Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama in the Oval

A must-read piece in the NYT for all Oval Office aficionados. The article details President Barack Obama's emerging work schedule, routine, and habits. It is a fascinating read and provides a glimpse into both the work schedule of the new president as well as his persona.

Among the highlights:

  • President Obama arrives later and works later than his predecessor, George W. Bush. President Obama gets to the Oval Office around 9 a.m., after he has breakfast with his family and helps get daughters Malia and Sasha ready for school. His predecessor arrived for work about two hours earlier.
  • President Obama has dinner with his family then often returns to work in the Oval, sometimes until 10 p.m. President Bush was long asleep by then.
  • President Obama begins his daily physical workout in the morning, around 6:45 a.m. His predecessor would often get a workout in midday.
  • President Obama likes to wander the halls of the West Wing (who wouldn't, especially in the first week?) and will go see his aides when he wants to speak with them. Mr. Bush would have them summoned.
  • President Obama's meetings are not as punctual as President Bush's were. Though they usually start on time, they often go overtime as the new president likes to talk policy. Mr. Bush was very disciplined with his schedule.

Obama Pulling for Pittsburgh

One thing I like about this new president is he's not afraid to openly root for a sports team for fear of angering the other team's fans. One need only remember the cringe-worthy moment in Hillary Clinton's first run for the U.S Senate in 2000 when she announced that she loved the Yankees but liked the Mets too. Any real sports fan could immediately see what hogwash that was as a true Yankees or Mets fan could never love nor like nor respect the other team.

Unlike most politicos who are loathe to profess their love or hatred on any professional or college sports team, President Obama has no problem telling the world. He is an unabashed Chicago White Sox fan and proves this with his open disdain for the Cubs (which may explain his carrying Missouri and performing well in St. Louis...). In an ESPN interview last summer, Obama openly derided the Cubbies: "I’m not one of these fair weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer, beautiful people up there. People aren’t watching the game. It’s not serious. White Sox, that’s baseball."

So, when asked about who he was rooting for in the upcoming Superbowl, Obama did not hesitate to pick a side: "I am a longtime Steelers fan. Mr. Rooney, the owner, was just an extraordinary supporter during the course of the campaign....Other than the Bears, the Steelers are close to my heart.” So there you have it. Of course it doesn't hurt that Arizona is the land of Barry Goldwater and John McCain.

Now as a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan, I have a problem with the president rooting for the scourge known as the Bears. However, that is a post for another season...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

So, When Will I See My Kids?

So, when will I see my kids? That's the question that immediately popped into my brain as I read Ohio Governor Ted Strickland's 6 point education plan which was unveiled as part of his State of the State Address today in Columbus. Besides the fact that the plan was short on specifics on how he would fix the school funding problem in Ohio, Strickland proposed that Ohio begin: "Phasing in 20 additional days to the school calendar each year over a 10-year period, bringing the state's school year up to the international average of 200 days and lengthening the school day with additional activities, such as community service, tutoring and health and wellness programs."

So let me see now, besides the fact that most schools are having a really tough time passing their levies and keep their school budgets in the black, schools should now stay open an additional month and for longer hours each day. Well, I'm no accountant but that sounds like an extra financial burden on schools that can barely keep up now. Will Ohio really have the cash to back this all up or will this be an unfunded mandate?

The extra month in school and extra hours in the school day would also be a burden on many families. You see, call us strange, but my wife and I cherish the time we have with our young children. I really don't want the state mandating that they be stuck an additional month in school and for more hours in the day. Most parents keep their children busy with after school extra-curricular activities as is. Kids also need their summer break to re-energize and a kid. Families often use the time in the summer to go on vacation and do things as a family. An extra month in school? Kids will be in school until after the Fourth of July? Heck, why stop there? Why not keep kids in school all year round? Having a one month summer break is about the same thing.

A state-funded, voluntary summer school, especially for those kids that are struggling, would be great. State-funded, voluntary extra-curricular activities for kids, especially for those latch-key kids that need a place to go until a parent gets home from work, would be great. But mandating any of this is a mistake in my opinion.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama's Right-Hand Man

A great piece in the NYT on Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The story is part bio, part descriptor of Emanuel's first week in the toughest job in Washington save for being president. According to the Times:

"Mr. Obama had settled on his fellow Chicagoan to be his chief of staff well before he was elected. He was drawn to Mr. Emanuel’s experience in both the White House and Congress and called him 'the whole package' of political acumen, policy chops and pragmatism. He is also a skilled compromiser. 'He knows there is a time in this business to drop the switchblades and make a deal,' said Representative Adam H. Putnam, Republican of Florida. Mr. Emanuel initially resisted taking the job. He came around after Mr. Obama insisted, saying these were momentous times and that the awesome tasks he faced required Mr. Emanuel’s help. The president-elect also assured Mr. Emanuel that the position would be the functional equivalent of 'a No. 2' or 'right-hand man,' according to a person familiar with their exchanges."

