A Different Kind of Blog

news and things sacred and irreverent put together by opinionated people.

For Obama — To Play, or Not to Play

Posted by tothewire on December 9, 2008

obama8Welcome back to the mix (again), Mr. President-elect. We’ve missed you. Your nation has missed you. Your economy has missed you.


Are you sure you missed all of them? 

As the latest push in the push-pull of President-elect Barack Obama’s involvement in the economic crisis plays out, it is increasingly clear that we are talking about more than just a bailout or two.

This is a major rethinking of government’s role and interactions with the economy. What happens before Jan. 20 depends more on the president we will have than the one we now have. No decisions made before Jan. 20 won’t have to be revisited afterward.

(And if all of this doesn’t work, will it be Obama’s — and his party’s — fault?)

Obama’s involvement dance plays out by the day — some prodding here, some pulling back there, but still not the taking-over-of-the-reins many in both parties are looking for.

If Obama is right and the economy is going to get worse before it gets better (and who will say that he’s wrong?) — who’s going to be left to back him up when he argues (as he will again at some point) that it’s not yet his time or place?

After an active weekend, your word of the day is “tension”:

“Obama has been careful not to overstep his authority before his swearing-in Jan. 20, but his comments, made two days after the government announced that more than half a million jobs were lost last month, suggested that he is willing to play a somewhat larger role in managing the economy in the interim,” The Washington Post’s Anne Kornblut writes.

“In a transition that has emphasized continuity and harmony with the outgoing president, there were glimmers of tension yesterday, as Obama not only criticized the administration’s efforts on mortgages but also tapped for his Cabinet retired Army Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who had sparred with President Bush’s top Pentagon officials over the Iraq war strategy,” Kornblut reports.

Sunday’s refrain: “Things are going to get worse before they get better,” Obama said, per ABC’s Matt Jaffe.

Which calls will he answer?

The Wall Street Journal’s Jonathan Weisman and Deborah Solomon see Obama preserving his political capital: “Barack Obama’s transition team is resisting Bush administration overtures to coordinate more on the financial-sector rescue, convinced that neither the lame-duck President George W. Bush nor the president-elect has the clout to win a smooth congressional release of more bailout funds. . . . Tension is growing: Treasury officials believe Obama aides are being short-sighted in their refusal to offer more policy and lobbying assistance, while the transition team sees an administration looking to be rescued from its own miscues.” 

“Congressional Democrats were drafting legislation Sunday for tight government control of the crippled American auto industry, including the possible creation of an oversight board made up of five cabinet secretaries and the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and led by an independent chairman or ‘car czar,’ ” David M. Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes report in The New York Times. “A main factor complicating the deliberations was the imminent transition between the Bush and Obama administrations.”

Obama is trying to appear “on the case, even if he’s not yet on the job,” ABC’s Jake Tapper reported on “Good Morning America” Monday. “He’s now talking more like the man in charge. . . . Obama wants to be seen as a leader, and also to avoid owning the bad economy for as long as possible.”

“Criticized for staying on the sidelines until now, Obama for the first time voiced support for auto industry bailout legislation being drafted in Congress,” John McCormick and Peter Wallsten write in the Los Angeles Times. “He said it would be unacceptable to allow the U.S. auto industry to fail during a time of growing unemployment, although he was less definitive on whether some auto executives should lose their jobs.”

Think this won’t fall to him? “Though Bush would have the opportunity to establish the board, his administration would have little chance to exercise its power. Under the Democratic proposal, the board would develop broad restructuring goals for the companies, but it could not compel them to act. The board also would be prohibited from revoking the short-term loans to the auto companies until February, when the board would be in the hands of Obama appointees,” Lori Montgomery reports in The Washington Post.

Hints of more involvement to come? “President-elect Barack Obama said yesterday that top executives at the nation’s three automakers should be replaced if they don’t use pending government loans to make major changes — including taking immediate steps to produce energy-efficient vehicles — in a clear signal that he expects a bailout to be predicated on a wholesale restructuring of the industry,” The Boston Globe’s Bryan Bender writes.

More questions soon: “An estimated $15 billion emergency loan package for the auto industry — now taking shape in Congress — leaves open the door for the incoming Obama administration to add more money if needed this winter by tapping into the Treasury’s financial rescue package,” Politico’s David Rogers reports.

Few new answers Monday. The transition schedule, from the always-hard-working Nick Shapiro: “The President-elect and Vice President-elect will both be hosting private meetings, there are no public events scheduled. President-elect Obama will be in Chicago while Vice President-elect Biden will be in Washington D.C.”

Watch your left, Mr. President-elect: Eric Shinseki plus Susan Rice do not balance out the Clinton/Gates/Jones triumvirate. (But the Shinseki appointment does send more of a message than a president normally gets to send at Veterans Affairs.)

