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Update | 12:45 a.m.
The Obamas have been zooming through their 10 official balls and are now running more than an hour ahead of schedule.
The whole ball tour was supposed to end at 2:55 a.m., but they’re wrapping it up before 12:45. And who can blame them? By the fifth and sixth of these things, the first couple were clearly operating on fumes.
All night they’ve been leaning back and forth in lieu of dancing, and stepping on Mrs. Obama’s dress; he’s been saying he wants to dance with “the one that brung me,” and he tells the crowds that his wife is doing everything he does except backwards and in heels. The difference is that for the last few balls, they have actually looked exhausted.
Still, the point of going to all these balls is to thank the campaign workers and donors — and keep them energized for future fights.
By now, Mr. Obama has boiled down his thank-you speech to less than a minute. At their last ball, for Eastern states, held at Union Station, he lapsed into a bit of campaign-speak.
“Today was your day,” he said. “Today was a day that represented all your efforts, all your faith, all your confidence in what’s possible in America. They said it couldn’t be done. And you did it.”
He called on his supporters to apply the same energy to governing and to rebuilding communities that they did to the campaign. “Yes we can,” the crowd cheered.
He also ended with some indirect criticism of the Bush era. “There is something in the spirit of the American people that insists on recreating this country when we get a little bit off course,” he said. “That’s what powered this election, it’s what’s given our team the kind of energy that has allowed us to overcome extraordinary obstacles and given me so much confidence that our better days are ahead.”
His final reminder was this: to understand “that this is not the end, this is the beginning.”
He then asked his wife for “one last dance” and cued the band — for the same song, “At Last,” that they’ve been dancing to all night.
So that’s a wrap. And they headed home. At last.
At the Youth Ball | 10:47 p.m. Eastern Mr. and Mrs. Obama took the stage at the Youth Ball at the Washington Hilton around 10:35 p.m., where Mr. Obama gave extra hosannas to those who helped get win election.
“When you look at the history of this campaign, what started out as an improbable journey, where nobody gave us a chance, was carried forward by, was inspired by, was driven by, was energized by young people all across America,” Mr. Obama said.
The audience gave him huge applause and started chanting, “Yes we can!”
He went on to give them a campaign-style pep talk, which we’ve transcribed for you below. But he also commented on his dance moves, which have been creating some buzz all night, mostly because watching him dance was a surprise. Rather like seeing him bowl last year during the Pennsylvania primary, you expected it to be a little more polished, a little smoother.
Mr. Obama, it turns out, specializes in the slow sway of guys who aren’t super-comfortable on the dance floor. And he will occasionally throw in a twirl.
But what his style may have lacked in panache, it certainly made up in passion. He and his wife cuddle and coo and smooch and are very comfortable — they even look happy — in each other’s arms.
So all of this chatter about dancing prompted him to say after a turn on the floor at the Youth Ball, “That’s what’s called ‘Old School.’ ” Everyone laughed.
Anyway, back to his speech to the young folks.
Mr. Obama told them: “I can’t tell you how many people have come up to Michelle and myself and said, ‘You know, I was kind of skeptical, but then my daughter, she wouldn’t budge, she just told me I needed to vote for Obama.’ Or, ‘Suddenly I saw my son, he was out volunteering and knocking on doors and traveling and getting involved like never before.’ And so new generations inspired previous generations, and that’s how change happens in America.”
He said this applied not just to campaigns but to service, like teaching or joining the Peace Corps.
“And as this is broadcast all around the world,” he added, “we know that young people everywhere are in the process of imagining something different than what has come before. Where there is war, they imagine peace. Where there is hunger, they imagine people being able to feed themselves. Where there is disease, they imagine a public health system that works for everybody. Where there is bigotry, they imagine togetherness. The future will be in your hands if you are able to sustain the kind of energy and focus that you showed on this campaign. I promise you that America will get stronger and more united, more prosperous, more secure — you are going to make it happen, and Michelle and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
And then this: “Hit it, band.”
Then it was on to Joe Biden’s “Home States” ball, for Pennsylvania and Delaware. And he was only halfway through his night of dancing.
Speaking to the Troops | 9:55 p.m. Mr. Obama speaks solemnly to service members at the Commander-in-Chief ball. “Every day that I’m in the White House, I’ll try to serve you as well as you serve America,” he says. And he promises that, together with the troops, “we will write the next great chapter in America’s story.” Then he talks by satellite video link with some soldiers from Illinois who are serving in Afghanistan.
There’s some friendly banter with the soldiers about their baseball preferences. Only one of the five tells the White-Sox-fan-in-chief that she is a Sox fan, too; the rest say they root for the Cubs.
More on the Ball Gown | 9:22 p.m. A few more details about the gown are filtering in. It’s made of ivory silk chiffon, embellished with organza and Swarovski crystal rhinestones and silver thread embroidery. It was custom designed and made exclusively for Mrs. Obama, said Gina Pepe, Mr. Wu’s spokeswoman.
Home States | 9:11 p.m. The First Couple’s next ball — the Home States ball (Hawaii and Illinois) — is just down the hallway from the Neighborhood ball at the Washington Convention Center. “Aloha,” Mr. Obama says to the crowd. “You’re not new friends, you’re old friends, and for that we’re grateful to you,” he says. His presidency is not just about him making the country better, he says, but “about all of you.” He asks the crowd to remember his motto, “Yes, we can.” They’re having a bit of trouble dancing because they keep stepping on her dress. But that doesn’t stop the president from giving his wife a twirl. Now the two have wrapped their arms around each other and are sloooow dancing. And after about two minutes, they’re off to the next event — the Commander in Chief ball at the National Building Museum.
Now Where’d They Go? | 9:01 p.m. Well, this set-up with exclusive deals for certain TV networks to broadcast means this is not the most accessible inauguration ever, as the inaugural planners keep saying. It’s frustrating for anyone who wants to follow the new president’s path tonight, although those who paid big bucks to attend the balls are probably quite happy.
We’re left to contemplate the mystery of Mrs. Obama’s dress. The designer, Jason Wu, is a young New York designer whom Mrs. Obama has worn before.
He’s 26 and from Taiwan and told The Wall Street Journal recently that he had never imagined that Mrs. Obama might wear one of his designs at the inaugural balls.
Signed, Sealed, Delivered | 8:44 p.m. We didn’t get to see much of the first dance, but we are watching Jamie Foxx tell the crowd at the Neighborhood ball: “You can tell that was a black president by the way he was moving.”
Mr. and Mrs. Obama are now group dancing to Stevie Wonder singing, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” (And lots of other are joining them.)
At Last … | 8:37 p.m. It’s the first dance. And thwack! CNN cuts away as Beyonce is singing “At Last.”
The Dress | 8:37 p.m. Here it is! The dress is white, with one large sash over her right shoulder. Jason Wu is the designer. “How good lookin’ is my wife?” the new president asks the crowd at the Neighborhood ball, their first of the evening.
Party Time | 8:19 p.m. One of the biggest secrets of Inauguration Day is about to be revealed. Barack and Michelle Obama are on their way to their first ball, and the world will finally see what Mrs. Obama has chosen to wear. She apparently had a few options because she didn’t make up her mind until the final hours.
The new First Couple has left the White House, so the unveiling of the dress is just moments away!
WASHINGTON — Tens of thousands thronged to the Capitol this morning preparing to witness the midday inauguration of Barack Obama of Illinois as the 44th president of the United States and the first African American to hold the nation’s highest elected office.
Even before the sun rose, people streamed from all directions to the West Front of the Capitol, making their way on foot and by mass transit since traffic was barred from a wide area around the grounds and the National Mall for security and to prevent gridlock due to the multitude expected to attend.
Given the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s election, black Americans appeared to be much more prevalent in the gathering crowd than at inaugurals of the recent past.
Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, were scheduled to meet the outgoing president, George W. Bush, and his wife, Laura, at the White House for a coffee at 10 a.m. before driving to the Capitol for a carefully choreographed ceremony that will climax with a peaceful transfer of executive authority to Mr. Obama shortly before noon. His inaugural address will follow.
