The Note: Dream of Rivals

So much for no drama.

Surely a certain soon-to-be-ex-senator knows this by now, but here's the thing about Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton: She tends to steal the scenes she's playing in.

Until the subject of her "private business" Thursday in Chicago is resolved -- and maybe until and even beyond the press conference announcing the new secretary who's headed to Foggy Bottom -- it will be 3 am in the transition process.

The Hillary rumors are the first potential stumbling block for the smooth machine that is President-elect Barack Obama's transition efforts -- and it revolves around a storyline that seems never to get old.

There's a decent chance this is just flattery, and an almost-equal chance that Clinton doesn't even want the job. But what does it say that no one is seriously waving off the possibility that Obama actually does want Hillary Clinton answering that ringing phone?

"Discussions about Clinton, D-N.Y., being asked to accept the post are 'very serious,' an Obama source says," per ABC's Martha Raddatz, Jake Tapper, and Z. Byron Wolf. "Asked if Hillary Clinton would consider the secretary of state job, a former official in President Clinton's administration said, 'I think so. What would you rather do -- be senator or secretary of state?' "

"She's smart, she's strong, she's experienced, she's a team player, she is usually pretty diplomatic, and she also brings some gender diversity to an Obama Team concerned about such matters," ABC's Tapper and Sunlen Miller report. "She brings instant stature to the job, one Democrat told me. Many world leaders have known her for almost two decades."

"But Obama and Clinton clashed frequently on international issues during their contentious primary battle," Tapper reported on "Good Morning America" Friday. "Clinton suggested Obama was naive on wanting to talk to Iran and reckless in discussing a willingness to strike terrorists in Pakistan without government permission."

"There's increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days," Al Kamen writes in his Washington Post column. "And Obama could put her in his speed-dial for a 3 a.m. phone call each morning."

(Easiest joke in town: Would Bill Clinton want to fill out those Obama job application forms? Does Hillary Clinton want to go into detail about revelations that could potentially embarrass her would-be boss?)

Obama, of course, has plenty of experience with the Clintons. But in this delicate period where he remains around the presidency but not quite of it, this is one piece of the process where a little less transparency and openness could go a long way.

The AP's Liz Sidoti sources her report to "two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team": "Clinton, the former first lady who pushed Obama hard for the Democratic presidential nomination, was rumored to be a contender for the job last week, but the talk died down as party activists questioned whether she was best-suited to be the nation's top diplomat in an Obama administration. The talk resumed in Washington and elsewhere Thursday, a day after Obama named several former aides to President Bill Clinton to help run his transition effort."

"Her selection as top U.S. diplomat could also mean a more hawkish foreign policy than that advocated by Obama during his presidential campaign. On the campaign trail, Clinton was more reluctant than Obama to commit to a firm timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq," per Reuters' Steve Holland.

"Democratic aides report that Clinton's Senate staff was suddenly very busy and very opaque about the reason for their activity," Marc Ambinder writes on his Atlantic blog. "That said, there is no reason, other than speculation, to believe that Obama has suddenly warmed to the idea of putting a harsh rival into his cabinet; it's not known whether Obama trusts Clinton; whether he trusts her managerial ability; whether they've reconciled personally; it is certainly true that many former Clinton aides are now working for Obama, including several of Hillary Clinton's top policy advisers."

"Several Obama transition advisers are strongly advocating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) for secretary of State, a move that would create the ultimate 'Team of Rivals' cabinet, according to officials involved in the discussions," per Politico's Mike Allen. "Some even call her the favorite. It is not known what Obama himself thinks of the idea. But the fact that it is being entertained within his camp shows how much things have changed in the months since he defeated her for the Democratic nomination in a protracted primary marathon."

From the last Thursday Obama pool report, courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times' Abdon M. Pallasch: "Several minutes before President-elect Obama's motorcade emerged from the basement garage beneath his transition headquarters, another unidentified motorcade of approximately three SUVs left the garage."

She'd know the players: "Obama's victory in the general election produced what his primary campaign couldn't: A swift merger of the Clinton Wing of the Democratic Party with the Illinois Senator's self-styled insurgency. The merger began, during the campaign, in the policy apparatus -- which is now rapidly becoming the governing apparatus," Ben Smith and Carrie Budoff Brown write for Politico. "The absorption of the Clinton government in waiting represents Obama's choice not to repeat what he and his advisors see as an early mistake made by the last two presidents: Attempting to wield power in Washington through an insular campaign apparatus new to town."

