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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.
CHICAGO – President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides “did nothing inappropriate.”
Obama said he is prepared to make the review public, but decided to hold off because prosecutors asked for a delay and “I don’t want to interfere with an ongoing investigation.”
Controversy has swirled around the president-elect and his incoming White House chief of staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel, following Blagojevich’s arrest last week on charges he schemed to trade Obama’s Senate seat for personal gain.
Obama, fielding questions at a news conference, sidestepped when asked whether Emanuel had spoken with aides to the governor.
Emanuel was one of several aides who watched the news conference from the wings.
The president-elect pledged the results of the investigation by his incoming White House counsel, Gregory Craig, would be released “in due course.”
He said the probe was complete and thorough, but did not say which of his aides Craig interviewed, whether any of them was under oath at the time, or any other details.
It is worth mentioning that auto CEO’s did give Congress assurance that they would not use this bailout money to sue states over their emission standards. It is a big about turn for the auto industry – almost everything they have been against now they have to be – for, one of the auto CEO’s did say that they thought electric cars were the way forward – as everyone has a plug – hybrid-electric is a good step, until battery life improves – at the moment we have car batteries that can go 240 miles without recharging – but they are heavy – and they weigh a tonne literally – though there is car battery technology being developed in Japan (always Japan) that is half the weight 450 lbs – their car companies quite sensibly work with the battery companies – the Japanese are also working on bringing down recharging times to about a half an hour.
Environmental groups are disappointed that money put aside to aid automakers to produce more fuel-efficient cars is now going to fund their operations.
Although the bill promises the money for retooling plants will be replenished in the future, environmentalists are skeptical. And they’re also upset the bailout doesn’t ban automakers from suing states that set tougher emissions limits than federal rules.
“We know they need help retooling their factories, and we feel very strongly that if those funds are going to be diverted and not replenished, Congress is walking away from their own commitment to fuel efficiency,” says Phyllis Cuttino, head of the U.S. Global Warming Campaign for the Pew Environmental Group.
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 called for increasing fuel efficiency to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In exchange for agreeing, automakers would get $25 billion in loans to help revamp their plants. They waited over a year for Congress to allocate the money. Now, some will go to the bailout.
“The funding Congress is considering now is just a Band-Aid, and it diverts funds originally intended to help the Big Three and other companies produce more fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Michelle Robinson, director of the Clean Vehicles Program for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Those funds should be replenished when the new Congress convenes in January.”
INTERACTIVE GRAPHIC: A state-by-state look at auto industry jobs
What particularly irks environmentalists is that the automakers will continue on their quest to stop individual states from enacting their own emissions rules.
Roland Hwang, vehicle policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “The White House has decided they want to hold up this entire bailout bill in order to remove this litigation provision. We’re very disappointed.”
Still, even though they aren’t getting money to increase fuel efficiency, high gas prices have forced the automakers to revamp their lineups in favor of more fuel-efficient cars. As Congress debated the bailout bill Wednesday, Ford showed off its 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid in Marina del Rey, Calif., and said that at 39 miles per gallon, it will be the highest-mileage midsize car.
“We’re going squarely after the imports with this,” says Frank Davis, executive director for North American product. The goal: “not only to compete but lead.” It’s exactly the pitch that Detroit needs to win the hearts of a skeptical Congress and American public, and the environmental lobby. Ford has not asked for loans now. General Motors and Chrysler say they need loans to stave off bankruptcy filings.
While it makes a play for environmentalists, the new hybrid will also be aimed at being a commercial success for Ford. Davis says it should add up to 25,000 sales of Fusions a year. While pricing isn’t set, the hybrid system is 30% less expensive than the last generation, like that in the Ford Escape hybrid SUV.
Ford plans to spend $14 billion in the U.S. on advanced technologies and products to improve fuel economy in the next seven years, it told Congress in the business plan it submitted as part of the bailout consideration. It plans a pure electric sedan by 2011.
Source: USA Today
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
NAIROBI — If the election of Barack Obama has been greeted with glee across much of Africa, there is at least one spot where the mood is decidedly different.
In the Sudanese capital of Khartoum these days, political elites are bracing for what they expect will be a major shift in U.S. policy toward a government the United States has blamed for orchestrating a violent campaign against civilians in the western Darfur region.
“Compared to the Republicans, the Democrats, I think they are hawks,” said Ghazi Suleiman, a human rights lawyer and member of the Southern People’s Liberation Movement, which has a fragile power-sharing agreement with the ruling party. “I know Obama’s appointees. And I know their policy towards Sudan. Everybody here knows it. The policy is very aggressive and very harsh. I think we really will miss the judgments of George W. Bush.”
While the Bush administration most recently advocated the idea of “normalizing” relations with Sudan as a carrot approach to ending a crisis it labeled a genocide, Obama’s foreign policy appointees have pushed for sticks.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, the nominee for secretary of state, has called for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone to “blanket” Darfur in order to prevent Sudanese bombing of villages. The appointee for U.N. ambassador, Susan E. Rice — a key Africa adviser to the Clinton administration during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when President Bill Clinton was sharply criticized for failing to act — has pushed for U.S. or NATO airstrikes and a naval blockade of Sudan’s major port to prevent lucrative oil exports. Rice has vowed to “go down in flames” advocating tough measures.
Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was chosen for his foreign policy experience and pressed early for U.S. intervention to stop the fighting in the Balkans, was blunt during a hearing last year: “I would use American force now,” he said.
But it remains unclear how those pre-election views will square with the president-elect, who has outlined a pragmatic, coalition-based approach to foreign policy, while also speaking of America’s “moral obligation” in the face of humanitarian catastrophes of the sort that are plentiful in Africa.
Heading off potential genocide is the focus of a task force report to be released today in Washington. The group recommends, among other things, that the Obama administration create a high-level forum in the White House to direct the government’s response to threats of mass violence.
So far, Obama has been more cautious on Darfur than some of his appointees, advocating tougher sanctions against Khartoum and a no-fly zone that might be enforced with U.S. “help.” He has not called for direct U.S. intervention.
Obama intends to keep Bush’s defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, who has already suggested that the United States will not provide much-needed helicopters to a struggling peacekeeping mission in Darfur because U.S. forces are stretched too thin in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama has also nominated as national security adviser retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, a former NATO supreme allied commander who has suggested that NATO’s role in Darfur should be training and support to the current peacekeeping mission rather than direct intervention.
And specialists close to Obama’s presidential campaign said that more generally, the new administration sees a need for diplomatic approaches to security crises across the continent.
“We don’t have the capacity to pacify these places militarily,” said John Prendergast, a Darfur activist and former White House aide during the Clinton administration, citing Sudan and the worsening conflicts in Congo and Somalia. “We need political solutions.”
Sudan’s U.N. ambassador, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad, dismissed the calls for military action as “only election slogans.”
“You cannot claim to be disengaging from disasters like Iraq but creating a new disaster in one of Africa’s biggest countries,” he said.
The crisis is in many ways a far more complex conflict than the one the Bush administration confronted. The violence in Darfur began in February 2003 when two rebel groups attacked Sudan’s Islamic government, claiming a pattern of bias against the region’s black African tribes. Khartoum organized a local Arab militia, known as the Janjaweed, to wage a scorched-earth campaign against the three ethnic groups — mostly farmers and traders — thought to be the rebels’ political base.
Some analysts estimate that as many as 450,000 people have died from disease and violence in the conflict. About half the population of the Darfur region — about 2.5 million people — are now displaced.
Even Without That Task, Huge Agency Poses Challenges
Under the best of circumstances, overseeing the Department of Health and Human Services is an enormous undertaking. With 65,000 employees and a budget of $707.7 billion, it accounts for nearly one-quarter of all federal spending, second only to the Defense Department.
But in the Obama administration the job is taking on a second, perhaps more daunting, responsibility: shepherding health-care reform legislation through Congress.
Unlike his predecessors, Thomas A. Daschle, President-elect Barack Obama’s choice for HHS secretary, will be given an expanded role, leading administration efforts to overhaul the U.S. health system.
“This really creates a new type of secretary,” said Charles N. “Chip” Kahn III, president of the Federation of American Hospitals. In the past, “HHS was more or less a service organization to the White House,” while White House advisers drove policy initiatives.
In broad terms, Obama campaigned on the idea of reducing medical costs, improving quality and eventually achieving universal insurance coverage. He promised to cover every child and to reduce the average family’s medical bill by $2,500 a year. He advocated a greater emphasis on prevention and expanding participation in the government-subsidized Medicare and Medicaid programs.
“There are two aspects to the challenge of pushing for health reform,” said Dan Mendelson, a budget and health adviser in the Clinton administration. “One is to get the right concepts together with what Congress wants to do, and the other is managing the disparate concepts and generous egos.”
A serious restructuring of the health system will require extensive data and analytic capabilities to dissect the proposed changes and the impact they might have, said Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a private, nonpartisan research foundation. “Right now, there’s nothing other than the Office of the Actuary to do back-of-the-envelope estimates,” she said.
With the expectation that Daschle, a former Senate majority leader, will focus heavily on crafting and pushing legislation, there will be an even greater need for a strong No. 2. HHS is a collection of 11 agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“He’ll need to have deputies who are well-versed in the agency as a whole and who can manage the ongoing operation of HHS while he leads the health reform discussions,” said Len Nichols, director of health policy at the New America Foundation. One of those will likely be Jeanne Lambrew, a veteran of the Clinton administration and a co-author of Daschle’s book “Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis.”
Lambrew, in a chapter of a book published by the liberal Center for American Progress outlining a proposed agenda for the incoming president, agreed that fixing the health system is a top priority. However, she noted, “these urgent problems overshadow persistent, neglected and potentially deadly infrastructure gaps in the system.”
According to her assessment, the nation’s ability to respond to natural or man-made crises is weak, as evidenced by the poor response to Hurricane Katrina. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes have been given short shrift, and little has been done to prepare for the long-term health needs of an aging population.
The Commonwealth Fund, after interviewing two dozen health leaders, issued its own set of recommendations. It urged the next administration to make a “real focus on what it takes to improve health outcomes,” as opposed to secondary issues related to insurance markets, Davis said. That means tackling childhood obesity, racial disparities and preventable illnesses.
President-elect Barack Obama brought in nearly $750 million for his presidential campaign, a record amount that exceeds what all of the candidates combined collected in private donations in the previous race for the White House, according to a report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission.
Underscoring the success of his fund-raising, Mr. Obama reported that he had nearly $30 million in the bank as of Nov. 24, despite spending furiously at the end of his campaign.
Mr. Obama, who became the first major-party nominee to bypass public financing since the system began in the 1970s, spent more than $136 million from Oct. 16 to Nov. 24, the period covered in the report. By comparison, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, who was limited to the $84 million allotted to him from the Treasury under public financing, spent $26.5 million during that time, according to his latest campaign finance report. Although Mr. McCain had $4 million left over, he had $4.9 million in debt, the report said.
Mr. Obama reported taking in $104 million in contributions. Assuming most of that money came in before Election Day, Nov. 4, it appears his fund-raising stepped up significantly as the campaign drew to a close. In the first half of October, he raised just $36 million.
An exact figure is difficult to calculate because of vagaries in the way fund-raising numbers are reported. But it appears that Mr. Obama raised over $300 million for the general election alone — more than triple what Mr. McCain had at his disposal from public financing.
Thousands of people watched President Bush’s final Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the White House. The holiday tradition dates back to the 1920s. AP
Dec. 3 (Bloomberg) — Bill Richardson’s nomination as Commerce secretary won’t satisfy top Latino lawmakers, who sent President-elect Barack Obama’s transition office a letter yesterday afternoon recommending a slate of 14 Hispanics for the remaining eight Cabinet slots.
