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White House Cheat Sheet: Grading Obama's Cabinet



President Obama and his cabinet. (AP photo by Ron Edmonds)

President Obama will convene his full Cabinet -- sans Health and Human Services Secretary designate Kathleen Sebelius who remains unconfirmed -- later this morning, bringing together the group for the first time since he took office in January.

The moment is a photo-op of epic proportions and provides an opportunity to reflect on how Obama's Cabinet has come together over his first 91 days in office.

Obama made his initial selections at a historically fast rate, a requirement of the rapidly worsening economy, according to those close to the decision-making process.

While his first round of picks was well-received by members of both parties -- the so-called team of rivals included Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and Bill Richardson as secretary of commerce -- a series of tax problems sidetracked several of the administration's choices.

Former South Dakota senator Tom Daschle was the most prominent departure, stepping aside after revelations regarding unpaid taxes for a car and driver service came to light. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was able to withstand scrutiny of his own tax history -- but barely.

Richardson, too, was eventually forced to drop out amid ethics questions, only to be replaced by New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) who accepted and then declined the job.

Stung by the series of unexpected withdrawals, Obama and his senior advisers took their time filling the vacancies -- eventually naming former Washington governor Gary Locke to Commerce and putting forward Sebelius, the governor of Kansas, at HHS.

So, as the administration approaches its hundred day mark, how has this collection of 15 men and women fared as a group?

"They deserve credit for some outstanding individual performances and overall talent and potential but [get] points off for the Cabinet-members-who-were-not-to-be and the time it took Geithner to bounce back from his nomination wounds," said one senior Democratic strategist who has followed the Cabinet machinations closely.

Among the Cabinet stars in the early days of the administration, the source listed the obvious (Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates) as well as the not-so-obvious including Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The source said Duncan "benefits from sharing Obama's favorite game (basketball) and favorite issue (education)."

Several people the Fix spoke to for this story noted that aside from Clinton there turned out to be few big names in the Cabinet; we have written before that even Geithner, the most visible Cabinet member to date, remains unknown by roughly a quarter of all Americans.

"This reflects the White House's belief that Obama is the one with the credibility with voters and the only one who should 'make the pitch'" to them, explained one veteran Democratic observer of the administration's approach to its Cabinet.

While that approach has obvious benefits -- Obama is an extremely popular figure at the moment and is able to vouch for his policies best in the eyes of the public -- there is also a potential downside to a fifteen dwarfs sort of Cabinet, according to the source.

"They may be risking exposing the president to this degree -- whether its Obama apologizing for poor vetting of officials (e.g. Dachle) or the 'things are getting a little better' drumbeat on the economy," the source added.

With so many sub-Cabinet jobs unfilled and Obama's "czars" overseeing broad swaths of domestic policy, it remains unclear whether the president is particularly interested in a "strong cabinet," argued former Minnesota Republican congressman Vin Weber.

"Most of the action has remained in the White House," said Weber. "But that could change as departments are filled out and emergency legislating gives way to the normal course of business."

Weber's point is a good one. Obama and his Cabinet took office amid an economic crisis of epic proportions, a situation that makes comparisons to past administrations difficult at best. The next 90 days should tell us more about the quality and staying power of the Obama Cabinet, as well as how they will operate going forward.

What to Watch For:

Monday's Fix Picks: The Kinks were/are underrated. Discuss.

1. President Obama and Venezuelan chief Hugo Chavez: too friendly?
2. Rahm Emanuel tells George Stephanapoulos no second bank bailout is needed.
3. Meghan McCain speaks out on the future of the GOP. And, she's co-hosting The View!
4. Florida GOP Chairman Jim Greer considers a run for Florida's 24th district.
5. Oprah twitters!

LCV Hits Blunt: The League of Conservation Voters is launching a television ad today in Missouri that hammers Rep. Roy Blunt (R), who is running for the Senate in 2010, for his opposition to the energy program being pushed by President Obama. "We can create millions of new clean energy jobs and become a global leader in energy technology," says the ad's narrator. "But Roy Blunt says no." The ad goes on to link Blunt's campaign contributions from oil companies to his opposition to the bill. "Call Roy Blunt and tell him its time to start believing in America again," says the narrator at the commercial's conclusion.

