You are currently browsing the daily archive for November 21, 2008.
Backing Obama – with whatever he decides.
All press reports on Hillary as Secretary of State are at the moment pre-mature.
First lady Laura Bush said today that Michelle Obama did not ask for advice when she visited the White House earlier this week with her two daughters.
Instead they discussed closets.
“We talked about is what any women would talk about as one is moving out of a home and somebody is moving in,” the First Lady told “Nightline.”
The White House she noted, has great closets.
Traveling to Panama for her last solo foreign trip as First Lady, Mrs. Bush gave her only television interview to “Nightline.” In a candid and wide-ranging interview to air Monday night she talked about a range of issues, including her meeting with Michelle Obama and her daughters Malia and Shasha.
In fact, one of Mrs. Bush’s twin daughters, Barbara, accompanied Mrs. Bush on the trip and also agreed to a rare interview.
“It was great,” said Barbara Bush of the Obama girls visit. “They’re really sweet and they’re excited, but they also have the same concerns that we had when we were 18 when our dad became President.
“I mean, it’s a huge adjustment, and they’re not used to Secret Service, and they’re not — and they’re switching schools, and they have to make new friends. I mean, we felt… people feel like that regardless of how old they are. So it was really fun to get to meet them and to get to see them being excited about their move, and to get to talk to them about the same things that we had to deal with, regardless of age.”
Barbara said she and her sister Jenna showed the Obama girls the bedrooms they occupied as first daughters.
She and Mrs. Bush both said they imagined the Obama girls would select the same rooms that the Bush girls chose for themselves. They were the “obvious” children’s rooms, said Mrs. Bush.
Asked what her advice to the Obama girls would be, Ms. Bush said, “I think my advice to them is just when they move, just make really good friends and surround themselves with people that will protect them because they love them, regardless.”
“We were lucky” she contined. “We had great friends in Texas, and we were talking with them, and Malia has really good friends that are in fifth grade with her and at home, so they’re going to come visit her. I mean, they’ll be fine. They’re really cute, smart girls. ”
Mrs. Bush reflected on her own children’s lives.
“We really wanted Barbara and Jenna to be able to have a totally normal life, to not take advantage of the so-called podium that they might have, because we wanted them to get to be high school, college-age kids, which they were when we moved there,” she said.
“So it’s, you know, it’s really a balance as you work through the whole idea of how your family can accommodate the publicity and the klieg lights that are on the President of the United States.”
Mrs. Bush said if she was asked for advice she would urge anyone occupying the White House with children to ” err on the side of privacy for children. I think it lets children grow up and make childish mistakes, which, of course, they will out of the limelight. And I think that’s really the best.”
Watch Cynthia McFadden’s interview with First Lady Laura Bush Monday on “Nightline” at 11:35 p.m. ET.
Source: ABC NEWS
I was agnostic on the matter of Hillary Clinton’s possible appointment as secretary of state–until last night.
If Barack Obama, the president-elect, wanted to pull a Team of Rivals play, that had seemed fine to me. And placing Clinton in Foggy Bottom would remove her from the dicey business of passing health care reform. Would it unite the party? Well, judging from the election results, the party is pretty darn united already. Despite the griping of a few Hillaryites at the Democratic convention, her voters certainly swung behind Obama in the general election (see Pennsylvania), after HRC and WJC campaigned for BHO in the fall. Unless an explicit deal was made between Obama and Hillary Clinton, it did not seem that Obama, after bypassing her for veep, had to appoint her anything for the party’s sake. Still, if Obama and his savvy band of advisers thought that handing her one of the best jobs in the Cabinet would generate political benefits they could use to advance their agenda, I, as a non-fan of Hillary Clinton, was willing to say, okay–for what that was worth.
But then this happened: the presidential transition of no-drama Obama became infected by the never-ending soap opera of the Clintons. And it really is time to turn that program off. There are plenty of policy and political reasons for a progressive not to fancy Hillary. She served on the Wal-Mart board when the mega-firm was fighting unions; she screwed up health care reform for almost a generation; she voted wrong on the Iraq war and then refused to acknowledge she had erred. But, worst of all, as the cliché goes, with the Clintons, it always does seem to be about the Clintons.
So we’ve had a week of will-she-or-won’t-she and what-about-him. Couldn’t this have been handled with a little more grace? Maybe not, since it involves the Clintons.