“We’d definitely be disappointed,” if Richardson, 61, a former energy secretary and United Nations ambassador, were the lone Latino in Obama’s Cabinet, said California Representative Joe Baca, the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. He warned that Obama’s legislative agenda could be jeopardized if the president-elect doesn’t nominate additional Hispanics.
“If it’s just one, he’s going to have to answer to a lot of the issues that come before us,” Baca said in an interview.
There could be one more appointment soon. Two Democrats close to Obama’s transition office said that Representative Xavier Becerra, a California Democrat, has been offered the job of U.S. trade representative. The two Democrats didn’t say Becerra, 50, will accept the post.
Obama’s victories in New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, all states carried by President George W. Bush in 2004, was “in large measure because of Hispanic support,” said Representative Charles Gonzalez, a Texas Democrat. Election-day exit polls of Latinos gave Obama a 2-to-1 advantage on Nov. 4.
Obama is expected to announce Richardson’s selection today in Chicago, a Democratic official said.
Becerra, who once declared U.S. trade policy was “broken completely,” would take part in global trade talks, negotiate with China on product-safety issues and possibly renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Hispanic Caucus letter recommends Colorado Representative John Salazar for agriculture secretary, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion for Housing and Urban Development secretary and Texas Assemblyman Rick Noriega for veterans’ affairs secretary, among others.
Baca described the letter, sent to transition director John Podesta, as the “the beginning of demonstrating that we are ones to be reckoned with and not to be taken lightly.” Baca and Gonzalez signed the letter on behalf of the 21-member caucus.
Richardson is the highest-profile Latino elected official in the U.S. Before being elected as governor of New Mexico in 2002 and winning a second term in 2006, he served in two Cabinet positions in President Bill Clinton’s administration and eight terms in the U.S. House.
Richardson ended his own bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in January and later endorsed Obama, calling him a “once-in-a-lifetime leader” who can unite the country. That move was a rebuke to Hillary Clinton, and her husband publicly lashed out at Richardson at the time.
For several weeks, Baca and Gonzalez led a group of 10 lawmakers to create a list for Obama’s transition team, which was approved by a required two-thirds of the caucus members.
“We understand that the incoming administration will have a vast pool of talent from which to choose,” wrote Baca and Gonzalez. “The individuals we have endorsed constitute the best talent, while reflecting the diversity that is so valued by President-elect Obama.”
Baca expects Obama to improve upon the two Hispanics that Presidents Clinton and Bush had in their Cabinets. “We’ll start with two and then work for three,” he said. “But it’s got to be more than what we’ve had.”
Bush, Clinton Picks
Bush began his first term with Mel Martinez serving as Housing and Urban Development secretary and Alberto Gonzales as his White House counsel. In his second term, Bush promoted Gonzales to attorney general and had Carlos Gutierrez as his commerce secretary.
Clinton started off with Henry Cisneros at HUD and Federico Pena as transportation secretary and then later as his energy secretary, until Pena was replaced by Richardson.
Gonzalez said he was “confident” that Obama will select additional Hispanics for his Cabinet, insisting that “the process is still in play.” He cheered the choices of Louis Caldera to head the White House Military Affairs Office and Cecilia Munoz as White House director of intergovernmental affairs.
Other Latino lawmakers, while insisting that Hispanics deserved credit for the Democrats’ victory, said they weren’t focused on Obama’s final Cabinet tally. Representative Linda Sanchez, who left the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in 2006 but was still recommended the group as a potential labor secretary, said “for me it’s not a numbers game.”
She criticized Baca for “speaking a little hastily,” in setting down firm demands that Obama appoint more than two Hispanics. Baca is “very strident and he’s very passionate,” about wanting to ensconce Hispanics in influential positions.
Republicans, meanwhile, had their own criticism of the Richardson pick. “Nothing says change like picking the Clinton administration’s energy secretary and UN representative to be commerce secretary,” said Alex Conant, a spokesman at the Republican National Committee.
Obama already has tapped top officials from the Clinton administration, including former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be his White House economic director, former Treasury official Timothy Geithner as his Treasury secretary, and Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, who was a special adviser to Bill Clinton, as his chief of staff. Obama also picked Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.
“Obama’s Cabinet is starting to look like a Clinton administration reunion,” Conant said.
CHICAGO (AP) — President-elect Barack Obama was staying in Chicago for the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday Thursday and squeezing in some holiday shopping, a day after trying to reassure Americans about the ailing economy as stores braced for a rough season.
“Help is on the way,” he proclaimed Wednesday at his third news briefing on the economy this week. Fifty-five days away from taking office, he declared he would have an economic plan ready for action “starting day one.”
To help with ideas from outside the White House, Obama also announced he was forming a new team of advisers with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker as the head.
“There is no doubt that during tough economic times family budgets are going to be pinched,” Obama said. “I think it is important for the American people, though, to have confidence that we’ve gone through recessions before, we’ve gone through difficult times before, that my administration intends to get this economy back on track.”
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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
As incoming President Barack Obama ponders economic-bailout plans in the Oval Office, some pretty heavy action will be taking place in the private quarters of the White House, too.
Malia and Sasha Obama, ages 10 and 7, respectively, are the youngest children to inhabit the White House in decades. And they will be facing some seismic challenges of their own, in child-development terms. The Obama girls will pass from childhood into the upheaval of the pre-teen and early teenage years in a venue that past presidential kid Luci Johnson termed a “museum, a public fishbowl and a prison.”
The loss of privacy, continuity and constancy imposed by their move to the White House — coupled with the monumental new opportunities it offers — will have a huge impact on the Obama children’s sense of identity and competence at a critical stage, child-development experts say. While the glare of the spotlight has burned some presidential kids, others have emerged unscathed and strong. A look at the risks and rewards, based on research and past examples, holds lessons for any parent raising children under unusual stress.
Malia and Sasha are facing some core “developmental tasks,” in child-development parlance: the need to build their own sense of personal identity, or their concept of who they are in relation to others and the world at large, and their belief in their competence as individuals. These growth stages must be accomplished in an ever-widening context of friendships, school, the neighborhood and the world at large.
The Obamas, child-development experts say, seem to be a picture of health, based on the deep affection and easy communication family members displayed last July in their only video interview together. Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, have vowed to hold life as steady as possible for the girls, and are taking grandmother Marian Robinson to Washington to help.
CHICAGO — On a dark afternoon last week, the road to Jerusalem and Beijing momentarily veered through the office of a real estate company here.
Valerie Jarrett, the company’s chief executive, had signed her resignation letter an hour earlier, and now she was taking phone calls from potential top diplomatic appointees.
“You don’t need to thank me,” she said soothingly to a booming male voice on her cellphone. “I just wanted you to have a chance to make your case.”
If someone were to rank the long list of people who helped Barack and Michelle Obama get where they are today, Ms. Jarrett would be close to the top. Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Jarrett swept the young lawyers under her wing, introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own, and eventually secured contacts and money essential to Mr. Obama’s long-shot Senate victory.
In the crush of his presidential campaign, Ms. Jarrett could have fallen by the wayside, as old mentors often do. But the opposite happened: Using her intimacy with the Obamas, two BlackBerrys and a cellphone, Ms. Jarrett, a real estate executive and civic leader with no national campaign experience, became an internal mediator and external diplomat who secured the trust of black leaders, forged peace with Clintonites and helped talk Mr. Obama through major decisions.
She “automatically understands your values and your vision,” Michelle Obama said in a telephone interview Friday, and is “somebody never afraid to tell you the truth.” Mrs. Obama added: “She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context.”
In January, Ms. Jarrett will go to the White House as a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, where she will be “one of the four or five people in the room with him when decisions get made,” as Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist close to Mr. Obama, put it. Ms. Jarrett, who is a co-chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s transition effort, will also serve as the White House contact for local and state officials across the nation and the point person for Mr. Obama’s effort to build a channel between his White House and ordinary Americans.
Less formally, she intends to help Mr. Obama preserve his essential self as he becomes president, even as she becomes the type of person who chats with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, mingles with Warren Buffett and is now sometimes greeted by strangers.
Washingtonians who assess the new White House crew sometimes cast Ms. Jarrett in parochial terms: she is the hometown buddy, they say, or the one who will hear out the concerns of black leaders. They note that presidential friends do not always fare well in the capital, that confidants from Arkansas and Texas have stumbled in the corridors of the West Wing.
Asked what was her biggest worry about the job, which is a major leap from anything she has undertaken before, Ms. Jarrett said she sometimes feared she did not know enough. “I will try to do my homework,” she said.
Ms. Jarrett, 52, has often been underestimated: perhaps because she is often the only black woman at the boardroom tables where she sits, or perhaps because she can seem girlish, with a pixie haircut, singsong voice and suits that earned her a recent profile in Vogue.
A protégée of Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago, Ms. Jarrett served as his planning commissioner, ran a real estate company, the Habitat Company — whose management of public housing projects has come under scrutiny with Ms. Jarrett’s rise — and sits on too many boards to count. She is an expert in urban affairs, particularly housing and transportation, in an administration expected to lavish more money and attention on cities than its predecessors.
And she has something no other adviser in the Obama White House ever will: ties to the president-elect and future first lady that go deeper than a political alliance. Ms. Jarrett is only a few years older than the Obamas, but her relationship with them can seem almost maternal. “I can count on someone like Valerie to take my hand and say, You need to think about these three things,” Mrs. Obama said. “Like a mom, a big sister, I trust her implicitly.”
During big speeches, Ms. Jarrett watched Mr. Obama with a gaze of such intensity that he and their other friends laugh about it. “Barack always jokes, You can’t look Valerie in the eye, she’s going to make you cry,” said Martin Nesbitt, the treasurer of the campaign.
Loyal allies to dominate inner sanctum but Clinton vets will abound
WASHINGTON – Two main quarries are supplying the building blocks for President-elect Barack Obama’s new administration.
Longtime, deeply loyal associates will dominate the White House inner sanctum. And veterans of Bill Clinton’s presidency will hold vital jobs throughout the government, although a bit farther from the Oval Office.
The structure suggests Obama is confident enough to hand top posts to former rivals whose loyalty is not guaranteed, a strategy many presidents have avoided. But most of those on Obama’s team who will have his ear everyday will be old friends and experienced advisers who are seen as having no ambitions beyond his success.
Obama raised eyebrows this month when he tapped some of Clinton’s closest allies for important jobs.
John Podesta, Clinton’s former White House chief of staff, is heading the transition effort. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a former top Clinton adviser, is Obama’s chief of staff. Former Clinton appointees Eric Holder and Janet Napolitano appear in line for Cabinet posts.
Even more startling to many, Obama has signaled plans to name former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.
Some Obama supporters have praised him for reaching out to his toughest primary opponent. But others question why they worked so hard to defeat Clinton only to see her, and many close to her, grab prizes in the new administration. They note that Obama repeatedly campaigned against “the politics of the past” and Washington “dramas,” thinly veiled jabs at the Clinton presidency as well as President George W. Bush’s tenure.
Stephen Hess, a George Washington University authority on presidential transitions, said Obama is playing it smart.
“It’s easy to make a leap that this is going to be a repeat of the Clinton administration and there’s no way that’s going to happen,” said Hess, who first worked for the Eisenhower administration.
Value of ‘old-timers’
Obama needs a core of Democrats with federal government experience, Hess said, and veterans of Bill Clinton’s administration are virtually the only source.
“The old-timers are exceedingly valuable to him now,” he said, but Obama “also has his own group of advisers, and he will merge the two groups.”
