Reporter's Note: President Obama is preparing for his big bipartisan meeting on health care. I’m preparing for a town hall meeting with voters here in Texas. I’m also preparing my daily letter to the White House, which hopefully he’ll have time to read amid his busy schedule.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
Hooray! The sun has returned to Texas and I’m shedding fleece like an Alpaca in spring. Thank goodness. I and the rest of the gang on the bus were taking on certain paranoid attributes of the guys in Ice Station Zebra for a while. And what’s this I hear? Another winter storm bearing down on the northeast? I always try to be helpful, but I’ve had it with winter at this point. I should make it home by the weekend, but if the forecast does not improve I may just stay here. If you need help shoveling, count me out. Call Biden.
I went for a walk down by the river here in Austin with the mayor this afternoon, and it was quite nice. Mayors, as you know, can be a mixed bunch. Some know a lot, and some not so much; some are highly political, and some are more practical; and some are easy to talk with and that was Mayor Lee Leffingwell.
The fundamental question I posed as we strolled out of City Hall and down to the water’s edge was this: What has made Austin so successfully during this recession, while other cities have struggled so hard? He worked his way through the litany that I’ve heard from various sources this week. They have a broad base of diverse employers, including a tremendous number of small businesses. They also enjoy strong blocks of steady jobs in state government and the universities around town…those aren’t going anywhere. They have a vibrant arts community, good restaurants, a reasonable cost of living and the commutes, while worsening, aren’t yet crushing.
Program Note: Heilemann and Halperin will speak with Anderson tonight about their new book and the behind-the-scenes reporting on the 2008 presidential election. AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
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John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
Chapter One, 'Game Change'
THERE WERE THUNDERSTORMS IN Chicago, bringing air traffic to a grinding halt in and out of O’Hare. So Hillary Clinton sat on the tarmac at Martin State Airport, outside Baltimore, eating pizza and gabbing with two aides and her Secret Service detail on the private plane, waiting, waiting for the weather to clear so she could get where she was headed: a pair of fund-raisers in the Windy City for Barack Obama.
It was May 7, 2004, and two months earlier, the young Illinois state senator had won a resounding, unexpected victory in the state’s Democratic United States Senate primary, scoring 53 percent of the vote in a seven-person field. Clinton, as always, was in great demand to help drum up cash for her party’s candidates around the country. She didn’t relish the task, but she did her duty. At least it wasn’t as painful as asking for money for herself—an act of supplication that she found so unpleasant she often simply refused to do it.
As the wait stretched past one hour, and then two, Clinton’s pilot informed the traveling party that he had no idea when or if the plane would be allowed to take off. To the surprise of her aides, Clinton displayed no inclination to scrap the trip; she insisted that they keep their place in line on the runway. The political cognoscenti were buzzing about Obama—his charisma and his poise, his Kenyan-Kansan ancestry and his only-in-America biography—and she was keen to do her part to help him.
“I want to go,” she said firmly.
CNN’s Candy Crowley and Kyra Phillips
Kyra Phillips: Candy Crowley watching I guess this peculiar piece of Americana, right Candy? We were talking earlier on the phone and you said Mr. Obama really has not been the President-Elect since November.
Candy Crowley: This makes it official. In the constitution congress has to do this, and that is count the electoral votes. Listen we all know how its going to come out, let me just take the suspense out, 365 to 173, Barack Obama wins over McCain but this is something they have to do. It looks very much, if you see that picture, it looks a lot like a state of the union address. The president pro-tem of the senate which is Dick Cheney, is supposed to preside if he is not there. We will see Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving member of the senate. He's from West Virginia. So, it is pro-forma but it is also what makes it legal.
Special to CNN
By now, it has become almost a cliché: "I never thought I'd live to see it happen."
That common reaction to the election of Barack Obama, an African-American, to the presidency of the United States captures much about the country's troubled racial history.
Black people have been a presence on the North American continent from the early 1600s, and the 1500s if you count the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine, Florida.
Yet, the fact that we were brought to America as slaves and had to wage a centuries-long battle for freedom - and then for civic and civil rights - has often shaped perceptions about what is and is not possible for blacks to achieve.
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Caroline Kennedy, the 51-year-old daughter of President John F. Kennedy, has a "definite interest" in filling the New York Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, three sources confirm to CNN.
Two of the sources are close to Kennedy and the third is a senior Democratic operative. Kennedy's interest in the seat could mean the continuation of a family legacy in the Senate that began 56 years ago with the election of her father as the then-junior senator from Massachusetts.
Her uncle Ted has represented Massachusetts in the Senate since 1963. Her uncle Robert served as New York's junior senator from 1965 until he was assassinated in 1968.
