Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect. You're the proud owner of one national economy. It's huge, lumbering, ornery, quite old, and sometimes unstable. It's on a special diet now -- but the doctors can't be sure if it will help.
Your constituents are beginning to hate it, but they really want to love it again. If they're going to love you, it's going to start here.
He's not technically president until Jan. 20. But the Obama presidency really starts Friday, when Sen. Barack Obama begins to take ownership of the issue that did so much to get him elected.
He and Sen. Joe Biden are huddling with their economic team in Chicago -- the group charged with turning things around (maybe one of whom will be the new Treasury secretary) -- and then the president-elect holds his first press conference since the election, at 2:30 pm ET.
With auto leaders on the Hill asking for their own bailout, talk of a new stimulus package even before President Bush joins the ranks of the unemployed, and new (dismal) jobs numbers coming Friday, a nation jittery from watching the Dow is looking for presidential leadership.
And now comes the first real acknowledgement that all of this -- everything voters poured into this vessel called Barack Obama on Tuesday -- takes time and patience. Be careful what you wish for -- and that goes both ways.
"In responding, Mr. Obama must strike a delicate balance between cooperating with an unpopular president whose policies he campaigned to change, and the inclination to wait until he takes charge in two and a half months to prescribe his own remedies," Jeff Zeleny and Jackie Calmes write in The New York Times. "No incoming president in modern times has been so pressured to begin governing, in effect, before he is sworn into office."
Just like he imagined it would be? "The new president will probably spend his first year in office careering from crisis to crisis, throwing lifelines to hard-hit households, local governments, industries and developing countries. The job will feel a lot less like that of a ship's captain and a lot more like that of a triage nurse," Steven Pearlstein writes in his Washington Post column. "He will need to make clear that though he intends to pursue the broad agenda he laid out during the campaign, the timing and details -- many of which were laid out more than a year ago -- may need to be adjusted in light of dramatically changed circumstances."
Yes, the nation wants a president again -- but don't forget that this one is still a senator for another two months.
"Obama is expected to lead a discussion about the nation's troubling job losses and possible remedies. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has expressed support for passing a stimulus package in a lame-duck session of Congress. Obama's team does not appear to have reached consensus on that approach," the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas and Michael Finnegan write.
"One Obama advisor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that it may be preferable to wait until the new president is sworn in before passing a stimulus package. 'Wait until the new president and the new team can put together a package that becomes a down payment on a broader investment agenda,' the advisor said. 'That would be my preference.' "
Obama's first dance with Congress could come before the Inaugural Ball: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a two-stage effort to boost the shaky U.S. economy: a $60 billion-to-$100 billion stimulus package this month, followed early next year by a companion measure that would include a 'permanent tax cut,' " Greg Hitt and Jonathan Weisman write in The Wall Street Journal.
Said Pelosi: "The economy needs something sooner [than next year]. . . . Let's see if we can't do something, working together now, that gives us a two-month jump."
Nothing like expectations: "Economists said Friday's meeting of the Obama financial team could help bolster confidence that the president-elect will move quickly to shore up the struggling economy," USA Today's Kathy Kiely and Martha T. Moore report. "The stock market plummeted more than 400 points on both Wednesday and Thursday. The number of people drawing unemployment benefits hit a 25-year high, the Labor Department reported Thursday."
Bold-faced names are here to help: "On Friday, Obama is expected to meet with his 'transition economic advisory board,' which includes business leaders like Warren Buffett, Richard Parsons, Time Warner's board chairman, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, and political leaders such as Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm," ABC's Jake Tapper reports.
Also at the meeting: Larry Summers, Paul Volcker, Robert Reich, Robert Rubin, David Bonior, William Donaldson, Roger Ferguson, William Daley, Penny Pritzker, and Antonio Villaraigosa.
How to lead? "Can Mr. Obama claim a mandate? The answer: a firm no-yes. This was not 1980, with a landslide 10-point, 44-state win and the will of a clear majority firmly revealed. And yet of course it's a mandate -- a clean win, a new beginning, a solid Democratic victory in the House and Senate," Peggy Noonan writes in her Wall Street Journal column. "Mr. Obama won it the old-fashioned way: he earned it. He confounded history to get it. And because he replaces a president whose unpopularity has impeded his ability to govern, he is, in a way, president from day one."