That merger began taking shape last week. Obama’s three “senior advisers,” who will have desks near the Oval Office, are some of his closest and longest-serving allies:
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
Heather Zichal, a member of the Obama-Biden Transition’s Energy and Environment Policy Team, responds to questions submitted to http://www.change.gov on topics ranging from increasing the number of hybrid cars on the road to making the White House green.
As Hillary Rodham Clinton inches toward becoming secretary of state, Latino advocates are asking: Whither Bill Richardson?
The New Mexico governor has been the best hope for a Latino to land a high-ranking post in the new administration. But Richardson, a former U.N. ambassador and energy secretary, appears to have lost out to Clinton — although he could land another Cabinet post, perhaps at Interior.
Still, anxiety is running high among Latino leaders because Obama has yet to name a Latino to a top White House or Cabinet position. This is on the minds of senior transition officials — including Obama’s designated chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel — who are said to be considering Latino candidates for several Cabinet posts.
“The Obama transition team and the chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, understand the role that the Latino vote played in this election, and I think we will see representation in the Obama Cabinet and at the White House,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), a member of the House Democratic leadership, said he has been forwarding the names of Latino candidates “for every type of position you can think of in the federal government, from Cabinet on down.”
“We can remember the days when people said we had no applications, or there’s no one qualified,” Becerra said. “Everyone understands that the days of excuses are over.”
Becerra, who’s been mentioned as a candidate for labor secretary, said he is “not looking” for an administration job.
At least four Latino candidates are said to be under consideration to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development: Miami Mayor Manny Diaz; Adolfo Carrion Jr., a longtime New York pol, and Bronx borough president; Saul Ramirez Jr., a former deputy HUD secretary; and Nelson A. Diaz, who has been a judge and a HUD general counsel.
As for Richardson, Murguia suggested he could serve as secretary of commerce or the interior. “Perhaps there’s an ambassador role to China,” she added.
Consultant Roger Stone, the notorious political hitman who helped George W. Bush prevail in the 2000 Florida recount, tells The Daily Beast that he wishes he hadn’t.
Roger Stone is one of the last guys on Earth one would expect to feel guilty over an episode of rough and tumble politicking. As a self-admitted hit man for the GOP, Stone has had a hand in everything from Nixon’s dirty tricks to Eliot Spitzer’s resignation to spreading discredited rumors of a Michelle Obama “whitey” tape during the 2008 Democratic primaries. You might call Stone the Forrest Gump of scandal, popping up to play a bit part in the most notorious negative campaigns in recent history.
The capstone of Stone’s career, at least in terms of results, was the “Brooks Brothers riot” of the 2000 election recount. This was when a Stone-led squad of pro-Bush protestors stormed the Miami-Dade County election board, stopping the recount and advancing then-Governor George W. Bush one step closer to the White House. Though he is quick to rebut GOP operatives who seek to minimize his role in the recount, Stone lately has been having second thoughts about what happened in Florida.
When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade.’
“There have been many times I’ve regretted it,” Stone told me over pizza at Grand Central Station. “When I look at those double-page New York Times spreads of all the individual pictures of people who have been killed [in Iraq], I got to think, ‘Maybe there wouldn’t have been a war if I hadn’t gone to Miami-Dade. Maybe there hadn’t have been, in my view, an unjustified war if Bush hadn’t become president.’ It’s very disturbing to me.”
Incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel’s career as an investment banker was short but, oh, so sweet. Emanuel left the Clinton White House in 1998 as a senior adviser on a government salary. By the time he won election to the House in 2002, he had earned an astonishing $16 million.
How did he do it?
Partly, it was simple luck: Emanuel dipped quickly into the world of investment banking in time to catch the tail end of the 1990s boom economy as a Chicago-based managing director at Wasserstein Perella & Co., where he worked from 1999 to 2002. While he was there, the firm was sold to the German Dresdner Bank for $1.37 billion in stock, netting Emanuel much of his Wall Street windfall.
Returning to Chicago in 1998 after his White House stint, Emanuel soon ran Wasserstein’s small Midwestern office, developing a reputation as a deal guy who focused on mergers and acquisitions among companies that were subject to heavy government regulation. There, he deployed his skills as a born negotiator who knew the inner workings of government bureaucracies.
Frequently, Emanuel turned big Democratic donors and others he’d met during his White House years into clients for Wasserstein Perella, a firm that was led by Bruce Wasserstein, a hefty financial supporter of Clinton.
Emanuel is “tireless,” said John Canning, a managing director of Chicago-based Madison Dearborn Partners, a multibillion-dollar private equity firm.
Canning became friendly with Emanuel while he was setting himself up in Chicago business circles and has remained close to him through his congressional career. “He’s got a nose for a transaction, a sense for what each party’s looking for and where each party can concede,” Canning said.
Emanuel was unavailable for comment. But in 2003, he described his investment banking career to the Chicago Tribune.
“Fundamentally, I brought in business and worked on business that was very successful,” Emanuel said then. “I didn’t work on one deal. I didn’t work on two deals. I think it was close to six or seven, of which a couple of them were over $1 billion.”
The Democratic congressman from Illinois will be starting out as White House chief of staff for President Barack Obama during a severe global economic crisis. And as a former investment banker himself, Emanuel may be well-positioned to understand the problems and priorities of the nation’s struggling financial system.
While Emanuel lucked into the timing of the Wasserstein sale, the deals he worked on contributed in a significant way to the firm’s bottom line, generating hefty bonuses for him along the way.
One signature transaction was the $16 billion merger of Unicom Corp. and PECO Energy Co. into Exelon Corp., now one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, with nearly $19 billion in annual revenue. The company owns 17 nuclear reactors, which produce about 20 percent of the nation’s nuclear power.
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Foreign income makes up only a small part of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty.
Bill Clinton’s apparent willingness to forgo foreign income in order to smooth his wife’s path into the Secretary of State’s office won’t put the couple into the poor house, publicly available financial records show.
Of the $111 million the Clintons have pulled in since leaving the White House, a little more than $8 million came from foreign sources, according to joint tax returns the couple released during Hillary Clinton’s contentious battle for the Democratic presidential nomination with President-elect Barack Obama, who is reportedly close to offering his vanquished rival the top diplomat’s post.
The Clinton’s foreign income, for which the tax returns show they claimed more than $650,000 in foreign tax credits, “was from speeches President Clinton abroad and income from the blind trust,” Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman, told Politico when the Clintons released their taxes in April.
The trust was dissolved last year, revealing that the couple had investments with Quellos, an asset manager accused of structuring offshore tax shelters.
Still, foreign income was only a small slice of Bill Clinton’s post-presidential speaking-circuit bounty, which came to nearly $52 million. The couple also collected more than $40 million for the two books each penned, including an eye-popping $15 million advance paid to Bill Clinton for his 2004 autobiography “My Life.”
If Hillary Clinton were to become Secretary of State, she would be legally barred from receiving most outside earned income, but Bill Clinton wouldn’t—provided it could be shown that it did not conflict with her duties as the nation’s ambassador to the world.
Plus, taxpayers would continue to fund the Clinton’s lifestyles to the tune of about $1.4 million a year. That’s accounting for the Secretary of State’s salary of more than $190,000 a year— a $20,000 raise from Hillary Clinton’s salary as a New York Senator—plus more than $1.2 million a year that Bill Clinton receives in presidential retirement benefits. Those include everything from a $200,000 annual pension to upwards of $50,000 for travel, about $160,000 in staff salaries and benefits and about $735,000 to rent and equip Clinton’s 8,300-square-foot Harlem penthouse office, which offers views of Central Park, the George Washington Bridge and most of Manhattan.
Obama’s transition team said the president-elect addressed the Bi-Partisan Governors Global Climate Summit in Los Angeles on Tuesday morning to “discuss his commitment to marking a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.”
Obama said that there are few challenges facing the world that “are more urgent,” adding that the scientific evidence of climate change is “beyond dispute.”
The president-elect pledged to implement a federal cap-and-trade system with “strong annual targets” that would reduce emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and an additional 80 percent by 2050.
He said the U.S. will invest $15 billion a year in safe nuclear energy, clean-coal technologies, solar power, wind and biofuels.
- “This investment will not only help us reduce our dependence on foreign oil, making the United States more secure. And it will not only help us bring about a clean energy future, saving our planet. It will also help us transform our industries and steer our country out of this economic crisis by generating five million new green jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced,” Obama said.
Governors present included Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D), Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich (D), Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).
The transition team said that there were also representatives from 22 other states and officials from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Poland and the U.K.
- “Now is the time to confront this challenge once and for all,” Obama said. “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response. The stakes are too high. The consequences, too serious. Stopping climate change won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight. But I promise you this: When I am president, any governor who’s willing to promote clean energy will have a partner in the White House. Any company that’s willing to invest in clean energy will have an ally in Washington. And any nation that’s willing to join the cause of combating climate change will have an ally in the United States of America.”
Source: The Hill
Fourteen years after failing to deliver health reform for her husband’s White House, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will play a key role in advancing the issue in 2009 — if she remains in the Senate.
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) designated Clinton to head a task force to develop a Senate Democratic proposal to expand health insurance coverage as part of his larger push to move a major overhaul of the U.S. healthcare system next year.
Kennedy’s designation of Clinton as one of three senators to lead a healthcare task force provides her with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to an issue that has defined her political career.
Clinton, however, may have her sights on foreign policy, not domestic concerns. She is reportedly under consideration to serve as President-elect Barack Obama’s secretary of State, a position that would take her out of the healthcare debate.
Clinton is a junior member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs, but has been a prominent Democratic voice on healthcare issues dating back to President Clinton’s first term, when she led the administration’s ultimately unsuccessful effort to reform healthcare.
Were Clinton to remain in Congress, there are no clear avenues for her to assume a formal leadership position or chair a committee.
Being given a influential position on health reform may serve as some consolation, and expanding healthcare coverage is arguably the most important and contentious component of the Democratic health reform platform.
During the primary campaign, Clinton and Obama frequently clashed over healthcare. The biggest point of dissension was whether individuals should be required by law to obtain some form of health coverage: Clinton said yes, Obama said no.
Kennedy and his aides have repeatedly indicated that they will base their legislation on Obama’s health plan, but they not have not disclosed whether the bill would include such a mandate. Despite Obama’s position during the campaign, he would be unlikely to oppose a major Democratic healthcare bill on that point alone.
Kennedy also assigned Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) to lead the committee’s efforts on prevention and public health and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to tackle healthcare quality.
“Our committee is fortunate to have the services of major leaders who are committed to improving healthcare for the American people. Sen. Harkin, Sen. Mikulski and Sen. Clinton have generously offered to step forward and assume an expanded role on critical aspects of health reform,” Kennedy said in a statement.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who controls a large portion of the jurisdiction over health reform in the Senate, issued a white paper laying out options for health reform, which include an individual mandate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), another key lawmaker on health issues, is the author of a bipartisan bill that also has a mandate.
Source: The Hill
Famous for being famous! This election was amazing in that the things which were first said to hurt Obama – came back in the end to help defeat McCain – for example, Obama’s ability to attract large crowds – would go on to mean he would attract 200,000 plus in Germany – but rather than admit this was a great accomplishment (given Germany’s history) – Republicans chose to deride it – saying that Barack Obama was merely a celebrity – not to be taken seriously. Enter Sarah Palin, who for some really is a celebrity – who literally doesn’t know enough – to put together a concise argument on any number of critical issues – important to those seeking the highest office. Without substance Sarah Palin becomes famous for being famous – a celeb politician – who ‘ain’t in it for naught’.