Redecorating the White House Residence

I happened across this great post by Ronda Carman which takes us on a brief tour of the ritual transformation of the White House living space. With every new president comes new splashes of paint, new china, new draperies, etc.
Carman provides a bevy of information in her guide, such as, most First Families hire outside design firms to redecorate. I had no idea--I thought it was merely an inside job headed by the White House Curator's Office. She provides a number of great historical photographs as well.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Set Your DVRs: National Geographic's Air Force One & Marine One Documentaries Airing This Week

Okay, so I missed the original airing tonight of both original National Geographic documentaries about Air Force One and Marine One. Do not despair, however, as encore presentations are set to broadcast on January 28.

Air Force One is a topic that continually fascinates me. I just finished Ken Walsh's 2002 book on the topic and recommend it. I am glad that Marine One is getting its due as well.

Now set the DVR, pop some popcorn, kick back, and enjoy...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Upstate New York Congresswoman to Fill Clinton's Senate Seat

Kirsten Gillibrand, a 42 year old Congresswoman from upstate New York, has been tapped by Governor David Paterson to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand represents New York's 20th District and had just begun her second term.

The pick is surprising on two counts. First, Paterson's choice of a person who received the NRA's endorsement has already enraged Representative Carolyn McCarthy who has pledged to challenge Gillibrand in the 2010 Democratic primary if she was indeed the choice. Second, what happened to Andrew Cuomo, the popular New York Attorney General and son of the beloved former governor? And of course, all this follows an ugly back-and-forth in media reports of Caroline Kennedy's withdrawal from consideration of the seat.

Regardless, Gillibrand seems like a compelling choice and story--she is only the 6th woman in Congressional history to have a baby while serving and currently is married with two small boys ages 5 and 6 months. A perceived centrist on many issues, Gillbrand appears positioned well to retain the seat in 2010 given that she is reportedly an effective fundraiser and aggressive candidate.

Obama White House Website a Bust So Far

Okay, I know its been only a few days and I'm being impatient. However, as an avid White House watcher and avid browser, I was expecting a lot more.

By the end of the Bush 43 presidency, I was impressed by the White House website. I loved how you could click on the "News" link and find everything that happened for a particular day--from photos of an event, to the text of the president's remarks, to any documents issued or signed by the president that day. I also liked the fact that the press secretary briefings were posted on the site in both video and text format, as well as official statements and event data from other officials such as the vice president. The Bush 43 website provided a rich, evolving, historical record, almost in a daily diary format. I hope the site in its entirety will be available to the general public and scholars soon because it provides a treasure trove of information of the first 21st century presidency.

I am seeing none of that so far on the Obama site. No photos yet (and when the photos come, please don't give me "slide show" format--I want thumbnails I can choose from). No news of the day. No video or text from the first press briefing. No remarks from President Obama (other than the Inaugural Address), video or text, even though he's had a number of formal events at which he's spoken (rule of thumb to follow--if his remarks will show up in the "Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents" they need to be on the website ASAP, at a minimum).

I know, I know, it's early...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The First BlackBerry President

As I predicted a couple weeks ago, President Barack Obama gets to keep his BlackBerry. To quote me: "My guess is that Obama wins this battle--he's going to be the president after all."

According to CNET: "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that, thanks to a 'compromise,' his boss will be able to keep a security-enhanced BlackBerry and use it for e-mail....Gibbs didn't offer details, but the contours of the compromise seem to be: official, work-related e-mail messages will be subject to the Presidential Records Act and the possibility of eventual disclosure. But strictly personal communications--with family, for instance--will be exempt. This makes sense. As we reported last week, federal law explicitly exempts from disclosure any 'personal records' that do not relate to the president's official function.
Those include electronic records that are 'of a purely private or non-public character' and don't relate to official duties; the law lists diaries, journals, notes, and presidential campaign materials as examples. Similarly, the Freedom of Information Act prevents files from being released if the disclosure would significantly jeopardize 'personal privacy.'"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SAM 28000

How strange it must be to take that final flight home as a brand new member of the ex-president's club. All sorts of emotions must be flowing: relief, melancholy, sadness, appreciation. Imagine being accustomed to the whole world hanging on your every word, traffic stopping for your motorcade, whole neighborhoods shutting down by your very presence, top secret briefings occurring every morning, and in the matter of a few moments at Noon on January 20 of your final term, all of it stopping. Juxtapose the feelings of that final flight home with the excitement and euphoria that a new president, his family, and staff must feel as they board Air Force One for their very first flight.

