For Democrats, Cue The 'Rocky' Theme

The Skinny is Hillary Profita's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.



For congressional Democrats, you can go ahead and cue the "Rocky" theme song. Democratic jubilation on the floor of the U.S. House yesterday in honor of the first day of the 110th Congress is getting all kinds of attention on the front pages this morning.

New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's "triumphal 20-minute remarks were frequently interrupted by applause, much like a presidential State of the Union address," explained the New York Times, and some of those applauding in the chamber included celebrities like Tony Bennett and Richard Gere.

The Times and The Washington Post both took note of outgoing Speaker Dennis Hastert's demeanor. The Post described him as sitting "quietly and unobtrusively in the rear of the chamber, except for one brief moment of recognition," while the Times wrote that the former speaker, "now just a Republican member of Congress from Illinois, stood hunched and hulking by the back rail of the chamber."

On the other side of the capitol, The Times dutifully included some color from Sen. Hillary Clinton's oath-taking for her second term, wondering if she was "perhaps dreaming of another oath-taking that might be two years hence." And The Post took note of the activities of one more media-friendly 2008 hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, who was spotted "jok(ing) with" retired outgoing Majority Leader Bill Frist.

As far as what Pelosi actually said in her celebratory remarks, the Times writes that in addition to "the obligatory promise of partnership with Republicans," Pelosi "signaled to Mr. Bush that any plan to increase the American military presence in Iraq would meet stiff opposition in the new Congress."

The House "nearly unanimously approved a broad package of internal rules changes designed to sever the cozy links that have developed between lawmakers and lobbyists," a key element of Democrats' 100 Hours campaign. (Rep. Dan Burton was the only member to vote against the measure.)

Chocolate Moose Droppings? So Long, Senate 'Candy Desk'

Those pesky ethics rules are part of the reason why in the new Senate, the longtime tradition of a "candy desk" is getting the boot. According to the Wall Street Journal, "(t)he candy desk — a tradition, not a rule — dates to 1968, according to the Senate Historical Office. That's when Sen. George Murphy, the former actor and film executive, began sharing treats from the back row."

The desk ("which is dipped into by many members") was summarily inherited by different senators, with former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., presiding over it until his defeat last year. He stocked it with donations from home-state candy makers like Hershey. Now the desk has been turned over to Sen. Craig Thomas of Wyoming.

While his home state offers some smaller companies that "sell esoteric sweets, such as chocolates designed to look like moose droppings," there are no big name candy makers. "As a result, the candy-industry lobbying group, which coordinates stocking the desk, is cutting off the sweets, citing Wyoming's candy deficit and ethics rules."

Fair Weather Political Friends

The Los Angeles Times' front page offers a glimpse into how all of this changing of the guard is testing "the deeply ingrained habits of partisan vitriol," among politicos. As the Democrats take over Congress, the Bush administration is "paying attention to Democratic power brokers they had all but ignored for years."

That means that Pelosi "got a Christmas Day phone call from Bush at home in San Francisco" and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was treated "to two military plane rides in one week." Also, "(h)e was invited to an intimate White House party, where Bush politely asked what books Reid had been reading lately."

More Personnel Changes In 2007

Speculation about the machinations behind John Negroponte's new gig is kicking into high gear by now, the NYT's front page explains, as the Post's front page takes note of yet another personnel change — Harriet Miers is out as White House counsel. A replacement has not yet been announced, but the White House "has settled on someone to take on the assignment." And if that person doesn't take it, given the per capita concentration of lawyers here in our nation's capital, it shouldn't be too much trouble.

The personnel changes that are making bigger news today are Bush's plans to shuffle his top Iraq advisers — military, diplomatic, intelligence and legal, writes USA Today, in a heavily bullet-pointed front-page article.

The outcome of the shakeup will be revealed in Bush's address to the nation next Thursday about his Iraq strategy, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, will include a request for "billions of dollars in new aid for Iraq" and the "deployment of as many as 20,000 additional American combat troops to Iraq as part of a controversial 'surge' designed to stabilize Baghdad and other violent regions of the country."

The Post reports that Bush will announce Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus will replace Gen. George Casey as commander of multinational forces, Navy Adm. William J. Fallon will be nominated to replace Gen. John P. Abizaid as CENTCOM commander, and veteran diplomat Ryan C. Crocker will be the new ambassador to Baghdad. Current ambassador Zalmay Khalizad will be nominated to replace John Bolton as U.N. ambassador.

On The Web: NPR Listeners — 173% More Likely To Buy Volvos

When you think of an NPR listener, do you think of a liberal, soy latte-chugging, lactose-intolerant, French-wine drinker who hates freedom? Yahtzee! If so, you're right on the money, apparently.

On NPR's "On the Media" recently, host Brooke Gladstone highlighted the results of this past summer's audience research survey, ("more than 500 jam-packed pages with data on consumption, attitudes and behavior, from personal politics to the purchase of laxatives") which revealed that the above notions about the average NPR listener were pretty much true. Well, except for the hatred of freedom part.

I can't take credit for Gladstone's joke ("You're more than twice as likely to drink French wine, which could suggest that you hate your own freedom"). She also acknowledges that "the average NPR listener is not the only listener," however. "Some of you are broke, plenty of you are conservative, quite a few of you are young and 20 percent of you are not white. A few of you even watch 'Fear Factor,' though not many, and probably because of the ontological implications."

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