“It’s no surprise that many progressives are — depending on whom you ask — disappointed, irritated or fit to be tied,” David Corn writes in a Washington Post op-ed. “It remains a mystery to me why Obama would want to bring into his Big Tent the Clinton circus, which frequently features excessive spin, backstabbing, leaking and messy melodrama. . . . My hunch is that Obama has made a calculation. In constructing his administration, he has decided not to create a (liberal) Washington counter-establishment. Instead, he’s fashioning a bipartisan, centrist-loaded version of the Washington establishment to carry out his policies, which do tilt to the left.”

“Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices,” Politico’s Carol E. Lee and Nia-Malika Henderson write. 

Frank Rich, in his Sunday New York Times column: “It’s the economic team that evokes trace memories of our dark best-and-brightest past,” Rich writes. “I keep wondering why the honeymoon hagiography about the best and the brightest has been so over the top. Washington’s cheerleading for our new New Frontier cabinet superstars has seldom been interrupted by tough questions about Summers’s Harvard career or Geithner’s record at the Fed.”

Steve Hildebrand tells liberals to chill: “This is not a time for the left wing of our Party to draw conclusions about the Cabinet and White House appointments that President-Elect Obama is making,” he writes for Huffington Post.

The ad that never was . . . ABC’s Brian Ross and his team have the details of the McCain campaign ad featuring the Rev. Jeremiah Wright — fully produced, with footage of McCain as POW played off of Wright saying “God damn America.” It includes the “I’m John McCain, and I approved this message” tagline — but, of course, on McCain’s direction, it never aired.

Pep talk from the outgoing president, from National Review’s Rich Lowry and Byron York: “ ‘Conservatives will rebound,’ President Bush said during an Oval Office interview Friday, but only with ‘new blood,’ ‘new ideas,’ and a ‘new wave’ of leadership. In a candid exchange during an hour-long session with National Review editors and writers, the president conceded that his eight years in office have sometimes been tough for conservatives, but said his philosophy of ‘compassionate conservatism’ is still the guiding belief of a majority of Americans.”

More from that article: “On Iraq, we brought up Karl Rove’s recent statement that, ‘absent weapons of mass destruction, no, I don’t think there would have been an invasion.’ Bush wouldn’t engage the question, saying only that a president doesn’t ‘get an opportunity to redo a decision.’ Instead, he brought up the counter-factual if Saddam had been left in power: ‘You put in the middle of the Middle East a man rich with oil who sponsored terror, who had the capacity to make a nuclear weapon, combined with Iran — it’s conceivable you’d have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East now, causing nations to say, wait a minute, where’s the United States, where do we land, how do we protect our own interests; a state sponsor of terror trying to compete with another state sponsor of terror. I argue vociferously that the Middle East is better off without Saddam Hussein.’ ”

Coaching his troops, Bill Kristol lays out a roadmap for the GOP: “Conservatives should think twice before charging into battle against Obama under the banner of ‘small-government conservatism,’ ” Kristol writes in his New York Times column. “Talk of small government may be music to conservative ears, but it’s not to the public as a whole. This isn’t to say the public is fond of big-government liberalism. It’s just that what’s politically vulnerable about big-government liberalism is more the liberalism than the big government.”

Matthew Dowd takes on Karl Rove’s post-election dissection:

“Paid media buys have little impact on the outcome. The only advertising that matters are the spots that get taken up by the media and repeated in a news context over and over again. Think to yourself about which spots you remember in this campaign. They are likely the ones that aired very little (Clinton 3 am ad, McCain Paris Hilton ad, etc), and these ads had as much recall in places they were never bought as in places they were,” Dowd writes in his ABCNews.com blog. “Pundits and press and consultants constantly repeat the refrain that spending largely determines Presidential race results and that ad buys have a significant impact on results. This is simply not born out by the facts.”

Rough weekend for Democrats in Louisiana, with defeats in two House seats. In votes that have taken place after Election Day, toss in the Georgia Senate run-off and the GOP is 3-0.

“In the three Congressional races decided since Barack Obama defeated John McCain on November 4, the president-elect has kept his distance from the Democratic candidates,” Politico’s Andy Barr reports.

From the memo House Minority Leader John Boehner circulated Sunday (subject line: “The Future is Cao”): “While Washington Democrats are busy spinning the Jefferson debacle as an aberration, they are in the process of trading it in for a new debacle with greater implications for national policy. Just days before the Cao win, Speaker Pelosi declared she ‘does not foresee’ a change in the current leadership of the Ways & Means Committee, whose chairman faces questions about potential abuses of tax laws and House rules,” Boehner writes. “The Cao victory is a symbol of our future.”

Helped by cold, hard cash, but making history on his own: “Few in New Orleans were betting on him in the days before the election. Now, Joseph Cao, as he is known here (his last name is pronounced ‘gow’), has become the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress,” The New York Times’ Adam Nossiter writes.

