The Note: Gonna Do Him Good?

Since the most transparent presidential transition in history is translucent at the moment, while the most open process ever is continuing behind doors marked "private," here's some of what the president-elect is learning:

1. Being more organized than Bill Clinton and less formal than George W. Bush doesn't make a successful White House by itself -- but may be a good start.

2. A new politics requires old faces -- and those Clinton folks really don't look so bad when it's time to fill out a Democratic administration. (Even Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton herself may not be so bad to have around . . . )

3. That online army he brings with him doesn't take orders from the top.

4. Being president-elect can mean acting like a president only when you want -- but there are some crises too big to avoid.

5. There are a few campaign promises that may not be so bad to ignore for a very long while.

As the Bidens meet the Cheneys, Hank Paulson meets reality, the GOP meets to ponder a new path, Sarah Palin meets a few more cameras, John McCain meets politics again, and Alaska's Uncle Ted meets the real fallout of his actions . . .

The various political scenes playing out all over Washington and beyond lack a major player: President-elect Barack Obama.

The no-drama edict/reality of the Obama campaign has morphed seamlessly into the transition, no leaks, no errors.

But can it last? With each new issue, and with each new name, the realities of governing threaten to clash with the rhetoric of campaigning.

Change is so hard to track -- with new faces like Rahm Emanuel, John Podesta, Larry Summers, Madeleine Albright, Ron Klain, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, James Steinberg . . . (Think the Netroots are happy about this?)

Your new players (hope you kept your old program): "The Obama transition team yesterday rolled out a new list of officials who will help guide the process, singling out the Treasury, Defense and State departments as its first three areas of focus," Anne E. Kornblut and Michael Abramowitz write in The Washington Post. "Three policy-oriented Democrats -- Melody Barnes, Lisa Brown and Don Gips -- will serve as co-chairs of the agency review process, the office of President-elect Barack Obama said."

The list "sheds light on the types of people his administration will lean on and what institutions may claim clout in the new Washington," The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and Jonathan Weisman report. "The group is filled with second-tier veterans of the Clinton administration and workers in the technology and financial sectors. It includes four former lobbyists, three top campaign fund-raisers and two former employees of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, with some overlap among them. Four people in the group have ties to the consultant McKinsey & Co. and two have experience leading high-tech start-ups."

"16 out of 19 of these folks worked in some capacity for the administration of President Clinton, which will no doubt cause some to question just how much 'change' can really come of these appointments," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "But on the other hand, one can't expect Democrats who can be relied upon to help run a government to just pop out fresh from thin air."

Get used to it, says ABC's Sam Donaldson: "Successful presidents surround themselves with experienced people. That doesn't always work out – consider the outgoing Bush administration -- but when they don't do that, it almost never works out -- consider the Carter administration."

Setting the tone: "The transition provides an early glimpse of how the Obama team will conduct itself in power -- and a test of how much change it really will bring to Washington," Time's Karen Tumulty writes. "As the cascade of crises grows -- the collapse of General Motors being the latest -- the President-elect won't have time to settle in before making big decisions. In a real sense, the moves Obama makes in the next six weeks may help define what kind of President he will be."

Key insight: "The greatest challenge of all for President Obama will be the one set for him by candidate Obama," Tumulty writes.

Make room for Republicans, too -- real Republicans, not a few token choices. Newsweek's Richard Wolffe: "While reporters were focused on lobbyist rules and speculation about new cabinet names, Podesta dropped this nugget about the president-elect's intentions during the first transition briefing. 'There's sort of been a tradition of having at least one person from the other party at the beginning of an administration in the cabinet. His commitment is to deepen that and to look even just beyond the cabinet, to try to bring people who agree with the direction that he wants to take the country and, regardless of party, to serve in the government.' "

Want to join the fun? "A seven-page questionnaire being sent by the office of President-elect Barack Obama to those seeking cabinet and other high-ranking posts may be the most extensive -- some say invasive -- application ever," The New York Times' Jackie Calmes. "The questionnaire includes 63 requests for personal and professional records, some covering applicants' spouses and grown children as well, that are forcing job-seekers to rummage from basements to attics, in shoe boxes, diaries and computer archives to document both their achievements and missteps."

(Even Facebook pages -- one world where it's not good to have too many friends.)

As for how to find those jobs -- some great details from the Plum Book: "The 209-page paperback, officially titled 'The United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions,' is exciting reading for people coveting jobs in the incoming Obama administration," Lyndsey Layton and Lois Romano write in The Washington Post.