Look for Obama to name more top White House staffers Friday (Press Secretary Robert Gibbs?), and new agency review teams Friday.

Did someone say drama? Remember this guy? (Sarah Palin does.)

"I knew Barack Obama, absolutely, and I knew him probably as well as thousands of other Chicagoans. And like millions and millions of people worldwide, I wish I knew him better -- right now," Bill Ayers told Chris Cuomo on ABC's "Good Morning America" Friday.

Ayers said Obama asked him to host a coffee as a state senator: "He was probably in 20 homes that day, as far as I know," Ayers said.

"I became an issue unwittingly and unwillingly in the campaign," he added. "I don't buy the idea that guilt by association should be any part of our politics."

But: "I don't think we did enough -- just as today, I don't think we've done enough to stop these wars," Ayers said.

And: "A violent terrorist war was being waged against an entire population. We tried to end that war. And in trying to end it, we did cross the lines of propriety, of legality, maybe even of common sense. But we never committed terror."

While the bloggers chew that over, Friday brings a big hint to the techies who are wondering what a wired presidency will look like. From the transition office:

"Today, President-elect Obama will record the Weekly Democratic Radio Address on video and radio. The address will be turned into a youtube video which we will post on when the embargo ends on Saturday. The audio portion will still be distributed as it normally is. President-elect Obama will continue to record and make available the Democratic radio addresses on video when he is in the White House. No President-elect or President has ever turned the radio address into a multi-media opportunity before. This is just one of many ways that President-elect Obama will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent."

"So what's next from the Obama White House?" asks The Washington Post's Jose Antonio Vargas. "A behind-the-scenes online video exclusive of the State of the Union Address? A text message reminding us to turn in our taxes? Who knows . . . "

On what the wiring will look like, per the Los Angeles Times' Peter Wallsten and Tom Hamburger: "Steve Hildebrand, Obama's deputy campaign manager and an architect of the grass-roots network, has been warning the president-elect's team that it risks turning off activists who were inspired by Obama but who never considered themselves a part of the Democratic Party. These people, Hildebrand said, could be inspired to fight for Obama's proposals to overhaul healthcare or combat global warming, but would reject appeals that sounded like old-fashioned partisan politics."

Hildebrand: "Barack got elected with a significant number of independent voters and a fair number of Republicans. And the agenda that he ran on is not just a Democratic agenda, it's a broad agenda. . . . If all of the communication comes from the DNC, it may not engage as many people as we're going to need to engage at the grass-roots level."

Change we can believe in: "Barack Obama spent much of his presidential campaign decrying the influence of Washington lobbyists. In the 10 days since he was elected, he already has had an impact: He has touched off a mini-boom on K Street," Matthew Mosk reports for The Washington Post.

"Barack Obama campaigned on change. Well, change is good for the lobbying business," said Ed Rogers, a former Reagan aide.

Plus, the Obama bonuses: "Long-suffering political footsoldiers who toiled tirelessly, at least since September, to put Obama in the White House recently learned they will be getting extra paychecks worth a month's salary, the Daily News has learned," Ken Bazinet and Michael McAuliff write in the New York Daily News. "In addition to the cold cash, staffers also have the option of keeping their campaign-issued computers and BlackBerrys - but must pay income tax on the hardware if they do."

Back to business . . . and it's all business. The votes look like they just aren't there for an auto bailout package. (Why, again, are Obama and Vice-president-elect Joe Biden not able to attend the lame-duck session in the posts they were duly elected to fill? Now, instead of nine GOP votes to hit 60, the magic number is 11.)

Thus: "An architect of the original bailout bill said Thursday Democrats lack the votes to pass bill giving auto companies a piece of the $700 billion bailout pie next week," per ABC's Z. Byron Wolf.

"I don't think the votes are there. Candidly, I don't think we have the votes to get that done. With no big change between now and next Wednesday, I'm skeptical," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.

"Although Dodd said 'we ought to do something' and personally backed using money from the ongoing $700 billion financial services rescue program to help Detroit, he was skeptical that enough Republicans would support a bailout," per Reuters' John Crawley and Rachelle Younglai.

Thinking smaller: "Congressional Democrats are scaling back plans for an economic-stimulus package as partisan deadlock clouds chances for passage of either that measure or a proposed bailout of Detroit's auto makers until the party's enlarged majority convenes in January," Greg Hitt reports for The Wall Street Journal.