Cantor's Profile Rises (And Rises): House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) continues to rise on the national stage -- the latest sign being a profile of him that ran on CBS's "Sunday Morning" show. Anchor Charles Osgood led off this piece this way: "He's young, charismatic, one of the most powerful people in Washington. We're not talking about President Obama. We're talking about the House Minority Whip, Eric Cantor." Not too shabby. (Cantor rose to fifth on last week's Line highlighting the 10 most influential Republicans.)

Finding a Lincoln Challenger: After letting Sen. Mark Pryor (D) go unopposed (!) for reelection in 2008, national Republicans are committed to putting up a real fight against Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) in 2010. State Sen. Kim Hendren became the first Republican to announce for the contest over the weekend -- although he won't be the last. Hendren, who is related by marriage to former Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.), apparently has some personal money but, at 71, is he ready for the rigors of a statewide campaign almost certain to draw national attention? Former U.S. Attorney Tim Griffin is also contemplating the race and, if he ran, would likely enjoy considerable help from friends inside the Beltway.

Raising Money, the Norm Way: Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC), two liberal third-party groups, are seeking to raise money off the never-ending Minnesota Senate recount. The "Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away" campaign is asking supporters to pledge a dollar to PCCC for each day that Coleman stays in the race. "If thousands of us donate $1 to help progressives defeat Republicans in 2010 for each day Norm Coleman refuses to concede, we'll reverse the incentives for DC Republicans," read an email sent to the two groups roughly one million person email list. "They'll tell Norm, 'Go away!'" (The PCCC needs the cash; as of Feb. 21, they had just $8,700 in the bank.) Coleman lost his election contest last week but is expected to file an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court sometime this week.

Best iPhone apps (Part 4): The list rolls on....today's featured apps all courtesy of the Fix Twosse: Instapaper, Flight Control and Sportstap.

Say What?: "If you're looking at what we're doing in Washington and you're not upset, the problem is with you, not the protesters." -- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on last week's tea parties in an interview with "Fox News Sunday."

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 20, 2009; 6:15 AM ET
Categories:  Cheat Sheet Share This:  E-Mail | Technorati | Del.icio.us | Digg | Stumble Previous: Weekend Fix Picks: The WaPo Edition
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Comments

dreidel, When you say that

Thursday, April 16, 2009

--In World Net Daily column, Savage claims "rogue homosexual elements within Homeland Security are engaging in extra-constitutional activity"

you come perilously close to making light of moi.

See more at: http://www.Scribbler50.com/RoguesInTheAirportMensRoom

If the link is broken, the government has taken my job

Posted by: scribbler50 | April 20, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Here you go -- a Hate Radio host*[see below] is suing Janet Napilitano:

"Last week, hate radio host Michael Savage, in conjunction with the Thomas More Law Center, filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. They claim DHS has violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment rights by “attempting to chill their free speech, expressive association, and equal protection rights.” GWU Law Professor Orin Kerr responds:

"Isn’t the lawsuit frivolous? As I read it, the lawsuit is claiming that the issuance of a government report criticizing certain groups violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. But the Constitution doesn’t provide a constitutional right to have the government not say things that might be considered criticism. Perhaps the plaintiffs want the Constitution to be radically reinterpreted by activist judges to invent some brand-new constitutional rights?"


''Savage calls CNN's Roesgen "a self-hating white woman, who couldn't get a job as a hooker"
Thursday, April 16, 2009

--Savage: "McCarthy was right; he was just ridiculed to death by the American media"
Thursday, April 16, 2009

--In World Net Daily column, Savage claims "rogue homosexual elements within Homeland Security are engaging in extra-constitutional activity" in DHS report on "rightwing extremist activity"

Thursday, April 16, 2009
Texas Gov. Perry appears on Savage

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Responding to DHS report, Savage declares government out "to take your" freedom and guns; predicts "a Reichstag fire in this country within one year;" and calls for Napolitano to be replaced by "a real American"

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Savage says "I don't know who did Oklahoma City nor do you," and describes as "odd" the speed in which McVeigh was "executed"

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

"Loony left' is yet another angry, ignorant, illiterate teabagger. What holes do these people crawl out of?

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

It is easy to "grade" this cabinet.

The TAX CHEAT hussein cabinet is "graded" by how much each has swindled the government out of owed taxes.


These reprobates are apt symbols of NO INTEGRITY, NO ETHICS, NO CONSCIENCE and NO BRAINS in the pelosi-hussein regime the most TAX CORRUPT GOVERNMENT IN HISTORY.

