POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/18

Blair Tapped as Intelligence Czar

Sources tell NBC News that President-elect Obama has picked former Admiral Dennis Blair as the new Director of National Intelligence.

Blair, a 34 year Navy veteran, Rhodes Scholar and Russian speaker “is considered a ‘brainiac’ who has experience in managing large organizations.  A commander of Pacific Command he’s known for pushing political and diplomatic engagement over military confrontation.”

Obama Will Finalize Cabinet Tomorrow

At yet another press conference on Friday, President-elect Obama is expected to announce his final three cabinet-level picks: Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL) as secretary of transportation, Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as secretary of labor and former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative.

Todd Named White House Correspondent

NBC News announced today that Chuck Todd, a Political Wire favorite, has been named Chief White House correspondent.

Todd will retain his title as NBC News Political Director in addition to his new duties on the White House beat. As part of this announcement, he is also being named Contributing Editor to Meet the Press, where he will make frequent appearances to offer reporting and political analysis. 

Obama Will Name Solis as Labor Secretary

President-elect Obama will pick Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) as the next labor secretary, according to the AP.

Solis was not even mentioned in yesterday’s report on Obama’s difficulties in filling this post.

Obama Ready to Pick Science Adviser

“Strong indications are that President-elect Barack Obama has picked physicist John Holdren to be the president’s science adviser,” according to Science.

“Holdren had been planning to attend a staff meeting this morning with colleagues at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, where he heads the technology and science program. But instead, he flew today to Chicago to meet with the transition team and prepare for the announcement; initial plans are to release the official news of the appointment on a weekly radio program that Obama records and will be broadcast on Saturday.”

Not Caroline?

Ben Smith thinks Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) might have spilled the beans on Gov. David Paterson’s (D) Senate appointment in an interview with a public television station:

RAFAEL PI ROMAN: Lastly, I know you talked to Governor Paterson about the replacement for Senator Clinton, I was wondering if you have any favorites among the candidates that are being discussed?

CONGESSMAN RANGEL: Well the governor has already made up his mind and he shared it with me, and I support that he’s going to select the best possible candidate that he can.

RAFAEL PI ROMAN: When are we going to find that out?

CONGESSMAN RANGEL: When he selects him.

Clinton Donors Disclosed

As promised to the Obama transition team, the William J. Clinton Foundation is releasing its donor list ahead of Sen. Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing next month to be Secretary of State.

Ben Smith: “It’s worth noting that Clinton defied the widespread, cynical media expectation that he’d release the donors at midnight on Christmas day. Thursday morning is an honorable time to put out news.”

Emanuel Was Looking for Placeholder

The Chicago Sun Times reports that incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had conversations about backing a special election candidate for his IL-5 House seat who would keep “his” seat warm for a few years so he could reclaim it later.

However, with the scandal surrounding President-elect Obama’s old Senate seat, Emanuel is now likely to stay out of the race entirely.

Bloomberg Aide Pushing Kennedy

The New York Times says Kevin Sheekey, a top aide to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is pushing hard for Caroline Kennedy to be appointed to the soon-to-be-vacant U.S. Senate seat in New York — with the mayor’s blessing.

“The involvement has helped immediately elevate and coordinate the debut of Ms. Kennedy, who lacked an experienced political staff of her own.”

Quote of the Day

“The best thing you can do is keep your VP under control.”

— Vice President Dick Cheney, quoted by CNN, giving advice to White House chief of staff-designate Rahm Emanuel.

Brownback Will Step Down

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS), who pledged he would only serve two terms in the U.S. Senate, will formally announce today that he won’t seek a third term in 2010, the Kansas City Star reports.

Brownback, “who’s been wrapping up a statewide tour lately, is widely expected to run for governor in 2010 to succeed Democrat Kathleen Sebeliuswho is barred by law from seeking a third term.” 

However, a statement from Brownback’s office warns that he “will not be making any announcements about his future at this time.”

Obama Will Appoint Fed Governor

In addition to naming Mary Schapiro to head the SEC at today’s press conference, President-elect Obama plans to appoint economic adviser Dan Tarullo to an open seat on the Federal Reserve Board, Bloomberg reports.

Tarullo, a professor at Georgetown, held several key economic posts in the Clinton administration.

Obama is also expected to name Gary Gensler, a former Treasury Undersecretary, to head the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

RNC Chair Race Heats Up

Politico: “The six contenders for Republican National Committee chair are rolling out every gimmick, plan and endorsement in the hopes of gaining an edge.”

Bush Will Host Presidents Lunch

President George W. Bush will hold a lunch for President-elect Barack Obama that also will be attended by the living former presidents — Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush – the Wall Street Journal reports.

“The lunch will be held Jan. 7, about two weeks before Obama’s inauguration on Jan. 20. It appears to be a continuation of Bush’s extensive efforts to accommodate the incoming Obama administration.”

Obama Narrows Candidates for Labor Secretary

The Wall Street Journal reports that Harley Shaiken, an academic at the University of California, Berkeley, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) are emerging as finalists for secretary of labor in the Obama administration.

“The post is one of the last to be filled by President-elect Barack Obama, and is proving to be particularly difficult. Early candidates, such as former Rep. David Bonior and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, have faded, either because they asked not to be considered or ran into other problems.”

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