Category: election 2008

Obama says, aid coming to troubled states

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WASHINGTON – Saying “it is altogether likely that things may get worse before they get better,” President-elect Barack Obama laid out the case today for a huge economic stimulus plan to get the U.S. economy going again, saying 2009 promises to be one of those “years that come along once in a generation, the kind that mark a clean break from a troubled past and set a new course for our nation.”

In the speech, his first major address since his election night victory speech in Chicago, Obama laid out a few new details of the plan, calling for a doubling of alternative energy production and investment in the fuel-efficient cars of the future, expanding broadband Internet access across the country, and computerizing medical records. Those aspects of his plan come on top of those already described publicly, including billions of dollars for infrastructure like roads, bridges and schools, tax credits for individuals and businesses and an extension of unemployment benefits.

He also said there will be help for struggling states – with Michigan almost certain to be among them – to avoid “harmful budget cuts, as long as they take responsibility and use the money to maintain essential services like police, fire, education and health care.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm was among the public officials attending the speech at Virginia’s George Mason University, not far from Washington, D.C. Obama’s inauguration is set for Jan. 20 at the nation’s Capitol.

While the speech was not intended to deliver all the specifics of the plan, it served to describe the need and rouse the newly convened Congress to quick action on the recovery plan, which were likely to come soon. The Associated Press reported that Obama’s economic advisers were on Capitol Hill today briefing Democratic lawmakers on the plans as Obama delivered his speech.

Still, there have been critics who have argued that the plan – which could cost upward of $775 billion at a time when the deficit is already expected to top $1 trillion – costs too much with too few guarantees of success. It appeared those critics were the focus of Obama’s speech, as he said, “If nothing is done this recession could linger for years. The unemployment rate could reach double digits.”

“In short,” he said, “a bad situation could become dramatically worse.”

But the president-elect, while criticizing both government and the private sector for allowing an anything-goes attitude to destroy trust and confidence, said “the very fact that this crisis is largely of our making means that it is not beyond our ability to solve.”

“It will take time, perhaps many years,” he said, “but we can rebuild that lost trust and confidence.”

He added: “It is time to trade old habits for a new spirit of responsibility.”

The pace of talks on Capitol Hill has already accelerated. Obama met with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders early this week and both chambers have been holding forums to decide what should be done, with one among Senate Democrats set for today. Meanwhile, all sorts of groups from unions to trade associations, have been clamoring for their own plans to be part of the stimulus package.

Reacting to the speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he was heartened to hear that Obama “wants to include Republican ideas.” But he also signaled that there could still be battles over the plan, including aid for the states, which McConnell said should be made in the form of loans rather than grants that don’t have to be repaid.

“The question is, how will the money be spent,’ McConnell said of the state aid. “I think the way to make sure it is spent judiciously is to make it a loan.”

Four Senate Seats still empty

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009; Page A03

As the gavel quietly fell yesterday on the final session of the 110th Senate, officials in several states sought to cut through the confusion surrounding a quartet of chamber seats whose future occupants remain undetermined amid succession fights and election recount disputes.

In Colorado, Gov. Bill Ritter (D) is expected to announce today that Michael F. Bennet, the superintendent of Denver’s public schools, will succeed Sen.  Ken Salazar (D) once Salazar is confirmed as interior secretary this month. In New York, Gov. David A. Paterson attempted to knock down reports that he has decided on Caroline Kennedy as his appointee to replace  Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) after she is confirmed as secretary of state, even as key state party officials continued to push for Kennedy’s appointment.

In Illinois, Roland W. Burris, the selection of embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate, filed another legal motion yesterday to try to force state officials to recognize his appointment, which would allow him to take his fight to the Capitol in time for Tuesday’s start of the 111th Congress.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, declared that under no circumstances would they agree to seat Democrat Al Franken of Minnesota, who is clinging to a 49-vote lead in the recount of his race against  Sen. Norm Coleman, if Coleman files a legal challenge.