But first, the Obamas went to church, followed by coffee with President Bush and his wife, Laura.
They left Blair House at 8:47 a.m. for the short drive in their new presidential Cadillac limousine to St. John’s Episcopal Church, just a few blocks away, for a prayer service. Mr. Obama wore a dark suit and red tie. Michelle Obama wore a sparkling golden dress and matching coat.
As the Obamas sat in the center of a front row pew, next to Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. and his wife, Jill, the keynote speaker, Bishop T.D. Jakes of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, read a Biblical passage from Daniel 3:19. He then offered some lessons clearly aimed both to brace and hearten the president-elect: “In time of crisis, good men must stand up”; “You cannot change what you will not confront,” and “You cannot enjoy the light without enduring the heat.”
Shortly before 10 a.m., the Obamas arrived at the White House, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Biden. The Obamas were met at the door by the Bushes. The two men shook hands and with their wives posed for a picture before going inside for a traditional coffee and a final few moments for the Bushes in the home they have occupied the past eight years.
Aides said Mr. Obama was expected to emphasize personal responsibility in his speech.
“He is going to be counting on the American people to come together,” Colin Powell, the former military leader and secretary of state, said in an appearance on MSNBC on Tuesday morning. “We all have to do something to help the country move forward under the leadership of this new president.”
As a black American who grew up in a segregated nation, Mr. Powell said the inauguration was looming as a powerful and emotional moment for African Americans. “You almost start tearing up,” he said.
The crowd that stretched down the mall was festive and enthusiastic. They were bundled against the cold, with the temperature just above 20 degrees at 9 a.m., and the forecast calling for it to remain in the low 30s.
Mr. Obama’s assumption of the presidency caps a remarkable rise for a man first elected to national office in 2004, winning a Senate seat in a year when he also delivered the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.
To win the presidency, he defeated Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who will become his secretary of state, in a pitched presidential primary battle and then beat Senator John McCain of Arizona in a general election conducted against the backdrop of a national economic collapse.
Though Mr. Obama did not emphasize his African American heritage as a candidate, the symbolism was evident and was reinforced by the fact that the swearing in was taking place the day following the national holiday to mark the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. He will take office less than a month before the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, another Illinoisan who took the office at a time of national turmoil and a man whom Mr. Obama clearly looks to as an inspiration for his own presidency.
“Today is about validation of the dream Dr. King enunciated 45 years ago on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial,” Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 Democrat in the House and the highest ranking black lawmaker in Congress, said on Tuesday morning.
Responding to warnings that the huge crowd could cause long waits and security screen checkpoints, people packed Washington’s subway trains by 5:30 a.m., filling all the parking lots at the outer stations; the subways had carried more than 400,000 riders by 8 a.m. An accident halted service on one of the main lines around 10 a.m.
Shortly after 7 a.m., as the sun rose above the Capitol dome, there was a glittering burst of flash-bulbs as the teeming crowd collectively snapped thousands of photos of the dramatic moment. Around the Capitol, ticket gates opened for the long lines that were already waiting. Before long the Mall was packed with people for as far as the eye could see; by 9 a.m the eastern half of the Mall, closer to the Capitol, was completely full. Large crowds continued to stream in on foot from many blocks away, heading to the area near the Washington Monument. On the East Front, where the swearing in of the president used to occur, Marine One was parked in the plaza, ready to be re-designated for the flight taking President Bush and Mrs. Bush to the airport.
Inside the Capitol, staffers were scurrying about putting the final touches on the Inaugural Luncheon in Statuary Hall. The corridor leading to the House chamber had been transformed into staging grounds for the caterers, with huge serving tins of beets and green vegetables. Outside the House chamber, were dozens of cases of Korbel Champagne.
The tables were set with large centerpieces of red roses. And a lectern, fashioned from a brass statue of a bald eagle, was positioned behind the dais. Decorators were making final adjustments to the lighting of “View of Yosemite Valley” an 1885 painting by Thomas Hill that was positioned directly behind the President Obama’s seat at the center of the dais.
Framed by the marble memorial to Abraham Lincoln and facing a crowd of more than half a million people, Barack Obama delivered a message of hope last night declaring: ‘Anything is possible in America.’
The President-elect was speaking at last night’s conclusion to Washington’s star-studded ‘We Are One’ concert featuring a string of superstar supporters including Bruce Springsteen, U2, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder.
Two days before he takes office as the first black US president, Mr Obama underscored the challenge ahead, saying: ‘Only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now.’
But despite an economy in crisis and a war being fought on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said he is ‘as hopeful as ever’.
‘Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead – I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure – that the dream of our founders will live on in our time,’ he added.
The huge party on the National Mall – which also included Vice-President Joe Biden, actor Tom Hanks and golfer Tiger Woods as speakers – kicked off a dizzying round of lavish balls, concerts and celebrations to mark Tuesday’s swearing-in ceremony.
The inauguration has also seen the biggest security operation in history being mobilised.
Washington D.C. is being turned into a fortress city with a 45,000-strong force of police, soldiers and secret service officials.
As the first black President prepares to take office, security chiefs were planning for a range of potential assassination scenarios, from a lone gunman to a terrorist attack.
But for a few days at least, the nation’s worst economic slide since the Great Depression was being glossed over in a marathon of spectacle and tradition that dwarfs any past Inauguration Day festivities.
However there was growing unease last night that the estimated £100million bill for the array of events will be just as historic as Mr Obama’s ascent to the White House.
The grandeur of the presidential coronation has some senior Republicans suggesting the incoming Commander-in-Chief has misread the country’s mood.
While the capital came alive with excitement on the eve of the inauguration, the rest of the US remains weighed down with problems at home and abroad.
Mr Obama confronted those fears head-on in his rousing speech last night, saying: ‘Our nation is at war, our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes.
‘I won’t pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy,’ he added. ‘It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our resolve as a nation.’
But he said he had faith in a nation that was at its best in times of trial.
The President-elect has been trying to walk a delicate line by mixing celebrity-studded parties like last night’s concert featuring superstar supporters like U2, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Beyonce with more statesman-like appearances.
He kicked off with a train journey on Saturday from Philadelphia to Washington echoing George Washington’s ride from Mount Vernon to New York, where the US capital was then located.
Yesterday, a sombre Mr Obama laid a wreath at the Tomb Of The Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery on the Virginia side of the Potomac River before going with his family to the Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, where he and his family were greeted with an ovation.
Mr Obama plans to lead commemorations for slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King today, a national holiday in the US in memory of the iconic churchman who was assassinated in 1968, five years after his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.
It is a poignant anniversary for Mr Obama, who declared it a day of national service and he plans to visit residents living in some of Washington’s poorest suburbs.
Last night, wife, Michelle and daughters Malia, ten, and seven-year-old Sasha joined him at the free inauguration concert attended by a crowd of up to half a million people.
Among the speakers was Martin Luther King III, the son of the civil rights hero, who introduced a video clip of President John F.Kennedy’s famous ‘ask not’ inauguration address.
Last night’s crowd is expected to grow to an unprecedented two million for the Inauguration Day events on the steps of the US Capitol building – more than double the number for any previous president taking the oath.
After a giant parade from the Capitol to the White House, the new president will attend at least ten glitzy official balls around the city, with all eyes on the First Lady’s fashions.
‘No-one is begrudging the president a celebration to mark this watershed event, but people struggling to keep their homes are going to be looking at this and wondering what is going on,’ said one senior Republican analyst.
After George Bush’s election victory in 2004, Democrats urged him to be frugal, pointing to President Roosevelt’s 1945 inauguration when he made a short speech and served guests ‘cold chicken salad and plain pound cake’.
During World War I, President Wilson cancelled all parties marking the beginning of his term in 1917, saying festivities would be ‘undignified’.
But Mr Obama’s inauguration committee says it doesn’t believe Americans will consider the celebrations excessive.
‘That is probably not the way the country is going to be looking at it,’ said committee spokeswoman Linda Douglass.
‘It is not a celebration of an election. It is a celebration of our common values.’
Stephen Hess, a fellow of the Brookings Institute in Washington, said Americans have always loved a party.
