence, crass social conservatism, and repeated insults to the nation’s intelligence, of the Bush-era Republican Party, that they’re voting with their hearts and heads instead of their wallets.

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Last week’s election was perhaps Bushenfreude’s grandest day. As the campaign entered its final weeks, Barack Obama, who pledged to unite the country, singled out one group of people for ridicule: those making more than $250,000. At his rallies, he would ask for a show of hands of those making less than one-quarter of $1 million per year. Then he’d look around, laugh, and note that those in the virtuous majority would get their taxes cut, while the rich among them would be hit with a tax increase. And yet the exit polls show, the rich—and yes, if you make $250,000 or more you’re rich—went for Obama by bigger margins than did the merely well-off. If the exit polls are to be believed, those making $200,000 or more (6 percent of the electorate) voted for Obama 52-46, while McCain won the merely well-off ($100,000 to $150,000 by a 51-48 margin and $150,000 to $200,000 by a 50-48 margin).

Right-wingers tend to dismiss such numbers as the voting behavior of trust funders or gazillionaires—people who have so much money that they just don’t care about taxes. That may explain a portion of Bushenfreude. But there just aren’t that many trust funders out there. Rather, it’s clear that the nation’s mass affluent—Steve the lawyer, Colby the financial services executive, Ari the highly paid media big shot—are trending Democratic, especially on the coasts. Indeed, Bushenfreude is not necessarily a nationwide phenomenon. As Andrew Gelman notes in the book “Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State,” the rich in poor states are likely to stick with the Republicans.

But in the ground zero of Bushenfreude, Fairfield County, Conn., it was practically an epidemic last week. Bushenfreude’s most prominent victim was Rep. Chris Shays, the last Republican congressman east of the Hudson River. For the past several cycles, Shays, who played a moderate in his home district but was mainly an enabler of the Bush-DeLay Republicans in Washington, fended off well-financed challengers with relative ease. Last week, he fell victim to Jim Himes. Himes, as this New York Times profile shows, is the ultimate self-made, pissed-off yuppie: a member of Harvard’s crew team, a Rhodes Scholar, a former Goldman Sachs banker, and a resident of Greenwich.

Shays claims he was done in by a Democratic tsunami in Fairfield County and the state. And Connecticut’s county results show Obama ran up a huge 59-41 margin in the county, which includes Bridgeport and Norwalk—densely populated cities with large poor, minority, and working-class populations. But an examination of the presidential votes in several of Fairfield County’s wealthier districts (here are Connecticut’s votes by town) shows the yuppies came out in the thousands to vote for a candidate who pledged to raise their taxes. In the fall of 2003, I first detected Bushenfreude in Westport (No. 5 on Money’s list of 25 wealthiest American towns). The telltale symptom: Howard Dean signs stacked in the back of a brand-new BMW. The signs of an outbreak were legion this year. On our route to school, my kids would count the number of yard signs for Obama and McCain (the results: 6-to-1). On the Saturday morning before the election, I stopped by the Westport Republican headquarters to pick up some McCain-Palin buttons, only to find it locked. On Election Day, Westport voters went for Obama by a 65-35 margin. (That’s bigger than the 60-40 margin Kerry won here in 2004.) Bushenfreude spread from Westport to neighboring towns. In Wilton, just to the north, which Bush carried comfortably in 2004, Obama won 54 percent of the vote.

Perhaps most surprising was the result from Greenwich, Conn. The Versailles of the tri-state metro area, the most golden of the region’s gilded suburbs, the childhood home of George H.W. Bush, went for Obama by a 54-46 margin—the first time Greenwich went Democratic since 1964. Who knew the back-country estates and shoreline mansions were populated with so many traitors to their class? (In the 2004 cage match of New England-born, Yalie aristocrats, George W. Bush beat Kerry 53-47 in Greenwich.) Some towns in Fairfield County were clearly inoculated from Bushenfreude. In New Canaan and Darien, which ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Money’s list of 25 wealthiest towns, McCain-Palin won by decent majorities. (In both towns, however, the Republican margins were down significantly from 2004.) What’s the difference between these towns and their neighbors? Well, New Canaan and Darien are wealthier than their sister towns in Fairfield County. (In both, the median income is well more than $200,000.) So perhaps the concern about taxes is more acute there. Another possible explanation is that these towns differ demographically from places like Greenwich and Westport, in that they are less Jewish, and Jews voted heavily for Obama.

While there has been job loss and economic anxiety throughout Fairfield County, I don’t think that economic problems alone explain the big Democratic gains in the region. In Greenwich, economic stress for many people means flying commercial or selling the ski house (while maintaining the summer house on Nantucket). There’s something deeper going on when a town that is home to corporate CEOs, professional athletes, hedge-fund managers, and private-equity barons—the people who gained the most, financially, under the Bush years and who would seem to have the most to lose financially under an Obama administration—flips into the Democratic column. Somewhere in the back country, in a 14,000-square-foot writer’s garret, an erstwhile hedge-fund manager is dictating a book proposal to his assistant, a former senior editor at Fortune who just took a buyout, that explains why many of the wealthy choose to vote for a Democrat, in plain violation of their economic self-interest. Working title: What’s the Matter With Greenwich?

