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Morning Bulletin – Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009

A roundup of news, schedules, and key stories from CBS News Political Director Steve Chaggaris:

(Pete Souza)
Sometime between 11:30 a.m. and Noon ET, Barack Obama will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts as the 44th president of the United States.

Millions have descended on the nation's capital, secured by an unprecedented number of police and military, to witness history: the first African-American president of the United States. Today's high temperature in Washington, D.C.: 32 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

During his inaugural address, which will be delivered immediately after his swearing-in, Mr. Obama will call for "a new era of responsibility", urging lawmakers and all Americans to recognize their obligations to steer the country through the challenges it faces. "Government can only do so much. ... We're going to have to take responsibility. All of us," Mr. Obama said yesterday, seemingly previewing today's address.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Seated behind Mr. Obama during his remarks will be President Bush and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who Mr. Obama defeated in November.

(Last night, Mr. Obama hosted a bipartisan dinner honoring McCain, calling him a hero and hugging him on stage).

Following his speech, he will escort President Bush to his departure ceremony, then he'll attend a luncheon in the Capitol before motorcading to the White House and watching the inaugural parade. Tonight, he and soon-to-be first lady Michelle Obama will party late into the night as they attend 10 "official" inaugural balls.

Interesting item from President Bush's staff: Mr. Bush wrote Mr. Obama a private note, which he left in the historic "resolute" desk in the Oval Office.

All the White House is saying, reports CBS News' Mark Knoller, is that the theme of the note is very similar to what Mr. Bush has been saying about Mr. Obama recently: he wishes him the very best on this fabulous new chapter Mr. Obama is about to start.

"Bush was in the Oval Office at 6:55 a.m. this morning," per Dana Perino, reports Knoller. "He made some phone calls. Talked to National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and took a call from his former Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Mr. Bush then talk a last walk around the South Lawn - and is now spending his last moments in the White House with his family - until the Obamas arrive just before 10am." Knoller adds,

"Dana [Perino] was in the press room - giving out her last supply of M&M's with the presidential seal and George Bush's signature on them."

"President-elect Barack Obama will plunge into foreign policy on his first full day in office tomorrow, finally freed from the constraints of tradition that has forced him and his staff to remain muzzled about world affairs during the 78-day transition," report the Washington Post's Michael D. Shear and Karen DeYoung.

"As one of his first actions, Obama plans to name former senator George J. Mitchell (D-Maine) as his Middle East envoy, aides said, sending a signal that the new administration intends to move quickly to engage warring Israelis and Palestinians in efforts to secure the peace. Mitchell's appointment will follow this afternoon's expected Senate vote to confirm Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state.

"And tomorrow afternoon, aides said, Obama will convene a meeting of his National Security Council to launch a reassessment of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By the end of the week, Obama plans to issue an executive order to eventually shut down the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to lay out a new process for dealing with about 250 detainees remaining at the prison. The actions -- to be taken before the entire White House staff has found their desks -- reflect the frenetic activity among Obama's national security advisers that has been taking place behind the scenes since Election Day."

"On the economic front, Mr. Obama's administration is likely to soon issue new regulations forcing recipients of Wall Street bailout funds to be more transparent with the money, an aide said," writes the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler and Jonathan Weisman. "The most-ailing financial institutions won't be forced to lend immediately, but healthier banks will be under pressure to move money from their vaults into the economy. 'Transparency is going to make a big difference,' the aide said."

The Associated Press' Andrew Taylor reports, "It will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed by President-elect Barack Obama will boost the economy, according to congressional economists.

"The findings, released to lawmakers Sunday, call into question the effectiveness of congressional Democrats' efforts to pump up the economy through old-fashioned public works projects like roads, bridges and repairs of public housing. Less than half of the $30 billion in highway construction funds detailed by House Democrats would be released into the economy over the next four years, concludes the analysis by the Congressional Budget Office.

"Less than $4 billion in highway construction money would reach the economy by September 2010. The economy has been in recession for more than a year, but many economists believe a recovery may begin by the end of 2009. That would mean that most of the infrastructure money wouldn't hit the economy until it's already on the mend."

"In one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama is planning to lift a rule that prevents federal money from going to international family planning groups that counsel women on abortion or perform the procedure," report the LA Times' Peter Nicholas and Christi Parsons.

"Obama's repeal of the abortion aid policy is one of several executive actions he will take soon after his inauguration today, according to Obama transition aides. He is also considering lifting Bush administration restrictions on federally funded stem cell research."