"The Marine Mammal Commission has three openings, each paying $100,000 a year. The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation will need a new executive secretary who will earn $139,600 to $191,300 a year. And at the Department of Health and Human Services, there's an opening for a confidential assistant to the deputy director of child support enforcement in the Administration for Children and Families (whew), for an annual salary of $48,148 to $62,593, depending on experience," they write.

They don't list David Axelrod's new job -- but is he sure he wants it? "If David Axelrod decides to join the Obama White House, he'll have to do more than move to Washington. He'll also have to take an enormous pay cut and possibly reveal the extent of his lucrative corporate public relations work," Politico's Kenneth P. Vogel reports.

In: Ron Klain: "Vice President-elect Biden has asked veteran Congressional and White House staffer Ron Klain to be his chief of staff in the White House, according to Democratic insiders," Keith Koffler reports in Roll Call. "Klain, who served in the same position for former Vice President Gore, also worked from 1989-1992 for Biden when Biden was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is known to be close to the vice president-elect. . . . The selection of Klain could signal that Biden intends to play a strong role within the White House and guard whatever turf he can carve out for himself."

Out: Tim Kaine. "I took an oath to be here for my whole term," the Virginia governor told reporters Wednesday. ABC's Jay Shaylor reports: "Sources tell ABC News Kaine expressed his feelings directly to the president-elect during a phone conversation over the weekend. During the call, Kaine told Obama he will finish his term as governor and will not leave his executive office in Richmond for a Cabinet-level post in Washington."

Also out: Al Gore: "President-elect Barack Obama's transition team is flirting with creating a White House 'climate czar,' but climate change crusader Al Gore says he doesn't want the job," The Washington Times' Tom LoBianco and S.A. Miller write. Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider: "Former Vice President Gore does not intend to seek or accept any formal position in government."

In (because she's out of the Senate picture): Valerie Jarrett. "Gov. Rod Blagojevich had been giving Valerie Jarrett serious consideration to become Illinois' next senator, but the close friend and adviser to President-elect Barack Obama took herself out of the running on Wednesday," Rick Pearson and John McCormick report in the Chicago Tribune.

In or out: the White House political office. "It was a standard applause line on the campaign trail: Barack Obama condemned the 'perpetual campaign' that has consumed Washington, contending that the slash-and-burn politics practiced by the Bush White House had gotten in the way of governing," Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reports. "But President-elect Obama has been virtually silent on bipartisan calls in recent months to eliminate the White House office that has been described as the nerve center of the sprawling political operations headed up by Bush adviser Karl Rove."

Should be in? You will hear this again: "One lawyer who offered Democrats advice during the presidential campaign suggested that Obama could decide to keep on several of the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys, such as Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago, in a bid to demonstrate that merit trumps political connections. Fitzgerald, who prosecuted former vice presidential aide I. Lewis 'Scooter' Libby and Antoin 'Tony' Rezko, a Democratic fundraiser with ties to Obama, is a political independent," Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post.

Happening Thursday, per the Obama-Biden transition office: "The Vice President-elect and Dr. Jill Biden have been invited by Vice President Cheney and his wife Lynne to the Naval Observatory on Thursday at 5:15 pm for a private meeting and tour of the residence. The arrival of the Vice President-elect and Dr. Biden will be pooled. The meeting will be closed press. An official photo of the Bidens and Cheneys will be released following the meeting."

The policy challenges: "President-elect Barack Obama is pushing Congress this year to approve as much as $50 billion to save cash-starved U.S. automakers and appoint a czar or board to oversee the companies, a move that would require President George W. Bush's support, people familiar with the matter said," Bloomberg's Matthew Benjamin and Julianna Goldman report. "Obama's economic advisers are now convinced that if General Motors Corp. doesn't get a financial lifeline soon, it will have to file for bankruptcy by the end of January. And if the companies don't get almost $50 billion, Obama will be dealing with the issue again by next summer."

Easier said: "The Bush administration and Republicans in the Senate could present an obstacle to an auto-industry bailout," The Wall Street Journal's Greg Hitt, John D. McKinnon, and Matthew Dolan report. "Republicans already are uncomfortable with the government's costly intervention in the financial sector and the effective nationalization of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and insurer American International Group Inc."

