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Morning Bulletin – Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009

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

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Basking in the glow and optimism following his historic inauguration, President Barack Obama gets right to work today – his first full day as president.

On the schedule: a 10am prayer service at the Washington National Cathedral; a meeting with military leaders, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, the commander overseeing the Iraq and Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, among others; and a meeting with his economic advisers to continue hammering out his economic stimulus plan and to discuss dealing with the financial crisis.

"The president's advisers watched most banking shares fall sharply on Tuesday, reinforcing what Obama officials have known for weeks: that their most urgent financial problem is an immense new wave of losses at banks and other lending institutions that threatens to further cripple their ability to resume normal lending," writes the New York Times' Edmund L. Andrews.

"While Mr. Obama's top advisers view the black hole in bank balance sheets as one of their most pressing problems, they cautioned that they would not be pressured into announcing a plan before they had carefully thought through all the options. Instead, they are scrutinizing an array of solutions, each of which has pitfalls and poses its own risks and dangers. Obama officials are almost certain to intertwine help to the banks with Mr. Obama's goal of providing up to $100 billion for reducing home foreclosures.

"The two goals are not necessarily in conflict. Subsidizing loan modifications so that people can keep their homes could relieve banks of the steep losses associated with foreclosures and also prevent further erosions in bank asset values by putting a floor under home prices."

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will also host an open house at the White House, "part of his pledge to make government and those who govern more accessible," writes the AP's Jennifer Loven.

"The new president signaled that a flurry of executive actions, studied and prepared during his two-month-plus transition, will come quickly too," Loven continues.

"Among the possibilities for the first day was the naming of a Middle East envoy, critical at a time of renewed hostilities between Israelis and the Palestinians; an order closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a move that will take considerable time to execute and comes on the heels of a suspension of war crimes trials there pending a review; prohibiting — in most cases — the harsh interrogation techniques for suspected terrorists that have damaged the U.S. image around the globe; overturning the so-called Mexico City policy that forbids U.S. funding for family planning programs that offer abortion; and lifting President George W. Bush's limit on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research."

"Obama conducted only a little official business Tuesday, formally nominating his Cabinet secretaries – seven of whom were approved by Senate acclimation," the Politico's Jonathan Martin and Josh Gerstein report.

"His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel signed an order putting a halt to President George W. Bush's last-minute regulations until further review – in much the way Bush's chief of staff Andrew Card halted Bill Clinton's 'midnight regs' in 2001. The Bush administration proposed one rule allowing concealed weapons to be carried in some national parks. Another would block federal funding for medical facilities that refuse to hire anti-abortion doctors, whose opposition to the procedure stemmed from religious grounds."

"In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration," writes the Washington Post's Peter Finn.

"The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court in the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for 'a continuance of the proceedings' until May 20 so that 'the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically.'"

"The same motion was filed in another case scheduled to resume Wednesday, involving a Canadian detainee, and will be filed in all other pending matters. Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension.

"But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and its unyielding attitude toward foreign and domestic critics. The legal maneuver appears designed to provide the Obama administration time to refashion the prosecution system and potentially treat detainees as criminal defendants in federal court or have them face war-crimes charges in military courts-martial. It is also possible that the administration could re-form and relocate the military commissions before resuming trials."

(AP Photo/Ian Barrett)
On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Capitol Hill will be buzzing as well. Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner has his confirmation hearing – delayed after his failure to pay federal taxes became public last week.

"Timothy Geithner will call for a comprehensive and aggressive approach to tackling the U.S. financial crisis ... while also trying to assure lawmakers that he simply erred by failing to pay some payroll taxes earlier this decade," reports Deborah Solomon of the Wall Street Journal.

"At the hearing, Mr. Geithner will likely be grilled over his tax missteps and his role in helping to craft the Bush administration's financial-sector rescue. But senators' seeming reluctance to derail his confirmation while the economy is sputtering and the lending freeze is worsening makes it likely he will be confirmed for the cabinet post."
Politico's Lisa Lerer adds that Geithner is sure to be grilled about how the $700 billion financial bailout package has been spent.

"Senators from both parties have complained bitterly that outgoing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson hasn't answered their questions about how the $700 billion to rescue the country's financial markets has been spent. But Paulson isn't the only one who knows those answers. Geithner, president of the New York Federal Reserve, knows them, too. Lawmakers are expected to try to glean from him where the first $350 billion was spent and to extract promises about how the second $350 billion will be used by the Obama administration."

