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CHICAGO – In an unwavering statement of innocence, Gov. Rod Blagojevich said Friday he will be vindicated of criminal corruption charges and has no intention of letting what he called a “political lynch mob” force him from his job.

“I will fight. I will fight. I will fight until I take my last breath. I have done nothing wrong,” Blagojevich said, speaking for about three minutes in his first substantial public comments since his arrest last week on federal corruption charges.

The Democrat is accused, among other things, of plotting to sell or trade President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat in secretly recorded phone conversations.

“I’m not going to quit a job the people hired me to do because of false accusations and a political lynch mob,” Blagojevich said.

Still, one of the governor’s attorneys said Blagojevich will take his constituents into account as the case moves forward.

“He told me if it doesn’t work, if it is too hard if the people of Illinois suffer, he will step aside,” attorney Sam Adam, Jr., after the governor finished speaking.

Itching to talk
Blagojevich had been itching to talk, saying he wanted to tell his side of the story even though his lead defense attorney, Ed Genson, didn’t like the idea. On Friday, Blagojevich asked Illinoisans to “sit back and take a deep breath, and please reserve judgment.”

“Afford me the same rights that you and your children have — the presumption of innocence, the right to defend yourself,” said the governor, who said he wants to “answer every allegation” in court.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House took the first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a committee to recommend whether he should be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.

“We’re going to proceed with all due speed, but we’re going to make sure that what we do is done correctly,” said Speaker Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The Senate then would rule on the charges.

Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from his power to appoint a replacement for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.

The governor, who remains defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan’s announcement.

“Impeachment talk’s nothing new for this governor,” Guerrero said. “They’ve been talking about it for a long time.”


Indeed, Madigan said Monday his staff has been reviewing the legal possibilities for impeachment for about a year. His office produced a memo earlier this year outlining all the arguments legislative candidates could make in favor of impeachment.

Blagojevich’s administration has been under a federal corruption investigation for years.

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The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

The 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid will get 39 miles per gallon.

It is worth mentioning that auto CEO’s did give Congress assurance that they would not use this bailout money to sue states over their emission standards. It is a big about turn for the auto industry – almost everything they have been against now they have to be – for, one of the auto CEO’s did say that they thought electric cars were the way forward – as everyone has a plug – hybrid-electric is a good step, until battery life improves – at the moment we have car batteries that can go 240 miles without recharging – but they are heavy – and they weigh a tonne literally – though there is car battery technology being developed in Japan (always Japan) that is half the weight 450 lbs – their car companies quite sensibly work with the battery companies – the Japanese are also working on bringing down recharging times to about a half an hour.

Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.

Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they’re also upset the bailout doesn’t ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.

“We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency,” says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.

“The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January.”

INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A state-by-state look at auto industry jobs

What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.

Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We’re very disappointed.”

Still, even though they aren’t getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient cars. As Congress debated the bailout bill Wednesday, Ford showed off its 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid in Marina del Rey, Calif., and said that at 39 miles per gallon, it will be the highest-mileage midsize car.

“We’re going squarely after the imports with this,” says Frank Davis, executive director for North American product. The goal: “not only to compete but lead.” It’s exactly the pitch that Detroit needs to win the hearts of a skeptical Congress and American public, and the environmental lobby. Ford has not asked for loans now. General Motors and Chrysler say they need loans to stave off bankruptcy filings.

While it makes a play for environmentalists, the new hybrid will also be aimed at being a commercial success for Ford. Davis says it should add up to 25,000 sales of Fusions a year. While pricing isn’t set, the hybrid system is 30% less expensive than the last generation, like that in the Ford Escape hybrid SUV.

Ford plans to spend $14 billion in the U.S. on advanced technologies and products to improve fuel economy in the next seven years, it told Congress in the business plan it submitted as part of the bailout consideration. It plans a pure electric sedan by 2011.

Source: USA Today

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The House of Representatives handily passed a bill Wednesday night that would provide up to $14 billion in bridge loans to automakers, but Republican opposition cast doubt about the bill’s fate in the Senate later this week.

The U.S. House approved an auto bailout package Wednesday, but it could hit a roadblock in the Senate.

The stopgap measure, approved by a vote of 237 to 170, is designed to let the new Congress and incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama craft a long-term solution. It would also give the companies time to negotiate with creditors and the United Auto Workers union on additional concessions needed to stem their ongoing losses.

Thirty-two GOP representatives voted with 205 Democrats in support of the bill while 20 Democrats and 150 Republicans opposed the bill.

In Michigan, the home of the three major U.S. automakers — Chrysler, Ford and General Motors — eight Republicans joined the six Democrats in the state’s delegation in voting for the measure. A ninth Michigan Republican, Timothy Walberg, did not vote.

Seven other Republicans that voted for the bill are from nearby Midwestern states that are also home to auto plants. However, outside of the auto belt, the bailout had little Republican support.

Even Democrats couldn’t come to complete agreement on the bill, with House and Senate Democrats going their separate ways on one of the criteria the “car czar” must consider in determining an auto company’s long-term viability plan.

House Democrats used language requiring that autos meet stricter “applicable” fuel efficiency and emissions standards — which would cover consideration of state standards such as those adopted in California and New York — while the Senate version of the bill calls for vehicles to meet “federal” standards, which are not as high as some state benchmarks.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN that Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday morning that the bill would never pass the Senate with the House language.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wanted the higher efficiency standard so that liberal Democrats who are not inclined to help the auto manufacturers would feel they had assurances that these companies would adopt and make more fuel-efficient cars, according to House Democratic aides.

However, even if language about the fuel efficiency standards is resolved, Senate Republicans still aren’t likely to flock behind the bill.

“I don’t think the votes are there on our side of the aisle,” reported Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, one of few vocal Republican backers of the bill.

“It’s not gonna pass right now,” echoed Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, a fierce critic of the bill.

Voinovich and Shelby spoke after Senate Republicans huddled behind closed doors in the Capitol on Wednesday to weigh the merits of the bailout. Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten attended the meeting — called “spirited” by one senator — to sell the bill the White House negotiated with congressional Democrats.

Several senators said they were concerned the so-called “car czar,” created by the legislation, would not have enough power to force the troubled automakers to restructure to become profitable.

“I have concerns about the power of the czar,” said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minnesota, a moderate who Democrats have hoped would vote for the bill, “that he actually has some real power. And I think that’s a concern a lot of my colleagues have right now.”

“The car czar needs the authority to create a de facto structured bankruptcy. Not consulting. Not calling meetings. He needs the capacity of a master of bankruptcy to force things to happen,” said Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah.

Some senators oppose any assistance to the automakers, saying they should file for bankruptcy, but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino pointed out that many lawmakers from both sides of the aisle believe that allowing “a disorderly bankruptcy could be fatal to U.S. automakers and have devastating impacts on jobs, families and our economy.”

“As a result, they also agree we should find a way to foster the companies’ restructuring so that they can become viable and profitable,” she said. “We believe the legislation developed in recent days is an effective and responsible approach to deal with troubled automakers and ensure the necessary restructuring occurs.”

Other senators said they were concerned that the carmakers might never pay taxpayers back for the loans, meant to keep General Motors and Chrysler afloat until they can finalize a long-term viability plan — by March 31, according to the legislation.

GM has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the month to continue operations, and believes it’ll need an additional $6 billion in the first three months of 2009. Chrysler has said it needs $4 billion by the end of the first quarter.

Ford, which has more cash on hand than its U.S. rivals, is not expected to tap into this bailout in the coming months.

Source: CNN

By David Horowitz

The continuing efforts of a fringe group of conservatives to deny Obama his victory and to lay the basis for the claim that he is not a legitimate president is embarrassing and destructive. The fact that these efforts are being led by Alan Keyes, a demagogue who lost a Senate election to the then-unknown Obama by 42 points, should be a warning in itself.


This tempest over whether Obama, the child of an American citizen, was born on American soil is tantamount to the Democrats’ seditious claim that Bush “stole” the election in Florida and hence was not the legitimate president. This delusion helped to create the Democrats’ Bush derangement syndrome and encouraged Democratic leaders to lie about the origins of the Iraq war, and regard it as illegitimate as Bush himself. It became “Bush’s War” rather than an American War — with destructive consequences for our troops and our cause.

The birth-certificate zealots are essentially arguing that 64 million voters should be disenfranchised because of a contested technicality as to whether Obama was born on U.S. soil. (McCain narrowly escaped the problem by being born in the Panama Canal zone, which is no longer American.)

What difference does it make to the future of this country whether Obama was born on U.S. soil? Advocates of this destructive campaign will argue that the constitutional principle regarding the qualifications for president trumps all others. But how viable will our Constitution be if five Supreme Court justices should decide to void 64 million ballots?

Conservatives are supposed to respect the organic nature of human societies. Ours has been riven by profound disagreements that have been deepening over many years. We are divided not only about political facts and social values, but also about what the Constitution itself means. The crusaders on this issue choose to ignore these problems and are proposing to deny the will of 64 million voters by appealing to five Supreme Court Justices (since no one is delusional enough to think that the four liberal justices are going to take the presidency away from Obama). What kind of conservatism is this?

It is not conservatism; it is sore loserism and quite radical in its intent. Respect for election results is one of the most durable bulwarks of our unity as a nation. Conservatives need to accept the fact that we lost the election, and get over it; and get on with the important business of reviving our country’s economy and defending its citizens, and — by the way — its Constitution.

Source: NRO

New York State Democratic Party sources tell NBC News that Caroline Kennedy has expressed interest in the New York Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton.

She is known to have discussed the upcoming vacancy with New York Gov. David Paterson, who will be appointing the next senator to serve the remaining two years in Clinton’s term once she becomes Secretary of State.

Appointing Caroline Kennedy to the seat once held by her uncle Robert would be a very popular choice politically for Paterson, who is under pressure to replace Clinton with a woman.

The Kennedy name on the ballot could help Paterson’s 2010 reelection chances. Paterson became governor after Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign during a prostitution scandal.

Caroline Kennedy would also have an advantage in being able to raise money for the very expensive New York Senate contest.

Other contenders — if Kennedy is not chosen — include be congress members Kirsten Gillibrand (from an Upstate district) and Carolyn Maloney (NYC), Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is also a possible contender.

Kennedy’s cousin — Robert Jr., an environmentalist, has taken himself out of contention

Source: msnbc

(CNN) — President-elect Barack Obama formally announced Sunday that retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki is his pick to be secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Retired Gen. Eric Shinseki Sunday promised to work for veterans “each and every day.”

“There is no one more distinguished, more determined, or more qualified to build this VA than the leader I am announcing as our next secretary of Veterans Affairs — General Eric Shinseki,” Obama said at a press conference. “No one will ever doubt that this former Army chief of staff has the courage to stand up for our troops and our veterans. No one will ever question whether he will fight hard enough to make sure they have the support they need.”

Obama said the nation must focus on helping troops who have served their country especially during bad economic times.

“We don’t just need to better serve veterans of today’s wars. We also need to build a 21st century VA that will better serve all who have answered our nation’s call,” Obama said. “That means cutting red tape and easing transition into civilian life. And it means eliminating shortfalls, fully funding VA health care, and providing the benefits our veterans have earned.

Shinseki, who spoke after Obama, made a vow to his fellow veterans. If confirmed, he said, he will “work each and every day” to ensure the nation is serving them “as well as you have served us.”

The official announcement took place in Chicago on Sunday, the anniversary of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

“When I reflect on the sacrifices that have been made by our veterans and I think about how so many veterans around the country are struggling even more than those who have not served — higher unemployment rates, higher homeless rates, higher substance abuse rates, medical care that is inadequate — it breaks my heart,” Obama said earlier in the day on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“And I think that General Shinseki is exactly the right person who’s going to be able to make sure that we honor our troops when they come home.”

“He has agreed that he is willing to be part of this administration because both he and I share a reverence for those who serve,” Obama said in the interview recorded Saturday and broadcast Sunday.

Host Tom Brokaw said Shinseki had lost his job in the Bush administration “because he said that we would need more troops in Iraq than the secretary of defense, Don Rumsfeld, thought that we would need at that time.”

“He was right,” Obama replied.

Veterans groups appeared to support the selection.

“I am excited. I don’t know him personally but this is a huge move,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

For years, Shinseki, a highly decorated Vietnam veteran, has been cited as an example by Pentagon critics who say the former Army chief’s sage advice was ignored in 2003, resulting in too few U.S. troops being sent to Iraq after the invasion.

Shinseki testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2003 that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers would be required” to pacify the country. The comment infuriated some Bush administration officials, and he retired just a few months later.

Shinseki has never spoken publicly about his testimony, which has often been cited by critics as evidence that Rumsfeld ignored the advice of one of his key generals.

But as Army chief of staff, Shinseki was not in the chain of command, and played no direct role in drawing up the war plans.

Pentagon sources say that, in fact, Shinseki never advocated higher troop levels for Iraq, in part because it was not his job to do so. And sources say that just before the invasion, when asked by then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers if he agreed with the war plans, Shinseki voiced no objections.

Still, Rieckhoff said, “Shinseki is a guy who had a career putting patriotism above politics. He is a wounded veteran so he understands the plight of veterans.”

He said Shinseki would have to make key connections with the veterans community, adding, “This is a big name and it shows that he (Obama) is not going to treat the Veterans Affairs secretary as a low priority.”

John Rowan, president of Vietnam Veterans of America, called the reported pick an “interesting choice.”

“I am satisfied with it,” Rowan told CNN on Saturday, adding that the choice seems to be in the Obama transition team’s pattern of “bringing in strong personalities into all the positions who aren’t going to ‘yes’ him to death.”

“When Shinseki had his disagreements with the administration, he wasn’t afraid to speak up,” Rowan said.

Veterans for Common Sense also weighed in, issuing a statement “strongly” supporting Shinseki.

“In February 2003, General Shinseki honestly and correctly assessed our nation’s military needs before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003,” the statement said. “This same level of candor and honesty will serve President-elect Obama well so he can quickly and accurately identify VA’s many challenges and then implement responsible solutions that take into consideration our veterans’ needs and concerns.”

Source: CNN

Project Would Be the Largest Since the Interstate System

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

President-elect Barack Obama shakes hands with Florida Governor Charlie Crist as Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich looks on during a bipartisan meeting

On the heels of more grim unemployment news, President-elect Barack Obama yesterday offered the first glimpse of what would be the largest public works program since President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the federal interstate system in the 1950s.

Obama said the massive government spending program he proposes to lift the country out of economic recession will include a renewed effort to make public buildings energy-efficient, rebuild the nation’s highways, renovate aging schools and install computers in classrooms, extend high-speed Internet to underserved areas and modernize hospitals by giving them access to electronic medical records.

“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,” Obama said in his weekly address, broadcast on the radio and the Internet.

Obama offered few details and no cost estimate for the investment in public infrastructure. But it is intended to be part of a broader effort to stimulate economic activity that will also include tax cuts for middle-class Americans and direct aid to state governments to forestall layoffs as programs shrink.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called for spending between $400 billion and $500 billion on the overall package. Some Senate Democrats and other economists have suggested spending even more — potentially $1 trillion — in the hope of jolting the economy into shape more quickly.

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Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao (right) hugs Rep. Steve Scalise after defeating Rep. William Jefferson for a House seat.

