Gingrich Rips RNC

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is the latest Republican to blast the RNC for trying to tie President-elect Obama to the pay-to-play scandal in Illinois.

Ben Smith has the letter Gingrich wrote to the RNC: “I was saddened to learn that at a time of national trial, when a president-elect is preparing to take office in the midst of the worst financial crisis in over seventy years, that the Republican National Committee is engaged in the sort of negative, attack politics that the voters rejected in the 2006 and 2008 election cycles.”

Sen. John McCain criticized the RNC for the same last week.

$900 Billion and Counting

From a new report: “In real (inflation-adjusted) terms, the war in Iraq alone has already cost more than every past U.S. war but World War II.”

Analysis Shows Franken Catching Coleman

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has performed its own analysis of the challenged ballots in Minnesota’s disputed U.S. Senate race “by relying on a virtual ‘canvassing board‘ of more than 26,000 readers who examined at least some of them. There appeared to be widespread consensus that Al Franken (D) won slightly more disputes than Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), enough to theoretically erase the incumbent’s narrow lead by late Monday.”

An independent AP analysis released yesterday also gave the edge to Franken.

The Case for Kennedy

Despite grumblings from some Democrats over dynasty politics, First Read makes the case for an appointment of Caroline Kennedy to the U.S. Senate seat from New York:

“On the policy front, the pitch is this: No one else Paterson could appoint will have as much bully pulpit access as Caroline. She may be 100th in seniority when she arrives, but no one will be able to get more reporters to show up to a press conference. On the political front, the pitch is simple: There are two races in two years for this seat, and isn’t it better appoint someone who can raise the big money necessary to scare off the GOP?”

UpdateBen Smith reports Sen. Hillary Clinton has told her supporters “not to impede” Kennedy’s path to the U.S. Senate on her behalf.

Pelosi Lays Down Law

In talks with White House chief of staff-designate Rahm Emanuel and others, Politicoreports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has “set parameters” for what she wants from the Obama administration: “no surprises, and no backdoor efforts to go around her and other Democratic leaders by cutting deals with moderate New Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs.”

“Specifically, Pelosi has told Emanuel that she wants to know when representatives of the incoming administration have any contact with her rank-and-file Democrats — and why.”

Said one source: “Pelosi is not going to allow Obama to triangulate her. It’s not going to happen to her.”

Obama Keeps Up Pace

Bloomberg: “Forty-two days since winning the presidency, Obama has picked 11 members of his Cabinet and 11 senior White House aides. That’s more than twice the number named by Bill Clinton at this point in his transition to the presidency. It also puts Obama ahead of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.”

Quote of the Day

“So what?”

— President Bush, when told by Martha Raddatz that al Qaeda is only in Iraq as a result of the American invasion.  Bush was trying to use al Qaeda’s presence in the country as justification for the invasion and continuing occupation.

Kennedy Seen as Leading Contender for Senate Appointment

Several people who have advised New York Gov. David Paterson (D) governor on the pending U.S. Senate vacancy in New York said that Caroline Kennedy “has emerged as a clear front-runner, if she proves able to withstand the intense scrutiny and criticism that her decision to seek the seat is likely to provoke,” the New York Times reports.

“In addition, a person with direct knowledge of the conversations said that Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Paterson had spoken several times in recent days and that the governor had grown increasingly fond of her. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid antagonizing the governor, said that Mr. Paterson also had come to see Ms. Kennedy as a strong potential candidate whose appointment would keep a woman in the seat and whose personal connections would allow her to raise the roughly $70 million required to hold on to the seat in the coming years.”

However, First Read reports Paterson “isn’t as far along in the appointment process as you might think.”

Illinois Legislature Votes to Begin Impeachment

The Illinois House voted 113-0 today to begin impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his efforts to “sell” the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by Barack Obama, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“But Democrats, fearful they might lose the Senate seat if it was put up for a vote, essentially stalled talk of a special election.”

How Powerful is Valerie Jarrett?

Marc Ambinder: “Everyone who wants anything from the federal government has to interface with the now conjoined office of intergovernmental affairs and public liaison in the Obama White House.  To head this office, Obama has appointed his best friend and most trusted counselor, Valerie Jarrett… Her job will be manage the relationship between the outside world and the president, and, vitally, she and her staff will have the juice to make decisions about how the Obama administration relates to just about every external constituency.”

“Jarrett shares a senior adviser title with David Axelrod, who will informally supervise the White House communications operation.  But Jarrett’s job will probably be more important. Outside of Rahm Emanuel, she’s destined to become the second most powerful staffer in the place.”

Obama Picks Duncan for Education Secretary

President-elect Obama has named Arne Duncan, the superintendent of schools in Chicago, to be his Secretary of Education, the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Duncan is a Harvard graduate whose friendship with Mr. Obama began on the basketball court and flowered into frequent discussions of education policy.”

The announcement came Tuesday morning “at the Dodge Renaissance Academy, an elementary school that Mr. Duncan and Mr. Obama visited together in October 2005.”

Carney Will Work for Biden

Outgoing Time magazine Washington bureau chief Jay Carney will become an assistant to Vice President-elect Biden and his director of communications in the White House, reports Time.

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