She failed to save John McCain from presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.
With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.
“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.
“Every publisher and a lot of literary agents have been going after her,” added Jeff Klein of Folio Literary management.
Palin’s profile showed no sign of diminishing last week, despite McCain’s defeat and embittered Republicans seeking a scapegoat for the party’s collapse.
She now finds herself in a position similar to Obama’s in 2004, when the then mostly unknown Chicago politician delivered a mesmerising speech to the Democratic convention, was elected to the Senate and swiftly wrote a bestselling book – The Audacity of Hope. This proved to be the springboard for his presidential launch.
Like Obama, Palin has come from nowhere – in her case, Wasilla, Alaska. She is considered a likely candidate to move to Washington as Alaska’s senator if one of the state’s two seats falls vacant next year. Her book may reach a vast audience fascinated by her journey from the moose-hunting wastes of the Alaskan tundra to a historic battle for the White House.
Undaunted by her poll defeat, Palin was in fighting form last week, inviting cameras into her home, serving visiting interviewers home-cooked moose chilli and haddock and salmon casserole.
She scoffed at untrue reports that she initially thought Africa was a country and that she didn’t know members of the North American Free Trade Agreement. She said much of the criticism levelled at her came from “bloggers in their parents’ basements just talking garbage”.
At a sombre meeting of Republican governors later in the week, Palin’s megawatt celebrity far outshone her more experienced colleagues. Frank Luntz, a prominent Republican consultant, called her a “rock star”, but Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, warned that she would be only “one of the voices” leading the party forward.
Yet there are already signs that conservative Republicans, thrilled by Palin’s right-wing views, are manoeuvring to keep her in the public eye with a view to the 2012 elections and beyond. One group, called Our Country Deserves Better, last week collected tens of thousands of dollars to pay for television advertisements to run over the forthcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The adverts are to thank Palin for her efforts.
Despite polling evidence that Palin failed to make much impact on any of the groups that McCain strategists hoped she might deliver – women, independent voters and suburbanites – her supporters insisted that she should not be blamed for either McCain’s shortcomings or the legacy of the Bush administration’s failures. Palin herself noted that in view of the Bush record, “it’s amazing we did as well as we did”.
Although anonymous McCain aides had variously described her as a “diva” and a “whack job” and Maureen Dowd of The New York Times derided her last week as “Eliza Know-little”, she has earned plaudits from a surprising range of friends and former foes for keeping her cool under fire.
Camille Paglia, the radical feminist, declared that she had “heartily enjoyed [Palin’s] arrival on the national stage”. She had been subjected to “an atrocious and sometimes delusional level of defamation”, Paglia added. “I can see how smart she is and, quite frankly, I think the people who don’t see it are the stupid ones.”
Joanne Bamberger, the liberal author of the popular PunditMom blog, praised Palin for not “fading into the Alaskan woodwork”, and added: “She’s got some serious chutzpah . . . Palin has taken charge of this moment . . . and she’s making the most of the notoriety that was offered her”.
With publishers as nervous as everyone else about next year’s economic prospects, Palin’s popularity has become a boon. “Nobody is waiting for George W Bush’s memoirs,” one New York agent noted.
WASHINGTON — Sorry, Mr. President. Please surrender your BlackBerry.
Those are seven words President-elect Barack Obama is dreading but expecting to hear, friends and advisers say, when he takes office in 65 days.
For years, like legions of other professionals, Mr. Obama has been all but addicted to his BlackBerry. The device has rarely been far from his side — on most days, it was fastened to his belt — to provide a singular conduit to the outside world as the bubble around him grew tighter and tighter throughout his campaign.
“How about that?” Mr. Obama replied to a friend’s congratulatory e-mail message on the night of his victory.
But before he arrives at the White House, he will probably be forced to sign off. In addition to concerns about e-mail security, he faces the Presidential Records Act, which puts his correspondence in the official record and ultimately up for public review, and the threat of subpoenas. A decision has not been made on whether he could become the first e-mailing president, but aides said that seemed doubtful.
For all the perquisites and power afforded the president, the chief executive of the United States is essentially deprived by law and by culture of some of the very tools that other chief executives depend on to survive and to thrive. Mr. Obama, however, seems intent on pulling the office at least partly into the 21st century on that score; aides said he hopes to have a laptop computer on his desk in the Oval Office, making him the first American president to do so.
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The position will put Klain, a seasoned political hand, at the heart of West Wing activity.
Biden, who has kept a low profile since Election Day, will head to the vice president’s official residence at the Naval Observatory at 5:15 p.m. Thursday for a private meeting with Vice President Cheney. Biden and his wife, Jill, will also receive a tour of the residence from Cheney and his wife, Lynne.
The appointment enhances the continuity between the two Democratic administrations. Veterans of the Clinton-Gore White House have been given top jobs in the Obama-Biden transition.
Biden decided some time ago to offer Klain the job, but Klain’s friends weren’t sure he would take it. But he accepted the offer Wednesday afternoon, the officials said.
Klain was part of Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign policy and debate preparation staff, was Gore’s chief of staff during the 1996 reelection; and led debate preparation for Senator John Kerry’s 2004 presidential bid.
Klain, a key member of the Clinton-Gore legal team during the recount fight of 2000, was played by Kevin Spacey in the HBO movie “Recount.”
After the recount, Klain became a partner in the Washington office of the law firm O’Melveny & Myers LLP.
National Journal wrote in 1997 that Klain “may have the best resume in town.”
From Klain’s official biography: “Prior to his appointment to the White House, Klain was the staff director for the Senate Democratic Leadership Committees, the chief of staff for Attorney General Janet Reno, associate counsel to President Clinton, and chief counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Judiciary. …
“Klain graduated summa cum laude from Georgetown University, and he obtained his juris doctor magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, winner of the Sears Prize, and a research assistant to Professor Laurence Tribe. For the 1987-1989 Supreme Court terms, Klain served as law clerk to Justice Byron R. White.”
McCain’s appearance, which was tied to Veteran’s Day and follows two days of televised interviews with his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was to air later Tuesday night on NBC stations.
In keeping with the Veteran’s Day creed of remaining a “good soldier,” McCain refused to place any blame for his loss on Palin and offered several familiar refrains about his running mate and the campaign.
“The one thing I think Americans don’t want is a sore loser,” he noted after Leno tried several times to corner him about Palin’s reported problematic behavior, the media’s perceived tilt toward Obama and other issues that plagued his run for the White House. “I’m a fighter,” he said, with a laugh. “I knew I had a headwind. I can read the polls. They tried to keep them away from me. But I knew we had a real headwind.”
McCain said that since the election ended he’s been “sleeping like a baby — I sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours. . . .” He seemed relaxed and comfortable, happy to be rid of the Secret Service protection that guarded him 24/7 as a candidate and amused at all the post-mortems that have filled the papers and cable news shows after the race ended.
Asked the main reason he lost, he joshed that it was because of his “personality — maybe too many people saw me on the Jay Leno show.” The late night host did prod him about the dichotomy of his personality during the campaign, however, and how the amusing and friendly McCain seen on Saturday Night Live and the Al Smith dinner contrasted so sharply with his often gruff and angry posture on the stump. “These are tough times,” McCain replied. “People didn’t want a stand-up comic.”
Among other subjects discussed during The Tonight Show appearance:
*Anonymous McCain campaign aides critical of Palin:
“I think I have at least a thousand quote top advisers. [It’s always] ‘a top adviser said. . . ‘ [They’re probably] people that I’ve never even heard of, much less a top advisor or a high-ranking Republican official. These things go on in campaigns and you just move on. I’m just very proud to have had Sarah Palin and her family, a wonderful family [join the campaign.]”
*Joe Lieberman’s future in Congress:
“One of the finest, most wonderful men I’ve ever known in my life. . . . I obviously don’t know what’s going to happen. On national security issues, he’s really really good. . . I think that Joe will remain what he is: an independent who stands up for what he believes in. And we need more people like that. “
*Joe the Plumber:
“I loved him, a great guy. I got to know him a bit. He’s the classic American trying to get ahead, trying to make it. I’m not kidding you, because we took polls all the time, that guy went from zero to 70% in name ID in 48 hours. It was amazing, amazing.”
*Running again in 2012:
“I wouldn’t think so, my friend. It’s been a great experience and we’re going to have another generation of leaders come along.”
*The GOP’s future: “Our party has a lot of work to do. We just got back from the woodshed.”
WASHINGTON — Turning to campaign promises in which he pledged sweeping ethics restrictions, President-elect Barack Obama will bar lobbyists from helping to pay the costs of his transition to power or working for it in any area in which they have represented clients in the last year, his transition team said Tuesday.
Mr. Obama’s aides indicated that they expected the rules to apply to his inauguration as well as the transition, but said they had yet to make a final decision on how the inauguration would be paid for.
John D. Podesta, a co-chairman of the Obama transition, called the restraints “the strictest, the most far-reaching ethics rules of any transition team in history.”
“If someone has lobbied during the past 12 months, they’re prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied and will have to cease all lobbying activities during their work on the transition,” Mr. Podesta said, speaking to reporters in the first official briefing by the transition team.
But the new rules do seem to leave some wiggle room. Aides to Mr. Obama, who declared during the campaign that lobbyists would not “find a job in my White House,” said the guidelines allowed for lobbyists to work on the transition in areas where they have not done any lobbying.
Further, the rules apply to lobbyists who must register with the federal government; many people who work for lobbying firms or in other areas of the influence business in Washington do not have to register, because they do not personally lobby federal officials on specific issues.
Mr. Podesta said he expected the transition to employ some 450 people and have a budget of about $12 million. Of that amount, $5.2 million will be paid by the government, with the remaining $6.8 million coming from private sources, he said. Contributions will be limited to $5,000, he said, and the transition will not accept money from political action committees.
During a presidential campaign in which he raised $650 million, Mr. Obama changed the rules of fund-raising, declining public financing and creating his own multimillion-member chain of donors. At least some of those contributors will be solicited for the transition.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama laid out more detailed and onerous ethics rules than any previous prospective president, pledging to bar appointees for two years from working on matters involving their former employers, to prohibit departing officials from lobbying his administration for its duration and to require all political appointees to disclose publicly every meeting with registered lobbyists.
The rules have led to some grumbling that at a time of immense challenges, an Obama administration could be excluding a pool of substantial talent by stopping people from working for the White House in the areas they know best.
“I’ve heard the complaint,” Mr. Podesta said, “which is we’re leaving all this expertise on the side, because we’re leaving all the people who know everything out in the cold. And so be it. This is a commitment that the American public expects, and it’s one that we intend to enforce during the transition.”
It remains unclear how the rules will affect the inauguration. President Bush raised more than $40 million for his second inauguration, mostly from companies and executives.
While aides to Mr. Obama say they are keenly aware that a lavish celebration might not be well received given the faltering economy, they indicate that the historic nature of Mr. Obama’s inauguration and the expectations of high turnout all but guarantee that the occasion, on Jan. 20, will be a huge one.
Yet in one early sign that the celebrations are likely to be somewhat scaled back, Mr. Obama canceled fireworks on election night in Grant Park in Chicago, telling his advisers that the times were too serious for that type of festivity.
“It’s going to be a balancing act,” one Obama aide said, “and I’m not sure how it’s going to be done.”
When a CBS correspondent reported last month that Barack Obama’s campaign had a malodorous airplane and a dismissive attitude toward the media, Robert Gibbs, the candidate’s top spokesman, was not pleased.
“Robert wrote a rather tendentious note to me,” Dean Reynolds says. “He would get in your face, not in a very heated way, but he would question your stories.”