Republican Anh 'Joseph' Cao (right) hugs Rep. Steve Scalise after defeating Rep. William Jefferson for a House seat.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Voters in Louisiana ousted indicted Democratic Rep. William Jefferson on Saturday, instead electing a Republican attorney who will be the first Vietnamese-American in Congress.

Unofficial results showed Anh “Joseph” Cao denying Jefferson a 10th term. Republicans made an aggressive push to take the seat from the 61-year-old incumbent, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, laundering money and misusing his congressional office.

Cao, 41, won a predominantly black and heavily Democratic district that covers most of New Orleans.

A barrage of election-day automated telephone calls on Cao’s behalf flooded the district, including a pitch from the national Republican Party.

New Orleans voters had long been loyal to Jefferson, re-electing him in 2006 even after news of the bribery scandal broke. Late-night TV comics made him the butt of jokes after federal agents said they found $90,000 in alleged bribe money hidden in his freezer.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, shown with his wife, Dr. Andrea Green-Jefferson, was expected to win re-election Saturday in a race delayed by Hurricane Gustav.

Rep. William J. Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, shown with his wife, Dr. Andrea Green-Jefferson, was expected to win re-election Saturday in a race delayed by Hurricane Gustav.

“People are innocent until proven guilty,” said Faye Leggins, 54, an educator and Democrat who moved back to the city six months ago and still has fresh memories of Hurricane Katrina. She voted for Jefferson on Saturday. “He has enough seniority, so he can do a lot to redevelop this city.”

But Republicans argued the scandal had cost Jefferson his clout in Congress. Election Day brought excitement to the state’s usually low-key Vietnamese-American community, said David Nguyen, 45, a store manager and Cao supporter.

“The Vietnamese aren’t much into politics,” he said.

Turnout appeared light in the district, where two-thirds of voters are Democrats and 11 percent are Republicans. More than 60 percent are black.

Though he was the underdog, Cao received endorsements from some Democrat and green-conscious groups as well as the area’s Vietnamese-American community. Cao came to the United States as a child after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and went on to earn degrees in philosophy, physics and law.

The election was one of two in Louisiana postponed because of Hurricane Gustav.

In western Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, Republican physician John Fleming defeated Democratic district attorney Paul Carmouche in a very close race to replace U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, a 10-term Republican who is retiring. Fleming had 48 percent of the vote to Carmouche’s 47 percent. Two minor candidates split the remaining vote.



Both candidates had help from national heavyweights. President-elect Barack Obama recorded a radio ad for Carmouche, while Vice President Dick Cheney helped Fleming with fundraising.

The national GOP also backed Cao, an immigration lawyer, with a barrage of advertising portraying Jefferson as corrupt.

Prosecutors contend Jefferson used his influence as chairman of the congressional Africa Investment and Trade Caucus to broker deals in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and other African nations on behalf of those who bribed him.

The 2007 indictment claims Jefferson received more than $500,000 in bribes and demanded millions more between 2000 and 2005, including the $90,000 found in the freezer of his Washington home.

No trial date has been set for Jefferson, who became Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction when he took office in 1991.

He also faced the Green Party candidate Malik Rahim and Libertarian Gregory W. Kahn in the race.

Source: Washington Times

We sat in on a meeting of the Transition’s Health Policy Team to introduce you to some of the team’s members and give you a feel for how they make decisions — and Senator Tom Daschle, the leader of the team, sat down to tell us how he plans to tackle health care.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss wins the runoff in Georgia, denying the Dems a filibuster-proof majority. Saxby’s win reinforces McCain’s Georgia win and the GOP inroads into the South in the 2008 presidential election

Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — Bill Richardson’s nomination as Commerce secretary won’t satisfy top Latino lawmakers, who sent President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office a letter yesterday afternoon recommending a slate of 14 Hispanics for the remaining eight Cabinet slots.


“We’d definitely be disappointed,” if Richardson, 61, a former energy secretary and United Nations ambassador, were the lone Latino in Obama’s Cabinet, said California Representative Joe Baca, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He warned that Obama’s legislative agenda could be jeopardized if the president-elect doesn’t nominate additional Hispanics.

“If it’s just one, he’s going to have to answer to a lot of the issues that come before us,” Baca said in an interview.

There could be one more appointment soon. Two Democrats close to Obama’s transition office said that Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, has been offered the job of U.S. trade representative. The two Democrats didn’t say Becerra, 50, will accept the post.

Obama’s victories in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, all states carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, was “in large measure because of Hispanic support,” said Representative Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat. Election-day exit polls of Latinos gave Obama a 2-to-1 advantage on Nov. 4.

Obama is expected to announce Richardson’s selection today in Chicago, a Democratic official said.

Becerra, who once declared U.S. trade policy was “broken completely,” would take part in global trade talks, negotiate with China on product-safety issues and possibly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Caucus Recommendations

The Hispanic Caucus letter recommends Colorado Representative John Salazar for agriculture secretary, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for Housing and Urban Development secretary and Texas Assemblyman Rick Noriega for veterans’ affairs secretary, among others.

Baca described the letter, sent to transition director John Podesta, as the “the beginning of demonstrating that we are ones to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly.” Baca and Gonzalez signed the letter on behalf of the 21-member caucus.

Richardson is the highest-profile Latino elected official in the U.S. Before being elected as governor of New Mexico in 2002 and winning a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.

Endorsed Obama

Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.

For several weeks, Baca and Gonzalez led a group of 10 lawmakers to create a list for Obama’s transition team, which was approved by a required two-thirds of the caucus members.

“We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” wrote Baca and Gonzalez. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent, while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”

Baca expects Obama to improve upon the two Hispanics that Presidents Clinton and Bush had in their Cabinets. “We’ll start with two and then work for three,” he said. “But it’s got to be more than what we’ve had.”

Bush, Clinton Picks

Bush began his first term with Mel Martinez serving as Housing and Urban Development secretary and Alberto Gonzales as his White House counsel. In his second term, Bush promoted Gonzales to attorney general and had Carlos Gutierrez as his commerce secretary.

Clinton started off with Henry Cisneros at HUD and Federico Pena as transportation secretary and then later as his energy secretary, until Pena was replaced by Richardson.

Gonzalez said he was “confident” that Obama will select additional Hispanics for his Cabinet, insisting that “the process is still in play.” He cheered the choices of Louis Caldera to head the White House Military Affairs Office and Cecilia Munoz as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

Other Latino lawmakers, while insisting that Hispanics deserved credit for the Democrats’ victory, said they weren’t focused on Obama’s final Cabinet tally. Representative Linda Sanchez, who left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2006 but was still recommended the group as a potential labor secretary, said “for me it’s not a numbers game.”

She criticized Baca for “speaking a little hastily,” in setting down firm demands that Obama appoint more than two Hispanics. Baca is “very strident and he’s very passionate,” about wanting to ensconce Hispanics in influential positions.

Clinton Alumni

Republicans, meanwhile, had their own criticism of the Richardson pick. “Nothing says change like picking the Clinton administration’s energy secretary and UN representative to be commerce secretary,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman at the Republican National Committee.

Obama already has tapped top officials from the Clinton administration, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be his White House economic director, former Treasury official Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary, and Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, who was a special adviser to Bill Clinton, as his chief of staff. Obama also picked Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.

“Obama’s Cabinet is starting to look like a Clinton administration reunion,” Conant said.

Source: Bloomberg


saxbychambliss ATLANTA, Dec 2 (Reuters) – Republican U.S. 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.

Chambliss, the incumbent, defeated Democrat Jim Martin for the seat in a race that gained national significance because Democrats and their independent allies held 58 of the 100 seats in the Senate after the Nov. 4 election. One seat in Minnesota is subject to a recount.

The net at Risk (1 / 9)

Quite an interesting series of videos – if you are interested in net neutrality.

ebay-mccain-whitmanLuckily Obama is for net neutrality – to gain a quick over view of the subject watch this video here Telecoms basically want to slice and dice the internet up into corporate interests. Like for example you would be able to access eBay easier than you could access google, if they had their way.

ebay-mccain Likely Meg Whitman of eBay – would not be for net neutrality – if you look at the example below eBay is on the premier corporate internet package – she is clearly in the in crowd. If McCain would have won – you can see Meg Whitman was well placed to implement policy against net neutrality – if she wished – more it would have been taking advantage McCain’s lack of technological knowledge – here’s a man who’s never sent an email – or when questioned about the reason American cell phone technology is so far behind South Korean – McCain denied this and said well – anyway I’ll take American technology over Korean any day! Clueless and ripe for plunder – by techno hawks – like Meg Whitman looking for unfair advantage over the internet. Tried and failed with Romney – slipped herself right in there with Mccain.


Alan Colmes leaving...

Alan Colmes leaving...

During this election period Sean Hannity’s commentating verged on kooky – so much so I tuned out – Colmes offered some restraint ~ whenever he could get a word in – but at times you could almost feel the tension between the two men. Sean Hannity was an example of how extreme the Republicans had become – and likely why they lost their intellectuals – and ultimately the election.

Sean Hannity will go it alone for the foreseeable future.

The liberal half of Fox News Channel’s longest-running show “Hannity & Colmes” is taking a break. Alan Colmes’ departure reportedly means that the conservative host, Hannity, will take over for the full hour of the show.

Colmes is expected to stay with the show through to the end of the year. At that time, Colmes will become a commentator for the conservative cable newser. He is also developing a potential weekend program for the “We Report, You Decide” network.

“H & C” ranks second at FNC for viewers behind “The O’Reilly Factor.” We told you recently how O’Reilly is slowly becoming spokesperson for the network, which also acquired Glenn Beck and lost E.D. Hill.

Source: Examiner


turkey.jpgThis Thanksgiving, progressives have a lot to be thankful for. Here’s our list:

We’re thankful we’ll soon have a president who will hit the ground running instead of a president who is running the country into the ground.

We’re thankful that Keith Olbermann andRachel Maddow are demonstrating every night how strong and intelligent progressive voices can be successful on TV.

We’re thankful we live in a center-left America rather than “Hannity’s America.”

We’re thankful John McCain has more time to spend in the houses he owns…even if he can’t remember them all.

We’re thankful Sarah Palin has more time to watch over Russia and warn us in case Vladimir Putin ever “rears his head.”

We’re thankful that we’re moving closer towards a complete withdrawal from Iraq.

We’re thankful for the thousands of protesters who took to the streets across America to push for marriage equality.

We’re not thankful for neo-McCarthysneo-Hooversneo-Nazis, and neocons.

We’re thankful for Tina Fey.

We’re thankful to be liberal hacks.

We’re not thankful for hack operatives burrowing into career civil service jobs.

We’re more thankful for Vice President Joe Biden and “Morning Joe” than Joe Lieberman and “Joe the Plumber.”

We’re thankful that our troops will be able to get the education they so richly deserve.

We’re thankful for the “Mustache of Justice,” “Rahmbo,” “Axe,” and “Skippy.”

We’re thankful that reality still has a liberal bias.

We’re thankful that there are only 54 days left until the end of the George W. Bush presidency.

We’re thankful for the progressive mandate to govern.

Happy Thanksgiving!



liberal/progressive/terrorist! This is the first Thanksgiving in eight years where you represent the political majority. Because you know who voted with you? Oh, just fifty-three percent of the United States of America. HELL YEAH! Who’s a member of the fringe lunatic this holiday season? Not you!

But what happens if your right-wing relatives still want to debate the outcome of the election? Defang your conservative loved ones with these ten helpful facts!:


     President-elect Obama won by 8 million votes.   

President Bush is probably drinking again.

Many media conservatives are furious with President Bush.

Experts say that Al Qaeda’s recent video shows that the terrorists are afraid of President-elect Obama.

President-elect Obama is cocky enough to think he can pull this “economic miracle” shit off.

The “socialist” takeover of America’s banks happened on Bush’s watch.

The “Democratic” Senate has been working with a one vote majority, and that vote is Joe Lieberman. If they get to the “Magic 60,” that sixtieth vote is still Joe Lieberman

The majority of rich Americans voted to have their wealth spread.

President Obama will probably only get to replace liberal judges on the Supreme Court.

Cheer up, the GOP still owns the “racist belt!”:



Source: 23/6


WASHINGTON — Despite attracting millions of new contributors to his campaign, President-elect Barack Obama received about the same percentage of his total political funds from small donors as President Bush did in 2004, according to a study released today by the non-partisan Campaign Finance Institute.

The analysis undercuts Obama’s claim that his supporters “changed the way campaigns are funded” by reducing the influence of special-interest givers.

“The myth is that money from small donors dominated Barack Obama’s finances,” said Michael Malbin, the institute’s executive director. “The reality of Obama’s fundraising was impressive, but the reality does not match the myth.”

About $156 million, or a quarter of Obama’s record-shattering campaign account, came from donors of $200 or less, according to the institute’s analysis of federal election reports through Oct. 15. That compares with $205 million, or about a third, from those who gave between $2,300 and $4,600, the maximum allowed by law.

Forty-eight percent of Obama’s total take came from donors of $1,000 or more, compared with 56% for John Kerry and 60% for both Bush and John McCain, the analysis found.

The small-donor percentage is lower than figures previously reported in news stories because the institute’s analysis accounted for people who gave several small donations over the course of the election that added up to a larger sum, Malbin said.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail that the campaign had more than 3.95 million donors, and “91% of our contributions were in amounts of $100 or less. … There’s no doubt that small-dollar contributors played a critical and unprecedented role” in Obama’s victory.

The study said Obama brought in a total $638 million, the most ever raised in a political campaign, compared with $206 million by McCain, who accepted $84.1 million in taxpayer financing for the general election. Obama reported 580,000 donors who gave more than $200.

Donors giving $200 or less need not be disclosed, but by the Obama campaign’s count, there were nearly 3 million of them.

McCain reported 170,000 donors of $200 or more.

Obama opted out of public financing, raising private money through November and significantly outspending McCain in battleground states.

When Obama announced in June that he would forgo public financing, he told supporters in a video message that “instead of forcing us to rely on millions from Washington lobbyists and special-interest PACs, you’ve fueled this campaign with donations of $5, $10, $20, whatever you can afford. … You’ve already changed the way campaigns are funded, because you know that’s the only way we can truly change how Washington works.”

Meredith McGehee, a campaign-finance reform advocate at the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, said Obama cannot claim “this election somehow created an alternative system for public finance. … The data doesn’t show that.”

Obama did not accept contributions from political action committees or registered federal lobbyists, but many of his top fundraisers have keen economic interests in federal policies.

Source: USA Today


Since Barack Obama’s election, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-gun groups have been warning that the new president will take away their second amendment rights. This multi-million dollar campaign is already having effects. Not only is the NRA trying to profit off this fear-mongering by increasing its membership, many gun sellers are holding “Obama Sales.”

On Friday, ThinkProgress visited The Nation’s Gun Show in Chantilly, VA, where 1,000 vendors took over a building the size of two football fields. The NRA’s fear-mongering was all over the event. An ad in the Washington Post read, “GET YOUR GUNS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!!!” While we waited in a long line in the cold, visitors willing to begin or renew their NRA membership were able to get in free and skip the line.

We spoke with an NRA coordinator at the event who confirmed that the organization had seen a dramatic increase in membership after Obama’s election and noted that the turnout at this gun show was much higher than at one two months ago. When we asked whether Obama would revoke gun owners’ rights, she strayed from the official line and admitted that with important issues like the economy, he may not go after it right away. Some of the materials that were being handed out at the NRA booth:

gunsticker1Click for pdf.