“It is the height of arrogance for any political leader in Washington, D.C., to tell the people of Minnesota whose vote should count and whose vote shouldn’t count,”  Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a conference call with reporters.

The uncertainty about those seats comes as the Senate concluded its work from the contentious 110th Congress yesterday with a 27-second pro forma session in a near-empty chamber. As part of a standoff with President Bush over the process of nominating federal officials, Senate Democrats had refused to fully adjourn the chamber and instead, while on periodic breaks over the past 14 months, had convened dozens of open-and-shut sessions that by rule prohibited Bush from making interim appointments.

When the new session begins Tuesday, the Senate is expected to have 98 members, without those from Illinois and Minnesota. One of those being sworn in to a new term will be  Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). In addition to winning the vice presidency on Nov. 4, Biden was also elected to a seventh term, requiring him to begin the new session that his replacement will soon take over for the next two years.

Setting it apart from what is happening in the other states with imminent vacancies, Biden’s succession process ended in mid-November with the announcement that Edward E. “Ted” Kaufman, his former chief of staff, would receive the temporary appointment, setting up an open contest in November 2010 for the remaining four years of the term.

According to state laws, the governors of all four states in question appoint the successors, with election set in 2010 for full terms.

Ritter’s selection of Bennet cleared the field in Colorado. A political novice who served as chief of staff for Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Bennet in 2005 took charge of the city’s school system, implementing changes that led to improved test scores. Bennet grew up in the District and attended St. Albans School, Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, and ran an investment company in Denver.

His appointment could be an unwelcome development for some Hispanics, who cheered Salazar’s 2004 election victory, along with that of  Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), the first Hispanics to serve in the Senate since 1976. Martinez plans to retire in 2010, and  Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is the only other Hispanic in the chamber.

Paterson brushed aside reports that he has chosen Kennedy, who is the heir to her family’s political dynasty and who has been outspoken in her effort to secure the appointment. “There is no front-runner, and the governor is not on the verge of any decision,” Errol Cockfield, Paterson’s spokesman, said in an interview.
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New President New ride!

  • New presidential limo will transport Obama on Inauguration Day
  • Custom-built Cadillac will be bulletproof, have hand-sewn interior
  • Limo can withstand a “direct hit from an asteroid,” news agency jokes
  • First presidential limo purchased in 1907 for President Theodore Roosevelt

Chrysler gets $4 billion

Auburn Hills-based automaker gets its first installment of government cash for restructuring.
Detroit News staff and wire reports

Troubled Chrysler LLC late Friday received an initial $4 billion loan from the U.S. Treasury Department, part of the $17.4 billion it and General Motors Corp. had sought to help the companies stay afloat.

Chief Executive Robert Nardelli said the loan will allow the automaker to continue its restructuring and pursue “our vision to build the fuel-efficient, high-quality cars and trucks people want to buy, will enjoy driving and will want to buy again.”

The Auburn Hills automaker, which is privately held by Cerberus Capital Management LP, is nearing the minimum level of cash — $2.5 billion — it needs to operate, and is fending off parts suppliers and other vendors demanding cash payments on delivery.


“We recognize the magnitude of the effort by the Treasury Department to complete the multiple financial arrangements and appreciate their confidence in Chrysler,” Nardelli said. “We would like to thank the many constituents who worked with us to meet the loan requirements. This initial loan will allow the company to continue an orderly restructuring.”

On Wednesday, GM received its first $4 billion government loan. The Detroit automaker is to receive another $5.4 billion next month and another $4 billion on Feb. 17, if Congress approves opening the second half of the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund.

GM and Chrysler must obtain significant cost-saving concessions from the United Auto Workers, suppliers, creditors and other stakeholders by March 31 to show they can be profitable, or the loans could be called back for repayment by the government — a step likely to force the firms into bankruptcy protection. In exchange for the loans, the federal government will become the owner of a large chunk of both automakers and will have veto power over any transaction over $100 million, among other provisions.

In testimony before Congress in November, Chrysler said it needed $8 billion to fully restructure. Additional money could be approved later if the company meets requirements set out by Congress and legislators approve an additional request for the remaining $4 billion.

