President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his top national security leadership team Monday in Chicago. That’s Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton with Obama.
** REPUBLICANS EASILY HOLD ON TO GEORGIA SENATE SEAT. As anticipated, incumbent Senator Saxby Chambliss beat Democratic challenger Jim Martin in that Georgia Senate firewall race. With 95% of the vote counted, it’s Chambliss 57.5%, Martin 42.5%. The Democratic turnout was much lower this month than last, when Martin ran 3 point behind and Barack Obama lost to John McCain by only 5 points. Even if comedian Al Franken ends up winning in Minnesota, where he’s only a few votes behind in a recount, Democrats will come up short on the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster.
Although in reality, on key votes, the Dems with 58 seats (or 59 if Franken ultimately prevails over Norm Coleman) should be able to get the needed 60.
** OBAMA’S U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE — L.A. CONGRESSMAN XAVIER BECERRA. I’m hearing that President-elect Barack Obama’s pick to be his Cabinet-level U.S. Trade Representative is Los Angeles Congressman Xavier Becerra.
Becerra mounted a bid for Los Angeles mayor, unsuccessfully, against Antonio Villaraigosa. The 50-year old Sacramento native, a graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, served for a term in the California Assembly before winning an East LA seat in Congress in 1992.
Villaraigosa and his close ally, then California Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, opted to go with Hillary Clinton over Obama in the primaries. Becerra went the other way.
The last U.S. Trade Rep from California was noted political lawyer Mickey Kantor, from the Manatt Phelps firm, who was Bill Clinton’s campaign chairman after serving in a similar capacity for former Governor Jerry Brown. Kantor went on to become US secretary of commerce.
Becerra is set to become the second Cabinet-level US trade rep from California. Nunez or Villaraigosa might have been that — though I suspect Obama likes Becerra’s Stanford credentials — but, through a complex set of circumstances I haven’t reported, picked the wrong candidate in exchange for big campaign titles. Which Becerra never had with Obama. I’m sure he can settle for being a member of the Obama Cabinet.
** BILL CLINTON’S LAST RODEO. Former President Bill Clinton today kicked off the first and last foreign conference of his Clinton Global Initiative. Way out west. In Hong Kong.
After issuing a press release yesterday praising President-elect Barack Obama’s appointment of wife Hillary Clinton as US secretary of state, the former president was mum today in HK about the developments.
Clinton has agreed to Obama’s requests that he release all the names — more than 200,000 — and amounts of the contributors to his various foundation ventures, refrain from staging conferences outside the US, and submit all of his consulting, lecture, and foundation activities to the White House counsel for approval. Obama’s White House counsel is Greg Craig, a longtime Kennedy aide who defended the former president during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and was a sharp critic of the Clintons during Obama’s victorious Democratic primary campaign.
Last year, Clinton had viewed the Hong Kong event as the first of many such outside the US. The Clinton Global Initiative has held annual conferences in New York to coincide with the opening of the UN General Assembly. But this week’s Hong Kong excursion will be the last for the former president. At least so long as his wife serves in the Obama Cabinet.
** BILL RICHARDSON TO BE APPOINTED TOMORROW. Word is that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the nation’s leading Latino politician, will be appointed US secretary of commerce tomorrow morning in Chicago.
Richardson, a native Californian and friend of Arnold Schwarzenegger who finished fourth in the Democratic presidential race, has previously served in two Cabinet level positions during the Clinton Administration: secretary of energy and ambassador to the United Nations.
Richardson has become known as a major international troubleshooter, dating back to his days as a member of the House Intelligence Committee. President Bill Clinton is said to have exclaimed to his White House staff: “This congressman keeps negotiating stuff for us. Why doesn’t he work for me?” Which is how Richardson became America’s UN ambassador.
Richardson was the runner-up to be Barack Obama’s secretary of state. As this will be his third cabinet post — another record for a Latino — and something of a lateral move at that, I think he is the next secretary of state after Hillary Clinton. Much more to follow tomorrow.
** SCHMIDT SAYS BOBBY JINDAL IS THE GOP FUTURE. Steve Schmidt, 2004 war room director for President Bush, 2006 campaign manager for Governor Schwarzenegger, and 2008 chief strategist for John McCain, says that Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is the future of the national GOP. Good manager of the latest hurricane? Check. Rhodes Scholar? Check. Creationist? Non-check. Against abortion in all circumstances? Non-check. Better than Sarah Palin? Check. Better than Mike Huckabee? Non-check.