Traces of these myths infiltrated some of the vendors’ tables as well:


One vendor with Liberty Firearms was wearing a button with Obama’s name crossed out and warned a couple, “Get ready for the Obamanation.” He told us that he was actually having trouble restocking and ordering new wares because suppliers were canceling orders and getting ready to dramatically increase prices to take advantage of the hype, as they did in 1994. The man selling the “NObama” shirts said that his business was also way up. “People are afraid,” he said.

Despite the NRA’s best efforts, many individual gun owners recognize the campaign as nothing but hype. ThinkProgress spoke with Gary Foster of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, who said that while he could not speak for his organization, his personal opinion was that many media stories about a rush on guns are overblown:

As has explained, much of the NRA’s information is completely inaccurate: “Obama has spoken in favor of government registration of handguns, for example, but has not called for registration of all ‘firearms’ including hunting rifles and shotguns. [Many of NRA] TV spots and fliers also make claims that are directly contrary to what Obama actually says about guns.” Obama has also reassured voters that he has no intention or desire to take away their guns.




WASHINGTON — The thaw in the resentful relationship between the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party and her younger male rival began at the party’s convention this summer, when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton gave such a passionate speech supporting Senator Barack Obama that his top aides leapt out of their chairs backstage to give her a standing ovation as she swept past.

Mr. Obama, who was in the first steps of what would become a strategic courtship, called afterward to thank her. By then, close aides to Mrs. Clinton said, she had come to respect the campaign Mr. Obama had run against her. At the least, she knew he understood like no one else the brutal strains of their epic primary battle.

By this past Thursday, when Mr. Obama reassured Mrs. Clinton that as secretary of state she would have direct access to him and could select her own staff, the wooing was complete.

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

UNHAPPY TOGETHER President Bush and Colin Powell had a strained relationship. Enlarge+

“She feels like she’s been treated very well in the way she’s been asked,” said a close associate of Mrs. Clinton, who like others interviewed asked for anonymity because the nomination will not be formally announced until after Thanksgiving.

Few are predicting that this new relationship born of mutual respect and self-interest will grow into a tight bond between the new president and the woman who will be the public face of his foreign policy, though some say it is not impossible. They argue that a close friendship between the two powerful officials is useful but not essential, and is not a predictor of the success of the nation’s chief diplomat.

While James A. Baker III was extraordinarily close to the first President George Bush and is widely considered one of the most successful recent secretaries of state, Dean Acheson was not a friend of Harry S. Truman and Henry A. Kissinger did not particularly like Richard M. Nixon.

“Two of the nation’s greatest secretaries of state in the modern period, Dean Acheson and Henry Kissinger, were not personally close but were intellectually bonded to their presidents,” said Walter Isaacson, the author of a biography of Mr. Kissinger and the co-author, with Evan Thomas, of “The Wise Men,” a book about America’s postwar foreign policy establishment. “I think that Obama and Clinton could form a perfect partnership based on respect for each other’s view of the world.”

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

TIGHT TEAM James A. Baker III’s success lay in his ties to the first President Bush Enlarge+

Colin L. Powell, who was President Bush’s first-term celebrity secretary of state, would appear to be a cautionary tale for Mrs. Clinton since his relationship with the president was strained, and he left office an unhappy man. But Mr. Bush’s second-term secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, is generally not viewed as having the success her unusually tight bond with the president might have engendered.


In the Obama-Clinton relationship, advisers say, the relatively smooth nature of their talks about the secretary of state job indicate that both, for now, have a working chemistry. The advisers say that Mr. Obama was clearly interested in bringing a rival under his wing, and that he also recognized that Mrs. Clinton had far more discipline and focus than her husband.

At the same time, Mr. Obama’s advisers said, he had the self-confidence to name a global brand as his emissary to the world. He recognizes, they said, that after Jan. 20, he will have to build the kind of relationship that ensures that foreign leaders know that when Mrs. Clinton speaks, she is speaking directly for him.

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

Harry S. Truman and his secretary of state, Dean Acheson. Enlarge+

“It helps to have a relationship that Bush had with Baker, that’s no doubt true,” said Martin Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, who was a supporter of Mrs. Clinton in the primary battles. “But if they are seen as working together effectively, I think that can be easily overcome. I don’t think he would have decided to appoint her if he didn’t want her to be effective.”


One close adviser to Mr. Obama said the president-elect also saw that Mrs. Clinton’s political skills would serve her well in the job, as happened with Mr. Baker and Mr. Kissinger. “They understood that statecraft is politics by another name,” the adviser said.

Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton first spoke after their primary fight on a flight in June to Unity, N.H., their first stage-managed appearance after he won the nomination. As they settled into their seats on his plane, the conversation, according to people on both sides, was far less awkward than they had feared. Over the passing weeks, the relationship gradually improved.

“They got past this long before their supporters and the party activists did,” said one Democrat who is close to both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton.

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

Henry A. Kissinger and Richard M. Nixon at the White House. Enlarge+

After Mrs. Clinton’s speech in support of Mr. Obama at the Democratic convention, she crisscrossed the country tirelessly to campaign for him — so much so that he told aides he was impressed by the sheer number of events she was doing on his behalf.

Mrs. Clinton, it should be said, was herself diligent in advertising how hard she was working for the man who defeated her. When announcing her appearances, her press office included tallies of how many events she had held for Mr. Obama, and in how many states. At some rallies, organizers would distribute “Hillary Sent Me” buttons, as if Mrs. Clinton was being magnanimous by “sending” her followers to vote for Mr. Obama.

But Mr. Obama began calling Mrs. Clinton after some of the events — he dialed directly from his cellphone to hers one day in Michigan and another day in Florida — to check in and thank her for helping. By then, their intense primary fights over policy, which both sides now insist was more about heat than substance, had long receded.

“The reality at the end of the day was, whether it was Iran or health care or some of these other issues, we were always fighting big battles over small differences,” said a senior aide to Mr. Obama, adding that “in a campaign, conflict is what you go to.”

Substantively, the two were at odds over the Iraq war — Mrs. Clinton voted to authorize it and Mr. Obama said he would have opposed it had he been in the Senate then — and to a lesser extent over negotiations with Iran. But although Mrs. Clinton criticized Mr. Obama for being willing to sit down and talk to dictators, he has said he would have a lower-level envoy do preparatory work for a meeting with Iran’s leaders first. Mrs. Clinton has said she favors robust diplomacy with Iran and lower-level contacts as well.

In the weeks just before the election, the relationship between Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton further mellowed, even as she found herself in a startling role reversal with her younger rival. As a celebrity senator and powerhouse on Capitol Hill, she had helped Mr. Obama in his Senate race and offered advice when he first came to Washington; now she was the workhorse for a political phenomenon.

Since the election, Mrs. Clinton has talked to Mr. Obama only a handful of times, even as two close advisers to Mr. Obama who held top positions in the Clinton administration — Rahm Emanuel and John D. Podesta — have served as key negotiators between her and the president-elect on the secretary of state position.

But Mrs. Clinton has talked several times to Michelle Obama about raising a family in the White House and private schools in Washington. On Friday, Mrs. Obama said the two Obama girls, Malia and Sasha, would attend the Sidwell Friends School, just as Chelsea Clinton did.

Jeff Zeleny contributed reporting from Chicago, and Mark Leibovich from Washington.





The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

The GOP selected Sarah Palin as its VP to stoke its base, but expanding that base should be the partys goal.

In the wake of the Republican defeat, there has been much recrimination and finger-pointing over tactics and strategy. Was the Sarah Palin choice fatal? Should John McCain have suspended his campaign during the financial crisis?

But the larger issue is whether 2008 was a “realigning election” that went deeper than the candidates or the current issues. The jury is still out as to whether Democrats can turn one sweeping victory into a generation-long dominance of the White House. A key element in a possible structural shift favoring Democrats is the changing demographics of the electorate. The U.S. is growing bigger, increasingly diverse and more cosmopolitan — and the GOP seems on the wrong side of all these trends.

The United States is the only developed country that is projected to add lots of new residents by mid-century. In 2006, the nation’s population reached 300 million. The Census Bureau estimates that the U.S. will get to 400 million by 2039. To put this growth in perspective, consider that even China (yes, China) will not add 100 million people by that date. The U.S. will gain more new residents in the next three decades than the current population of Germany — the largest European Union nation.

With each decade, more than 22 million potential new voters will enter the electorate. Parties that fix on a strategy may find that it is unworkable in just a few cycles. The Republican Party’s idea of stoking its base to gain office assumes a somewhat static voting public, which, given the dynamic nature of American demographics, is a faulty notion.

So who are most of these new people? The quick answer is both recent immigrants and their American-born offspring. By 2043, the U.S. may be a majority minority nation. Another scenario is that a high rate of intermarriage among whites and minorities may open to question the whole notion of who is “majority.” The bottom line for Republicans is that no matter how this population is defined, an increasing number of current minorities are voting for Democrats.

Republicans can, of course, switch their strategy and make more direct appeals to minority voters. As recently as 2004, President George W. Bush almost won the Latino vote. But at the moment, the Republicans seem branded as the party of white people. Furthermore, much of the Republican base — especially those listening to talk radio — believe the U.S. is being flooded with immigrants (legal and illegal). It may be hard to pivot and embrace diversity without alienating the GOP base. By contrast, many whites in the Democratic Party are comfortable with diversity and now form a transracial coalition with minority voters.

As the U.S. expands and diversifies, it is becoming more urban. The Census finds that 83 percent of Americans live in metropolitan areas and that well over half live in regions with more than 1 million residents. By other calculations, two-thirds of people added by 2040 will settle in just 20 megapolitan areas — massive urban complexes that contain more than 5 million residents.

Were just the big metro areas to vote, the presidential race would be a rout every time. The Democrats dominate major urban regions. An analysis by the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech found that Barack Obama won the votes in the nation’s top 50 metro areas — often by double-digit margins.

Worse for Republicans, in 2006 and 2008, Democrats significantly expanded the areas of the metros they won. Their electoral dominance has spilled out of cities and close-in suburbs and now reaches into the kinds of sprawling subdivisions that were once reliably Republican. The suburbs in key swing states such as Colorado, North Carolina and Virginia played a particularly decisive role in delivering the presidency to Democrats.

Republicans must adjust to the demographic shifts sweeping America or risk being politically marginalized. Most significantly, the party needs to recognize that there are simply not enough rural white voters to balance the growing number of minority voters and cosmopolitan whites living in big metro areas. If Republicans think 2008 went badly, try running the same kind of small-town-flavored campaign in 2020. At that point, the vastly expanded and racially diverse metro areas in Texas and Georgia could tip those once reliably red states to the Democrats.

Robert E. Lang is co-director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech and an associate professor in urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech’s School of Planning and International Affairs.




See no exhaust pipe! 0-60 3.6 seconds! Cost $4 per 240 mile charge to run!

Tesla Roadster: See no exhaust pipe! 0-60 3.6 seconds! Cost $4 per 240 mile charge to run!

I think the whole aim of the car industry has been to keep us on oil – and so for years they have been suppressing any and all viable alternatives. While we advance in leaps and bounds in computers and technological industries — aside from the outer cover and some new electronics – cars have virtually stayed the same. In today’s technological world this is unacceptable.

Not surprisingly sympathy is thin on the ground for the Big Three automakers – and in order to survive they are going to have to decouple from the oil industry. This is where policy comes in – as the Bush administration has been all about oil – and how to get us all to spend more on it – he got his wish – but it was a bit like the king who touched his daughter and turned her into gold. Up until recently the whole aim was to make us believe – that we needed more and more of this oil – this coming directly from the addict-in-chief. The mindset is so bad – that at the RNC you had Republicans chanting Drill Baby Drill, because the thought of a technological way around the oil – is unthinkable to them. 50 years down the line they still see us using the same technology – needing roughly the same amount of oil. Palin – an oil addict and others like herself – first need to line up the belief that we need this oil and we can not do without it – for a long long time – then they place themselves in the position to be the providers of that oil. Even better than the measly cash that a guy would make as a lobbyist. This is like Beverly HillBillies’ cash – no wonder they are addicted.

But here is the trap for the car industry – The Big Three – Republicans are into little or no government intervention – their philosophy is bankruptcy would do them good – ironically the Drill Baby Drill – was for the hungry engines the Big Three were making – that they refused to modernize [in ways that inventors have done time and time agian in their garages] – more a Republican-conservative idea – oh the betrayal!

On the other hand the Democrats’ position – is that the Big Three have been too arrogant for too long – and they are actually holding up real progress – if you want us to bail you out – then we are going to have to see some electric cars, some hybrid/electrics and cars that are going to largely bypass the burning fossil fuels to run. The oil addicts should be getting really uncomfortable – but these are the same guys who are willing to let the car companies fail.

Alternatively, by letting the car industry collapse – the Obama administration can then divert more funds to the smaller car industry – which are willing to produce the cars of the future – like the Tesla.

Porsche (eRuf Model A) the first fully electric version of the car.

Porsche (eRuf Model A) the first fully electric version of the car.

This whole bailout/loan deal with the auto-industry will hinge on what kind of plan these automakers will come back with in two weeks – we can only hope that it will not be a plan to help the oil industry – but one with a view of the future – that will instead help themselves and the people who will be driving their cars. I’m all for the fully electric SUV. Who says we have to make them small – just energy efficient. Today the best car batteries can take us 200 miles/300 km on a single charge – tomorrow 400 miles/600 km on a single charge? We may end up having to charge our cars once a week – today it cost 2¢/mile to run – tomorrow it might 2¢/10 miles? If the present car industry isn’t willing to do it – perhaps we need an alternative car industry.   


Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) — I sat in the window of a cafe this month in Annapolis, Maryland, a sailing town near Washington, counting parked cars. “Honda, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, Lexus (made by Toyota), Mazda, and a battered 1970s Cadillac.”

No wonder the U.S. carmakers are in meltdown and begging to be plugged in to the Treasury’s life-support machines.

Don’t be misled, though — the something that is rotten in the auto industry has nothing to do with the credit crunch, and everything to do with years of mismanagement, shoddy products and bad choices.

Consider the credit-rating histories of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. For both companies, the rot started all the way back in August 2001, when Standard & Poor’s put the A grades they had enjoyed for a decade on review for downgrade. In October of that year, they each suffered a two-level cut to BBB+ that left them just three moves away from junk status.

So seven years ago, the car companies were already on the slide, after years of their Japanese rivals stealing market share with improved production methods and better reliability. That was well before the words “credit crunch” had become as ubiquitous as “would you like large fries with that?” or “the new Bond film isn’t as good as the previous one.”


Pirates of Detroit

In other words, give us what we want or suffer the consequences. That sure sounds like blackmail to my ears, except even Somali oil-tanker pirates have so far stopped short of trying to pilfer $25 billion from their victims.

So, what to do? Nobody, least of all President-elect Barack Obama, wants to see the 250,000 people who work directly for the big three U.S. automakers tossed on the scrapheap, or the other 4 million workers whose job security is at risk somewhere along the supply chain from the drawing boards of Detroit to the car showrooms of America.

There seems to be a groundswell of support building for the concept of retraining and retooling auto workers away from churning out four-wheeled gas guzzlers to put them instead at the vanguard of the fight against climate change.

“Wouldn’t the benefits be greater if the U.S. government spent $25 billion to $75 billion — the current dollars proposed to bail out the auto industry — to train engineers, support infrastructure and work in the much-neglected alternative energy space?” wrote Tom Sowanick, who helps manage $20 billion as chief investment officer of Clearbrook Financial LLC in Princeton, New Jersey.

