Sebelius Says No to Obama Cabinet Appointment

Very interesting and surprising news from Steve Kraske of The Kansas City Star:

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was a finalist for vice president last summer and under consideration for several Cabinet posts in a Barack Obama administration, today withdrew her name from the selection process.

The surprise move ends intense political speculation that Sebelius was on her way to Washington and that Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson was about to become the state's new chief executive.

In a brief statement e-mailed to reporters at 4 p.m. today, Sebelius cited the state's worsening budget situation in the wake of the nation's economic crisis as her reason for staying.

"Given the extraordinary budget challenges facing our state, and my commitment to continuing the progress we've made in Kansas, I believe it is important to continue my service as governor of the great state of Kansas; a job that I love and have been honored to hold.  The possibility of joining President-elect Obama's team is exciting and compelling, but my service to the citizens who elected me is my top priority in these difficult times.

"The good news for Kansans is that we will soon have a partner in the White House working with us as we face our unprecedented economic challenges."

I have to say I didn't see this coming. The Departments of Labor and Energy seemed like very possible posts for Kathleen Sebelius, an early and ardent supporter of Barack Obama in the primaries. Sebelius was even seriously mentioned for Obama's running mate, perhaps even among the top half dozen potential picks. So to not see her in an Obama administration is at least a bit of a surprise.

But it isn't necessarily bad news. Sebelius is likely the strongest potential Senate candidate for the upcoming (likely) open seat election in Kansas -- a state, I might add, that hasn't elected a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress in 76 years. Sebelius is very well liked in the state and would be a formidable foe for whomever the Republicans nominate to succeed Sam Brownback, who has already indicated he will not run for reelection in 2010. So while Sebelius would have brought a great deal to an Obama administration, having her on the outside, potentially running for the Senate two years from now, could actually do more to help Obama and the Democratic Party in the long run.

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Eric Shinseki is Reportedly Obama's Pick for Veterans Affairs

So sayeth the Associated Press:

Democratic officials say President-elect Barack Obama has selected retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki to be the next Veterans Affairs secretary.

The officials said Obama will announce his selection Sunday. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the official announcement.

Shinseki is the former Army chief of staff who upset his civilian bosses in 2003 when he testified to Congress that it might take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to control Iraq after the U.S. invasion. He was forced out of his job within months for being "wildly off the mark." But his words proved prophetic after President George W. Bush in early 2007 announced a "surge" of additional troops to Iraq after miscalculating.

I'm not sure that I would use the same formulation as the AP -- that it took until George W. Bush announced his surge for Eric Shinseki's words to prove prophetic, because it was clear far earlier than 2007 (as early as the summer of 2003, in fact) that Shinseki was correct in his estimation of the type of force necessary for success in Iraq -- but leaving that quibbling aside, this is a fine pick. In fact, I've been watching for some time to see if Shinseki might enter politics in one manner or another. A little over three years ago there was speculation, which in the end didn't pan out, that Shinseki might run for Hawaii Governor. And back in December 2004, I asked Shinseki directly if he might one day run for public office.

Jonathan Singer: In recent years, we have seen Generals Al Haig and Wes Clark run for their party's nominations with varying levels of success, and in 1996 there were rumors that General Colin Powell would run for President. Do you see politics in your future? And in general, what are your feelings on military men running for elective office?

General Eric Shinseki: I don't see politics in my future, so let's put that aside.

I'm not sure that we necessarily have the skills to be good politicians. It's a different world. Al Haig, Wes Clark, and Colin Powell all ran for their own personal reasons with varying degrees of success. John Glenn was more successful, Glenn coming from the Marine Corps. [transcript from notes rather than from recording]

If Shinseki brings the type of focus and willingness to speak truth to power to the Veterans Affairs that he did to the military, he is going to make a real positive difference in the lives of those who greatly deserve better treatment from our government and be a very solid addition to Barack Obama's cabinet

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Obama Clinton Gates Jones Foreign Policy

(Proudly cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

I know there's been plenty of chatter lately on President-Elect Obama's foreign policy. In particular, I've heard the usual Beltway Pundits proclaim Obama must abandon his "leftist dovishness" and embrace his inner "center-right hawk" to be a "credible Commander-in-Chief". Meanwhile, I'm also seeing some progressives wail in despair over how Obama is supposedly abandoning them for "neocon-lite".

But what if both camps are wrong? What if today's revelation of the foreign policy/national security wing of the Obama Administration reveals something completely different? Hold on, because you may be surprised.

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Hillary Clinton Will Not Resign Until Confirmed

Ben Smith:

Senator Clinton intends to remain in office through confirmation," emails spokesman Philippe Reines.

UPDATE: Says New York Governor David Paterson in a statement: "In order to appoint the best possible candidate to replace Senator Clinton, I am consulting with a wide variety of individuals from all across New York State. I expect to announce Senator Clinton's replacement when the position becomes officially vacant."

This isn't a surprise; were it the other way around (Hillary Clinton announcing her resignation from the Senate before her confirmation as Secretary of State), it would have been huge news. But as is, this was to have been expected.

Only nine times in the history of this country has the Senate voted down a cabinet nomination. Not one of those nine failed nominees was a sitting United States Senator. Why? As John Dean explained in "The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court" when discussing Richard Nixon's potential nomination of Robert Byrd to the Supreme Court, the Senate is extremely unlikely to reject a nomination from its membership because a rejected nominee would have the power as Senator to seek retribution against members voting against him or her, through filibusters, through holds, and the like. In the not too distant past, the Senate has rejected a former member, John Tower, but again, former members, unlike sitting members, don't have the capacity to hit back against Senators voting against his or her nomination.

This isn't to say that Clinton would otherwise have difficulty getting through the nomination process, because I don't think she will. That said, when one has leverage in politics, there is no reason to give it away for free, so it makes eminent sense for Clinton to hold on to her Senate seat until she is confirmed.

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Bill Clinton to Release Names of Library and Foundation Donors

Chris Cillizza has the details:

Former President Bill Clinton has agreed to make public 200,000 donors to his presidential library and foundation as part of an agreement with President-elect Barack Obama's transition team designed to allow his wife -- Hillary Rodham Clinton -- to be named Secretary of State, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement.

The former president has also agreed to allow the State Department and, potentially, the White House, to vet his personal business interests and speeches so as to avoid potential conflicts of interest, according to transition officials.

[...]

With that potentially sticky-wicket now a non-issue, the nomination of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State appears to be on a glide path.

This news should presumably mean that Barack Obama will now have in place his nominees for the four big departments, State, Treasury, Defense and Justice, a fairly diverse group that includes people of both parties, of both sexes, and of more than one racial background. But even more than the categories in which these nominees and presumptive nominees could be designated, this group conveys a strength that underscores Obama's determination to usher in a period of effective governance. While the rest of Obama's Cabinet remains to be fleshed out, the early indicators suggest that Obama will have one of the most respected and accomplished cabinets we have seen in some time. In other words, though I might not have assembled the exact same team, it does seem to have the trappings of an effective Cabinet.

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Diaries

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