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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: The Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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11-10-2008-11-11-20-pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s completely false,” he says.

Source: HP

Bush

While Americans eagerly vote for the next president, here’s a sobering reminder: As of Tuesday, George W. Bush still has 77 days left in the White House — and he’s not wasting a minute.

President Bush’s aides have been scrambling to change rules and regulations on the environment, civil liberties and abortion rights, among others — few for the good. Most presidents put on a last-minute policy stamp, but in Mr. Bush’s case it is more like a wrecking ball. We fear it could take months, or years, for the next president to identify and then undo all of the damage.

Here is a look — by no means comprehensive — at some of Mr. Bush’s recent parting gifts and those we fear are yet to come.

CIVIL LIBERTIES We don’t know all of the ways that the administration has violated Americans’ rights in the name of fighting terrorism. Last month, Attorney General Michael Mukasey rushed out new guidelines for the F.B.I. that permit agents to use chillingly intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

Agents will be allowed to use informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject’s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the F.B.I. — which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others — expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background.

The administration showed further disdain for Americans’ privacy rights and for Congress’s power by making clear that it will ignore a provision in the legislation that established the Department of Homeland Security. The law requires the department’s privacy officer to account annually for any activity that could affect Americans’ privacy — and clearly stipulates that the report cannot be edited by any other officials at the department or the White House.

The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has now released a memo asserting that the law “does not prohibit” officials from homeland security or the White House from reviewing the report. The memo then argues that since the law allows the officials to review the report, it would be unconstitutional to stop them from changing it. George Orwell couldn’t have done better.

THE ENVIRONMENT The administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species.

Mr. Bush, or more to the point, Vice President Dick Cheney, came to office determined to dismantle Bill Clinton’s environmental legacy, undo decades of environmental law and keep their friends in industry happy. They have had less success than we feared, but only because of the determined opposition of environmental groups, courageous members of Congress and protests from citizens. But the White House keeps trying.

Mr. Bush’s secretary of the interior, Dirk Kempthorne, has recently carved out significant exceptions to regulations requiring expert scientific review of any federal project that might harm endangered or threatened species (one consequence will be to relieve the agency of the need to assess the impact of global warming on at-risk species). The department also is rushing to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list — again. The wolves were re-listed after a federal judge ruled the government had not lived up to its own recovery plan.

In coming weeks, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency to issue a final rule that would weaken a program created by the Clean Air Act, which requires utilities to install modern pollution controls when they upgrade their plants to produce more power. The agency is also expected to issue a final rule that would make it easier for coal-fired power plants to locate near national parks in defiance of longstanding Congressional mandates to protect air quality in areas of special natural or recreational value.

Interior also is awaiting E.P.A.’s concurrence on a proposal that would make it easier for mining companies to dump toxic mine wastes in valleys and streams.

And while no rules changes are at issue, the interior department also has been rushing to open up millions of acres of pristine federal land to oil and gas exploration. We fear that, in coming weeks, Mr. Kempthorne will open up even more acreage to the commercial development of oil shale, a hugely expensive and environmentally risky process that even the oil companies seem in no hurry to begin. He should not.

 Soon after the election, Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, is expected to issue new regulations aimed at further limiting women’s access to abortion, contraceptives and information about their reproductive health care options.

Existing law allows doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in an abortion. These changes would extend the so-called right to refuse to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims.

The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.

One last-minute change Mr. Bush won’t be making: He apparently has decided not to shut down the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most shameful symbol of his administration’s disdain for the rule of law.

Mr. Bush has said it should be closed, and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and his secretary of defense, Robert Gates, pushed for it. Proposals were prepared, including a plan for sending the real bad guys to other countries for trial. But Mr. Cheney objected, and the president has refused even to review the memos. He will hand this mess off to his successor.

We suppose there is some good news in all of this. While Mr. Bush leaves office on Jan. 20, 2009, he has only until Nov. 20 to issue “economically significant” rule changes and until Dec. 20 to issue other changes. Anything after that is merely a draft and can be easily withdrawn by the next president.

Unfortunately, the White House is well aware of those deadlines.

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