‘We broke away from the Brits and we had something to celebrate then, and we’ve really never stopped celebrating,’ he said.
‘If anything, Americans need reason to celebrate even more during tough times.
‘That’s why movies starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were so popular during the Great Depression, just to name one example. People need an escape, they deserve a good celebration, and Barack Obama’s inauguration more than any other gives people a great reason to celebrate,’ he added.
Adding to the price tag is the cost of a massive security operation.
More than 40,000 police, soldiers and Secret Service staff have been given the task of keeping the new president safe. While officials say they haven’t received any credible threats, they aren’t leaving anything to chance.
Organisers even have an army brigade ready to respond to a chemical and biological attack.
Mr Obama’s inaugural committee has raised about £30 million towards the cost of staging events like last night’s show and they were paid an additional £3 million for the exclusive TV rights to screen last night’s concert and another tonight starring teen stars Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.
But most of the rest of the costs – including security and transportation – are being covered by the taxpayer.
Although he may not get to bed before 3am after the inaugural balls, Mr Obama plans to make Wednesday, his first full day as President.
He will start Wednesday at Washington’s National Cathedral for the National Prayer Service, which dates to George Washington’s time.
Then he will have to return to the serious business of running the country.
Source: Daily Mail
It’s official: Marian Robinson, the 71-year-old mother-in-law of President-elect Barack Obama, will be moving into the White House, transition officials said on Friday.
In fact, Mrs. Robinson is already in town, helping to smooth the family’s personal transition as Mr. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters prepare for new lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“She is here to help them get up and running,’’ said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “She will determine in the coming months whether or not she wants to stay in D.C. permanently.”
In some ways, Mrs. Robinson’s decision to move – at least temporarily — is no real surprise. During the presidential campaign, Mrs. Robinson was a family mainstay, caring for the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, while their parents were on the road.
She took them to school, to piano lesson and dance lessons, cooked their meals, ran their baths and got them to bed on time. She was a critical part of the family’s effort to keep the girls’ lives as normal as possible in the midst of extraordinary times.
But Mrs. Robinson is also deeply rooted in Chicago. She still lives in the house where Michelle Obama grew up. And she has often expressed ambivalence about the notion of moving to Washington.
“I’ve never lived outside of Chicago, so I don’t know,’’ said Mrs. Robinson, hesitating a bit as she considered last year whether she was willing to move into the White House. “In the end, in the end, I’ll do whatever. I might fuss a little, but I’ll be there.”
Cigarette clamped between thumb and finger, a louche Barack Obama leans back with smouldering eyes and draws smoke deep into his lungs.
When he agreed to model for an aspiring photographer’s portfolio, the prospect of this image reemerging 28 years later as he prepared to enter the White House probably never crossed his mind.
Back then he was a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles struggling with his racial identity and, by his own admission, experimenting with drugs. These days he can claim to be the fittest President-elect in history, working out six days a week with a gym regime that some suspect borders on the obsessive. But he is still trying to kick cigarettes.
Time magazine, naming Mr Obama as its Person of the Year, yesterday published the long-lost pictures with the photographer, Lisa Jack, saying that they showed a “spirit of fun and thoughtfulness” in the President-elect.
The film, she said, was kept locked in a safe during the election campaign so that it could not be used for political purposes. Some polls have suggested that his smoking habit was a bigger barrier to him getting elected than the colour of his skin.
Although Mr Obama was careful to avoid being photographed smoking on the campaign trail, he has acknowledged in recent interviews that despite promising to quit “there were times where I have fallen off the wagon”.
Under pressure from his wife, Michelle, Mr Obama claims that his daily intake has fallen from a peak of seven or eight to rare occasions when he has “bummed one” from an aide.
His battle with cigarettes is facing another deadline – January 20, Inauguration Day – because smoking is banned in the White House. Asked if he would be able to cope, Mr Obama said: “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules.”
His daily routine now begins with a Secret Service convoy escorting him from his Chicago home to the Regents Park apartment building five blocks away to use the gym. Some suggest that his priority is physical, rather than spiritual, health. Mr Obama reportedly has not been to church since the election campaign ended, but he still finds time to exercise on Sundays.
In an interview with Men’s Health magazine last month, he complained that the average 45 minutes a day he had spent working out during the campaign had been insufficient. In the past month Mr Obama has usually been in the gym for well over an hour. “The main reason I do it is just to clear my head and relieve me of stress. It’s a great way to stay focused,” he said.
Those who have seen the 47-year-old President-elect in action say that there is not an ounce of fat on him and that runners on adjacent treadmills have been unable to keep up. There have also been five-a-side basketball games with some of his closest aides.
Michael Lowe, Professor of Psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia, who studies eating disorders, has said that although “it’s hazardous to draw wide-ranging conclusions about someone’s personality”, exercising for more than an hour a day could be regarded as compulsive.
The website Gawker.com suggested that the incoming President’s slender physique put him at odds with a nation where obesity has become widespread. “Barack Obama Shames Americans With His Elitist Body” read the headline.
Mr Obama has described pictures of his torso taken on the beach in Hawaii as embarrassing. But he may still prefer that image to one of him smoking while wearing a hat.
Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Harvard University Professor John P. Holdren will be named Barack Obama’s top science adviser in the White House, the school said.
Holdren, 64, a professor of environmental policy, will be named to the post in a radio address by Obama tomorrow, Harvard, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in a statement today. His appointment to Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, as the position is formally known, depends on confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Obama assumes office on Jan. 20.
Holdren is a specialist in energy technology and policy, and global climate change. As president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an advocacy group in Washington, in 2007, Holdren called on politicians to show stronger leadership on climate change, which the group called a “growing threat to society.”
“None of the great interlinked challenges of our time — the economy, energy, environment, health, security, and the particular vulnerabilities of the poor to shortfalls in all of these — can be solved without insights and advances from the physical sciences, the life sciences, and engineering,” Holdren said in today’s statement.
A perplexing new chapter is unfolding in Barack Obama’s racial saga: Many people insist that “the first black president” is actually not black.
Debate over whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan biracial, African-American, mixed-race, half-and-half, multiracial _ or, in Obama’s own words, a “mutt” _ has reached a crescendo since Obama’s election shattered assumptions about race.
Obama has said, “I identify as African-American _ that’s how I’m treated and that’s how I’m viewed. I’m proud of it.”
In other words, the world gave Obama no choice but to be black, and he was happy to oblige.
But the world has changed since the young Obama found his place in it.
Intermarriage and the decline of racism are dissolving ancient definitions. The candidate Obama, in achieving what many thought impossible, was treated differently from previous black generations. And many white and mixed-race people now view President-elect Obama as something other than black.
So what now for racial categories born of a time when those from far-off lands were property rather than people, or enemy instead of family?
President-elect Obama and Defense Secretary Robert Gates appear to differ on the nuclear weapons issue – realistically if countries like Iran and even Pakistan have nuclear weapons – it will be almost impossible for the US to relinquish its nuclear arsenal – for the time being.
Obama sought to reassure the nation that while he occasionally sneaked a cigarette during the rigorous presidential campaign, he won’t succumb to such temptations in the White House:
Obama was asked — as he occasionally is, most recently by ABC’s Barbara Walters — whether he still sneaks a cigarette now and then. He suggested he does, but said he won’t at his new address.
“What I said was that there were times where I have fallen off the wagon,” Obama said. “What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.”
Source: Huffington Post
Barack Obama made news on “Meet the Press” this morning, but the NBC program made some news as well in the final moments.
Tom Brokaw, the interim moderator, confirmed what had already leaked out in recent days: the new host of the 60-year-old program will be David Gregory.
The network’s senior White House correspondent, now host of MSNBC’s “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” had been considered the front-runner for the post, which became vacant when longtime moderator Tim Russert died in June. But NBC executives were still negotiating the final terms of the deal this past week.
Gregory will take the helm of the top-rated Sunday talk show, but his rivals at ABC’s “This Week,” CBS’s “Face the Nation,” CNN’s “Late Edition” and “Fox News Sunday” all see an opportunity to move up now that Brokaw, the veteran NBC anchor, is relinquishing the reins.
