4 p.m. ET: Sometimes, complete sentences and complex ideas can be a drag, especially in the afternoon when the morning caffeine has long worn off. At such times, a celebrity magazine-style "In/Out" list seems like the best way to capture the news of the day:
IN: Henry Waxman, the West L.A. liberal elite and the meritocracy.
OUT: John Dingell, the auto industry and the seniority system.
IN: Bipartisanship, according to Rahm Emanuel.
OUT: Congress, at least until December.
OUT: Discipline and boredom.
IN: Linda Sanchez's baby.
OUT: Ted Stevens, permanently.
8 a.m. ET: When Barack Obama's transition began two short weeks ago, we thought we knew two things with a fair degree of certainty: The incoming president would likely try to fill the "Big 3" Cabinet posts -- State, Defense, Treasury -- before turning to lesser offices, and he would strive to emphasize "change" with whatever choices he made.
Neither of those things has quite turned out to be true. As of this morning, we have a reported Cabinet lineup that includes Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle, Attorney General Eric Holder and likely Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. And we have a nearly complete sense of who will populate Obama's senior White House staff, though it was always expected that the president-elect would fill those posts before most Cabinet jobs.
But we don't have picks yet for State, Defense, or Treasury, though each job seems to have been narrowed to three or fewer finalists. We may have had a Secretary of State pick sooner were Obama not apparently inclined to choose Hillary Clinton, who brings along so much baggage that cash-strapped airlines probably delight each time she arrives at the ticket counter (thank you, I'll be here all week). Defense appears to have been narrowed largely to Richard Danzig, perhaps after Bob Gates stays on a bit longer, while Treasury speculation remains centered on Tim Geithner or Larry Summers.
That brings us to the "change" theme, which is now and was always likely to be problematic for Obama. Did he promise too much during the campaign, or did his followers and the media read too much into his rhetoric? Did he really pledge to govern from Day One, beginning with his Cabinet picks, in a completely different and revolutionary way? Or did he mean that his policies and the "tone" of his administration would be different?
Whatever Obama meant to say, his words are now being used against him, as his Cabinet picks so far are widely judged to be overly conventional. "Experience Reigns, Not 'Change'," reports the Wall Street Journal this morning, while the Associated Press delivers the headline: "President-Elect Promised Change, Picking Insiders". Obama has indeed been picking veterans of the Clinton administration (Holder), Congress (Daschle) and now the statehouse (Napolitano), though it's worth asking: How many good candidates are there who don't come from one of those places? And how would the press -- and Republicans -- react if Obama named people with scant government experience to any of those jobs.
Now back, for a moment, to the opening at Treasury: Obama might want to move that one up the priority list, as the Dow dropped below 8,000 yesterday for the first time in five years and no one seems quite sure what to do about the flailing auto industry (though all are agreed that corporate jets aren't the best mode of travel right now).
Congress seems likely to leave town without getting much of anything done, though at least the leadership lineups are falling into place. The biggest remaining drama is whether Henry Waxman or John Dingell will chair the Energy and Commerce Committee next year. Hmm, "change" vs. "more of the same." Perhaps Obama will be watching C-SPAN today.
November 20, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
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