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Emanuel accepts job as Obama chief of staff

Posted: 07 November 2008 0213 hrs


WASHINGTON - Hard-charging Democratic congressman Rahm Emanuel has accepted the position of chief of staff in president-elect Barack Obama's administration, a Democratic aide told AFP on Thursday.


Emanuel's decision to accept the crucial job, which controls access to the president, makes him the first senior level official to join the nascent Obama administration, two days after his historic election triumph.


Illinois lawmaker Emanuel, 48, knows Washington inside-out as a veteran of the Clinton White House, and is credited with masterminding the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives in 2006.


Emanuel, who had been tipped as a possible future speaker of the House, had been agonizing over whether to take the high-pressure position, fearing the impact of the long hours on his young family.


"When I was in the White House, I didn't have children. I do know something about the White House, and I do have children now. I have a family," Emanuel said in an interview broadcast by MSNBC on Thursday.


"This is a personal choice about what my wife and I have to do for our family as much as what I want to do with my career," he said.


Emanuel is known as a sharp-elbowed, sometimes profane political operator who is fiercely committed to Democratic partisan ideals and often has harsh words for Republicans.


John Boehner, the Republican minority leader in the House quickly issued a statement about his long-time adversary's appointment.


"This is an ironic choice for a president-elect who has promised to change Washington, make politics more civil, and govern from the center," Boehner said in a statement.


- AFP /ls

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Let battle commence


The appointment of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff shows, above all, that Barack Obama is prepared to fight


Linda Hirshman:guardian.co.uk, Thursday November 6 2008 17.30 GMT


In one of its first moves, the Obama transition announced today that Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, would be the new president's chief of staff. In addition to the Saturday Night Live payoff of an Emanuel White House – the foul-mouthed ex-ballet dancer who routinely ends his phone calls with "Fuck you, I love you," makes fellow Chicagoan David Mamet sound like Emily Dickinson – the political significance of the selection is stunning.


Emanuel is the shining example of the take-no-prisoners Chicago Democratic machine, the winning-is-everything organisation that morphed into the Obama campaign. When Emanuel was appointed to run the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the comeback election of 2006, his Republican counterpart remarked nervously that the Democrats were actually going to try to win some elections for a change. You betcha.


The Emanuel appointment reveals much about the direction of the Obama administration. Since the candidacy was built on opacity, ambiguity and generality, this first appointment is disproportionately informative. It shows that Obama is prepared to fight.


This was not obvious. Unlike the Gettysburg Address rhetoric Obama intoned on Tuesday night, the cold exit poll numbers do not reveal that the election of 2008 was a new Gettysburg, as in the battle that changed America. After eight years of the worse governance since James Buchanan, the Democratic candidate increased his percentage of the white vote over Kerry's 2004 performance by a measly 2%, from 41% to 43%. Although the youth vote turned heavily democratic, there was no youth vote surge at all: the youth vote went from 17% in 2004 to 18% in 2008.


The largest factor in the Obama victory was, surprise, the increase in the African American vote, from 11% to 13%, an almost 20% increase in the black vote over 2004, and the increase in the Democratic percentage of the increased black vote from 88% in 2004 to 95% in 2008, for a whopping three-point payoff in the electoral tally overall, with the Democrat taking over 12% of the popular vote from the black voters, versus just over 9% in 2004. An additional point over 2004 from Hispanics, a point from Asians and others, and Obama turned Kerry's defeat into victory. But to say it's the Democratic resurrection seems a little overheated. So it would not be surprising if Obama followed a very cautious path. Especially after all the Lincoln-esque rhetoric of reconciliation the other night.


If Obama wanted caution, he had three paths to take: he could go very easy on the substantive agenda and on the rhetoric, minding Clinton's fatal move into gays in the military, and simply contenting himself with appointing judges and bureaucrats not obviously from Ferdinand Marcos's kleptocracy. He could go easy on substance while using his extraordinary rhetorical gifts to change people's minds about fundamental political matters like race and distributive justice, as he was pushed to do in the campaign. Or he could try to push an ambitious progressive agenda masked by centrist rhetoric and hope that the example of well-functioning progressive programmes will change people's foundational beliefs about their government, like FDR's rural electrification did in the old Democratic South.


The selection of Rahm Emanuel means that at least Obama is not going to take the path of least aggression. Taking an operation, the DCCC, which had mostly just handed a small amount of discretionary money to a handful of locally selected candidates, Emanuel created a political machine in the 2006 elections that was in many ways the real precursor of the famed Obama campaign. Emanuel found candidates no one had even heard of, called them every day on his cell phone, guided them in every detail of their campaigns, sent skilled people to help them plan their campaigns hounded them to raise their own campaign funds and cut them off mercilessly if they did not. The story of Emanuel and the campaign of 2006 is the subject of a book by Naftali Bendavid suitably entitled The Thumpin. It is almost unthinkable that Emanuel would have agreed to set aside his ambition to become speaker of the House of Representatives to preside over a staff that just picks bureaucrats who pass a smell test.


His appointment all but announces that Obama will try to pass some real progressive legislation in the first year. When the subject of Emanuel's possible appointment came up on MSNBC on Wednesday morning, conservative and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough completely lost his composure and began shouting about how that would be the declaration of partisan warfare. As Scarborough recited chapter and verse of Emanuel's offenses against the Republican party from the 2006 campaign, for five full minutes, no one else on his programme, "Morning Joe," could get in a word.


Although Emanuel reportedly has many personal friends on the other side of the aisle, it is worth noting that he has only nine fingers. He lost one when it became gangrenous after an accident and he would not stop his high school activities long enough to have it properly looked after.

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Rahm Emanuel and Israel


06 Nov 2008 12:44 pm


The news that Rahm Emanuel has accepted Barack Obama's request to be his chief of staff is fascinating on many levels, not least of which is Rahm's deep Israel credentials. First, in the interest of full disclosure, I've known Rahm for a long time, and he's yelled at me for no good reason on many occasions. This, of course, is the way he expresses affection. I do believe, despite the yelling, that Rahm is an excellent choice to run the White House, and I'll get into that later.