"At the same time, hope among many Democrats on Capitol Hill for an aggressive economic stimulus measure all but evaporated," David M. Herszenhorn writes in The New York Times. "Democratic leaders have been calling for a package that would include help for the auto companies as well as new spending on public works projects, an extension of jobless benefits, increased food stamps and aid to states for rising Medicaid expenses."

He'll be in Washington only in spirit: "World leaders converging here this weekend will try to reverse the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, amid a change in the White House that leaves a key player on the sidelines," David Jackson writes for USA Today. "Missing from the talks will be President-elect Barack Obama, who will assume a leading role in helping to solve these issues when he takes office. He declined to participate because President Bush, the man he will succeed, is the summit's official host. Obama has been wary of projecting presidential authority before his inauguration."

What would his participation look like? "As President-elect Barack Obama works to set his governing priorities, some of his supporters are watching warily as he weighs advice from a team of economic advisers who span the policy spectrum," Michael A. Fletcher writes in The Washington Post.

"They include free traders and 'fair traders,' deficit hawks, Wall Street executives, corporate moguls and labor advocates," Fletcher writes. "Together, they represent the broad range of thinking that Obama promised to tap to combat the deepening economic slump and fix an economy in which wages have stagnated for most workers. But they also are emblematic of the sharp differences in economic policy that have divided the Democratic Party in years past."

Hints -- if you needed them -- of President Bush's message this weekend: "After presiding over some of the most dramatic market interventions in U.S. history over the past two months, President Bush came to Wall Street on Thursday to urge world leaders not to venture too far down a path of government interference in capitalist economies," Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post.

Why can't he make the trip? "Mr. Obama has yet to take a vacation since the election, as he works on selecting a White House staff, building a cabinet and formulating policies. But friends and aides said he was also using this time to concentrate on his family before moving to the most famous address in the nation," Peter Baker writes in The New York Times. "The personal considerations coincide with political calculation as well. By remaining in Chicago, it may be easier for him to avoid becoming drawn into decisions by the departing administration and may accentuate the sense of change when he returns to Washington as the new president."

Obama's Senate resignation takes effect Sunday -- and the lobbying for his job started about six months ago.

"The decision adds to the pressure on Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, who under state law has the sole responsibility for naming a successor to Obama, the only African-American in the Senate," the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick and Rick Pearson report. "Blagojevich has said he expects to make a decision by the end of the year and is 'not interested' in naming himself to the post."

From the annals of transparency: The Obamas sit down for their first post-election interview Friday, with Steve Kroft, to air on "60 Minutes" Sunday.

How will he govern? National Journal's Ron Brownstein sees a path: "The astonishingly truculent response of House Republican Leader John Boehner and other prominent conservatives to Barack Obama's election is offering the president-elect a huge opportunity to consolidate his victory and expand his coalition -- provided he is tough enough to discipline the most-partisan voices in his own base," Brownstein writes.

"If congressional Republicans follow Boehner and conservative militants like Rush Limbaugh down such a path, they could allow Obama to build alliances with the most-pragmatic elements of the GOP and the business community at a time when the Republican coalition is already contracting," he writes. "To seize that opportunity, Obama would need to overcome the objections of liberal Internet activists who are condemning as capitulation any effort to find accommodation with Republicans or the interests they represent."

A centrist opening? "As he goes about keeping his central domestic pledges, Obama should not forget that one of the most inspiring aspects of his campaign was his call to 'turn the page' on spiteful conflicts that have pitted believers against nonbelievers, cultural conservatives against cultural liberals, red states against blue states," E.J. Dionne Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. "One of the best places for Obama to start the healing process would seem the most unlikely: our decades-long conflict over abortion."

As for the future of the GOP -- it'd be nice to start rebuilding, but can they do it while Gov. Sarah Palin won't leave the premises?

"Republican governors gathered here to implore their beleaguered party to reckon with the demographic changes sweeping the country, improve their lagging technological capabilities and win their way back by offering ideas about pressing issues," Politico's Jonathan Martin writes. "But that's not why 220 members of the media descended on the waterside Hotel Intercontinental Thursday. It was for The Sarah Show."

But it was crowded: "The Republican governors' meeting in Miami gives other 2012 wannabes a chance to make good first impressions as they look for ways to break out from the pack," Bloomberg's Nicholas Johnston writes. "[Bobby] Jindal, the youngest governor at 37, talked about ethics. Palin held a press conference, which amounted to one more than she conducted as this year's Republican vice presidential nominee. [Tim] Pawlenty talked about being able to win in the Great Lakes region and the Northwest. [Charlie] Crist said the party needs to win over minority voters."

