The Obama transition has announced its ethical guidelines for lobbyists involved in the transition. The rules prohibit federal lobbyists from donating money to the transition or doing any lobbying while working for the transition. They also say that anyone who has lobbied on an issue in the past year cannot work on that policy area in the transition, and anyone working on an issue in the transition cannot lobby the administration on that issue in the next year. The new edict doesn't hew to Obama's early campaign promises that lobbyists "won't find a job in my White House", but the rules are still more stringent than any previous President's lobbying restrictions. The transition team's release describing the guidelines features accolades from Thomas Mann at the center-left Brookings Institution and Norm Ornstein at conservative AEI, who both acknowledge that the restrictions will keep some smart, talented policy thinkers out of the White House — but agree that the anti-corruption symbolism is worth it.
Transition chief John Podesta held a so-called pen-and-pad briefing for reporters yesterday that did not turn out to be particularly revelatory. The WP's Dana Milbank describes long lines of reporters clamoring for entry, but few real answers in the Q&A session. In fact, Milbank compares Podesta's repetition of variants on "we'll announce it when we have something to announce" to the press secretary stylings of world-class stonewaller Ari Fleischer, noting that Podesta's "smooth and creamy" (Milbank's phrase) bearing was intended to send a pragmatic message:
But there was a method to Podesta's mundaneness. The nation has impossible expectations about how quickly Obama will move to reshape the nation — and as transition chief, one of Podesta's goals is to tamp those expectations down to realistic levels. A Diageo-Hotline poll found that 66 percent, including a third of Republicans, are confident Obama will bring "real change" to the capital.
But such lofty expectations will collide with Washington's rhythms, which explains why Obama has risked disappointing his starry-eyed supporters by hiring such Washington denizens as Rahm Emanuel and Podesta. The campaign may have been a time to say "Yes, we can," but now it's time to turn on the fuzz machine...
Don't look for any new announcements today, as the President- and VP-elect will be in "private meetings" all day long...but a rescue plan for the big-three automakers seems to be brewing in Congress for the lame-duck session, with backing from Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. The WSJ calls the nascent rescue package "an early test of [Obama's] leadership" — though he may not appear in the Senate to cast a vote on the bill.
In other lowered-expectations news, the Republican Governors Association begins its annual meeting today in Miami. The RGA is just one of many GOP groups that will be brainstorming a comeback for Republican ideology in the coming weeks and months. Vanquished VP nominee Sarah Palin is scheduled to speak tomorrow, on a panel about the future of the Republican party. She's currently in the middle of a week-long media blitz aimed at shoring up a reputation that took a beating in post-election leaks. All eyes will be on Palin's performance as the media tries to divine her plans for 2012, or perhaps even that Alaska Senate seat that may soon find itself subject to a special election...though the Gov told NBC's Today show she's "not planning on" running for Senate.
And finally, regrets...President Bush has a few. From a CNN interview yesterday aboard the USS Intrepid, a retired aircraft carrier that's permanently docked in Manhattan:
"I regret saying some things I shouldn't have said," Bush told CNN's Heidi Collins when asked to reflect on his regrets over his two terms as president. "Like 'dead or alive' and 'bring 'em on.' My wife reminded me that, hey, as president of the United States, be careful what you say."
Bush also told Collins he wishes he hadn't spoken in front of that "Mission Accomplished" banner back on May 1, 2003 — less than a month after Baghdad fell, and more than five and a half years ago.