** GAVIN’S LENGTHY STATE OF THE CITY (S.F.) ADDRESS: NEWSOM MEETS WARHOL. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has had a rough time of it of late, outside his largely unopposed re-election last year. I defended him strongly last year when rumor-mongering California netroots folks were out to get him after he revealed his affair with a staffer who was married to his then campaign manager. Not that I thought that qualified him for an immediate run for governor of California. But he was clearly a talented person who did not deserve to be railroaded by hysterics and media folks looking to sell whatever they sell.
Since then, some bad times for Newsom, after becoming a national co-chairman of the Hillary Clinton campaign and deciding to explore an unlikely bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. He’s presided over an illegal immigrant crime spree and became the unwitting star of the TV ad campaign for California’s gay marriage ban.
Now he has a unique approach to presenting his annual State of the City address. Rather than bore us with a standard speech, Newsom has produced a seven-and-a-half hour epic, fortunately broken into several pieces. Here is his HuffPost column about it.
Andy Warhol made a movie longer than this. Once.
** EX-CALIFORNIA LEGISLATOR TO HEAD WHITE HOUSE MILITARY OFFICE. Former California Assemblyman Louis Caldera, who served as secretary of the Army in the Clinton Administration, will run the White House Military Office for Barack Obama. Caldera, presently a law professor at the University of New Mexico, represented LA in the state legislature. The military office coordinates military support for presidential operations. That includes Air Force One, Marine One, Camp David, White House communications, and medical and food operations. Caldera, a West Pointer with a law degree from Harvard, was vice chancellor of the California State University system and president of the University of New Mexico.
** FROM OBAMA’S REMARKS TO THE NATION’S GOVERNORS THIS MORNING IN PHILADELPHIA. Every one of you is struggling to come up with a budget at a time when you’re facing great and growing needs. More and more people are turning to you for help with health care or affordable housing – even as tightening credit markets and falling tax revenues make it more and more difficult to provide that help.
Forty-one states are likely to face budget shortfalls this year or next, forcing you to choose between reining in spending and raising taxes. Jobs are being cut. Programs for the needy are at risk. Libraries, parks, and historic sites are being closed. Right here in Philadelphia, over two hundred workers are being laid off – and hundreds more unfilled positions are being eliminated.
Meanwhile, virtually all of you are facing the additional challenge of a state constitution that requires you to balance your budget, leaving you with the impossible choice of either helping families at the risk of violating your constitution or upholding your constitution at the expense of helping families.
To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we need action – and action now. That means passing an economic recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street that jumpstarts our economy, helps save or create two and a half million jobs, puts tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed middle class families, and makes a down payment on the investments we need to build a strong economy for years to come.
But we also have to recognize that any true solution will not come from Washington alone. It will come from all of you. It will come from the White House and the State House working together every step of the way. That is the kind of strong partnership I intend to build as President of the United States.
Today is our chance to lay the foundation for that partnership. Over the next few hours, I look forward to hearing about the problems you’re facing, learning about the work you’re doing, and discussing some of the ways we can work together to reduce health care costs, rebuild our crumbling roads, bridges, and schools, and ensure that more families can stay in their homes.
But the partnership we begin here must not – and will not – end here. As President, I will not simply ask our nation’s governors to help implement our economic recovery plan. I will ask you to help design that plan. …
Make no mistake: these are difficult times, and we’re going to have to make hard choices in the months ahead about how to invest precious tax dollars and how to save them – hard choices like the ones you’re making right now. I won’t stand here and tell you that you’ll like all the decisions I make. …
To our Republican colleagues, let me just say a special word. I offer you the same hand of friendship and cooperation that I offer our Democratic governors. We have a strong and vibrant democracy. We compete vigorously during an election. But with the end of that season comes the time to govern together – and that time is now.
It was Justice Brandeis who said, during a period of far greater turmoil in our markets, that one of the blessings of our democracy was that – and I quote – “a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory,” experimenting with innovative solutions to its economic problems. …
** COMING UP … MY NEW COLUMN ON THE OBAMA NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM AND THE IMMEDIATE CHALLENGES IT FACES. The Huffington Post column will be linked to here.
** OBAMA TODAY. President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden are in Philadelphia to meet with the National Governors Association and discuss ways to jump-start the American economy.