Why play there but not play here? "Barack Obama tapped a pair of high-profile delegates to represent him at this weekend's international economic summit, but world leaders wish the President-elect himself was coming," The New York Daily News' Kenneth R. Bazinet and Michael McAuliff report. "The dignitaries visiting Washington will be respectful of lame-duck President Bush, but their interest in Obama prompted the President-elect Wednesday to name former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) to satisfy the demand."

(How many international incidents have Obama conversations -- or lack thereof -- nearly sparked in the nine days since he won the election? Chalk up another one, in India -- where the conversation the whole country was waiting for finally took place.)

Loose Senate ends:

Alaska surprise: "Mark Begich made a dramatic comeback Wednesday to overtake 40-year incumbent Ted Stevens for the lead in Alaska's U.S. Senate race," Sean Cockerham and Kyle Hopkins write in the Anchorage Daily News. "Begich, who was losing after election night, now leads Stevens by 814 votes -- 132,196 to 131,382 -- with the state still to count roughly 40,000 more ballots over the next week."

And/but: "While Stevens' era in the Senate is in danger of ending, another longtime Alaska Republican is returning to Washington, D.C. Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young maintained his solid lead over Democratic challenger Ethan Berkowitz after Wednesday's count. Berkowitz made some headway but Young still led by more than 15,000 votes."

(The AP has called the race for Young.)

Sen. John McCain hits the trail Thursday, for the first time since losing the election, campaigning alongside Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

Taking it national: "Saxby and this race may well end up being the firewall against the 60-vote majority the Democrats are trying to achieve," said Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, meanwhile, has purchased a week's worth of ads on metro Atlanta television stations for Martin," Jim Tharpe and Aaron Gould Sheinin write in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That other unresolved seat: "Minnesota won't know who won the contested U.S. Senate race until at least mid-December, but now the final arbiters for the recount have been named," Patricia Lopez reports in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "They include a cast of heavy-hitters topped by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson, a former law partner of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, three other high-ranking judges and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a DFLer, who made the selections Wednesday."

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., briefs reporters in Washington on the recount in Minnesota -- and the latest out of Alaska and Georgia -- at 1 pm ET.

Whither the GOP:

From the annals of rebuilding: a strong play by RNC Chairman Mike Duncan -- both to keep his job, and make his job worth something.

At the Republican Governors Association meeting, Duncan is announcing a pair of lawsuits challenging McCain-Feingold: "The fight over redistricting, and the ability of Republicans to compete in future state and local races is at the heart of the RNC's decision to challenge the six-year-old campaign finance system in federal court," Duncan plans to say, per excerpts provided to ABC. "The current campaign finance regime hand-cuffs national parties from helping non-federal candidates. Of the tens of thousands of campaigns in the United States every four years, the RNC is capable of assisting candidates in only a fraction of them."

The Washington Times' Ralph Z. Hallow, focusing on the "McCain" half of the law's name: "The move is considered a slap in the face of the Republican Party's failed 2008 presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was dramatically outspent by Democrat Barack Obama, and of President Bush, who signed McCain-Feingold into law in 2002."

And Gov. Sarah Palin is at the RGA in Miami -- headlining a morning panel Thursday and holding a press conference later in the day.

" 'Looking Toward the Future' -- that's the title of the panel discussion Palin will appear at [Thursday] She'll likely talk about the future of the party," ABC's Kate Snow reports. "But a lot of people in the room will be wondering if that title isn't just a little bit autobiographical as well."

The New York Daily News' Celeste Katz finds "a hint of a chill in the air" in Miami for Palin: "The conference is also a showcase for up-and-coming Republican governors who might want a crack at the Oval Office themselves, including Minnesota's Tim Pawlenty, Florida's Charlie Crist and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal," Katz writes. "And none of them was putting up Palin lawn signs."

Who is this a statement on? "We're the marketplace party, and the marketplace just told us something, it just told us that for now people prefer the products and services of our competitor," Pawlenty told ABC's Matt Gutman. "We need more than a comb-over in this party; this is gonna take a lot of work. And you cannot be a majority governing party losing all the Northeast, losing most of the Great Lake states."

On Larry King Wednesday, Palin was asked about Bristol's pregnancy: "Was that very hard for you to take?" King asked. Palin: Well, what do you think Larry? Of course. You know. I looked at her and thought and I thought, I thought Bristol honey, you're gonna have to grow up really fast. . . . Bristol can be used as an example of, Larry, taking less than ideal circumstances and still making the best of these circumstances and that is who she is. She's strong. She's kind-hearted. She's gonna be just fine."

