The Note, 12/18/08: To The Left — Obama Faces Anger

Dec 18, 2008 8:48am

BY RICK KLEIN Since Vegas is snowed in, we’re now taking bets on the following propositions: Gov. Rod Blagojevich will resign before he can be impeached. (8-1) Blagojevich’s press conference will be more informative than all of President-elect Barack Obama’s put together. (6-5) Caroline Kennedy’s advisers will again allow her to get within 10 feet of microphones in upstate New York with as little to say as she did Wednesday in Syracuse. (12-1) Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will get the Illinois Senate seat after all. (12-1) Eliot Spitzer will again be a major contributor to public life. (Even) Something Rahm Emanuel said on one of Patrick Fitzgerald’s tapes will require bleeping. (1-10)  The Blagojevich matter will still be a distraction for the president-elect when his new puppy his house-trained. (Even) The full Obama Cabinet will be in place before Christmas. (Even) Obama’s first big battle as president will come with the left, not the right. (6-5) So Blagojevich, D-Ill., isn’t going anywhere — which means the scandal isn’t, either. And so the parallel tracks that are the presidential transition continue, with Obama wanting to talk about one thing, and the press about something else. Thursday’s topic is the announcement of Mary Schapiro to be chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, with a 10:45 am ET press conference in Chicago. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: “Schapiro is currently the CEO of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the largest non-governmental regulator for all securities firms doing business with Americans.” Friday will bring the announcement of Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., for Transportation — leaving just Labor and Director of National Intelligence as the remaining big jobs to fill. Obama says he’s frustrated that he can’t say more about Blagojevich. He’s not alone (but he can make sure he is alone when the news comes out). “Questions about the corruption case surrounding the vacant Senate seat in Illinois will follow President-elect Barack Obama to Hawaii next week,” The New York Times’ Jeff Zeleny writes. “But don’t look for Mr. Obama to announce the findings of the internal inquiry of which advisers — in addition to Rahm Emanuel — had contact with the Illinois governor’s office over replacing Mr. Obama’s Senate seat. The plan now, aides said, is to release the review by written statement.” Tick up the heat on Rahm, again: “Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder,” Natasha Korecki reports in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Emanuel talked with the governor in the days following the Nov. 4 election and pressed early on for the appointment of Valerie Jarrett to the post, sources with knowledge of the conversations told the Sun-Times. There was no indication from sources that Emanuel brokered a deal, however.” “A source with the Obama camp strongly denied Emanuel spoke with the governor directly about the seat, saying Emanuel only spoke with Blagojevich once recently to say he was taking the chief of staff post,” Korecki reports. And Obama gets a glimpse of just how tenuous his relationship is with a key slice of his backers. The choice of Pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the inaugural is testing Obama’s ties with the gay-rights community. “Barack Obama’s choice of a prominent evangelical minister to deliver the invocation at his inauguration is a conciliatory gesture toward social conservatives who opposed him in November, but it is drawing fierce challenges from a gay rights movement that — in the wake of a gay marriage ban in California — is looking for a fight,” Politico’s Ben Smith and Nia-Malika Henderson write. “The rapid, angry reaction from a range of gay activists comes as the gay rights movement looks for an opportunity to flex its political muscle.” “It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama,” said Kathryn Kolbert, president of the liberal People for the American Way, said Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign, adding that Mr. Warren had spoken out strongly in favor of a successful gay marriage ban in California and “has often played the role of general in the cultural war waged against LGBT Americans.”  “Obama’s first big mistake,” writes The Washington Blade’s Kevin Naff. “This tone-deafness to our concerns must not be tolerated. We have just endured eight years of endless assaults on our dignity and equality from a president beholden to bigoted conservative Christians. The election was supposed to have ended that era. It appears otherwise.” Andrew Sullivan blogs: “Warren is a man who believes my marriage removes his freedom of speech and cannot say that authorizing torture is a moral failing. Shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now. He won’t be as bad as the Clintons (who, among leading Democrats, could?), but pandering to Christianists at his inauguration is a depressing omen.” Writes the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody: “Let the record now reflect that Barack Obama has angered the liberals before the conservatives … I think the pick says alot about Obama and how he’s trying to make good on his promise to not be the same old type of politician.” “The selection of Warren . . . is an early taste of the Democrats’ post-election effort to reach evangelical Americans. The effort continues even though Obama’s evangelical offensive during the presidential campaign yielded only modest results on Election Day,” Dan Gilgoff in his new US News & World Report column. (This might help assuage concerns among gay-rights groups: “Some top retired military leaders and some Democrats in Congress are backing William White, chief operating officer of the Intrepid Museum Foundation, to be the next secretary of the Navy — a move that would put the first openly gay person at the top of one of the services,” Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times. “The secretary’s job is a civilian position, so it would not run afoul of the ban on gays serving in the military, but it would renew focus on the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy as President-elect Barack Obama prepares to take office.”) Maybe not entirely the best of circumstances for the name of your Republican Transportation secretary to leak: It’s the retiring Ray LaHood, stepping aside from his role as a quote-ready Republican House member to take the Transportation gig, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reports. “On Wednesday, a long-time Democrat and a former transportation official in the Clinton administration told ABC News that many Democrats are ‘greatly disappointed’ by the pick,” per ABC’s Lisa Stark, Matt Hosford, and Kate Barrett.  