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President-elect Barack Obama has informed party officials that he wants Joe Lieberman to continue caucusing with the Democrats in the 111th Congress, Senate aides tell the Huffington Post.

Obama’s decision could tie the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has been negotiating to remove Lieberman as chair of the Homeland Security and Government Reform committee while keeping him within the caucus. Lieberman has insisted that he will split from the Democrats if his homeland security position is stripped.

Aides to the president-elect did not return requests for comment. Senate officials were unclear whether Obama would be comfortable with Lieberman maintaining his current committee post.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that he would welcome Lieberman into the GOP, though he has little to offer in terms of committee assignments.

If Lieberman were to continue caucusing with the Democrats without being punished for his campaign conduct — Democrats say he broke a promise not to campaign negatively against Obama — the progressive community will undoubtedly be up in arms. For Obama, however, the move may be a shrewd gesture towards reconciliation, in the process taking a potentially taxing political fight off the table.

Fellow Connecticut Senate Chris Dodd, who has spoken out in favor of Lieberman remaining in the party, explained as much to reporters on Friday:

“What does Barack Obama want?… He’s talked about reconciliation, healing, bringing people together. I don’t think he’d necessarily want to spend the first month of this president-elect period, this transition period, talking about a Senate seat, particularly if someone is willing to come forward and is willing to be a member of your family in the caucus in that sense.”

A Democrat close to Lieberman, meanwhile, said he thought that keeping Lieberman in the fold “would be a good move for Obama as a way to make real his promise of new politics, a less partisan Washington and more unity. He would do so at some risk. Obviously there is a liberal wing of the party that wants Joe punished… ”

There is, perhaps, one measure by which Democratic leadership can still reconcile the competing realities of Lieberman’s future in the caucus. One Democratic aide said that the party was considering letting the Connecticut Senator keep his post at homeland security but forcing him to relinquish one or both of his spots on two more high-profile committees: Armed Services and Environment & Public Works.

Lieberman is in line for leadership roles in both of those committees should the current chairs leave their posts. On Armed Services, the two senators ahead of him are Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. On Environment and Public Works, current chair Barbara Boxer may face a tough reelection campaign in 2010 and second in line, Sen. Max Baucus, already heads another committee.

If Democratic leadership were to keep Lieberman on homeland security but impede any chance of ascending to these other posts, that may be enough to placate progressive activists demanding punishment while keeping the Connecticut Senator in the caucus.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo writes that Bill Clinton has also been “making calls on Sen. Lieberman’s behalf,” something that the Huffington Post later heard from another Hill source.

But Matt McKenna, a spokesman for the former president, vehemently denies the report.

“It’s completely false,” he says.

Source: HP

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Interest in President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration is running so high that one ticket broker is asking $20,095 for a single ticket.

The government has printed 250,000 tickets so far for Barack Obama's presidential inauguration on January 20.

The government has printed 250,000 tickets so far for Barack Obama

The government has printed 250,000 tickets so far for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration on January 20.

Entry to the biggest event in Washington is free if your congressman or senator grants your request, but with demand outpacing supply a traditional giveaway has turned into a thriving online marketplace.

Legitimate ticket brokers — the same companies that peddle tickets to rock concerts and NASCAR races — are selling tickets to the swearing-in of Barack Obama for thousands of dollars, even for standing-room areas on the National Mall.

Organizers of the inauguration say it violates the spirit of the event and could spell disappointment for people who buy tickets for the January 20 ceremony.

“We think it’s absolutely insane to be selling those tickets. We understand some people want to make a buck, but for those people thinking of buying tickets, it’s buyer beware,” warned Howard Gantman, staff director of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies.

Watch why the tickets are going for top dollar » 1 min

The government has printed 250,000 tickets so far, holding them in a secure location. For information on how to get one, check out http://inaugural.senate.gov/.

Ticket brokers act as middlemen, selling inaugural tickets they say they purchase from Capitol Hill employees and people who get them from members of Congress.

Since the government releases tickets at the last minute — less than a week before the inauguration — ticket brokers cannot ensure they will receive enough tickets to cover their orders.

Web sites promise a full refund if tickets are not secured to buyers, but that offer may be little consolation to people who invest in a trip to Washington to see the inauguration.

Since tickets do not have attendees’ names on them, Gantman said it’s inevitable some will be sold.

“Some will be distributed this way. It happens with baseball games and concerts. But we are going to take every step we can to make sure these tickets get into the hands of those who themselves intend to attend this event.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the inauguration committee, said Monday she she was prepared to ask Congress to make it a crime to scalp inauguration tickets.

“We have heard reports that there are people trying to scalp Inaugural tickets for more than $40,000 each. This is unconscionable and must not be allowed,” Feinstein said in a statement.

“This inauguration will be the major civic event of our time, and these tickets are supposed to be free for the people. Nobody should have to pay for their tickets,” she added.

The inaugural committee is alerting lawmakers that it is a violation of Congress’ code of ethics for members or staff to sell their tickets.

Source: CNN