Making the DCCC smile: “Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy won a tight House race in central Ohio, decided only after elections officials tallied provisional ballots. Kilroy defeated Republican Steve Stivers on Sunday by more than 2,300 votes, enough to avoid an automatic recount. She will replace retiring Republican Deborah Pryce in representing the state’s 15th Congressional District,” per the AP.

Caroline watch: “Caroline Kennedy still needs convincing on whether to push to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s soon-to-be-vacant Senate seat, a source with ties to the Kennedy family said Sunday,” the New York Daily News’ Kenneth Lovett reports. “Right now, it’s more of a family push than her own,” the source said.

She hasn’t asked for it . . . yet. “I have enough qualified candidates that I don’t think I have to draft anybody,” Paterson told The New York Times’ Danny Hakim Sunday night. “Part of the consideration is how willing people are to serve, so I would figure if they were willing, they would make the request. I haven’t really taken anyone in hand and asked them.” Ms. Kennedy, he added, is “thinking about it.”

Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News: “This isn’t just about the Kennedys and Cuomos, by the way. You must wonder what Hillary Clinton herself thinks about all this, especially after the way Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama against her. And you ought to know that it bothered her husband even more, because Bill Clinton was going through life under the impression that the Kennedys somehow owed him something.”

His name: Number Two. The Cheney mold is out, no matter how long Vice-president-elect Joe Biden has been having lunch on Tuesdays with Democratic senators.

“He can come by once and a while, but he’s not going to sit in on our lunches,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Lisa Mascaro of the Las Vegas Sun. “He’s not a senator. He’s the vice president.”

“Biden spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander notes that Biden had ‘no intention’ of going to the meetings anyway and there is no conflict at all between him and Reid,” per ABC’s Jake Tapper and Matt Jaffe.

As for what he will be doing: Biden “made the decision to be a voice for workers as vice president after union officials called him to complain that their interests aren’t represented by President- elect Obama’s economic advisers, according to two members of the transition team,” Bloomberg’s Heidi Przybyla reports. “Biden’s focus on labor may help define his agenda. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he had a pivotal role in shaping U.S. foreign policy. In the Obama administration, he will have to cede some of that ground to Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state nominee.” 

To the surprise of approximately no one . . . “Republican Mitt Romney is laying the groundwork for a possible White House campaign in 2012, hiring a team of staff members and consultants with money from a fund-raising committee he established with the ostensible purpose of supporting other GOP candidates,” Frank Phillips reports in The Boston Globe. “In essence, Romney is financing a political enterprise that he can use to remain a national GOP leader and use as a springboard should he decide to launch another presidential bid for 2012.”

“Qualifying for a donation from the committee did not necessarily depend on a candidate’s need for financial assistance,” Phillips continues. “US Representative Rodney Alexander of Louisiana got $4,600 and his GOP colleague Lamar S. Smith of Texas received a $2,300 donation, although both had no opponents. They each had endorsed Romney in his presidential bid.”

George Stephanopoulos welcomes David Gregory to the Sunday-morning game, with some friendly advice.

And Stephanopoulos has landed two straight exclusives for the next two Sundays on ABC’s “This Week”: John McCain, then Joe Biden.

Tracy Sefl has a new job. From the press release: “Navigators, LLC and Roberti Associates, Inc. announced today that the two firms have merged to create Navigators Global, a bipartisan, full-service government relations and issues management firm with offices in Washington, DC, New York, Los Angeles, London, and the state capitals of Sacramento, Albany, and Tallahassee. Tracy Sefl, a leading Democratic communications consultant and former vice president of public affairs at Glover Park Group, is also joining Navigators Global as a senior vice president. Sefl is a senior advisor to Terry McAullife, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a possible candidate for governor in the state of Virginia.”

The Kicker:

“What I would say is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier. You will not see any violations of these rules in the White House.” — Barack Obama, vowing not to smoke in the White House.

By Rick Klein with Arnab Datta

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:


3 Responses to “For Obama — To Play, or Not to Play”

  1. […] Obama — To Play, or Not to Play Posted in December 9th, 2008 by in Uncategorized For Obama — To Play, or Not to Play The Cheney mold is out, no matter how long Vice-president-elect Joe Biden has been having lunch on […]


  2. […] For Obama — To Play, or Not to Play “Pundits and press and consultants constantly repeat the refrain that spending largely determines Presidential race results and that ad buys have a significant impact on results. This is simply not born out by the facts.” … […]


  3. […] For Obama — To Play, or Not to Play « A Different Kind of Blog President-elect Obama will be in Chicago while Vice President-elect Biden will be in Washington D.C.”. Watch your left, Mr. President-elect: Eric Shinseki plus Susan Rice do not balance out the Clinton/Gates/Jones triumvirate. … […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: