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Eye Opener: Feb. 25, 2009

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! The Eye opens a bit later this morning after a busy night analyzing President Obama's first address to a joint session of Congress. Last night Attorney General Eric Holder served as this year's "designated survivor," or cabinet secretary asked to stay away from the big speech for security purposes. Read funny stories of past designated survivors here.

Best one: In 1997, Bill Clinton's agriculture secretary Dan Glickman flew to New York and watched the speech from his daughter's Lower Manhattan apartment. He parted ways with his temporary Secret Service detail after the speech and headed out into a cold, rainy night for a late dinner with his daughter. Unable to catch a cab after the meal, the pair walked the 10 blocks back to her apartment.

"It's a parable for what happens to all of us: One moment you're on top of the world, and the next moment you can't catch a cab," Glickman said yesterday.

(Make sure to check out the video above of U.S. Mint Director Edmund C. Moy and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton unveiling the District of Columbia's commemorative quarter.)

Today the president crosses his fingers and hopes the third time's a charm by nominating former Washington State governor Gary Locke as commerce secretary.

"Several people who know Mr. Locke, 59, say his selection is a good fit for a department whose portfolio includes the complicated political and management challenges of the census ... and the oversight of agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which plays an important role in environmental and fishing issues," reports today's New York Times. "Yet it is Mr. Locke’s work with China that they say stands out the most, both from his time as governor, from 1997 to 2005, and now in the private sector." So the president is nominating a guy with practical executive management experience, business experience and a natural interest in international trade? Why didn't he pick Locke in the first place?!

Send your suggested news stories, commentary and events listings to federaleye@washingtonpost.com.

In other news...

They Dare Not Call it Iran: "As expected, longtime envoy extraordinaire Dennis Ross was not named special envoy to Iran for good and various reasons, not the least of which is our lack of a diplomatic relationship with Tehran," reports The Post's Al Kamen and Philip Rucker. What was unexpected was his appointment as 'special adviser to the secretary of state for the Gulf and Southwest Asia,' announced Monday in the news equivalent of the dead of night, around 9 p.m." So why is it called Southwest Asia? "The State Department has a bureau of South and Central Asia, which includes the various 'stans -- Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and so on, plus Pakistan and India. So Southwest Asia would have to be west of Pakistan and India up to the Persian Gulf. You might be inclined to call that place Iran, but the State Department prefers Southwest Asia. "

Stimulus Spending Reports Start Next Week: "Agencies must submit weekly reports on how they are spending stimulus money," report Elise Castelli and Gregg Carlstrom of Federal Times. "According to new Office of Management and Budget guidance, the first reports will include total dollars spent and major actions taken, but not much other detail. The reports will be posted on the new oversight Web site, Recovery.gov, which will become the central repository for all spending under the $789 billion stimulus package.
In May, agencies are supposed to issue more detailed plans and spending reports."

Obama's National Intelligence Council Pick Critiqued: Gabriel Schoenfeld writes in today's Wall Street Journal that Charles "Chas" Freeman Jr., Obama's likely pick to lead the group responsible for National Intelligence Estimates, "has a distinguished résumé, having served in a long list of State and Defense Department slots. But also without question, he has distinctive political views and affiliations, some of which are more than eyebrow-raising."

TARP Said to Be Ripe for Fraud: "The U.S. government's rescue of the financial system is vulnerable to fraud that could potentially cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, government watchdogs warned lawmakers Tuesday," reports The Wall Street Journal. "Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general for the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, told a House subcommittee that the government's experiences in the reconstruction of Iraq, hurricane-relief programs and the 1990s savings-and-loan bailout suggest the rescue program could be ripe for fraud."

With Stimulus Contracts, Let's Avoid Another Katrina: From the Federal Diarist Joe Davidson: "If Uncle Sam wants to avoid the fiasco he wrought when trying to get help to Hurricane Katrina victims, he'd better get his acquisition act together fast. That's the message from a report issued yesterday by the Professional Services Council, the group that represents contractors who will get a piece of the $787 billion stimulus package."

Another Battle on the Housing Front: "The housing crisis is hitting military families particularly hard, according to real estate agents and service member advocacy groups," reports The Post's Alejandro Lazo. "Many who bought during the boom and must now relocate because of fresh orders are faced with selling their homes at a big loss. They are finding few buyers, or even renters, particularly in the hardest-hit markets. That is leaving some families facing options including renting at a loss, separation from their loved ones or, in some cases, foreclosure."

Ketchum Replaces Schapiro as CEO of FINRA: Richard Ketchum replaces Mary Schapiro, who now runs the SEC. He's "currently FINRA's chairman and the top regulator at the New York Stock Exchange" and "takes over the private agency that oversees vast swaths of the financial market. FINRA regulates 4,900 broker-dealers and other investment firms and 663,000 registered representatives."

Immigration Leadership Taking Shape at DHS: Obama has named John Morton to become the next assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Esther Olavarria to become deputy assistant secretary for policy, reports Government Executive's Katherine McIntire Peters.

Hudson 'Miracle' Haunts Air-Traffic Controller: USA Today recaps an eventful and emotional Congressional hearing on the water landing of US Airways Flight 1549.

Today's Big Event: Hilda Solis shows up for her first day of work as labor secretary, having won Senate confirmation yesterday afternoon. More events here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 25, 2009; 9:02 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: NTEU's Kelley on Obama's Big Speech

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