"Remember, this (Clinton's) seat in the Senate was once held by Robert Kennedy," CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider said. "Her other uncle, Ted Kennedy, is ill right now. If (New York Gov. David) Paterson appoints Caroline Kennedy to the Senate, it means there could be a Kennedy staying in the Senate for quite a long time."
Before this year, Kennedy generally limit her forays into the public sphere to non-partisan activity, penning books on civil liberties and serving as the de facto guardian of her father's legacy.
But in January, she backed a political candidate for the first time, announcing her endorsement of Obama during the Democratic primary season with an op-ed in the New York Times that drew days of the kind of media attention she has spent her life avoiding.
"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them," she wrote. "But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president - not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
"Apparently she has acquired a taste for politics," Schneider noted. "She wants to be part of this new regime in America, clearly playing a key role in the Senate if she gets that appointment."
- CNN's John King and Kate Bolduan, and Mark Preston contributed
to this report.
Wall Street Journal
In his election-night victory speech, Barack Obama said he would be a president for all Americans, not just those who voted for him. But as a candidate he didn't campaign with equal vigor for every vote. Instead, he and John McCain devoted more than 98% of their television ad spending and campaign events to just 15 states which together make up about a third of the U.S. population.
Today, as the Electoral College votes are cast and counted state-by-state, we will be reminded why. It is the peculiar mechanics of that institution, designed for a different age, that leave us divided into red states, blue states and swing states. That needs to change.
The Electoral College was created in 1787 by a constitutional convention whose delegates were unconvinced that the election of the president could be entrusted to an unfiltered vote of the people, and were concerned about the division of power among the 13 states. It was antidemocratic by design.
Under the system, each state receives votes equal to the number of representatives it has in the House plus one for each of its senators. Less populated states are thus overrepresented. While this formula hasn't changed, it no longer makes a difference for the majority of states. Wyoming, with its three electoral votes, has no more influence over the selection of the president or on the positions taken by candidates than it would with one vote.
Expectations for Barack Obama, already high, jumped even higher when his aide and longtime confidante, Valerie Jarrett, announced that the President-elect plans to create a White House office dedicated to urban affairs.
That would make good on a promise Obama made... "We need to stop seeing our cities as the problem and start seeing them as the solution. Strong cities are the building blocks of strong regions, and strong regions are essential for a strong America..."
That sounds great, but it lacks a certain audacity....
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Less than two weeks ago, on election night, John McCain pledged to do "all in my power to help [Barack Obama] lead us through the many challenges we face." On Monday, McCain will travel to Chicago to discuss ways he can fulfill that promise in a private meeting with the President-elect.
There were some who doubted the sincerity of McCain's pledge, coming so soon after the end of a campaign that featured a series of personal attacks on Obama. But it pays to remember that the self-styled maverick was never very comfortable as the standard bearer of a party that he had opposed so many times on so many issues. And the party long felt the same way.
Last Friday brought notice that the relationship between the two would soon be returning to form when South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint became the first high-profile Republican to lay the blame for McCain's loss on McCain himself. "We have to be honest, and there's a lot of blame to go around," DeMint told a GOP gathering in Myrtle Beach, S.C. "But I have to mention George Bush, and I have to mention Ted Stevens, and I'm afraid I even have to mention John McCain." DeMint then offered a list of McCain's anti-conservative apostasies, including his support for campaign finance reform, immigration reform and legislation aimed at combating global warming.
The items on DeMint's list of lament read like talking points to jump-start Monday afternoon's conversation in Chicago between McCain and Obama. According to an Obama aide, the President-elect views McCain as a potential ally on the kind of reform issues for which the two men share broad agreement. "There are areas of general agreement and beliefs — on immigration, earmark reform, energy, climate change, government reform, spending reform," says the aide. "Where there's agreement on both sides, they want to figure out ways they can work together."
NHIOP Political Director & Harvard IOP Fellow
The main Republican talking point coming out of the shock and awe election last week is that we are a "center-right country." Tell me then, how did Barack Obama get elected by an overwhelming electoral sweep and a decisive popular vote differential? How did the Democrats keep and grow control in Congress?
David Brooks outlined on Tuesday the split between the "reformists" and the "traditionalists" in the Republican party. The center-right tension exists within, not outside, the Republican party. With 51% of people polled saying they want to see a more activist government, the highest number since 1992, surely we are at least a center-center country right now.
A 2007 PEW center poll found that from 1994 till now, 12 percent more Americans feel the "government should care for those who can't care for themselves... even if it means greater debt."
As a political analyst, I like evidence. I like to describe what is, not what is "brandable". The idea that we are a "center-right" country is wishful spin, considering that we voted differently.