President-elect Barack Obama might have wanted some relaxation time -- or at least some thinking time before that White House he toured Monday becomes his.
But politics is inviting Obama in at every turn: world leaders reaching out; advocacy groups growing restless (already); a Senate run-off where his pull will be tested; a Democrat-turned-independent-turned-McCain-endorser whose future is being debated on the Hill; and, most pressingly, a series of financial matters that can't wait for Jan. 20 to be resolved.
(And Gov. Sarah Palin is inviting in politics at every turn -- what, is she running for something?)
There will be many Barack Obamas, surely, over the course of his presidency -- the one of the first 100 days, the economic healer, the wartime leader, the manager, the speaker, the relationship-builder, the one who responds to unforeseen crises, and the one who (soon enough) gears up for reelection.
All of them could be defined in part by the pre-presidential Obama we're seeing now. Just a week past Election Day, Obama is being asked to fill leadership voids all over Washington, and as he responds -- tentatively, for now -- he knows that he's setting the tone for when it counts.
Behind the pageantry, the makings of a presidential-level standoff: "President-elect Barack Obama yesterday urged President Bush to support immediate aid for struggling automakers and back a new stimulus package, even as congressional Democrats began drafting legislation to give the Detroit automakers quick access to $25 billion by adding them to the Treasury Department's $700 billion economic rescue program," Lori Montgomery and Michael D. Shear write in The Washington Post.
"Bush, speaking privately to Obama during their first Oval Office meeting, repeated his administration's stand that he might support quick action on those bills if Democratic leaders drop their opposition to a Colombia trade agreement that Bush supports," they report. "The discussions raised the stakes for a lame-duck session of Congress that could begin next week and came as fears about General Motors' financial condition yesterday pushed the company's stock price to its lowest level in about 60 years."
"A week after Mr. Obama's election, and more than two months before he takes office, the steadily weakening economy and the prospect of many more job losses are testing his effort to remain aloof from the nation's business on the argument that 'we only have one president at a time,' " Jackie Calmes writes in The New York Times.
"As the auto industry reels, rarely has an issue so quickly illustrated the differences from one White House occupant to the next," she writes. "How Mr. Obama responds to the industry's dire straits will indicate how much government intervention in the private sector he is willing to tolerate. It will also offer hints of how he will approach his job under pressure, testing the limits of his conciliation toward the opposition party and his willingness to stand up to the interest groups in his own."
"Mr. Obama's focus on the auto industry came as fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill started moving on their own to help Detroit gain access to federal rescue funds allocated for the financial sector," Jonathan Weisman and John D. McKinnon report in The Wall Street Journal. "Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan said Monday that he is drafting legislation, aimed for quick passage, that would free up money from the $700 billion Wall Street rescue for Detroit auto makers careening toward seeking bankruptcy protection."
But: "At the same time, Obama signaled he was in no rush to assume responsibility for dealing with the financial crisis," per Bloomberg's Hans Nichols and Kim Chipman.
Guess away as to who was on the other end: "I am not going to be spending too much time in Washington over the next several weeks," Obama was overheard saying on the phone aboard his plane Monday. "I don't want us to go lurching so far in one direction," he said at another point. "If we come up with some good solid sensible options … " he said a little later.
ABC's Jake Tapper, on "Good Morning America" Tuesday: "Of course, the context of the conversation is not known, but aide Robert Gibbs reminded the president-elect he might want to keep his phone call a little more private."
Yes, Obama spoke with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on Monday -- but not about the Secretary of State's job, per Lugar's office.
Your daily glimpse of the president-elect: Obama on Tuesday joins Tammy Duckworth in laying a Veterans Day wreath in Chicago.
Transition co-chair John Podesta updates reporters on the latest at a 2 pm briefing in Washington. And the transition press team is in place: Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer; Chief Spokesperson Stephanie Cutter; and spokespersons Tommy Vietor, Jen Psaki, and Nick Shapiro.
Expectations, anyone? "Americans have soaring hopes for the incoming Obama administration and an even higher opinion of the Democrat they just elected president, a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows," Jill Lawrence writes for USA Today. "Nearly seven in 10 adults, or 68%, said they have a favorable opinion of President-elect Barack Obama. Almost that many -- 65% -- said they think the country will be better off four years from now."
