Barack Obama: December 2008 Archives

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) would like to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate. The appointment was dangled before him last Wednesday. He turned it down.

We discussed why when we talked Tuesday night, hours after a defiant Gov. Blagojevich, facing impeachment for, among other charges, trying to sell the Obama seat, tapped former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris for the spot, touching off a racially inflammatory firestorm.

Davis, speaking on the phone from Chicago, said he met with Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam Jr. last Wednesday morning. The two met in Davis' Chicago office. Davis said he was told "the governor would like to appoint me to the vacant spot." After Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9, Davis, who sought the appointment from him when he thought Blagojevich was playing it straight, said he would not take the job if offered.

Below is a statement from President-elect Obama:

"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy," said President-elect Obama.

from an Obama transition official.....

"The Obama family will move to Washington this weekend. PE will be here in Washington to continue work on an economic recovery plan. They will stay at a Washington hotel through the 15th and then they will move into the Blair House. The PE will also be here for the beginning of school."

I'm told the family will be stopping first in Chicago after they wrap up their Hawaii vacation. The Obama daughters start the school year in Washington at the Sidwell Friends school.

Statement from Attorney General Lisa Madigan

With today's action, Governor Blagojevich, once again, fails to recognize his complete lack of credibility. This further demonstrates his inability to put the best interests of the People of Illinois first.

The United States Attorney has charged the Governor in a felony criminal complaint with what Mr. Fitzgerald called a "political corruption crime spree" that included attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder. Because of those corruption charges, the leadership of the United States Senate has repeatedly stated that they will not seat anyone appointed by Governor Blagojevich.

By refusing to resign and attempting to make this appointment, the Governor leaves Illinois in terrible situation. As I have said since his arrest, I believe the Governor should resign immediately.

Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.....

excerpt from statement from Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias on the appointment by Gov Rod Blagojevich of Roland Burris to the Obama Senate seat.....

"The question is whether Blagojevich should have the right to make the appointment. Regardless of whether he wanted to appoint Mother Theresa or Abraham Lincoln, I believe Blagojevich lost that right when he allegedly attempted to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder."

click below for full statement....

Updated 12:08 a.m. Chicago time

WASHINGTON---I've learned that Gov. Blagojevich will name former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace President elect Barack Obama in the Senate on Tuesday afternoon. The embattled Blagojevich is fighting impeachment charges in the Illinois House for, among other reasons, trying to auction off the Senate seat held by President elect Barack Obama. Blagojevich called a press conference for 2 p.m. Chicago time at the Thompson State of Illinois Center.

However, Burris will face resistance from the Senate Democrats who control the chamber in seating him, I've just been told by Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.).

Reid had said when the Blagojevich scandal broke earlier this month he would ask the Senate not to seat any Blagojevich appointee, in order to make sure the seat is free of taint. All the Senate Democrats concurred. Manley said Reid's position has not changed.

Officials in Washington familiar with the situation call the Burris appointment "regrettable" and told me under the circumstances Burris "cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and will not be seated by the Democratic caucus."
Burris was the first African American to win statewide office in Illinois when he was elected comptroller, serving from 1983 to 1991. He served as Illinois Attorney General from 1991 to 1995. Burris previously ran and lost bids for the U.S. senate and governor.

If tapped as planned, Burris would be the sole African American in the U.S. Senate and the fourth African American to ever serve in the Senate. Illinois has produced three of the four African Americans in the Senate: Carol Moseley Braun, President elect Obama and now Roland Burris.

WASHINGTON -- If you did not know the back story, you would not fully appreciate Rep. Rahm Emanuel's resignation letter to Gov. Blagojevich, who is the subject of impeachment proceedings in the Illinois House, for, among other reasons, trying to auction off President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Emanuel, first elected to the House in 2002, formally announced Monday he would end his House career Jan. 2 to join the Obama administration as White House chief of staff. He was the fourth ranking Democrat in the House, given the post after he ran the political operation that won back control of the House for Democrats in 2006.

He informed residents of his 5th Congressional District, anchored in Chicago's North and Northwest Side neighborhoods, with robo calls on Monday. Emanuel is on a long-planned vacation to Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, traveling with his wife, Amy, their three children and friends.

WASHINGTON -- The Obama team, pledging the ''most open and transparent transition in history,'' gets an ''A'' for disclosing donors to the Jan. 20 inauguration and a ''F'' when it comes to revealing transition meetings with groups. Contrary to its own ''seat at the table transparency policy,'' meetings are not posted on a Web site.

I'm giving a ''B'' to the Obama transition report on staff contacts with Gov. Blagojevich. The report was a summary narrative released last week of an internal inquiry into Gov. Blagojevich's selling-of-a-Senate seat scandal. While the Obama team deserves credit for disclosure -- including that President-elect Barack Obama and incoming White House staffers Valerie Jarrett and Rahm Emanuel met with federal prosecutors -- offering some notes or transcripts to support the conclusions would have been helpful.

During the presidential primary campaign, then candidate Obama, still an Illinois senator, made a pledge I heard for the first time on Oct. 24, 2007. In a school gym in Dover, N.H., Obama said if president, he would post his meetings on the Internet. That was interesting to me because Obama's Senate staff had been very selective about what Obama Senate-related meetings they disclosed and seemed to be guided by a ''less is best'' policy.

A month after the election, on Dec. 5, John Podesta, a transition co-chair, issued an Obama transparency policy. When it comes to meetings, ''the date and organizations represented at official meetings in the Transition headquarters or agency offices'' would be ''posted on our Web site,'' at

Indeed, the ''seat at the table'' section states ''on this page, you can track these meetings, view documents provided to the Transition and leave comments for the team,'' but the statement is only partly true.

? 2008, NBC Universal, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


NBC News


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Senior Adviser to President-elect Obama

Editor, The National Review

National Editor, Vanity Fair

Financial Columnist, The Washington Post


MODERATOR/PANELIST: Mr. David Gregory ? NBC News

This is a rush transcript provided
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MR. DAVID GREGORY: Our issues this Sunday: He helped secure Barack Obama's presidential campaign victory as chief strategist. Now he prepares to serve as a senior adviser to the president-elect in the White House. How is the transition shaping up? The president-elect and some of his aides have already been interviewed by special prosecutors in the Blagojevich scandal. Have they managed to put it behind them, or are there more unanswered questions? And how will Obama deal with an economic meltdown now in full swing? We'll ask our guest, David Axelrod.

Then, Obama's prescriptions for solving the nation's economic problems. Can American workers afford to wait? Can American businesses survive in this tough climate? Plus, a closer look at how history will judge the Bush administration as the president prepares to leave office in just 23 days. Our roundtable weighs in: Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review; Todd Purdum, national editor for Vanity Fair; Michelle Singletary, financial columnist for The Washington Post; and Richard Wolffe, senior White House correspondent for Newsweek.

But first, an Israeli air offensive against Hamas in Gaza has entered its second day. So far some 280 Palestinians have been killed and 600 wounded in the largest Gaza operation since 1967. This morning Israel is taking steps that could lead to a ground invasion, amassing tanks on the Gaza border and calling up army reservists. In response, Hamas has promised a new wave of suicide bombing attacks against Israel. A short while ago, after an emergency Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, I spoke with Israel's foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and asked her how long the offensive would last.

MS. TZIPI LIVNI: Until we can, until we can change realities on the ground. The situation is a situation in which Israeli citizens are targeted from Gaza Strip, a place that we left few years ago in order to create a new horizon for peace. But we got Hamas in return.

MR. GREGORY: A lot of people are watching what's playing out, this air assault, and wondering why now?

MS. LIVNI: Oh, why now? Because after Israel decided to leave Gaza Strip a few years ago and we got Hamas in return. About a half a year ago, according to the Egyptian Initiative, we decided to enter a kind of a truce and not to attack Gaza Strip. Hamas violated, on a daily basis, this truce. They targeted Israel, and we didn't answer. But unfortunately, Hamas misunderstood the fact that Israel didn't retaliate, and only last week we had in a day 80 rockets, missiles, mortars on Israeli civilians. More than that, they used the field of truce in order to rearm themselves. They smuggled weapon, they built a small army in Gaza Strip, so the situation was unbearable.

MR. GREGORY: What is Israel's goal right now? Is it to re-establish the cease-fire, or is it to invade Gaza and remove Hamas from power?

MS. LIVNI: Our goal is not to reoccupy Gaza Strip. We left Gaza Strip. We took off for the south. We dismantled all the settlements. But since Gaza Strip has been controlled by the extremists and since Gaza Strip has been controlled by Hamas and since Hamas is using Gaza Strip in order to target us, we need to give an answer to this.

MR. GREGORY: Foreign Minister, aren't you making the case for pushing Hamas from power? The cease-fire, according to Israel, simply hasn't worked. It hasn't stopped the bombing of Sderot and Israel in the southern areas. So only the replacement of Hamas by Fatah, by more moderate leaders, appears to be the only answer.

MS. LIVNI: The goal is to give an answer to our citizens, to give them the possibility to live in peace like any other citizen in the world, and Hamas needs to understand it.

MR. GREGORY: Is it acceptable to Israel for Hamas to remain in power in Gaza?

MS. LIVNI: It is acceptable only in time, only if and when Hamas accepts the requirements of the international community. Right now Hamas didn't accept, is not willing to accept the requirements of the international community, is not willing to accept the right of Israel to exist. It violates any kind of understandings and is using terror against Israeli civilians. So it cannot be legitimate and acceptable right now.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you--I know you were in Egypt this past week, you met with Hosni Mubarak. What did you hear...


MR. GREGORY: the course of those meetings--the foreign minister of Egypt has criticized Hamas--and what is your message to the Arab world this morning?

MS. LIVNI: You know that Hamas doesn't serve the interests of the Palestinians or the moderate Arab world. You know that Hamas doesn't represent the national aspiration of the Palestinians. You know that Hamas represent this kind of ideology of hatred that they want to spread in the region. You know that Hamas stands on the--in the way of the Palestinians to create their own state. So put your--in, in a way, put your mouth--put, put your, put your money where, where, where your mouth is. I mean, say the right things right now.