But for now, a couple of comments about the Israel connection:


1) This choice makes the entire "Does Obama secretly hate Israel?" conversation seem a bit ridiculous (Though the vast majority of Jewish voters seemed to have figured that out by the election). Rahm did not, despite the rumors, serve in the Israeli Army, but he is deeply and emotionally committed to Israel and its safety. We've talked about the issue a dozen times; it's something he thinks about constantly, and his appointment gives me further reason to believe that the Obama Administration will not wait seven years to address the Israeli-Arab crisis.


2) Peace-processors take heart: Rahm, precisely because he's a lover of Israel, will not have much patience with Israeli excuse-making, so when the next Prime Minister tells President Obama that as much as he'd love to, he can't dismantle the Neve Manyak settlement outpost, or whichever outpost needs dismantling, because of a) domestic politics; b) security concerns, or c) the Bible, Rahm will call out such nonsense, and it will be very hard for right-wing Israelis to come back and accuse him of being a self-hating Jew. This is not to say that he's unaware of Palestinian dysfunction, or Iranian extremism, but that he has a good grasp of some of Israel's foibles as well. All in all, it's a very heartening choice.

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The largest factor in the Obama victory was, surprise, the increase in the African American vote, from 11% to 13%, an almost 20% increase in the black vote over 2004, and the increase in the Democratic percentage of the increased black vote from 88% in 2004 to 95% in 2008, for a whopping three-point payoff in the electoral tally overall, with the Democrat taking over 12% of the popular vote from the black voters, versus just over 9% in 2004.


LOL yes, three points is "whopping"!


And is anyone else a little surprised Obama's black support was only 13%? Don't blacks make up 20% of the population? Pretty pitiful.

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Aide to Rahm Emanuel: Obama pro-Israel




US president-elect starts selecting top gov't officials, but son of Israeli immigrant yet to accept White House chief of staff offer; aide to Emanuel tells Ynet, 'He would not consider role if he wasn't convinced Obama is pro-Israel' Yitzhak Benhorin Published: 11.06.08, 08:41 / Israel News



WASHINGTON - Despite reports in US media that Illinois Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel has accepted US president-elect Barack Obama's offer to serve as White House chief of staff, a source close to Emanuel told Ynet he has not yet accepted and was still considering the offer due to personal and family reasons.


Emanuel is the son of American Jew and Israeli immigrant Dr. Benjamin Emanuel. The source told Ynet on Wednesday, "Emanuel is pro-Israeli, and would not be willing to consider accepting the job unless he was convinced that President-elect Obama is pro-Israel."


Michael Kotzin, executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, said that Emanuel very often attends Israel-related events such as independence day and the yearly parade for Israel.



"He brings his young children to the events, and told me that his father used to bring him as a child to Israel-related events. These are events with large crowds, and when Rahm Emanuel attends, he also speaks to the crowd about Israel," Kotzin said.



Meanwhile, Obama continues to consult with his advisors about appointments, and starting Thursday morning will receive daily classified intelligence briefings similar to what is given to the president. Vice president-elect Joe Biden will also be taking part in some of the briefings.



The most prominent candidate for White House spokesman is Robert Gibbs, who was Obama's communications director in the Senate and in his presidential campaign.



CBS reported that Obama would not rush into any decisions regarding his cabinet, and would wait until after Thanksgiving to announce his appointments.



Reports in American media also revealed that Obama was considering appointing two Kennedys as part of his cabinet.



Politico.com reported that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of assassinated president John Kennedy, was being considered for US ambassador to the United Nations


Robert Kennedy Jr., Caroline's cousin and son of Robert Kennedy Sr. who was also killed, is being considered as environment secretary.



Obama is also considering appointing Colin Powell, former secretary of state, as defense secretary or education secretary. In recent years Powell has been focusing on promoting education in the United States and may not wish to return to politics.

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With Emanuel, Obama Could Be Sending Signal to Israel


Barack Obama has reached out to Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a prominent Jewish congressman, to be his chief of staff.



Wednesday, November 05, 2008


emanuel_052908.jpg File: Rahm Emanuel speaks in Mt. Laurel, N.J. in May 2008 (AP Photo).



Barack Obama, by reportedly tapping a prominent Jewish congressman to be his chief of staff, earned renewed support from the Jewish community here and abroad.


His choice, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, has already accepted the job, one Democratic source told FOX News, though Emanuel would say publicly only that he's still considering his future. Obama's offer could be an early signal to the Middle East that the new president intends to follow through on his promises to uphold the U.S.-Israeli alliance in his administration.


"It's just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship ... that was never true," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.


Forman said Obama's selection of Emanuel helps build confidence that the United States will be vigilant in responding to any threats to Israel posed by Iran.


"Rahm has certainly never been accused of being too naive or not decisive in his analysis of these types of issues," Forman said.


Here and around the world, the selection brought swift reaction. The Web site for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday was filled with articles on what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel. The top story, on Emanuel, noted his deep Jewish roots.


Emanuel is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who worked for the Israeli underground before the nation's creation following World War II. The congressman belongs to an orthodox congregation in Chicago and worked as a volunteer in Israel during the first Gulf War. He had dual citizenship in the United States and Israel, but gave it up when he was 18.


"Of course he will influence the president to be pro-Israeli," his father Benjamin told an Israeli newspaper Thursday.


Though Obama was accused of being conciliatory toward Iran and toward Palestinians during the presidential race, an Emanuel appointment could combat those perceptions.


Last summer, Obama's campaign gave conflicting statements over how he views the status of Jerusalem. He told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that Jerusalem "must remain undivided," but later he said it would be a matter of negotiation.


Emanuel, though, has indicated consistent support for Israel's rights. While he has expressed empathy for Palestinians, Emanuel has explicitly condemned their leaders.


In June 2007, Emanuel condemned an outbreak of Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip and criticized Arab countries for not applying the same kind of pressure on the Palestinians as they have on Israel.


"Fatah and Hamas are tearing the Palestinian area of the Gaza strip apart in what they call a political rivalry, and the Palestinian people are paying a price for Palestinian violence," he said at the time. "Governments from around the world and the Arab world have said nothing. ... I just want you to think for a second, if this were the result of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities, would the international silence and the silence of the Arab world be this deafening?"

At a 2003 pro-Israel rally in Chicago, Emanuel told the marchers Israel was ready for peace but would not get there until Palestinians "turn away from the path of terror," according to the Chicago Tribune.