Chrysler lost at least $1.08 billion through the first half of 2008. The company burned through $3 billion in cash in the third quarter, leaving it with $6.1 billion at the end of September. It needs $3 billion to operate, Nardelli said in Congressional testimony.

Ford Motor Co. has not sought immediate government aid but has said it would like access to a $9 billion line of credit in case the economy worsens further.

2008 Election Guide: Obama vs. McCain

Barack Obama,

John McCain,

ECONOMY Plans to repeal Bush’s tax cuts for rich households while helping middle-class households cope with financial issues with targeted tax relief. Obama also plans to renegotioate free trade and reform healthcare. Plans to keep Bush’s tax cuts while abolishing the Alternative Minimum tax to lower taxes for middle-class family, as well as reducing government spending. McCain also plans to focus on reforming healthcare and social security.
WAR IN IRAQ Obama believes there is no military solution for Iraq and has opposed the war from the beginning. He would pull all troops out of combat operations within 16 months of taking office through phased withdrawal. McCain backed Bush’s troop escalation, and believes US forces should remain in Iraq until the country can defend itself Under his presidency, he predicts most would be withdrawn by 2013.
IRAN Believes that, if offered incentives, Iranian leaders would change their behaviors, and would meet them without preconditions. Obama favors “aggresive personal diplomacy” and has not ruled out military option. Opposes unconditional diplomacy and will use military action if deemed necessary to prevent nuclear arms in Iran. Would try to escalate economic sanctions against Iran using a league of democracies.
NATIONAL SECURITY Voted to re-authorize the Patriot Act in 2006 after criticizing it previously. Would allocate national securty funding to the most at-risk areas. Voted against bill to ban water boarding in 2008, but plans to prevent the CIA from using “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.” Is a former Vietnam POW.
GLOBAL WARMING Wants to invest $150 billion in clean energy over the next decade. Wants the US to lead a global effort to combat global warming, starting with a 80% decrease in US greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Wants all changes to work together, especially China and India, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Admits that climate change is, indeed, “real and devastating.”
HEALTH CARE Would only make insurance compulsory for children, but backs universal coverage. Would instate subsidies to mage coverage more affordable and prevent insurers from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions. Would offer tax incentives to encourage people to get personal health insurance. Continues to support healthcare for military veterans.
ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION Believes offering an opportunity for citizenship to illegal immigrants who pay a fine does not amount to amnesty. Wishes to police the US/Mexican border more heavily, and backs stricter penalties for those who employ undocumented workers. Supports amnesty to illegal immigrants, as well as heavier border control. Supports offering a path to citizenship to illegal workers already in the US.
ABORTION Supports women’s choice in conjunction with counseling from doctors and clergy. Opposes the Supreme Court’s ban on late-term abortion. Previously supported Roe vs. Wade, but now wishes to overturn it. Supports ban on late-term abortion. Wishes to aid statewide efforts to boost adoption.

WSJ- Dips Into Think Tank for Talent


WASHINGTON — The Center for a New American Security, a small think tank here with generally middle-of-the-road policy views, is rapidly emerging as a top farm team for the incoming Obama administration.

When President-elect Barack Obama released a roster of his transition advisers last week, many of the national-security appointments came from the ranks of the center, which was founded by a pair of former Clinton administration officials in February 2007.

The think tank’s central role in the transition effort suggests that its positions — which include rejecting a fixed timeline for a withdrawal from Iraq — will get a warm reception within the new administration.

Richard Danzig (above) and James Steinberg and Susan Rice (below), who all have ties to the Center for a New American Security, are contenders for key positions in the Obama administration.
Michele Flournoy, who co-founded the center with Kurt Campbell, a former Clinton National Security Council and Pentagon official, now serves as its president. She is one of two top members of Mr. Obama’s defense transition team and is likely to be offered a high-ranking position at the Pentagon. Some Obama advisers say she could eventually be tapped as the nation’s first female defense secretary.