Pressure to move, on healthcare: "Four leading advocacy groups representing business, labor and retirees are starting a campaign today to press Barack Obama to enact comprehensive healthcare reform, upping the pressure on the president-elect to tackle the issue quickly after he takes office," Noam M. Levey reports in the Los Angeles Times. "In a letter to Obama, the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, AARP and the Service Employees International Union urge that a healthcare overhaul be a priority in the administration's first 100 days. The groups plan to spend nearly $1 million to publicize their cause in newspaper and television advertising in coming weeks."
Why ever would they be anxious? "President-elect Barack Obama over the weekend scrubbed his transition Web site, deleting most of what had been a massive agenda for his first term that appears on his campaign's site," Stephen Dinan reports in the Washington Times. "Gone from Change.gov are the promises on how an Obama administration would handle 25 agenda items -- from Iraq and immigration to taxes and urban policy -- which the campaign first laid out on the Web site www.BarackObama.com."
(Thank you, Grover: "Grover Norquist, president of conservative activist group Americans for Tax Reform, blasted Mr. Obama for deleting the agenda. 'This is the opposite of transparency,' he said. His organization posted to its Web site, www.atr.org, a scanned copy of a printout of the 'Economy' section of Mr. Obama's agenda.")
Scaling back ambitions, already? "The theme of the transition is clear: The original rallying cry of 'hope' can now be summed up as 'pragmatic hope,' " Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson writes, based on an interview Valerie Jarrett gave with a group of African-American columnists. "That is signal enough of the events that will challenge Obama's ability to deliver on his original promises, as sure as President Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' disappeared off the face of the earth after Sept. 11."
Obama's inclination continues to be to lean more on the "deliberate" than the "haste": "The contrast is stark. He presided over an aggressive campaign operation that, in its zeal to win the news cycle, produced a daily volley of policy ideas and statements. Now that he is about to govern, he is recalibrating the pace," Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times. "In transition offices here and in Chicago, Obama aides are quietly vetting candidates for high-level jobs. No Cabinet nominations will be announced this week, an Obama aide said."
Unless: "Obama plans to challenge Congress to begin work on all four of his top four priorities -- the economy, energy, health care and education, billing them all as 'reforms' that will help struggling middle-class families," Politico's Mike Allen reports.
Movement on foreign policy? "The incoming Obama administration plans to explore a more regional strategy to the war in Afghanistan -- including possible talks with Iran -- and looks favorably on the nascent dialogue between the Afghan government and 'reconcilable' elements of the Taliban, according to Obama national security advisers," Karen DeYoung writes in The Washington Post.
Has Obama been boxed into keeping Robert Gates at Defense? "President-elect Barack Obama is leaning toward asking Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain in his position for at least a year, according to two Obama advisers. A senior Pentagon official said Mr. Gates would likely accept the offer if it is made," Yochi J. Dreazen writes in The Wall Street Journal.
And Obama is playing some Hill politics, too -- setting a tone of healing, though also of involvement: "President-elect Barack Obama has told Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, that he wants Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman to stay in the Senate Democratic caucus, according to a Senate Democratic leadership source," per ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "Obama delivered the message in a phone call to Reid last week. The Lieberman matter will be voted on when Senate Democrats caucus next week."
Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs tells Stephanopoulos: "We aren't going to referee decisions about who should or should not be a committee chair. President-elect Obama looks forward to working with any one of any party to move the country forward. We'd be happy to have Sen. Lieberman caucus with the Democrats. We don't hold any grudges."
As for getting something done next week: "Any kind of major stimulus package is unlikely to happen in Congress' lame-duck session in part because Democrats don't really want to negotiate with President Bush because they know they're going to have more numbers coming up in January," Stephanopoulos reports. "One possibility would be a simple extension of unemployment benefits, rather than the extensive stimulus package including infrastructure spending, and aid to state and local governments that Democrats have talked about."
"Congressional leaders said that time was running short to convene a so-called lame-duck session. On Monday, Democrats and the White House failed to negotiate a breakthrough over economic stimulus measures that President Bush would be willing to sign into law," S.A. Miller and David M. Dickson write in the Washington Times.
Who says bipartisanship is dead? "The punctual president was bound to be impressed by Obama's arrival -- 11 minutes early. They looked like a pair in their matching flag lapel pins. And they displayed at least one leadership trait in common: keep unscripted media interaction to a minimum," Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post.
