Panetta Picked as CIA Director

President-elect Obama has picked former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to run the Central Intelligence Agency, the New York Times reports.

“Panetta has a reputation in Washington as a competent manager with strong background in budget issues, but has little hands-on intelligence experience… Given his background, Mr. Panetta is a somewhat unusual choice to lead the C.I.A., an agency that has been unwelcoming to previous directors perceived as outsiders, such as Stansfield M. Turner and John M. Deutch.”

Court Rejects Coleman’s Bid

The Minnesota Supreme Court rejected a bid by Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) “to have hundreds of rejected absentee ballots considered in the U.S. Senate recount, apparently clearing the way for a state board to certify election results” showing Al Franken (D) on top, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The action also opens the door “to a post-recount lawsuit that the Coleman campaign said ‘is now inevitable.'”

The Nation’s Guide to the Nation

The Nation Guide to the Nation (Vintage)Out this week: The Nation’s Guide to the Nation by Richard Lingemana and the editors of The Nation.

The book is billed as “the essential lifestyle guide for liberals” — partWhole Earth Catalog, part 1000 Places to See Before You Die, and part Zagat.

Prosecutors Given More Time to Indict Blagojevich

Federal prosecutors have been granted an extra three months to seek an indictment of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Prosecutors had sought the extension last week, citing the complexity of their investigation of pay-to-play politics in the Blagojevich administration.

PPP Poll: Kennedy’s Standing Drops in New York

A new Public Policy Polling survey in New York finds that 44% of respondents have a less favorable opinion of Caroline Kennedy than they did before she began a public campaign for the appointment to replace Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The main beneficiary of the decline in Kennedy’s popularity appears to be Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. Voters now prefer him for the appointment over Kennedy by a 58% to 27% margin.

Why Did Richardson Take Job?

The lingering question surrounding New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s acceptance — and then rejection — of an appointment by President-elect Obama as secretary of commerce, is why did he want the job in the first place?

Marc Ambinder reports that Obama’s team did not expect Richardson “to take the Commerce job in the first place; they saw it as a demotion. But Richardson surprised them by saying yes.”

Update: Richardson is expected to hold a press conference on his decision at 1 p.m. ET in New Mexico.

First Lady Signs Book Deal

First lady Laura Bush “has sealed a deal worth millions with Scribner to publish a memoir that will encompass her recollections of personal and historical moments, including her eight years in the White House,” the AP reports.

“Books by recent first ladies, including Laura Bush’s mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, have had more dependable commercial appeal than those by former presidents.”

Obama Picks Official Photographer

The Rise of Barack ObamaPresident-elect Obama picked Pete Souza as the official White House photographer, according to News Photographer.

“It won’t be Souza’s first time in the Oval Office. He was also a White House photographer during President Ronald Reagan’s second term.”

Examples of Souza’s work are available in an outstanding new book, The Rise of Barack Obama.

Obama Pushed Kaine to Take DNC Job

According to Mike Allen, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine “first indicated that he was not interested” in becoming DNC Chairman, “but then decided to take the post when Obama personally intervened.”

More Allen on why Obama wanted Kaine: “He’s a new-style Democrat — Obama-like in transcending ideological boxes – who comes from a state that emphasizes budget balancing and fiscal restraint. Kaine worked tirelessly for Obama, giving him a good chance in the Old Dominion even before the tidal wave formed. So the president-elect knows Kaine’s campaign skills first-hand.”

News of Kaine’s pending appointment leaked yesterday.

Quote of the Day

“Sure, this sucks, but if it wasn’t for what we did it would suck worse.”

— Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), quoted by the New Yorker, on the possibility of a global economic collapse if Congress didn’t pass a bank bailout bill last year.

Bush Will Not Get Lifetime Protection

President Bush will be the first president not to receive lifetime Secret Service protection, according to McClatchy Newspapers

Instead, he’ll get it for just ten years.

However, Bush will get a Dallas office, staffers, a travel budget, medical coverage and a $196,700 annual pension, all at taxpayers’ expense.

Franken to be Declared Winner in Minnesota

Minnesota’s Canvassing Board “was posed to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota’s grueling Senate election in Al Franken’s favor — but that doesn’t mean the race is definitely over,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

The latest numbers showed Franken (D) with a 225-vote lead over Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN).

“But after the announcement, there will be a seven-day waiting period before an election certificate is completed. If any lawsuits are filed during that waiting period, certification is conditional until the issue is settled in court.”


January 4, 2009


Richardson Kept Details of Investigation

Sources tell ABC News that Obama transition officials “feel that before he was formally offered the job of commerce secretary, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.”

“Once the investigation became more widely known through national media reports last month, sources tell ABC News, the Obama Transition Team realized the FBI would not be able to give Richardson a clean political bill of health before the new administration is ready to send his nomination up to the Senate for confirmation.”

Richardson formally asked President-elect Obama to withdraw his nomination yesterday.

Reid Blasts Bush Again

In an interview on Meet the Press, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) did not ease up on his criticism of President Bush. 

Said Reid: “I really do believe President Bush is the worst president we’ve ever had.”

Kaine Picked to Head DNC

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was chosen by President-elect Obama to lead the Democratic National Committee, according to Politico.

Bonus Quote of the Day

“No! You can go back to your, what do you call it, your Google, and you figure out all that.”