What's she saying that's new? "Palin's colleagues rarely mentioned her by name, as the defeated vice presidential nominee swept through the conference, making a triumphal jaunt richer in nostalgia for her brief campaign than in prescriptions for a Republican rebound," Sasha Issenberg writes in The Boston Globe.

When does she stop talking, exactly? "Palin would do well to watch, listen and learn from the wealth of talent around her," The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart writes.

No clear path: "Party traditionalists called for the GOP to turn to its origins of small government and low taxes to restore faith in conservative principles. Moderate reformers like Crist tried to pull their peers to the ideological center to appeal to the working class and minorities," Patricia Mazzei writes in the Miami Herald.

Look who's pouncing on the Palin wreckage: "During Wednesday's opening lunch, Pawlenty -- a finalist to join McCain on the GOP ticket -- dismissed one of Palin's signature lines by calling for an expansive approach to energy development," the Los Angeles Times' Mark Z. Barabak reports. " 'Drill, baby, drill,' is not, by itself, an energy policy," Pawlenty said.

"Pawlenty called Palin 'a talented person who is going to be one of the voices that will help lead the party going forward,' " per USA Today's John Fritze. "But, he said, 'she won't be the only voice.' "

Former lieutenant governor Michael Steele, R-Md., jumps into the RNC mix. "I want the gig. I'm ready to lead this party," Steele told Fox News. "I think we have been kind of wandering and doubting ourselves for far too long. I think this past election was the culmination of that self-doubt which has to end. We have a message, I think, of empowerment and ownership and opportunity that resonates with Americans. We just need to get back to that."

Sixty is still a possibility -- though a remote one. "The question of whether Democrats dominate the Senate next year could swing from the polls to the courts," The Wall Street Journal's Brad Haynes reports. "Hundreds of lawyers from both parties have volunteered to help fight the continuing Minnesota Senate race, where Republican Sen. Norm Coleman now leads Democrat Al Franken by roughly 200 votes, of 2.9 million cast, after an initial count. The razor-thin margin will trigger an automatic recount."

"The Minnesota race is one of three that remain undecided a week after election day. In Georgia, incumbent Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss faces a runoff on Dec. 2 after failing to secure a majority of votes last Tuesday. In Alaska, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens trails his challenger by 814 votes, with about 40,000 ballots left to count," Haynes writes.

Another obstacle for Stevens: "Also next week, Stevens' GOP colleagues in the Senate may consider whether to kick the Senate's longest-serving Republican out of their caucus. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., will demand the vote on Tuesday even if the Alaska race remains undecided or headed for a recount, spokesman Wesley Denton said Thursday," per USA Today's Matt Kelley.

Sen. John McCain did his part, in Georgia: "McCain said that Chambliss, and the state's other Senator, who was not up for re-election this cycle, need to stay together as a team," per ABC's Bret Hovell. "We can't break up this combination, my friends," McCain said, talking about the two's work together for Georgia and the United States. "We just can't do that."

(Flashback to 2003: "I'd never seen anything like that ad," McCain told CNN in 2003. "Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield -- it's worse than disgraceful. It's reprehensible.")

The Edwards comeback? "Three months after confessing to an affair on national TV, John Edwards ended his self-imposed exile this week with a pair of appearances that could mark his first steps on a road to public rehabilitation," Jim Morrill writes in the Charlotte Observer. "The former Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. senator debated Republican strategist Karl Rove in San Francisco Thursday, two days after speaking at Indiana University."

Chuck Norris has advice for the president-elect (signed by "one of your 300 million bosses"): "We will be watching who you choose to be in your Cabinet. We will discern how you lead Pelosi and Reid. We will be observing those you select as candidates for Supreme Court justices. The election is over. No more promises. No more words. You might work well in a team, but this time, you don't have congressional members to hide behind. You're on your own -- leading the pack -- and the whole country is watching. I, especially, am watching. So make sure you lead more from the center."

The Kicker:

"He's looking a lot more presidential now; he walks a little different." -- Zariff, Barack Obama's barber in Chicago, now considering opening a shop in Washington.

"Our new president-elect won one-and-a-half points more than George W. Bush won in 2004, and he did so, in great respect, by adopting the methods of the Bush campaign and conducting a vast army of persuasion to identify and get out the vote." -- Karl Rove, in the upcoming New York Times Magazine.

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