Think big, says Paul Krugman: "A serious progressive agenda -- call it a new New Deal -- isn't just economically possible, it's exactly what the economy needs," Krugman writes in his New York Times column. "The bottom line, then, is that Barack Obama shouldn't listen to the people trying to scare him into being a do-nothing president. He has the political mandate; he has good economics on his side. You might say that the only thing he has to fear is fear itself."
How not to make friends in Washington: "Obama needs to pump serious cash into the economy in a way that promotes his long-term priorities. That means billions for energy-efficient and climate-friendly infrastructure like wind turbines, solar panels and mass transit, but nothing for new sprawl roads that ravage nature and promote gas-guzzling," Michael Grunwald reports in Time. "Mostly, it means revamping Washington's dysfunctional method of selecting and funding infrastructure projects."
Then there's the real real world: "President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has congratulated President-elect Barack Obama on his victory, the first time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution that an Iranian leader has offered such wishes to an American counterpart," Thomas Erdbrink writes in The Washington Post. "The Iranian government's reaction to Obama's victory is intended to show interest in direct negotiations, said Mohammad Marandi, head of the Institute for North American and European Studies in Tehran."
This is power: "Barack Obama may have been elected only three days ago, but his victory is already beginning to shift the political ground in Iraq and the region," Alissa J. Rubin writes in The New York Times. "Iraqi Shiite politicians are indicating that they will move faster toward a new security agreement about American troops, and a Bush administration official said he believed that Iraqis could ratify the agreement as early as the middle of this month."
How to get things done in Washington: Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff. "[Obama] clearly understands that you just can't sit around talking about all the good things you want to do when you get to the White House and then expect them to happen all by themselves. Which means you can't hire a staff that's going to gather at work every day, hold hands and sing Kumbaya," Time's James Carney writes.
With Emanuel making the choice that wasn't really a choice, other key players are falling into place: "Former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod has accepted the position of Senior Adviser in the White House, sources tell ABC News," George Stephanopoulos reports. "Robert Gibbs is also likely to join Obama's White House as Press Secretary, and Obama would like his confidante Valerie Jarrett to play a key role. The exact parameters have not been set."
"With Rahm he gets White House experience, Capitol Hill experience, and a complement to his personality," Stephanopoulos reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "It really shows that he's a real Chicago pol. . . . It shows that the president-elect doesn't take no for an answer."
Stephanopoulos reports that "people around the Obama transition team" are buzzing about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., for Secretary of State, or Secretary of Defense. And Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is very much in the mix for State.
The selection "could signal a rapid succession of appointments," Anne E. Kornblut and Karen DeYoung write in The Washington Post. "Obama is focused more on projecting a reassuring image of continuity and competence than of quickly bringing wholesale change to a nation facing two wars and a severe economic downturn. . . . Obama's choice of Emanuel -- a veteran of the Clinton years with a quick wit, a legendary temper and a strong grasp of policy -- signaled a potential mood shift away from the serene 'no drama' ethos that defined his campaign."
Turning to Emanuel "is the latest demonstration of a quality Obama showed repeatedly over the course of his campaign: He's willing to do what it takes to win," Ben Smith and John F. Harris write. "If his goal had been to create a cordial bipartisan tone in Washington -- much less a calm, profanity-free West Wing -- Obama would have looked elsewhere. . . . The choice of Emanuel is also a deliberate departure from the culture of Obama's cool, Chicago-based campaign, a willingness to fully embrace the new Washington milieu Obama spent two years deriding."
"Barack Obama once joked at a charity dinner that when Rahm Emanuel severed his middle finger, it almost rendered him mute," Bloomberg's Michael Tackett writes.
Says John Lapp, who worked under Emanuel at the DCCC: "The genius about the pick is this good cop you will have in President Obama and the absolute enforcer you will have in Rahm."
Lynn Sweet, of the Chicago Sun-Times: "With Emanuel, Obama gets an enforcer, a bad cop who loves the f-word, with a unique resume no one else in the United States can match: the No. 4 leader in the House; veteran of seven years in the White House during the Clinton administration; a supreme media and political strategist who knows process and policy."
Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum: "He doesn't piss people off for the sake of scoring debating points or asserting his purity. He pisses people off because he cares about things, and sometimes pushes too hard."
It took two days, but Rahm woke the GOP message machine out of its post-election slumber: "Barack Obama's first decision as President-elect undermines his promise to 'heal the divides,' " said Alex Conant, an RNC spokesman.