I don’t know how the Obama camp approached the issue. But before Obama met last week with Hillary to talk about this, his team should have done a pre-vetting of Bill. And then Obama, at this meeting, ought to have said something like this to her:
If you might be interested in the State position, there are a few issues that would come up concerning Bill. Let me run through a few. Would he be willing to release the names of his foundation’s donors, as well as those who contribute to his presidential library? Would he be willing to forego contributions and speaking fees from foreign governments, foreign heads of states, and major foreign companies that would have an interest in US foreign policy decisions? Would he be willing to discuss with my national security adviser his foreign travel plans and his foundation’s projects before they are announced and undertaken–and would he be willing to defer to us if we believe they are not appropriate or helpful at the time? I know that these are big things to ask. But given his global activity and standing, there’s not much choice. And if it’s a deal-breaker, I certainly would understand. But before you and I go down this road, we should make sure there are no major obstacles. Can you talk to him and get back to me in a day or two? And, to be helpful, Rahm has come up with a list….
Hillary’s answer would have to have been either (a) of course, or (b) thank you for considering me, but I don’t believe this would be a good fit. Two days would pass, and then the drama–or at least this part of it–could be over.
Today the news is that Bill will do what he can. AP is reporting:
Former President Bill Clinton has offered several concessions to help Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his wife, become secretary of state, people familiar with President-elect Barack Obama’s transition vetting process said Wednesday.
Clinton has agreed to release the names of several major donors to his charitable foundation and will submit future foundation activities and paid speeches to a strict ethics review, said Democrats knowledgeable about the discussions.
They also said that Clinton would step away from day-to-day responsibility for his foundation while his wife serves and would alert the State Department to his speaking schedule and any new sources of income.
Does that take care of it? Note the use of the word “several.” It’s hard not to see some sticking points arising about what is disclosed and when. The negotiations between the Obama camp and the Clinton team are supposedly proceeding smoothly. But why should there be negotiations? And could it end up with news reports saying Bill Clinton is willing to reveal X, but the Obama side wants him to release X plus Y? That is, more drama. According to AP, “One Clinton adviser noted that former President George H.W. Bush has given paid speeches and participated in international business ventures since his son, George W. Bush, has been president–without stirring public complaints or controversy about a possible conflict of interest.” This does raise the suspicion that the Clintonites might not agree to all the necessary limitations. And don’t they–or at least, this aide–understand there’s something of a difference between their case and that of the Bushes (though it was probably not appropriate for Daddy Bush to engage in that activity).
Bottom-line: if HRC came fuss-free, then maybe there’d be no reason to kick up a fuss about her appointment. Yet that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.
But there’s another issue to consider, one that has been overshadowed by the drama: if she runs the State Department in a fashion similar to how she managed her campaign, then the country will be in trouble. Her spinners went beyond the boundaries of fair and reasonable spinning. Her team was a snake pit of competitive aides. She did not master the art of refereeing internal disputes. She signed off on strategic blunders. Hers was not a steady hand.
Perhaps that’s the better argument against her. Being secretary of state isn’t just about giving speeches and touring the world as a celebrity, it’s about managing (and now reviving) the creaky and beleaguered foreign policy apparatus of the United States. And Clinton’s résumé is not strong on that front.
Source: Mother Jones
The initial reports of Attorney General Mukasey’s collapse last night sounded very grim. But his friends and family must now be breathing a deep sigh of relief. According to a Justice Department statement just moments ago, doctors at George Washington University Hospital gave him various stress and cardiac tests overnight. And they all came up normal. So they appear to have ruled out a stroke or cardiac event. And they expect he’ll be released from the hospital later today.
By DAVID BROOKS
Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).
This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.
Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C. that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.
And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.
The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.
Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders.
Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton inches toward becoming secretary of state, Latino advocates are asking: Whither Bill Richardson?
The New Mexico governor has been the best hope for a Latino to land a high-ranking post in the new administration. But Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and energy secretary, appears to have lost out to Clinton — although he could land another Cabinet post, perhaps at Interior.
Still, anxiety is running high among Latino leaders because Obama has yet to name a Latino to a top White House or Cabinet position. This is on the minds of senior transition officials — including Obama’s designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel — who are said to be considering Latino candidates for several Cabinet posts.
“The Obama transition team and the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, understand the role that the Latino vote played in this election, and I think we will see representation in the Obama Cabinet and at the White House,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a member of the House Democratic leadership, said he has been forwarding the names of Latino candidates “for every type of position you can think of in the federal government, from Cabinet on down.”
“We can remember the days when people said we had no applications, or there’s no one qualified,” Becerra said. “Everyone understands that the days of excuses are over.”
Becerra, who’s been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary, said he is “not looking” for an administration job.
At least four Latino candidates are said to be under consideration to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Adolfo Carrion Jr., a longtime New York pol, and Bronx borough president; Saul Ramirez Jr., a former deputy HUD secretary; and Nelson A. Diaz, who has been a judge and a HUD general counsel.
