While playing tribute to his political hero Abraham Lincoln last night, President Obama took a humorous, subtle dig at Judd Gregg for withdrawing as his Commerce Secretary nominee.
“In 1854, Lincoln was simply a Springfield Lawyer. He’d served just a single term in Congress. Possibly in his law office, his feet on a cluttered desk, his sons playing around him, his clothes a bit to small to fit his uncommon frame...maybe wondering if someone might call him up and offer to be Commerce Secretary."
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg abruptly withdrew his nomination as President Barack Obama’s commerce secretary Thursday, telling Politico that he “couldn’t be Judd Gregg" and serve in the Cabinet.
The harsh response from a White House caught off guard: Gregg was the one who asked for the job – and he repeatedly promised that, “despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the president’s agenda.”
White House aides described themselves as “blindsided” by what White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described as Gregg’s change of heart.”
President-elect Barack Obama gets soaring marks for his handling of the transition and his choices for the Cabinet, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, even at a time the public is downbeat over the economy.'
More than three of four Americans, including a majority of Republicans, approve of the job Obama has done so far — broad-based support he'll need as he faces tough decisions ahead.By 69%-25%, those surveyed approve of his pick of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his former Democratic primary rival, as secretary of State.
No matter how one feels about his cabinet choices, I believe Americans are quite relieved to have a man at the helm, responding like a true leader and making decisive decisions in a time of real economic crisis.
And they also feel as I do that a major stimulus package is needed to help kick start the economy.
In the poll, Americans by more than 3-1 say they trust Obama more than Bush to handle the economy. By 58%-33%, they support Obama's plan for a huge spending package to spur economic growth.
Asked if Obama's support for the Employee Free Choice Act remained as strong as his public proclamations suggested on the campaign trail, transition spokesman Dan Pfeiffer responded, succinctly, "Yes."
With the kind of support Obama's got going in, EFCA is something that's both achievable and necessary. Despite the hysterical commentary from the right these days, the fact is that unions strengthen the economy not weaken it.
Secretary of Defense Bob Gates; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones:
Other front-runners have emerged in recent days, including Adm. Dennis Blair, retired from the Navy, for director of national intelligence; Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state, for ambassador to the United Nations; James B. Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser, for deputy secretary of state; and Thomas E. Donilon, a former chief of staff at the State Department, for deputy national security adviser.
Gates' deputy and heir-apparent will likely be Richard Danzig and Michele Flournoy will fill the highly important positionof DoD #3, undersecretary for policy.
It is, as just about everyone seems to be noting today, a very centrist team rather than a progressive one. Rice and Flournoy are the (partial) exceptions, rather than the rule. No surprises there to anyone who wasn't drinking the kool-aid that Obama was a very liberal person wholesale - perhaps not what we might have hoped for and looking set to perpetuate the pervasive VSP meme of American exceptionalism albeit in a gentler form, but still streets ahead of a Bush or McCain foreign policy.
And, despite the frantic attempts of the Cretindens of the Right to spin it otherwise, few left-of-centrists are going to be too upset about keeping Gates for a year or so when everyone saw (and the Right are hoping we've forgotten) that Gates was an adult imposed by Poppy Bush's realists to supervise the incompetent neocon kiddies of the Bush Junior administration in the first place. Progressives might not be ecstatic about keeping Gates, but we can see the point - and no, the point isn't praising Junior for his Babysitter. It's partly about stopping the military's desk-jockeys from whining, in Clinton era style, about a President and SecState who don't "get" them while much needed reforms are pushed through but mostly about a consensus that freezes outthe neocons and their Cheneyite fellow travelers.
Clinton, if anything, is more problematic than Gates and potentially the most trouble of all simply because there's little doubt that Gates knows how to subordinate himself to his President's overall direction while still keeping his own end of policy debates respectfully strenuous. Hillary...well, we'll see.
Hillary Clinton declined to answer any questions today about the speculation that President-elect Obama is talking to her about being Secretary of State in his Cabinet -- and the denial left little doubt that she is indeed in the running.
Personally, I'd always suspected he would name Clinton to the Supreme Court with the first opening there, but the fact that Obama is looking to build bridges with former enemies this early says volumes about how he's going to approach governance. Mostly that is a good thing, but there is a built-in downside here too.
Arguably, the most important appointment President Obama will make is the Treasury Secretary, to help guide us out of this morass left us by the Bush neocons. One of the people that has most captured the media's attention is Larry Summers. But is he the right guy? Time:
Summers was an awfully controversial guy a couple years ago. And the things that made him controversial will all be revisited if he has to sit through a Senate confirmation hearing.