MR. GREGORY: The Bush administration has been supportive of the campaign so far in Gaza but has warned Israel about avoiding civilian causalities. What kinds of consultations have you had with Secretary of State Rice?

MS. LIVNI: Well, of course, we are in a very close connection. I am in a very close connection with Secretary Rice, and we had some talks only last night. The idea--and this is according also to our values--we are targeting Hamas, we are not looking for civilians to kill. More than that, during this military operation, we are trying to avoid any kind of civil casualty. Israel called the population of Gaza to leave places in which they know that Hamas has its own headquarters. Since Hamas is using the civilian population and is acting and targeting Israel from civilian population centers, we called the civilians to leave these places. We are trying to make all the effort in order to target only terrorists and Hamas headquarters and places. But unfortunately, in war, like any war, sometimes also civilian pays the price.

MR. GREGORY: But if the goal is to change realties on the ground, to change the behavior of Hamas, how much international condemnation...


MR. GREGORY: Israel prepared to accept and at what level of civilian casualties?

MS. LIVNI: You know, this is--the one who need to be condemned by the international community is Hamas. This is a designated terrorist organization, is, is not willing even to give an answer to the international courts to recognize the right of Israel to exist. He uses terror. Israel is a state that implements its right to defend itself and its citizens. So I expect the international community to work accordingly since the moment in which Hamas sees that the international community condemn--condemns Israel and not Hamas, these are--this is the moment in which they become stronger and holding and trying to avoid any kind of changes until the international community forces Israel to stop. So I expect the international community, including the entire Arab world, to send a clear message to Hamas, "It's your fault. It's your responsibility. You're the one who is being condemned. You are not going to get legitimacy from the international community this way or the other. The responsibility for the life of civilians in Gaza Strip is in your hands." And then we have some chance, chances to see a change in their, in not only their position, but in their behavior.

MR. GREGORY: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, thank you very much for your time.

Ms. LIVNI: Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: And turning back home, we are now joined from Chicago by senior adviser to President-elect Obama, David Axelrod. Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. DAVID AXELROD: Thanks, David. Good to be here.

MR. GREGORY: What is the president-elect's position on this offensive against Gaza by Israel?

MR. AXELROD: Well, obviously, it's a very serious situation. He spent some time on the phone with Secretary Rice yesterday, and he is monitoring the situation. But we've said repeatedly through this transition period that we--there's only one president at a time, and President Bush speaks for the United States of America until January 20th, and we're going to honor that moving forward.

MR. GREGORY: But in the course of the campaign, the now president-elect visited Sderot...

MR. AXELROD: He did.

MR. GREGORY: fact, in southern Israel, and he said that Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket attacks from Hamas.

MR. AXELROD: Indeed, he did.

MR. GREGORY: Does he believe it's appropriate for Israel, if it takes his decision, to push Hamas from power?

MR. AXELROD: He did, as you said, visit Sderot in July, and he said then that he thought that when bombs are raining, raining down on your citizens, it is--it's obviously unacceptable and there is an urge to act. And so--but again, I don't want to go beyond that because we only have one government and one president at a time. And he's going to continue to consult with Secretary Rice and the president and the administration on this and monitor these events. And he'll be prepared to take over on the 20th and, and, and discharge his responsibilities then.

MR. GREGORY: OK. Let's move on to the ongoing saga of Governor Rod Blagojevich in Illinois and questions about the vacancy left and created by the president-elect in that Senate seat. This week the Obama team released a report that was compiled by incoming White House counsel Greg Craig to detail what contacts the Obama team had with Governor Blagojevich or his aides. And this was the conclusion to the report as compiled and, and put together by Greg Craig. "The accounts of Obama transition staff contain no indication of inappropriate discussions with the governor or anyone from his office about a `deal' or a quid pro quo arrangement in which he would receive a personal benefit in return for any specific appointment to fill the Senate vacancy."

Now, back on December 17th, the president-elect seemed a bit frustrated, in fact, that he wasn't able to do more to shed light on this situation. This is what he said then.


President-elect BARACK OBAMA: It's a little bit frustrating. There's been a lot of speculation in the press that I would love to correct immediately. We are abiding by the request of the U.S. attorneys office, but it's not going to be that long. By next week you guys will have the answers to all your questions.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: And yet, there are still lingering questions. There are no notes provided. There are no transcripts of the interviews that Mr. Craig did with aides to the president-elect. This is just a four-page narrative that was released two days before Christmas. Is this consistent with the promise of, of a--an historic level of transparency by the Obama team?

MR. AXELROD: Well, David, the--first of all, the reason it was released two days before Christmas was because we were abiding by a request from the U.S. attorneys office, and we released it when they told us we, we could release it. They also reviewed it. But it reflects the full record of, of contacts between members of the transition around the president-elect and, and, and Governor Blagojevich's office. And it reflects everything that the president-elect has said about it. There's really nothing more to it. There were conversations, there was no discussion of a quid pro quo. President-elect sent a, a list of names over there of, of many people in our state who he felt would be good representatives of the state, and that was the extent of it.

MR. GREGORY: Will the president-elect produce those notes and transcripts with staff interviews, as well as, perhaps, hold a press conference to answer any question associated with this?

MR. AXELROD: Well, obviously, he's going to be holding press conferences, and you guys are free to ask whatever you want to ask. This is a--there, there's nothing more, really, to release. The, the story is reflected in that, in that narrative, and I think that events moving forward will, will support that.

MR. GREGORY: So no to the idea of, of releasing notes or transcripts from the investigation internally?

MR. AXELROD: David, you've got, you've got the full narrative of, of what happened. It's, it's a complete account of all those contacts.

MR. GREGORY: Let's move into some of the substance. In the criminal complaint filed by the U.S. attorney, the following is written: "On November 11th, 2008, Rod Blagojevich talked with John Harris," that was his chief of staff, "about the Senate seat," again, the one being vacated by the president-elect. "Blagojevich said he knows that the president-elect wants Senate Candidate 1," we find out later that that's Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president-elect, "for the Senate seat but `they're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. Bleep them.'" The USA Today editorialized that exchange this way: "Obama's report says none of his aides was offered any illegal pay-to-play deal, so there would not have been anything to report to authorities. That might well be true, but it doesn't quite explain how Blagojevich knew that all the Obama people intended to give him was `appreciation.' Doesn't that suggest the governor or his aides at least hinted at" wanted "something more?" Do you have an answer to that?

MR. AXELROD: No. The--I don't think that the governor's people hinted that they wanted something. There, there was no discussion of quid pro quos. There was no--and by the way, I mean, my contact with the president-elect never suggested that he was pushing one particular candidate over another. Valerie Jarrett, who was identified as, as the Senate Candidate 1, is a close friend and adviser to the president-elect. He wanted her in the White House. I never heard him express an interest in putting her in the Senate.

MR. GREGORY: And yet there was a conversation that Rahm Emanuel, the incoming chief of staff, had with both Governor Blagojevich and his chief of staff during which there was a conversation about whether there would be anything beyond appreciation from the president-elect, and Rahm Emanuel apparently said no, nothing more than that, just, just appreciation. So there was no feeling among Obama's inner circle here that there was some hint, some suggestion that they wanted more?

MR. AXELROD: No, there was not. There was not. And this, of course, was the subject of interviews with the, the U.S. attorney. There was never any suggestion at, that I heard discussed, of any interest in a quid pro quo. No one could have imagined the scenario that unfolded after that.

MR. GREGORY: Did you or anybody working for the president-elect speak to the U.S. attorney or other investigators about contacts with the governor's office prior to the criminal charges being brought? In other words, did anything come to light in your dealings with the governor's office that made you report to authorities?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I personally had no contacts with the governor's office. But no, absolutely not. There was no reason to believe that there was any--anything unusual or untoward going on that would require a contact with the U.S. attorneys office.

MR. GREGORY: We know that the president-elect also sat down for an interview with the U.S. attorney. What was the nature of that interview?

MR. AXELROD: Well, he--they just--they wanted to know anything that he knew about it. As he--as was described in the report that was released, he had no contact with the governor or the governor's staff. He had some conversations with his own staff. Those were all reflected in that, in that report. And they just wanted to, to, to probe and see if there's anything more he could add.

MR. GREGORY: Bottom line, does the president-elect believe that the governor of Illinois was attempting to sell his Senate seat, in effect, to the highest bidder?

MR. AXELROD: Well, David, I'm not going to answer that question. I mean, obviously we're all reading the same accounts, and this is the subject of a criminal investigation. So we'll see how that all--how, how that all turns out. But it wouldn't be appropriate for me to answer that question.

MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to issue one for this new administration, and that, of course, is the economy. Lawrence Summers, who is the incoming director of national--the National Economic Council penned an op-ed piece for The Washington Post today in which he promises big things from this administration. Let's put it on the screen for our viewers. "In this crisis, doing too little," he writes, "poses a greater threat than doing too much. Any sound economic strategy in the current context must be directed at both creating the jobs that Americans need and doing the work that our economy requires. Any plan geared toward only one of these objectives would be dangerously deficient. Failure to create enough jobs in the short term would put the prospect of recovery at risk. Failure to start undertaking necessary long-term investments would endanger the foundation of our recovery and, ultimately, our children's prosperity."

Rahm Emanuel, who we talked about just a moment ago, said that you don't want to waste a serious crisis. By that he meant there were short, short-term problems you can address, but also long-term problems that were ignored for too long that you can also tackle. What does the president-elect hope and intend to do in the first few weeks to try to restore confidence?

MR. AXELROD: Well, I think it's, it's absolutely essential that we move not just to restore confidence--and that's, that's important--but to do substantive things that will get this economy moving again. The other thing that Larry Summers said in that piece was that, untended, that we could be looking at double-digit unemployment by the end of next year, and that's something nobody wants to see. So we have to act--every economist from left to right agrees that we have to do something big in terms of job creation, but we want to do it in a way that will leave a lasting footprint. So we're talking about investing in alternative energy projects that will help us achieve energy independence. We're talking about rebuilding the nation's classrooms to bring them into the 21st century, and labs and libraries so our kids can compete. Health: In the area of health, IT, so that we can computerize medical records, which will cut costs, reduce errors and improve, and improve care. And of course, infrastructure...