I Spy iCar

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggested earlier this month that Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs should be persuaded to sign up for “national service” and run a car company for a year, long enough to invent the iCar.

I think Friedman is on to something. Sure, the iCar would be available in any color as long as it’s white (with a black model to be introduced as soon as all the early adopters have a pearlescent model in the driveway), and the windshield would be scratched to opacity within weeks. It would probably run on fresh air, though, and the packaging would be to die for.

First off, the U.S. government would need to absorb all those legacy pension and health-care costs that the automakers have used as an excuse for years to dodge getting their collective act together. Splitting the welfare issue from the business travails would deliver some much-needed clarity to the true financial position of the carmakers.

Then, turn the entire industry over to people who might make a difference. Give GM to Jobs, let Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates run Ford and allow billionaire Warren Buffett to try his hand at Chrysler. In five years, I bet that car counting in Annapolis would deliver a very different result.

(Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Source: Bloomberg


No v. 21 (Bloomberg) — President-Elect Barack Obama’s transition team is exploring a swift, prepackaged bankruptcy for automakers as a possible solution to the industry’s financial crisis, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A representative of Obama’s team has already contacted at least one bankruptcy-law firm to say that Daniel Tarullo, a professor at Georgetown University’s law school who heads Obama’s economic policy working group, would call to discuss the workings of a so-called prepack, according to this person.

U.S. lawmakers yesterday delayed until December a vote on whether to give General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC a $25 billion bailout. GM today said it would idle production at four plants an extra week and return some corporate jets to conserve cash. Automakers could use a judge-supervised bankruptcy to reduce debt and reject expensive contracts.

“It creates the environment to deal with GM’s problems but limits government financial commitment,” said bankruptcy lawyer Mark Bane of Ropes & Gray in New York.

Bankruptcy is just one option being examined. Obama told CBS News’s “60 Minutes” on Nov. 16 that government aid to automakers might come in the form of a “bridge loan,” advanced if the industry could draw up plan to make itself “sustainable.” The president-elect earlier urged Congress to approve as much as $50 billion to save automakers, using the model of Chrysler’s bailout in 1979.

Tarullo referred questions on a prepack to the transition team press office. Team spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said, “We have not put out anything specific for the auto industry except that something needs to be done immediately.”

No Cash

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, said it might run out of cash as early as the end of the year and that the risk was even greater by mid-2009. GM Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner said this week GM would have to liquidate if it filed for bankruptcy.

The automaker probably has weeks rather than months left before it runs out of money unless it gets federal aid, Jerome York, an adviser to billionaire Kirk Kerkorian and a former GM board member, told Bloomberg Television yesterday.

In a prepackaged bankruptcy, an automaker would go into court with financing in hand after reaching agreement with lenders, workers and suppliers on what each would give up and on the business plan to be followed. The process might take six to 12 months, compared with two to five years if the automakers followed an ordinary Chapter 11 proceeding and worked out agreements under a judge’s supervision, Bane said.

Government Financing

Automakers would have to depend on government financing to restructure in bankruptcy court and probably couldn’t attract private loans until they were ready to emerge from the process, Bane said.

Officials of the three automakers told members of Congress this week that they had studied a pre-arranged bankruptcy, championed by Republican lawmakers such as Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, before dismissing the idea as unworkable.

Read more…


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

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration. AP

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was once seen as a good bet for secretary of state. Now, some are concerned that neither he nor any other Latino has yet been named to a high-ranking position in the Obama administration. AP

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.




Daschle appearing here at DNC - is looking forward to his job in the Obama administration.

Daschle appearing here at DNC - is looking forward to his job in the Obama administration.

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

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

A new poll out Thursday paints a bleak picture for the GOP.

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.

Source: CNNPoliticalTicker

The Big Three CEOs -- Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford -- went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

The Big Three CEOs -- Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford -- went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla -- Getty Images)

The Big Three CEOs — Richard Wagoner of General Motors, left, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Alan Mulally of Ford — went begging on the Hill. (By Chip Somodevilla — Getty Images)

Instead, the chief executives of the Big Three automakers opted to fly their company jets to the capital for their hearings this week before the Senate and House — an ill-timed display of corporate excess for a trio of executives begging for an additional $25 billion from the public trough this week.

“There’s a delicious irony in seeing private luxury jets flying into Washington, D.C., and people coming off of them with tin cups in their hands,” Rep. Gary L. Ackerman (D-N.Y.) advised the pampered executives at a hearing yesterday. “It’s almost like seeing a guy show up at the soup kitchen in high-hat and tuxedo. . . . I mean, couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jet-pooled or something to get here?”

The Big Three said nothing, which prompted Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) to rub it in. “I’m going to ask the three executives here to raise their hand if they flew here commercial,” he said. All still at the witness table. “Second,” he continued, “I’m going ask you to raise your hand if you’re planning to sell your jet . . . and fly back commercial.” More stillness. “Let the record show no hands went up,” Sherman grandstanded.

By now, the men were probably wishing they had driven — and other members of the House Financial Services Committee weren’t done riding the CEOs over their jets. “You traveled in a private jet?” Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) contributed. Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) felt the need to say that “I’m not an opponent of private flights by any means, but the fact that you flew in on your own private jet at tens of thousands itself dollars of cost just for you to make your way to Washington is a bit arrogant before you ask the taxpayers for money.”

It was a display of stone-cold tone-deafness by the automaker chiefs. In their telling, they have no responsibility for the auto industry’s current mess. Threatening the nation with economic Armageddon if they are not given government aid, they spent much of the session declaring what a fine job they’ve been doing in Detroit.

“Chrysler really is the quintessential American car company!” Chrysler’s Nardelli boasted.

“We have products that are winning car and truck of the year regularly,” General Motors’ Wagoner proclaimed.

“We are equal to or better than Honda and Toyota,” Ford’s Mulally added. “Every new vehicle that we make, whether it’s small, medium or large, is best in fuel efficiency. The given is safety. And we have more, at Ford, more five-star quality and safety ratings than any other automobile.”

Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) cut him off. “Thank you, Mr. –”

“And the best value!” Mulally blurted out.

“Commercials can go later,” the chairman proposed.

They would have to go later, because members of the committee wanted to turn the session into a special edition of “Car Talk.” Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) spoke of his ’99 Jeep: “It probably has about 150,000 miles on it, and it’s still running doggone well.” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) invoked his ’98 Jeep Cherokee: “Small problem with the back hatch staying open; we can talk about that afterwards.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) praised her Chrysler minivan. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) had good words for her Jeep but complained that it didn’t come in a hybrid version.

“I drive the same ’66 Plymouth Valiant that I’ve always had,” Ackerman proffered. He went on to discuss a problem with the GPS system in his Cadillac. “I wanted a loaded car in blue; I had to reach out to five states to find one in blue,” he complained.

It seemed everybody had a car story to tell. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) let it be known that he was a car dealer for 25 years. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) disclosed that he had worked at the GM plant in Framingham. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) wanted to see more ads for the car made in his district, while Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) said the Edsel was once made in his home town. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) read from Cicero and held up photos of cars. And Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) had no car stories to tell but delivered the surprising news that the problem with the Titanic was not its collision with an iceberg.

Detroit area lawmakers made passionate arguments that the carmakers had already done what “they possibly can to restructure and become globally competitive,” as Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) put it.

But the executives were not helping their own case. When Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) tried to find out when GM would run out of cash, Wagoner hemmed and hawed until the lawmaker protested that “I don’t quite understand what the hell you just told me.” When Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.) asked about GM’s outlook for the quarter, Wagoner informed him that “we don’t provide financial guidance in earnings.”

So it was hard to feel sorry for the executives when Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), late in the hearing, reminded them again that “the symbolism of the private jet is difficult,” and mischievously asked the witnesses whether, in another symbolic gesture, they would be willing to work for $1 a year, as Nardelli has offered to do.

“I don’t have a position on that today,” demurred Wagoner (2007 total compensation: $15.7 million).

“I understand the intent, but I think where we are is okay,” said Mulally ($21.7 million).

“I’m asking about you,” Roskam pressed.

“I think I’m okay where I am,” Mulally said.

And don’t even think about asking him to fly commercial.



Iran is forging ahead with its nuclear programme, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog reported on Wednesday, deepening the dilemma facing US president-elect Barack Obama over his campaign promise to engage with Tehran.

The latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency reveals that Iran is rapidly increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium, which could be rendered into weapons-grade material should Tehran decide to develop a nuclear device.

nuclear timeline +

Iran: nuclear timeline +

The agency says that, as of this month, Tehran had amassed 630kg of low enriched uranium hexafluoride, up from 480kg in late August. Analysts say Iran is enriching uranium at such a pace that, by early next year, it could reach break-out capacity – one step away from producing enough fissile material for a crude nuclear bomb.

“They are moving forward, they are not making diplomatic overtures, they are accumulating low enriched uranium,” said Cliff Kupchan, an analyst at the Eurasia Group, a risk consultancy in Washington. “These guys are committed to their nuclear programme: if we didn’t know that, they just told us again.”

The IAEA report also says there has been a breakdown of communication between the agency and Iran over alleged research on an atomic weapon. “The Iranians are making good progress on enrichment but there is absolute stone-walling on past military activities,” said Mark Fitzpatrick of the International institute for Strategic Studies. “It’s very disappointing.”

Reaed it all


Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s career as an investment banker was short but, oh, so sweet. Emanuel left the Clinton White House in 1998 as a senior adviser on a government salary. By the time he won election to the House in 2002, he had earned an astonishing $16 million.

How did he do it?

Partly, it was simple luck: Emanuel dipped quickly into the world of investment banking in time to catch the tail end of the 1990s boom economy as a Chicago-based managing director at Wasserstein Perella & Co., where he worked from 1999 to 2002. While he was there, the firm was sold to the German Dresdner Bank for $1.37 billion in stock, netting Emanuel much of his Wall Street windfall.

Returning to Chicago in 1998 after his White House stint, Emanuel soon ran Wasserstein’s small Midwestern office, developing a reputation as a deal guy who focused on mergers and acquisitions among companies that were subject to heavy government regulation. There, he deployed his skills as a born negotiator who knew the inner workings of government bureaucracies.

Frequently, Emanuel turned big Democratic donors and others he’d met during his White House years into clients for Wasserstein Perella, a firm that was led by Bruce Wasserstein, a hefty financial supporter of Clinton.

Emanuel is “tireless,” said John Canning, a managing director of Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners, a multibillion-dollar private equity firm.

Canning became friendly with Emanuel while he was setting himself up in Chicago business circles and has remained close to him through his congressional career. “He’s got a nose for a transaction, a sense for what each party’s looking for and where each party can concede,” Canning said.

Emanuel was unavailable for comment. But in 2003, he described his investment banking career to the Chicago Tribune.

“Fundamentally, I brought in business and worked on business that was very successful,” Emanuel said then. “I didn’t work on one deal. I didn’t work on two deals. I think it was close to six or seven, of which a couple of them were over $1 billion.”

The Democratic congressman from Illinois will be starting out as White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama during a severe global economic crisis. And as a former investment banker himself, Emanuel may be well-positioned to understand the problems and priorities of the nation’s struggling financial system.

While Emanuel lucked into the timing of the Wasserstein sale, the deals he worked on contributed in a significant way to the firm’s bottom line, generating hefty bonuses for him along the way.

One signature transaction was the $16 billion merger of Unicom Corp. and PECO Energy Co. into Exelon Corp., now one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, with nearly $19 billion in annual revenue. The company owns 17 nuclear reactors, which produce about 20 percent of the nation’s nuclear power.

Read it all…


Foreign income makes up only a small part of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty.
Photo: AP

Bill Clinton’s apparent willingness to forgo foreign income in order to smooth his wife’s path into the Secretary of State’s office won’t put the couple into the poor house, publicly available financial records show.

Of the $111 million the Clintons have pulled in since leaving the White House, a little more than $8 million came from foreign sources, according to joint tax returns the couple released during Hillary Clinton’s contentious battle for the Democratic presidential nomination with President-elect Barack Obama, who is reportedly close to offering his vanquished rival the top diplomat’s post.

The Clinton’s foreign income, for which the tax returns show they claimed more than $650,000 in foreign tax credits, “was from speeches President Clinton abroad and income from the blind trust,” Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman, told Politico when the Clintons released their taxes in April.

The trust was dissolved last year, revealing that the couple had investments with Quellos, an asset manager accused of structuring offshore tax shelters.

Still, foreign income was only a small slice of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty, which came to nearly $52 million. The couple also collected more than $40 million for the two books each penned, including an eye-popping $15 million advance paid to Bill Clinton for his 2004 autobiography “My Life.”

If Hillary Clinton were to become Secretary of State, she would be legally barred from receiving most outside earned income, but Bill Clinton wouldn’t—provided it could be shown that it did not conflict with her duties as the nation’s ambassador to the world.

Plus, taxpayers would continue to fund the Clinton’s lifestyles to the tune of about $1.4 million a year. That’s accounting for the Secretary of State’s salary of more than $190,000 a year— a $20,000 raise from Hillary Clinton’s salary as a New York Senator—plus more than $1.2 million a year that Bill Clinton receives in presidential retirement benefits. Those include everything from a $200,000 annual pension to upwards of $50,000 for travel, about $160,000 in staff salaries and benefits and about $735,000 to rent and equip Clinton’s 8,300-square-foot Harlem penthouse office, which offers views of Central Park, the George Washington Bridge and most of Manhattan.



Weyant’s World : November 19, 2008

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President-elect Barack Obama has chosen former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle to be Health and Human Services secretary, news media reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to Obama’s transition team.

Daschle, of South Dakota, was an early supporter of Obama’s, encouraging the first-term senator from Illinois to make his presidential run.


He currently serves as the head of Obama’s health-care policy group as the president-elect prepares to take office on January 20.

His appointment was reported by CNN and Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

Daschle served as the top Democrat in the Senate between 1994 and 2004, and was as majority leader when Democrats controlled the chamber between 2001 and 2003. He was elected to the Senate in 1986 and before that served eight years in the House of Representatives.

Since losing his re-election bid, Daschle has worked as a public-policy advisor for the law firm Alston and Bird.

He was not immediately available for comment.

Daschle was reported to be a candidate for Obama’s chief of staff before that job went to Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel.


11-9-2008-12-01-01-pmPresident-elect Barack Obama, in the latest of several moves to heal election wounds, persuaded Democrats to reject stiff punishment for Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) despite his campaign efforts for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Lieberman is the beneficiary of the president-elect’s emerging tactic of binding former enemies close to him — which reportedly includes offering the State Department to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.), his bitter rival for the Democratic nomination.

Obama is wielding his newfound political dominance to its fullest extent and leaving his fingerprints almost daily on decisions that are not technically his — such as shaping Democratic congressional action on the auto industry rescue.

Soon after Election Day, Obama told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in a telephone call that he wanted Lieberman to stay in the Democratic Conference, taking the momentum away from efforts to snatch up his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee — which could have driven him into the arms of the Republican Conference.

The call for reconciliation with Lieberman, who attacked Obama as unfit for the presidency, represents the first clear example of Obama’s influence among Senate Democrats and his willingness to stiff-arm his Democratic base, which had been calling for Lieberman’s head.