Said the former official: “LaHood is a decent guy, but Democrats were anxiously looking for a Democrat to be in this position because it is a choke point for much of the economic stimulus package.” “The nomination of LaHood would fulfill Obama’s promise to name a Republican to his cabinet with an ideological moderate who has a well-established reputation for bipartisanship and efforts to encourage civil discourse in Congress. Though Obama has asked Bush Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to remain in the cabinet, Gates is a registered independent,” Mike Dorning writes in the Chicago Tribune. For Labor: “Harley Shaiken, a prominent expert on unions, Detroit and the U.S.-Mexican border, has emerged as a top candidate for the post of secretary of labor, officials familiar with the vetting process say,” Jonathan Weisman reports in The Wall Street Journal. Don’t think any of the tussling means unions have stepped back their expectations: “Gerald W. McEntee, president of one of the nation’s largest unions, said the labor movement was damaged when the FBI linked a competing union to Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s effort to sell Illinois’ U.S. Senate seat and it hurts labor’s push to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, unions’ big legislative priority,” the Washington Times’ Stephen Dinan writes. And yet, the full-court press (and what may be the single most important sentence you’ll read on Thursday): “The payback would be Employee Free Choice Act — that would be a vehicle to strengthen and build the American labor movement and the middle class,” McEntee said. “It’s the condition of the country, it’s health care, it’s the Employee Free Choice Act, it’s some kind of effort made in protection of their pensions. These are big and major items.” More to fire up the right: “Given virtual carte blanche, Congress’s opportunity for waste will be huge, and the federal deficit — already nearing $1 trillion — could shatter the Reagan-era records as measured against the size of the economy,” Jonathan Weisman writes in The Wall Street Journal. “But for now, Mr. Obama believes economically and politically, bigger is going to be better.” Speaking of bigger: “Barack Obama may ask Congress next year to approve a stimulus plan of around $850 billion, an amount that has grown as the U.S. economy sinks deeper into recession, an adviser to the president-elect said,” Bloomberg’s Lorraine Woellert reports. “Obama’s transition team believes the amount, about 6 percent of the U.S.’s $14 trillion economy, is needed to reverse rising unemployment, said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The sum would exceed initial estimates by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as well as surpassing what some economists and the International Monetary Fund say is required.” “President-elect Barack Obama’s call for speedy adoption of a massive spending plan to ‘jolt’ the economy will prove an early test of two major promises: that he will work in a bipartisan style with a skeptical Republican Party, and that he will purge the federal budget of wasteful projects,” Peter Nicholas writes in the Los Angeles Times. “The fate of the bill could shape the course of Obama’s presidency. If it works, it could help lift the economy out of recession, giving him the space to enact his ambitious energy, education and healthcare plans.” (And if Blagojevich stays without appointing an Obama successor, that’s minus-one in the Democratic caucus. What’s wrong with a special election, again?) Speaking of Blago — this sound like a guy who’s going anywhere? “Disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich joked and jogged in his Chicago neighborhood Wednesday and vowed to tell his side of the story soon, while his attorney tore into impeachment-minded state lawmakers trying to force the governor out of a job,” Rick Pearson and Ray Long report in the Chicago Tribune. “The vigorous defense mounted by noted criminal defense attorney Ed Genson before a special House impeachment panel — belittling the hearing as a surreal ‘Alice in Wonderland’ process — for the first time gave a glimpse into the intensity with which Blagojevich is fighting to remain governor after his arrest on corruption charges about a week ago.” Caroline Kennedy made her debut before the hungry New York press, and left them famished. Some of the questions she didn’t answer: “What do you say to New Yorkers who think you’re not qualified?” “Are you ready for this, Ms. Kennedy? You’re not going to answer questions at all?” “What do you say to New Yorkers who think you’re not ready or qualified for this job?” “What do you think your greatest qualification is to be senator?” “You’re seeking public office and you don’t want to answer questions from reporters, Ma’am? When can we expect you to answer questions?” “Have you ever been to Syracuse before?” Not quite Hillary Clinton: “Clinton, running for office while still first lady, talked to factory workers and farmers in addition to powerbrokers as she prepared to launch her