MR. AXELROD: ...rebuilding our crumbling bridges and roads and waterways. These are things that will put people to work, but also that will strengthen our economy in the long run, and that's where we're focusing our attention.

MR. GREGORY: As the economy quickly deteriorates and continues to move in the wrong direction almost on a daily basis, has the president-elect changed his view about taxes? And by that I mean has he made a decision to put off any tax increases or even a middle-class tax cut, as he talked about for the, for the short term?

MR. AXELROD: No. Look, we feel it's important that, that middle-class people get some relief now. He's promised a middle-class tax cut. This package will include a, a portion of that tax cut that will become part of the permanent tax cut he'll have in his, his upcoming budget. It's, it's, it's vital people are, are--need money in their pockets to, to spend. That'll help get our economy going again.

MR. GREGORY: But will you hold off on any tax increases?

MR. AXELROD: Well, look, the question is on the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthiest Americans, and it's something that we plainly can't afford moving forward. And whether it, it, it expires or whether we repeal it a little bit early we'll determine later, but it's going to go. It has to go.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but that is an increase. You're saying you won't--you would just let it expire, you wouldn't try to repeal it early?

MR. AXELROD: I'm saying we'll make that decision moving forward here.

MR. GREGORY: All right, but you're not--because the commitment was to, to lower those taxes to definitely--excuse me, I mean to raise those taxes on people by letting those tax cuts expire. You're saying you'll hold on and see. You won't make a decision yet.

MR. AXELROD: Yes, I'm saying that. But I'm also--I also want to stress that what the president-elect proposed during the campaign amounted to a net tax cut. In other words, when you add up the tax cuts and the change--the expiration or the repeal of, of the tax cut for the wealthy, it'll amount to a net tax cut for the American people. It'll just restore some balance, David, which we badly need.

MR. GREGORY: Let me turn, in our remaining moments, to the issue of politics. I don't have to tell you that the president-elect has been criticized by some of his supporters for naming Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration, the evangelical figure, preacher, pastor in California who is opposed to gay rights and supported Prop 8 in California, which overturned gay rights in California. Frank Rich in The New York Times wrote this that was critical of the president-elect this morning. "Obama may not only overestimate his ability to bridge some of our fundamental differences but also underestimate how persistent some of those differences are. ... When Obama defends Warren's words by calling them an example of the `wide range of viewpoints' in a `diverse and noisy and opinionated' America, he is being too cute by half. He knows full well that a `viewpoint' defaming any minority group by linking it to sexual crimes like pedophilia is unacceptable." Let me just point out that Rick Warren did liken gay marriage to a brother and sister marrying or to an older guy marrying a daughter. Do you think that the president-elect has risked offending the very people who put him into office?

MR. AXELROD: Well, look, Rick Warren and the president-elect have had a dialogue for some, some time, David. They've had a dialogue about things on which they agree, such as fighting poverty and reducing the terrible plight of--the terrible disease that, that crosses Africa. And they've, and they've had a dialogue about things on which they disagree, such as civil rights for gays and lesbians and a woman's right to choose. But the important point here is that you have a conservative evangelical pastor who's coming to participate in the inauguration of a progressive president, and this is a healthy thing and a good thing for our country. We have to be--we have to find ways to work together on the things on which we do agree, even when we profoundly disagree on other things. And that's how we are going to build bridges of understanding and move this country forward. And that's what Barack Obama promised as a candidate. That's what he's going to deliver as president.

MR. GREGORY: But is--isn't the question for all those progressives, all of those new registrants to the Democratic Party, when you promised a progressive presidency with a progressive candidate, and then you get this. Pat Robertson, the televangelist who said in praise of Obama this week, "I am remarkably pleased with Obama. ... He's picked a middle-of-the-road Cabinet." Again, do you think Obama supporters would think that that's the kind of praise they want to hear?

MR. AXELROD: David, we've got to get beyond this sort of politics where we're each on the jagged edge of a great divide, shaking our fists at each other. We do have a great Cabinet. We're proud of that Cabinet. It's diverse. It represents great talent and experience from inside Washington and outside Washington. It's going to move this country forward. And if that pleases people, whether they're from the right or the left, that's fine. But the, the bottom line is watch what we do, watch the policies that we implement. We're going to move this country forward.

MR. GREGORY: Has Barack Obama become a moderate now that he's become president?

MR. AXELROD: I think Barack Obama--one of the great virtues of Barack Obama is consistency. He is exactly who he's always been. He's always worked across ideological lines, partisan lines to try and achieve progressive goals, and that's what he's going to do as president.

MR. GREGORY: Finally, let's talk about your role in the White House. The last major political figure in a campaign to have a big portfolio in the White House was, of course, Karl Rove. You've described your role this way. "I'm a kibitzer with a broad portfolio." Here's my question: Will you begin working on Barack Obama's re-election from day one?

MR. AXELROD: No, I'm working on--my, my job, David, is, is different from Mr. Rove's job was. I see my job simply as helping disseminate the message of Barack Obama, working with the communications team to make sure that we're true to the, to, to the ideals and the values and the programs that he wants to advance in this country. And that, that's the extent of my involvement. We've got plenty of good talented, political people who, who are not coming into the administration. And when the time comes, we'll run the campaign. But our, our, our view is that we've got tremendous challenges in this country right now, and what we should be thinking about is how we're going to address those and not the next election. And if we do that well, the next election will take care of itself.

MR. GREGORY: Are you saying you're not interested in political realignment in this country that would help to achieve those goals that you hope to achieve?

MR. AXELROD: David, I'm interested in--and we as an administration are interested in solving these profound problems that are facing the American people right now. And, you know, there's an old saying that good, good government is good politics. I think that's more true today then ever. The American people are not looking for more politics, they're looking for solutions, and that's what we want to provide.

MR. GREGORY: David Axelrod in Chicago this morning. Happy new year and thank you for coming on.

MR. AXELROD: Happy new year to you. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Coming next, how will the Obama administration solve our economic problems? And how will history judge the Bush administration? Our roundtable weighs in. Rich Lowry, Todd Purdum, Michelle Singletary and Richard Wolffe, all here only on MEET THE PRESS.


MR. GREGORY: Our MEET THE PRESS roundtable weighs in on the economy and President Bush's legacy after this brief station break.


MR. GREGORY: We're back with our roundtable this morning, joined by Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Todd Purdum of Vanity Fair, Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post, and Rich Lowry of the National Review.

Welcome to all of you. The new year is going to be a hard year when it comes to the economy. Look at some of the headlines that we pulled just from the last couple of days: "States Cut Medicaid Coverage Further," "Like Many States, Ohio Reaches for a Lifeline" from the federal government, "Downturn Ends New York's Boom in Construction," "Retail Sales Plummet" after the holidays.

This is what Jeff Immelt said--he's the CEO, of course, of General Electric, the parent company of NBC--at a speech in November: "The economic crisis doesn't represent a cycle; it represents a `reset.' It's an emotional, social, economic reset. ... People who understand that will prosper. Those who don't will be left behind."

Michelle, what do you think that means?

MS. MICHELLE SINGLETARY: I think that--I love that he said "reset," because--I am actually glad that we had this recession because we were on a path that we couldn't get off, and we did need that reset. We need, we needed people to step back and stop taking on so much debt and really go back to the basics. The basics are the basics because they always work no matter what the economy is. Live below your means, don't take on so much debt and save.

MR. GREGORY: And that's not just advice for individuals, but for businesses.

MS. SINGLETARY: Well, I mean, you know, we, we, we bought into this. I say we drank the Kool-Aid that "Let's use other people's money." Well, the problem is we ran out of other people's money. And so, you know, look at the companies that went down. Why did they go down? It's not because they didn't have a good business premise, it's because they had too much debt and not enough cash. They had all these high-rolling times, but they weren't setting aside all this money that they were earning.

MR. GREGORY: Well, what happens to the psychology of the country, as David Axelrod suggested, if we get into double-digit unemployment?

MS. SINGLETARY: Well, you know, in some communities, we are already in double-digit employment.


MS. SINGLETARY: You look at the African-American community, Hispanic community, we are already there. And, and, and it's going to be bad. It's going to be bad. But, you know, there's hope. This, too, shall pass. And if people do the right thing, take the message that you can't keep on the same path that you were before, we will be OK.

MR. GREGORY: Rich Lowry, the role of government has been vastly expanded in a Republican administration. Has the public's view of what the government should and can be doing to fix the economy changed? And will it change under this new president?

MR. RICH LOWRY: Well, at least, at least temporarily, David. And the way I look at this, and this is a uncomfortable observation for someone who sits where I do on the political spectrum, but big paradigm shifts in terms of how we view our politics and our economy, they usually happen before the figure who's associated with them in history. So, arguably, in the '20s and the '30s there was a bigger break between Coolidge and Hoover, who's a real activist president, than it was between Hoover and FDR. You look at the late '70s, Congress passed tax cuts, Carter deregulated before Ronald Reagan came into office, who's associated with those sort of changes. And now we have a conservative Republican president who supported this massive financial bailout, and then has used it to bail out the auto companies before the liberal activist president has even taken office. So that's a sign to me that this might be a big, historic shift.

MR. GREGORY: One of the questions, Richard Wolffe, is what specifically does the new president believe should be done about housing? A lot of people in the economy feel that until you do something about housing prices or to ease the correction in housing, that psychology won't change, people won't spend money if they feel like their number one asset is declining in value. But there's a debate, I understand, within the Obama team about what specifically they can and should do to ease that correction for the homeowner. Where do you think he'll fall down on that?

MR. RICHARD WOLFFE: Well, there is a debate here and, and partly because they've spent so much money not changing anything--or at least the current administration has. If the focus is on psychology, I think they are on a very long and difficult path. We're halfway through this recession by many conservative estimates. It will be a long time before the psychology turns around. It's about confidence in the marketplace, for sure. But also growth. What they're really focusing on is growth in the broader economy. Until that really moves on, nobody's going to be spending money. Companies are not going to be investing capital. So the question is, not just specifically about the housing market. Of course there are troubled institutions, troubled pieces of paper. So much money has been thrown at that.