Other leading contenders had been Chuck Todd, NBC’s political director, and Gwen Ifill, host of PBS’s “Washington Week.” The final decision was made by Jeff Zucker, chief executive of NBC Universal, and NBC News President Steve Capus.
Gregory, 38, frequently clashed with President Bush’s spokesmen during his days as a White House reporter. But he also has a witty side, which he often displayed while filling in as a co-host on the “Today” show. MSNBC tapped the 6-foot-5 correspondent as moderator during the presidential debates and on Election Night.
Russert, a former Democratic operative, dominated the Sunday morning competition after taking over the program in 1991 and making his mark with aggressive interviews. Brokaw, the former “Nightly News” anchor, agreed to fill in after Russert’s death but made clear he wanted to leave after the election.
What remains to be seen is whether Gregory sticks with the Russert format or tries to change the show to suit his personal style.
Since joining NBC, Gregory has covered the O.J. Simpson trials, the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Clinton impeachment and the death of Pope John Paul II.
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.
Nice background today! I wonder if that’s a view of Chicago out the window.
President-elect Barack Obama lays out key parts of Economic Recovery Plan >> Transcript here
A Florida Congresswoman has apologized to Barack Obama for hanging up on him twice after thinking she was being pranked. AP
The San Francisco Wax Museum has announced that a figure of President-elect Barack Obama will be among a collection of new celebrities to join the ranks at the San Francisco Wax Museum.
The new wax figure of Obama is expected to cost between $15,000 and $40,000 to produce, according to museum owner Rodney Fong.
Joining Barack Obama will be the winner of an online popularity contest, singer Justin Timberlake, who beat out Dale Earnhardt and Tupac Shakur to be one of hew wax figures in 2009.
The wax museum will also be adding figures of Queen Elizabeth II, Miley Cyrus, Mother Teresa, Prince William and Mariah Carey.
The museum, located at Fisherman’s Wharf, was first opened by Rodney Fong’s grandfather in 1963.
There are currently more than 200 figures and scenes on display in the wax museum.
Moscow, Russia (AHN) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday Moscow has received positive signals from U.S. president-elect Barack Obama’s circle and his government can respond accordingly to improve Russia-U.S. relations.
In a televised question-and-answer meeting with Russian citizens in Moscow, Putin referred to the positive signals as the indications made by people close to Obama about two main issues that have strained relations between the two countries: the U.S. missile defense shield to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and the NATO expansion in Europe
Citing the circle, Putin said the incoming president is considering re-evaluating the Bush administration’s plan to deploy anti-missile batteries in Europe near the Russia border.
Another positive signal, according to Putin, is Obama’s apparent position not to hurry in admitting Georgia and Ukraine into NATO.
“If these are not just words and translate into real actions, we will respond in kind and our American partners will immediately feel this,” Putin said, according to Agence France-Presse. “We hope very much there will be positive changes.”.
Obama-philes hoping to make the trek to Washington in January have been saying that it’s impossible to put a price on the value of being there to witness the swearing in of America’s first black president.
Want to bet?
A V.I.P. package for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration, including a handshake and photo opportunity with President-elect Barack Obama and a seat at an inaugural ball, is being auctioned on Charitybuzz.com. Its current price? The experience has fetched a top bid of $62,500 since being posted the day after the election, and bidding is still open until tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. E.S.T.
Founded in 2005, Charitybuzz.com administers online auctions on behalf of charities that run the gamut from vacation packages, to works of art, to “celebrity experiences” like the photo op with President-elect Obama.
Charitybuzz.com chief executive Coppy Holzman said it took him two months to persuade Obama campaign officials to donate their candidate’s time, the proceeds from which will benefit the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation.
The Inauguration package is currently the highest priced item on Charitybuzz.com, and $62,500 might seem like a crazy sum of money to pay for a few precious moments of face time with the President-elect.
But after comparing to the bids drawn by some of the other experiences up for auction, it seems like a downright reasonable price.
A one-hour private soccer lesson with David Beckham doesn’t close until December 11 and has already attracted a top bid of $45,000. A private meeting with Clive Davis is going for $16,000.
A trip to Washington and photo op with Nancy Pelosi carries a top bid of $9,500, and wouldn’t we all agree that Obama is way more than 6.5 times as cool as Madame Speaker?
Dinner and a movie with Alec Baldwin is currently going for $2,750, and there are plenty of people who wouldn’t take him up on that offer for free.
The coup de grace, in terms of mind-boggling bids, would have to be the $860 top bid for a six week internship at web newsletter publisher Thrillest — yes, that would be someone paying Thrillest for the privilege of working for them.
If that isn’t the sounding of a death knell for anyone trying to make a living in journalism, we don’t know what is.
by Liz Gunnison
CHICAGO – Bill Richardson is beardless and back in the cabinet. The governor of New Mexico and former presidential candidate appeared beside President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday to accept his third cabinet-level post, this time as secretary of commerce.
Mr. Richardson, the first Hispanic chosen for Mr. Obama’s cabinet, made remarks in both English and Spanish as he took the assignment, signaling the importance of his selection for the new administration. Mr. Obama said he picked Mr. Richardson because of his deep experience and skills, not his ethnic heritage, but promised to produce a diverse senior team.
“When people look back and see the entire slate, what they will say is – not only in terms of my cabinet but in terms of my White House staff – I think people are going to say this is one of the most diverse cabinets and White House staffs of all time,” said Mr. Obama, who will be the first African American president. “But more importantly, they’re going to say these are all people of outstanding qualifications and excellence.”
Hispanic groups have lobbied strongly on behalf of Mr. Richardson, arguing that Hispanic voters in last month’s election helped deliver at least four states for Mr. Obama that voted for President Bush four years ago: Nevada, Colorado, Florida and Mr. Richardson’s New Mexico. Mr. Obama is also eyeing Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, to become the United States trade representative, a position that has had cabinet status in the past.
Mr. Richardson has served in the cabinet twice before, first as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the United Nations and then as his secretary of energy. Mr. Richardson had his eye on secretary of state this time around but lost out to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Although the commerce slot is generally seen as a second-tier position, Mr. Obama said it would play a pivotal role in setting and executing his economic recovery agenda.
“Well, commerce secretary is a pretty good job, you know,” Mr. Obama said to suggestions that it was a consolation prize for Mr. Richardson. “It’s a member of my key economic team that is going to be dealing with the most significant issue that America faces right now and that is how do we put people back to work and rejuvenate the economy?”
As for the beard that Mr. Richardson grew after dropping his own bid for the presidency earlier this year, it was gone by Wednesday morning’s news conference. Mr. Obama, tongue in cheek, declared that a mistake. “I thought that whole western rugged look was really working for him,” the president-elect said.
The gun lobby has long intimidated politicians with its war chest and its trumpeted ability to deliver single-issue voters, especially in tight races. After this year’s election, those politicians should be far less afraid and far more willing to vote for sensible gun-control laws.
The National Rifle Association directed much money and bile against Barack Obama. In false, misleading and, fortunately, ineffective ads, fliers, mailers and Web postings, the group said that Mr. Obama posed a “clear and present danger” to Second Amendment rights and that his election would mean a gun ban.
Despite that harsh barrage, Mr. Obama won states with heavy gun ownership, including Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. That success should send a signal to other politicians: consistency matters.
In fact, Mr. Obama has long been a supporter of the argument, disputed by this page, that the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to bear arms unrelated to raising a militia. But Mr. Obama did not abandon his support for reasonable gun-control laws. “Don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals,” he declared at the Democratic convention.
In Congressional races, the N.R.A. endorsed candidates in 20 of the 25 races where Democrats picked up seats from Republicans. We will not miss Florida’s Tom Feeney and Ric Keller, Idaho’s Bill Sali, Michigan’s Joe Knollenberg, Ohio’s Steve Chabot, Colorado’s Marilyn Musgrave and Pennsylvania’s Phil English — willing champions of an extreme agenda.