And, of course, more on 2012: "If I have to call an audible down the road here and circumstances change, and the door is open for me to do so," Palin said, "I would take that challenge on, that responsibility, if I believed it was in the nation's best interest."

Later: "If they call an audible on me, if they say they want me in another position, I'm gonna do it. I'm not gonna -- especially here, today -- tell you what some crystal ball is gonna show me, 'cause we don't know what that crystal ball has within it. And there again -- there again -- my hands, my life is in God's hands. If he's got doors open for me, that I believe are in our state's best interests, the nation's best interests, I'm gonna go through those doors."

Don't forget Bill Ayers (since Palin hasn't): "Well, I still am concerned about that association with Bill Ayers. . . . And if anybody still wants to talk about it, I will, because this is an unrepentant domestic terrorist who had campaigned to blow up, to destroy our Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol. That's an association that still bothers me."

Newt Gingrich thinks things are bad: "The Republican Party right now is like a midsize college team trying to play in the Superbowl," Gingrich tells Politico's Roger Simon.

Learn from the Democrats? "Ultimately the GOP must find candidates who may diverge from the party "line" but can win over voters outside conservative strongholds," Jennifer Rubin blogs. "The choice is up to them: become the Dixiecrats of the 21st century or forge a new Republican majority."

On the Hill:

Will there by a challenge to John Boehner's leadership? "Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) will soon decide whether he will mount a challenge to displace Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), his spokesman said Wednesday," per The Hill's Jackie Kucinich and Susan Crabtree.

"He has been busy making calls and he has received strong encouragement from members to run," said Lungren spokesman Brian Kaveney.

Sen. Max Baucus', D-Mont., proposal lays down a marker, on healthcare: "Both Baucus and Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, have been working for months to lay the groundwork for major healthcare legislation, holding hearings and informal talks with business groups, providers, and consumer advocates," Lisa Wangsness writes in The Boston Globe. "Kennedy, who is fighting brain cancer but plans to return to Capitol Hill in January, hopes to offer a single Democratic healthcare bill by Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration or earlier."

Why wait? "More than two months before he is sworn in, Barack Obama already is facing a Congress busily asserting itself on the timing and details of the president-elect's agenda, including major issues like healthcare and economic policy," Janet Hook, Noam N. Levey, and Peter Nicholas write in the Los Angeles Times. "Committee chairmen are unveiling legislation to expand health insurance coverage and curb global warming. Democratic leaders have called a lame-duck session next week to consider an auto industry bailout. And other economic stimulus measures may be enacted even before Obama is inaugurated."

The big Democratic leadership fight: "Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) has intervened in the fight between Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), hoping to resolve their battle over the chairmanship of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, one senior Democratic aide confirmed on Wednesday," Patrick O'Connor and John Bresnahan write for Politico. "But neither combatant has agreed to a deal and the dispute may still be resolved by a secret ballot next week."

What about Joe Lieberman? "Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) called on Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) to apologize for his attacks on Barack Obama, saying doing so would temporarily let him retain a key chairmanship position next Congress," The Hill's Manu Raju reports. "Bayh warned that stripping Lieberman of his chairmanship position on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee could prompt the Democrats' 2000 vice presidential nominee to side with the GOP on close votes next Congress or resign his Senate seat."

That's what Obama wants too -- but at what cost? "While it's one thing for Obama to personally forgive Lieberman for the race baiting and other gutter tactics that he engaged in on McCain's behalf during the campaign, it's quite another to let the chairmanship of such an important committee, which Lieberman has used for years to prevent Senatorial investigation into no-bid contracts and contractor abuse within the Department of Homeland Security, to serve as an olive branch," FireDogLake's Jane Hamsher writes at Huffington Post.

A counter, from The Nation's John Nichols: "It strikes me that purging members from caucuses never looks very good and never has the desired effect of achieving the ever-illusive goal of ideological purity. . . . My sense is that Democrats would be wiser to keep Lieberman in the Democratic circle for so long as he sides with the caucus on cloture votes."

The Kicker:

"It had not been vetted. . . . It should not have made air." -- MSNBC spokesman, Jeremy Gaines, after David Shuster announced that the leaks inside the McCain campaign had been coming from one Martin Eisenstadt. Eisenstadt sort of doesn't exist -- he's a hoax.

"We're glad to have you here. We missed you a great deal. And we'll let the sparring begin here in just an instant." -- White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, welcoming Helen Thomas back to the briefing room.

"No way. . . . He'll get one day, maybe." -- Thomas, to the Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva, on whether President-elect Barack Obama will get a honeymoon from the press.

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