"Aside from the virtue of behaving like grownups, Bush and Obama both benefit from Monday's bonhomie," Thomas DeFrank writes for the New York Daily News. "For Obama, it reinforces his desire to govern in a bipartisan and inclusive manner. For Bush, whose job approval coincidentally slumped to the lowest level of his tenure Monday, the gracefulness of his exit could soften some of the national animus directed his way -- no small factor for a President anxious to rehabilitate his legacy in the years ahead."
"You both look autumnal," Obama said to his hosts at the White House.
When does Mark Knoller start his new lists? "For Mr. Obama, the visit marked a series of personal firsts," Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jeff Zeleny write in The New York Times. "His first trip back to the nation's capital since his victory over Senator John McCain last week. His first limousine ride in Washington; on the campaign trail, Mr. Obama typically rode in a sport utility vehicle. His first time inside the Oval Office; although Mr. Obama had been to the White House before, he had never set foot inside the storied office that symbolizes American power around the world."
Great detail: "As the Obamas' limousine made its way to the White House, hundreds of people lined the streets, craning their necks to see. When the door opened and the couple stepped out to greet the Bushes, there was an unfamiliar sound: cheering outside the White House gates," Stolberg and Zeleny write.
This might not turn out well: It's time to raise money for the transition. "One challenge is figuring out how to raise the millions of dollars needed without violating Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric against lobbyists and special interests," The Wall Street Journal's Christopher Cooper, Brody Mullins and T.W. Farnam write. "Key members of Mr. Obama's finance team are set to issue rules as early as Tuesday governing the way money can be raised to bankroll the next few weeks."
Or this: "The hottest ticket of 2009 can't be reserved yet, hasn't been distributed and is supposed to be free. But on Monday, tickets for President-elect Barack Obama's inaugural events were selling for as much as $10,858 apiece," James Janega writes in the Los Angeles Times. "Ticket brokers wouldn't say where the tickets were coming from, and the committee in charge of the main event emphasized that none has been sent out yet. All 240,000 tickets to the swearing-in are sitting in a locked room. In effect, the brokers are selling a promise of tickets, banking on their ability to acquire tickets at a lower price than they charge for them."
As for Republicans -- you wanted Palin unplugged, now you're getting it.
"The candidate who was so closely guarded from the press during the campaign can't seem to stop talking now that the election is over," ABC's Kate Snow reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. "She's spoken to reporters no less than eight times since last Tuesday."
"I would have preferred more opportunity to speak to the media more often, because there were a lot of things that I think I could have, should have said that could have, would have helped John McCain," Palin told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren.
Fighting back at the leakers: "Receipts show too that the clothes and stylists and all were hired before we were even introduced at the convention. So you know it had to be part of an RNC plan," Palin said.
The future, very much on her mind: "I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door," she added. "And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."
Palin, on Obama's last words to her last week: "He was, like, 'Good luck -- but not that much luck,' " she said.
On the Bush effect on her race: "It's amazing that we did as well as we did," she told the Anchorage Daily News.
Palin, on "Today" Tuesday, said she's still in regular touch with John McCain.
Looking back: "Why was the margin as great as it was? It makes sense -- we didn't get the Hispanic vote, again that was very significant, and when you consider that we were outspent so tremendously it makes sense there also that the margin was so much larger than we anticipated, and then just that anti-incumbency sentiment really that was spread across the land, and our ticket represented the incumbency, it's really not that much of a surprise after all that the margin was as great as it was."
When did she realize she was going to lose? "Oh, you know, I didn't know until the end. . . . I always had great faith that perhaps when that voter entered that voting booth and closed that curtain, what would kick in for them that a bold step had to taken."
Who was holding her back from doing more interviews? "I'm not going to get into the inside-baseball strategy that was used with those who were calling the shots in the campaign . . . But suffice it to say I'm comfortable doing interviews."
Palin, to her daughter, Piper: "Would you want to do it again, sister?" Piper: "Yeah." Palin: "Yeah, that was fun."
What's she up to? "She's certainly knocking on the door right now -- checking to see if it's locked," George Stephanopoulos said on "GMA" Tuesday. "She doesn't want to get Quayled."
Don't expect a new Sarah Palin: "Her interview Monday night, in which she basically said she regrets nothing, suggests the woman who jovially hailed one of her crowds as 'pro-American' sees little reason to change her game plan," David Hinckley writes in the New York Daily News.
More Palin interviews Tuesday, on CNN.