It's unclear exactly how an Obama administration would handle the Israel-Palestine peace process, which has failed to take off during the Bush administration. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left Wednesday for a series of peacemaking meetings in the Middle East, but so far the kind of agreement sought at last year's Annapolis summit has been elusive.


"I would expect that what we are going to do is we're going to try to put this process in the best possible place going forward so that whomever comes next can formulate their policies, take a look at the process and possibly use it, take it further," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters, adding that upcoming elections in Israel further complicate matters.

Emanuel's older brother Ezekial said the Illinois congressman will "want to see peace in the region."


"That's what you need," he said. "Like every sensible human being, Rahm believes in a two-state solution."


FOX News' Reena Ninan and Judson Berger contributed to this report.

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Economic rescue plan main priority as new chief of staff named


Ewen MacAskill in Washington guardian.co.uk, Friday November 7 2008 00.01 GMT The Guardian, Friday November 7 2008


Barack and Michelle Obama and their two children eat at a restaurant in Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Barack and Michelle Obama and their two children eat at a restaurant in Pueblo, Colorado. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images


Barack Obama is to visit the White House on Monday for the first time since he won the election to discuss an orderly handover of power with President George Bush. Obama's main priority is to get his people into the treasury as rapidly as possible to work on an economic rescue plan. He is to meet his economics team today in Chicago and will give a press conference afterwards, his first as president-elect.


Yesterday he announced his first White House appointment, Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff. Emanuel, a long-time Washington operative with a quick temper, will control access to the president, act as a listening-board and adviser, and help to ensure a friendly relationship with Congress.


The appointment came amid mounting speculation over who would receive the top cabinet posts. One of Obama's closest advisers, Tim Kaine, the governor of Virginia, hinted yesterday that the president-elect would demonstrate his intention to govern from the centre by appointing Republicans to senior positions.


Bush, after meeting his cabinet to discuss the transition to an Obama presidency, spoke to about 1,000 staff on the White House lawn yesterday, thanking them for their work and instructing them to cooperate fully with the incoming administration. "For the next 75 days, all of us must ensure that the next president and his team can hit the ground running," Bush said. "Ensuring that this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency ... We face economic challenges that will not pause to let a new president settle in."


Obama, who will formally take over on January 20, is keen to have an economic stimulus package he has proposed passed by Congress and in place by the time he enters the Oval Office as president. It is almost certain too that he will be involved when the heads of government from leading industrial countries meet in Washington next Saturday to agree on action to soften the impact of the impending worldwide recession.


Although Bush called the meeting, foreign leaders will inevitably be seeking the views of the president they will be dealing with from January 20. Henry Paulson, the treasury secretary, in a brief statement, promised to work closely with Obama's team. "A methodical and orderly transition is in the best interests of the financial markets," he said. The treasury is rolling out a $700bn rescue package for the economy, but Obama is keen to do more.


Another White House appointment likely to be made soon is that of the man who will become the public face of the administration, Robert Gibbs, who joined Obama's campaign early on as his communications director.


After today's press conference, Obama is to impose a news blackout at the weekend, with no more appointments announced, mainly so he and his staff can get some rest. He appeared frequently drained at stages of the 21-month campaign, stumbling over statistics and well-worn stump speeches in the final days before the election. Since he embarked on his quest for the presidency in February last year, he has taken two holidays, a long weekend with his family in the Caribbean and a short break in Hawaii. He is to return to Hawaii, where he grew up, for a holiday next month.


In an interview with Newsweek, given before the election on condition it would not appear until afterwards, Michelle Obama spoke in detail about the White House move, saying she would only be happy when the family had settled in.

In the interview, published yesterday, she said her main concern would be the personal upheaval involved in a White House move, such as whether she could persuade her mother to move from Chicago to the White House, and which bedrooms their two daughters would occupy.


She said: "Like any new thing, it feels a bit daunting until you have your plan.


What I do know is that once the pieces start coming together, I think that's when the excitement can begin. When the girls know what school they're going to be in, they'll have a sense of how that's going to feel, and they'll know what their rooms look like."


She will accompany her husband when he visits the White House on Monday and is expected to talk to Laura Bush.


She praised the Clintons for providing a degree of normality for their daughter, Chelsea, and said she would speak to other first ladies. "Republicans and Democrats alike, because there are just so few families who have experienced this. If I can talk to all of them, I will," she said.



The legend of Rahm Emanuel, the man appointed as Barack Obama's chief of staff, begins with a missing finger and a dead fish.


Washington buzz has long had it that Emanuel, 48, lost half a finger on his right hand to a bomb while serving in the Israeli army. Emanuel is also said to have mailed a smelly dead fish to a campaign pollster who upset him.

The bomb anecdote is untrue: Emanuel, the third-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, severed a finger in a childhood meat-slicing accident. The rotting fish tale has never been confirmed.


But those colourful stories are a vital part of the take-no-prisoners image Emanuel has crafted for himself during more than 20 years in politics. And his volunteer service in Israel during the 1990s Gulf war is no fiction, with the Jewish press hailing Emanuel's ascension as a sign that Israel will have its own man in the Obama White House.


Even Emanuel's critics admit that his political savvy and policy expertise make him a natural partner for Obama.


Like the president-elect, Emanuel is a Chicago native with a strong connection to the city's political elite. Both have inspired characters on the television series The West Wing, with Emanuel providing the model for wunderkind aide Josh Lyman.


Emanuel was among the earliest converts to Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992, serving as a senior fundraiser and strategist. His trademark, even then, was a brash style that often involved raised voices and profanity but also got difficult jobs done.


When Tony Blair appeared with Clinton at the height of the Lewinsky sex scandal in 1998, Emanuel is reported to have warned the prime minister: "Don't fuck it up."


Emanuel has mellowed somewhat since his election to an Illinois congressional seat six years ago. He masterminded the Democratic takeover of the House in 2006 and was elected party chairman by his grateful colleagues.


