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The Rundown

4 p.m. ET: So Barack Obama has picked yet another Clintonite, Leon Panetta, to serve as CIA Director. But for all the focus on how many people Obama has plucked from the administration of the last Democratic president, today's choice reminds us how hard he has worked to separate himself from the current Republican one.

As the New York Times points out, the Panetta selection highlights how hard it was for Obama to find someone "with no connection to controversial counterterrorism programs of the Bush era." There was a lobbying effort to keep Michael Hayden in the job, but that was a non-starter. Jane Harman got crossed off the list. Even John Brennan, an Obama supporter and adviser, had to remove himself from consideration because of criticism from the liberal blogosphere. That leaves Panetta, who has a long Washington resume but no directly-relevant experience in the intelligence community. (Makes it all the more striking that Obama chose to keep Robert Gates at the Pentagon, doesn't it?)

On the domestic front, Obama has been meeting all day with a procession of congressional leaders, smiling (or not smiling) for pictures and playing up the need to get a stimulus bill moved ASAP. His potential successor in the Senate, Roland Burris, had less luck getting into the Capitol today, as the chamber "rejected his credentials" because they weren't signed by the Illinois secretary of state.

Norm Coleman looks to be even further away from the action on the Hill than Burris, as the Republican's latest legal bid was rejected by the Minnesota supreme court and Al Franken's win was certified by a state canvassing board. Coleman could be up for a job in the Obama administration, except he's probably too close to Bush.

8 a.m. ET: Sasha and Malia Obama are joining their new classmates at Sidwell Friends this morning, and in a way, it's their dad's first day of school, too. Today's lesson will cover two topics: 1) How to craft a massive stimulus package and guide it through the legislative gears; and 2) How to recover from your first official Cabinet embarrassment.

On the first subject, the president-elect will report to Capitol Hill for Ms. Pelosi's and Mr. Reid's class, with Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell also on hand to teach a little humility. Along with (possibly) a bagged lunch, Obama will bring with him a stimulus proposal that reportedly will include "about $300 billion in tax cuts for workers and businesses." That may well appeal to recalcitrant Republicans and some moderate Democrats, but won't necessarily stop criticism of the plan's price tag and priorities. (You can expect to hear Republicans keep mentioning that "Mob Museum," as McConnell did on "This Week" yesterday.)

As for the timing of the stimulus package, Obama is learning all the cliches today -- Rome wasn't built in a day, slow and steady wins the race, and so on. Much as the incoming president would love to have a bill to sign by the time he's sworn in, it's not going to happen. Reid and Steny Hoyer both suggested Sunday that it would be at least mid-February before a package was ready for the president's desk, and even that assumes a fairly quick turnaround given how big this package is and how many different stakeholders (the tax people, the transportation people, the energy people) there will be on Capitol Hill.

For his class on the Cabinet, perhaps Obama didn't do his homework, or is simply not a student of history. The morning after Bill Richardson withdrew from consideration for the Commerce secretary post and was sent off to detention (his classmates will include Zoe Baird, Linda Chavez and that Bernie Kerik kid), there are still a lot more questions than answers. How much did Team Obama really know about the federal investigation? Did they know Richardson himself faced scrutiny? If they didn't know, should they have? And what did Richardson himself tell them? Who will replace him as the pick for Commerce?

If Obama is looking to add another Republican to the Cabinet, Norm Coleman may be looking for a new job soon. The epic saga of the Minnesota Senate race may really be over this week (yes, you read that correctly), as the state canvassing board is set to certify the results with Al Franken ahead by 225 votes. But the contest could also drag on, as Coleman ponders a lawsuit that would prolong a final result for days or even weeks.

Speaking of prolonged agony, how much longer will Rod Blagojevich stay in office, and what will happen to Roland Burris this week? Burris continues to insist that he is now the junior senator from Illinois, and his supporters are aggressively making his case. (Bobby Rush on Sunday called the Senate "one of the last bastions of plantation and racial politics in America.") How long before Burris' backers turn their fire on Obama and start pressuring him to intervene on their man's behalf? It looks like his first week of school really will be a busy one.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 5, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Sidwell Friends, nice. The same elitist private school Chelsea Clinton attended. Change!

Posted by: zippyspeed | January 5, 2009 10:06 AM

I know you'd really like to sound both questioning and funny but get this, getting elected president requires political street smarts that very few people possess. Of a people in any meeting room today, Obama has the most political capital and this stimulus is hardly controversial. Disagreements on the detail are natural but Obama has the right balance of tax cuts and stimulus to get it past McConnell whether the GOP leadership protests or not. He is sitting down to set the right tone for bipartisan cooperation.

Richardson withdrew because an open-ended investigation can take months to complete and completely distract from confirmation. It was the right thing to do and the relevant circumstances around his vetting may have been changed by recent new information. There isn't enough space here to list the Iraq and Katrina federal contracts that went to Republican donors.

Posted by: asja | January 5, 2009 10:47 AM

Zippyspeed, your comment shows how much you really know about how such thing are done in Washington. Whether the President is Republican or Democrat if there are youngsters in the house, it adds an additional dimension to the security of the President and his family. The US Secret Service has great influence on where the young ones go to school. They prefer schools that are easy for them to secure and that they have worked with before. Sidwell is an excellent school with an environment that is similar to the private school they went to in Chicago. It is also a school that the US Secret Service has worked with before and it is most likely with many of the same people. So can the elitism garbage and let the Secret Service and the young Obamas parents do their job.

Posted by: w2bsa | January 5, 2009 11:25 AM

I think one big mistake that george bush made was to pick a bunch of oldy moldy deadbeats from his father's regeime (era, whatever). His choices showed his lack of knowledge and authority.
I hope Oboma is not going to make that same mistake.

Posted by: killthemessenger | January 5, 2009 5:17 PM

The stench of corruption hangs low over the Obama transition as Richardson and Clinton and Emmanuel are pulled into the vortex. Soon trillions of federal dollars will be splooged into the nimble old hands of these appointed kleptocrats.

Posted by: georgejones5 | January 5, 2009 7:18 PM

killthemessenger, G.W.Bush did not choose his bunch of old guys, THEY chose him.

Posted by: cms1 | January 5, 2009 7:41 PM

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