Gibbs, who transition officials say is in line to become White House press secretary, can be funny, gossipy and an invaluable source of information about his boss, journalists say. He also monitors coverage intensively, pushing back against the smallest blog post he considers inaccurate.
“This is not someone who stays above the fray,” Newsweek reporter Richard Wolffe says. “His manner allows him to do tough stuff in a softer way. He could deliver a harsh message, but do it with a little sense of humor, so you’d feel punched in the stomach but not in the face.”
Asked about complaints that he retaliated against reporters who were deemed unfair, Gibbs invokes the pressure of the campaign. “In hindsight, there are discussions I had in the heat of the moment that if I had to do over again, you would do differently,” he says. “I don’t doubt there’s countless episodes you would go back and do over again. I think you do better when you treat people with respect. There were a couple of times that I flew off the handle.”
Now the sparring will take place in the glare of televised briefings. After a career spent working for Democratic candidates and lawmakers, the 37-year-old Alabama native is about to become the public face of the Obama administration.
While he can be combative in private, Gibbs is affable and smooth-talking on camera, often deflecting uncomfortable questions with a quip. Colleagues say Gibbs channels the president-elect in a way that goes beyond their shared passion for college football. Obama had an initial tendency to overanswer questions, but Gibbs has taught him how to pivot back to his scripted point.
“He’s the last person Barack talks to when he’s thinking about how to handle reporters’ questions,” says Linda Douglass, a campaign spokeswoman. “We call him the Barack Whisperer. He completely understands his thinking and knows how Barack wants to come across.”
That quality was not lost on journalists covering the highly disciplined campaign. “A huge asset that Robert has is that he’s in the room with the president-elect,” says Jake Tapper, ABC’s senior White House correspondent. “He has his trust and his ear. He’s not just a press flunky who gets handed a piece of paper with talking points.”
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The Vatican has fired a warning shot over the bows of Barack Obama in response to the President-elect’s intention to lift the US ban on embryonic stem cell research.
Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan of Mexico, who acts as the Vatican health minister, said that stem cells taken from human embryos and involving the destruction of the embryos “serve no purpose”.
Asked whether the Vatican was concerned about reports that Mr Obama might reverse the Bush Administration’s ban, the cardinal said that embryonic stem cell research had not resulted in any significant health cure so far and was “good for nothing”.
Research on adult stem cells and umbliical cords had been shown to have “positive value”, by contrast, although even that was not “a panacea for everything.”
He said the Vatican would seek clarification of the new administration’s position on stem cells, and he himself was not “fully aware” what it was.
Aides to Mr Obama indicated this week that he will reverse Mr Bush’s stand on stem cell research. The US Senate voted in July to remove restrictions on embryonic stem cell research, but the President vetoed the legislation the following day.
Mr Obama has supported stem cell research to find cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s. His views are supported by Joe Biden, the Vice-President-elect, who is a Roman Catholic.
John Podesta, who is handling the President-elect’s preparations to take over in the White House on January 20, said Mr Obama wanted “all the Bush executive orders reviewed”.
He added: “I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country.”
Writing in the National Catholic Reporter, John Allen, a leading American Vatican watcher, said the Vatican would have “deep differences” with the Obama administration over abortion and embryonic stem cell research.
These, however, must not be allowed to impede US-Vatican co-operation in promoting “religious freedom and human dignity worldwide” or on issues such as immigration, economic justice, peace, and environmental protection, he said.
Carinal Barragan, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Health Care Workers, made the remarks at a press conference on childhood disease and illness and infant mortality.
He called for an intensive effort to improve “both medical and pastoral” aid to children, saying that four million babies in the world died each year in their first 26 days of life.
The change we need! It just doesn’t make sense to continue to give the auto-industry money to make gas-guzzlers. We should still be able to have big cars – but a big car run on electric or hybrid electric is a lot cheaper to run. Electric cars cost 2cents/mile to run and are more powerful and faster than cars run on gas. If the tax payers’ money should be given for anything – it should be for the cars of the future. If the auto-industry was reluctant to move on these new technologies – because of some regard for the oil industry – well the oil industry is doing fine and the auto industry is hanging on for dear life.
President-elect Barack Obama wants a high-profile point person to oversee reforms in the ailing auto industry, according to members of Obama’s transition team.
Specifics about the proposal remain unclear. But the transition team says Obama suggested to President Bush on Monday that aid to the auto industry could be coupled with the appointment of “someone in charge of the auto issue who would have the authority” to push for reforms. The details came from a more extended readout of the White House meeting provided Tuesday.
The person would assist in efforts to create an “economically viable auto industry,” a transition aide said – a move that could alleviate concerns about protecting taxpayer interests if more money is directed to assist automakers.
The financially reeling American auto industry has emerged as a top issue facing Obama and Bush as they work through the two-month transition period, and for Congress as it plans to convene next week for a lame duck session.
Automakers have asked for up to $25 billion in emergency loans in order to keep the industry from collapsing amid slumping sales. General Motors, the biggest U.S. automaker, reported a $4.2 billion operating loss last quarter and has warned that it may run out of cash by the end of June. Ford Motor Co. reported a nearly $3 billion for the quarter.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Tuesday that Bush was open to considering proposals to accelerate loans from $25 billion funds that have already been appropriated through a recent law aimed at helping automakers retool their business.
“We’re open to ideas from Congress to accelerate funds they’ve already appropriated in the auto loan program – as long as funding will continue to go to viable firms and with strong taxpayer protections,” Fratto said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter Saturday to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson asking that the administration consider tapping another source of funds: the $700 billion bailout to include car companies.
Obama used his meeting Monday with Bush to call for auto assistance, “including accelerating the $25 billion Congress already passed, exploring other authorities that exist under current law,” the transition team said.
Obama also pressed for passage of a second economic stimulus package, while Bush “raised the need” to pass the Columbian free trade agreement, the transition team said.
Obama’s newly appointed chief of staff Rahm Emanuel suggested Sunday that the president elect wasn’t interested in a deal to remove White House opposition to a stimulus package in exchange for congressional approval of the trade agreement, which has been opposed by unions and some Democrats.
White House press secretary Dana Perino said Tuesday that Bush did not link support for a stimulus package or auto industry aid to passage of the trade agreement.
“In no way did the president suggest that there was a quid pro quo,” said Perino. But Bush did, she said, “talk about the merits of free trade.”
On the day that President-elect Barack Obama visited the White House, a new national poll illustrates the daunting challenges he faces when it becomes his home next year.
Only 16 percent of those questioned in a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say things are going well in the country today. That’s an all-time low. Eighty-three percent say things are going badly, which is an all-time high.
“The challenge Obama faces has never been greater. No president has ever come to office during a time when the public’s mood has been this low. In the 34 years that this question has been asked, the number who say things are going well has never fallen below 20 percent,” said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.
The 83 percent saying things are going badly is “more than in 1992, when the first President Bush was ousted because of ‘the economy, stupid.’ That’s more than in 1980, when President Carter got fired after the malaise crisis. That’s more than in 1975, after Watergate and the Nixon pardon,” said Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.
So far, Obama seems to be meeting the public’s high expectations. Two-thirds of all Americans have a positive view of what he has done since he was elected president, and three-quarters think he will do a good job as president.
The all-time low on the public’s mood may have something to do with the poll’s finding that President Bush is the most unpopular president since approval ratings were first sought more than six decades ago. Seventy-six percent of those questioned in the poll disapprove of how he is handling his job.
That’s an all-time high in CNN polling and in Gallup polling dating back to World War II.
“No other president’s disapproval rating has gone higher than 70 percent. Bush has managed to do that three times so far this year,” Holland said. “That means that Bush is now more unpopular than Richard Nixon was when he resigned from office during Watergate with a 66 percent disapproval rating.”
Before Bush, the record holder for presidential disapproval was Harry Truman, with a 67 percent disapproval rating in January of 1952, his last full year in office.
This failing economy and troubled auto industry is the perfect storm for Obama and the Democrats, if the auto industry was strong — how could you get it to change direction? The writing was on the wall some eight years ago that the oil age was coming to an end – that to continue to pursue it would lead us into difficulty. And it was one of the hallmarks of Al Gore’s presidential campaign. Now we have seen the results of continuing down the same path. But with this disaster or more stripping of the sector – there is opportunity; the free market idea is to allow the auto industry to fail, or it can be bailed out under conservative socialism, or we can forget about the old titles and give the auto-industry the money it needs but with the strings attached – that it retools for the future car. Why can’t we have a hybrid/electric or an electric SUZ? And this merchandise can be exported – the market should be thrilled.
Bush is arguing – he’ll give Obama this – if in return Obama cedes with the Republican position on trade with Columbia. And it is a weak argument – because what Obama is saying – we will be happy to trade with you – but you are going to have to pull your act together when it comes to workers rights. This carrot and stick approach may do more to change conditions in Columbia – than all the diplomacy in the world. Doubtful if this is a chip that can be traded because it has a long term goal.
WASHINGTON — The struggling auto industry was thrust into the middle of a political standoff between the White House and Democrats on Monday as President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush in a meeting at the White House to support immediate emergency aid.
Mr. Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia, a measure for which Mr. Bush has long fought, people familiar with the discussion said.
The Bush administration, which has presided over a major intervention in the financial industry, has balked at allowing the automakers to tap into the $700 billion bailout fund, despite warnings last week that General Motors might not survive the year.
Mr. Obama and Congressional Democratic leaders say the bailout law authorizes the administration to extend assistance.
Mr. Obama went into his post-election meeting with Mr. Bush on Monday primed to urge him to support emergency aid to the auto industry, advisers to Mr. Obama said. But Democrats also indicate that neither Mr. Obama nor Congressional leaders are inclined to concede the Colombia pact to Mr. Bush, and may decide to wait until Mr. Obama assumes power on Jan. 20. […]
As the auto industry reels, rarely has an issue so quickly illustrated the differences from one White House occupant to the next. How Mr. Obama responds to the industry’s dire straits will indicate how much government intervention in the private sector he is willing to tolerate. It will also offer hints of how he will approach his job under pressure, testing the limits of his conciliation toward the opposition party and his willingness to stand up to the interest groups in his own. [….]
Obama has called on the Bush administration to accelerate $25 billion in federal loans provided by a recent law specifically to help automakers retool. Late in his campaign, Mr. Obama proposed doubling that to $50 billion. But industry supporters say the automakers, squeezed both by the unavailability of credit and depressed sales, need unrestricted cash now, simply to meet payroll and other expenses.
On Friday, Mr. Obama said he would instruct his economic team, once he chooses it, to devise a long-range plan for helping the auto industry recover in a way that is part of an energy and environmental policy to reduce reliance on foreign oil and address climate change.
Democrats close to both Mr. Obama’s transition team and to Congressional leaders seemed willing to call Mr. Bush’s bluff, calculating that he would not want to gamble that G.M. — an iconic, century-old American corporation with business tentacles in every state — would fail on his watch and add to the negative notes of his legacy. Also, economists as conservative as Martin Feldstein, an adviser to a long line of Republican presidents and candidates, have called more broadly for stimulus spending of up to $300 billion.
The major automakers — G.M., Ford and Chrysler — are each using up their cash at unsustainable rates. The Center for Automotive Research, which is based in Michigan and supported by the industry, released on Election Day an economic analysis of the impact of one or all of them failing. If the Big Three were to collapse, it said, that would cost at least three million jobs, counting autoworkers, suppliers and other businesses dependent on the companies, down to the hot-dog vendors and bartenders next door to their plants.