Elana Schor

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Emanuel Was Director Of Freddie Mac During Scandal



New Obama Chief of Staff, Others on Board, Missed "Red Flags" of Alleged Fraud Scheme



November 7, 2008



President-elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of... icon-arrow-down.gif

President-elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by ABCNews.com. icon-arrow-up.gif


President-elect Barack Obama's newly appointed chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, served on the board of directors of the federal mortgage firm Freddie Mac at a time when scandal was brewing at the troubled agency and the board failed to spot "red flags," according to government reports reviewed by ABCNews.com.


According to a complaint later filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Freddie Mac, known formally as the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, misreported profits by billions of dollars in order to deceive investors between the years 2000 and 2002.


Emanuel was not named in the SEC complaint (click here to read) but the entire board was later accused by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) (click here to read) of having "failed in its duty to follow up on matters brought to its attention."


In a statement to ABCNews.com, a spokesperson said Emanuel served on the board for "13 months-a relatively short period of time."


The spokesperson said that while on the board, Emanuel "believed that Freddie Mac needed to address concerns raised by Congressional critics."


Freddie Mac agreed to pay a $50 million penalty in 2007 to settle the SEC complaint and four top executives of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation were charged with negligent conduct and, like the company, agreed to settle the case without admitting or denying the allegations.

The actions by Freddie Mac are cited by some economists as the beginning of the country's economic meltdown.


The federal government this year was forced to take over Freddie Mac and a sister federal mortgage agency, Fannie Mae, pledging at least $200 billion in public funds.


Freddie Mac records have been subpoenaed by the Justice Department as part of its investigation of the suspect accounting procedures.

Emanuel was named to the Freddie Mac board by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and resigned his position when he ran for Congress in May, 2001.


During the years 2000, 2001 and 2002, according to the SEC, Freddie Mac substantially misrepresented its income to "present investors with the image of a company that would continue to generate predictable and growing earnings."


The role of the 18-member board of directors, including Emanuel, was not addressed in the SEC's public action but was heavily criticized by the oversight group (OFHEO) in 2003.


The oversight report said the board had been apprised of the suspect accounting tactics but "failed to make reasonable inquiries of management."

The report also said board members appointed by the President, such as Emanuel, serve terms that are far too short "for them to play a meaningful role on the Board."


As a Congressman, Emanuel recused himself from any votes dealing with Freddie Mac until just this year.


In dealing with the nation's economic crisis, the new White House chief of staff will almost certainly be involved in discussions about the house and mortgage markets.


Emanuel's spokesperson said, "As White House chief of staff he will work with President-elect Obama and his economic advisers to help ensure we protect taxpayers and homeowners."

Click Here for the Investigative Homepage.

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Emanuel Urges Aid for Auto Industry



Published: November 9, 2008


In his first televised interviews since being named the chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel on Sunday called for swifter action to lift the struggling auto industry and suggested Mr. Obama and President Bush might clash over a stimulus package.


On the first weekend since Mr. Obama was elected president, several of his aides said his administration would attempt to roll back a number of Bush administration policies, including tight restrictions on stem cell research and a push for oil and gas drilling in Utah. The statements indicated that the first few months of an Obama administration could bring about stark reversals on controversial policies.


But Mr. Obama’s aides emphasized that his first priority would be finding ways to repair the battered economy, whose latest woes include a steep drop-off in retail sales and the loss of about one million jobs. The auto industry has been particularly hard hit, with Ford and General Motors pleading for government help after car sales plummeted 18 percent this quarter. General Motors, the country’s largest carmaker, reported a $4.2 billion third-quarter operating loss, and said it may be on the brink of collapse.


Over the weekend, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid, sent a letter to the Bush administration requesting that funds from the $700 billion bailout package — intended for Wall Street — be used to help carmakers as well. But the White House has signaled that it would oppose such a measure.


When asked on ABC’s “This Week” where Mr. Obama stood on the issue, Mr. Emanuel seemed to suggest that Mr. Obama, as a last resort, might be open to tapping the rescue fund to help carmakers, calling the auto industry an “essential part of our industrial base.”


He added that Mr. Obama has asked his economic team to look at ways to involve the industry in shaping an energy policy that weans the country off foreign oil, seeking ways to use the $25 billion in loans that Congress passed in September to help make auto plants more capable of producing fuel-efficient cars. But industry officials asked last week for an additional $50 billion for other costs. When pressed on whether Mr. Obama would endorse using some of the $700 billion rescue package for that purpose, Mr. Emanuel would not say whether Mr. Obama specifically opposed or supported the idea.


“So there’s no reason to think he’s opposed to what Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid want?” George Stephanopoulos asked.


“George, I just outlined the four basis points,” Mr. Emanuel responded.

“There’s authorities, both on the $25 billion that’s been laid out, as well as other authorities to help the auto industry, but all part of a strategy that’s going forward on a retooled auto industry that’s focused on our energy independence and our economy.”


In his first months in office, Mr. Obama could stir controversy by seeking to overturn a number of Bush initiatives that have frustrated Democrats for eight years. On “Fox News Sunday,” John Podesta, a co-chair of Mr. Obama’s transition team, said that Mr. Obama might consider using his executive authority to change stem cell and oil-drilling policies without waiting for congressional action.


“I think across the board, on stem cell research, on a number of areas, you see the Bush administration even today moving aggressively to do things that I think are probably not in the interest of the country,” he said. “They want to have oil and gas drilling in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah.”


“There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority,” he added, “and I think we’ll see the president do that to try to restore the — a sense that the country is working on behalf of the common good.”


On ABC, Mr. Emanuel was clear on where Mr. Obama also stood on questions about a stimulus plan for the economy, and suggested it may be an issue on which Mr. Obama and President Bush butt heads before the inauguration on Jan. 20. Mr. Obama has said he wants to see a plan put in place quickly, but the Bush administration has said it would be reluctant to support one unless Congress attached to it the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Asked if Mr.

Obama would accept that compromise to move the plan forward, Mr. Emanuel was blunt.


“You don’t link those essential needs to some other trade deal,” he said.


“There’s an economic recovery package in front of the Congress,” he added. “Washington should get it done.”


On ABC and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Emanuel would not say whether Mr. Obama would consider postponing a tax increase on upper-income Americans.