"[A]s Barack Obama takes part in one of the nation's oldest rituals Tuesday, changes will come in the First 100 Minutes – in policy, politics and personalities – that will set a course for a presidency already rich in history and expectations," reports Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown.

"As president, he'll move swiftly, signing documents to formally nominate his Cabinet and appoint interim agency heads, one official said. His other early moves have been closely guarded, although aides have signaled Obama will wait until later in the week to act on more controversial items, such as ordering the closing of the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Obama also hinted he'll wait for Congress to overturn the federal ban on embryonic stem cell research, rather than do it by executive order. Yet even as Obama gives his inaugural address, vehicles will carry some of his aides to take up positions in the new White House – the vanguard of a new Obama administration, in a peaceful takeover of cubicles and office space held by the opposition for eight years. ...

"Moving vans do pull into the driveway. Any remaining Bush items are carried out, the Obamas' belongings moved in. For the next six hours, the staff will do 'whatever the Obamas have directed the chief usher to do to make the house their home,' [former chief White House Usher Gary] Walters said. It means placing the right stuffed animals on the daughters' beds, and stocking the refrigerator with their favorite breakfast foods. Even if Obama forgoes a complete redecoration of the Oval Office, the staff will switch out paintings, busts and photographs to give it a personal touch."

Washington Post's Barton Gellman, "Obama's Moment Arrives": "Barack Obama takes office today with a realistic prospect of joining the ranks of history's most powerful presidents. The more familiar observation, that he confronts daunting trials, enhances that prospect. Emergencies have always brought commensurate new authority for the presidents who faced them, not only because the public demanded action but also because rival branches of government went along.

"Obama arrives with a rare convergence of additional strengths, some of them inherited and some of his own making. Predicting a presidency, to be sure, is hazardous business, and much will depend on Obama's choices and fortune. But historians, recent White House officials and senior members of the incoming team expressed broad agreement that Obama begins his term in command of an office that is at or near its historic zenith."


Washington Post's Eli Saslow and Philip Rucker, "Obama Looks to the Future With a Nod to His Past": "To help him celebrate his imminent move into the White House, Barack Obama invited more than 100 of his closest friends and relatives to gather here over the weekend.

"Everywhere he turned the past few days, he has been surrounded by high school classmates from Hawaii and former college professors, basketball buddies and political mentors -- a tableau of the people, places and moments that delivered him to the presidency. They were drawn here to commemorate what Obama will become.

"But, like all good reunions, they spent more time talking about the past. Members of his class at Honolulu's Punahou School met in Arlington to reminisce about their chubby, basketball-obsessed peer. Relatives from Chicago relaxed at Blair House on furniture donated by Dwight D. Eisenhower and recalled the humble second-story apartment where Michelle Obama was raised. Political allies from the Illinois Senate told stories about the rookie politician who sought incessant advice.

"Obama himself paused yesterday to consider the magnitude of assuming office as the nation's 44th president. He spoke about his connection to the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday that celebrates his birth and, while taking part in community service, fondly remembered his summer job as a 17-year-old painter working for $4 an hour. Then, in the middle of his day, Obama took a two-hour break to visit with his guests at Blair House."

NY Times' Peter Baker, "The Nation Awaits Its New President"

Washington Post's Paul Duggan and Lena H. Sun, "Despite Snarled Traffic and Cold, City Is Already Celebrating"


Newsday's James T. Madore, "Paterson nears naming Clinton replacement": "Gov. David A. Paterson hopes to announce a replacement for Hillary Rodham Clinton this weekend so the appointee can be seated in the U.S. Senate as early as Monday. Speaking to reporters yesterday in Washington, Paterson said he was still interviewing candidates and insisted no decision had been made. He also acknowledged vacillating between contenders, adding that he had 'narrowed the field' of 15 or so by half. The full Senate as early as today could confirm Clinton as secretary of state. 'I would figure by this weekend we would come up with a candidate,' Paterson said at a news conference. 'I have narrowed the field but ... don't seem to stay with the same pick for a period of time. I've tried seeing how it works with different scenarios,' he added. 'I just haven't settled on [an appointee] yet.'"

ALSO:, "Was Biden Offered Secretary of State Job?"

Washington Post's Dineen L. Brown, "As First Lady, Michelle Obama Can Blaze Her Own Trail"

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