Organized labor is not the only interest group with influence in the Democratic Party that is weighing in as Mr. Obama plans his transition. Environmentalists are adamant that any aid be conditioned on the auto industry’s dropping of its opposition to higher fuel-efficiency standards and investing more in new technology. That puts them at odds with unions, who oppose any strings, leaving it to Mr. Obama to mediate.
Both as a candidate and now as president-elect, Mr. Obama has been in contact with former Vice President Al Gore, who last year won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on climate change. In a column published in Sunday’s New York Times, Mr. Gore wrote that “we should help America’s automobile industry (not only the Big Three but the innovative new start-up companies as well) to convert quickly to plug-in hybrids that can run on the renewable electricity that will be available.”
Read it all
Looks like Barack Obama is looking to use the opportunity to pick George Bush’s mind, somehow George Bush looks a little vulnerable!
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, received a warm welcome at the White House shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern time by the current occupant, President George W. Bush, a man with whom he expressed a sea of differences during the just-ended election campaign. When the president and Mrs. Bush greeted the Obamas at the driveway on the South Lawn, the women hugged and their husbands shook hands, with Mr. Obama using the two-handed greeting common among senators, with his left hand on Mr. Bush’s right arm during the handshake. The two men were dressed almost identically in dark blue suits, white shirts and blue ties. Ms. Bush wore a brown suit, and Ms. Obama a burnt-orange dress.
A few minutes after the couples entered the White House together, Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama reemerged and strolled along the colonnade past the Rose Garden to the outer entrance to the Oval Office. Mr. Obama walked just at Mr. Bush’s shoulder and appeared to be speaking animatedly, gesturing with both hands. Each of the men waved several times to reporters and others off camera.
While Ms. Bush showed Ms. Obama the White House, their husbands met for just over an hour in the Oval Office, discussing the transfer of power from Mr. Bush’s conservative Republican administration to a presumably much more liberal Democratic leadership.
Mr. Obama saw the Oval Office in person for the first time, just 10 weeks before he will make history by returning as its first black occupant. A physical reminder of the coming change was provided by construction equipment gathered in Lafayette Park across Pennsylvania Avenue from the north side of the White House. The equipment is soon to be put to work building glass-fronted, heated viewing stands where the Obama team will view the inaugural parade on Jan. 20.
As the capital swirled with talk of an expanded bailout package for the troubled American International Group, of unemployment figures that continue to swell, of deep trouble in the auto industry and the urgent financial summit to be convened later this week by Mr. Bush, some of the more pressing issues awaiting discussion by the two leaders on Monday afternoon seemed clear. Similarly, two wars — on which the president and president-elect differ considerably — will demand careful and delicate coordination. As the Obamas were arriving at the White House, several hundred protesters on Pennsylvania Avenue chanted “No More Wars” as they waved signs condemning President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
Mr. Obama, who does not plan to attend the financial summit, has said he expected a “substantive conversation” with Mr. Bush on Monday. Such first meetings are governed by no rules but are deeply immersed in tradition. Neither man was expected to issue any extended statement after the meeting, which is taking place unusually early in the transition period.
Josh Bolten, the president’s chief of staff, said on Monday morning that the president and president-elect will be alone in the Oval Office when they meet, without aides present.
“I’m sure each of them will have a list of issues to go down,” Mr. Bolten said during a televised interview with reporters from The Associated Press and The Washington Post. “But I think that’s something very personal to both of them. I know the president will want to convey to President-elect Obama his sense of how to deal with some of the most important issues of the day. But exactly how he does that, I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody will know.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had relatively little personal contact before now, and by some accounts, when they have met, there has been some awkwardness.
Mr. Bush told a friend during the 2008 Democratic primary race that he thought Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York was “more experienced and more ready to be president.” But the same friend, speaking anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president, called Mr. Bush “a realist” who was ready to move on in the nation’s interest; Mr. Bush’s postelection comments have so far been gracious and have emphasized a cooperative approach.
For his part, Mr. Obama and his aides have missed no opportunity to remind Americans that they have only one president at a time.
Even so, Mr. Obama and his team are moving expeditiously to plan the transition and a post-Inauguration agenda that aides said would probably include the quick reversal of some Bush policies, such as his restrictions on stem-cell research and on oil and gas drilling.
One thing is certain: The body language between the Obamas and the Bushes will be widely scrutinized and assessed, to see whether they appear to be comfortable working together or, as was the case with some past transition meetings, are straining just to appear polite.
Mr. Obama flew to Washington Monday morning from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago aboard a chartered American Airlines Boeing Super-80 jetliner. A spokeswoman for Ms. Obama said she flew to Washington separately.
Having had a chance to size up their new accommodations, and those who have occupied them for eight years, the Obamas are scheduled to return immediately afterward to Chicago, where the work of transition will continue.
A spokeswoman for the transition team, Stephanie Cutter, told Reuters today in Chicago that Mr. Obama would announce no Cabinet nominees this week.
Barack Obama has arrived at the White House. The President-elect and wife Michelle Obama was met by President Bush and wife Laura Bush.
Michelle wore a red dress ~ perhaps one of her favorite or perhaps lucky colors. Tiger Woods usually wears red on the last day of golf games.
President Bush and Barack Obama walk separately along the colonnade towards to Oval Room for their discussion.
A few days before the election, a Democratic strategist privately worried that a Vice-President Joe Biden was destined for a White House career of dissatisfaction and idle-hands mischief.
“You can’t just have a guy like him at loose ends, he’d go crazy,” said a Democratic consultant who knows the affable, bright and mercilessly quotable soon-to-be ex-chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. “They need to keep him busy. Nobody over there wants him getting into the Secretary of State’s [business].”
Harnessing Biden’s considerable talents and containing his flaws will be an ongoing challenge for Obama. But Democratic insiders say the appointment of tough-guy Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff—and the administration’s need to forge a governing coalition that includes some Republicans—has brought Biden’s upcoming role more clearly into focus: He’ll play the good cop.
The Democrats’ apparent failure to win the 60 Senate seats necessary to halt a GOP filibuster has created the need for inter-party ambassadors like Biden who are practiced at the art of aisle crossing. In his 36-year Senate career, Biden was never considered a bomb-throwing ideologue, and he still has plenty of chits to cash in with Republicans on the Hill.
“He’s probably got more friends among Senate Republicans than John McCain does, and that’s a huge plus for Barack Obama, who is committed to breaking the partisan roadblock of recent years,” said Biden spokesman David Wade shortly before Election Day.
And while Emanuel’s bad-cop reputation may be overstated, all those F-bombs and threats to pulverize GOP incumbents during his tenure of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee boss create an opening for Biden, who maxes out on the Mr. Nice Guy scale.
“I really have genuine relationships with Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. I mean, I—I hope this is not self serving, but I’ve gained the respect,” Biden told an Ohio campaign rally in late October. “I’ve been able to literally work with the Republican leaders, of the committees as well as, as well as the Senate,” he added. “And Barack knows that, Barack has served there and sees that… I’m confident that I’ll be spending a fair amount of time [in Congress].”
In an interview with the New Yorker last month, Biden selected a lofty, if somewhat dubious role model: Lyndon Johnson, who plunged into a deep depression when John F. Kennedy assigned him the role as emissary to a Senate he had bullied, cajoled and utterly dominated as majority leader in the 1950s.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Democrat who’s fond of Biden, painted a different picture: “I can see Joe in his room [just off the Senate chamber], smiling, slapping people on the back, making his points, working the members.”
Indeed, Biden told the New Yorker that his style would be more honey than sting: “I have never ever, ever screwed another senator,” he said.
On top of that, Biden could not be more different than the outgoing vice president, who never visited the weekly Democratic caucus lunches in the Senate and had virtually no relationships with the other side of the aisle. It’s unlikely that Biden will ever be caught telling another senator to “Go [expletive] yourself” as Dick Cheney famously said to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy. Unless he’s kidding.
Biden’s best Republican friends in the Senate are centrists, including retiring Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and the top Republican on the Foreign Relations committee, Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, with whom he’s forged a close working partnership.
Biden is equally popular with some GOP staffers, drawing top-level Republican aides into free-ranging discussion on nettlesome policy problems, even setting up secure computer forums where aides can swap ideas without partisan recrimination, according to a person who participated in one of the chat groups.
The veep in waiting is not a favorite with Republicans hard-liners, though, who still hold grudges over his tough questioning of former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The conservative bloc in the Senate remains unified, and could still engineer a filibuster of Obama priorities.
“Joe’s really well liked—and he can be a real stand-up guy—but it’s going to be tough for him,” said an aide to a top Senate Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’re not in the mood to make deals. People like him, sure, but people are going to change their votes on defense or health care or taxes just because Joe Biden’s a great guy?”
Biden may find it even tougher with Democratic senators—thrilled to have one of their own in the White House again—who may want to simply bypass the vice president and forge a relationship directly with Obama.
“He will carve out a role for himself, the problem is that he’s going to have a lot of competition—and it’s competition that won’t be willing to step aside for him,” says Jennifer Duffy, who covers the Senate for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
Obama hasn’t served a full term in the Senate but he’s got plenty of friends in the Democratic caucus: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate, up-and-coming Missouri freshman Claire McCaskill and an ailing but still powerful Ted Kennedy. Obama also has a unique relationship with one of the most conservative senators, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, with whom he shares a passion for government reform.
Then there’s former Majority Leader Tom Daschle—a well-connected kitchen-cabinet Obama adviser who is likely to play some kind of role in the administration.
But Biden’s biggest competition may come from the president-elect himself.
“Obama already has his own relationships in the Senate so, in a sense, he doesn’t need an emissary,” Duffy adds. “He’s his own go-to guy.”
Obama has gone to great lengths to establish personal relationships with legislators, creating direct lines of communication that will be handy even if he runs into problems with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Barack’s been seriously keeping touch with the [fiscally conservative Democratic] Blue Dogs and all the other foot soldiers—he’s intent on not making the same mistakes we did,” said a former aide to Bill Clinton, who worked his congressional transition team in the early 1990s. “We thought all we had to do was to keep in touch with the leaders and we left the members and committee chairs alone. That was a huge mistake and it killed us on the health care… Barack’s not making that mistake.”
WASHINGTON — For nearly two years on the campaign trail, Senator Barack Obama rarely missed a chance to take a swipe at President Bush. The name George W. Bush invariably followed the phrase “failed policies” in Mr. Obama’s speeches. “When George Bush steps down,” Mr. Obama once declared, “the world is going to breathe a sigh of relief.”
Ronald and Nancy Reagan, right, and President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in 1980.
On Monday, Mr. Obama, Democrat of Illinois, may find himself conveniently forgetting those words — or at least delicately stepping around the fact that he had said them. As the president-elect, he will be welcomed at the White House as an honored guest of its current occupant, Mr. Bush, for a meeting that could be as awkward as it is historic.
In a time-honored tradition of American democracy, Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, will receive a tour of their new home from Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush. Then the men will split off to begin the formal transfer of power, all the more urgent this year because of the financial crisis. Mr. Obama has said he expects a “substantive conversation between myself and the president.”
But there will also be a subtext to the session: the personal chemistry between two leaders whose worldviews are miles apart. The ritual visit is occurring uncommonly early this year, less than a week after Mr. Obama handily defeated Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican nominee and Mr. Bush’s preferred candidate. Emotions may still be raw.
“I’m not going to anticipate problems,” Mr. Obama said Friday at his first news conference as president-elect. “I’m going to go in there with a spirit of bipartisanship.”
Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama have had little chance to forge the kind of personal relationship that might prompt a smooth handoff. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama wrote less than admiringly of his first face-to-face encounter with the president, at a White House breakfast for new senators after the 2004 election, where Mr. Bush outlined his second-term agenda.