Mr. Emanuel also avoided drawing the president-elect into some smaller political skirmishes. Mr. Stephanopoulos asked whether Mr. Obama thought it was appropriate to deny Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut the chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee as punishment for his ardent campaigning on behalf of Sen. John McCain. “What happens on the House and Senate, on chairmanship, is their business,” replied Mr. Emanuel, a House member from Illinois and a former Clinton aide.


Mr. Emanuel was also asked about a Chicago television report that Mr. Obama had chosen Valerie Jarrett, a close friend and the co-chair of his transition team, to replace him in the senate. Mr. Emanuel said he had not seen the report, but added “I don’t think there’s been any decision or any discussion” on the issue.


Ms. Jarrett, who also appeared on “Meet the Press,” did not discuss whether she had been tapped to succeed Mr. Obama.

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:smug:Good for Emanuel! They should get a stimulus package going, and I'm glad they stopped Bush's attempt to tie a so-called "free trade" agreement to it. It's time someone put their foot down with Bush and his cronies, lest he do any more damage.

But in a broader sense, using more signing statements is not a good thing, but a hard habit to break. And today the price of high-profile appointees is the baggage they arrive with - and they all have baggage. Getting campaign finance reform of a lasting and tough form looks more essential than ever, if we are to clear up much of the corruption here - maybe something can take shape in the Obama administration, if it isn't tanked by the influence peddlers. ;)

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Probably one of the easiest trades in the world would be to simply short Ford and GM, but God knows the government will keep those two alive beyond your first margin call. Rats!


When a company knows that it can't go bankrupt, it makes bad products.


What really strikes me as odd is how people ascribe certain properties to companies like they would a solid object - assuming GM is a monolithic block that, when it falls, won't exist in any form ever again. That's simply not true. Businesses are made of people. When GM and Ford bankrupt, those people are still around. A new capitalist will swoop in and invest in a brand new car company to take their place. Of course the Democrats are aware of this fact, but they aren't necessarily interested in the companies - what they care about is keeping the unions intact.

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Obama's Transition Focuses on Reassuring the Middle Class


So far, Obama and aides have gone out of their way to maintain support from the key group


By Kenneth T. Walsh

Posted November 10, 2008

It's all about reassurance.


Just about everything that President-elect Barack Obama does as he prepares to take office is designed to maintain the confidence of key constituencies that he will need to govern. Supporters say he is well aware that Americans are worried about the future and that they want to know that their new leader has the judgment and common sense to move the country in the right direction.


The latest examples came Sunday when key Obama advisers went out of their way to reassure middle-class voters—the most important constituency of all because they were a major part of Obama's winning coalition and they are feeling the economic pinch more than other groups—and others that the new president will keep his campaign promises to them.


Rahm Emanuel, the incoming White House chief of staff, told ABC that Obama will press ahead for a middle-class tax cut of about $1,000 per person that would apply to 95 percent of working Americans, as Obama pledged to do during the campaign. And Emanuel said the government needs to accelerate a congressional plan to provide $25 billion in low-interest loans to the Big Three automakers—Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors. "They are an essential part of our economy and our industrial base," Emanuel said.


John Podesta, cochair of Obama's transition organization, said the new administration is reviewing President Bush's executive orders on oil and gas drilling, stem cell research, and other issues for possible reversal. The new administration's moves are likely to please environmentalists, stem cell research advocates, and other groups that have been critical of George W.

Bush's policies. Podesta told Fox News that Obama will use his unilateral powers to get things done immediately without waiting for Congress to approve legislation. "There's a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for congressional action, and I think we'll see the president do that," Podesta said.


Obama has established a pattern of promising bold action from the start. On the day after the election, he told a news conference in Chicago, "We are facing the greatest economic challenges of our lifetime, and we must act swiftly to resolve them." He said he favors an economic stimulus package to boost the economy and hopes Congress will pass it before he takes office. He backs extended unemployment benefits and an effort to reduce the number of foreclosures—all designed to help middle America during a very stressful time. Obama also said he would do all he could to save the American auto industry—a pledge echoed by Emanuel on Sunday.


Obama appears to be using Franklin Roosevelt as his model. After winning the 1932 election amid the Depression, Roosevelt promised to move immediately to improve the economy. In his inaugural address in 1933, FDR promised "action, and action now," and added, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."


The president-elect and his wife, Michelle, visited President Bush and first lady Laura Bush today at the White House. Obama aides say the drop-by will combine the traditional courtesy call with substantive discussions between the president and the president-elect.

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Stem-cell firms surge as Obama fuels funding hopes


Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:00pm EST


By Esha Dey


BANGALORE (Reuters) - Shares of companies developing therapies based on stem cells surged on Monday, after confirmation over the weekend that U.S. president-elect Barack Obama plans to reverse an existing executive order against federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research.


Companies such as Geron Corp and StemCells Inc saw a sharp rise in their stock price as investors rushed to be a part of a field that holds significant commercial potential.


"People now know what the future executive landscape is going to look like, and they are trying to figure out how to profit from it," WBB Securities analyst Steve Brozak said.


Stem cells are the body's master cells, giving rise to tissues, organs and blood. Scientists hope to harness their power to transform medicine, to repair devastating injuries, replace the brain cells lost in Parkinson's disease, cure juvenile diabetes, or treat diseases such as Alzheimer's.


But research related to embryonic stem cells has been under political scrutiny for a long time due to ethical issues, as it involves the destruction or manipulation of human embryos.


Republican President George W. Bush had vetoed bills to expand federally funded embryonic stem-cell research, and showed a preference toward adult stem-cell research that is considered more ethical by many conservative voters.


Among the several types of stem cells, embryonic stem cells, derived from days-old embryos, are considered to hold the most potential as they can give rise to all the cell types in the body. But applications for adult stem cells are considered limited as they do not live in the body for long.


A reversal of President Bush's long-standing policy, which restricts funding for stem-cell research, by Democrat Obama would give a boost to companies seeking to develop therapies based on that research.


Several stem-cell focused companies reported positive developments on Monday.


Geron said its potential HIV treatment, TAT2, had promising preclinical data, while biotech giant Celgene Corp got a regulatory nod to go ahead with human trials of its experimental stem-cell therapy for the treatment of Crohn's disease.


"We will see more and more of these events just given the fact that there is more and more path for the commercialization of stem cells -- adult, placental, umbilical and now, more embryonic," WBB's Brozak said.


