Happy Friday! Three days after the election and the chattering classes are in full political-appointment speculation mode. To answer your inevitable question: no, we can't just wait for Obama to actually name people and then write about them. What fun is that?
The first post is already in the can: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) as the new White House chief of staff. We gave you a quick backgrounder on Emanuel yesterday. Our Linton Weeks has this look at Emanuel's storied ferocity and how it might help or hurt him in his new assignment. And Politico's Ben Smith and John Harris posit that the choice signals a departure from the Obama campaign's famed "no drama" mantra, and a turn toward a more pragmatic "determination to be effective under the existing rules of the Washington game." Those changes were evident before Emanuel even accepted the job:
Obama's campaign was deliberately low-key and hermetically sealed from leaks. The Emanuel era arrived with a jolt before Election Day, when word leaked that he'd been offered the job. Then word leaked that he was "agonizing." Then he agonized about moving his children to Washington in front of television cameras on a Chicago street. Then word leaked that he took the job.
"If it was from [the campaign], it was the first leak they've had in two years. That was obviously from him," said a senior Democratic congressional aide, who added, "He's strategic enough in his leaking — I don't think that would be a problem" when he is in the White House.
The new chief of staff will join the President- and VP-elect at a meeting with economic advisers today (hot on the heels of October's grim jobless report), followed by a 1:30pm CST/2:30 EST press conference.
The next expected pick: senior Obama campaign adviser and Alabamian football junkie Robert Gibbs as the new White House press secretary. Also presumed to be imminent is a choice for Secretary of the Treasury — one of Obama's most important decisions in this moment of national economic crisis. One name rumored to top the short list: former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, a brilliant economist with a history as a deregulation advocate that could haunt him in the current climate. Summers might also meet opposition from women's advocates — he was pushed out of the Harvard Presidency after suggesting women may have less innate math and science ability than men. Other names swirling around: New York Fed Chair Timothy Geithner; former Fed Chair Paul Volcker; and FDIC head Sheila Bair.
But don't hold your breath just yet on more official appointment news. In an email to reporters this morning, the President-elect's press office says there will be "no personnel announcements today."
One big question weighing on the minds of Washingtonians: what happens to Joe Lieberman now? The onetime Democratic VP nominee lost his party's Senate primary in 2006, then cruised to victory in the general election as an "Independent Democrat". He's continued to caucus with the Democrats (along with fellow-Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont), allowing them a slim 51-49 majority for the past two years. But this year Lieberman broke with the Dem power-brokers and gave his full-throated endorsement to John McCain. He was reportedly on McCain's short list of running-mate possibilities and spoke on McCain's behalf — and questioned Obama's experience — in his speech at the Republican National Convention...a speech in which he also urged fellow Dems to break with their party and support the Republican nominee.
Now that the Democrats have shored up their majority (currently holding at 56, with three Senate races still unresolved) they don't need Lieberman as badly. Will the caucus punish him for his transgressions? Will Majority Leader Harry Reid strip him of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee? (After the men met yesterday, Reid said "no decisions have been made.") If that happens, will Lieberman start caucusing with the GOP despite his stark policy differences with them on almost everything but Iraq?
And finally, Silvio Berlusconi: the Joe Biden of Italy? In a meeting with Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow yesterday, the Italian Prime Minister told the Russian President that Barack Obama "has all the qualities to get along well with you: he's young, handsome and suntanned, so I think you can develop a good working relationship." His political opponents, and some in the Italian media, pounced on what they deemed a racist comment. Berlusconi has dismissed the critics as "imbeciles" who lack a sense of humor.