Sen. John McCain makes his first post-election appearance Tuesday night on Leno -- then hits the trail Thursday, for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
Don't miss Mark Salter's McCain campaign post-mortem, on The Daily Beast Website.
On the campaign "suspension": "No doubt, we made our share of mistakes. In hindsight, the decision to briefly suspend our campaign to help find support for legislation to address the collapse of the global credit system is probably one of them. But the criticism that it was nothing but a stunt that failed is mistaken."
On Palin: "Overlooked in the brisk dismissal that Governor Palin might have qualities other than her social conservative credentials and obvious retail political skills was her actual appeal to John McCain. It also fails to credit his advisers' conviction that, given the environment we were running in, a message of experience over the untested new guy would not succeed even if we executed perfectly."
Salter's close: "Those with eyes to see that John McCain will understand me when I write, I am prouder of him today than I have ever been."
Palin will be where it counts this week: "The Republican Governors Association has announced today that Gov. Palin will be the featured guest at its annual conference later this week in Miami," ABC's David Chalian reports. "Gov. Palin is set to be a featured speaker at a panel discussion entitled, 'Looking Toward the Future.' Other featured speakers expected to partake on the panel are General Tommy Franks, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), Bill Kristol, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN), and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC). (Try to count on one hand how many of those folks have 2012 circled on their calendars.)"
"The competition to fill the vacuum left by Senator John McCain's defeat -- and by the unpopularity of President Bush as he prepares to leave office -- will be on full display at a Republican Governors Association meeting beginning Wednesday in Miami," Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times.
"At the same time, Republicans representing diverse views about the party's direction are preparing to fight for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, a prominent post when the party is out of the White House," Nagourney continues. "The current chairman, Mike Duncan, has signaled that he wants to stay on after his term expires in January, but he is facing challenges from leaders in Florida, Mississippi and South Carolina, among other states."
New Tuesday: Mike Duncan launches a new RNC initiative that has the added benefit of being an argument for his continued tenure there: RepublicanForAReason.com. From the Website: "Moving forward and right here, you have the opportunity to reflect on the reasons why you are a proud Republican. Please tell us what you would like to see the Party focus on and address in the coming weeks and months."
Why it may be tough for Duncan to stay (not counting Bill O'Reilly's dis): "A behind-the-scenes battle to take the reins of the Republican National Committee is taking off between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele," The Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow reports. "Neither man will acknowledge his interest in the post, but Republicans close to each are burning up the phone lines and firing off e-mails to fellow party members in an effort to oust RNC Chairman Mike Duncan in the wake of the second consecutive drubbing of Republican candidates at the polls."
The Macker's back -- with a listening tour (!). "Former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe signed papers Monday signaling a possible run for governor next year in Virginia," per the AP's Bob Lewis. "McAuliffe told The Associated Press he set up a campaign committee and will tour Virginia for the next 60 days before making his candidacy certain."
As expected, just one term at the DNC for Howard Dean: "Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean plans to step down from his post when his term expires in January, wrapping up a tenure in which the party heavily invested in all 50 states for a payoff that helped elect Barack Obama president," per the AP.
The run-off is set in Georgia, and McCain's headed down there, but no word yet on Obama. Until then: "Democratic officials confirm that Barack Obama is sending aides to help with the runoff senatorial campaign in Georgia, putting his post-election coattails to an immediate test," per Huffington Post's Sam Stein.
Latest out of Minnesota -- the vote totals have changed even before the recount has begun: "With the massive, 2.9 million-vote recount of the U.S. Senate race set to begin next week, these audits provide something of a curtain-raiser of just how that process will unfold," Bob Von Sternberg writes in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Every vote is counted, by hand, with only election judges and elections staffers touching them. The whole process is open to the public, so it occurs under the watchful eyes of good-government volunteers and operatives for the campaigns."
"I don't know, because I remember the discussion about Africa, my concern has been the atrocities there in Darfur and the relevance to me with that issue, as we spoke about Africa and some of the countries there that were kind of the people succumbing to the dictators and the corruption of some collapsed governments on the continent, the relevance was Alaska's investment in Darfur with some of our permanent fund dollars, I wanted to make sure that that didn't happen anymore." -- Sarah Palin, read up on Africa (the continent).
"That's the problem, you know, the kids lose underwear, and everything has to be accounted for. Nothing goes right back to normal." -- Chuck Heath, on his daughter's transition back from running for vice president.
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