The hits he's going to take for this one: "Picking the hard-charging Emanuel -- Obama's first major post-election decision -- seems at odds with the consensus-minded manner of an incoming president who promises to unite red and blue America," Newsweek's Richard Wolffe writes. "As president, you want to be Velcro-ed to someone whose company you enjoy and whose judgment you trust."
Anyone else notice that, after a campaign with no leaks, this appointment leaked?
"Some Democratic aides on Capitol Hill were similarly struck by the partisan nature of the appointment -- and even more so by the extended rollout," Jonathan Weisman reports in The Wall Street Journal.
Tough call at Treasury: "During the campaign, when Barack Obama needed an authoritative voice to defend his tax and spending proposals, he turned to Lawrence H. Summers -- the Clinton administration Treasury secretary and former Harvard president who has one of the sharpest minds in modern economics," Peter G. Gosselin writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Now, as President-elect Obama considers his choice for Treasury secretary, Summers' name is again front and center. But this time, the decision is not so clear. Obama faces conflicting advice from his close advisors, from Capitol Hill and from important Democratic constituencies."
Obama makes his first visit to the White House as president-elect on Monday -- and surely the greeting will be more friendly than Barney's.
Meanwhile, Palin pushback: "A longtime aide to Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin is lashing back at anonymous critics within the McCain-Palin presidential campaign, telling ABC News they are attacking the former vice presidential candidate with distortions," per ABC's Kate Snow.
"Regarding the $150,000 worth of clothing the campaign bought Palin, [Meg] Stapleton says a New York stylist was given a blank check and told to go and make Palin look presidential. According to Stapleton, Palin saw a price tag of $3,500 on one outfit and said she didn't want to wear it. Stapleton says Palin was simply presented with her wardrobe and staff. Palin was told 'here's your people, here are your clothes.' Stapleton adds that the McCain staffers tried to hide the cost of the wardrobe."
On the Africa thing: "She knows it's a continent," Stapleton said. "It was just a human mistake, just like Obama saying 57 states. I don't think anyone ever doubted that Obama knows there are 50 states."
Chillier than it once was, back in Alaska: "With her vice-presidential carriage turned back into a pumpkin, Palin faces a return to a state rife with hard feelings, a sagging budget and rising political uncertainty," Kim Murphy writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Will its powerful veteran U.S. senator hold on to his job despite a felony corruption conviction? And what can Palin do about her home-grown political adversaries, some of them showing a gleeful appetite for torpedoing whatever national political ambitions the governor may harbor?"
"Palin's approval ratings in Alaska, once in the stratospheric 80% range, have tumbled to a mere mortal 65%," Murphy continues.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, tells Politico's Ken Vogel: "The governor will have a task ahead of her in rebuilding some relationships. I would hope that she is going to give her all to being a great governor. And if she is a great governor, that enhances her ability to do whatever it is that she may want to pursue, whether it is governor for another term, whether it's the presidency in 2012 or whether it's the possibility of a federal seat."
Where was the love on Election Day? "As of Thursday, voter turnout in the state stood at a measly 45.1 percent -- well below the 69.1 percent turnout clocked in in the 2004 presidential race, according to state election officials," per ABC News.
Said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University professor who specializes in voter turnout: "You can make some inferences, I guess, about Sarah Palin's future. If this was a referendum on her in the state, perhaps there's not as much enthusiasm about her as their used to be."
Howard Wolfson bucks up the wounded troops: "Steve Schmidt is one of the best war room operators of all time, with an uncanny sense of how to control a news cycle. [Nicolle] Wallace is one of the most effective public spokespeople for her candidates I have ever seen. When I went up against her in 2004 I knew I would be lucky to win a draw. Mark Salter is a loyal warrior for his guy, and a gifted wordsmith with the ability to tug at the deepest chords of the American spirit."
Phil Singer reminds us that the 2010 mid-terms are already underway: "Incumbents should write the 30-second closing argument they will use in their last debate before Election Day 2010 today and base everything they do for the next two years around that argument -- their schedule, their political outreach, their legislative agenda, their fundraising. Everything."
This insight is key: "Stay unified -- don't give the GOP a rallying cry. Democrats are unified today and we need to remain that way. But with a party so diverse, that is a lot easier said than done," Singer writes.
Speaking of unified: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., met with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., on Thursday -- and resolved just about nothing.
"Lieberman made a hard push to remain chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, suggesting he may leave the Democratic caucus if he is demoted, ABC News has learned," per ABC's Jonathan Karl. "For Democrats, this is payback time. They want to punish Lieberman for his high-profile support of John McCain's failed presidential bid, observers say."
