8 a.m. ET: When you're on the tracks and a train is bearing down, there are three obvious choices: Get on board, get out of the way or get run over. But Republicans are trying to figure out if there is a fourth option, as President Obama and his huge store of political capital hurtle toward them.
How hard can the minority push against the new commander in chief and his stratospheric popularity? The GOP's handling of three high-profile Cabinet nominees yesterday provided a neat illustration of the balance the loyal opposition is attempting to strike.
Example A is Hillary Clinton, now Secretary Clinton after the Senate approved her yesterday, 94-2. Republicans had briefly resuscitated concerns about foreign donors to Bill Clinton's foundation, but her confirmation never really was in doubt and many in the GOP were fulsome in their praise for the former first lady.
Example B is Tim "TurboTax" Geithner, who is having a bit rougher time getting confirmed at Treasury. Geithner got a few hours of rough questioning from the Senate Finance Committee yesterday over his past tax mistakes. He should still be confirmed -- Republicans are too worried about the financial crisis to really sink him -- but he has been embarrassed in the process.
Example C is Eric Holder, who seems to be viewed now as Obama's "most vulnerable" nominee by the GOP. A Senate Judiciary vote on confirming him as attorney general was delayed yesterday by a week, as Republicans seek a clear answer on whether he would prosecute intelligence agents for rough detainee interrogation tactics. Holder will likely be confirmed too, just as Clinton was and Geithner will be. The point here is not that Republicans are willing or even able to derail the Obama train at this point, but they hope at least that they can slow it down or force it to burn more fuel.
Now that we've beaten that analogy to death, let's look at what Obama is doing that Republicans, much to their chagrin, probably can't stop: He's preparing to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and he's reportedly set to sign an executive order reversing the "Mexico City" policy on aid to international family planning groups.
And, of course, Obama will soon have a stimulus package on his desk that Republicans would love to shrink or at least alter, arguing that it won't be particularly stimulative. But it seems that the GOP has little hope of blocking that measure for long, if at all. The best they can do is complain about being excluded from negotiations and appeal to Obama to follow through on his bipartisanship pledges. It may not be much, but it's the best Republicans can do until they figure out a better way to deal with this train.
January 22, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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