MR. WOLFFE: Moving that forward is going to take a much bigger group of policies.

MR. GREGORY: Is he going to get a blank check from both Democrats and Republicans in Congress to do what he feels he needs to do?

MR. TODD PURDUM: I don't know that he'll get a blank check, but I think he'll probably have pretty broad support. And partly because no one should be invested, no one will be invested in his failure. Every member of Congress has to deal with his or her district. And look what happened with the initial refusal to support the bailout. That was because of pressure coming from their districts. So I don't think anybody wants to, to dig us deeper here. And if, if the Obama Administration comes forward with some, you know, reasonably creative ideas for going forward, I think the Congress will go along.

MR. GREGORY: I want to talk about what we learned from this bubble. Because everybody's talking about that for new regulation and lessons learned from what we experienced in this housing crash--no. This is what--Henry Blodget, in Atlantic magazine wrote the cover story, on why Wall Street always blows it. He was a Merrill Lynch analyst during the, the Internet bubble. He writes, "Why did Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and the rest of an ever-growing Wall Street hall of shame take so much risk that they ended up blowing their firms to kingdom come? Because in a bull market, when you borrow and bet $30 for every $1 you have in capital, as many firms did, you can do mind-bogglingly well. And when your competitors are betting the same $30 for every $1, and your shareholder start demanding that you do better, and your bonus is tied to how much money your firm makes--not over the long term, but this year--the downside to refusing to ride the bull market comes into sharp relief."

Michelle, it's not so easy to put the brakes on when everybody's making money.

MS. SINGLETARY: It's not. But you have to. You have to. The companies and individuals did the same thing. You know, Proverbs says that the borrower is slave to the lender. And if we just internalized that message, we would all be much better right now. And, and it, it's a shame that we had to get to this point, but we have got--I mean, you talked about the psychological change. We have got to do this. We have got--we--you know, you and I talked about this. You know, we have this whole Ponzi scheme of shifting money around, and no one is saving, no one's doing the things that they're supposed to do. It is critical that we address the housing issue. Some people will lose their home, and they should lose their home. But if you're in your home right now and the value is going down, and you have no intention on selling or refinancing, what do you care what it's worth? It's where you live. It's not a bank. It's not an ATM. So stop worrying about that. If you got savings, and you have a decent job and you've got health care, go ahead and spend. It's OK.

MR. GREGORY: Well, you actually write about something that Congress should take up in a recent column. You say, in terms of passing the buck, "There's some good that could be had," you write, "from the current crisis in corporate America. When someone is pleading for a handout, you can get something in exchange for rescuing them. It would be idiotic if Congress didn't take advantage of this crisis"--(Gregory coughs) excuse me--"and find a way to better control the way executives are compensated. If we now have an economy in which we cannot allow certain industries or companies to fail, then we need better governance over executive compensation."

Rich, is that really where Congress should be spending its time?

MR. LOWRY: Well, look, the problem is--and I think Michelle's on to something here--when you're a company and you take government money, you've sort of lost the moral claim to control yourself. And that's why Detroit is going to end up producing green cars, basically mandated by Congress. That's why the banks are going to face, I think, really serious pressure, kind of mandated lending regulation. And if things continue to go south, it wouldn't surprise me if we begin to see really serious proposals to nationalize the banks.

MR. GREGORY: Is that something that would, that would fly in Congress?

MR. WOLFFE: Well, they're not, they're not going to use that language, but, de facto, that's what's really already taking place. The question is, you know, you can focus on these individual industries, you can look at the housing market. But there is a fundamental question that undermines the philosophy that we have looked at for the last 20 years about unfettered free markets, whether it's safe to put money into the stock market. Are the banks going to be there? Are the regulators doing their job? Are the credit agents performing their tasks? To rebuild all of that is not just a monumental task, it has a huge impact on the politics, because conservatives have put their confidence in an ideology that is as broken now as the big government philosophy was in the early '90s. The era of big business, in many ways, is over. Politics in Congress across the country's going to have to deal with that, just as homeowners are going to have to deal with their own personal budgets.

MR. GREGORY: Rich, is that fair, do you think?

MR. LOWRY: Well, this--we're, we're definitely probably seeing an end to a 25-year era that ran right through Reagan, through Clinton, and through Bush that depended on free markets, free trade and deregulation. Now, how far we're going to go in the other direction is one of the big questions. And I would counsel against going too far in the other direction. But there is, as I was saying earlier, a big possibility of a paradigm shift here.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the political dimension to all of this. This week Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the House, of course, said the Republicans are in a tough spot when it comes to criticizing the new president. This what he said: "I think the country is so tired right now of a style of Republican attack politics that has become a caricature of itself, they instinctively go, `I'm tired of that.' It's ineffective against Barack Obama right now. The country is faced with serious problems and is about to have a brand new president. You'd have to be irrational not to want the new president to succeed."

MR. PURDUM: I think, as usual, Speaker Gingrich puts his finger on something pretty essential. I mean, he's about the smartest guy in Washington in many ways. And, you know, he has his problems, but he's always been out there being able to see when the wind is changing, and this is one of those times, I think. President-elect Obama has this metronomic kind of regularity. He never gets too excited when things are going well, he never gets too upset when things are going badly. And I think in some ways the public, over time, over the length of his campaign responded to that, and that's effectively what answered a lot of doubts about experience and other qualifications. So I think, you know, the, the sort of Rovian style of "demonize your opponents, say they're bad," that, that has passed a little bit from the scene for the moment, I think.

MR. GREGORY: But, Michelle, how much patience does the public really have? He's got a big honeymoon here, the President-elect does, but people are going to expect him to turn over those cards to bring recovery pretty quickly.

MS. SINGLETARY: I think they will, absolutely. You know, you, you quoted Larry Summers editorial and at the very end, if you read to the end, he said what we can't do is go back to saying, "Consumers, spend, spend, spend to get us out of this."

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MS. SINGLETARY: And so I think that Barack Obama has to get in there and has to do some hard work right away, because that's right, we're not going to wait. Because if you lost your job, if you don't have health care, if you can't feed your kids and you're out on the street, and you've been kicked to the curb, you're not going to wait for the president to, to, to do whatever. You've got to have something happen right now and soon. And, you know, I think he needs to get in there and, and make some hard decisions and, you know, you know, get in there. And, and we've ignored HUD for a long time. You know, we've got to get in there and, and--I tell people HUD--we ought to be fearful of HUD as we are of the IRS.

MR. GREGORY: The Department of Housing and Urban Development.

MS. SINGLETARY: That's right. You know, look at that they did. I mean, it's crazy how they weren't really policing the way they should have, and they don't have enough policing power. So those kinds of things is what he's going to have to get in there and do, I think.

MR. LOWRY: It's, it's really an extraordinary moment, because Michelle talked about how debt got us into this problem and the solution that's being offered is more, more debt, government debt, debt. If you look at the Federal Reserve, you know, there's a water main break here in suburban Washington. I think everyone saw on, on cable news millions of gallons of water flowing down the street. That's what the Federal Reserve has done.


MR. LOWRY: Just opened the spigots in terms of liquidity, and now--that's what we're doing in monetary policy. And now Barack Obama is going to do a version of it with fiscal policy. You know, the defense budget is about $500 billion. We're going double that amount roughly in a couple of weeks. Total discretionary spending by the federal government is about $1 trillion. We're almost going to double that in a couple of weeks. And I think this is where the Republican opposition is going to come in. They're going to tamp the brakes...

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. LOWRY: ...and say, "Look, there's no way you can spend that much money responsibly."

MR. GREGORY: But wasn't it--weren't--wasn't it conservatives who said that deficits don't matter?

MR. LOWRY: Exactly. You're going to hear that--I was talking to a top Republican aide just over the weekend, and I heard the D word more than I ever have like in eight years.

MR. GREGORY: Suddenly they're back, they matter.

MR. LOWRY: Exactly.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about something else that, that a couple of you have written about this week, and that is the legacy of the Bush administration.

Todd Purdum in Vanity Fair, a big spread, an oral history of the Bush administration. If this is a first draft of a history of this administration, what does it show?

MR. PURDUM: Well, I think the main point is, is what President Bush's pollster and former strategist in the 2004 election said, which is "Missed opportunity." It was amazing--my editor Cullen Murphy and I did this, we conducted probably close to 60 interviews--and from Bush insiders to foreign diplomats, the common theme was tremendous elegiac regret at opportunities that were missed. That opportunity after 9/11 when the president had, you know, the country in the palm of his hand and foreign newspapers were saying, "We're all Americans," somehow that moment was never exploited to move forward and the Iraq war, of course, became an incredibly divisive issue for the, for the country and for the world.

MR. GREGORY: If there wasn't that sense of--I mean, there was a sense of national purpose, but if there was not a specific call for national sacrifice, the president essentially said, "Look, we will worry about this, you should go about living your lives."

Richard, what was that space filled by?

MR. WOLFFE: National service. You know, I, I, I'm not sure that the call to service was what was missing. It was a tone in politics that actually Governor Bush, as he ran for office, talked about bringing in, this idea that Barack Obama is now picking up about, ending the partisan squabbling.

MR. GREGORY: Uh-huh.

MR. WOLFFE: And, and he actually exacerbated it. And 9/11 was a moment to reset the clock, to go back to those campaign themes. And instead Iraq wasn't just divisive politically. I think people are still today scratching their heads and trying to figure out why it happened. The rationale changed so many times. The decision to move from al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein has never been made clear. I think we are still waiting for a sufficient explanation of it. And his legacy is, to some extent, going to be defined by that. But using war and national security for political purposes in those first midterms, in the 2004 election, really, it took us to a new level of partisan squabbling.

MR. GREGORY: You talk about the tone.

Michelle, what was striking, Ari Fleischer, interviewed in this piece, the first press secretary for President Bush, said this in the Vanity Fair piece: "After the recount, the disputed election, a lot of people said you needed to start to trim your sails: What are you going to cut back on as a way to show outreach to the other party? The president rejected that line of thinking." Why, do you think, and was it a mistake?

