From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Carrie Dann
*** Obama's security team: Months after "Meet me in Ohio," South Carolina, "D-Punjab," Sniper-gate, those daily Wolfson conference calls, etc., we'll finally see today what most once thought was impossible: Obama teaming up with Hillary Clinton. At a press conference in Chicago at 10:40 am ET, Obama will announce Clinton as his secretary of state, as well as the rest of his national security team. While Clinton is the obvious headliner, it's worth pointing out all the star power at today's event: Bob Gates at Defense, James Jones as NSA, Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, Eric Holder at Justice, and Susan Rice as UN ambassador. But it's Clinton that will draw the most attention and media scrutiny.
Over the weekend, reports circulated that the deal was sealed when Bill Clinton agreed to release, publicly, the names of all his foundation/library donors, which begs the question: What took so long? Why, again, couldn't Clinton release these names during the primary campaign -- perhaps during the 2007 portion of the primary? This has got to be a bittersweet moment for a lot of Hillary campaign veterans who continue to be perplexed by the stubbornness of dealing with Bill Clinton during campaigns that suddenly become easy issues when bygones are bygones.
*** Focus on Jones, not Clinton: Some advice for our friends in the media, don't focus on Clinton, focus on Jim Jones, someone personally more close with John McCain than Obama. And with an office in the West Wing, it will be Jones who has the day-to-day ear of Obama, not Clinton. In fact, of the three big national security posts, it's possible a President McCain could have picked Jones and Gates as well. This is a throwback to the Bush years, not Bush 43, but Bush 41. Jones and Gates, in particular, seem to be from the Brent Scowcroft school of foreign policy.
*** 'Change' at Foggy Bottom: One more extraneous item about the National security team -- the appointment of Clinton will mean it will be more than a decade since a white male has held the post of Secretary of State. Then again, maybe it's time that we in the media don't need to take notice of facts like this anymore. Isn't that one of the messages the public sent on Election Day?
*** Challenging Obama: The new team will hit the ground running, as evidenced by the Mumbai bombings. Joe Biden said Obama would be tested early, and the siege in Mumbai is an example of just what Obama and his team will have to face. Terrorism was far down the list of concerns among voters in this election, but it will still be a major test of the new president and the world. Managing instability in Afghanistan and combating Al Qaeda's power structure in Northwest Pakistan could be further complicated by tensions between India and nuclear rival Pakistan, who Indian officials were quick to point the finger at for the violence. This is going to be a delicate dance for President Obama. Can Obama deliver on what he promised? Can he use his world popularity to get hard and fast commitments from nations around the world? Talk is nice, as Tom Friedman wrote a couple of weeks ago, but commitments of troops, money and resources are what are really needed. Does the India terrorist attack mean that India-Pakistan is a more important problem and priority for the U.S. to deal with than Mideast peace?
*** Samantha Power is back: Did anyone really think she wouldn't be? In the "You Can't Make This Stuff Up" category, the woman who stepped away from Obama's campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a "monster," was listed on Obama's change.gov, per AP, as being part of the Agency Review Team for the State Department. We wonder what that first meeting between Power and Madame Secretary Clinton will be like. (She apparently made a gesture to bury the hatchet.)
*** Don't forget the economy: While national security is sure to be the leading topic, at least at the start of the week, there is the issue of the economy in this country still. Today, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson delivers an update on the economy and the markets. Let's see how Paulson's remarks, plus reports on bond rates, gas prices, interest rates and foreign exchange rates affect the Dow. And let's not forget, the reason for a quick appointment of a national security team, which includes holdover Gates, is to make sure things are smooth on that front since the economy will have to garner a lion's share of Obama's attention when he's sworn into office.
*** Legacy watch: President Bush remarked that he wants to be known as liberator of 50 million people, a man who brought peace and someone who fought HIV/AIDS in Africa. It will be tough for history to judge him positively in those first two areas, but Bush does deserve credit for the work he has done in Africa. Today is World AIDS Day and President and Laura Bush will participate in events on the topic today. They present the World AIDS Day Ribbon at the White House, and then the president participates in Rick Warren's Saddleback Forum on Global Health in D.C., where he receives, from this group, an International Medal of Peace. Obama also participates in the forum via taped video remarks, and he meets informally tonight in Philadelphia with members of the Democratic Governor's Association -- ahead of tomorrow's meetings he holds at the National Governor's Association. Also, Biden travels to Boston today for a ceremony at Harvard honoring Sen. Ted Kennedy. The governor's meeting will be interesting in this respect: just like the automakers and financial institutions, these governors will be coming hats-in-hand looking for their own financial bailout.
*** The remaining Senate races: In Georgia, with one day until tomorrow's run-off, Sarah Palin hits four rallies today for Saxby Chambliss (R), in Augusta, Savannah, Perry, and the Atlanta area. Meanwhile, Obama won't be stumping for Jim Martin (D) -- today is essentially his last opportunity to do so -- but Atlanta rapper/actor Ludacris will be when he appears on the steps of the state capitol with Martin tonight. So no Obama, but Ludacris. The numbers game in the Georgia runoff is simple: Chambliss is hoping Palin will spike turnout among his base supporters, white evangelicals, while Martin was hoping Obama could spike turnout among his base, African-Americans. Turnout among both groups will be down, that's a fact. The question is which group will down more from Election Day? Answer that question, and you'll know the winner… In Minnesota, work starts back up on the recount after the Thanksgiving break. According to the latest Minneapolis Star Tribune numbers, Norm Coleman (R) has a 282-vote lead over Al Franken (D) with 88% counted; there are more than 5,600 challenged ballots. Remember, this vote total is a bit confusing to focus on because of the challenged ballot issue. Also, in Ohio's still-undecided 15th CD, Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy trails Republican Steve Stivers by 594 votes, but she hopes that thousands of uncounted absentee and provisional ballots out of Franklin County will help her make up the difference.
*** California dreamin': The big enchilada for the 2010 cycle (barring a certain PA SEN race) will be the campaign to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as California governor. One potential aspirant, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, releases the first of a 10-part State of the City address on YouTube, which, when put together, will put his State of the City address somewhere just short of eight hours. Each part will be 45 minutes in length; Voters claim they want more unfiltered information; Newsom is testing that premise big time today -- seven and half hours for a State of the City address? Even Fidel Castro couldn't talk that long.
*** A First Read question for Obama: Just askin', but will anyone ask Obama at his press conference today about his desire to dismantle college football's BCS system and replace it with a playoff? (One of your First Read authors still can't comprehend how his Texas Longhorns are behind Oklahoma, when Texas beat them on a neutral field.) Another First Read author reminds his colleague of the following: Texas '08, meet Miami '00. And if you really hate the BCS, there's only one logical result next weekend, an Alabama loss (sorry Joe).
Countdown to Georgia Senate run-off: 1 day Countdown to Electoral Vote Count: 38 days Countdown to Inauguration Day 2009: 50 days
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