“He single-handedly delivered change today,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), one of Obama’s closest Senate allies. “The old politics would be revenge, punishment, retribution. The new politics would be, ‘Let’s get busy and solve some problems.’ ”

Source: The Hill

President-elect Barack Obama signaled his eagerness to address climate change by addressing a bipartisan group of governors in a “surprise” taped message.

Obama’s transition team said the president-elect addressed the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to “discuss his commitment to marking a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”

Obama said that there are few challenges facing the world that “are more urgent,” adding that the scientific evidence of climate change is “beyond dispute.”

The president-elect pledged to implement a federal cap-and-trade system with “strong annual targets” that would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and an additional 80 percent by 2050.

He said the U.S. will invest $15 billion a year in safe nuclear energy, clean-coal technologies, solar power, wind and biofuels.

    “This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced,” Obama said.

Governors present included Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich (D), Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

The transition team said that there were also representatives from 22 other states and officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and the U.K.

    “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious. Stopping climate change won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.”

Source: The Hill

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of the magic number of Senate seats received new life when Ted Stevens lost his Senate seat. AP

The Democratic pursuit of 60 Senate seats received new life Tuesday night after Alaska Democrat Mark Begich was declared the winner against Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate.

Begich defeated the Senate giant by a 3,724-vote margin after absentee and early votes were counted, a stunning end to a 40-year Senate career marred by Stevens’ conviction on corruption charges a week before the election.

Begich’s victory gives Democrats their 58th Senate seat, with the party still awaiting a pending recount in the too-close-to-call Minnesota Senate race and the Georgia Senate runoff next month. If Democrats win those two seats, they will reach a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

Democratic prospects of reaching 60 seats didn’t look so bright the day after the election. In Alaska, Stevens led Begich by more than 3,000 votes. In Minnesota, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was holding a narrow lead. GOP Sen. Gordon Smith had not yet been declared the loser in the Oregon Senate race and in Georgia, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss was just over the 50 percent mark necessary to win re-election in Georgia.

But over the ensuing two weeks, the landscape began to tilt in the Democrats’ favor. The Associated Press declared Jeff Merkley the winner over Smith in Oregon, Coleman’s lead shrank to 215 votes, Chambliss fell just short of the 50 percent threshold necessary for an outright victory, and Begich captured a majority of the nearly 90,000 absentee and early votes that were counted after Election Day to win the Alaska Senate seat.

Now, with the prospect of 60 Senate seats hanging in the balance, both parties are throwing everything they can at the two remaining undeclared races, pouring money, lawyers and field organizers into Georgia and Minnesota.

Developments on the ground suggest Democrats have a fighting chance of picking up both seats.

Read it all

Fourteen years after failing to deliver health reform for her husband’s White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will play a key role in advancing the issue in 2009 — if she remains in the Senate.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) designated Clinton to head a task force to develop a Senate Democratic proposal to expand health insurance coverage as part of his larger push to move a major overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system next year.

Kennedy’s designation of Clinton as one of three senators to lead a healthcare task force provides her with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to an issue that has defined her political career.

Clinton, however, may have her sights on foreign policy, not domestic concerns. She is reportedly under consideration to serve as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of State, a position that would take her out of the healthcare debate.

Clinton is a junior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs, but has been a prominent Democratic voice on healthcare issues dating back to President Clinton’s first term, when she led the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful effort to reform healthcare.

Were Clinton to remain in Congress, there are no clear avenues for her to assume a formal leadership position or chair a committee.

Being given a influential position on health reform may serve as some consolation, and expanding healthcare coverage is arguably the most important and contentious component of the Democratic health reform platform.

During the primary campaign, Clinton and Obama frequently clashed over healthcare. The biggest point of dissension was whether individuals should be required by law to obtain some form of health coverage: Clinton said yes, Obama said no.

Kennedy and his aides have repeatedly indicated that they will base their legislation on Obama’s health plan, but they not have not disclosed whether the bill would include such a mandate. Despite Obama’s position during the campaign, he would be unlikely to oppose a major Democratic healthcare bill on that point alone.

Kennedy also assigned Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to lead the committee’s efforts on prevention and public health and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to tackle healthcare quality.

“Our committee is fortunate to have the services of major leaders who are committed to improving healthcare for the American people. Sen. Harkin, Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Clinton have generously offered to step forward and assume an expanded role on critical aspects of health reform,” Kennedy said in a statement.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who controls a large portion of the jurisdiction over health reform in the Senate, issued a white paper laying out options for health reform, which include an individual mandate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), another key lawmaker on health issues, is the author of a bipartisan bill that also has a mandate.

Source: The Hill

john20kerry20wind20surfingIf Sen. John Kerry doesn’t become Secretary of State, will he be disappointed?


But there’s (at least) one more cabinet position that Kerry wouldn’t be opposed to taking: Secretary of the Interior.

As the Bush Administration’s recent moves suggest, Interior has a major say in creating and implementing natural resource policy, an obsession of Kerry’s ever since he came to the Senate.

Source: Marc Ambinder


Several Obama transition staffers have put a version of that quotation in transition co-chief John Podesta’s mouth.

Many of the major staff appointments so far – Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, Greg Craig as White House counsel, the fact of the Clinton meeting, along with details about internal thinking on Gitmo and other subjects – have escaped whatever barriers the Obama team has set in place.

Every transition staffer and adviser has signed a non-disclosure agreement, and staff members are regularly warned by their superiors not to talk to the press.

My guess is that the sheer size of the universe that Obama’s now dealing with – huge agency teams, reams of outside advisers being asked for their opinions – renders silence virtually impossible.

It’s important to remember where the “No Drama Obama” meme started: it has less to do with information getting out about decisions than about information getting out about internal deliberations or arguments.

It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it, that Obama, according to reports, is a step away from picking his chief political rival to be Secretary of State, and not one hint of serious anxiety about the choice has gotten out.

Seriously – think about the legions of former staffers Daschle and Kerry staffers who work for Obama; they’re not talking to the press about their disappointment. If the decision’s been made, then the drama’s done. No looking backwards.

Source: Marc Ambinder


WASHINGTON — Sen. Joe Lieberman will keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security Committee despite hard feelings over his support for GOP nominee John McCain during the presidential campaign.

The Connecticut independent will lose a minor panel post as punishment for criticizing Obama this fall.

Lieberman’s colleagues in the Democratic caucus voted 42-13 Tuesday on a resolution condemning statements made by Lieberman during the campaign but allowing him to keep the Homeland Security Committee gavel. He loses an Environment and Public Works panel subcommittee chairmanship, however.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was very angry by Lieberman’s actions but that “we’re looking forward, we’re not looking back.”

Added Reid: “Is this a time when we walk out of here and say, ‘Boy, did we get even?'” said Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Lieberman’s grasp on his chairmanship has gotten stronger since President-elect Barack Obama signaled to Democratic leaders that he’s not interested in punishing Lieberman for boosting McCain and criticizing Obama during the long campaign.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter, and I know that my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus were moved not only by the kind words that Senator Reid said about my longtime record, but by the appeal from President-elect Obama himself that the nation now unite to confront our very serious problems,” Lieberman said after the vote.

Anger toward Lieberman seems to have softened since Election Day, and Democrats didn’t want to drive him from the Democratic caucus by taking away his chairmanship and send the wrong signals as Obama takes office on a pledge to unite the country. Lieberman had indicated it would be unacceptable for him to lose his chairmanship.

Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore’s running mate in 2000, was re-elected in 2006 as an independent after losing his state’s Democratic primary. He remains a registered Democrat and aligns with the party inside the Senate.

“It’s time to unite our country,” said Lieberman supporter Ken Salazar, D-Colo.

On the other side were senators who feel that one requirement to be installed in a leadership position is party loyalty.

“To reward Senator Lieberman with a major committee chairmanship would be a slap in the face of millions of Americans who worked tirelessly for Barack Obama and who want to see real change in our country,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Friday. “Appointing someone to a major post who led the opposition to everything we are fighting for is not ‘change we can believe in.'”

Source: AP

It was likely that Barack Obama genuinely believed that he would take or have to take public financing. But when the primary was unexpectedly extended, the Obama team saw their money raising potential – and more they knew they were going to need fist fulls of it – if they were going to have any real chance of defeating the Republican election machine. With Al Gore’s loss in 2000 and Kerry’s Swift-Boating back in 2004 – they concluded that public financing would place serious limits on their ability to act. And they were right. John McCain promised to run an honorable campaign, and without adequate finance – Obama would likely not be President-elect – as was McCain’s plan. It is doubtful that in 2012 the Republicans will allow themselves to be hamstrung by public financing either. They might be moaning right now – but they are also learning. It was just a little TKO!

President-elect Barack Obama and vanquished rival John McCain talked Monday about reforming parts of the political process, but they skipped a good governance issue of mutual interest over which they sparred bitterly during their campaign: fixing the public financing system.

Obama this summer said he was “firmly committed to reforming the system as president,” even as his reversal of a pledge to participate in it drew fire from McCain, editorial boards and campaign finance reform advocates, all of whom accused Obama of virtually killing the system.

Stephanie Cutter, a spokeswoman for the Obama transition team, said Obama and McCain “share a common belief that the system needs to be reformed,” but she said “they didn’t speak about it today.”

Instead, a different Obama aide said, the discussion focused on “a common sense of reform being needed” on government spending, earmarks, military procurement, corporate welfare, climate change, immigration and Guantanamo Bay, among other areas.

McCain’s Senate and campaign staffers did not respond to questions about why campaign finance reform wasn’t discussed, but it clearly is a sore point for the Arizona senator and his team. They believe Obama was never held to account for his public funding flip-flop, which put him at a huge cash advantage over McCain in the final months of the campaign.

McCain did participate in the system, which limits candidates to spending only the amount of a taxpayer-funded grant. This year, the grant was $84 million for the general election. Meanwhile, Obama’s historic fundraising effort pulled in well more than $640 million for the primary and the general, allowing him to dramatically outspend McCain on ads, offices and get-out-the-vote efforts.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, McCain blamed Obama’s rejection of public financing and his prolific fundraising for “completely breaking whatever idea we had after Watergate to keep the costs and spending on campaigns under control.”

McCain told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace in October that Obama had “unleashed now in presidential campaigns a new flood of spending that will then cause a scandal and then we will fix it again. But Sen. Obama has broken it. And he broke his word to me and the American people when he signed a piece of paper, when he was a long-shot candidate, that he would take public financing if I would.”

That was a reference to a questionnaire Obama submitted last year to a coalition of non-profit groups advocating a reduction in the role of money in politics.

The questionnaire, from the Midwest Democracy Network, asked, “If you are nominated for president in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?”

Obama answered “Yes.” Then, in the space provided for comments, he wrote: “I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests.”

In response to another question, Obama wrote that he supported strengthening the public financing system, which was enacted after Watergate to minimize the corrupting influence of money on electoral politics.

Obama’s policy advisors still consider it a priority to revamp the public financing system, according to David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch, a non-profit group that pushes for stricter campaign finance rules.

Obama’s “priorities Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are the economy, but I don’t think his commitment to (public financing) has changed,” said Donnelly. Still, Donnelly added “it’s important for him to take up this issue and show that he’s willing to follow through on his commitment.”

If Obama does champion campaign finance reform from the White House, McCain could be a key ally in Senate, predicted Donnelly, whose group during the campaign accused McCain of backing away from the issue.

McCain’s seminal legislative accomplishment was a 2002 overhaul of the campaign finance system, and for years before and after that, he sponsored legislation to revamp the public funding system. But Donnelly and other McCain critics accused McCain of shying away from campaign reform as he positioned himself for his 2008 campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.


Hardball questions continue to swirl around the Clintons in Secretary of State position.

Hardball questions continue to swirl around the Clintons in Secretary of State position.

Chris Matthews, whose negative feelings for Hillary Clinton were made very clear during the primary season Matthews (and who was ultimately forced to apologize for what many perceived as sexist comments he made about her), was overheard trashing the idea of Clinton as Barack Obama’s Secretary of State. The MSNBC host “didn’t take a good look around on the Acela train from Philadelphia to Washington Saturday before he started bad-mouthing the New York senator,” Page Six reports Tuesday:

An avowed Clinton lover who was sitting next to Matthews reports: “He was in business class wearing a red baseball hat that said Penn on the back, and the fat [bleep] fell asleep on the train and snored with his mouth open.”

During the ride to DC, Matthews awoke from his nap. A fellow passenger asked him, “What’s the news tomorrow?” – to which Matthews loudly started talking about President-elect Barack Obama possibly picking Hillary as his secretary of state.

    “I don’t understand it,” Matthews bellowed. “Why would he pick her? I thought we were done with the Clintons. She’ll just use it to build her power base. It’s Machiavellian. And then we’ll have Bill Clinton, too. I thought Obama didn’t want drama. He’s already got [chief of staff Rahm] Emanuel and [transition team leader John] Podesta. He’ll have even more drama with her.
    “She’s just a soap opera. If he doesn’t pick her, everyone will say she’s been dissed again, we’ll have to live through that again.”

As Page Six points out, Matthews is singing a different tune publicly. On his show Friday, he praised Hillary Clinton’s support for Obama in the general election, calling her “illustrious” and “admirable.”

Source: HuffP


Barack Obama’s serious flirtation with his one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, over the post of secretary of State has been welcomed by everyone from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton as an effective, grand gesture by the president-elect.

It’s not playing quite as well, however, in some precincts of Obamaland. From his supporters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, to campaign aides of the soon-to-be commander-in-chief, there’s a sense of ambivalence about giving a top political plum to a woman they spent 18 months hammering as the compromised standard-bearer of an era that deserves to be forgotten.

“These are people who believe in this stuff more than Barack himself does,” said a Democrat close to Obama’s campaign. “These guys didn’t put together a campaign in order to turn the government over to the Clintons.”

An overlooked theme in Obama’s primary victory was his belief that the Clinton legacy was not, as the Clintons imagined, a pure political positive. The Obama campaign had no compunctions about poking holes in that legacy and even sent out mailings stressing the downside of the last “8 years of the Clintons” – enraging the former president in particular.

And the clearest opposition to the Clinton appointment comes from Obama’s backers on the left of his own party, whose initial support for him was motivated in part by a distaste for the Clinton dynasty, and who now view her reemergence with some dismay.

“There’s always a risk of a Cabinet member freelancing and that risk is enhanced by the fact that Hillary has her own public and her own celebrity and that she comes attached to Bill,” said Robert Kuttner, a Clinton critic and former American Prospect editor whose new book, Obama’s Challenge, implores the president-elect to adopt an expansive liberal agenda. “The other question is the old rule – never hire somebody you can’t fire. What happens if her views and his views don’t mesh?”

“The silver lining, for those of us who are skeptical, is that it drastically limits the number of other Clinton administration alums that he can appoint, and that’s a blessing,” Kuttner said.

Kuttner hastened to add that Clinton is “very smart” and capable, and that her appointment would be “greeted very well worldwide. And other Democratic foreign policy thinkers who are eager to work in, or with, the Obama administration declined to comment on the record, though they noted that foreign policy was an area that marked some of the deepest disagreements between Clinton and Obama.

Some key Obama-Clinton differences: Whether to meet face-to-face with leaders of hostile regimes (he was more open to the idea than she was) and her vote to authorize the war in Iraq.

“The specific policy area at issue seems to be one in which the two of them aren’t all that well-aligned,” wrote the liberal blogger Matthew Yglesias.