“The president’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty,” Mr. Obama wrote. “As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring.”
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was privately critical of Mr. Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary race, telling friends that he thought Mr. Obama’s chief rival for the party’s nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, was “more experienced and more ready to be president,” said one friend of Mr. Bush’s who had such a conversation. But Mr. Obama ran a good campaign — Mr. Bush is someone who appreciates that — and the election last week might have eased his doubts.
“President Bush is a realist,” said this friend, who spoke anonymously to disclose his private conversation with the president. “He has a way of coming to grips with things and moving on. The people have spoken.”
For Mr. Bush, the meeting has a distinct upside: the chance to take the edge off his unpopularity. Democrats are already praising him as gracious for his post-election speech in the Rose Garden, where he said it would be a “stirring sight” to see the Obama family move into the White House. The meeting on Monday will give Mr. Bush an opportunity to produce lasting images of that graciousness.
“The important thing he gets out of it,” the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said, “is a public perception of him as somebody who is leaving in classy fashion, by opening his house and his information and his government. He wants to leave on a note that says he did everything possible to help this next president run the country.”
But such meetings can be fraught with political and personal danger. On Inauguration Day in 2001, President Bill Clinton invited Mr. Bush for coffee before the ceremony but kept his ever-punctual successor waiting for 10 minutes, recalled Mr. Bush’s first press secretary, Ari Fleischer. Even more uncomfortable was the presence of Vice President Al Gore, who lost the presidential election to Mr. Bush after a bitterly contested Florida recount.
“Clinton was his normal gregarious self, but Vice President Gore was not a happy camper,” Mr. Fleischer said. “I think it was a very sour moment for him, and you could kind of feel it in the room.”
In 1980, after President Jimmy Carter lost his re-election bid to Ronald Reagan, the two met at the White House. Mr. Carter came away feeling that Mr. Reagan had not been paying attention.
“President Carter was kind of taken aback by the meeting with Reagan,” said Jody Powell, Mr. Carter’s former press secretary. “There was a point where he sort of wandered off and asked questions that seemed to be only tangentially related to what they were talking about.”
And though the Carter White House had offered to share information about efforts to end the Iranian hostage crisis, Mr. Powell said, “My impression was that they wanted us to handle it without them being involved enough to have to take responsibility for whatever happened.”
So, too, may it be with Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama over the economy. Mr. Bush has invited world leaders to Washington on Friday and Saturday for an international conference on the economy. Mr. Obama and his team have declined to attend. Mr. Obama supports a new economic stimulus package; the Bush White House is cool to that idea.
The White House says Mr. Obama has been there seven times during Mr. Bush’s tenure, most recently in September for a much-publicized meeting on the $700 billion financial rescue package. That session blew up when House Republicans, backed by Mr. McCain, balked at the plan. Curiously enough, Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush were on the same side.
Perhaps Mr. Obama will remind Mr. Bush of that when he sees him on Monday. Or perhaps he will remind Mr. Bush of another encounter, at a White House reception in January 2005 when, according to Mr. Obama’s book, the affable president offered a dollop of hand sanitizer — “Not wanting to seem unhygienic,” Mr. Obama wrote, “I took a squirt” — and then pulled him aside for some unsolicited political advice.
“You’ve got a bright future, very bright,” Mr. Bush began, by Mr. Obama’s account. The president went on to warn the new senator that his celebrity status could hurt him: “Everybody’ll be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.”
WASHINGTON – It popped out casually, a throwaway line as he talked to reporters about finding the right puppy for his young daughters.
But with just three offhanded words in his first news conference as president-elect, Barack Obama reminded everyone how thoroughly different his administration — and inevitably, this country — will be.
“Mutts like me.”
By now, almost everyone knows that Obama’s mother was white and father was black, putting him on track to become the nation’s first African-American president. But there was something startling, and telling, about hearing his self-description — particularly in how offhandedly he used it.
The message seemed clear — here is a president who will be quite at ease discussing race, a complex issue as unresolved as it is uncomfortable for many to talk about openly. And at a time when whites in the country are not many years from becoming the minority.
Obama made the remark as he revealed his thinking in what is becoming one of the highest-profile issues of this transition period: What kind of puppy will he and his wife, Michelle, get for their daughters as they move into the White House.
Because Malia, 10, has allergies, the family wants a low-allergy dog. But Obama said they also want to adopt a puppy from an animal shelter, which could make it harder to find a breed that wouldn’t aggravate his daughter’s problem.
“Obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me,” Obama said with a smile. “So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”
In his first postelection news conference, the man who will be president in just over two months described himself as a mutt as casually as he may have poked fun at his jump shot.
If he thought nothing of such a remark in his first news conference, doesn’t that signal that over the next four years, the country is likely to hear more about race from the White House — and from the perspective of a black man — than it ever has before?
It’s not necessarily that he will make a crusade about the issue once he takes office. There was little sign of that in his election campaign, in which he ran on issues like the economy with a broad appeal to all Americans.
But it does underscore that the president-elect clearly does not see race as a subject best sidestepped or discussed in hushed tones. To Obama, race in all its complications has long been a defining part of his life, and he is comfortable talking about it.
The timing seems fortuitous. Obama will be sworn in as the country is rapidly becoming more racially diverse. The latest government projections indicate that by 2042, white people will make up less than half the nation’s population.
Blacks have been elected to local and statewide office in growing numbers in recent years, a sign that the country is becoming more tolerant. Obama lost the white vote to Republican John McCain by 12 percentage points, according to exit polls of voters — a better showing than Democrat John Kerry’s 17-point deficit with whites four years ago.
Still, a conversation about race over the next four years that is more open and explicit than the country has ever heard from its president can’t be bad, can it?
Obama’s comment was all the more noteworthy coming from a man who just ended a presidential campaign in which he stayed relentlessly on-message and made few comments that could be hurled against him. This is a man who can limit himself to saying exactly what he wants to say — usually.
One remark that did haunt him came during his long-running primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speaking at a private fundraiser in San Francisco, Obama said some residents of depressed rural areas get bitter and “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.”
Eager to avoid slips like that in the campaign’s closing days, Obama usually avoided reporters and seldom departed from prepared remarks.
At his news conference Friday, Obama seemed less guarded. But that led to another eyebrow-raising moment.
Obama told reporters that he has turned for advice to all “living” former presidents. But he then joked, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about, you know, doing any seances.”
The former first lady actually has not been linked to conversations with the dead. President Reagan’s former chief of staff, Donald Regan, did write that she set her husband’s schedule with the help of an astrologist.
Obama called Mrs. Reagan late Friday to apologize.
Ironically, Obama’s remarks came just a day after Italy’s Premier Silvio Berlusconi, in an apparent joke, described Obama as “young, handsome and even tanned.” Critics called the comment racist, while Berlusconi defended it as a compliment.
President-elect Obama told reporters Friday that his eldest daughter, Malia, has allergies which might preclude the family from adopting a shelter dog which would likely be a ‘mutt’ like Obama.
(CNN) – In his first press conference since winning the race to the White House, President-elect Barack Obama addressed a pressing question: who is going to be the first dog?
Obama told a group of reporters in Chicago on Friday that since his 10-year-old daughter, Malia, is allergic, the Obama family is looking for a hypoallergenic breed. But Obama also said the family wants to adopt one from a shelter.
“There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic, but on the other hand our preference is to get a shelter dog, but obviously, a lot of the shelter dogs are mutts like me,” Obama said. “So, whether we are going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”
Obama is of mixed racial heritage: His mother was Caucasian and his father was African.
Obama announced in his victory speech on Election Day that his daughters had “earned” a puppy. Obama joked that this is a “major issue” and said that since Election Day, the family’s dog choice has created more interest than any other topic.
It worked out well ~ a good chance to have a nice chat with Mrs. Reagan, [I kind of believed it], just about ~ about. Nancy Reagan’s husband Ronald Reagan was one of the greatest Presidents of our time.
We are definitely going to enjoy an Obama presidency!
WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Obama called Nancy Reagan on Friday to apologize for joking that she held seances in the White House.
At a news conference in Chicago, Obama said he had spoken with all the living presidents as he prepares to take office in January. Then he smiled and said, “I didn’t want to get into a Nancy Reagan thing about doing any seances.”
The 87-year-old former first lady had consulted with astrologers during her husband’s presidency. But she did not hold conversations with the dead.
Obama spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said the president-elect later called Mrs. Reagan “to apologize for the careless and offhanded remark.” She said Obama “expressed his admiration and affection for Mrs. Reagan that so many Americans share, and they had a warm conversation.”
It actually wasn’t Nancy Reagan who was linked to conversations with the dead; it was Obama’s top Democratic challenger for the presidency, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.
In either case, use of the word “seance” might be overstated.
Nancy Reagan consulted an astrologer to help set her husband’s schedule, wrote former White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan. The revelation created a furor and President Reagan even broke with his policy of not commenting on books by former White House staffers.
“No policy or decision in my mind has ever been influenced by astrology,” Reagan said.
In his book “The Choice,” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward described how Clinton consulted with a spiritual adviser who led her through imaginary conversations with her personal hero, Eleanor Roosevelt. Newsweek magazine, which was promoting the book, characterized the visits as “seances,” a term that White House officials quickly tried to squelch.
“These were people who were helping her laugh, helping her think,” said Neel Lattimore, Clinton’s spokeswoman. “These were not seances.”
Obama meets with economic advisers [Photo-op]
Hardball’s Chris Matthews: How Obama Won
Obama has a few important things on his plate among others organizing his family’s massive shift in location and lifestyle – he is now the president-elect. In any case with a dog and a couple of young children – this will likely be some White House occupantswe will all remember. We can be fairly certain they will be there for eight years – a dog can have a good life in that time.
CHICAGO – After eight years of Republican rule, Barack Obama turned Wednesday to the task of building a Democratic administration to lead the country out of war and into the financial recovery that he promised.
Obama planned to spend the rest of the week at home in Chicago, turning in earnest to reviewing the hiring decisions he’ll have to make in the next two-and-a-half months. Campaign advisers have already presented him with names to review for key positions, but they said he wasn’t focused on filling the jobs before winning the election.
A top priority, the advisers said, would be picking a White House chief of staff to help manage the selections to come. Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel appeared headed for the job, said Democrats who spoke on condition of anonymity before the announcement, expected as early as Wednesday.
Obama also faces intensive national security briefings that will prepare him to take over as commander in chief.
“We know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime — two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century,” Obama said in his victory speech in Chicago’s Grant Park. “There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created, new schools to build and threats to meet and, for us to lead, alliances to repair.”
He said the solutions wouldn’t be quick or easy — perhaps not even achievable with one term. “I promise you — we as a people will get there,” Obama said.
Obama planned to keep a low profile on his first full day as president-elect, aides said. Obama had told reporters over the weekend that he’d hold a press conference Wednesday, but the campaign staff later walked that back and said it would be more likely to come by the end of the week.
There were more personal decisions to be made, too, like when to move his family to Washington and where his 10- and 7-year-old daughters will go to school. Obama also was expected to take time to mourn his grandmother, who died Sunday before she could see the grandson she helped raise achieve his dream. Obama could be considering a return to his native Hawaii for the small private ceremony that she requested be held later.
In a congratulatory call to Obama, President Bush pledged to make a smooth transition and extended an invitation to the Obama family to visit the White House soon.
And then there was the matter of the family pet. “Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House,” he told his daughters in his victory speech.
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.
Sarah Palin says she’ll be back! Will she try to wink and charm her way to the White House again? And what happened to that Alaskan separatist group her and husband Todd had links to – their old AIP friends must feel totally betrayed by her new moose ambition.