On the Senate side, the N.R.A. spent considerable sums to help Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Bob Schaffer, the Republican Senate candidate in Colorado. Both were defeated.
And the N.R.A.’s poor showing was not just a single isolated event. A useful election analysis prepared by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence shows that its 2006 campaign effort also was a big flop.
We hope the trend continues. To fight crime and keep Americans safe, this country needs sound gun-control laws. To pass those laws as president, Mr. Obama will need strong Congressional support.
President-elect Barack Obama turned from national security to domestic concerns on Tuesday, telling the country’s governors that his administration would not delay in pushing an economic recovery plan that would bring relief to the states, 41 of which are forecasting budget shortfalls this year or next.
Speaking at a conference of the National Governors Association in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama said his background in the Illinois state senate made him particularly sympathetic to the needs of state and local governments. And he declared himself open to good ideas that work, whether they come from Democrats or Republicans.
“We are not going to be hampered by ideology in trying to get this country back on track,” he told the governors, many of whom he met for the first time at the conference. “We want to figure out what works.” Vice President-elect Joseph Biden Jr. also attended the meeting.
Aides to Mr. Obama have suggested that a recovery plan, which the president-elect hopes to be able to sign not long after taking office on Jan. 20, might carry a price tag of as much as $700 billion.
But even as the president-elect spoke on Tuesday, the dimensions of the challenges facing him at home and abroad continued to grow more stark. The three American automakers were due to announce more weak results and detail their revamped requests for federal aid during the day, while overseas, the terror attack in Mumbai, renewed violence in Iraq and difficult conditions in Afghanistan further darkened the picture.
In dealing with the worsening climate that faces state governments, many of them now obliged to balance their budgets by cutting jobs and programs, Mr. Obama asked the governors not just for their support but for their input in drafting a national recovery plan.
“To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we need action, and action swiftly,” he said. “That means passing an economic recovery plan to help both Wall Street and Main Street, and this administration does not intend to delay in getting you the help that you need.”
The importance of the federal help Mr. Obama offered was underscored on Monday when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared a fiscal emergency in his state and urged lawmakers to “get off of their rigid ideologies” to close a $28 billion budget gap. He said the state could run out of cash within two months.
That’s a Wrap | 11:35 a.m. As they all walked off stage, Mr. Obama put his arm around Mrs. Clinton and escorted her out while the others tagged along. The entire press conference underscored that, at least for now, Mrs. Clinton is first among equals.
Iraq | 11:34 a.m. The last question was whether Mr. Obama still intended to withdraw American forces from Iraq within 16 months of his inauguration.
Mr. Obama said America is on a path to reducing forces in Iraq but didn’t answer the question directly. He said he would listen to the recommendations of commanders in the fields and that his priority would be to keep the troops safe.
All You’re Going to Get | 11:33 a.m. Asked for details of how they came together after the marathon primary, Mr. Obama wasn’t too forthcoming. He said she is tough and smart and disciplined and shares his core values and that he was “always interested” after the primary in finding ways in which they could collaborate.
“I extended her the offer and she accepted,” he said blandly, adding: “I know that’s not as juicy a story as you were hoping for, but that’s all you’re going to get.”
Reconciliation | 11:28 a.m. You knew some of those old quotes from the primary trail would come up — Mr. Obama suggested at one point that Mrs. Clinton’s global experience consisted of having tea — so how have they come to reconcile their differences?
“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were generated during the course of the campaign,” he says, batting away the suggestion. He directs reporters to look at the statements that Mrs. Clinton and he have made outside of the heat of a campaign. He says they share a view that America has to be safe and secure and in order to do that “we have to combine military power with strength and diplomacy,” we have to build and forge stronger alliances around the world. “I believe there’s no more effective advocate than Hillary Clinton for that well-rounded view” for how we advance America’s interests around the world.
He went on to cite her service on the Armed Services committee, she knows world leaders and she and he have discussed the “strategic opportunities” that exist out there to strengthen American’s posture in the world. “She’ll be an outstanding Secretary of State,” he says, “and if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t have offered her the job and if she didn’t believe I’m equipped to lead this nation, she would not have accepted.”
‘Buck Will Stop With Me’ | 11:20 a.m. Q: How can you ensure that the staff will be smoothly-functioning team of rivals?
Mr. Obama gave a lengthy answer here. He said that they have worked together before, have respect for each other and are outstanding public servants. “They would not have agreed to join my administration and I wouldn’t have asked them unless we share a core vision on what’s needed to keep the American people safe,” he said. He said his picks would not have left their current jobs if they weren’t convinced they could work together as an effective team.
He also added that he is a strong believer in having strong personalities and strong opinions. People in the White House can “get wrapped up in group think” but he said he will welcome vigorous debate inside the White House. But understand, he said, “I will be setting policy as president,” and he will be responsible for the vision this team is carrying out. “The buck will stop with me.”
Biden Speaks | 11:05 a.m. The other Obama appointees gave briefer, more perfunctory comments. Now, even Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is getting the chance to speak.
He’s been up on these stages with Mr. Obama several times now, but mute. He congratulates Mr. Obama for picking a “first-class team” (and makes no mention of how he and Mrs. Clinton might work together).
A Difficult and Exciting Adventure | 11:01 a.m. In reference to various crises around the world, Mrs. Clinton said that America cannot solve them without the rest of the world and the world can’t solve them without America.
In a nod to the fact that Mr. Obama will be the boss, Mrs. Clinton said that with his election, the American people have demanded a new direction at home and a renewed effort to improve American’s standing in the world.
She said that “the best way to continue serving my country” is to join Mr. Obama “at this defining moment.”
Paraphrasing President Kennedy, she said: “I am proud to join you on what will be a difficult and exciting adventure in this new century, and may God bless you and all who served with you and our great country.”
Now a Word From the Former President | 10:59 a.m. Former President Bill Clinton released the following statement:
As an American, I am thankful that President-elect Barack Obama has asked Hillary to be Secretary of State and that she has accepted. As her husband, I am deeply proud.
She is the right person for the job of helping to restore America’s image abroad, end the war in Iraq, advance peace and increase our security, by building a future for our children with more partners and fewer adversaries, one of shared responsibilities and opportunities.
She has already earned the respect of foreign leaders and diplomats through her work to promote human rights and the empowerment of women through access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. And Americans know, from her leadership in the Senate on national security, that she will always put the security, values and the interests of our people first.
In her service to the people of New York and our nation, Hillary has demonstrated the knowledge, passion, resilience, and capacity to learn that our country needs at this critical time. She loves being a Senator from New York, but as she has in all the thirty-seven years I’ve known her, she answered the call to serve. I commend President-Elect Obama for asking her to be a part of a great national security team. America will be well-served.
Clinton Thanks New Yorkers | 10:55 a.m. When Mr. Obama introduced his other nominees, none of them spoke. But this occasion clearly called for words from Mrs. Clinton, and Mr. Obama couldn’t very well let her speak and no one else, so now they are all getting a chance to say a few words.
Mrs. Clinton gave something of a valedictory address. She thanked New Yorkers — this is her first time acknowledging to her constituents that she is leaving the Senate. She said they had prepared her for this new job because they aren’t afraid to speak their minds and they do so in many languages. She also used some phrases that Clinton-watchers have heard since her husband’s first presidential campaign in 1992, saying she wanted to help everyone achieve their God-given potential.
The Team Speaks | 10:54 a.m. Mr. Obama invites the members of his team to speak, beginning with Mrs. Clinton.
Get to Work | 10:51 a.m. Mr. Obama said his new team met this morning to discuss the situation in Mumbai. He emphasized the non-partisan nature of their task.
An American ‘of Tremendous Stature’ | 10:47 a.m. Mr. Obama introduced Mrs. Clinton first, calling her a friend, a tough primary opponent and intelligent and said she had a remarkable work ethic. He said she was an American “of tremendous stature” who would have his complete confidence and command respect in every capital around the world. “I have no doubt that Hillary Clinton is the right person to lead our State Department,” he said.