Aside from brief pool coverage at the start of the meeting, the conference is private.
This will be Obama’s first public appearance outside Chicago in weeks.
Last night he held a meet-and-greet with members of the Democratic Governor Association.
After yesterday’s national security team roll-out in Chicago — where he spoke publicly for the first time in weeks — Biden went to Cambridge, Massachusetts to honor Senator Ted Kennedy, who received an honorary degree from his alma mater, Harvard. Kennedy was to have received the degree in the spring, but wasn’t well enough then. Now he will be quarterbacking Obama’s health care plan in the Senate.
Obama, incidentally, will spend his Christmas vacation, as he does every year, in home state Hawaii. Perhaps NWN should cover that.
** FROM THE ARNOLD FILE. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Philadelphia for the National Governors Association meeting with President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden. He holds a press conference at 8:30 AM Pacific to push economic recovery ideas, focusing on new federal infrastructure investment in the states and a speed-up of already scheduled infrastructure investment.
Schwarzenegger’s longtime senior advisor Daniel Zingale, who is First Lady Maria Shriver’s chief of staff, is leaving the Governor’s Office in January. Zingale’s principal policy focus is health care.
The NATO foreign ministers summit begins today in Brussels. The possible memberships of Georgia and Ukraine will be discussed, along with relations with Russia and the troubled war in Afghanistan.
** HAPPY THANKSGIVING, MR. PRESIDENT-ELECT! While Barack Obama promised “a new and brighter day yet to come” in his Thanksgiving address, an old and darker day yet to leave reminds that events — and perhaps political fate itself — can turn on a dime in presidential politics. …
For a political operation that prefers to focus on its preferences, it’s a sharp reminder to Team Obama that the presidency can be every bit as reactive as it is proactive. … From my Friday Huffington Post column.
** OBAMA, ARNOLD, AND THE RENEWED CLIMATE CHANGE FIGHT. From my Wednesday Huffington Post column.
** SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: MASTERSTROKE, MOUSETRAP, OR BOTH? Potential Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Masterstroke or mousetrap? Or both? And for whom? … From my November 19th column.
** GLOBAL OBAMA: BIG OPPORTUNITIES, BIGGER CHALLENGES. If he wins, Obama will have the global popularity that no American president has had in a great many years. But what sort of challenges will counter the global opportunity that an Obama presidency might afford America? … From my October 24th Huffington Post column.
** 24/7 LIVE TV NEWS FEED FROM RUSSIA TODAY. Russia has re-emerged as one of the world’s great powers. Click here for a live TV news feed on your computer, bringing you English-language, jargon-free, fast-paced coverage of global and Russian news from the new Russia Today channel. You probably already know about CNN International, BBC World, and Al Jazeera. Russia Today, which also features culture, entertainment, and sports, is based in Moscow and is owned and operated by the TV Novosti division of Russia’s state news agency, RIA Novosti.
While it’s quite foolish to expect to see, say, criticism of Vladimir Putin on Russia Today, which I know as a former DemRussia advisor, the channel is very interesting nonetheless. With U.S. cable news chattering away as it does, this sort of respite can be informative. The NWN live link to RT does not constitute an endorsement of the channel’s views. It’s presented as an otherwise unavailable new media window.
** SCHWARZENEGGER’S CALIFORNIA. Here is my series of five columns on the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Los Angeles Times in debate with Pulitzer Prize-winning former Times reporter/editor Bill Boyarsky, whose columns are also included.
Among them is what I’m sure is the first piece examining Schwarzenegger’s legacy as governor of California. Since he will actually be governor of California until 2011. No technology known to be disruptive to the space/time continuum was used in its preparation.
** TRACK GLOBAL AND NATIONAL ENERGY PRICES IN NEAR REAL TIME VIA BLOOMBERG ENERGY MARKET WATCH. After crashing over $147 for yet another record on July 11th, crude oil is trading in the $49 to $50 per barrel range.
The drop of $98 per barrel since the record high over the summer comes on acknowledgment that the weak US economy will cut future demand and on the easing of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East. It is clear that that, contrary to much chatter, neither the US nor Israel is about to launch a strike against Iran. And the Russian war with Georgia, confounding much speculation and reporting to the contrary, actually decreased the geopolitical risk premium in the oil market.
Your posts are welcome in the Forum.