Shares of Geron were up as much as 16 percent, while StemCells' shares soared 42 percent. Both stocks have risen significantly over the last one month.


Other smaller players in the field also benefitted.


Shares of Aastrom Biosciences Inc, which have jumped 170 percent over the last month through Friday, were trading up 26 percent on Nasdaq.


Tiny companies like Neuralstem Inc, NeoStem Inc and BioHeart Inc also saw a spike in their share price.

(Editing by Pratish Narayanan)

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Probably one of the easiest trades in the world would be to simply short Ford and GM, but God knows the government will keep those two alive beyond your first margin call. Rats!


When a company knows that it can't go bankrupt, it makes bad products.


What really strikes me as odd is how people ascribe certain properties to companies like they would a solid object - assuming GM is a monolithic block that, when it falls, won't exist in any form ever again. That's simply not true. Businesses are made of people. When GM and Ford bankrupt, those people are still around. A new capitalist will swoop in and invest in a brand new car company to take their place. Of course the Democrats are aware of this fact, but they aren't necessarily interested in the companies - what they care about is keeping the unions intact.


Eventually they'll fail after many wasted billions of our tax dollars. My family and I buy foreign cars because they're better.

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Obama discusses top Cabinet post with Richardson, Clinton


November 14, 2008 -- Updated 0341 GMT


From Gloria Borger, Jessica Yellin and Sam Feist



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President-elect Barack Obama has spoken with two former rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination about the secretary of state position in his administration, sources told CNN on Friday.



Sen. Hillary Clinton has been mentioned as a candidate for Obama's secretary of state, sources say.


Obama spoke with Sen. Hillary Clinton on Thursday and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Friday about the key Cabinet post, multiple Democratic sources said.


Over the course of the past 24 hours, sources close to Clinton have softened their one-time solid public position that she would not be interested in a Cabinet position. Those sources now say she is clearly contemplating how she can serve the Obama administration.


Clinton traveled to Chicago, Illinois, on Thursday to meet with Obama, sources said, and the two had a "serious discussion" about the issue.

Clinton's response to Obama's overture is unknown, but sources said the New York senator left the meeting with the impression that if she were interested in the post, it would be hers. video.gifWatch more on the speculation surrounding Clinton »


Under these circumstances, one source said, a president-elect does not meet with potential Cabinet secretaries unless he is serious about making an offer.

Obama has had "great interest" in asking Clinton to be secretary of state "for a while," another source close to the Obama transition team said. iReport.com: Whom should Obama pick?


"You've got to assume that Hillary Clinton did not come to visit the city of Chicago," the source said.


Should Clinton take the position, the transition team and the senator would have to work out how her husband, former President Clinton, would continue his work with the Clinton Global Initiative without complicating her work as secretary of state, another source close to the Obama transition team said.

"I am happy being a senator from New York. I love this state and this city," Clinton said Monday in response to a reporter's question. "I am looking at the long list of things I have to catch up on and do. But I want to be a good partner, and I want to do everything I can to make sure [Obama's] agenda is going to be successful." video.gifWatch whether Clinton would join Obama's team »


On Friday, Obama spoke with Richardson about the position, a senior Democratic source said. The source said Richardson has always been on Obama's list of possibilities for the key Cabinet position.


Richardson also traveled to Chicago to meet with Obama, according to a source who said the idea of Clinton as secretary of state is "not a done deal."

Richardson withdrew from the race for the Democratic nomination January 10 and later endorsed Obama.


Clinton battled on until June, eventually throwing her support to Obama as well.


A source close to transition team said Obama is trying to build a diverse Cabinet that includes women and minorities and that works as a team.


Obama campaign spokesman Robert Gibbs is widely expected to be named White House press secretary, and chief strategist David Axelrod is expected to be picked as a White House senior adviser.


Also Friday, the Obama transition team announced that the Illinois senator will meet with the man he defeated in the general election, Republican Sen. John McCain, on Monday.

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Obama’s White House Hires Reflect Respect for Hill


Nov. 16, 2008 – 4:33 p.m.

By Jonathan Allen, CQ Staff


Among the small number of White House staff announcements made so far by President-elect Barack Obama , most of the top spots have gone to recent Capitol Hill veterans.

The latest wave, announced early Sunday morning, includes Senior Adviser Pete Rouse, who served as Senate chief of staff to Obama and former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, who was the chief of staff to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus .

They join incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel , a Chicago congressman who is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House leadership, and White House lobbyist Phil Schiliro, who worked as Daschle’s policy director and was House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman ’s top aide before joining the Obama campaign as a liaison to Capitol Hill.

While Capitol Hill experience is not the primary reason for the appointments, the hires reflect Obama’s sensitivity to the importance of Congress in governance, according to a senior transition official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

He is intent on enacting an agenda by finding common ground with Democrats and Republicans, according to the official.

Turning to Capitol Hill for talent is a “very smart move that will only enhance prospects for significant legislative victories,” said Jim Manley, a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid , D-Nev.

There may be other reasons for Obama’s propensity to hire from the Hill: His network in Washington was built in the Senate and he has portrayed Washington’s influence industry as having a corrupting influence on government.

That hasn’t stopped Obama from hiring people with lobbying backgrounds to fill the ranks of a transition team charged with shaping the incoming administration, but it may limit their chances to land plum White House posts come January.

“Unless the President-elect sees a void to be filled by someone on K Street who he knows personally, there probably won’t be anyone currently downtown in his White House,” said one former congressional aide who now works for a lobbying firm.

“The people selected thus far for the transition and the high-level appointments have come from previous Democratic administrations or know the people doing the selecting/vetting,” he said. “If you were not in their orbit previously, there is probably no need to apply.”

Learning from Bush’s Mistakes?


In contrast, President Bush was notoriously ham-handed in his dealings with Capitol Hill, particularly in the early years of his administration. The desire of congressional Republicans to appear supportive of a president of their party often obscured the roiling tensions under the surface as Bush squandered a deep reservoir of good will.

He developed policies that were antithetical to many conservatives, most notably the 2001 education law known as No Child Left Behind and the 2003 Medicare prescription drug law, often ignored Congress until he needed votes at the last minute, and was ultimately viewed as a lame duck by many in his own party as soon as he was re-elected.