Former President George W. Bush flew back to Texas with dozens of family, friends, and former staff following President Barack Obama's inaugural address on the Boeing 747 normally known as Air Force One. However, when the president--the current president--is not on the plane, the plane's designation changes. For the trip to Midland where former President Bush spoke to supporters, the plane was designated Special Air Mission 28000 (28000 is the plane's tail number).
Mark McKinnon, a former campaign strategist for the Bush-Cheney campaigns, has an interesting first hand account on The Daily Beast of the trip back to the Lone Star State complete with pictures he snapped. Also at the Beast, is an article recounting the rides home taken by five other new ex-presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, G.H.W. Bush, and Clinton.

Regardless of the president, I am always a little melancholy. Their departure signifies that an era for our country has ended and time marches on.

The Uh-Oath

Like most Americans, I knew something wasn't quite right as soon as it started. Chief Justice John Roberts and President-elect Barack Obama, both novices in this whole enterprise, did not quite mesh in the ritual dance known as the Oath of Office. President Obama jumped the gun a bit and Chief Justice Roberts completely flubbed the first line of the oath. If they get to repeat the act four years from now, I suggest that the Chief Justice read from the Constitution and not try to recite it from memory.

UPDATE: President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts redid the oath of office on January 21, just to be sure. There were no slip ups this time, except for not letting the TV networks or media photographers capture it...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Virtual Passage of Power

Before (just before Noon today)

After (just after Noon today)

I wonder what the screen shots looked like in Harding's time...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Herculean Task for a New President

Just sitting here thinking about the incredibly long laundry list of challenges facing Barack Obama about 36 hours out from his inauguration as America's 44th president. Other than Abraham Lincoln facing the prospect of the nation going to war against itself, I cannot think of a more challenging time for any individual about to ascend to the presidency.

The picture at left was originally taken by Kyle Kutuchief at the Chief Source in early 2007 at a Cleveland, Ohio campaign rally. My how the world and country have changed since that photo was taken. I hope and pray that the American public is patient because it's going to take a good long while to turn this ship around.

Below are just some of the issues in no particular order (if you can think of others, please feel free to comment).

Domestic Challenges

Rising health care costs
Crumbling infrastructure
Rising education costs
Rising energy costs

Economic Challenges

A record deficit ($1+ trillion) and debt ($10+ trillion)
A plummeting stock market and economic downturn, complete with sharply rising unemployment
Crashing real estate markets

Environmental Challenges

Global warming/climate change
Endangered species

International Challenges

War on terror
Iraq War
Afghanistan War
A resurgent Russia
China and India on the rise
Iran's nuclear ambitions
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Friday, January 16, 2009

And...They're Off

Well that didn't take long. Just two days after Republican George Voinovich announced he would not be seeking another term as the senior Senator from Ohio, former Congressman Rob Portman officially threw his hat in the ring. Portman picked up a bevy of endorsements including that of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) who said that there was "no stronger candidate to represent Ohio."

Portman will have to work hard to build his name recognition since he is relatively unknown outside of Southwest Ohio. At a news conference in Cleveland a day after Portman announced, many did not recognize him. According to the PD, "as people walked by in Tower City this morning holding cups of coffee while Portman held his press conference, several murmured, 'Who's that?'" A former OMB Director, U.S. Trade Representative, and member of Congress, Portman should have little trouble tapping his network and raising the necessary cash to boost his name ID. His ties to the George W. Bush administration, however, could put him at a slight disadvantage, at least in the current political environment.

Meanwhile, State Senator Kevin Coughlin announced he was exploring a run for the Republican nomination for Ohio Governor. Coughlin's wife Anne may run for the seat he will be vacating. Accoding to the PD, "[Anne Coughlin] filed paperwork with the Secretary of State Nov. 20 that allows her to raise money. The form states the money is for the Senate District 27 in 2010."

