2 p.m. ET: Barack Obama may have just made the smartest move yet in his (short) stint as president-elect -- throwing a lifeline to Joe Lieberman.
Obama told Harry Reid last week that expelling Lieberman from the Democratic Caucus for his vocal backing of John McCain's candidacy (and trashing of Obama's) "would send the wrong signal after Obama's promises to set partisanship aside," as Paul Kane writes. Obama wants Lieberman to remain on the Democratic side of the Senate aisle. As of now, the situation remains unresolved; Reid has floated possible compromises, which might include stripping Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but giving him a lesser gavel, perhaps on the Small Business panel.
Why was this a smart move by Obama? Three reasons:
1) As you may have heard by now, Obama campaigned on the premise that he would "change" Washington. Rhetoric aside, chances to actually enact said "change" will be few and far between. But Lieberman provides him one small opportunity to do so, by letting Obama appear to rise above the nastiness of the just-concluded campaign and reach out to a former foe. And what better way to paint yourself as being above partisanship than helping an "Independent Democrat" who doesn't really fit in either party?
2) On a practical level, keeping Lieberman in the fold helps Obama's math problem, which is: 57 does not equal 60. Obama will need 60 votes in the Senate to accomplish any of his big priorities -- on taxes, health care and so on -- and alienating Lieberman would mean that he would be one vote shorter of that filibuster-proof majority. Holding on to Lieberman means having to woo one fewer Republican.
3) Assuming Lieberman gets to keep all or most of his assignments and seniority, he is going to owe Obama a favor. The president-elect can tuck that chit in his pocket and wait for the next really tough vote, or for when he needs some cover on a controversial national security or homeland security-related issue (like an Iraq withdrawal plan, for example). Then he gets to call Lieberman and say, "Remember when I saved you?"
Of course, it's not all peaches and cream for Obama. Liberal blogs -- AKA the "Netroots" -- are not happy about this, and
they a few on the Left may not be satisfied with anything short of complete excommunication for the Connecticut Senator. But Obama doesn't have to run again for four more years, and keeping liberals in the fold probably isn't his biggest worry right now. So no matter what happens to Lieberman in the end, this move will cost Obama very little, and may reward him -- both symbolically and substantively -- a whole lot more.
8 a.m. ET: A meeting between the two most powerful men in the world produced remarkably little news Monday, as President Bush and Barack Obama came together in a time of crisis to agree on one thing -- the importance of speaking in platitudes.
What did 43 and 44 actually discuss during their private session in the Oval Office? The meeting has been almost leak-free; maybe Obama really will change Washington, and the political press will go out of business. Or maybe they didn't discuss anything at all and just watched Sportscenter. Either way, the moment appears lost to history.
While Obama honors veterans today in Chicago, transition honcho John Podesta -- occasionally known as "Skippy" -- will brief reporters today in D.C. on the status of that effort. The Cabinet selection process remains essentially silent, though an increased focus on the plight of the auto industry has boosted speculation in some quarters that Jennifer Granholm might make her way into the administration, perhaps at Energy. Another prominent woman who could land a plum administration job: Patti Solis Doyle, whose selection would only add to the ongoing Clinton-Obama soap opera.
Wondering which prominent Republican(s) Obama will have in his Cabinet? We may have our answer this morning, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, which reports the incoming president "is leaning toward" keeping Robert Gates in charge at the Pentagon.
Speaking of the loyal opposition, the Republican Governors Association meetings in Miami will be the occasion for the start of the party's own peculiar brand of rehab this week (Step 1: Form Factions; Step 2: Assign Blame, etc.). That process will eventually include selecting a new RNC chair. Is Newt Gingrich in the running? It could be a new rite of passage: Every time a Democrat is elected to a first term as president, he/she has to square off against Gingrich. Perhaps another government shutdown is coming.
Lastly on the GOP front, Sarah Palin wil be speaking at that RGA meeting this week, ensuring that not a single news cycle will go by without some prominent mention of the Alaska governor. Palin had an extended taped interview with Matt Lauer on the Today Show this morning, which included a heartwarming segment in which she made dinner for the family while dismissing all those mean attacks against her by unnamed McCain aides. Maybe the press won't go out of business after all.
November 11, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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