The Note

The Note

ByABC News
September 9, 2008, 8:20 AM

Nov. 21, 2008— -- Change doesn't have to wait until January.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is gone. (A sign of a new day.)

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., is gone, partly, too. (A sign of a new order.)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., isn't going anywhere. (But she's gone quite a distance to get there.)

Penny Pritzker leaves before she ever even arrives.

And the auto bailout came back to life after it was declared dead, only to die again. (It may yet rise again -- though not until next month.)

As for President-elect Barack Obama -- he is, for the most part, waiting for January.

Thus far through the transition, we're learning that Obama remains, at his core, a cautious and patient politician -- one who can be quite stingy with his political capital.

Meanwhile, the stock market is in freefall, Detroit is near collapse, and Congress is in a stalemate. Obama has had nearly half of his Cabinet filled for him, without a single formal announcement.

(If you're scoring at home, he's now had more haircuts than press conferences as president-elect.)

Other than a few comments, Obama has chosen not to play in the current crisis: "With the stock market plunging and the credit market entering a new freeze, cries are being heard for a new government intervention to prop up major financial institutions before President-elect Barack Obama takes office," Floyd Norris writes in The New York Times. "By resigning from the Senate before the current session began and allowing it to appear that a sense of drift could prevail until he is inaugurated, Mr. Obama may have missed an opportunity to exert leadership."

"How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot," Paul Krugman writes in his column. "At minimum, the next two months will inflict serious pain on hundreds of thousands of Americans, who will lose their jobs, their homes, or both. What's really troubling, however, is the possibility that some of the damage being done right now will be irreversible."

"The problem is that nothing of significance can or will happen until the new President takes office in January, even though there is -- finally -- a great appetite for action in Washington. This is going to be a very frustrating few months," Time's Joe Klein writes.

Things get more dire by the day: "As the economic signs grow ever more grim, the opportunities for the Obama administration to drive through its agenda actually are getting better," The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib writes. "The thing about a crisis -- and crisis doesn't seem too strong a word for the economic mess right now -- is that it creates a sense of urgency. Actions that once appeared optional suddenly seem essential."

Not that the news is waiting for Obama. The word is out (this time, because the Obama folks want it out): Sen. Clinton is "on track" to be installed as secretary of state.

"Former President Bill Clinton's financial disclosure issues that once seemed an obstacle to Sen. Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state have been worked out," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "An aide to President-elect Obama says that everything is on track for Clinton's nomination to be the nation's top diplomat, though an announcement will not come until after Thanksgiving."

Who's pressuring whom now?

"One week after the former primary rivals met secretly to discuss the idea of Clinton becoming the nation's top diplomat, an Obama adviser said Thursday that the two sides were moving quickly toward making it a reality, barring any unforeseen problems," per the AP's Nedra Pickler. "The senior adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president-elect is not prepared to officially announce the nomination, said Obama believes Clinton would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations."

And yet -- your drama: "One friend said Mrs. Clinton decided late Wednesday to say no, reasoning that she would have more freedom in the Senate. By midday Thursday, the friend said, she was 'back in the indecisive column again.' By the end of the day, another associate said she could accept by Friday," Peter Baker and Helene Cooper write in The New York Times.

"At the end of a confused day in which even Mr. Obama's advisers seemed unsure what was happening, a transition official reached out to reporters Thursday night to say that the president-elect's team believed things were on track with Mrs. Clinton and that her nomination could be announced after Thanksgiving," they write.

"Driving her consideration, friends said, is a sense of disenchantment with the Senate, where despite her stature she remains low in the ranks of seniority that governs the body," Baker and Cooper write.

"The harder truth is that Clinton's options as a Senator are limited, at least in the immediate future. In that chamber, she is just one of many presidential also-rans and a relatively junior member of an institution where power and advancement require seniority," Time's Karen Tumulty and Massimo Calabresi report. "And if there's anything a First Lady who became a Senator would understand, it's that opportunities don't always come to those who wait for them."

Making her wait? "Advisers to Bill and Hillary Clinton believe they've given the Obama transition team much if not all of the all the information on Bill's post-presidency the Obama team will be asking for, and see the Clinton camp as now being in a holding pattern, waiting on a formal offer of the State Department gig to Hillary from Obama," Greg Sargent reports at Talking Points Memo.

Ah -- the dance: "Clinton in the last few days began aggressively pursuing the secretary of state slot and mounted an all-out sales campaign amid fears the job might be slipping away, sources said," Ken Bazinet writes in the New York Daily News. "Former Clinton campaign aides and some of her inner-circle advisers -- aka Hillaryland -- were part of a coordinated effort to win her the top State Department post, the Clinton source confirmed."

How does this factor in? "Hillary Clinton continues to carry $7.5 million of debt owed to vendors from her failed presidential bid," ABC's Tahman Bradley reports. "If Clinton accepts the position of Secretary of State, or some other post in the Obama administration, she would be barred by The Hatch Act of 1939 from soliciting and receiving political contributions."