Coughlin may face a challenge from former Congressman John Kasich. His biggest challenge, however, may be the continuing feud he has with Summit County Republican Party Chairman Alex Arshinkoff, who Coughlin tried to depose last year. Asked to comment about Coughlin's gubernatorial run, Arshinkoff stated: "When you want to discuss serious news, call me."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Voino to Retire: Let the Jockeying Begin

In Ohio, there has been speculation for years that Republican Senator George Voinovich, the 72 year old former Mayor of Cleveland and Governor, would decline running for a third term in 2010--especially if Democrats were in charge. That political speculation appears to be on target. If true, Voino will join a list of three other GOP senators who are not going to run for reelection: Kit Bond of Missouri, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Mel Martinez of Florida.

Voinovich's decision will have major ramifications for the GOP in the Buckeye state. Voinovich is a popular moderate Republican who would have had a decent chance at getting reelected despite the current toxic environment for the GOP nationwide and in Ohio. It also means the GOP will be forced to defend an open seat and perhaps forgo a serious run at the Democratic governor.

The question now is, who will run? There are many possible contenders on both sides of the aisle. Here's a quick list off the top of my head--in other words, this list is not all-encompassing, just a first stab at the possible contenders in the horse race which will ensue.


Rob Portman. It's no secret that Portman has been gearing up to run for something in Ohio in 2010. He is the favorite, at least in my mind, to run and win the nomination. A former Congressman from Ohio's 2nd District, Portman has a bevy of White House experience in both the Bush 41 and Bush 43 administrations and has a network of donors to call upon. Let's see: former member of Congress (1993-2005), former U.S. Trade Representative (2005-6), former OMB Director (2006-7); yep, that's a pretty solid resume for someone running for Senate.

John Kasich. Another former member of Congress rumored to be interested in running for something in Ohio. Governor or Senator? Probably depends upon Portman's decision and Governor Ted Strickland's approval ratings. Kasich represented Ohio's 12th District for 18 years and has been in the private sector and a FOX News contributor and substitute host for many years since. A huge name in politics in the 1990s known for his fiscal discipline approach.

Kevin Coughlin. Those who live in Summit County are very familiar with Kevin Coughlin; those who don't live in Summit County are not--a problem for Coughlin when you consider the other big names on the board. Coughlin has served in the Ohio State Legislature since 1997 and will be term-limited out of his state senate seat in 2011. It's no secret he will be looking for a new office, perhaps in the Beltway. The U.S. Senate seat would be a logical progression though he may take aim at the governor's office instead.

Mary Taylor. The highest ranking Republican in the state of Ohio. Taylor won the auditor of state seat in 2006 against all odds and was the only Republican to win statewide that year. A very popular figure also from Summit County, her name recognition is likely higher than Coughlin's because of her current post and because of the generally glowing headlines she has received her first two years in office. The question is: will she forgo running for reelection for a job she thoroughly enjoys to take a stab at the senate seat (she is the first CPA to become Ohio auditor)? Nobody knows yet.


Lee Fisher. It has long been rumored that Ohio's Lt. Governor was interested in a U.S. Senate seat. In 1998, Fisher lost a close gubernatorial election to Bob Taft. Fisher had served previously as a member of the state legislature and state attorney general. He is a powerful Lt. Governor, simultaneously serving as Director of the Ohio Department of Development.

Tim Ryan. Tim Ryan shocked the political world in 2002 when he upset eight-term Congressman Tom Sawyer in a redrawn 17th District Democratic Primary. He went on to win in November to become the youngest Democrat to serve in the 108th Congress at the age of 29. Before that, he served in the Ohio State Senate. Ryan is part rock star (and is a huge Dave Matthews band fan), part policy wonk, and all charisma. He currently serves on the all-powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Capri Cafaro. Why Capri? Because she runs for Congress as often as I eat chicken wings (translation: pretty dang often). Cafaro is currently the Ohio State Senate Minority Leader representing the 32nd District, a seat she was appointed to to replace the infamous Marc Dann who had been elected Ohio Attorney General in 2006. Cafaro previously ran unsuccessfully against Steve LaTourette in Ohio's 14th District in 2004 and lost a multi-person Democratic primary in Ohio's 13th District in 2006.

Eric Fingerhut. The current Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Fingerhut is a former one-term Congressman and longtime member of the Ohio State Senate. Fingerhut ran against Voinovich in 2004 and was defeated easily; however, the political environment has changed substantially since then. Fingerhut's resume and current position would make him a decent prospect.

Dennis Eckart. A former six term member of Congress (1981-93), Eckart retired to the private sector and is a frequent political commentator for WKYC-TV in Cleveland. His name always crops up at the mere mention of an open seat. If ever there was an open seat that Eckart would be tempted to make a run at, this is it.