MS. SINGLETARY: I think it was. And, and you know, if I--you talked about his legacy, his economic legacy is selfishness. You know, you look at what they wanted to do to Social Security. Imagine if our money was in the markets right now, which is one of the things that he wanted to do. I think this, this administration failed on so many levels when it came to the economy, including not regulating the banks and letting things happen that shouldn't have happened with the mortgage industry. And, you know, he should be ashamed of what he, what he has left us.

MR. GREGORY: Overall that change in tone, missed opportunity there. There was a real feeling that he would never be accepted. Karl Rove and others said, "You know what, the country--the left will never accept you. You've got to put your pedal to the metal here and go for the agenda." And that's what they did.

MR. LOWRY: Well, I would say a couple things. One, Bush had a very simple view of how this works. You run on your agenda, and then you're elected and you try to pass your agenda. And that seems pretty straightforward and basically admirable to me. But a couple things happened with the tone. One, he entered into a Washington where there was this ongoing revenge warfare between the parties, where Republicans were going to get revenge for Iran-Contra with, with Whitewater and the Monica scandal, and then the Democrats were going to get revenge for that. And you had about a 16-year period where neither side would really accept the legitimacy of the other party's president. And then also, I think, it, it goes more broadly to Bush's capabilities. You know, he was much better as a decider than a persuader. You know, he was never good at making the argument, and therefore he didn't, didn't put much effort into making the argument.

MR. GREGORY: We'll come back to Iraq in just a second, but one--what, what, what's underneath all of this, of course, was the response to 9/11 and the question of, of terrorism. He gave a speech December 17th at the U.S. Army War College, during which he said this.


PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Here at home we prevented numerous terrorist attacks. We'll never know how many lives have been saved. But this is for certain, since 9/11, there's not been another terrorist attack on American soil.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Richard Wolffe, that cannot be denied.

MR. WOLFFE: Sure. But on American soil is the operative phrase here. There have been many terrorist attacks on foreign soil that are the direct outgrowth of what we've seen of, of American foreign policy, to be blunt. And it's true that terrorism is what is responsible for those attacks, not American foreign policy. But that policy has exacerbated it and has taken the problem elsewhere. So al-Qaeda has, has grown into a multiheaded beast which is now extremely difficult to control. Afghanistan is actually in a weaker situation than it was after the Taliban was overthrown. So, you know, there are--he has a, he has a, a historic record in terms of his response to 9/11, no question. People were looking for leadership, and he filled that vacuum in those very, very troubled moments. But longer term, America is--has, has fundamental problems now that are really being kicked to this new administration.

MR. PURDUM: Well, that's another point that people we interviewed made to us is the credibility problem. Former Senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Intelligence Committee and voted against the war, one of the relatively few Democrats to do so, made the point that American credibility around the world is really shot on a lot of important questions now because people say, "If you got Iraq so wrong, how can we trust you on this?" He also pointed out that the threat of al-Qaeda is arguably greater than it was on September 10th, 2001, because of this resurgence. And other people polled--General Alberto Mora, who was the general counsel of the Navy, said that generals on the ground in Iraq believe that the two worst causes of American casualties there are Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, because of the spur they gave to recruiting jihadists.

MR. GREGORY: The detention...

MR. PURDUM: Exactly. Exactly.

MR. GREGORY: The detention facility in Guantanamo for, for people picked up on the battlefield.

Rich Lowry, you write--well, first, the--we'll talk about what you, what you wrote in the National Review about Bush exiting. But the, the theme of the second inaugural, and indeed, much of what we hear the president talk about in terms of Iraq, has to do with the freedom agenda, bringing freedom so that terrorism cannot flourish. This is what the president said in part during his second inaugural.

(Videotape, January 20, 2005)

PRES. BUSH: There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment and expose the pretensions of tyrants and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led by events and common sense to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.

The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: The National Review cover that I mentioned says "Bush Exits," and your particular piece, Rich, is headlined this way: "`The Freedom Speech' in Retrospect. It was not the grossly simplistic vision of the second inaugural that saved Iraq."

MR. LOWRY: Yeah. Look, all inaugural addresses are aspirational at a certain level, so you have to factor that in. But I think this was overreaching. Yes, freedom is a important drive in all of human beings. But there are lots of other important drives. You know, for honor, for, you know, your way of life, for your ethnicity, your religion. All those sort of things were ignored. And one of Todd's interviewees in this Vanity Fair piece, an intelligence official, was asked, you know, why didn't they have more interest in the aftermath of Iraq? And he said, "Well, if you believe that freedom is inevitably going to triumph and if you just scratch beneath the surface of everyone, you basically have a Western liberal there, you're not going to be that interested in the aftermath because you think it's going to work out." And unfortunately, I think there's a fair amount of truth to that.

I just want to go back to Richard's point about the no attacks on U.S. soil. U.S. soil is a big caveat. I mean, that is a key thing. And in our exit interview with President Bush, you're just struck by the extent to which he was a war president. I mean, that's what drove him most passionately. And when you talk to him about it, you feel as though he's just sort of been left behind by the public and by history. And I think that's because of the very success in preventing another attack on U.S. soil...

MR. WOLFFE: But you can't...

MR. LOWRY: ...which allowed, which allowed the public to move on to, to other issues that they found more urgent.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

MR. WOLFFE: You can't take America's national security across oceans to other continents and then only care about its impact on American soil. It's grossly irresponsible.

I--just a point about the, the second inaugural, though. Yes, grossly simplistic, but where's the follow through here? You say freedom is, is the most important thing, and everyone agrees with that. But again, America has a unique position on the international stage. Sustained involvement with fighting tyranny would, say, take you into Egypt where the president was saying he was going to stand with the dissidents and deal with jihadism. Well, you know, the dissidents in Egypt's jails are still there, and they are actually still the sworn enemies of the United States. So simplistic in conception and execution, and you cannot just say, "Well, here we are in America, we're just doing great. What about"...

MR. GREGORY: Let me...

MR. LOWRY: Well, it's, it's--yeah.

MR. GREGORY: Go ahead.

MR. LOWRY: It was impractical on a certain level. But, look, it's not as though the United States does not care about terror attacks overseas. And I think perhaps you're exaggerating the extent to which al-Qaeda has been strengthened. Al-Qaeda just suffered a severe defeat in the Arab heartland in Iraq, and that is a huge benefit to the United States strategically, and President Bush basically was--is responsible for that alone. His opponents wanted to quit from Iraq and basically hand the country over to terrorists. And Bush, you know, there are two sides to Bush; there's courage and there's stubbornness. Sometimes, you know, you saw him stubbornly sticking to the wrong course. The surge in Iraq, which saved the war there and dealt a blow to al-Qaeda, was a hugely courageous act.

MR. GREGORY: Just have about a minute left.

And, Richard, I just want to touch our top story briefly. David Axelrod didn't want to talk about what the Obama response would be to this offensive into Gaza by Israel, but what's coming potentially is a long, protracted war, a ground invasion. Where do you think Obama will stand on these issues? And how does it complicate whatever diplomatic turn he'd like to make in the Middle East?

MR. WOLFFE: Well, there's an eerie parallel with what happened with President Bush, because, remember, the Second Intifada started in 2000 just before he took office. And everyone, every president has this idea of being the peacemaker in the Middle East. Obama wants to have a more sustained engagement. Again, one of the things we didn't see through the Bush years. But his capacity to move here is severely curtailed because the Palestinian territory is so deeply divided. He clearly has some room, the Israelis have some room to try and remake the Gaza Strip, but it's not going to happen by military force. There needs to be a new political settlement there between Palestinians, otherwise, to use that tired phrase, there's no partner for peace there for Americans or Israelis.


MR. PURDUM: Well, it's just--I mean, look at the situation there now. There were elections. Hamas won the elections. So, I mean, it's a complicated reality in the world when you start opening the, the can of democracy, and we'll see what happens.



MS. SINGLETARY: You know, I listen to this conversation, and I'm sort of thinking, you know, as the, as the regular, you know, mom and, and churchgoer, and I'm thinking, you know, all this--I'm just so disheartened by what Bush did to us, and, and all this focus on fighting a war that we couldn't win. I mean, all the generals sort of told you that going in. And you said sometimes stubborn. He wasn't sometimes stubborn, he was always stubborn. And, and he did all of this, I think, at the detriment of our country, our economy. And I think the regular American people are sitting here going, "We're in this war, and you said you couldn't afford health care, and yet all these billions of dollars are over there. And I have no job, no health care and probably no house."

MR. GREGORY: And one of the issues, obviously, that the president himself has said that it will take time for some of that vision, particularly in foreign affairs and in Iraq, to be vindicated if it's ever vindicated. But the reality is a cruel economic reality as he leaves office.

We're going to leave it there, thank you very much. We'll be right back.


MR. GREGORY: That's all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS. Happy new year, everyone.



Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, December 28, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The internal probe by the Obama transition on whether anyone on their team had a part in Gov. Blagojevich's alleged scheme to land a big job in the Obama administration, or some union or non-profit close to the president elect, concluded nothing untoward happened, though it did shine a light on some backstage politicking by Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett over the vacant Senate spot.

Jarrett, who seemed a perfect fit for the White House job she landed, senior adviser and assistant to the president for inter-government relations and public liaison, nonetheless was interested for a time in being named the junior senator for Illinois.

Unlike other contenders, who went hat-in-hand to Blagojevich -- under an ethics cloud even before he was arrested Dec. 9 on public corruption charges -- Jarrett did not approach the governor directly. I can see why. Would have been off message. Still, Blagojevich was the one with the sole appointment power, muddied up or not.

WASHINGTON--Are you an OF&F somebody?

The Obama inaugration team has set up a special operation to provide concierge services to help Obama friends and family navigate their way through inauguration festivities and secure hard-to-get tickets.

While many people coming here are frantically hunting for housing and tickets to the swearing in and balls, the Obama team is telling family and friends not to worry. "The Office of the President-elect is eager to assist each of you with your arrangements throughout the inauguration," said an e-mail sent last Friday.

"We understand that you are anxious to learn about all of the events surrounding the inauguration and secure your tickets to various events," said the e-mail sent to the lucky group of friends and family identified as "Obamaff" in the header.

"A representative from the Office of the President-elect will be in touch with you individually within the next week regarding your specific arrangements."

