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Eye Opener: Feb. 13, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Friday! For a good laugh, watch Dana Milbank's latest Washington "Video" Sketch about an Obama ally not honoring the president's calls for openness and transparency.

This is last Eye Opener until Monday Feb. 23 as The Eye and Almost Mrs. Eye head out of the country tomorrow on a President's Day Week (?) vacation ... the last long one currently scheduled until the big day.

Moving on, here's an Eye-raising fact from the Lost in Transition blog: "Former lawmakers will be running State, Interior, Transportation, Commerce, the CIA and -- if Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) is confirmed -- Labor -- putting a large swath of the government and about 230,000 employees under the control of appointees who are savvy in legislating but light on management experience."

"It falls to another House veteran -- White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel -- to make sure the administration fills the management gap and avoids what has been a less-than-stellar track record of members of Congress moving into Cabinet agencies."

In fairness, newly minted CIA director Leon Panetta ran the Office of Management and Budget (yet he also ran the Clinton administration -- often described as unorganized) and each lawmaker has served as the boss of various-sized staffs. Still, remember their legislative experience when it comes time to grade these Cabinet secretaries' management performance.

One lawmaker NOT joining Team Obama is Judd "Lottery Winner" Gregg, who stunned Washington (but apparently not the White House as he emboldened Republicans) by announcing his decision to withdraw his name from consideration for commerce secretary.

Al Kamen and Philip Rucker suggest Obama buy a classified ad in The Washington Post: "Help Wanted. Commerce Secretary. No specific skills needed. Ability to travel the world and glad-hand a plus. No knowledge of the census needed -- unless you're a Democrat. Proof of confirmability (60 votes) is essential. Apply immediately to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. First Floor, Washington, D.C. (Note: Must pay taxes first.)"

The Post's editorial board cuts Gregg a break: "Mr. Gregg's concern about potential changes at the Census Bureau, particularly news that the census director would report to the White House instead of the commerce secretary, are understandable: Either this administration trusts me or it does not, he might fairly have felt."

In other news...

The Stimulus: Lots of news on this today. GovExec's Robert Brodsky reports "The White House has instructed agencies who will be receiving funds from the economic stimulus package being debated on Capitol Hill to develop plans immediately for allocating workforce resources to ensure the money is spent properly and in a transparent manner" according to a Feb. 9 White House memo obtained by Brodsky. The memo requires agencies expecting significant funds to appoint someone by today to coordinate stimulus-related efforts. Details of the stimulus have emerged and among other things, "The Department of Homeland Security would receive $1 billion to upgrade airport baggage and checkpoint screening. In a victory for rail advocates, the bill includes $9.3 billion to develop high-speed trains and to improve Amtrak." Some of the monies go to projects still considered "pork," despite vows to strip the agreement of such items. It also has provisions allowing the secretary of defense to acquire title to a military person's property or reimburse the individual for losses after a private sale or foreclosure. Finally, "Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated in the economic stimulus package to programs that could directly benefit several major government contracting companies," reports The Post's Dana Hedgpeth.

Financial Crisis Called Top Security Threat: Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told Congress yesterday that instability in countries around the world caused by the current global economic crisis, rather than terrorism, is the primary near-term security threat to the United States," according to The Post's Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus.

David Axelrod Interview: The top White House adviser's got a sweet office and some tough words for his predecessors. The money quote: "I've never seen anything really like it . . . [former White House chief of staff] Andy Card saying that we were somehow denigrating the presidency because people were wearing short sleeves in the Oval Office. We're wearing short sleeves because we have to roll up our sleeves and clean up the mess that we inherited." Watch the video interview here.

Treasury's Salesman-in-Training: Post columnist Eugene Robinson opines: "Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will get much better at making his case to Congress and the American people. I'm confident in that prediction because after watching his debut this week, I don't see how he could get much worse."

Postal Declines Explained: The Federal Times' Gregg Carlstrom explains USPS declines with a series of great charts that demonstrate the service's steep declines.

Today's Big Event: Today the House votes on the aforementioned stimulus bill. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 13, 2009; 8:18 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Clinton-Era Census Director Coming Back?


Again, just a note on the Axelrod "money quote": I'm not sure if it matters, but if you watch the video on the Post site, he said "shirt sleeves" not "short sleeves."

I enjoyed the Axelrod interview segments and really appreciated the chance to see the videos online, by the way. Don't miss them.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | February 13, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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