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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.
We’re inviting the American public to take a seat at the table and discuss documents and materials provided during meetings between outside groups and our Transition team.
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.
Today on “Fox News Sunday,” Obama adviser David Axelrod talked to Chris Wallace about the economy and the upcoming appointments that the President-elect plans to make.
Real Clear Politics
An Obama transition official tells NBC News that they’ve received more than 200,000 work applications through the official transition web site, www.change.gov. since it went operational shortly after the election.
The same official points out: “There was an incredible amout of enthusiasm in the campaign and people all across the country are carrying that same energy into the transition.”
And they don’t seem terribly surprised by the influx of applications coming their way — pointing out, after all, that more than three million people donated money to the campaign.
Still, that’s quite a stack of resumes.
By Jonathan Mann
(CNN) — Who is the president of the United States? The real president?
Right now, the US may have two of them — neither entirely up to the job.
In constitutional terms, George W. Bush occupies the Oval Office until his term ends on January 20 with the inauguration of his successor.
But a new CNN/Opinion Research Poll finds that Bush is the least popular president since pollsters first began measuring approval ratings half-a-century ago.
His Republican party has, of course, just been defeated in presidential and congressional elections and many Republicans blame him personally. Democrats blame him for a whole lot more. So even though the calendar gives him two more months, he has virtually no mandate left.
Barack Obama isn’t president. His supporters in the United States and around the world can barely contain their excitement about what’s ahead, but for now he has only the nebulous position as the next guy in line, the “president-elect.”
In constitutional terms, the president-elect doesn’t have any legal authority, but that hasn’t stopped him. Obama is exercising all the authority he can.
He’s come forward quickly to talk about his plans. He’s pushing Bush to support a bailout for the US auto industry before Bush leaves office. Obama’s made it clear that he expects measures for the economy from the Congress too.
“While we must recognize that we only have one president at a time and that President Bush is the leader of our government, I want to ensure that we hit the ground running on January 20 because we don’t have a moment to lose,” Obama said.
There are 11 weeks between the election and the inauguration, the in-between time known as the Transition. But Obama is compressing the calendar.
It could be that the crisis in the US economy demands strong leadership right now and the American people expect him to offer it. It could also be that Obama doesn’t want to wait.
“He is immediately muscling his way into power,” complains former Bush speechwriter David Frum. “Barack Obama said at his first press conference that the US has only one president at a time. He didn’t say who that president was.”
Maybe there isn’t just one president – more like two half-presidents, one wounded and one waiting, and both trying to make the most of the two months ahead.
Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney welcomed Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden and his wife Jill Biden to the Naval Observatory for a private meeting and tour of the Vice President’s Residence in Washington.
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.
Nov. 11, 2008 | Amid the fervid speculation over the identity of the next secretary of state or even the next assistant secretary of labor for administration and management, there is a truth that is galling to gossip-mongers — Barack Obama and his closest advisors know how to keep secrets. With nearly 10 percent of the transition period between administrations already gone, we know more about the factors that will dictate the selection of the White House puppy than we do about the reasoning behind the choice of a would-be Treasury secretary.
As Valerie Jarrett, co-chair of Obama’s transition team, put it with deliberate blandness on “Meet the Press” Sunday: “I think one of the real strengths of Sen. Obama’s campaign and now President-elect Obama’s transition is that he really does like to think this through thoroughly and not telecast what he’s going to do until he’s ready to make a decision.”
No one wants to read articles titled “Entire Obama Administration Shrouded in Mist and Mystery.” So to accentuate the positive, we do have a pretty reliable handle as to who will be in the room with Obama (and presumably Joe Biden) when the major personnel decisions are made. There will be Jarrett, an African-American Chicago real estate entrepreneur who has been close friends to the president-elect and the incoming first lady for two decades; Pete Rouse, the press-shy former chief of staff for Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who performed the same role for a newly elected Illinois senator named Obama; the Chicago-born John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, who stealthily organized the Obama transition during the fall campaign from his Washington perch at the Center for American Progress; David Axelrod, the Chicago-based political strategist, who was the inspiration behind both Obama’s up-from-nowhere 2004 Senate victory and his 2008 run for the Rose Garden; and incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a sharp-elbowed veteran of the Clinton White House who was elected to Congress in 2002 (from Chicago, natch) with the help of Axelrod (double natch).
With all these Chicagoans (aside from Rouse) creating the Obama administration, it is time to drop the Second City urban inferiority complex. If there is an ideological orientation to this team, it seems to be Democratic centrism rather than full-throated liberalism. Bill Galston, a former top domestic advisor to Clinton now at the Brookings Institution, notes that Obama “has a great respect for expertise. His instinct is that in any field, gather the leading experts and go after them.” As Galston puts it, “This is not amateur hour — this is not crony time.” Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University and an expert on governmental organization, said admiringly, “Obama is extremely well-prepared. There is a lot of talk coming out of the Bush administration about a seamless transition. But in many instances, the Obama people know as much about what is happening in the Cabinet agencies as the Bush people do.”
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Obama meets with economic advisers [Photo-op]
Obama to act swiftly on economy