POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/22

Blago Report Coming Tomorrow

The Obama transition team is set to issue a report tomorrow detailing contacts between President-elect Obama’s staff and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

Meanwhile, a new CNN/Opinion Research poll finds that 43% of Americans think no one on Obama’s staff did anything wrong, 36% think they did something unethical but not illegal, and 12% think they did something illegal.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“It’s presumptuous to feel sorry for another man.  But I feel somewhat — I feel somewhat badly for him… I think that President Bush and, unlike Vice President Cheney, is, upon reflection beginning to acknowledge some of the serious, if not mistakes, misjudgments that he made.”

— Vice President-elect Joe Biden, in an interview to air tonight on Larry King Live, taking another swipe at his predecessor who took a shot at him yesterday.

Cuomo Not Frustrated by Kennedy

If New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo (D) is trying to convince Gov. David Paterson (D) to appoint him to the U.S. Senate, he’s taking a very different approach than the public campaign of Caroline Kennedy, according to the New York Observer.

Said Cuomo: “The conversations I have with the governor are private.”

Contrary to a report over the weekend, he also said that he’s not “frustrated” by not campaigning like Kennedy.

Cuomo: “I think as soon as you state the proposition it’s apparent the proposition is flawed: He feels frustrated he’s not campaigning. Then I would campaign. Am I stymied, frustrated? No.”

Dean Left Out

Howard Dean, “the man regarded by many sharp political operatives as the progenitor of President-elect Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign, finds himself without an obvious next job as his tenure as head of the Democratic National Committee comes to an end,” the Washington Post reports.

“It’s hard not to see Dean as a lesson in how political hardball is played in Washington. Never liked by establishment party figures — Dean publicly feuded with incoming White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) when the latter headed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee during the 2006 election cycle — Dean finds himself on the outside looking in as a new Democratic administration comes to town.”

Matthews Seen Staying at NBC

We noted that Chris Matthews is considering an offer from NBC to remain as host ofHardball and will make a decision after the holidays about whether to stay at the network or return to his native Pennsylvania to run for the U.S. Senate.

MSNBC president Phil Griffin tells Hollywood Reporter he thinks Matthews is staying put: “I’ve talked to Chris. I think he’s going to be here for a long time. I want him to be here for a long time.”

Grim Economic Outlook

Paul Krugman: “Whatever the new administration does, we’re in for months, perhaps even a year, of economic hell.”

Update: When Krugman was asked this morning is he was in contact with the Obama team, he responded, “Yes… I am.. And that’s all I care to talk about.”

Quote of the Day

“Rembrandt was a great artist. His brother Murray, on the other hand, Murray Rembrandt wouldn’t paint a house.”

— Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), on Face the Nation, making the case against dynasty politics and appointing Caroline Kennedy to the U.S. Senate.

The Slow Motion Leak

From the Washington Post: “Barack Obama and his team haven’t reached the White House yet, but they already seem to have mastered the art of the slow-motion leak. We learned yesterday, via George Stephanopoulos, that Rahm Emanuel has been cleared in the incoming administration’s internal investigation of its dealings with Rod Blagojevich. Whether that was a deliberate, strategic leak or just intrepid reporting, it served its purpose: The story trickled out on a sleepy Sunday morning, got picked up everywhere, and by today it seems like old news. Well, glad that’s all cleared up! Let’s move on now.”

Kennedy Makes Last Push for National Health Care

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), battling a deadly brain tumor, is “moving fast to align the U.S. Congress and special interest groups behind a comprehensive health-care plan that Barack Obama can support soon after he takes office,” Bloomberg reports.

“Whatever the final plan may look like, people involved in forming it say Kennedy is the glue holding together an often- quarrelsome group of special interests.”

Said Adam Clymer, the author of an excellent biography on Kennedy: “This has been the cause of Kennedy’s life, and it’s clear he sees this as a great opportunity.”

Clinton Cuts Debt in Half

Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton had $6.4 million in presidential campaign debt at the end of November, CNN reports.

“The amount, though still significant, represents the lowest level of debt the New York senator’s failed presidential campaign has reported this year. Clinton’s campaign debt reached its peak, $12 million, at the end of June and has gradually fallen since then.”

“Clinton said she hopes to pay off her debt before her possible confirmation as secretary of state.”

Fundraiser Seeks Immunity in Blagojevich Case

Raghuveer Nayak, a key figure in Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s alleged scheme to sell a U.S. Senate seat, “has sought immunity from federal authorities in return for his cooperation in their ongoing probe,” the Chicago Tribune reports.

Nayak “is the unnamed ‘Individual D’ who prosecutors say was being squeezed by the governor for campaign cash in return for appointing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.”

Obama Considers Adding “Celebrity Operatives”

Mike Allen: “Some of the best-known names in Democratic politics — Jenny Backus, Stephanie Cutter, Matthew Miller, Jennifer Palmieri and Howard Wolfson (alphabetical, guys) — are being considered as public faces of the new administration in top communications roles outside the White House. Like the recruitment of Jay Carney, these celebrity operatives are a reminder that the Obama presidency is breaking all sorts of conventions, including the professional life cycle that so often takes hot strategists from public service to the private sector for good.”

“We were told to add a speculative disclaimer at the top of this, so: This is what well-connected Dems are chattering about. It’s not set in stone.”

Cheney Has No Regrets on Leahy Remark

Vice President Dick Cheney interviewed by Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Did you really tell Senator Leahy, bleep yourself?

CHENEY: I did.

WALLACE: Any qualms or second thoughts or embarrassment?

CHENEY: No, I thought he merited it at the time. And we’ve since, I think, patched over that wound and we’re civil to one another now.

Quote of the Day

“If he wants to diminish the office of the vice president, that’s obviously his call. President-elect Obama will decide what he wants in a vice president and apparently, from the way they’re talking about it, he does not expect him to have as consequential a role as I have had during my time.”

— Vice President Dick Cheney, in an interview with Fox News, taking a shot at Vice President-elect Joe Biden.

Emanuel Had One Call with Blagojevich

Sources tell George Stephanopoulos that President-elect Obama team’s review of contacts with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will show that Rahm Emanuel had only one phone conversation with Blagojevich.

“The contact, described as a ‘pro-forma’ courtesy call, came as Emanuel was named Chief of Staff for Obama.  Most of the discussion concerned Emanuel’s Congressional seat (which had previously been held by Blagojevich), with only a ‘passing reference’ to the Senate vacancy, according to these sources.  No deal for the Senate vacancy was discussed.”

Biden Explains His Role

Vice President-elect Joe Biden told ABC News that he is going to chair a “middle-class task force” that will determine how the Obama administration’s policies are affecting America’s economic midsection.

Said Biden: “My focus is going to be, I’m going to chair this group and it is designed to do the one thing we use as a yardstick of economic success of our administration, is the middle class growing? Is the middle class getting better? Is the middle class no longer being left behind? And we’ll look at everything from college affordability to after-school programs. The things that affect people’s daily lives. I will be the guy honchoing that policy.”

However, Biden also said his broader role will be that of adviser. He said he got a commitment from Obama that he’ll be “in the room” on every major economic political, and foreign policy decision.

Biden: “I don’t want to be the guy that goes out and has a specific assignment — an important assignment to reinvent government, which Al Gore did a great job of. Dealing with some specific discrete item. I said I want a commitment from you that in every important decision you’ll make, every critical decision, economic and political as well as foreign policy, I’ll get to be in the room.”

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