On Capitol Hill, however, even some of the left’s most normally unshrinking violets publicly backed a plan that appears to be almost a fait accompli.

“Sen. Clinton is one of the brightest people in Congress and she would be an excellent choice,” Vermont’s independent senator, Bernie Sanders, told Politico through a spokesman.

Read on…

2/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

3/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

4/4 Barack and Michelle Obama on 60 Minutes

CHICAGO (AP) _ The bitter general election campaign behind them, President-elect Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain met Monday to discuss ways to reduce government waste, promote bipartisanship and find other ways to improve government.

President-elect Barack Obama, right, meets with Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., Monday, Nov. 17, 2008, at Obama's transition office in downtown Chicago. AP Photo

President-elect Barack Obama, right, meets with Sen John McCain, R-Ariz., Monday, Nov. 17, 2008, at Obama

The two former rivals met in Obama’s transition headquarters in Chicago. Obama said before the meeting that he and McCain planned “a good conversation about how we can do some work together to fix up the country, and also to offer thanks to Sen. McCain for the outstanding service he’s already rendered.”

Obama and McCain sat together for a brief picture-taking moment with reporters, along with Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff, and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, McCain’s close friend. Obama and McCain were heard briefly discussing football, and Obama cracked that “the national press is tame compared to the Chicago press.”

When asked if he planned to help the Obama administration, McCain replied, “Obviously.”

After the meeting, Obama and McCain issued a joint statement saying:

    “At this defining moment in history, we believe that Americans of all parties want and need their leaders to come together and change the bad habits of Washington so that we can solve the common and urgent challenges of our time.”
    “It is in this spirit that we had a productive conversation today about the need to launch a new era of reform where we take on government waste and bitter partisanship in Washington in order to restore trust in government, and bring back prosperity and opportunity for every hardworking American family,” it said. “We hope to work together in the days and months ahead on critical challenges like solving our financial crisis, creating a new energy economy, and protecting our nation’s security.”

Obama and McCain clashed bitterly during the fall campaign over taxes, the Iraq War, and ways to fix the ailing economy. Things got ugly at times, with McCain running ads comparing Obama to celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and raising questions about his rival’s distant relationship with a 1960s-era radical, William Ayers.

Obama’s campaign, meanwhile, labeled the 72-year old McCain “erratic” and ran a campaign ad falsely suggesting that McCain and Rush Limbaugh shared similar anti-immigration views.

McCain delivered a gracious concession speech on Election Night, paying tribute to Obama’s historic ascendancy as the nation’s first black president. The two agreed that night to meet after the election when McCain called Obama to concede defeat.

Source: AP

US President-elect Barack Obama meets with former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain at Obama's transition offices in Chicago. Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch by meeting his vanquished Republican rival John McCain Monday, but a cabinet job was not expected to be on offer

US President-elect Barack Obama meets with former Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain at Obama

CHICAGO (AFP) – President-elect Barack Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch by meeting his vanquished Republican rival John McCain Monday, but a cabinet job was not expected to be on offer.

The meeting in Chicago between the victor of the November 4 election and the Arizona senator put substance to Obama’s promise of reaching out to old opponents as he crafts an expansive agenda for the next four years.

Before reporters were ushered out of the meeting at Obama’s transition headquarters, the president-elect anticipated a “good conversation about how we can work together to fix up the country.”

Obama said he would also “give thanks to Senator McCain for his outstanding service.”

Update: First word is that the meeting between Obama and McCain has been wrapped up.

According to reports, Obama’s transition team is conducting an in-depth vetting of the finances of his former primary rival Hillary Clinton and her husband Bill Clinton with a view to naming her his secretary of state.

Source: AFP

Senator Barack Obama with two campaign constants - his BlackBerry and his chief strategist, David Axelrod.

Senator Barack Obama with two campaign constants - his BlackBerry and his chief strategist, David Axelrod.

WASHINGTON — Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.

Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.

For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign.

“How about that?” Mr. Obama replied to a friend’s congratulatory e-mail message on the night of his victory.

But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.

For all the perquisites and power afforded the president, the chief executive of the United States is essentially deprived by law and by culture of some of the very tools that other chief executives depend on to survive and to thrive. Mr. Obama, however, seems intent on pulling the office at least partly into the 21st century on that score; aides said he hopes to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so.

Read it all…

RNC audio slide show

RNC audio slide show

Click to see audio slide show of conventions

Click to see audio slide show of conventions

Click to enlarge+

Click to enlarge+


ELECTION junkies in acute withdrawal need suffer no longer. Though the exciting Obama-McCain race is over, the cockfight among the losers has only just begun. The conservative crackup may be ugly, but as entertainment, it’s two thumbs up!

Over at Fox News, Greta Van Susteren has been trashing the credibility of her own network’s chief political correspondent, Carl Cameron, for his report on Sarah Palin’s inability to identify Africa as a continent, while Bill O’Reilly valiantly defends Cameron’s honor. At Slate, a post-mortem of conservative intellectuals descended into name-calling, with the writer Ross Douthat of The Atlantic labeling the legal scholar Douglas Kmiec a “useful idiot.”

In an exuberant class by himself is Michael Barone, a ubiquitous conservative commentator who last week said that journalists who trash Palin (more than a few of them conservatives) do so because “she did not abort her Down syndrome baby.” He was being “humorous,” he subsequently explained to Politico, though the joke may be on him. Barone writes for U.S. News & World Report, where his 2008 analyses included keepers like “Just Call Her Sarah ‘Delano’ Palin.” Just call it coincidence, but on Election Day, word spread that the once-weekly U.S. News was downsizing to a monthly — a step closer to the fate of Literary Digest, the weekly magazine that vanished two years after its straw poll predicted an Alf Landon landslide over Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936.

Will the 2008 G.O.P. go the way of the 1936 G.O.P., which didn’t reclaim the White House until 1952? Even factoring in the Democrats’ time-honored propensity for self-immolation, it’s not beyond reason. The Republicans are in serious denial. A few heretics excepted, they hope to blame all their woes on their unpopular president, the inept McCain campaign and their party’s latent greed for budget-busting earmarks.

The trouble is far more fundamental than that. The G.O.P. ran out of steam and ideas well before George W. Bush took office and Tom DeLay ran amok, and it is now more representative of 20th-century South Africa during apartheid than 21st-century America. The proof is in the vanilla pudding. When David Letterman said that the 10 G.O.P. presidential candidates at an early debate looked like “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club,” he was the first to correctly call the election.

On Nov. 4, that’s roughly the sole constituency that remained loyal to the party — minus its wealthiest slice, a previously solid G.O.P. stronghold that turned blue this year (in a whopping swing of 34 percentage points). The Republicans lost every region of the country by double digits except the South, which they won by less than double digits (9 points). They took the South only because McCain, who ran roughly even with Obama among whites in every other region, won Southern whites by 38 percentage points.

Blue areas show Democrat gains.

Blue areas show Democrat gains.

Read it all….

(CBS) President-elect Barack Obama has agreed to give his first post-election interview to 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. The interview includes future first lady Michelle Obama and is to take place on Friday, Nov. 14, in Chicago.


The interview is scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

60 Minutes has covered the campaign and the election closely. Most recently, Kroft and 60 Minutes cameras were with Obama’s top aides on election night for a segment broadcast on last Sunday’s 60 Minutes that drew 18.5 million viewers, ranking it America’s number-one program for the week.

Source: CBS


“On Monday, President-elect Barack Obama and Senator John McCain will meet in Chicago at transition headquarters,” Obama Transition spox Stephanie Cutter just announced. “It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality.”

McCain ally Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., Obama’s incoming White House chief of staff, will be there. Graham and Emanuel worked well together on negotiating the presidential debates.

In May, Obama alluded to putting McCain in his Cabinet when discussing how former President Abraham Lincoln put rivals in his Cabinet.

“Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through this time of crisis,” Obama said. “And I think that has to be the approach that one takes, whether it’s vice president or Cabinet, whoever, and by the way that does not exclude Republicans either. You know my attitude is – is that whoever is the best person for the job is the person I want.”

Obama had been answering a question about naming Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, as his running mate, but he added, “if I really thought that John McCain was the absolute best person for the Department of the Homeland Security, I would put him in there. I would, if I thought that he was the best. Now, I’m not saying I do. I’m just saying, that’s got to be the approach that you take because part of, part of the change that I’m looking for is — is to make sure that we, we’re reminded of what we have in common as Americans. We spend so much time, our politics is all built around trying to divide us.”

There is no indication Obama intends to offer McCain a position in his Cabinet, or that McCain would accept, but the two are expected to discuss areas where they can work together — the environment and national service, for instance.


With just weeks to go before taking office, the economy is hurting and oil and gasoline prices are dropping, all presenting challenges for President-elect Obama’s green energy proposals. Stacey Delo reports. (Part 1 in a series.) (Nov. 12)

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Though Bill Richards might be very good for relations with South America. Although I like Clinton’s stance on dealing with the Arabs on oil ~ when she say Bush begging the Arabs to lower the price that this was his administration’s energy plan. Then we have to remember that Hillary’s big thing is health ~ she might better serve here. 

Andrea Mitchell has a huge scoop — or a big red herring.

The part that really jumps out is the secret trip to Chi-town.

The Clinton camp –which has shot down these kinds of reports before — isn’t denying (read after excerpt):

    Two Obama advisers have told NBC News that Hillary Clinton is under consideration to be secretary of state. Would she be interested? Those who know Clinton say possibly. But her office says that any decisions about the transition are up to the president-elect and his team.
    Clinton was seen taking a flight to Chicago today, but an adviser says it was on personal business. It is unknown whether she had any meeting or conversation with Obama while there.
    Other Democrats known to want the State Department post are Sen. John Kerry and Gov. Bill Richardson. A possible compromise choice would be former Sen. Tom Daschle.

Clinton, who ridiculed Obama during the primaries as inexperienced on foreign affairs, has previously poo-pooed SoS chatter.

Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines: “[A]ny speculation about cabinet or other administration appointments is really for President-Elect Obama’s transition team to address.”

The first Obamaaide we got on the phone wouldn’t confirm or deny.



Barack Obama spent much of his presidential campaign decrying the influence of Washington lobbyists. In the 10 days since he was elected, he already has had an impact: He has touched off a mini-boom on K Street.

Top lobbying firms are gearing up to handle increased demand from corporate clients who fear that the Obama administration will expand its regulatory reach and target them for tax increases. Some firms, such as Patton Boggs, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Alston & Bird, are also preparing for new business resulting from the ongoing effort to stabilize the economy.

And who is cashing in on this boom? Democrats who supported Obama, such as Jaime R. Harrison.

Harrison helped mobilize voter turnout for Obama in South Carolina, and for the past two years he directed floor operations for House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) — credentials that made him a sought-after addition to firms looking for an edge in a new administration.

“I built a lot of strong relationships with members, as well as their staff, and some of my very best friends worked on the campaign,” Harrison said. He will start with the Podesta Group next week.

For some Republicans, this is bad news. Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Comcast have recently replaced Republicans in top corporate lobbying posts with Democrats. But most Republicans, especially prominent ones, profess little concern about Obama’s desire to shake up the culture in Washington, or seem chastened by strict new rules aimed at weakening their influence.


This week, Obama transition chief John D. Podesta told reporters that the president-elect would impose “the strictest and most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition in history,” including a series of rules defining how the group that is planning the new administration will interact with the lobbying industry.

Political scientist Norman J. Ornstein said that while the rules “may exclude some good people with deep experience in their fields . . . it will also exclude those who see government service as a springboard to financial success, or who are more intent on pleasing future potential employers or clients than making tough choices in the public interest.”

But almost from the start of his campaign, Obama made clear that he would not be slamming the door on interactions with lobbyists. In a December 2007 speech in Iowa, he said he was “running to tell the lobbyists in Washington that their days of setting the agenda are over. They have not funded my campaign. They won’t work in my White House.” But the candidate quickly backed away from that second part. A few days later in Waterloo, Iowa, he changed the phrasing to say that lobbyists “are not going to dominate my White House.”

One bright line Obama will continue to draw is his prohibition on campaign contributions from lobbyists, now extended to cover the nonprofit accounts he has set up to pay transition costs and fund inauguration festivities. That is in keeping with the ban on donations Obama enforced during the campaign.

Read it all…

Stiff Republican Resistance Could Force Democrats to Wait for Obama and Their Party’s Enlarged Majority to Take Office

WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats are scaling back plans for an economic-stimulus package as partisan deadlock clouds chances for passage of either that measure or a proposed bailout of Detroit’s auto makers until the party’s enlarged majority convenes in January.

Former auto worker Willie Daniel leaves a United Auto Workers hall in Brook Park, Ohio, on Wednesday. Like many UAW members, he took a buyout amid fears that jobs could disappear as car sales continue their steep decline.

Former auto worker Willie Daniel leaves a United Auto Workers hall in Brook Park, Ohio, on Wednesday. Like many UAW members, he took a buyout amid fears that jobs could disappear as car sales continue their steep decline.

Democratic leaders want to move legislation that would give a jobs-producing jolt to the economy. They also support proposals to toss a $25 billion financial lifeline to Detroit. But it isn’t clear either of those steps can pass before January, when President-elect Barack Obama and a new, more heavily Democratic Congress take office.

The biggest problem is in the Senate, where Democrats have only a 51-49 edge until year’s end. The Bush administration is balking at the Democratic agenda, and Republicans in the House and Senate are growing more vocal about their concerns, especially concerning the auto package.

“The financial situation facing the Big Three [auto makers] is not a national problem, but their problem,” said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

In the House, Minority Leader John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, assailed the proposed aid to Detroit as “neither fair to taxpayers nor sound fiscal policy.”

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd said Thursday that he knew of no Republicans who would support the $25 billion proposal by Democrats, and said he is disinclined to move a bill without bipartisan support.

“I’d want to be careful about bringing up a proposition that might fail,” given that a rescue plan would be more likely to pass under an Obama administration, the Connecticut Democrat told reporters on Capitol Hill. “There’s some political considerations that need to be made over the next few days.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada still plans to move forward next week. “Senator Reid still believes it is important to address this crisis plaguing our auto industry,” said Reid spokesman Jim Manley, adding that bipartisan cooperation will be needed. “We cannot do it without the support of Senate Republicans, who I hope will join us to pass a bill that saves the jobs and protects the livelihoods of millions of hard-working Americans.”

Mr. Dodd, meanwhile, wants to add foreclosure relief to an economic-stimulus package. He expressed frustration Thursday with efforts to help distressed homeowners by the private sector and the Bush administration, which was supposed to make foreclosure relief a top priority in the $700 billion rescue packaged enacted earlier this fall to stabilize financial markets.

“We want to see more progress,” Mr. Dodd said, adding he is prepared to legislate — “now, if possible” — to address the problem.

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Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney welcomed Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden and his wife Jill Biden to the Naval Observatory for a private meeting and tour of the Vice President’s Residence in Washington.

Obamas Hyde Park home now a fortress

Obamas Hyde Park home now a fortress

CHICAGO — A couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama headed to the Hyde Park Hair Salon for a trim. He greeted the staff and other customers and plopped down in the same chair in front of the same barber who has cut his hair for the last 14 years.

But when he wanted a trim this week, the Secret Service took one look at the shop’s large plate-glass windows and the gawking tourists eager for a glimpse of the president-elect and the plan quickly changed. If Mr. Obama could no longer come to the barber, the barber would come to him and cut his hair at a friend’s apartment.