A Unique Team | 10:46 a.m. “The team that we have assembled here today is uniquely suited to do just that,” Mr. Obama said. “They share my pragmatism about the use of power, and my sense of purpose about America’s role as a leader in the world.”
The Team | 10:42 a.m. Mr. Obama’s new national security team is now on stage: Mrs. Clinton; Robert M. Gates, the current defense secretary, who will remain in that job; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, will be national security adviser; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona will be homeland security chief; Eric Holder will be attorney general; and Susan Rice, ambassador to the United Nations.
‘Looking Forward to You Advising Me’ | 10:25 a.m. As we await Barack Obama’s news conference in a few minutes (10:40 a.m. Eastern), our minds drift back to one of the wittier moments of the long debate season.
It was last December, before the Iowa caucuses, when Mr. Obama was asked how his administration would differ from Bill Clinton’s administration if he planned to appoint so many Clinton advisers.
Senator Hillary Clinton, who was off screen, piped up with a laugh: “I want to hear that!”
“Well, Hillary,” Mr. Obama responded coolly, “I’m looking forward to you advising me, as well.”
It was a brilliant comeback, but few saw it as prescient.
But here we are, less than a year later, with President-elect Obama about to name his former rival as his Secretary of State, a position in which she will indeed be advising him and representing him on some of the most important matters he will face.
For weeks, anonymous Democrats have been whispering about why Mr. Obama made this unexpected choice (“team of rivals,” “global brand,” etc.) and why Mrs. Clinton is choosing to give up her independent power base in the Senate (dead-end job) and head to State (high-profile fiefdom, her own staff, access to the president).
But today, we will hear directly from Mr. Obama about why he is picking her, and we’ll be live blogging it right here. Come back in a few minutes.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama has named a team of high-profile executives and fundraisers to oversee his inauguration and imposed limits on who can contribute to it and how much they can give.
The group leading the Jan. 20 celebrations includes Chicago Bears part-owner Patrick Ryan, former Commerce secretary William Daley, and Penny Pritzker, a billionaire Chicago businesswoman who helped Obama raise record sums as his campaign’s finance chairwoman.
No budget has been set. Fundraising for President Bush’s inauguration in 2004 surpassed $42 million, federal records show.
While presidential candidates can collect no more than $2,300 in campaign contributions from individuals per primary and general election, federal law sets no limits on inaugural fundraising.
Obama, who vowed during the campaign that special interests would not yield undue influence in his White House, is limiting inaugural contributions to $50,000 each and will not accept money from corporations, unions, political action committees, or federal lobbyists, inaugural spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Individuals who raise money on behalf of the inaugural committee cannot collect more than $300,000 each, he said. Obama, however, still will accept donations from corporate executives, wealthy individuals and former federal lobbyists.
“While this isn’t a perfect solution, it’s a clear indication that he’s taking serious steps to change business as usual in Washington,” Earnest said.
Sheila Krumholz of the nonpartisan watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics said Obama’s move marks the tightest restrictions on inaugural giving. But wealthy donors still can try to use their contributions to gain access to the president-elect, she added. “If you have the means, you can essentially buy elite status … you may even get prime seats for the parade and (inaugural) ball tickets in the process.”
Earnest said big donors will not have an inside track in the new administration. The committee also plans a grass-roots fundraising campaign to collect money from a broad cross-section of Americans, he said.
Other members of the inaugural team: Obama fundraiser John Rogers, CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, and Julianna Smoot, who served as Obama’s national finance director.
The federal government provides $1.2 million in public funds to pay for the swearing-in and a luncheon. Private donations pay for most other activities — from the splashy Inaugural Balls to installing jumbo television screens on the National Mall, where spillover crowds will watch the ceremony.
Bush imposed a $250,000 cap on inaugural donations in 2004 but did not bar corporate contributions.
Source: USA Today
President-elect Barack Obama will appoint former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker on Wednesday to be the chairman of a new White House advisory board tasked with helping to lift the nation from recession and stabilize financial markets, Democratic officials say.
University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee, one of Mr. Obama’s longest-serving policy advisers, will serve as the board’s staff director, along with his duties as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Members of the panel will be drawn from a cross-section of citizens outside the government, chosen for their independence and nonpartisanship.
Wednesday’s event was more of a surprise, but with it, Mr. Obama has found a place for the former Fed chairman who is largely credited with halting inflation in the early 1980s. Since the financial crisis erupted in September, Mr. Obama has leaned heavily on the 81-year-old Mr. Volcker for advice.
Advisers familiar with the team selection said Mr. Volcker’s advanced age always made it unlikely he would get the Treasury job, but Mr. Obama wanted him in the White House with Mr. Summers, who, like Mr. Volcker, moved into the center of the Obama policy orbit in recent months.
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The United States government unveiled $800 billion worth of new loans and debt purchases on Tuesday, hoping another massive infusion of cash would smooth troubled credit markets and make borrowing easier for homebuyers, small businesses and students.
The Federal Reserve said it would buy up to $600 billion in mortgage-backed assets from government-sponsored mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It would buy up to $100 billion in debt directly from the companies and up to $500 billion in mortgage-backed securities.
“This action is being taken to reduce the cost and increase the availability of credit for the purchase of houses, which in turn should support housing markets and foster improved conditions in financial markets more generally,” the Federal Reserve said in a statement.
Separately, the Fed and Treasury Department announced a $200 billion program to ease commercial lending on debt like student loans, car loans or business loans. The Fed would lend up to $200 billion to holders of asset-backed securities supported by car loans, credit card loans, student loans, and business loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.
The program would be seeded with $20 billion in “credit protection” from the Treasury Department, which is drawing the money from the original $700 billion bailout.
“It gives institutions liquidity and it’s clearly direct lending that will help consumers,” Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. said Tuesday at a news conference.The announcements came one day after President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his economic team and tried to assure Americans that he was seeking to fill any leadership vacuum, and said his economic advisers would begin working “today.” The advisers include Timothy F. Geithner, his choice for Treasury secretary.
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
Timothy Geithner is a seasoned crisis manager with a temperament to match that of Barack Obama
STOCKMARKETS soared on Friday November 21st when investors learned that Barack Obama would nominate Timothy Geithner as his Treasury Secretary. That might seem odd. The president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was already a favourite for the post. And he brings no magical solution to the financial crisis: he has been battling it for over a year, with no end in sight.
The 494-point (6.5%) jump in the Dow Jones Industrial Average is more a statement about investors’ anxiety over the unsettled state of economic policymaking. News of the Treasury nominee holds out the prospect of a more coherent and forceful approach to the crisis. The current treasury secretary, Hank Paulson, is reworking the $700 billion bail-out plan on the fly, policymakers are struggling over a new approach to foreclosures, the status of the mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, is in limbo, and Congress has just sent the carmakers, teetering close to insolvency, home empty handed. The two months before Mr Obama is sworn in seem like an eternity.
Investors were also relieved that their darkest fears of a Sarah Palin-like shock announcement did not come to pass and that Mr Obama, as in his other important appointments, has chosen ability over connections. Mr Geithner does not know Mr Obama well and has no notable ties to the Democratic Party. But for this cabinet post more than any other, an overtly political appointment would have been corrosive to investor confidence.
Assuming he is nominated Mr Geithner brings two crucial qualities. First, he represents continuity. From the first days of the crisis last year, he has worked hand in glove with Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and Mr Paulson. He can continue to do so while awaiting confirmation. If Citigroup, for example, needs federal help, Mr Geithner will be involved. An unknown when he joined the New York Fed in 2003, he is now a familiar face to the most senior executives on Wall Street and to central bankers and finance ministers overseas.
Second, he represents competence. He has spent more time on financial crises, from Mexico and Thailand to Brazil and Argentina, than probably any other policymaker in office today. Mr Geithner understands better than almost anyone that in crises you throw out the forecast and focus on avoiding low probability events with catastrophic consequences. Such judgments are excruciating: do too little, and you undermine confidence and generate a bigger crisis that needs even bigger policy action. Do too much, and you look panicked and invite blowback from Wall Street, Congress and the press. At times during the crisis Mr Geithner would counsel Mr Bernanke on the importance of the right “ratio of drama to effectiveness”.