— Former President George H.W. Bush, in a Fox News interview, when asked if he would elaborate on some of his son’s failures as president.

Not Just Greed

Today’s must-read piece is by Michael Lewis and David Einhorn

“The Madoff scandal echoes a deeper absence inside our financial system, which has been undermined not merely by bad behavior but by the lack of checks and balances to discourage it. ‘Greed’ doesn’t cut it as a satisfying explanation for the current financial crisis. Greed was necessary but insufficient; in any case, we are as likely to eliminate greed from our national character as we are lust and envy. The fixable problem isn’t the greed of the few but the misaligned interests of the many…”

“Our financial catastrophe, like Bernard Madoff’s pyramid scheme, required all sorts of important, plugged-in people to sacrifice our collective long-term interests for short-term gain. The pressure to do this in today’s financial markets is immense. Obviously the greater the market pressure to excel in the short term, the greater the need for pressure from outside the market to consider the longer term. But that’s the problem: there is no longer any serious pressure from outside the market. The tyranny of the short term has extended itself with frightening ease into the entities that were meant to, one way or another, discipline Wall Street, and force it to consider its enlightened self-interest.”

Richardson Drops Bid for Commerce Secretary

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), tapped last month by President-elect Obama to serve as Secretary of Commerce, “has withdrawn his name for the position, citing a pending investigation into a company that has done business with his state,” reports NBC News.

Said Richardson: “Let me say unequivocally that I and my Administration have acted properly in all matters and that this investigation will bear out that fact. But I have concluded that the ongoing investigation also would have forced an untenable delay in the confirmation process.”

Update: Obama released this statement: “It is with deep regret that I accept Governor Bill Richardson’s decision to withdraw his name for nomination as the next Secretary of Commerce. Governor Richardson is an outstanding public servant and would have brought to the job of Commerce Secretary and our economic team great insights accumulated through an extraordinary career in federal and state office. It is a measure of his willingness to put the nation first that he has removed himself as a candidate for the Cabinet in order to avoid any delay in filling this important economic post at this critical time. Although we must move quickly to fill the void left by Governor Richardson’s decision, I look forward to his future service to our country and in my administration.”

Quote of the Day

“Obama’s team are the best linguists I’ve ever seen. Republicans aren’t in his league right now.”

— Frank Luntz, author of Words that Work, in an interview with Politico.

FDR’s Inner Circle

FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern AmericaComing this week: Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America by Adam Cohen.

Cohen, a member of the New York Times editorial board, “delivers an exemplary and remarkably timely narrative of FDR’s famous first Hundred Days as president,” according to Publishers Weekly

“Providing a new perspective on an oft-told story, Cohen zeroes in on the five Roosevelt aides-de-camp whom he rightly sees as having been the most influential in developing FDR’s wave of extraordinary actions. These were agriculture secretary Henry Wallace, presidential aide Raymond Moley, budget director Lewis Douglas, labor secretary Frances Perkins and Civil Works Administration director Harry Hopkins. This group, Cohen emphasizes, did not work in concert. The liberal Perkins, Wallace and Hopkins often clashed with Douglas, one of the few free-marketers in FDR’s court. Moley hovered somewhere in between the two camps. As Cohen shows, the liberals generally prevailed in debates. However, the vital foundation for FDR’s New Deal was crafted through a process of rigorous argument within the president’s innermost circle rather than ideological consensus. Cohen’s exhaustively researched and eloquently argued book provides a vital new level of insight into Roosevelt’s sweeping expansion of the federal government’s role in our national life.”


January 03, 2009


Bigger Than Bush

Paul Krugman: “Forty years ago the G.O.P. decided, in effect, to make itself the party of racial backlash. And everything that has happened in recent years, from the choice of Mr. Bush as the party’s champion, to the Bush administration’s pervasive incompetence, to the party’s shrinking base, is a consequence of that decision… That’s why the soon-to-be-gone administration’s failure is bigger than Mr. Bush himself: it represents the end of the line for a political strategy that dominated the scene for more than a generation.”

Franken Prevails in Recount

Sen. Norm Coleman’s (R-MN) “term as a U.S. Senator ended at noon Washington time today, and by evening his hopes of winning a second term had been dealt an expected but serious setback as state officials counted previously rejected absentee ballots in St. Paul,” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.

With the recount complete, Al Franken (D) has an unofficial lead of 225 votes over Coleman. Franken had led unofficially by 49 votes going into the day and gained a net 176 votes from the new absentee ballots counted today.

Coleman’s hopes now focus on the Minnesota Supreme Court, “which continued to consider a request from the Coleman campaign to alter the process and add more absentee ballots to be reconsidered. But by early evening there there was no word from the state’s highest court as to when it would rule or hear arguments.”

McAuliffe Enters Race for Virginia Governor

In an online video, former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe (D) officially confirmed his candidacy for Virginia governor, the Virginian-Pilot reports.

McAuliffe “has campaigned across the state in recent months, though he had not publicly declared his political intentions until today.”

Washington Post: “McAuliffe’s candidacy is bound to appear formidable. His rivals have conceded they can’t possibly match his national fundraising network, but they have sought to portray it as a liability instead of an asset.”

Frist Declines Gubernatorial Bid

Former Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) has decided not to make the race for governor of Tennessee, a “high Republican source” tells the Chatanoogan.

The news is set to clear the way for Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam (R) to enter the race.

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