The Inside Story Behind Draper's Interviews with George W. Bush

Robert Draper has an excellent piece in this month's GQ detailing his 6 interviews with George W. Bush that he conducted for his book, Dead Certain. If you haven't read the book, you should. It's one of the best biographies of a sitting president I've read and gives tremendous insight in the person behind the Oval Office desk.

Draper's GQ article is just as fascinating as he recounts how he penetrated the wall of staff that inevitably circle to protect a sitting president--particularly one that is struggling. He also explains that the Bush he thought he knew was not the Bush he ended up coming to know: "Throughout my three-year reportorial odyssey inside the Bush White House, I heard numerous testimonials from uniformly sane, intelligent individuals who gushed with praise about one of the most unpopular presidents in recorded history. At times their admiration reminded me of the Beltway dupes in the movie Being There who elevated the vapid utterances of an idiot gardener to Moses-like sagacity. At other times, I understood exactly what they meant. Casual and smirky but also highly self-disciplined and a peerless listener; at times bullying and snappish but also gracious, self-deprecating, and ultimately humble…simple and not at all simple—but definitely, memorably compelling. That’s the guy I see."

Ultimately, Draper's interpretation of President Bush is much more complex than the caricature most believe. His book and the GQ article paint the picture of a fascinating individual and fascinating presidency that has impacted the country and the world far more than almost anyone would have predicted at the outset.

Oh the Things That Happen at Chuck E. Cheese's

Bob Dyer has a great column in the Akron Beacon Journal of the problems that sometime occur at America's favorite kids chain, Chuck E. Cheese's. In Fairlawn, Ohio, police have answered more calls there in the past three years (49) than any location other than the local shopping mall.

Dyer writes: "At some locations, the confrontations have been so heated that maybe Chuck E. — a smiling mouse who wears a ball cap — ought to vacate in favor of the Chucky in the horror movies. In Brookfield, Wis., last year, seven cops were needed to break up a melee involving 40 people who were knocking over chairs and screaming at each other right in front of the stage where a singing chicken and a guitar-playing hound dog deliver their merry tunes. That was only one of 12 fights there that required police action. Whack-a-Mole, indeed." He continues: "In Toledo, four mothers were arrested after a brawl that followed an argument about the length of time someone's daughters were hanging out at a drawing machine. Ten people squared off. In the featured bout, one loving mother was using the entrance rope as makeshift nunchucks, swinging the metal hook at another of the loving mothers."

Screaming kids, angry parents, and beer, can sometimes be a recipe for chaos...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Prying it out of his Hands: Obama Pressing to Keep His Beloved BlackBerry

Could Barack Obama be the first president to have a BlackBerry? As I've posted before, he is hooked on the machine and wants to keep it as a lifeline to the outside-the-Beltway world. The presidency can be a very insulating place and this president-elect is worried about that isolation. The NYT recently quoted President-elect Obama saying: “I’m still clinging to my BlackBerry....They’re going to pry it out of my hands.”

Mr. Obama will likely have a laptop at his disposal; however, a BlackBerry, because of it's small size and versatility, would mean more outside-the-protective-cocoon access for Obama and that is troubling to many. There are legal and protective concerns about the commander-in-chief being connected to the cyber-world. For example, how would the Presidential Records Act of 1978 or George W. Bush's Executive Order 13233 cover BlackBerry communications? Would Obama's web surfing trail be considered a presidential record?

We'll know who won the battle on January 20--especially if we get a glimpse of the little black machine hooked to the 44th president's belt. My guess is that Obama wins this battle--he's going to be the president after all...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

George W. Bush First Modern President to Lose Secret Service Protection after 10 Years

Because of the 1995 Treasury Department Appropriations Act, presidents are now limited to a total of 10 years of Secret Service protection following their exit from office. Bill Clinton was grandfathered in and will be the last president to have lifetime protection; George W. Bush will be the first former president to which the legislation applies.

This is a bad, bad idea. It was a stupid idea when it was originally written. In a post-9/11 world, it is beyond bad. The 111th Congress needs to rewrite this law. All presidents and their immediate families, regardless of ideology, party, popularity, etc., deserve to have lifetime protection. Some will likely decline as Richard Nixon did in his post-White House years. However, the failed attempt on the life of President George H.W. Bush in 1993 while visiting Kuwait is a stark reminder that ex-presidents and their families will continue to be targets of hostile elements and the criminally insane, in perpetuity.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Panetta Kerfuffle

I have been reading, hearing, watching all day the criticism of Barack Obama's pick of Leon Panetta to head the CIA. I am absolutely baffled by the criticism over this pick, much of which is aimed at Panetta's supposed lack of intelligence experience. My sense is that when Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), the incoming chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, felt slighted by not being informed of the Panetta pick in advance of the news and criticized the pick, others, including many Republicans, saw an opportunity to pile on.