“I want to make sure she’s holding on to that Sarah outfit. Because she’s gonna need it in the next four years.”
– Gov. Sarah Palin offering “a little advice to Tina Fey” as quoted in The New York Times’ The Caucus blog. Clearly, Palin’s suggesting she plans to remain active on the national stage and, we imagine, as a late-night comedy figure.
See Sen. John McCain on SNL here, and Ben Affleck’s Keith Olbermann show from the same episode here.
Source: E! Online
Nothing would make McCain happier than to see the KGB return in Russia – he might be happy to know that some Russian from the Old Guard still see America – as he sees Russia – as Cold War enemy – the perfect storm for another – Cold War – or the going back in time.
John McCain’s campaign is pretty much a shambles right now.
If you don’t believe me, just listen to John McCain. His chief goal these days is calming down his crowds, not firing them up.
And that is an honorable thing to do. It may not be a winning thing to do. But it is honorable.
The real problem for McCain is that Palin is running a separate — and scary — campaign that does not seem to be under anybody’s control.
Sarah Palin, once seen as a huge plus to the ticket, is now increasingly emerging as a liability.
Forget that an independent legislative panel found Friday that she had abused her power and violated ethics laws as governor of Alaska. Forget that with the possibility of Palin being a heartbeat away from the presidency, McCain gives up the argument that his ticket represents experience and a steady hand on the tiller.
The real problem for McCain is that Palin is running a separate — and scary — campaign that does not seem to be under anybody’s control.
She storms around the country saying: “Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
She also says: “This is not a man who sees America as you see America and as I see America.”
Get the drift? Obama is not only different, not only an alien incapable of loving his country, he is an actual friend of terrorists who would attack America.
The great benefit of putting Palin on the ticket, we were told, is that it would excite the Republican base. Maybe it will. But the Republican base has never been smaller. And it is insufficient to carry the McCain-Palin ticket to victory.
To win, the Republican ticket must attract a significant number of independent voters, swing voters and even some Democrats. Do Sarah Palin’s attacks really help achieve that?
Her attacks certainly appeal to some. Cries of “traitor” and “terrorist” and “off with his head” are heard at Republican rallies when Obama’s name is mentioned.
This is scary stuff. And you know who is getting scared by it? John McCain.
And Palin is not the only one who is fear-mongering. Karen Tumulty of Time magazine was invited by the McCain campaign to visit its operations in Virginia on Saturday. So Tumulty was there when Virginia Republican Party Chairman Jeffrey M. Frederick “climbed atop a folding chair to give 30 campaign volunteers who were about to go canvassing door to door their talking points — for instance, the connection between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden.”
“Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon,” Frederick said. “That is scary.”
At Tumulty points out, “It is also not exactly true — though that distorted reference to Obama’s controversial association with William Ayers, a former ’60s radical, was enough to get the volunteers stoked. ‘And he won’t salute the flag,’ one woman added, repeating another myth about Obama. She was quickly topped by a man who called out, ‘We don’t even know where Sen. Obama was really born.’ Actually, we do; it’s Hawaii.”
(And, actually, John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, a location at least as exotic as Hawaii.)
Sighs and lies. Swift boat. Attack. Just do it.
This is scary stuff. And you know who is getting scared by it? John McCain.
When a crowd member said at a town meeting in Lakeville, Minn., on Friday that he feared what would happen if Obama were elected, McCain said that Obama is “a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States.”
The crowd booed.
Why wouldn’t it? McCain says there is nothing to fear from Obama, while McCain’s running mate says Obama pals around with terrorists who target America.
Is there a little confusion here?
At the same event in Minnesota, a woman in the crowd told McCain that she doesn’t trust Obama because “he’s an Arab.”
Taking the microphone from her, McCain said, “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, a citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what this campaign is all about.”
Maybe that is what McCain would like his campaign to be all about. But others are telling him to forget that “fundamental issues” stuff.
The polls stink, they are telling him. The voter registration numbers stink. And Obama may have the most effective ground organization in Democratic history.
There are those whispering in McCain’s ear that if he gets into the gutter, he can get into the White House.
So how can McCain close the gap? There is a playbook that tells him how. It is a playbook that the Republicans have used for a number of cycles now: Promise low taxes, promise to better defend the country against its enemies, and then attack, attack, attack.
Willie Horton. Sighs and lies. Swift boat. Attack. Just do it.
But McCain is hesitating. “If you want a fight, we will fight,” McCain told that crowd in Minnesota. “But we will be respectful.”
The crowd booed again.
“I don’t mean to reduce your ferocity,” McCain said. “I just mean to say you have to be respectful.”
Is that possible? There are those whispering in McCain’s ear that if he gets into the gutter, he can get into the White House. Ads are not enough, they tell him. He must launch the attacks personally and without reservation.
But honor is still an important word to John McCain. He would like to win the presidency and retain his honor.
Some tell him he cannot do both. At this point, however, he is trying.
The boy who would be obsessed with the facts – while most of us would have been satisfied that we had blocks as a child – Karl Rove would have counted his — and moved to sorting them out into colors and levels of importance.
WASHINGTON — Karl Rove has inspired a generation of Republican imitators, Democratic vilifiers and, in this election, a term that has reached full-on political buzzword status: “Rovian.”As in, this presidential campaign has been rife with “Rovian tactics” in recent days. This essentially means aggressive tactics — or dirty, in the view of Democrats, who use the term often, and not lovingly.“John McCain has gone Karl Rovian,” Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. said at a recent campaign stop, a variation on a standard stump line from Senator Barack Obama’s running mate.
On Fox News after the presidential debate, Mr. Rove said Gov. Sarah Palin had done a “very good job” of bringing up Mr. Obama’s past associations to the 1960s-era radical William Ayers
Karl Rove, of course, is the revered and reviled Republican maestro who has become ubiquitous in his new career as a commentator, columnist and conversation-starter. He left the Bush administration 13 months ago, yet continues to loom over a campaign that has become the backdrop for his post-White House reinvention.
On Fox News after Tuesday’s presidential debate, Mr. Rove said Gov. Sarah Palin had done a “very good job” of bringing up Mr. Obama’s past associations to the 1960s-era radical William Ayers, a guilt-by-association tactic that many Democrats decried, naturally, as “Rovian.” Last weekend, Mr. Rove said on his Web site, Rove.com, that Mr. Obama, based on a compilation of recent polling, would win 273 electoral votes — enough to defeat Senator John McCain if the election were held then. While polls had shown the momentum swinging to Mr. Obama, to hear the so-called architect of the Bush presidency saying so was deemed a watershed development among political insiders.
“His name seems as pervasive now as it ever was,” Dan Bartlett, the former senior counselor to President Bush, said of Mr. Rove.
Indeed he does — even though the patron with whom Mr. Rove will always be tied, Mr. Bush, owns some of the lowest presidential-approval ratings ever; even though the “Republican realignment” Mr. Rove once envisioned seems a far-off fantasy.
But Mr. Rove’s lingering impact, perceived power and even his bogyman status continue to place him in great demand, forming the basis of his lucrative post-White House career as a reported seven-figure author, six-figure television commentator and mid-five-figure speaker.
He was in Philadelphia on Monday for a “debate” with former Senator Max Cleland, the Georgia Democrat who lost an arm and two legs in Vietnam. Mr. Cleland lost his 2002 re-election bid after his Republican opponent, Saxby Chambliss, questioned his commitment to domestic security, running an advertisement featuring likenesses of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Many Democrats remain bitter over that defeat, for which Mr. Cleland still largely blames Mr. Rove.
“It’s a source of income for me,” Mr. Cleland said of the Monday joint appearance, sponsored by an insurance trade group, for which he said he was paid $15,000. (Mr. Rove’s speeches reportedly bring $40,000.)
Mr. Rove’s lingering impact, perceived power and even his bogyman status continue to place him in great demand
Going up against Mr. Rove, Mr. Cleland said, “is like going up against the devil himself.”
It can pay to be the devil himself, or at least thought of that way. “There is an incredible amount of interest in what Karl Rove has to say,” said Howard Wolfson, an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, who appears with Mr. Rove on Fox News.
Mr. Wolfson said he was amazed by how often Democrats asked him what Mr. Rove was like off the air. “When I say he’s nice, people look at me like I’m nuts,” he said.
Mr. Rove declined an interview for this article, but engaged somewhat by e-mail. He said little on the record, ignored some questions and was dismissive of others. “Look,” he wrote, “I don’t mean to be rude but I have so much on my plate that my brain explodes when you ask questions like how much of my time I spend on each of my activities or how did I apply skills to my new chapter, et cetera. I can answer simple questions of fact but I am stretched through the election.”
But it clearly delights him, for instance, that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts went on about “the smears of Karl Rove” during his speech at the Democratic National Convention in August. Mr. Rove helpfully pasted a passage from Mr. Kerry’s speech on Rove.com, under the headline “The Losers Have Spoken.”
Going up against Mr. Rove, Mr. Cleland said, “is like going up against the devil himself.”
Two top McCain campaign aides, Steve Schmidt and Nicolle Wallace, worked closely with Mr. Rove in the White House and are commonly referred to as “Rove protégés,” a designation that both dispute. Mr. McCain’s top advisers shudder at the perception that Mr. Rove is calling shots for their campaign — in part because his reputation is toxic among many swing voters, and perhaps the best-known victim of “Rovian” hardball tactics was Mr. McCain himself in the 2000 Republican primary campaign.
People close to Mr. Rove said he was determined to leave his mark on this race through public channels. He prepares diligently for his television appearances, and sprinkles his commentaries with the kind of wonkery that goes well beyond the repertoire of most talking heads. (“The Urban Institute and the Brookings Institutions did a study of the Obama tax plan,” Mr. Rove said on Fox’s “Hannity and Colmes” after the Tuesday debate. “The top 5 percent will pay $131 billion more in taxes.”)
Shortly after Mr. Rove left the Bush administration, the Washington lawyer Robert B. Barnett negotiated contracts for Mr. Rove — as a paid speaker, as an author, as a Fox News commentator and as a columnist for Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal.
“Karl Rove might not be the architect anymore, but he certainly left a set of blueprints in the room,”
Rove.com provides listings of Mr. Rove’s television appearances and columns, an outlet for Mr. Rove to respond to attacks against him in the news media and a place in which he links to articles about himself. “Karl tends to follow what is being said about him, somewhat obsessively I think,” said Scott McClellan, a former White House spokesman under Mr. Bush.
Likewise, Mr. Rove’s public words are closely scoured for hidden meaning. He recently said on Fox News that Mr. McCain’s campaign should be doing more to connect Mr. Obama to the former executives of the fallen lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The next day, Mr. McCain’s campaign released an advertisement doing just that.
“Is John McCain’s campaign taking political directives on how to handle the economic crisis from Karl Rove?” asked the columnist Sam Stein, writing for The Huffington Post.
Political strategists and analysts note the telltale “Rovian” influences on the McCain campaign, especially since Mr. Schmidt was given day-to-day authority in July. The campaign has taken a more aggressive tack against Mr. Obama and developed a sharper rapid-response apparatus, said Ed Rollins, a longtime Republican strategist. (“Very Rove,” Mr. Rollins said.)
Over the summer, the McCain campaign embarked on the classic Rovian strategy of taking an opponent’s perceived strength — in the case of Mr. Obama, his international popularity and ability to draw big crowds — and tried to turn it into a liability, likening Mr. Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
“Karl Rove might not be the architect anymore, but he certainly left a set of blueprints in the room,” said Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist and a friend of Mr. Rove, conveying a mixture of suspicion and admiration.