Wendy Sherman, co-head of the Obama State Department transition team, also serves on the center’s board of advisers and is expected to land a high-ranking post. Richard Danzig, a front-runner for defense secretary, is on the think tank’s board of directors. Susan Rice and James Steinberg, both of whom are on Mr. Obama’s short list for national security adviser, serve on its board of advisers.

Although most of the center’s staffers are Democrats, its boards include prominent Republicans, and its policy proposals have largely sought to find a middle ground between standard Democratic and Republican positions. On Iraq, for instance, Ms. Flournoy helped write a June report that called for reducing the open-ended American military commitment in Iraq and replacing it with a policy of “conditional engagement” there.

Significantly, the paper rejected the idea of withdrawing troops on the sort of a fixed timeline Mr. Obama espoused during the campaign. Mr. Obama has in recent weeks signaled that he was willing to shelve the idea.

At least half a dozen of the think tank’s policy experts — including John Nagl, a retired Army colonel and a counterinsurgency specialist — are expected to get tapped for midlevel national security positions.

The potential departures mean that the center could be a victim of its own success. “The challenge will be convincing our board, our funders and our staff that we are a going concern and will remain that way into the future,” said Jim Miller, its senior vice president.

Mr. Miller said he is confident the center would weather the departures. Other officials said the center is planning to recruit departing Bush administration officials to fill some vacancies. The center’s budget comes mainly from foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and it also gets some government money to study particular issues.

New presidents regularly raid Washington think tanks for experts and policy ideas. The Reagan administration drew heavily from the right-leaning Heritage Foundation after the 1980 election, while the Clinton administration hired from the left-leaning Brookings Institution.

More recently, staffers at the conservative American Enterprise Institute took senior positions in the Bush administration and drafted some of its signature policies, including the “surge” strategy for Iraq.

The success of conservative think tanks sparked the creation of some left-leaning counterparts, most prominently the Center for American Progress. Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta started it in 2003 with tens of millions of dollars from wealthy liberals.
“The success of Brookings begat AEI. The success of AEI begat Heritage. And the success of Heritage begat CAP and CNAS,” said Murray Weidenbaum, an economics professor at Washington University in St. Louis who wrote a book on Washington think tanks.

Mr. Podesta is now running the Obama transition effort. He also serves on the CNAS board of directors of the Center for a New American Security, which Ms. Flournoy founded along with Kurt Campbell, a former Clinton National Security Council and Pentagon official.

The security center remains a relatively small player, with an annual budget of less than $6 million and about 30 employees including support staff. By comparison, Brookings has more than 200 policy experts, while AEI has nearly 100 scholars and fellows.

Nonetheless, the security center enjoys an outsize public profile here, a function of its media savvy and ability to regularly attract high-profile public figures to its events. In September, it hosted Henry Kissinger, Madeleine Albright, James Baker and two other former secretaries of state at a roundtable event that was carried on CNN. The event made news when all of the officials endorsed talks with Iran, an idea backed by then-candidate Mr. Obama but opposed by Republican challenger Sen. John McCain.

Obama’s Think Tank!

Our US president elect is not setting up your usual cabinet he is setting up a proverbial think tank! What a genius he is.

Hillary Clinton, U.S. Senator from New York and former First Lady, will serve as Secretary of State.

Secretary Robert Gates, the current Secretary of Defense, will continue to serve in that role.

Eric Holder, former Deputy Attorney General and a former United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, will serve as Attorney General.

Janet Napolitano, Governor and former U.S. Attorney for Arizona, will serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. Susan E. Rice, a Senior Foreign Policy Advisor to the Obama for America campaign, a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, will serve as Ambassador to the United Nations.

General Jim Jones, USMC (Ret), former Allied Commander, Europe, and Commander of the United States European Command, will serve as National Security Advisor.


Barack Obama - Joe Biden

Its been a hard and at times difficult race but I think the United States will be just fine now. It took years to get us into the cluster mess we now see, and its going to take time to get us out of it.

Congratulations to our next President

Barack Obama!

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