Still, Summers behaved perfectly respectably during his last stint as Treasury Secretary. He is capable of keeping his mouth shut if the job requires it. What's more, he seems to have a habit of promoting the careers of people who are willing to contradict him and take him on (Andrei Shleifer and Tim Geithner spring to mind). [..]
2. He's loyal, to a fault. One of the main things that turned Harvard's faculty against Summers was the case of his protege Shleifer. Shleifer ran a Harvard-affiliated, USAID-funded office in Moscow in the 1990s that advised the Russian government on economic reform. The U.S. government later sued Harvard and Shleifer, charging that the operation was overrrun by conflicts of interest. Summers recused himself from direct dealings with the case, but in his epic dissection of the saga for Instititutional Investor, David McClintick charged that Summers did try to shield Shleifer. Harvard and Shleifer lost the suit, and Harvard had to pay $26.5 million in damages and Shleifer $2 million. I can't get as worked up about this as some people (if we could force Harvard to give the government even more money, maybe Barack Obama wouldn't have to raise your taxes), but I also know and like Andrei Shleifer, so I'm really not the best judge.
3. He's a callous right-winger. Summers' academic mentor was conservative economist Marty Feldstein, and he worked for Feldstein at Ronald Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers in the early 1980s. Paul Krugman worked there too, so that really isn't saying much. For most of the 1980s, in fact, Summers was an outspoken skeptic of financial markets and their ability to set prices rationally and steer investment wisely. As he rose to positions of power in Washington in the 1990s, though, he became a leading defender of the Washington consensus--the idea that free financial markets, free trade and fiscal discipline would bring prosperity to the world. Lately Summers has been partially reconsidering that stance in his columns for the Financial Times. If you're favorably disposed to him, as I am, you could say he's been pulling a Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind." But I guess if you're not so favorably disposed, you could call him a closet right-winger, a closet left-winger, or a slave to fashion.
Anyway, I'm sure Larry Summers would make a very good Treasury Secretary. Again.
ABC News has learned that President-elect Obama has offered the White House chief of staff job to Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
Emanuel, a knowledgeable source tells ABC News, has not yet given his answer. The sharp-tongued, sharp-elbowed, keenly intelligent veteran of the Clinton White House is said to have ambitions to some day be Speaker of the House. But he also has a keen sense of "duty."
I actually think this should be viewed as good news for progressives in the long run. I'd rather have Emanuel playing gatekeeper in the White House than in the House of Representatives. This may allow us to push the House even further left in 2010.
For you fellow political junkies, a new site has been established, Cabinet Newsladder, to track information on Obama's future Cabinet.
In defiance of traditional party labels, Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, may ask the defence secretary of President George W Bush to stay on if he wins the White House.
Obama's top foreign policy and national security advisers are pressing the case for keeping Robert Gates at the Pentagon after he won widespread praise for his performance. The move would be in keeping with Obama's desire to appoint a cabinet of all the talents.
After appealing for unity with former rival Hillary Clinton and her supporters and big donors last week, Obama, 46, is turning his attention to wooing Republicans and independent voters who may be concerned that he lacks the experience to be trusted with America's defence.
Richard Danzig, an adviser to Obama on national security and a former navy secretary, said: "My personal position is Gates is a very good secretary of defence and would be an even better one in an Obama administration."
Really, he's done such a great job? How's Iraq and Afghanistan working for you? And we've got Iran on a backburner. Is that the definition of a successful Defense Secretary? Let's not forget how thrilled we all were with his nomination to begin with.
And I've heard some say that this is a way to take some of the wind out of the GOP sails by having a Republican at Defense, but did that keep the GOP from going after Bill Clinton with William Cohen in his Cabinet? I didn't think so. Frankly, considering how badly they've screwed up over the last 8 years, I'd think keeping a Republican as far away from the Pentagon would actually be a much smarter tactic.
Joe Biden was going to be John Kerry's secretary of State. "That was what we were led to believe" before Kerry lost to George W. Bush in '04, says an aide to the Delaware senator, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Now Biden, who has been to foreign policy in the Senate what Ted Kennedy has been to domestic policy (almost anyway!), is emerging as a major consigliere to Barack Obama—perhaps with his eye on State once again. Among the top items on Biden's agenda: making sure that Obama has better luck in November than Kerry did. That means, first, relentlessly attacking and counterattacking the Republicans on the campaign trail, especially on national-security issues. And, second, relentlessly defining John McCain as "joined at the hip" to Bush, as Biden put it in a speech in Washington on Tuesday. Read more...