Mr Geithner looks a lot younger than his 47 years. He skateboards and snowboards and exudes a sort of hipster-wonkiness, using “way” as a synonym for “very” as in “way consequential” and occasionally underlining his point with the word “fuck”.
In temperament he seems similar to Mr Obama: he is suspicious of ideology, questions received wisdom
In normal times, risk aversion damps economic cycles; in a crisis, it accentuates them, leading to withdrawn credit, evaporating liquidity, margin calls, falling asset prices, and more risk aversion. “The brake becomes the accelerator,” as he puts it. Indeed, although he worked alongside Mr Paulson on the crisis, he has at times advocated a more aggressive approach. For example, news reports say that he was not comfortable with Mr Paulson’s decision to take public money off the table in the ultimately unsuccessful effort to save Lehman Brothers. He has not always got it right: he was the most important architect of the original bail-out of American International Group, an insurer, which in time has proved flawed, requiring significant amendment.
Mr Geithner looks a lot younger than his 47 years (though not as young as he did before the crisis began). He skateboards and snowboards and exudes a sort of hipster-wonkiness, using “way” as a synonym for “very” as in “way consequential” and occasionally underlining his point with the word “fuck”. In temperament he seems similar to Mr Obama: he is suspicious of ideology, questions received wisdom, likes a competition of ideas and is keenly aware of how uncertain the world is.
Mr Geithner learned about crisis management as an aide to Lawrence Summers who rose to Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton. Mr Summers was the other candidate for the job under Mr Obama, and his appointment would probably also have been greeted enthusiastically. He will reportedly join the administration in a White House advisory role.
Mr Geithner leaves a big hole; the New York Fed president is by tradition the financial system’s go-to crisis manager, and that job has never been more important in the modern era than it is now. A probable candidate to succeed him is a Fed governor, Kevin Warsh. Though young (he is just 38) he has been a central player in the crisis thanks to his extensive contacts in the financial world and closeness to Mr Bernanke, who puts great store in Mr Warsh’s feel for politics and markets (see our recent blog post). That appointment will be made by the board of the New York Fed.
Mr Geithner faces a huge job. He will have critical decisions to make on whether to enlarge or alter the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Programme, what sort of firms will qualify for its money, whether and how to bail out the carmakers, what to do with the flailing mortgage agencies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and how to deal with countless other chapters in the continuing crisis. Unlike Mr Summers he is not an economist and brings no expertise to many of the big economic-policy questions that the Obama administration will confront such as health care, fiscal policy and taxes, even though he will be the primary spokesman on the administration’s economic policies.
He is a quick learner: within a year of joining the New York Fed he could debate the intricacies of monetary policy with academic experts. But he will join an administration rapidly filling up with heavyweights on economic policy, not least of them Mr Summers. Indeed, one of the big questions of the new team that Mr Obama is expected to unveil on Monday is just how Mr Summers, a brilliant but intimidating and sometimes abrasive figure, will fit in.
Mr Obama is assembling a formidable economic team. With the economy perhaps on the precipice of its worst recession since the Depression, he will need it.
WASHINGTON — After a school search that set off weeks of frenzied speculation among parents here, President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, announced Friday that their two daughters would attend Sidwell Friends School, the prestigious academy that has educated generations of this city’s elite.
The Quaker-run Sidwell, which was established in 1883, has educated the children of at least three presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. And there was an added bonus: grandchildren of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who are friendly with the Obama girls, attend Sidwell.
The Obama family had considered two other private institutions, Georgetown Day School and Maret School, for their girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
But Sidwell has long been described by some as the Harvard of Washington’s private schools. Its tuition runs as high as $29,442 a year.
“A number of great schools were considered,” said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. “In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now.”
Mayor Adrian M. Fenty of Washington strongly lobbied the Obamas to consider a public school, but that was apparently never an option.
The Obama girls currently attend private school, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition runs as high as $21,480, and the family did not tour any public schools on their recent visits.
Since Election Day, guessing which school the Obamas would choose became one of affluent Washington’s most popular parlor games.
Camera crews staked out the schools in hopes of a glimpse of Mrs. Obama (who visited Sidwell and Georgetown Day twice) and the girls (who visited schools once this week). Parents hotly debated the merits of each.
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.”
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.
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.
By DAVID BROOKS
Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).
The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).
This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.
Already the culture of the Obama administration is coming into focus. Its members are twice as smart as the poor reporters who have to cover them, three times if you include the columnists. They typically served in the Clinton administration and then, like Cincinnatus, retreated to the comforts of private life — that is, if Cincinnatus had worked at Goldman Sachs, Williams & Connolly or the Brookings Institution. So many of them send their kids to Georgetown Day School, the posh leftish private school in D.C. that they’ll be able to hold White House staff meetings in the carpool line.
And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.
The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.
Most of all, they are picking Washington insiders. Or to be more precise, they are picking the best of the Washington insiders.
Obama seems to have dispensed with the romantic and failed notion that you need inexperienced “fresh faces” to change things. After all, it was L.B.J. who passed the Civil Rights Act. Moreover, because he is so young, Obama is not bringing along an insular coterie of lifelong aides who depend upon him for their well-being.
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.
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
By Walid Phares
As observers were awaiting the release of the “official” al Qaeda position regarding the election of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States, seasoned experts on the Jihadist movement had little doubts as to the substance of the main message. As I have outlined in my appearances on Arabic television channels since November 4, Bin Laden or his second in command was expected to declare that their “Jihad” will continue despite the election of an African American President and despite Obama’s intention to withdraw from Iraq. Ayman Zawahiri did just that on Wednesday in his latest message to his supporters and his enemies: even if the war ends in Iraq, the global war will continue everywhere. […]
The al Qaeda’s number two had to address the election of a Black President of the United States because of the two massive changes this choice has brought to the Jihadist agenda: On the one hand, Obama is very popular in the eyes of international public opinion; on the other hand the President elect is planning on withdrawing from Iraq and pushing forward in Afghanistan. All this changes al Qaeda’s game. Zawahiri’s tape had to address these “challenges” as pressure was mounting among Jihadists to deal with this election. Hence, the main points presented by the audio message are as follows:
1. The election of Obama is a defeat to the United States in Iraq and a victory to the Jihadists
In his tape Zawahiri congratulates the Muslim world [..original message..]
In al Qaeda’s lexicon it is crucial to demonstrate to their supporters that it is “their” actions (terror in Iraq) which convinced, if not intimidated, American voters into voting against McCain and electing Obama. Zawahiri wants al Qaeda to be credited for the behavior of America’s voting majority in the same way it took credit for the change in electoral direction that took place in Madrid after the March 11, 2004 attacks.
2. A warning to Obama: Don’t send additional troops to Afghanistan
Zawahiri then sends a warning to President elect Obama: [..original message..]
If victory has been achieved by the Jihadists against the United States in Iraq by forcing the new Administration to pull out of that country, in Zawahiri’s mind, another defeat awaits America in Afghanistan according to al Qaeda’s latest message. The logic of endless Jihad seems to be that wherever American forces would be sent, the Jihadists will meet them for a fight until the US redeploys its contingents from around the world, back to “its borders” as previous al Qaeda messages have underlined.
4. The same US aggression remains
Concerned about the sympathy emerging from around the world and within the Muslim community regarding the new President, Zawahiri reminds his Islamist followers that “crimes have been committed and the mentality that produced them is still around.” He doesn’t want to see a shift in pubic opinion towards a “nicer” America. He says: [..original message..]
Clearly, Zawahiri is trying to draw red lines for the acceptance of Obama by the Arab and Muslim world. This audiotape is probably the prelude to a campaign by the Jihaidists to minimize Obama’s emergence and classify him as just “another US President, with a different face.”