“Now there is no re-election prism, “ Rep. Zach Wamp , R-Tenn., said when Bush won a second term. “People are not going to have to feel that they have to vote for things that they think are unnecessary.”

It was clear from the first major domestic policy initiative of his second term -- an overhaul of Social Security -- that Bush had little political capital left in the Capitol.

“From the Speaker on down, they pretty much ignored him,” said John Feehery, a Republican consultant who was a top aide to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert , R-Ill. “They weren’t going to walk the plank on it.”

Bush’s influence in Congress dwindled even further with the failed appointment of White House Counsel Harriet E. Miers, a Bush loyalist, to the Supreme Court in late 2005, and was evident in the restoration of then-Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott to the Republican leadership team in 2006 after the administration had pushed him out four years earlier.

Bush picked top-notch staff to represent him on Capitol Hill but demonstrated little interest in what congressional leaders thought and had even less personal engagement with lawmakers, according to a House Republican leadership aide.

“I’m not sure Bush had the proper respect for Congress,” the aide said, observing that the job of well-regarded congressional liaisons like Nicholas Calio and David Hobbs ended up being “to cover for the president, who didn’t want to have to deal with anybody from Congress.”

The White House staff can only do so much, the aide said.

“It all has to do with the principal,” he said. “The lesson is the president has to engage.”

Obama’s Style Still To Take Shape


The degree to which Obama plans to directly engage his former congressional colleagues remains to be seen.

The appointments of Emanuel, Rouse, Schiliro, Messina, as well as those of long-ago Hill denizen Ron Klain as Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. ’s chief of staff and former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Robert Gibbs who is being considered as White House press secretary, may well portend a new era of cooperation between the White House and Congress.

A Senate Democratic leadership aide described Rouse and Messina as “two of the very best” on Capitol Hill.

“Both know how to push the right buttons to get things done in the Senate,” the aide said.

But such a model could also encourage Obama to leave the legislative lifting to his aides, which Republicans say served Bush poorly.

Like Bush, Obama campaigned heavily on his ability to transcend partisan lines on the state level and to bring that skill to Washington.

The transition official said that true legislative success will hinge on building bipartisan coalitions that go beyond the pure numerical advantage Democrats enjoy in the House and Senate. In other words, it is not good enough to simply have the numbers to win if there isn’t broader public support for the policy.

“They’re going to have to really resist the temptation to jam things down,” Feehery said.

Of his hires announced on Sunday -- Rouse, Messina and Deputy Chief of Staff Mona Sutphen, the managing director of Stonebridge International -- Obama said, “These individuals are important additions to a team with the experience and ability to help our nation overcome pressing challenges at home and around the world.”

Among non-Hill selections, Obama had earlier said he was naming his longtime confidante Valerie Jarrett as senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison.

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Holder accepts Obama Justice offer: senior Democrat


Tue Nov 18, 2008 5:00pm EST


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder has accepted U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's conditional offer to head the Justice Department, a senior Democrat said on Tuesday.


Before the offer is made official, Obama's team wants to determine if Holder could win Senate confirmation with broad bipartisan support, the Democrat said.


While Obama will be the first black president, Holder would be the first African American to head the Justice Department, which is in charge of enforcing the U.S. civil rights laws.


Obama wants widespread backing from Senate Democrats and Republicans for his attorney general so that he would be in a strong position to clean up the department wracked by scandals during the administration of President George W. Bush.


"We know we have the votes for Senate confirmation, but we want to make sure he would have broad support so he can make needed reforms," the senior Democrat said.


The Democrat said fewer than a dozen key senators had been already been polled and that Holder backers were optimistic Obama would make him his nominee.


Holder, 57, served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton. In the top spot, he would be the nation's senior law enforcement officer and deal with issues from crime to terrorism.


A source said Democrats in the Senate were trying to gauge how much opposition there would be to Holder from Republicans over his role in Clinton's 2001 pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. Holder at the time said he was "neutral, leaning toward favorable" on the pardon.


The senior Democrat said at this point it does not appear to be "a fatal flaw concern."


(Reporting by Thomas Ferraro and Jim Vicini; editing by David Wiessler)

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Obama's Attorney General


Michael Isikoff


Posted Tuesday, November 18, 2008 1:57 PM



President-elect Obama has decided to tap Eric Holder as his attorney general, putting the veteran Washington lawyer in place to become the first African-American to head the Justice Department, according to two legal sources close to the presidential transition.


Holder, who served as deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration, still has to undergo a formal “vetting” review by the Obama transition team before the selection is final and is publicly announced, said one of the sources, who asked not to be identified talking about the transition process. But in the discussions over the past few days, Obama offered Holder the job and he accepted, the source said. The announcement is not likely until after Obama announces his choices to lead the Treasury and State departments.


Holder, 57, has been on Obama’s “short list” for attorney general from the outset. A partner at the D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling, Holder served as co-chief (along with Caroline Kennedy) of Obama’s vice-presidential selection process. He also actively campaigned for Obama throughout the year and grew personally close to the president-elect. Holder has not returned a call seeking comment; a spokeswoman for the Obama transition team told Newsweek in an e-mail early Tuesday afternoon that no decision has been made.


The sources said the Obama transition team is still debating over who should serve under Holder in the key post of deputy attorney general. One top candidate, favored by Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and other former Clinton White House officials, is Elena Kagan, dean of the Harvard Law School and a former lawyer in the White House counsel’s office under Clinton. Another top candidate, favored by other Obama advisors, is David Ogden, a former chief of staff to Attorney General Janet Reno, who is currently heading Obama’s Justice Department transition team. Kagan brings legal policy credentials; Ogden has more experience in the Justice Department trenches.


The only hesitancy about Holder’s selection was that he himself had reservations about going through a confirmation process that was likely to revive questions about his role in signing off on the controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. Although there is no evidence that Holder actively pushed the pardon, he was criticized for not raising with the White House the strong objections that some Justice Department lawyers and federal prosecutors in New York had to pardoning somebody who had fled the country. But after reviewing the evidence in the case, and checking with staffers on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Obama aides and Holder both decided the issue was highly unlikely to prove an obstacle to his confirmation, one of the sources said--especially given the Democrats’ more sizable post-election majority in the Senate.