Senate campaign,” Mike McAndrew and Mark Weiner write for the Syracuse Post-Standard. “And while Clinton needed hundreds of thousands of Upstaters’ votes to become a senator, Kennedy needs only one Gov. David Paterson’s.” “As the day wore on, the carefully maintained silence surrounding her campaign-that-isn’t cracked, then shattered under the weight of the intense public interest her bid has drawn. She declined any questions in Syracuse, grudgingly answered a few in Rochester, and then gave what almost felt like — but was not — a full-fledged news conference in Buffalo,” The New York Times’ David M. Halbfinger and Nicholas Confessore report. Asked how many times she’d been in Buffalo, she responded: “Three or four?” She made a funny before the day was out: “I’ll be back as many times as Chuck Schumer,” Kennedy said. Said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y.: “I don’t know if she’s ever had to worry about mortgage payments or worry about working her way through school.” (Umm, no.) One very powerful ally: Kevin Sheekey is on board. “As Ms. Kennedy’s unusual campaign for the seat takes shape, the mayor’s top political strategist is pushing hard behind the scenes for her, with [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg’s blessing,” Michael Barbaro and Raymond Hernandez report in The New York Times. “The involvement has helped immediately elevate and coordinate the debut of Ms. Kennedy, who lacked an experienced political staff of her own.” Capturing the absurdities, Geraldine Baum and Mark Z. Barabak of the Los Angeles Times: “Kennedy’s cousin was once married to [Andrew] Cuomo, and it ended badly. Kennedy and her uncle Ted once endorsed Clinton’s opponent (a.k.a. Barack Obama) and, well, for Clinton that ended badly. Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and Cuomo’s dad, former New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, clashed as far back as five presidential campaigns ago — and apparently some of that enmity still lingers.” Gail Collins, in her Times column: “My biggest concern about the Kennedy-for-senate boom is that the whole idea sounds as if it had been inspired by telephone conversations between Caroline and her Uncle Ted, followed by encouraging calls from her cousin Robert.” The Syracuse paper helps with 10 things Kennedy needs to do to become senator. A taste: “3. Learn to pronounce Throop, Schroeppel, Pulaski, DeRuyter and Cheektowaga. 4. Lose the winter tan. (4a. Or gain 10 holiday pounds.)” Staying in New York — Eliot Spitzer is back (really). “He’s weighing in with op-eds on the financial crisis and the auto bailout, popping up on the Manhattan cocktail party circuit, and making plans to participate in public events, including a debate on the Wall Street mess scheduled for New York City in March,” per ABC News. “And Spitzer this month began writing a regular public policy column for, where he takes nuanced, detail-heavy positions on topics, such as the auto bailout and the future of the financial sector.”  Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau gets The Washington Post profile treatment: “When Obama moves to the White House next month, Favreau will join his staff as the youngest person ever to be selected as chief speechwriter. He helps shape almost every word Obama says, yet the two men have formed a concert so harmonized that Favreau’s own voice disappears,” Eli Saslow writes. “Now, he has transformed into what one friend called a ‘Washington political force’ — a minor celebrity with a down payment on a Dupont Circle condo, whose silly Facebook photos with a  Hillary Rodham Clinton cutout created what passes for controversy in Obama’s so far drama-free transition.” All I want for Christmas is an auto bailout: “The White House and the Treasury are deep into negotiations with General Motors and Chrysler over reorganization plans that could result in freeing up more than $14 billion in emergency loans to keep the companies afloat through the first quarter of 2009, according to industry executives and a senior administration official,” The New York Times reports. “The Bush administration appears to want an agreement with the automakers before Dec. 25. It was unclear, however, when all of the particulars might be worked out, said the senior official.” Said White House press secretary Dana Perino Thursday morning, per ABC’s Ann Compton: “It’s clear that the automakers are in a very fragile financial condition and they’re taking steps to deal with it. We’re aware of their financial situation and are considering possible policy options to provide assistance in an appropriate way. As we’ve said, a disorderly collapse of the auto industry should be avoided.” Still counting, in Minnesota: “Despite confusion over impressionist ballot scrawlings, the five-member board seemed to find a groove Wednesday, dispatching most disputes with alacrity. Some took fewer than 15 seconds,” per the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “But another simmering dispute could slow the process when the board reconvenes this morning. Republican Sen. Norm Coleman’s campaign contends that as many as 150 ballots were counted twice by local elections officials and suggests that many of those extra votes could have gone to Democrat Al Franken. It wants the board to eliminate any double-counting.” The Kicker: “To the car.” — Caroline Kennedy, asked where she was going next, in the one question she answered when meeting reporters in Syracuse. “The most important thing is that you have to control your vice-president.” — Vice President (and former White House chief of staff) Dick Cheney, dispensing tongue-in-cheek advice to incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, per Politico’s Jonathan Martin. Bookmark the link below to get The Note’s daily morning analysis: And for up-to-the-minute political updates check out The Note’s new blog . . . all day every day:

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