"Reid told Lieberman that he intended to take away his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, according to sources who have spoken with both senators about the meeting," Karl continues. "But Reid told Lieberman that he wants him to remain in the Democratic caucus, offering Lieberman a leadership role in a lesser committee if he agreed to continue caucusing with Democrats. But Lieberman refused the offer, sources said, and said that taking revenge for Lieberman's support of McCain was not consistent with President-elect Obama's promise to change Washington and to work in a way that transcends partisan politics."
(Who needs whom more? The Democrats aren't getting to 60 this year -- and Lieberman isn't a chairman of any sort if he eats lunch with the Republicans.)
"The day of reckoning may have arrived for Sen. Joe Lieberman," Christopher Cooper writes in The Wall Street Journal. "Sen. Reid, of Nevada, is walking a tightrope. The party needs every vote it can get to ward off Republican filibusters. Democratic leaders have talked repeatedly about the need for bipartisanship. At the same time, many Democrats want to punish Sen. Lieberman."
Time's Jay Newton-Small recalls Obama's words: "Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long." She writes: "One of the first tests of whether that new spirit will prevail in Washington may be how Senate Democrats deal with Joe Lieberman."
With Lieberman included, make it 57 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, with three races still to be decided. "Jeff Merkley claimed victory Thursday and threw himself into his role as senator-elect, saying he's ready to join other Democrats on a 'bold agenda' to remake the nation's policies and image," Harry Esteve writes in The Oregonian. "Sen. Gordon Smith, meeting with reporters at his home in Pendleton, conceded the race and offered to help Merkley prepare for his new job."
In Minnesota: "The margin in the tightest Senate race in the country bounced like the stock market throughout the day, with the difference between Coleman and Franken dropping, then rising briefly to 590 votes before shooting down to a razor-thin 236 by day's end," Patricia Lopez writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
The GOP fallout claims another leader: House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is leaving his leadership post, clearing the way for Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., to take his spot. "Ten years of asking members to do things they don't want to do is a long time," Blunt told reporters at a briefing at the Capitol Thursday. "You've got to have a lot of optimism in this job."
Per ABC News: "Blunt's departure from leadership follows a similar announcement Tuesday by the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla."
"The departures of Blunt and Putnam are a strong signal that economic conservatives are ascending. [John] Boehner is seen as more of a consensus-builder but has long been considered an economic conservative," McClatchy's David Lightman writes.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, appears secure in his spot. He bucks up the troops in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday: "Recommitting ourselves to [party] principles means two things: vigorously fighting a far-left agenda that is out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans and, more important, promoting superior Republican alternatives that prove that we offer a better vision for our country's future," Boehner writes. "America is still a center-right country. This election was neither a referendum in favor of the left's approach to key issues nor a mandate for big government."
Welcome back, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "The world doesn't know about my 41 years of ministry, or my writing of books, because it was all taken down to a 10-second sound bite that the media chose to show about a sermon that was delivered seven years ago," Wright said in his first post-election public appearance, per The Hartford Courant's Rinker Buck. "The media didn't care about the whole sermon and what it was about. They just used those 10 seconds and used it as a weapon of mass destruction against [Obama's] campaign."
Joe the Plumber is now Joe the Watchdog (and Joe the Merchandiser, if his new Website is any indication).
"I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi." -- Sally McDonough, spokeswoman for First Lady Laura Bush, after Barney bit Reuters TV reporter Jon Decker.
"I used to say to him, his intellect was too high to comprehend all the things we have to understand in soccer." -- George Tarantini, Robert Gibbs' soccer coach at N.C. State.
ABC News Political Unit Seeking Interns:
The ABC News Political Unit is now seeking full-time spring interns in Washington, D.C.
The internship begins Monday, Jan. 7, 2009 and runs through Friday, May 23, 2009.
Political Unit interns attend political events and collaborate on stories for the politics page of ABCNews.com. They also help us by conducting research, maintaining contact lists, and building the next day's political schedule. In order to apply, you MUST be either a graduate student or an undergraduate student who has completed his or her first year of college. The internship is NOT open to recent graduates.
You also must be able to work eight hours per day, starting early, Monday through Friday.
Interns will be paid $8.50/hour.
If you write well, don't mind getting up early, and have some familiarity with web publishing, send a cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible, with the subject line: "INTERN" in all caps. Please indicate in your cover letter the dates of your availability.
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