A New York City native who graduated from Columbia University and Columbia Law School, Holder spent years as a federal prosecutor—a job in which he earned a reputation as tough and aggressive foe of public corruption. After serving in the public integrity section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and later a District of Columbia Superior Court judge, Holder was named by President Clinton as U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. He became deputy attorney general in 1997 under Janet Reno and was viewed as a centrist on most law enforcement issues, though he has sharply criticized the secrecy and the expansive views of executive power advanced by the Bush Justice Department.


This story was updated Tuesday afternoon.

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Daschle to Become Health and Human Services Secretary

President-elect Barack Obama is tapping former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to be the next Health and Human Services secretary.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Another notable name is joining Barack Obama's Cabinet -- former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle will be Health and Human Services secretary pending Senate confirmation, FOX News learned Wednesday.


Daschle accepted the offer, according to two Democratic sources close to Daschle and with intimate knowledge of the decision. Daschle had been a longtime adviser on Obama's campaign and served as a frequent surrogate on the campaign trail and in media interviews.


As Health and Human Services chief, Daschle will be responsible for helping set health care policy. He supports a government-funded insurance program for the nation's uninsured.


Daschle has also been the head of the health care working group in the Obama transition team. Democratic officials shied away from a term some are throwing around -- "health care czar" -- but say Daschle "is likely to play a leading role in the passage of health care reform and the strategy to implement it."


Other sources lay out substantial work being done by the incoming administration to enable health care reform, all of which indicates Obama does intend to move on this issue in spite of the monumental difficulties, including financial obstacles.


The former South Dakota senator led the Senate Democrats from 1994 until he lost his re-election bid in 2004. He was minority leader for most of that time, serving as majority leader from May 2001 until January 2003, when Democrats returned to the minority after losing seats in the November 2002 midterm elections.


FOX News' Jim Angle and Bret Baier contributed to this report.

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Obama picks Daschle as health secretary: official


Wed Nov 19, 2008 3:02pm EST



WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama has chosen former U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle as his top official to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system, two Democratic sources said on Wednesday.


As Health and Human Services secretary, Daschle will play a central role in the president-elect's plans to extend healthcare coverage to the 47 million Americans -- nearly one-sixth of the population -- who lack medical insurance.


Daschle, of South Dakota, was an early supporter of Obama's, encouraging the first-term senator from Illinois to make his presidential run.


He is currently head of Obama's health-care policy group as the president-elect prepares to take office on January 20.


Daschle would be a high-profile pick to head an agency that oversees existing healthcare programs like Medicare, which are expected to see their costs balloon as the U.S. population ages.


Daschle, who was elected to the Senate in 1986, was the top Democrat in the Senate between 1994 and 2004, and majority leader when Democrats controlled the chamber between 2001 and 2003. He was a member of the House of Representatives for eight years before becoming a senator.


Since losing his re-election bid in 2004, Daschle has worked as a public-policy advisor for the law firm Alston and Bird.

He was not immediately available for comment.


Daschle was reported to be a candidate for Obama's chief of staff before that job went to Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel.


(Reporting by Andy Sullivan, Caren Bohan and Jeff Mason, Editing by Frances Kerry)

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Obama-Biden Transition Team announces more White House staff



Washington - President-elect Barack Obama today announced the following key White House staff: David Axelrod, Lisa Brown, Greg Craig, and Chris Lu. David Axelrod will serve as Senior Advisor to the President, Lisa Brown will serve as Staff Secretary, Greg Craig will serve as White House Counsel, and Chris Lu will serve as Cabinet Secretary.


"I am pleased to announce these new additions to our team, and I'll be relying on their broad and diverse experience in the months ahead as we work to strengthen our economy, reform Washington, and meet the great challenges of our time," said President-elect Barack Obama.


David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to the President


David Axelrod served as President-elect Obama’s Chief Strategist during the presidential campaign, and led Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign. A native of New York City, Axelrod graduated from the University of Chicago and spent eight years as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, where he covered national, state, and local politics and became the youngest political writer and columnist in the paper’s history. Leaving journalism in 1984, Axelrod managed Paul Simon’s upset victory over incumbent U.S. Senator Charles Percy of Illinois. In 1985, he founded Axelrod & Associates, a political consulting firm known today as AKP&D Message and Media. Axelrod has worked for leading Democrats across the country, including Senators Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Herb Kohl, as well as Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, and Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago, along with mayors of big cities across the country. He is married to Susan Axelrod, president and founder of Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE). They have three grown children.


Lisa Brown, Staff Secretary


Lisa Brown is the Executive Director of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy. Lisa was Counsel to Vice President Gore from September 1999 through January 2001, and Deputy Counsel from April 1997 through August 1999. In addition to advising the Vice President on legal issues, Lisa served on the Executive Board of the President's Committee for Employment of People with Disabilities and worked closely with the Vice President's Domestic Policy Office on a variety of legislative initiatives. Lisa was an Attorney Advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice from June 1996 until April 1997. Prior to her government service, Lisa was a Partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm Shea & Gardner. Ms. Brown graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University with a B.A. in Political Economy in 1982. She received her law degree with Honors from the University of Chicago Law School in 1986.


Greg Craig, White House Counsel


Gregory B. Craig served under President Bill Clinton as Assistant to the President and Special Counsel. Prior to his appointment to that post he served for two years as Director of Policy Planning under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Craig also worked for Senator Edward M. Kennedy as Senior Advisor on Defense, Foreign Policy, and National Security from 1984-1988. In addition to his service in government, Craig brings to the White House a wealth of experience in civil and criminal litigation.


Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary


Christopher P. Lu has worked for President-elect Obama in a number of roles over the past four years. He was Legislative Director and Acting Chief of Staff in Obama’s Senate office, as well as a policy advisor during the presidential campaign. Chris is now the Executive Director of the Obama-Biden Transition Project, where he manages the day-to-day operations of the transition. From 1997 to 2005, he was Deputy Chief Counsel to Rep. Henry A. Waxman on the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee (now the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee). A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Chris was a litigation attorney at Sidley Austin in Washington, D.C. (1992-1997), after a clerkship with the Honorable Robert E. Cowen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (1991-1992).

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