Initial press reports about President elect Barack Obama's preference list of potential replacements for him in the U.S. Senate left Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill) off the list. According to an Obama internal review of the Blagojevich selling-of the-Senate seat scandal, released Wednesday by the transition, Jackson was on the list.

The Obama list
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
Comptroller Dan Hynes
Illinois Veterans Affairs Chief Tammy Duckworth

added later
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan
Chicago Urban League Chief Cheryle Jackson, former Blagojevich spokesman.

Greg Craig and Robert Gibbs took seven questions from journalists at a conference call with reporters Tuesday to discuss the internal report issued by the Obama transition team on staff contacts with the Blagojevich administration. None were from Chicago outlets.

1. Wall Street Journal
2. Politico
3. NBC
4. CQ
5. AOL News
6. Bloomberg
7. The Hill

Obama in Hawaii

| | Comments (0)

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama's internal report on staff communications with Gov. Rod Blagojevich will be released by Tuesday, a spokesman said on Sunday.

Meanwhile, ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent and "This Week" Host George Stephanopoulos said in his blog and on his show that he's been tipped that the report will show Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Obama's incoming chief of staff had one conversation with Blagojevich and four conversations with his now former chief of staff John Harris.

Writes Stephanopoulos: The pros and cons of various candidates were reviewed, and the sources say that Emanuel repeatedly reminded Harris that Blagojevich should focus on the message the pick would send about the governor and his administration.

FOOTNOTE: Emanuel and Stephanopoulos worked together in the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign and served in the Clinton White House together.

Press conference in Chicago at the Thompson State of Illinois Center

WASHINGTON--Pastor Rich Warren's invitation to speak at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration has sparked protests from gay rights activists. While Warren is one of the most popular preachers in the country--Obama and rival John McCain were interviewed during the campaign by Warren at his Saddleback Church--he is seen as anti-gay. Obama defended his selection Thursday at a press conference in Chicago, his 12th as president elect.

At the press conference, where he announced the appointment of a trio of financial regulators, Mary Schapiro, chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission; Gary Gensler, chairman of the Commodities Futures Trading Commisson and Daniel Tarullo, a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, Obama was asked about the Warren pick for the prominent role.

Obama replied, "let me start by talking about my own views. I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans. It is something that I have been consistent on, and something that I contend -- intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency.

What I've also said is that it is important for America to come together, even though we may have disagreements on certain social issues. And I would note that a couple of years ago, I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign's been all about; that we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere when we -- where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans.

"So Rick Warren has been invited to speak. Dr. Joseph Lowery, who has deeply contrasting views to Rick Warren on a whole host of issues, is also speaking. During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented. And that's how it should be, because that's what America's about. That's part of the magic of this country, is that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated. And so, you know, that's the spirit in which, you know, we have put together what I think will be a terrific inauguration. And that's, hopefully, going to be a spirit that carries over into my administration."

WASHINGTON--As part of the deal appointing Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State, Bill Clinton promised to release the names of donors to the Clinton Foundation. Near the top of the 2,922-page contributor's list is Chicagoan publishing mogul and Democratic activist Fred Eychaner, who gave somewhere between $10 million and $25 million. I know that's a big swing; the range, not the specific amount is what is disclosed.

WASHINGTON--David Axelrod is severing the ties to his two Chicago based firms, AKP&D, the political media and message company and ASK Public Strategies, issue management consultants, in preparation for his appointment as a top White House advisor to President elect Barack Obama.

"We'll have an announcement shortly," Axelrod told me. "But the firm is going to continue." Axelrod, the senior strategist in Obama's presidential campaign founded the political firm in 1985; Obama campaign manager David Plouffe is one of his partners.

Plouffe, said Axelrod, "continues to be affiliated with the firm and there will be others joining the firm. So the firm is going to do well."

AKP& D partners are Axelrod, John Kupper, Plouffe, and John Del Cecato.

ASK Public Strategies partners are Axelrod, Eric Sedler and Kupper. Among their clients: the University of Chicago Medical Center.

WASHINGTON--A selection of Jewish groups will be meeting with Obama transition officials on Thursday to discuss domestic and international issues. Among the transition officials expected to attend include Mike Strautmanis, chief of staff for Valerie Jarrett, who will oversee liasions with special interest groups; Jim Messina, incoming White House chief of staff and Dan Shapiro, who is among those handling transition chores on Middle East issues. During the presidential campaign Shapiro helmed outreach to Jewish groups.

My Sun-Times colleagues Natasha Korecki and Fran Spielman in a story in the Thusday paper report Rahm Emanuel's involvement in pushing Gov. Blagojevich to appoint Valerie Jarrett to replace President elect Barack Obama was deeper than previously known.

Chicago Sun-Times Federal Courts Reporter

CHICAGO--President-elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel had a deeper involvement in pressing for a U.S. Senate seat appointment than previously reported, the Sun-Times has learned. Emanuel had direct discussions about the seat with Gov. Blagojevich, who is is accused of trying to auction it to the highest bidder.

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.

My Sun-Times colleague Fran Spielman has a report in the Thursday paper about how Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), President elect Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff, was mulling looking for a placeholder to keep "his" House seat warm so he could reclaim it in a few years.


Sun-Times City Hall Reporter
CHICAGO--Rahm Emanuel's role in attempting to influence Gov. Blagojevich's choice of a U.S. Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama could impact the heated race to fill another important vacancy: Emanuel's own seat in Congress.

Ald. Pat O'Connor (40th), Mayor Daley's unofficial City Council floor leader, had hoped to emerge from the crowded field of candidates in the 5th Congressional District by winning Daley's support and by persuading Emanuel to use his formidable powers of persuasion to clear the field.

But now that the Chicago Sun-Times has lifted the veil on Emanuel's efforts to persuade Blagojevich to appoint Obama family friend Valerie Jarrett to the U.S. Senate, Emanuel has -- as one veteran ward boss put it -- "gone underground."

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service

My Sun-Times colleague Chris Fusco has a story in the Wednesday paper about Attorney General designate Eric Holder failing to reveal to the Senate Judiciary Committee about how Gov. Blagojevich hired him as a 'special investigator to the Illinois Gaming Board' in 2004.

Chicago Sun-Times reporter

CHICAGO--Before Eric Holder was President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be attorney general, he was Gov. Blagojevich's pick to sort out a mess involving Illinois' long-dormant casino license.

Blagojevich and Holder appeared together at a March 24, 2004, news conference to announce Holder's role as "special investigator to the Illinois Gaming Board" -- a post that was to pay Holder and his Washington, D.C. law firm up to $300,000.

Holder, however, omitted that event from his 47-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire made public this week -- an oversight he plans to correct after a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry, Obama's transition team indicated late Tuesday.

Updated Wednesday 7:25 central time

WASHINGTON--Hat tip to the Peoria Journal Star, reporting Wednesday that Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.), who worked closely in Congress with President elect Barack Obama, will be named Transportation Secretary.

LaHood has long been one of the Republicans closest to Obama and invited him to Peoria early in Obama's tenure as a freshman Illinois senator. LaHood did not run for re-election and is winding up his House career. He brings experience in transportation issues as a former Transportation Committee member. Currently, he serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Of no small matter, LaHood is on friendly terms with Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Obama's incoming chief of staff.

Obama likes LaHood for a lot of reasons; he is a pragmatic moderate and I bet a selling point is LaHood's willingness and indeed eagerness to reach across the aisle. LaHood was a founder of a series of congressional retreats designed to foster collegiality and diminish poisonous partisanship in the House. I can see LaHood doing double duty as DOT chief and Obama's channel to the GOP House members. LaHood, elected in the 1994 GOP sweep, was chief of staff for House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

And don't forget the Lincoln connection, part of the ongoing Obama narrative. LaHood, along with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is one of the co-chairs of the United States Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission celebrating in 2009 the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth.

Transcript courtesy Federal News Service......

WASHINGTON--Another Chicagoan is joining the Obama administration with the expected appointment Tuesday of Chicago public schools chief Arne Duncan to be Obama's Education Secretary.

The appointment--confirmed to the Sun-Times by a transition official--adds Duncan to an Obama White House lineup that already includes a bevy from Obama's Chicago inner circle: Valerie Jarrett, incoming senior advisor; Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chief of staff designate; Desiree Rogers, social secretary; David Axelrod, another advisor; Tina Tchen, public liaison chief and Michael Stratumanis, Jarretts's chief of staff.

Obama shares with Duncan a Harvard education and a passion for basketball--he was a player on Obama's Election Day pick-up game. He also was raised in Hyde Park-Kenwood community where Obama now lives. Duncan's father is on the University of Chicago faculty and he attended the U of C Lab School, where the Obama's send their daughters, Malia and Sasha.

Duncan beat out two educators who were also thought to be in the running: Joel Klein, chancellor of the New York City Public Schools ( and an alum of the Clinton Justice Department) and Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University education professor.

I'm told Duncan had well connected boosters for the cabinet spot: John Rogers, his professional mentor, friend of 35 years and fellow U of C gym rat,and two others like Rogers close to Obama: Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Penny Pritzker, the Chicago business executive who was Obama's presidential campaign finance director.

Rogers, the Illinois Finance co-chair for the presidential campaign, is a co-chair of the Presidential Inauguration Committee. Pritzker is a co-chair of Obama's Transition Team.

After playing pro basketball in Australia, Duncan returned to Chicago to work for Rogers' foundation dedicated to helping educate underprivileged South Side youths.

"The cool thing about Arnie," Rogers said, "is that after school he would help his mother tutor kids."

Statement from Obama Transition Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer

"At the direction of the President-elect, a review of Transition staff contacts with Governor Blagojevich and his office has been conducted and completed and is ready for release. That review affirmed the public statements of the President-elect that he had no contact with the governor or his staff, and that the President-elect's staff was not involved in inappropriate discussions with the governor or his staff over the selection of his successor as US Senator.

"Also at the President-elect's direction, Gregory Craig, counsel to the Transition, has kept the US Attorney's office informed of this fact-gathering process in order to ensure our full cooperation with the investigation.