D-crats love to tax you to death, then tax your death, while wasting your tax dollars on bonuses, bailouts, pork and socialist welfare.. But, like loony-left liberal d-crat TAX CHEATS geithner, rangle, olbermann, daschle, killifer, solis, kirk, sebelius and millions more, they hate to pay taxes, and they'll cheat the government out of every penny they can.

Posted by: LoonyLeft | April 20, 2009 3:00 PM | Report abuse

"Obama and his Cabinet took office amid an economic crisis of epic proportions, a situation that makes comparisons to past administrations difficult at best."

It appears obvious that any comparison should be to the new administration of FDR in 1933.

Posted by: bsallamack | April 20, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Why do the Republicans continue to hate America and our Middle Class way of life?

Is it because they were dropped on their heads as children?

Must be.

Posted by: WillSeattle | April 20, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

gee Chris, I'd like to thank-you for your attempt at sounding like a non-biased journalist. You didn't succeed but I can at least see you are trying. You've come a long way from Jan07/09's "Chip Saltzman is the furthest thing from a racist". And let's not forget the fairly recent "does Obama risk the ire of the media movers and shakers who set the conventional wisdom for a presidency".

Posted by: katem1 | April 20, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

gee Chris, I'd like to thank-you for your attempt at sounding like a non-biased journalist. You didn't succeed but I can at least see you are trying. You've come a long way from Jan07/09's "Chip Saltzman is the furthest thing from a racist". And let's not forget the fairly recent "does Obama risk the ire of the media movers and shakers who set the conventional wisdom for a presidency".

Posted by: katem1 | April 20, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

"EXTRAJUDICIAL PUNISHMENT NETWORK".

Google it. You will find 45 entries and two of those were not generated from our area in metropolitan Philadelphia! One came from Cedar Grove, NJ, and one from Phoenix. People are beginning to UNDERSTAND!


Oh, yes they are. So much so, that the person who wrote the above may have to look for a new job:


http://nowpublic.com/world/govt-fusion-center-spying-pretext-harass-and-censor

OR (if link is corrupted / disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 20, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

"RG on the sanctity of marriage"

you gotta admit, he's really ventured into slapstick here. i have to wonder, do politicans like rudy really think that new yorkers are stupid enough to think he's serious about this? i guess he does.

but i don't thinkkkkk so... paterson will not be on the ticket, and if juli does run it will be against cuomo, and he hasn't a ghost of an inkling of a chance.

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

In general I agree with Cillizza's assessment of the cabinet so far, although I would also add Stephen Chu as another rising star. He had a clever, though short interview in the Sunday NY Times magazine, and will be front and center going forward in the environmental policy debate. However, I would also like to caution against this whole "100 Days" syndrome, not just for Obama, but for cabinet members as well. It is simply too soon to make really valid assessments. I would argue that it is not 100 days, but rather the first year that is more indicative of success or failure. Let's see where everybody is in Jan. 2010. I know this isn't good for the 20-second sound bite environment we're in, but it is more accurate.

Diana W

Posted by: dianaw | April 20, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

drindl, I concede that it is difficult for me to imagine that LG really thinks SP is better equipped for dealing with - anything except moose hunting - than the Prez. But LG really has bought the neocon line on Iran, apparently, which worries me even more. I will have to watch the interview.

"RG on the sanctity of marriage" should be a fundraiser for Emily's List.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 20, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

It would be almost impossible to overrate the Kinks, because they simply rule ... Muswell Hillbillies is required listening in my household of one

Posted by: kdemko | April 20, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Some Monday hilarity -- even the rightwing NYPost finds Rudy risible:

"RUDY GIULIANI is declaring war on gay marriage -- vowing to use his strong opposition of it against the Democrats if he runs for governor next year.

The former mayor, in an extended interview with The Post, also predicted that Gov. Paterson's high-profile effort to legalize gay marriage would anger many New Yorkers and spark a revolt that could help sweep Republicans into office in 2010.

"This will create a grass-roots movement. This is the kind of issue that, in many ways, is somewhat beyond politics," said Giuliani, a two-term mayor who unsuccessfully sought the GOP presidential nomination last year.

"I think gay marriage will obviously be an issue for any Republican next year because Republicans are either in favor of the position I'm in favor of, civil unions, or in many cases Republicans don't even favor civil unions," he continued.

Giuliani, who is slated to address a Republican fund-raising gala in Albany tonight in what is widely described as further proof of his interest in running for governor, said he's committed to the traditional definition of marriage.