There are a number of reasons why the criticism of the Panetta pick is asinine:

1. As a very successful White House chief of staff (1994-7) who was largely responsible for turning around a wobbly Clinton presidency, Panetta demonstrated great management skills--a must for CIA Director. Also as chief of staff, Panetta was one of the chief consumers of the intel coming from CIA.

2. As Paul Begala pointed out on CNN tonight, as OMB Director (1993-4), Panetta oversaw the CIA's budget including the so-called black budget that few get to see. Also, as OMB Director, you need good budget and management skills which he has demonstrated.

3. Panetta was part of the Iraq Study Group.

4. Not all CIA Directors come from CIA ranks or the intelligence field. George H.W. Bush had little intel background when he served in that capacity under President Ford.

5. Nor does an intel background guarantee success. George Tenet was a company man. How'd that turn out?

6. As a 16 year veteran of Capitol Hill, Panetta knows how to lobby on behalf of an agency or cause. Former members of Congress make great lobbyists.

The criticism and trashing of Panetta, a well-respected public servant by individuals on both sides of the aisle, is mere politics. I suspect and hope the President-elect will not cave in and withdraw the pick. Panetta would make a fine addition to the Obama administration.

Obama's New Ride

When Barack Obama is sworn as America's 44th president, he will be driven in style and safety in a new presidential limo (and a definite upgrade from those seen here from the Reagan era). New presidents usually get a new car to ride in and Obama is no exception. It is a GM Cadillac, though it is no ordinary Caddy. Its 8 inch thick doors, chemical attack-proof interior, and run-flat tires are just some of the upgrades that ordinary Americans normally don't have.

One thing that has remained constant in the modern era is the color. The presidential limo is black and will likely remain that color in the Obama administration. Frankly, I'd love to see it in a dark blue with a splash of red and white but perhaps there are security concerns to such color schemes. Any one interested in viewing the president's ride up close and personal should check out some of the presidential libraries where many of the limos go to retire.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta Likely Headed for Surgeon General

Reports have surfaced that Sanjay Gupta, the popular health policy correspondent for CNN and contributor to CBS, is President-elect Obama's choice for U.S. Surgeon General. Gupta, a neurosurgeon, has reportedly accepted the job pending completion of his background check and release from his contracts from CNN and CBS.

Gupta would be the highest profile Surgeon General since C. Everett Koop served during the Reagan administration and perhaps the most well-known ever. According to the Washington Post: "The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama's White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect. The Michigan-born son of Indian and Pakistani parents, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for Hillary Clinton. His appointment would give the administration a prominent official of Southwest Asian descent and a skilled television spokesman."

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Pardon Time

The last month of a presidential administration always brings with it a flurry of pardon requests and a couple dozen pardons, a handful of which always leave people shaking their heads. George H.W. Bush's pardon of individuals involved in the Iran-Contra scandal and Bill Clinton's pardon of tax cheat Marc Rich are a few modern examples of notable pardons.

On December 23, George W. Bush gave 19 people an early Christmas present by pardoning or commuting a sentence (one of which was rescinded upon further information being delivered to the White House and made public in the media). Expect more pardons and commutations to come.

CNN has an interesting story about 11 past pardons throughout American history that are notable in one way or the other. Among the 11 are one president, one folk singer, and two icons of NASCAR.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Beyond the Bush 43 Caricature

There is the public persona of George W. Bush--the caricature of the current president--incurious, mangler of the English language, butt of late-night comic jokes. And, there is the spin woven by loyal staff aides. The truth about who George W. Bush really is--sitting in the Oval Office, aboard Air Force One, relaxing at his ranch in Crawford, Texas--is somewhere in between.

The AP has a beneath-the-veneer look at George W. Bush that corroborates much of the view reported in Robert Draper's excellent but under appreciated 2007 book on Bush, Dead Certain. Love him, hate him, or indifferent, any reasonable person would have to conclude that the Bush presidency has been one of the most consequential of the modern era, perhaps ever. Though Bush will be retiring January 20, there will likely be a plethora of books and scholarly articles produced on the man and his administration for years to come.

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