"In the course of those discussions, the US Attorney's office requested the public release of the Transition review be deferred until the week of December 22, in order not to impede their investigation of the governor. The Transition has agreed to this revised timetable for release," said Obama Transition Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.

WASHINGTON--Five years ago Gov. Blagojevich wanted to put himself on a presidential track and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) handed him a hot issue that gave him national press exposure, importation of prescription drugs. Now the Blagojevich-Emanuel relationship is in the spotlight in the wake of the governor's arrest last week on corruption charges. Wiretaped conversations caught Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell President-elect Obama's vacant Senate seat. In one episode related in the criminal complaint it seems that Emanuel, Obama's incoming chief of staff, apparently told a Blagojevich staffer about an "approved list" of people Obama wanted to replace him. Blagojevich, who hoped to parlay an Obama approved pick to a cabinet seat, ambassadorship, or a big union job, in the tapes is upset that Obama did not want to give him anything for the seat except "appreciation."

Back on Dec. 24, 2003, I wrote about the Emanuel-Blagojevich alliance on the importation measure, "Politically, it put Blagojevich on the popular side of a consumer issue and could fuel his possible presidential ambitions. The January issue of Money magazine named Blagojevich one of its people to watch'' next year for setting the stage for a 2004 showdown.''

Click below for the full column

Below, release from the Obama team, guidance for Monday, in addition to a press conference on energy and the environment.....and probably Blagojevich related questions from reporters...

Tomorrow, President-elect Obama is holding a national security meeting in
Chicago. Attendees will include: Vice President-elect Biden, Secretary of State
designee Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Attorney General
designee Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security designee Janet Napolitano,
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Ambassador to the
United Nations designee Susan Rice, National Security Advisor designee Jim
Jones, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, White House Chief of
Staff designee Rahm Emanuel, White House Counsel designee Greg Craig.

President-Elect Barack Obama to Hold Monday Press Conference

Chicago, IL - President-Elect Barack Obama will hold a press conference at the Drake Hotel on Monday to discuss the nation's energy and environmental future.

Chicago, IL
***Location Change***
The Drake Hotel

WASHINGTON---For those trying to fatham Gov. Blagojevich's political fantasies--Here's a reprint of a column I wrote last August about why the scandalized Blagojevich was never, ever, going to get a speaking role at Obama's nomination convention in Denver. Blagojevich, arrested last Tuesday as a 76-page federal criminal complaint was issued, is accused of trying to trade an appointment to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat in exchange for a cabinet post or a big union job.

Democratic governors--but not Blagojevich--speak Tuesday at the convention.

The Obama campaign on Tuesday afternoon released more speakers for the second night of the Democratic convention in Denver, a batch of Democratic governors. Missing from the list: the first governor to back Obama, his homestate Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich, who threw a heck of a party in Boston in 2004, has had no profile in the Obama campaign because of the scandals surrounding his administration, notably the Tony Rezko probe.

Because of Rezko, I never, ever expected Blagojevich to be tapped to speak. Governors on the convention card include three early Obama backers, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick who grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

Transparency game plan at the Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee....

excerpt from release...

Co-Chair Penny Pritzker added that, "From the beginning, we've said we're going
to plan the most open and accessible inauguration in history and that includes
using 21st century technology to give the American people access to information
about donors to our committee."

For the first time, an inaugural committee's donor disclosure efforts will
include a searchable, sortable, virtually real-time database of donors,
available on the PIC website. Any citizen will be able to search for and sort
donors who give more than $200 by name, employer, or hometown (city, state and
zip code). Information on donors and donations will be updated regularly, with
information on each new donation over $200 appearing online within 48 hours of
its receipt.


Sun-Times Reporters
CHICAGO--President-elect Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refused to take questions from reporters this morning about whether he was the Obama "advisor" named in the criminal complaint against Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The complaint states Blagojevich wanted a promise of a high-level appointment or some other reward for Blagojevich in exchange for Blagojevich naming Obama's friend Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the U.S. Senate.

Emanuel was uncharacteristically absent from Obama's news conference this morning. He was spotted two hours later in the lobby of Chicago's City Hall. He was there to listen to his two children performing in a concert with their school, Anshe Emet.

A Sun-Times reporter pressed him to comment about whether he was the emissary named in the criminal complaint.

"You're wasting your time," Emanuel said. "I'm not going to say a word to you. I'm going to do this with my children. Dont do that. I'm a father. I have two kids. I'm not going to do it."

Asked, "Can't you do both?" Emanuel replied, "I'm not as capable as you. I'm going to be a father. I'm allowed to be a father," and he pushed the reporter's digital recorder away.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--Contrary to comments made by Gov. Blagojevich--according to federal wiretaps--about President elect Barack Obama wanting confidant Valerie Jarrett to replace him in the Senate, David Axelrod said Thursday that Obama's "preference was always she serve in the White House." Jarrett was tapped to be a senior advisor. Axelrod spoke at a forum at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--Obama top strategist David Axelrod was just asked at a forum at Harvard's Institute of Politics about the last time he chatted with Gov. Blagojevich. He sidestepped a direct answer about communications that may have taken place with the scandalized governor about replacing President elect Barack Obama in the Senate.

"We were not involved in that discussion or any discussion of that nature," Axelrod said.

CAMBRIDGE, MASS.--The Republican National Committee on Thursday moved to head off the potential that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn--who one day will be governor when Gov. Blagojevich resigns or is impeached--picks the Obama replacement, who will be a Democrat.

An election at least gives the GOP a chance to win the seat.

WASHINGTON -- A fund-raising perk package for the official Obama Presidential Inauguration Committee -- for those giving $50,000 or raising $300,000 -- includes tickets to four days of parties, brunches, dinners and an inauguration night ball.

The PIC sent the perk package -- which does not have a formal guarantee for a ticket to the Jan. 20 swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol -- to President-elect Barack Obama's best fund-raisers Wednesday, with only weeks to raise at least $40 million to bankroll Obama inauguration festivities.

An Obama National Finance Committee member I talked to -- the elite of the donor ranks -- said he was concerned with "donor fatigue" after the presidential campaign, in which Obama raised more than $750 million. Donors won't write big checks unless they get to attend some VIP parties with cachet and bragging rights.

Updated at 10:25 Chicago time with full Obama opening statement on Gov. Blagojevich....

One minute into his press conference in Chicago, President elect Barack Obama addressed the Gov. Blagojevich scandal, focusing on the main question, what communication, if any, did his staff have with Blagojevich over his replacement in the Senate. He said he was "confident" his team had none, and asked for an internal report he said he would make public.

"I am also aware of your interest in the matter of the Illinois Senate appointment," Obama said at the opening of his press conference.

"Let me say that I was as appalled as anyone by the revelations earlier this week. I have never spoken with the Governor on this subject. And I am quite confident that no
representatives of mine would have had any part in any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. Attorney reflect that. I have asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the Governor's staff about this vacancy so we can share them with you. And we will do that in the next few days.

"Finally, on this matter, let me say that this Senate seat does not belong to any politician to trade - it belongs to the people of Illinois, and they deserve the best possible representation. They also deserve to know that any vacancy will be filled in an appropriate way. I hope and expect that the leaders of the legislature will take
steps to ensure that this is so. "

A new poll by Rasmussen Reports says 84 percent in Illinois want Gov. Blagojevich to quit and 66 percent want a special election to pick President-elect Barack Obama's replacement. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth lead in this overnight poll as top picks to succeed Obama. Support for Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who had been in the lead, plummeted once his name surfaced in the controversy


Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has surged to the lead among Democrats on the list of favorites to take Barack Obama's place in the U.S. Senate at the expense of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., whose image clearly has suffered in the growing Blagojevich scandal.

Thirty-two percent (32%) of Illinois Democrats now say Madigan should be named to the seat vacated by Obama, the state's junior Democratic senator, according to a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Illinois voters taken Wednesday night.
In a Rasmussen Reports survey last week, Jackson was the top choice of a plurality of the state's Democratic voters (36%), but with the revelation that he is "Senate Candidate 5," his support has been cut in half to just 18% now.

A week ago, Madigan was third on the list of five favorites among Democratic voters, with 17% support.
Sixty-six percent (66%) of all Illinois voters say the state should hold a special election to fill Obama's Senate seat rather than let Governor Rod Blagojevich or his successor appoint a replacement. Twenty-one percent (21%) disagree, and 13% are undecided.
Among Illinois voters, 74% of Republicans, 66% of Democrats and 60% of unaffiliated voters favor a special election. Obama still has two years remaining in his Senate term.

WASHINGTON--President elect Barack Obama on Wednesday called for embattled Gov. Blagojevich to resign and for the voters of Illinois to pick his replacement, an aide said.

Obama's call for Blagojevich to step down comes after a stream of Illinois officials said the governor should quit following his arrest and criminial complaint filed against him where he is accused of selling the senate seat to the highest bidder.

"The President-elect agrees with Lt. Governor Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the Governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois."

Obama joined Sen. Dick Durbin and others calling for a special election; the Illinois General Assembly meets next week to strip Blagojevich of his power to appoint a successor.

"The President-elect believes that the General Assembly should consider the issue and put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois.?

WASHINGTON -- Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald accused Gov. Blagojevich on Tuesday of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama "like a sports agent," auctioning it to the highest bidder, deluding himself that somehow he could even finagle his way into Obama's Cabinet.

The stunning criminal complaint filed against Blagojevich raised the question of just how the seat can be filled, with the process contaminated by a governor on a "political corruption crime spree."

Blagojevich lost the ability to pick Obama's replacement. The leaders of the Illinois General Assembly will meet in special session next week to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power, and I bet they will do it with veto-proof majorities.

Courtesy Federal News Service

WASHINGTON--Gov. Blagojevich's arrest Tuesday morning--and the criminal complaint filed against him alleging he was almost trying to sell the Senate appointment to replace President-elect Barack Obama--injects a high element of confusion into what the federal prosecutors are calling a tainted appointment process.

Top line questions:
*Will Blagojevich now attempt to make any appointment?
*Would any of the contenders jockeying for the spot take it if it put them under a cloud?

Read the criminal complaint

Here are links to listings of unofficial events--parties, balls, etc., being planned in connection with the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.