5. You’re not real (Meaning not a real Christian)
Then Zawahiri begins the Jihadi deconstruction of Obama’s image. He declares:
“You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him). You were born to a Muslim father, but you chose to stand in the ranks of the enemies of the Muslims, and pray the prayer of the Jews, although you claim to be Christian, in order to climb the rungs of leadership in America. And so you promised to back Israel, and you threatened to strike the tribal regions in Pakistan, and to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan, in order for the crimes of the American Crusade in it to continue. And last Monday, your aircraft killed 40 Afghan Muslims at a wedding party in Kandahar. As for Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him), he was born to a black pastor killed by white bigots, but Allah favored him with guidance to Islam, and so he prided himself on his fraternity with the Muslims, and he condemned the crimes of the Crusader West against the weak and oppressed, and he declared his support for peoples resisting American occupation, and he spoke about the worldwide revolution against the Western power structure. That’s why it wasn’t strange that Malik al-Shabazz (may Allah have mercy on him) was killed, while you have climbed the rungs of the presidency to take over the leadership of the greatest criminal force in the history of mankind and the leadership of the most violent Crusade ever against the Muslims. And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him) concerning “House Negroes” are confirmed.”
Zawahiri’s words are strong and are aimed at putting pressure on all those in the region who rushed to announce that Obama will radically change the “regime” in the United States. The number two of al Qaeda is painting the President elect as an opportunistic politician who used all three faiths to access power. One can see that Zawahiri is trying to achieve two goals: maintaining his own flock fully indoctrinated against Washington regardless of the change in the White House; and pressuring the radical clerics in the Wahabi and Muslim Brotherhood circles – who are welcoming Obama’s victory – into retreat from such “apostasy.”
In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.
Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’ “Sixty Minutes” on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.
But Mr. Obama’s decision to use complete sentences in his public pronouncements carries with it certain risks, since after the last eight years many Americans may find his odd speaking style jarring.
According to presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, some Americans might find it “alienating” to have a President who speaks English as if it were his first language.
“Every time Obama opens his mouth, his subjects and verbs are in agreement,” says Mr. Logsdon. “If he keeps it up, he is running the risk of sounding like an elitist.”
The historian said that if Mr. Obama insists on using complete sentences in his speeches, the public may find itself saying, “Okay, subject, predicate, subject predicate – we get it, stop showing off.”
The President-elect’s stubborn insistence on using complete sentences has already attracted a rebuke from one of his harshest critics, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
“Talking with complete sentences there and also too talking in a way that ordinary Americans like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder can’t really do there, I think needing to do that isn’t tapping into what Americans are needing also,” she said.
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.
By FRANK RICH
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.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) — Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States won’t see a change in American relations with the Taliban, a senior Taliban leader in Pakistan says.
“For us, the change of America’s president — we don’t have any good faith in him,” said Muslim Khan, a grizzled Taliban spokesman who is one of the most wanted men in Pakistan, in a rare interview with CNN. “If he does anything good, it will be for himself.”
With an assault rifle on his lap, Khan answered 10 written questions, sharing his view on a range of topics from slavery to Obama’s middle name — Hussein.
He spoke in the remote Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan, the site of frequent and fierce clashes between Pakistani troops and Taliban and al Qaeda militants.
There was no opportunity for follow-up questions.
Khan said Obama’s election may change conditions for black Americans.
“The black one knows how much the black people are discriminated against in America and Europe and other countries,” he said. “For America’s black people, it could be that there will be a change. That era is coming.”
He said he doubted Obama’s victory would lead to changes in relations between the United States and the Taliban.
Watch the Taliban spokesman on Barack Obama »
U.S. forces dislodged the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
America and its allies have battled the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan ever since, with fighting spreading across the border into Pakistan.
“American should take its army out of the country,” Khan said. “They are considered terrorists.”
Obama has minced no words in describing how he would administer U.S. policy toward the Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
When he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination in August, Obama pledged to “finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
And the president-elect included a blunt warning in remarks on the evening of his election victory: “To those who would tear the world down,” he said, “we will defeat you.”
Khan noted that Obama’s middle name was fairly common in the Muslim world, referring to him at times as “Hussein Barack Obama.”
“If he behaves in the way of a real Hussein, then he has become our brother,” he said. “If Barack Obama pursues the same policies as Bush and behaves like Bush … then he cannot be Hussein. He can only be Obama.”
‘Good Morning America’s’ Chris Cuomo Grills ’60s Radical Bill Ayers
William Ayers, the 1960s radical whose violent history became a focal point in the 2008 presidential election, said today that the Republicans unfairly “demonized” him in an attempt to damage the campaign of President-elect Barack Obama.
Ayers remained militant in his defense of his bomb-throwing past and repeated a statement that has infuriated his critics: “I don’t think we did enough.”
The college professor also argued to “Good Morning America’s” Chis Cuomo today that the bombing campaign by the group he helped found, the Weather Underground, was not terrorism.
The Weather Underground bombed the Capitol, the Pentagon and the New York City Police Department to protest the Vietnam War.
“It’s not terrorism because it doesn’t target people, to kill or injure,” Ayers insisted.
Ayers became a bogeyman for Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, who demanded to know more about Obama’s relationship with his Chicago neighbor. Palin accused Obama of “palling around … with a terrorist.”
Breaking his silence, Ayers told Cuomo that the GOP attack was a “dishonest narrative…to demonize me.”
He added, “I don’t buy the idea that guilt by association should have any part of our politics,” he said.
Ayers scoffed at the Republican effort to make his ties to Obama appear suspicious.
“This idea that we need to know more, like there’s some dark, hidden secret, some secret link,” Ayers said. “It’s a myth thrown up by people who want to exploit the politics of fear.”
But he was unapologetic about his militant actions during the Vietnam War.
“What you call the violent past, that was a time when thousands of people were being murdered every month by our own government… We were on the right side,” he told “GMA.”
The co-founder of the Weather Underground was, as McCain has claimed, unrepentant about the the bombings his group committed during the 1960s.
“The content of the Vietnam protest is that there were despicable acts going on, but the despicable acts were being done by our goverment… I never hurt or killed anyone,” Ayers said.
“Frankly, I dont think we did enough, just as today I dont’ think we’ve done enough to stop these wars,” he said.
Ayers Says He Is ‘Family Friend’ of Obama
Ayers did soften his stand on violence during the “GMA” interview.
“We knew it was wrong. We knew it was illegal. We knew it was immoral,” he said, but they felt they “had to do more” to stop the Vietnam war.
He urged people today “to participate in resistance, in nonviolent,direct action” to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ayers, 63, currently a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, became a political piñata for McCain, R-Ariz., and Palin during the presidential campaign.
Despite Obama’s attempt to portray their relationship as a distant one, Ayers, in a new afterward to his book “Fugitive Days,” describes Obama as a “neighbor and family friend.”
On “GMA,” Ayers again downplayed any close ties to Obama despite the reference to”family friend.”
“I’m talking there about the fact that I became an issue, unwillingly and unwittingly,” he said. “It was a profoundly dishonest narrative… I’m describing there how the blogosphere characterized the relationship.”
“I would say, really, that we knew each other in a professional way on the same level of, say, thousands of other people,” he said.
He added, echoing a phrase that Obama used to describe Ayers, “I am a guy around the neighborhood.”
Ayers acknowledged that he held a reception in his home when Obama began his political run for state office.
“He was probably in 20 homes that day,” Ayers said.
During the campaign, Obama tried to defuse the Ayers issue by condemning Ayers’ past actions as “detestable.”
“The notion that … me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn’t make much sense,” Obama argued.
Sarah Palin Still Concerned About Ayers Tie
Ayers made a point of remaining silent during the presidential race, but his proximity to Obama was highlighted on Election Day when the two men nearly ran into each other in the same polling place. As recently as Wednesday, Palin was still raising the Ayers’ issue, telling NBC that she was still concerned about Obama’s relationship to the former radical. Palin was the fiercest critic of the Obama-Ayers tie, accusing Obama of “palling around with a domestic terrorist.” Ayers was a co-founder of the Weather Underground, a radical anti-war group said responsible for a militant bombing campaign against government targets.
While he was a fugitive, he married Bernardine Dorhn, another member of the Weather Underground.
Obama and Ayers have several connections. The two men have also served on boards together, including the Woods Fund of Chicago and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Ron Paul strikes again!
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.
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