"Marriage, I believe, both traditionally and legally, has always been between a man and a woman and should remain between a man and woman," said Giuliani, who has been married three times."

Yes, being against gay marriage in New York today. Now there's a winning issue for you... go for it, Rudy!

The article also contains a link to an interview with the gay couple [and longtime friends] that Rudy went to live with after he left his wife for another woman. They plan to marry.

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

BREAKING NEWS!

"EXTRAJUDICIAL PUNISHMENT NETWORK".

Google it. You will find 45 entries and two of those were not generated from our area in metropolitan Philadelphia! One came from Cedar Grove, NJ, and one from Phoenix. People are beginning to UNDERSTAND!

Go to:

http://www.Scribbler50.com/TrappedInACandyFactoryInHersheyPA

for more details. If the link is broken, it's PART of the conspiracy.

Posted by: scribbler50 | April 20, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Mark, are you serious? You think Lindsay Graham is principled?

A guy who says stuff like this? He either honestly beleives Sarah Palin would make a terririf c president [and obama a 'terrifying' one]-- or he's a liar.

"Graham spent much of his interview Sunday defending Palin's capacity to serve on moment's notice as commander in chief. But as ABC's George Stephanopoulos noted immediately following the "dread" remark, much of that defense came in the form of turning the attack lights on to Obama.

"Barack Obama, who got it incredibly wrong in Iraq, ... would sit down with Ahmadinejad and change the whole dynamic of the Mideast by empowering a nut and sending every wrong signal to extremists and moderates," Graham said. "His judgment in these areas has been terrible, proven to be terrible. I would be proud to call her my president. I think she could step in and fulfill the agenda domestically and internationally that John McCain wants to set for the country. Compared to Barack Obama, I think she'd make one hell of a commander in chief."

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 11:59 AM | Report abuse

TO: President Obama, VP Biden, Obama Cabinet Secretaries

"When you see the abuse of power, you've got to speak."

-- VP Joe Biden


Extra-legal programs and policies of the Bush-Cheney era continue on...

...endangering our democracy and subverting your presidency.


EXTRAJUDICIAL PUNISHMENT NETWORK.

Google it.

Any American -- YOU, or someone close to you -- could be its next victim.

Unless Team Obama -- especially AG Holder, SecDef Gates, SecDHS Napolitano, SecTreas Geithner -- take down the draconian Bush-Cheney extra-legal "torture matrix..."

...an array of secret, extrajudicial "programs of personal financial destruction" and government-funded vigilante, terroristic "community stalking"...

...coupled with the proliferation of mind- and body-degrading "directed energy" microwave radiation weapons -- the Zyklon B of a grassroots, government-enabled American Gestapo that continues to "target" untold thousands, if not millions, of U.S. citizens...

...citizens who have not been charged with any crime, but who have been condemned by a covert American Gestapo to a life of "community gang-stalking" and physical degradation...

...tracked with covert GPS devices over a network known to EVERY police force in the nation -- and to federal security, military and intelligence operatives.

Attorney General Holder, you must act NOW to restore human and civil rights in America.

Before the naivete of liberals empowers the saboteurs and Dr. Strangeloves who say "No!" to change.


http://nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-terrorizes-america

OR (if links are corrupted/ disabled):

http://NowPublic.com/scrivener

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 20, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

That should read, 'our regular poster, armpit'

and I see the whole chavez non-story new rightwing meme is right at the top of 'fixpicks.' good going, CC! how to build a mountain out of a molehill and give the teabaggers something to build their daily dose of outrage on, their 2 minute hate that goes on 24 hours a day.

Reliable watercarrier that you are.

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Monmday morning news:

Our post armpit's condition unchanged. Still a congenital moron.

Mark Halperin [and most of ABC]still reliable rightwing shills with the usual idiocy:

"Halperin’s fronting the absurd Chavez handshake story. The Politico has convened their asinine Arena panel to discuss it. And Newt is leading the charge on this. James Wolcott said it best:

Only within the Beltway popcorn popper could Gingrich, whose serpent tongue and ogre ego did so much to polarize discourse in the 1990s and abort reform, be considered a foxy catch. Only in Washington, D.C., could Gingrich, a magpie of futurist jargon and a bumptious opportunist, pass himself off as an iconoclastic force and centrifuge of ideas, a cross between Buckminster Fuller and Che Guevara leading a commando raid on the buffet table.'

It’s a good thing there was no real news over the past week.

James Wolcott makes life worth living.