As for Richardson, Murguia suggested he could serve as secretary of commerce or the interior. “Perhaps there’s an ambassador role to China,” she added.
BOSTON (Reuters) – Passions flared in a Maine town on Thursday over a sign in a store asking customers to place bets on an assassination of President-elect Barack Obama.
The Town Council in Standish condemned the sign on Thursday in a 6-0 vote and declared it reprehensible at a meeting where some residents defended the store owner, saying he had a right to free speech even if in bad taste, local authorities said.
“The town of Standish condemns in the strongest terms any such alleged activity calling for violence against any individual no matter their position, race or ethnicity,” said the resolution posted on the town’s website.
The sign in the Oak Hill General Store asked customers to place a $1 bet on the date of Obama’s assassination, and said “Let’s hope someone wins,” the Portland Press Herald reported. It was called the “Osama Obama Shotgun Pool.”
The store in the town of 9,285 people in southwest Maine has remained closed since reports of the sign appeared in the media on Sunday.
About 80 people attended the meeting, including some who defended the store owner, said town clerk Mary Chapman.
“There were folks on both sides of the issue,” Chapman said in a telephone interview. “People were passionate of their opinion but very respectful of others.”
Obama’s historic election victory as the nation’s first black president has sparked racist incidents nationwide, according to groups that monitor hate crimes.
Obama, an Illinois senator, won the November 4 presidential contest in Maine over Republic Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has reduced the size of her presidential campaign debt to less than $7.5 million as of Nov. 1, according to campaign finance reports filed Thursday.
The documents show Clinton raised nearly $690,000 in October, a minor sum compared with the $218 million she amassed in her failed presidential bid.
Of the $7.5 million owed to vendors, nearly $5.4 million was to her former adviser and pollster, Mark Penn. Clinton owed vendors a high of $12 million at the end of June. That was the month she abandoned her presidential campaign and ceded the Democratic nomination to now President-elect Barack Obama.
The amount she owes Penn has been her longest outstanding debt.
She also lent herself nearly $13.2 million. Under federal law Clinton can only repay herself $250,000 with private donations. The report also showed that she had nearly $1 million cash on hand at the end of October.
Obama is considering Clinton for secretary of state. As a Cabinet member Clinton would face fundraising restrictions to retire her vendor debt.
A 2001 advisory opinion by the federal Office of Special Counsel said a federal employee who still had a campaign debt would be prohibited from “personally soliciting, accepting or receiving political contributions.”
Clinton could name an agent from her campaign committee to continue to organize and hold fundraising events to retire the debt. Clinton would be limited to attending a fundraising event and simply stating her appreciation to donors.
There is definitely something raw about that lady!!
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told CNN Thursday that he is excited about the possibility of heading Health and Human Services in an Obama administration where he would be a point person in helping to reform the nation’s healthcare system.
Daschle, a close advisor to President-elect Barack Obama, is expected to be nominated for this Cabinet-level position if he passes the vetting process. His top priority as HHS secretary would be healthcare, one of Obama’s signature policy issues during the campaign.
“I hope to have the plan enacted by next year, and then it will take several years to implement,” said Daschle, as he waited to board a plane in Washington, DC bound for Obama’s hometown of Chicago.
When asked if the U.S., in this current economic climate, could afford to reform the healthcare system, Daschle said it is imperative.
“We can’t afford not to do it,” he said. “If we do nothing, we’ll be paying twice as much on healthcare in 10 years as we do today.”
Daschle served as Democratic leader in the Senate from 1995 until he lost reelection in 2004. Representing South Dakota, Daschle was first elected as a congressman in 1978 and served in the House until he was elected to the Senate in 1986.
Daschle recently authored a book on healthcare titled “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”
Source: CNN PoliticalTicker
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The Republican Party has hit a new low.
Just 34 percent of Americans in a Gallup Poll released Thursday say they have a favorable view of the party, down 40 percent from a month ago, before the election.
What’s worse: 61 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party.
According to Gallup, that unfavorable rating is the highest the polling organization has recorded for the GOP since the measure was established in 1992.
The poll of national adults was conducted on November 13-16 with a three percent margin of error.
The numbers are slightly up from a CNN poll released last week that indicated a 54 percent unfavorable rating for Republicans. Only 38 percent of those polled had a favorable rating for the party.
Meanwhile, Democrats continue to bask in the glow of President-elect Barack Obama’s historic victory on November 4. The Gallup poll suggests that 55 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party, with 39 percent saying they have an unfavorable view. Those numbers are mostly unchanged from a mid-October survey.
As the debate rages within GOP ranks over where to take the party, the poll might offer some guidance.