Life for the newly chosen president and his family has changed forever. Even the constraints and security of the campaign trail do not compare to the bubble that has enveloped him in the 10 days since his election. Renegade, as the Secret Service calls him, now lives within the strict limits that come with the most powerful office on the planet.

“It’s always just the two of them,” said Tony Mantuano, the chef and co-owner of Spiaggia. “Now it’s just the two of them and 30 Secret Service agents.”

He has chosen to spend this interval before his Jan. 20 inauguration at his home in Hyde Park, which has in some ways been transformed into a secure fortress for his protection. After two years of daily speeches and rallies, he has retreated into an almost hermitlike seclusion, largely hidden from public view and spotted only when he drops his two daughters off for school or goes for a workout at the gymnasium in a friend’s apartment building.

“This is a tremendous personal transition, as well, far beyond what anyone could imagine,” said Alexi Giannoulias, the Illinois state treasurer and a close friend. “Little things, like going to the gym, going to the movies, going to dinner with his wife, none of that will ever be the same again. Things that we take for granted.”

Mr. Obama is putting off the change as much as he can by remaining in Chicago during the transition. “I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks,” he told someone in a telephone conversation overheard by reporters on his chartered plane heading back to Chicago after a White House visit on Monday.

Catching a glimpse of Obamas motorcade

Catching a glimpse of Obamas motorcade

Read more…


Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska spoke at The Republican Governors Association in Miami on Thursday

MIAMI — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska did something here on Thursday that she did not do in her entire campaign as the Republican Party’s vice presidential nominee: she stood behind a lectern and held a news conference. She was asked what had changed.

“The campaign is over,” she said.

Granted, the question and answer session lasted only four minutes, and for only four questions. As she stood on a stage in a hotel overlooking Biscayne Bay, surrounded by 12 fellow governors, Ms. Palin was asked what message she hoped to get across.

“I’m trying to convey the message that Republican governors are a unique team,” said Ms. Palin, who said she was uninterested in discussing the campaign.

But Ms. Palin did allow herself a look back after the brief news conference ended, as she addressed a session of the Republican Governors Association and told them that she had managed to keep busy since their last conference.

“I had a baby, I did some traveling, I very briefly expanded my wardrobe, I made a few speeches, I met a few VIPS, including those who really impact society, like Tina Fey,” she said.

And yes, she spoke again of “Joe the Plumber,” the Ohio man who briefly dominated the McCain-Palin campaign and its talk about taxes.

Ms. Palin thanked the people who attended her rallies, including young women she hopes she has influenced.

“I am going to remember all the young girls who came up to me at rallies to see the first woman having the privilege of carrying our party’s VP nomination,” she said. “We’re going to work harder, we’re going to be stronger, we’re going to do better and one day, one of them will be the president.”

That raised again the question surrounding Ms. Palin since the election ended: will she run in 2012?

“The future is not that 2012 Presidential race, it’s next year and our next budgets,” she said. It is in 2010, she said, that “we’ll have 36 governors positions open.”

Ms. Palin tried to downplay her celebrity (even after a week in which she was featured in interviews on NBC, FOX News and CNN). In her speech, she tried to change the focus from herself to the work that Republican governors must now do, including developing energy resources to health care reform.

“I am not going to assume that the answer is for the federal government to just take it over and try to run America’s health care system,” Ms. Palin said. “Heaven forbid.”

She implored her fellow Republican governors to “show the federal government the way,” while also reforming their own party.

“We are the minority party. Let us resolve not to be the negative party,” Ms. Palin said. “Let us build our case with actions, not just with words.”

Her appearance was the highly anticipated moment of the conference, coming a day after other emerging governors spoke about the direction of the Republican Party. Entering the political wilderness after its losses this month, the group that many consider its future met to talk about what went wrong, and what to do next.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, who was very nearly Senator John McCain’s running mate this year, told the decidedly subdued, post-election conference Wednesday about a revelation he had recently while looking into the bathroom mirror at his home in Minnesota.

Mr. Pawlenty said that after wearily returning from the campaign trail, he looked at himself in the mirror and complained about what he saw to his wife, Mary. “I said, ‘Mary, look at me,’ “ he said. “ ‘I mean, my hairline’s receding, these crow’s feet and wrinkles are multiplying on my face by the day, I’ve been on the road eating junk food, I’m getting flabby, these love handles are flopping over the side of my belt.’

“I said, ‘Is there anything you can tell me that would give me some hope, some optimism, some encouragement?’ “ he said. “And she looked at me and she said, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with your eyesight.’ “

As his fellow governors laughed, he came to the moral of the story: “If we are going to successfully travel the road to improvement, as Republicans, we need to see clearly, and we need to speak to each other candidly about the state of our party.”

The long, sometimes painful post-mortem of the election — where Republicans were widely repudiated, losing the White House and more seats in Congress — began in earnest here among Republican governors, a group that has traditionally served as a wellspring of new ideas and talent for the party. It was, at times, a bit glum.

Frank Luntz, the communications strategist, gave the Republicans a slideshow describing how Republicans have just endured their worst back-to-back elections since 1930 and 1932. And Mr. Luntz said that the prospect of sharing his polling research with a group of Republicans gave him pause. “I understand how Dr. Kevorkian feels at an AARP convention,” he said.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, another rising star in the party who is considered potential presidential fodder, said that the party needed to recapture the high ground on the ethics and good government, and that it could draw lessons from the high-tech campaign that Barack Obama waged.

“We should learn from that,” Mr. Jindal said.

Mr. Pawlenty kicked off the conference with a somewhat gloomy appraisal of where things stand for the Republican Party.

“We cannot be a majority governing party when we essentially cannot compete in the Northeast, we are losing our ability to compete in Great Lakes States, we cannot compete on the West Coast, we are increasingly in danger of competing in the Mid-Atlantic States, and the Democrats are now winning some of the Western States,” he said. “That is not a formula for being a majority governing party in this nation.”

“And similarly we cannot compete, and prevail, as a majority governing party if we have a significant deficit, as we do, with women, where we have a large deficit with Hispanics, where we have a large deficit with African-American voters, where we have a large deficit with people of modest incomes and modest financial circumstances,” he said. “Those are not factors that make up a formula for success going forward.”

“There will be calls, and voices across the country for Republicans to return to traditional conservative approaches in almost all respects,” he said, adding that there would also be calls to modernize the party.

“The good news is both are true, and both can be harmonized in my view,” Mr. Pawlenty said. “We can be both conservative and we can be modern at the same time.”


Opposing view: Lieberman Must Go

A look back: Joe Lieberman Attacks Barack Obama, Democratic Party


WASHINGTON — When a Congressional committee subpoenaed Harry S. Truman in 1953, nearly a year after he left office, he made a startling claim: Even though he was no longer president, the Constitution still empowered him to block subpoenas.

“If the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of the presidency is to have any validity at all, it must be equally applicable to a president after his term of office has expired,” Truman wrote to the committee.

Congress backed down, establishing a precedent suggesting that former presidents wield lingering powers to keep matters from their administration secret. Now, as Congressional Democrats prepare to move forward with investigations of the Bush administration, they wonder whether that claim may be invoked again.

“The Bush administration overstepped in its exertion of executive privilege, and may very well try to continue to shield information from the American people after it leaves office,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, who sits on two committees, Judiciary and Intelligence, that are examining aspects of Mr. Bush’s policies.

Topics of open investigations include the harsh interrogation of detainees, the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama, secret legal memorandums from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the role of the former White House aides Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers in the firing of federal prosecutors.

Mr. Bush has used his executive powers to block Congressional requests for executive branch documents and testimony from former aides. But investigators hope that the Obama administration will open the filing cabinets and withdraw assertions of executive privilege that Bush officials have invoked to keep from testifying.

“I intend to ensure that our outstanding subpoenas and document requests relating to the U.S. attorneys matter are enforced,” said Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. “I am hopeful that progress can be made with the coming of the new administration.”

Also, two advocacy groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, have prepared detailed reports for the new administration calling for criminal investigations into accusations of abuse of detainees.

It is not clear, though, how a President Barack Obama will handle such requests. Legal specialists said the pressure to investigate the Bush years would raise tough political and legal questions.

Read more here

Ronald A. Klain will be the VP-elect's chief of staff.

Ronald A. Klain will be the VP-elect's chief of staff.

Ronald A. Klain, former chief of staff and counselor to Vice President Al Gore, has accepted an offer to be chief of staff to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, Democratic officials said.

The position will put Klain, a seasoned political hand, at the heart of West Wing activity.

Biden, who has kept a low profile since Election Day, will head to the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory at 5:15 p.m. Thursday for a private meeting with Vice President Cheney. Biden and his wife, Jill, will also receive a tour of the residence from Cheney and his wife, Lynne.

The appointment enhances the continuity between the two Democratic administrations. Veterans of the Clinton-Gore White House have been given top jobs in the Obama-Biden transition.

Biden decided some time ago to offer Klain the job, but Klain’s friends weren’t sure he would take it. But he accepted the offer Wednesday afternoon, the officials said.

Klain was part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign policy and debate preparation staff, was Gore’s chief of staff during the 1996 reelection; and led debate preparation for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.

Klain, a key member of the Clinton-Gore legal team during the recount fight of 2000, was played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie “Recount.”

After the recount, Klain became a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
National Journal wrote in 1997 that Klain “may have the best resume in town.”

From Klain’s official biography: “Prior to his appointment to the White House, Klain was the staff director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees, the chief of staff for Attorney General Janet Reno, associate counsel to President Clinton, and chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary. …

“Klain graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University, and he obtained his juris doctor magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, winner of the Sears Prize, and a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe. For the 1987-1989 Supreme Court terms, Klain served as law clerk to Justice Byron R. White.”


I think the people on the McCain side were so obsessed with being negative and literally trying to destroy Barack Obama – over getting out their message. What they done is to feed the media with one haphazard negative attack after another — was Obama a terrorist or a socialist, and naturally the media seized on these — Palin’s famous ‘palling around’ rendition – over what they had planned to do for the country.

The atmosphere at McCain and particularly Palin rallies became so negative – that if the McCain camp had a message it wasn’t getting out over reporters of mob-like crowds shouting ‘kill him’, ‘off with his head’, ‘traitor’ and ‘terrorist’. While the McCain camp got what it wanted – in it’s calculated decision to go extremely negative – there were reports of campaign staff going out with the message that Osama and Obama are the same in that they both have terrorist friends. Or the racist overtones of the leaflets – and the sick joke gone-to-far robo-call calls – what the McCain camp got is a marginal constituency of people to go along with this – under the over arching message that if you didn’t come on their side then you were not pro-American, and likely were not putting Country First – what the McCain camp didn’t get was the support of the majority – who saw this as going in the wrong direction.

The way the McCain campaign was run was similar to the way he conducted himself in the debates, where McCain was more interested in sniping, taking off the gloves and kicking some you know what…, Barack Obama wasn’t as interested in scoring points – in realizing that this was one of the biggest audiences he was going to get, and therefore there was no better time to get across his message as clear and succinctly as he could. This was crystallized particularly in the second debate. And the following press coverage and American public came away with the view of just how well Obama did get his message across, versus the McCain coverage which was more about what was he doing during the debate, all the face pulling, the arrogant posturing, and the ‘that one’ comment. What McCain should have realized is that those antics and the antics of his and Palin’s stoked-up mob-like rallies – was off message, it created a new focus away from his campaign message. McCain and Palin lost because they were not connecting with anything people wanted to hear.

Two of the 63 requests for personal and professional records from a questionnaire for applicants to the Obama administration. Some requests cover applicants’ spouses and grown children.

Two of the 63 requests for personal and professional records from a questionnaire for applicants to the Obama administration. Some requests cover applicants’ spouses and grown children.

WASHINGTON — Want a top job in the Obama administration? Only pack rats need apply, preferably those not packing controversy.

A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive — some say invasive — application ever.

Questionnaire for Job Applicants (pdf)

The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants’ spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps.

Only the smallest details are excluded; traffic tickets carrying fines of less than $50 need not be reported, the application says. Applicants are asked whether they or anyone in their family owns a gun. They must include any e-mail that might embarrass the president-elect, along with any blog posts and links to their Facebook pages.

The application also asks applicants to “please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the Internet.”

The vetting process for executive branch jobs has been onerous for decades, with each incoming administration erecting new barriers in an effort to avoid the mistakes of the past, or the controversies of the present. It is typically updated to reflect technological change (there was no Facebook the last time a new president came to town).

But Mr. Obama has elevated the vetting even beyond what might have been expected, especially when it comes to applicants’ family members, in a reflection of his campaign rhetoric against lobbying and the back-scratching, self-serving ways of Washington.

“President-elect Obama made a commitment to change the way Washington does business, and the vetting process exemplifies that,” said Stephanie Cutter, chief spokeswoman for the Obama transition office.

Read on…

There’s been a lot of speculation that Michelle Obama’s 71-year-old mother, Marian Robinson, will be moving to the White House with her family in January. It would certainly be practical: Mrs. Robinson helped care for granddaughters Sasha and Malia while their parents were on the campaign trail, and the first couple’s new schedule will be no less punishing. Below is an introduction to the woman America now knows as ‘First Granny.’

Watch the documentary that played before Michelle Obama’s DNC speech, which Marian narrated:

Experts wonder if our first African-American president has more of an imperative to appoint minorities to high-ranking positions.

Experts wonder if our first African-American president has more of an imperative to appoint minorities to high-ranking positions.

By the sound of this discussion, it appears that Obama faces more pressure to pick a diverse Cabinet and not less. In any case it certainly seems his selection will be  scrutinized more [by some].

Oh to be the first!!

Since everyone else seems to be having a go….. I would think one of the most underrepresented groups in US administrations is… the Native American. Any talented Native Americans out there?

In 1992, Bill Clinton famously promised to appoint a Cabinet that “looks like America.” He followed through, tapping women and minorities for high-ranking positions and overseeing an administration more diverse than any that had come before it. President Bush continued this tradition, appointing two African-Americans to his national security/foreign policy team.

But now all this progress seems to pale in comparison to the history made Nov. 4, with this “first” being less groundbreaking than plate-shifting. To borrow the oft-used sports analogy, after years of seeing Jackie Robinsons take the field in different professions, the American people finally put one in the owner’s box.

But now that we have a black Branch Rickey in Barack Obama, what does that mean for the rest of the team? Put in political terms, does our first African-American president, elected with a rainbow coalition, have more of an imperative to appoint an administration that includes minorities in high-ranking positions?

Not really, is the answer supplied by a group of prominent African-Americans. Having a team of varied faces is preferable and in keeping with Obama’s pledge to represent all Americans — but these veteran black politicians and public officials say the president-elect should tap into the best talent available without taking a head-counting approach, in which slots are determined by demographics and symbolism trumps substance.

To some degree, Obama’s election is so historic that he is post-racial when it comes to choosing those who will work most closely with him.

“He will assemble a Cabinet that I think reflects a modern-day array of talent,” said Rep. Artur Davis, the Alabama Democrat who endorsed Obama early in the primary. “I don’t think he has any special obligation to play the quota game to have so many blacks and so many whites.”

It’s a potentially dicey decision. Obama campaigned around the notion that old divisions should be consigned to the past, a belief his election underscores. But he also won with overwhelming support from black Americans and is the very embodiment of the hopes and dreams of that community. To surround himself with a mostly white coterie of top advisers could turn off African-Americans.