Another place with listings to check is here.

WASHINGTON--The Obama presidential inauguration committee will not be sanctioning any events organized by outside groups, I've learned. That's because the Obama team--which swore off corporate money for the festivities surrounding the Jan. 20 swearing-in--does not want to be officially linked with events paid for with money President elect Barack Obama said he would not take. The PIC is not discouraging outside events, nor trying to cut anyone out.

Becoming a PIC sanctioned event does not mean all that much anyway, just bragging rights that someone went to an official event versus a party or ball organized by a state society, special interest group, etc.

The PIC will be officially sponsoring a series of state balls on inauguration night, which will not be subsidized with corporate money.

As for what activities Obama himself takes part in--that's all being strategized right now, with planners first having to decide how many days before Jan. 20 to celebrate his election.

Obama, I'm told is open to attending events bankrolled with corporate money; he just does not want sponsorship of them.

For example, I would guess that Obama will show up at the sold-out Illinois State Society Ball on Jan. 19 at the Renaissance Washington DC Hotel. He attended the gala four years ago, when he was sworn in as U.S. Senator.

from the Presidential Transition Team.....

Tomorrow, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will be meeting with former Vice-President Al Gore in Chicago to discuss energy and climate change and how policies in this area can stimulate the economy and create jobs. There will be a pool spray in the meeting and more details to follow.

From the inauguration committee.....

Carl Sandburg High School Marching Eagles
Angel Drill Team
Morton High School Marching Band
Whitney M. Young Magnet High School Navy JROTC
Tempel Lipizzans of Tempel Farms
World Famous Lawn Rangers from Amazing Arcola
Jesse White Tumbling Team

Amy Poehler in NBC's "Saturday Night Live" skit about Hillary Rodham Clinton as Barack Obama's Secretary of State

Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service

Sun-Times Political Writer Abdon Pallasch asks President elect Barack Obama about the sit-in situation at the suddenly shuttered Republic Window and Door in Chicago.

from a release......

Presidential Inaugural Committee Invites Punahou School Marching Band and JROTC Marching Unit to Perform in 56th Inaugural Parade
Talent From Across America To March In Parade From Capitol To White House

WASHINGTON - Today, in keeping with its commitment to hold inaugural events that celebrate our common values and reflects the diversity and history of our great nation, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden's Inaugural Committee officially extended an offer to the Punahou School Marching Band and JROTC Marching Unit to march in the 56th Inaugural Parade.

CHICAGO--Chicago attorney Tina Tchen is being tapped to run the White House Office of Public Liasion. She will serve under Valerie Jarrett, President elect Barack Obama's incoming senior advisor who will oversee White House Intergovernmental Affairs and the Public Liasion Office.

The Standard Club, 320 S. Plymouth Ct., is just down the street from President-elect Barack Obama's Chicago transition headquarters, and near 6 p.m. Thursday Obama and wife Michelle headed over there to thank a group crucial to his White House win: the powerhouses of the Illinois political donor community, who in the first quarter of 2007 raised enough to give Obama financial parity with Hillary Rodham Clinton--a crucial vault ahead of the Democratic pack.

Obama's astounding fund-raising success is well known. On Thursday, his presidential campaign reported raising $104 million between Oct. 14 and Nov. 24, bringing his grand total to more than $750 million.

In the lobby, I watched as they came in: the Illinois finance co-chairs, John Rogers and Jim Crown, with Crown carrying boxes of Vineyard Vines custom-made Obama 2008 ties, gifts from him and Rogers to the group.

The national chair arrived, Penny Pritzker, and other who's whos of Obama's Chicago: Bettylu Saltzman, who spotted Obama as an extraordinary figure early on; Allison Davis, his former law partner; former state Sen. Bill Marovitz; Christie Hefner, the Playboy chief; and a host of others -- Marty Castro, David Solow, Greg Dingens, Michael Bauer, Lew and Susan Manilow, Kelly Welsh, Ellen Alberding, Judd Miner, Tina Tchen, Marilyn Katz, Sheldon Zenner. In all, about 100 people.

CHICAGO--Ben Smith over at Politico has an item about how President-elect Barack Obama told a donor his first international trip will be to Indonesia--a country he lived in as a youth.

Let me add this: at the end of a visit Obama made to several African nations in 2006, I interviewed him with two other reporters and he said then his next big international journey would be in 2007--and he was looking at China, India and Indonesia, ``where ironically I actually have more of a childhood than I do in Kenya.''

That trip, as we know, never happened; Obama caught up in the Democratic presidential primary, never traveled abroad in 2007.

CHICAGO---From what I've been told--from someone close to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan--she is not interested in replacing President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. Gov. Rod Blagojevich is considering Madigan and others (see prior posts) to fill Obama's seat.

CHICAGO--President elect Barack Obama and wife Michelle are thanking a core group of donors--a wealthy network of Chicagoans who raised crucial early money for him--at a reception at the Standard Club in the Loop.

Topline #s for the FEC report filed today (Covers fundraising from 10/16-11/24):

· Raised $104,124,845 from 1,124,238 contributors during the reporting period

· More than 547,000 contributors in this reporting period had not given to the campaign before

· In total more than 3.95 million Americans contributed to the Obama for America campaign

WASHINGTON--Oprah Winfrey, a close friend of President-elect Barack Obama, will broadcast her show from the Kennedy Center during the inauguration.

Winfrey told Access Hollywood
that she rented out the Opera House at the Kennedy Center for the show.

Courtesy of Federal News Service

WASHINGTON--Gov. Blagojevich, in the most detailed interview to date on how he will fill the Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama, told me Tuesday his replacement does not have to be an African American and he is open to selecting someone who would serve only the two years left in the term.

Blagojevich is aiming to replace Obama -- who was the only African American in the Senate -- before the new Senate is sworn in next month to give the new senator a leg up on seniority.

In a phone interview, I asked Blagojevich if he considered the vacancy an African-American seat. "I think it is a factor of a great deal of weight in my mind but it is not the only factor or the only consideration, and somebody could be the next Barack Obama who happens not to be the African American, and that person would be hard not to make a U.S. senator."

Because this is election has just one voter, contenders are working quietly to sell themselves to Blagojevich.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is waging an overt drive. I asked Blagojevich what he thought of Jackson's public campaign.

Blagojevich offered a response I took as lukewarm, but I may be reading too much into his measured comments.

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama will name New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson Commerce Secretary at a press conference in Chicago on Wednesday, a source has confirmed to the Sun-Times.

Former President Bill Clinton appointed Richardson, a former congressman, United Nations Ambassador and Energy Secretary. Richardson ran for president and dropped out of the 2008 contest after a poor performance in the Democratic primaries. He eventually endorsed Obama over Hillary Rodham Clinton--to the disappointment of the Clinton team, who thought, collectively, that Richardson owed the Clintons enough that he should have stayed neutral. Now Clinton, Obama's Secretary of State nominee and Richardson will serve in the same Obama cabinet.

Christina Bellantoni
White House Correspondent
Washington Times
Pool report - Emanuel gaggle on plane from Philly to Chicago

Here is a transcript. Nothing to put in the pool report other than that he spoke to us, was in good spirits. He and POTUS-elect spoke during the flight. We landed at 1:05 p.m. central time.

Just announced....

Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama wanted to brush it off, the question about how he came to eat all the harsh words he said against Hillary Rodham Clinton during the heated Democratic primary.

It was not too long ago that Obama was highly critical of Clinton, so naturally he was queried about this turnaround at his press conference in Chicago where he announced Cabinet picks.

Peter Baker of the New York Times was polite when he asked about Obama's reversal on Clinton.

"You belittled her travels around the world, equating it to having teas with foreign leaders, and your new White House counsel [Greg Craig] said her resume was grossly exaggerated when it came to foreign policy. I'm wondering if you could talk about the evolution of your views of her credentials since the spring."

Obama in reply, belittled a serious question.

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama did NOT buy a $33,000 rhodium ring for wife Michelle, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt said Tuesday morning, following reports in British papers that he did.

"No ring was purchased," said LaBolt.

The Daily Mail said the ring was being made by Italian designer Giovanni Bosco, to be ready by the Jan. 20 inauguration.

Lynn Sweet on CNN

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Transcript courtesy Federal News Service

WASHINGTON--President-elect Barack Obama has raised $1.170 million from 1,776 donors to help bankroll his presidential transition effort. He is releasing the named of his donors at his transition web page.

He's not taking any more than $5,000 from individuals. This fund is separate from the money Obama is raising to help pay for his inauguration festivities.

Secretary of State designate Hillary Rodham Clinton, tapped Monday by President-elect Barack Obama, had two Maine South High School pals at the press conference at the Hilton Hotel and Towers on South Michigan Avenue: Kevin O'Keefe and Betsy Ebeling.

In a few minutes in Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama will make it official and name his national security team, with the highlight former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton adding Madam Secretary to her titles when she takes over the State Department.

The appointments:
Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates to remain as Secretary of Defense.
Eric Holder as Attorney General.
Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
Susan Rice as Ambassador to the United Nations.
General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret) as National Security Adviser.

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WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama dramatically starts to define his presidency with the selection today of his former rival Sen. Hillary Clinton to be his secretary of state.

As Chicagoans may know of the great architect who influenced the planning of their city, it was Daniel Burnham who said, "Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood." For Obama to be the fifth face on Mt. Rushmore or to have a monument built on the National Mall dedicated to him, his presidency has to be more than just the historic election of the first African American to the White House. Moreover, the times we are living in -- the collapse of the economy, two wars, the ongoing terrorist threats underscored by the attacks in India -- demand an ambitious Obama agenda.

Obama will unveil Clinton and the rest of his national security team at a press conference in Chicago this morning, with the Clinton appointment -- no surprise -- getting much of the attention. Let's be clear, Obama is not picking Clinton to sideline a onetime rival; that's just ridiculous. With his sweeping victory, Obama is too confident for that.

What Obama -- always with an eye toward "the story" and the narrative -- is doing when he picks Clinton is continuing the "only in America" storyline that hopefully will improve the U.S. international image: The superstar pick brings into his administration his superstar rival. Where else in the world does that happen? Nowhere.

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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