Most Republicans — 59 percent — want the party to become more conservative, according to the poll. Another 28 percent want it to remain about the same ideologically, while only 12 percent would prefer to see the Republican Party become less conservative.
Independents are split on whether the party should track left or right: 35 percent of independent voters say the GOP should become more conservative, and 35 percent say less conservative.
WASHINGTON — In a propaganda salvo by Al Qaeda aimed at undercutting the enthusiasm of Muslims worldwide about the American election, Osama bin Laden’s top deputy condemned President-elect Barack Obama as a “house Negro” who would continue a campaign against Islam that Al Qaeda’s leaders said was begun by President Bush.
Appealing to the “weak and oppressed” around the world, the Qaeda deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, said in a video released Wednesday that the “new face” of America only masked a “heart full of hate.”
For years, the terrorist network sought to fuel anti-Americanism with prolific audio and video recordings vilifying President Bush as the leading American “crusader” against Muslim nations. The election of Mr. Obama, a black man who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia and whose father was from a Muslim family, has muddied Al Qaeda’s message.
The Qaeda leader described the victory by Mr. Obama, who has called for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, as the American people’s “admission of defeat in Iraq.” But he warned Mr. Obama that the United States risked a reprise of the Soviet Union’s failures in Afghanistan if the president-elect followed through on pledges to deploy thousands more troops to Afghanistan to carry on the fight against Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies.
And in a blunt personal attack on the incoming president, Mr. Zawahri painted Mr. Obama as a hypocrite and a traitor to his race, comparing him unfavorably with “honorable black Americans” like Malcolm X, the 1960s black Muslim leader.
The Qaeda video, provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant Web sites, drew extensively on archival film of Malcolm X, and much of the message juxtaposes a still picture of Mr. Obama wearing a yarmulke during a visit to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with a photo of Malcolm X kneeling in prayer at a mosque.
The video shows Malcolm X speaking about the docile “house Negro,” who he said “always looked out for his master,” and the “field Negro,” who was abused by whites and was more rebellious. The video also insulted two prominent black diplomats, the former and current secretaries of state, Colin L. Powell and Condoleezza Rice.
“And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him) concerning ‘house Negroes’ are confirmed,” Mr. Zawahri said, according to an English-language transcript, which SITE says was provided by As-Sahab, a Qaeda media outlet that produced the video. In the original Arabic, according to SITE, the words used are “house slave.”
The video by Mr. Zawahri, an Egyptian doctor who has long been Al Qaeda’s second-ranking operative, contains no specific warning of an attack against the United States. But he tells his followers that America “continues to be the same as ever, so we must continue to harm it, in order for it to come to its senses.”
American officials said they believed that the video was authentic.
American antiterrorism officials and other experts dismissed the video as a desperate tactic by a terrorist group that suffered a defeat in the global war of ideas with Mr. Obama’s election.
A letter with Gov. Sarah Palin’s image is part of a direct mail campaign by the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
Gov. Sarah Palin is personally inviting Americans from all over the country to visit her home state. Well, sort of. Letters bearing her picture, on letterhead that reads “Office of the Governor” and encouraging people to sign up for a free Alaska travel guide, have begun reappearing in mailboxes around the nation as part of an appeal from the Alaska Travel Industry Association.
The tourism campaign started in August, but it was suspended because of Ms. Palin’s candidacy, only to ramp up again after the election. The letters, bearing Ms. Palin’s picture, cannot help but elevate her already high political profile.
“This is nothing new that we’ve been doing,” said Ron Peck, president and chief operating officer of the A.T.I.A., adding that the trade organization has been sending out notes from the state’s governors for 20 years. The direct mail campaign was originally designed and approved in the spring, according to Bill McCalister, Ms. Palin’s communications director.
Nonetheless, that August mailing had a 20 percent higher response rate after Ms. Palin’s nomination, which Mr. Peck said was “absolutely” related to her newly elevated profile. “I believe that’s a big reason,” he said.
But Ms. Palin’s star power isn’t likely to prompt a mass pilgrimage to Alaska, especially given the current economic concerns, Mr. Peck cautioned. “Planning for a trip to Alaska sometimes is a year, two years in advance” process, he said. “So we’re excited about the fact that responses are up, but that doesn’t necessarily relate to travel.”
An Obama transition official tells NBC News that they’ve received more than 200,000 work applications through the official transition web site, www.change.gov. since it went operational shortly after the election.
The same official points out: “There was an incredible amout of enthusiasm in the campaign and people all across the country are carrying that same energy into the transition.”
And they don’t seem terribly surprised by the influx of applications coming their way — pointing out, after all, that more than three million people donated money to the campaign.
Still, that’s quite a stack of resumes.