Transportation Secretary nominee Ray LaHood's confirmation hearing will also take place today.

And while six of President Obama's cabinet secretaries were confirmed in the Senate unanimously by voice vote yesterday, Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton was not among them. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tex., signaled Tuesday that because of questions he has concerning her husband's foundation "and its acceptance of donations from foreign entities.

Transparency transcends partisan politics and the American people deserve to know more," Cornyn said in a statement yesterday. There will be a roll call vote on the Senate floor where Clinton is expected to be confirmed. At some point she will officially resign her Senate seat and later, she will head to the State Department for the first day of work in her new role.

Politico's Glenn Thrush reports that Clinton and Cornyn bumped into each other yesterday, and it wasn't the most cordial conversation.

"Clinton and Cornyn talked intently and gestured meaningfully at the entrance to Statuary Hall, moments after Barack Obama was sworn in. This attracted the attention of reporters who had been staking out Obama's lunch with congressional leaders and noticed the two hashing something out 50 feet away.

"Later, we learned that the pair had an intense, if civil, exchange about Cornyn's decision to block a 'unanimous consent' motion that would have allowed the incoming secretary of state to be approved unanimously with other Obama Cabinet nominees."


(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Washington Post's Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut, "A Historic Inauguration Draws Throngs to the Mall"

Politico's Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris, "Seven reasons for healthy skepticism": "Barack Obama, especially, is the object of inaugural good feelings. He has assembled an impressive White House and Cabinet team. The country is clearly in his corner. With the economy gasping, and two wars dragging on sullenly, even many Republicans who ordinarily might enjoy seeing Obama fail now root for him to succeed. The stakes are simply too great. Amid all these high hopes, it may seem needlessly sour to point out why expectations must be kept in check. But it is also realistic."

Among the seven reasons: "1. Everyone seems to agree Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner are smart, vastly qualified to manage and repair the economy. Everyone was saying the exact same things about the two economic geniuses of the 1990s: Robert Rubin and Alan Greenspan. …

"2. ... Some of Washington's biggest blunders occur when the government moves to do big things with big support. Bush won the much-regretted Iraq war resolution of October 2002 with strong Democratic backing. The current economic crisis produces similar pressure to get on board the train — never mind for sure where it's going. …

"4. ... [H]e is almost certain to face many tests, probably imminently, in which the test will be Obama's ability to act quickly and shrewdly — and not merely describe his actions smoothly or impress people with nuance. …

"7. ... The big media companies that once invested in serious accountability journalism are shells of their former selves. … The end result: There are few reporters in this country doing the kind of investigative reporting that hold government officials' feet to the fire.'"

NY Times' David Sanger, "Rejecting Bush Era, Reclaiming Values": "Barack Obama's Inaugural Address on Tuesday was a stark repudiation of the era of George W. Bush and the ideological certainties that surrounded it, wrapped in his pledge to drive the United States into 'a new age' by reclaiming the values of an older one."

(AP/Ron Edmonds)
Washington Post's Dan Balz, "Obama Signals Need for a Sharp Break From the Past": "Obama's somber address -- and his exhortation to the country to pull together -- fit the times in which they were delivered. ... Yet at a time of doubt and despair, and on a day when the stock market plummeted again, Obama's inauguration showed another side to the nation's current mood -- hopefulness and a sense of confidence that has been invested in a young and relatively untested new president.

"It was to both uncertainty and optimism that Obama directed his words from the Capitol's West Front, addressing a sea of faces along the Mall and street corners, churches and living rooms throughout the country. ...

"History infused every aspect of the day, which saw the first African American president take office, as well as a generational shift -- away from the baby boomers who have led the nation for the past two decades, to a leader not part of the tumult of the 1960s -- and the return of Democratic control of Congress and the White House.

"Most clearly, yesterday's activities confirmed that Obama's presidency will mark a sharp break from that of George W. Bush. The new president did not hesitate to highlight their differences. Obama spoke of a change of course in the Iraq war and of the 'false choice between our safety and our ideals.' Those last words were aimed at the previous administration's positions on civil liberties and harsh interrogation techniques. Most striking, given Bush's unpopularity abroad, was Obama's declaration to a world watching intently and eagerly that 'we are ready to lead again.'"