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

The Kinks: underrated / often overlooked. Cursed by overwhelming success of 'Lola'.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 20, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

"Thanx for the M.McC link. She may be leading where few are following, now, but I think her voice in the R Party will become stronger if she continues her efforts. She will inevitably be seen as "too young" for a few more years, despite her apparent common sense. Will she run for office or will she continue as a blogger/journalist?"

One ponderable: will Megan McCain make the 'Republicans to Watch' list in 2009/2010? Or is this 'just a passing phase'? At some point she'll have to decide whether to be a pundit, a politician, or something outside the limelight. Though that last option seems unlikely, at this point.

Posted by: bsimon1 | April 20, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

The Kinks are definitely underrated. Some of their songs are still popular, but they don't get much respect. Most people probably don't even know who The Kinks were, even if they like "Lola" or another hit. But what else can you expect? The "oldies" stations mostly play music from after 1975; they barely play anything from the 60s at all!

Posted by: Blarg | April 20, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

It would be a great exercise to look at Rahm's original roster versus what he actually ended up with. My personal view is that Rahm is very dissapointed with his line up and has no bench whatsoever - such is the nature of a first year expansion team draft.

Posted by: newbeeboy | April 20, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

The Kinks!
They weren't as successful as the really big bands of their time, but the Kinks always seemed a little fresher, a little more aggressive, a little more thoughtful, a little more British, a little more sincere, a little more 'out there' as musicians and a little more committed to doing what they wanted to do, not what paid. They stayed current but still sounded like themselves (their 80's punk renaissance was as good as their work 20 years earlier). Like all the best bands, you can keep going back to them and still be satisfied. And they made good music for, well they (Ray, anyway) still make good music 45 years into it.

Thanks for making a grey Monday so much better. Now, can the girl stay off you-tube and give her employer 8 hours?

Posted by: margaretmeyers | April 20, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Bozo Obama's cabinet is like a bunch of stumblebum Keystone Cops, and is in fact the laughingstock of our country and the world. They all are Bozo Obama clones though, and like the zoombies they are will go over the cliff with him and his Socialist/Marxist agenda.

Posted by: armpeg | April 20, 2009 8:33 AM | Report abuse

drindl, if LG resigns, SC will surely elect someone far less reasonable and principled.
I like LG and agree with him on military procurement and military law issues. For an R Senator who believed we spent too freely in an R Admin and often said so to still believe it now is no sin.

SC is not going to elect a Senator who agrees on domestic policy with the Prez. The choice in SC is principled versus purely partisan opposition to a D Admin. I consider LG to be principled, insofaras any pol can be thought of in those terms.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 20, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

"Say What?: "If you're looking at what we're doing in Washington and you're not upset, the problem is with you, not the protesters." -- South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) on last week's tea parties in an interview with "Fox News Sunday."

Lindsay Graham is right, he should definitely resign.

Posted by: drindl | April 20, 2009 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Thanx for the M.McC link. She may be leading where few are following, now, but I think her voice in the R Party will become stronger if she continues her efforts. She will inevitably be seen as "too young" for a few more years, despite her apparent common sense. Will she run for office or will she continue as a blogger/journalist?

Gates has continued to distinguish himself and his efforts to streamline procurement and cut waste will be tested by a Congress full of mini-Murtha Ds and Rs, crying about the cuts in their districts. I also think that Chu has been more visible than any of his predecessors at DOE, if memory serves. I am encouraged that he wants to build nuke power again.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | April 20, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, copy corrected:

Obama certainly gives the impression that he's in charge, in stark contrast to W who made it seem that Cheney, Rumsfeld and anyone but W ran things.

Time will tell if Obama's cabinet picks make their mark. Certainly Hillary has the opportunity to as does Geithner. But is it necessary that the public know the names of all cabinet members? I'd be happy if they did their job and not treat the public as ignorant dolts (as Cheney and Rumsfeld did.)

Posted by: RickJ | April 20, 2009 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Obama certainly gives the impression that he's in charge, in stark contrast to W who made it seem that Cheney Rumsfeld and anyone but W ran things.

Time will tell if Obama's cabinet picks make their mark. Certainly Hillary has the opportunity to as does Geithner. But is it necessary that the public no the names of all cabinet members? I'd be happy if they did there job and not treat the public as ignorant dolts (as Cheney and Rumsfeld did.)

Posted by: RickJ | April 20, 2009 6:43 AM | Report abuse

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