To be sure, Obama’s instincts clearly seem to be inclusive — and given his background, how could they not be? To see Obama’s transition team and the group of economic advisers that stood behind him at his first news conference Friday in Chicago, it seems likely that a man of Kansas, Kenya, Hawaii, Indonesia and Chicago will appoint a team that reflects the diversity of his own extended family and unique life.  […]

“If you’re going to do diversity, put some significance on party diversity,” Espy said, noting that the new president could keep Defense Secretary Robert Gates at the Pentagon or tap Colin Powell for a high-ranking post and help himself with those Americans whose votes he didn’t receive.

Transition chief John Podesta said Tuesday that Obama would look hard at making non-Democratic appointments. Obama will make more than “token-level” appointments of Republicans and independents, Podesta said. […]

But while Obama may not need much in the way of outside advice to grasp the issues facing black America, there are others who will call for representatives of underrepresented communities.

“The way the Latino population is growing and the immigration issue is becoming, you’d be nuts not to have Hispanics in the Cabinet to express their views,” Wilkins said, noting that Native Americans should be afforded similar opportunities about their unique challenges and opportunities. […]

Donna Brazile, who became the first African-American to manage a presidential campaign when she ran Al Gore’s 2000 bid, agreed, noting that the times demand top talent.

“The important thing is that President-elect Obama selects the very best people to help his administration with the multitude of challenges we face,” Brazile said. “Some people will look to see if the new Cabinet looks like America in terms of diversity, but as strongly as I personally believe in diversity, I must also state for the record: Good appointments speak for itself.” […]

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WASHINGTON — Turning to campaign promises in which he pledged sweeping ethics restrictions, President-elect Barack Obama will bar lobbyists from helping to pay the costs of his transition to power or working for it in any area in which they have represented clients in the last year, his transition team said Tuesday.

Mr. Obama’s aides indicated that they expected the rules to apply to his inauguration as well as the transition, but said they had yet to make a final decision on how the inauguration would be paid for.

John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of the Obama transition, called the restraints “the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.”

“If someone has lobbied during the past 12 months, they’re prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied and will have to cease all lobbying activities during their work on the transition,” Mr. Podesta said, speaking to reporters in the first official briefing by the transition team.

But the new rules do seem to leave some wiggle room. Aides to Mr. Obama, who declared during the campaign that lobbyists would not “find a job in my White House,” said the guidelines allowed for lobbyists to work on the transition in areas where they have not done any lobbying.

Further, the rules apply to lobbyists who must register with the federal government; many people who work for lobbying firms or in other areas of the influence business in Washington do not have to register, because they do not personally lobby federal officials on specific issues.

Mr. Podesta said he expected the transition to employ some 450 people and have a budget of about $12 million. Of that amount, $5.2 million will be paid by the government, with the remaining $6.8 million coming from private sources, he said. Contributions will be limited to $5,000, he said, and the transition will not accept money from political action committees.

During a presidential campaign in which he raised $650 million, Mr. Obama changed the rules of fund-raising, declining public financing and creating his own multimillion-member chain of donors. At least some of those contributors will be solicited for the transition.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama laid out more detailed and onerous ethics rules than any previous prospective president, pledging to bar appointees for two years from working on matters involving their former employers, to prohibit departing officials from lobbying his administration for its duration and to require all political appointees to disclose publicly every meeting with registered lobbyists.

The rules have led to some grumbling that at a time of immense challenges, an Obama administration could be excluding a pool of substantial talent by stopping people from working for the White House in the areas they know best.

“I’ve heard the complaint,” Mr. Podesta said, “which is we’re leaving all this expertise on the side, because we’re leaving all the people who know everything out in the cold. And so be it. This is a commitment that the American public expects, and it’s one that we intend to enforce during the transition.”

It remains unclear how the rules will affect the inauguration. President Bush raised more than $40 million for his second inauguration, mostly from companies and executives.

While aides to Mr. Obama say they are keenly aware that a lavish celebration might not be well received given the faltering economy, they indicate that the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s inauguration and the expectations of high turnout all but guarantee that the occasion, on Jan. 20, will be a huge one.

Yet in one early sign that the celebrations are likely to be somewhat scaled back, Mr. Obama canceled fireworks on election night in Grant Park in Chicago, telling his advisers that the times were too serious for that type of festivity.

“It’s going to be a balancing act,” one Obama aide said, “and I’m not sure how it’s going to be done.”



President-elect Barack Obama is hearing from private sector economists, and some members of his economic advisory team that Congress should consider — and he should sign into law in January — a far broader stimulus package than anyone has publicly discussed to date.

Instead of $300 billion dollars, which has been the upper limit, they are now talking about $500 billion, which is 3 to 4 percent of GDP.

These advisers are looking at analysis that says next year unemployment could top eight percent, private sector spending could drop six percent of GDP, and the Federal Reserve is basically out of room to do anything more with monetary policy.

So they argue the nation’s economy will need that injection of capital.

How? They’re talking about implementing it through infrastructure — roads and bridges. Tax cuts. Investments in so-called green-jobs and alternative energy development. Unemployment extensions. And other aid to state and local governments.

But the big question is: how do you get the stimulus without making it permanent spending that increases the deficit over the long term?

President-elect Barack Obama has made no final decisions on a stimulus package, but this is what they’re contemplating right now.

Source: ABC News

11-12-2008-7-39-56-am When a CBS correspondent reported last month that Barack Obama’s campaign had a malodorous airplane and a dismissive attitude toward the media, Robert Gibbs, the candidate’s top spokesman, was not pleased.

“Robert wrote a rather tendentious note to me,” Dean Reynolds says. “He would get in your face, not in a very heated way, but he would question your stories.”

Gibbs, who transition officials say is in line to become White House press secretary, can be funny, gossipy and an invaluable source of information about his boss, journalists say. He also monitors coverage intensively, pushing back against the smallest blog post he considers inaccurate.

“This is not someone who stays above the fray,” Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe says. “His manner allows him to do tough stuff in a softer way. He could deliver a harsh message, but do it with a little sense of humor, so you’d feel punched in the stomach but not in the face.”

Asked about complaints that he retaliated against reporters who were deemed unfair, Gibbs invokes the pressure of the campaign. “In hindsight, there are discussions I had in the heat of the moment that if I had to do over again, you would do differently,” he says. “I don’t doubt there’s countless episodes you would go back and do over again. I think you do better when you treat people with respect. There were a couple of times that I flew off the handle.”

Now the sparring will take place in the glare of televised briefings. After a career spent working for Democratic candidates and lawmakers, the 37-year-old Alabama native is about to become the public face of the Obama administration.

While he can be combative in private, Gibbs is affable and smooth-talking on camera, often deflecting uncomfortable questions with a quip. Colleagues say Gibbs channels the president-elect in a way that goes beyond their shared passion for college football. Obama had an initial tendency to overanswer questions, but Gibbs has taught him how to pivot back to his scripted point.

“He’s the last person Barack talks to when he’s thinking about how to handle reporters’ questions,” says Linda Douglass, a campaign spokeswoman. “We call him the Barack Whisperer. He completely understands his thinking and knows how Barack wants to come across.”

That quality was not lost on journalists covering the highly disciplined campaign. “A huge asset that Robert has is that he’s in the room with the president-elect,” says Jake Tapper, ABC’s senior White House correspondent. “He has his trust and his ear. He’s not just a press flunky who gets handed a piece of paper with talking points.”

Read more here

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.


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.



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.


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.


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.”



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.

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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


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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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

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

As Roosevelt did with the New Deal, Obama has represented different versions of moral leadership to different groups of voters.

As Roosevelt did with the New Deal, Obama has represented different versions of moral leadership to different groups of voters.

In September, 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic nominee for President, was asked by a reporter for his view of the job that he was seeking. “The Presidency is not merely an administrative office,” Roosevelt said. “That’s the least of it. It is more than an engineering job, efficient or inefficient. It is preëminently a place of moral leadership. All our great Presidents were leaders of thought at times when certain historic ideas in the life of the nation had to be clarified.” He went down the list of what we would now call transformative Presidents: Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson. (He also included Grover Cleveland, who hasn’t aged as well.) Then Roosevelt asked, “Isn’t that what the office is, a superb opportunity for reapplying—applying in new conditions—the simple rules of human conduct we always go back to? I stress the modern application, because we are always moving on; the technical and economic environment changes, and never so quickly as now. Without leadership alert and sensitive to change, we are bogged up or lose our way, as we have lost it in the past decade.”

When the reporter pressed Roosevelt to offer a vision of his own historical opportunity, he gave two answers. First, he said, America needed “someone whose interests are not special but general, someone who can understand and treat the country as a whole. For as much as anything it needs to be reaffirmed at this juncture that the United States is one organic entity, that no interest, no class, no section, is either separate or supreme above the interests of all.” But Roosevelt didn’t limit himself to the benign self-portrait of a unifying President. “Moral leadership” had a philosophical component: he was, he said, “a liberal.” The election of 1932 arrived at one of those recurring moments when “the general problems of civilization change in such a way that new difficulties of adjustment are presented to government.” As opposed to a conservative or a radical, Roosevelt concluded, a liberal “recognizes the need of new machinery” but also “works to control the processes of change, to the end that the break with the old pattern may not be too violent.”

That November, Roosevelt defeated President Herbert Hoover in a landslide. His election ended an age of conservative Republican rule, created a Democratic coalition that endured for the next four decades, and fundamentally changed the American idea of the relationship between citizen and state. On March 4, 1933, Roosevelt was inaugurated under a bleak sky, at the darkest hour of the Great Depression, with banks across the country failing, hundreds of thousands of homes and farms foreclosed, and a quarter of Americans out of work.

11-10-2008-8-13-34-pmIn defining his idea of the Presidency, Roosevelt had left himself considerable room for maneuvering. His campaign slogan of a “new deal” promised change, but to different observers this meant wildly different things, from a planned economy to a balanced budget. “Roosevelt arrived in Washington with no firm commitments, apart from his promise to ‘try something,’ ” the Times editorialist Adam Cohen writes in his forthcoming book, “Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America.” “At a time when Americans were drawn to ideologies of all sorts, he was not wedded to any overarching theory.”

Barack Obama’s decisive defeat of John McCain is the most important victory of a Democratic candidate since 1932. It brings to a close another conservative era, one that rose amid the ashes of the New Deal coalition in the late sixties, consolidated its power with the election of Ronald Reagan, in 1980, and immolated itself during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Obama will enter the White House at a moment of economic crisis worse than anything the nation has seen since the Great Depression; the old assumptions of free-market fundamentalism have, like a charlatan’s incantations, failed to work, and the need for some “new machinery” is painfully obvious. But what philosophy of government will characterize it?

The answer was given three days before the election by a soldier and memoirist of the Reagan revolution, Peggy Noonan, who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “Something new is happening in America. It is the imminent arrival of a new liberal moment.” The Journal’s editorial page anticipated with dread “one of the most profound political and ideological shifts in U.S. history. Liberals would dominate the entire government in a way they haven’t since 1965, or 1933. In other words, the election would mark the restoration of the activist government that fell out of public favor in the 1970s.” The Journal’s nightmare scenario of America under President Obama and a Democratic Congress included health care for all, a green revolution, expanded voting rights, due process for terror suspects, more powerful unions, financial regulation, and a shift of the tax burden upward. (If the editorial had had more space, full employment and the conquest of disease might have made the list.)

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Looks like Barack Obama is looking to use the opportunity to pick George Bush’s mind, somehow George Bush looks a little vulnerable!

WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, received a warm welcome at the White House shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time by the current occupant, President George W. Bush, a man with whom he expressed a sea of differences during the just-ended election campaign. When the president and Mrs. Bush greeted the Obamas at the driveway on the South Lawn, the women hugged and their husbands shook hands, with Mr. Obama using the two-handed greeting common among senators, with his left hand on Mr. Bush’s right arm during the handshake. The two men were dressed almost identically in dark blue suits, white shirts and blue ties. Ms. Bush wore a brown suit, and Ms. Obama a burnt-orange dress.

A few minutes after the couples entered the White House together, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama reemerged and strolled along the colonnade past the Rose Garden to the outer entrance to the Oval Office. Mr. Obama walked just at Mr. Bush’s shoulder and appeared to be speaking animatedly, gesturing with both hands. Each of the men waved several times to reporters and others off camera.

While Ms. Bush showed Ms. Obama the White House, their husbands met for just over an hour in the Oval Office, discussing the transfer of power from Mr. Bush’s conservative Republican administration to a presumably much more liberal Democratic leadership.


Mr. Obama saw the Oval Office in person for the first time, just 10 weeks before he will make history by returning as its first black occupant. A physical reminder of the coming change was provided by construction equipment gathered in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the north side of the White House. The equipment is soon to be put to work building glass-fronted, heated viewing stands where the Obama team will view the inaugural parade on Jan. 20.

As the capital swirled with talk of an expanded bailout package for the troubled American International Group, of unemployment figures that continue to swell, of deep trouble in the auto industry and the urgent financial summit to be convened later this week by Mr. Bush, some of the more pressing issues awaiting discussion by the two leaders on Monday afternoon seemed clear. Similarly, two wars — on which the president and president-elect differ considerably — will demand careful and delicate coordination. As the Obamas were arriving at the White House, several hundred protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue chanted “No More Wars” as they waved signs condemning President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Mr. Obama, who does not plan to attend the financial summit, has said he expected a “substantive conversation” with Mr. Bush on Monday. Such first meetings are governed by no rules but are deeply immersed in tradition. Neither man was expected to issue any extended statement after the meeting, which is taking place unusually early in the transition period.

Josh Bolten, the president’s chief of staff, said on Monday morning that the president and president-elect will be alone in the Oval Office when they meet, without aides present.

“I’m sure each of them will have a list of issues to go down,” Mr. Bolten said during a televised interview with reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post. “But I think that’s something very personal to both of them. I know the president will want to convey to President-elect Obama his sense of how to deal with some of the most important issues of the day. But exactly how he does that, I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody will know.”

Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had relatively little personal contact before now, and by some accounts, when they have met, there has been some awkwardness.

Mr. Bush told a friend during the 2008 Democratic primary race that he thought Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was “more experienced and more ready to be president.” But the same friend, speaking anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president, called Mr. Bush “a realist” who was ready to move on in the nation’s interest; Mr. Bush’s postelection comments have so far been gracious and have emphasized a cooperative approach.

For his part, Mr. Obama and his aides have missed no opportunity to remind Americans that they have only one president at a time.

Even so, Mr. Obama and his team are moving expeditiously to plan the transition and a post-Inauguration agenda that aides said would probably include the quick reversal of some Bush policies, such as his restrictions on stem-cell research and on oil and gas drilling.

One thing is certain: The body language between the Obamas and the Bushes will be widely scrutinized and assessed, to see whether they appear to be comfortable working together or, as was the case with some past transition meetings, are straining just to appear polite.

Mr. Obama flew to Washington Monday morning from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago aboard a chartered American Airlines Boeing Super-80 jetliner. A spokeswoman for Ms. Obama said she flew to Washington separately.

Having had a chance to size up their new accommodations, and those who have occupied them for eight years, the Obamas are scheduled to return immediately afterward to Chicago, where the work of transition will continue.

A spokeswoman for the transition team, Stephanie Cutter, told Reuters today in Chicago that Mr. Obama would announce no Cabinet nominees this week.



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