Politico's John F. Harris, "A new leader for a new age": "The Bush years are over. Obama's inaugural address could not have made the ending more stark, with repeated lines signaling a new direction and offering veiled but unmistakable indictments of what the 44th president called a 'failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age.'

"The speech was far less precise about what the Obama years will mean. Indeed, the new president tried to make the frighteningly improvisational nature of the moment—his administration swimming from its first instant to deal with a gasping economy at home and unfinished wars abroad—into a source of strength. America's confidence, he implored, should flow from 'the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

"That line most vividly suggested the most important message of the speech: Obama believes he needs vast power and vast flexibility to achieve his goals."

Washington Post's David Maraniss, "In His Moment, Many Feel Echoes Of Their Own Stories"

Text of President Obama's inaugural address


NY Daily News' Kenneth Lovett, "Paterson has Hillary Clinton's Senate replacement in mind - but wants to think about it more":

"Sources close to Paterson say they believe Caroline Kennedy is still the front-runner - despite the fact the governor has recently been talking up Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-Hudson). 'I have a good idea now which direction I want to go,' said Paterson, who was in Washington for President Obama's inauguration. Despite the national anticipation, Paterson said he will wait a few more days before making an announcement."

NY Post's Frederic U. Dicker and Brendan Scott, "Dave in New Hill Flip-Flop"


(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
Boston Globe's Sasha Issenberg and Susan Milligan, "Kennedy takes ill at luncheon": "Senator Edward M. Kennedy suffered an apparent seizure yesterday that a doctor said was probably caused by 'simple fatigue,' inserting a dramatic turn of melancholy amid a triumphant celebration of the liberalism that Kennedy holds most dear."

Boston Herald's Joe Dwinell and Hillary Chabot, "Doc says Ted Kennedy on mend"


Associated Press' Patrick Condon, "Franken says Minn. law lets him join U.S. Senate now": "Franken's lawyers, in a lengthy brief filed Tuesday, pointed to a different section of Minnesota election law regarding recounts and lawsuits (or "contests") in U.S. Senate races.

"It says, 'no certificate of election shall be prepared or delivered until after the recount is completed. In the case of a contest, the court may invalidate and revoke the certificate.' That section of law 'anticipates that a certificate will be issued before a contest, for it provides that a court may revoke the certificate should a contest subsequently determine that a different candidate should have received it,' Franken's lawyers wrote in their brief.

"Franken's brief allowed there could be 'tension' between the provision it cites and the one cited by state officials, but it said the former prevails because it refers specifically to U.S. Senate elections and because it falls in line with the requirement under federal law that every state have two U.S. senators.

"Mark Drake, a spokesman for Coleman, said Pawlenty and Ritchie's reading of state law is correct and that the Coleman team hopes Franken 'stops these efforts, and joins with us to ensure that every valid vote is counted.' Coleman's lawyers have until next week to reply to Franken's brief arguing that he be seated. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments Feb. 5."


On a day when President Barack Obama raised his hand to take the oath of office, Gov. Rod Blagojevich was back at the federal courthouse putting his hand down for another set of fingerprints. The governor, charged with political corruption, was fingerprinted again because the quality of the first set of prints taken last month was not considered good enough, sources said." ALSO:Time Magazine's Nancy Gibbs, "Is There a Second Act for George W. Bush?"

Wall Street Journal's Naftali Bendavid, "GOP Calibrates Role as Opposition": "Republicans can't simply be 'the party of 'no,' ' Mr. [John] Boehner, of Ohio, said in an interview this month, but must offer solutions to voters' problems. 'We have to give the American people reasons to take a look at us,' he said. Tuesday, Mr. Boehner issued a statement congratulating Mr. Obama on his inauguration, vowing to find 'common ground with the President on solutions to rebuild our economy, strengthen American families, and keep our country safe.'

"Similarly positioned opposition parties have taken various paths. In 1993, Republicans fought Bill Clinton on almost everything. Eight years later, many Democrats cooperated with George W. Bush on certain items, such as tax cuts and education overhaul. With likely minorities of 41-59 in the Senate and 178-257 in the House, Republicans -- who just four years ago seemed on the cusp of long-term dominance -- have less leverage than any minority in recent memory."

LA Times' Tom Hamburger, "Republicans watch inauguration from the shadows"

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