Hillary Clinton as Mrs. Foggybottom?

Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth is a contender at VA.
Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth is a contender at VA. (M. Spencer Green - AP)
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By Al Kamen
Friday, November 14, 2008

There's increasing chatter in political circles that the Obama camp is not overly happy with the usual suspects for secretary of state these days and that the field may be expanding beyond Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) and perhaps former senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.).

There's talk, indeed, that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) now may be under consideration for the post. Her office referred any questions to the Obama transition staff; Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor declined to comment.

The choice of the former presidential contender and Senate Armed Services Committee member would go a long way toward healing remaining divisions within the Democratic Party after the contentious primaries. Clinton has long been known for her work on international women's issues and human rights. The former first lady also could enhance Obama's efforts to restore U.S. standing among allies worldwide.

And Obama could put her in his speed-dial for a 3 a.m. phone call each morning.

Woman Behind the Woman Behind the Man Behind the Man

Meanwhile, Cathy Russell, who has served as administrative assistant to Vice President-elect Joe Biden, staff director on the Senate Judiciary Committee and a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton administration, is expected to be tapped as chief of staff to second lady-elect Jill Biden.

Russell is married to Clinton-era State Department chief of staff Tom Donilon, who is now heading the State Department transition team along with another former State Department counselor, Wendy Sherman.

Donilon and Sherman, each mentioned as a possible choice for deputy secretary of state, have ties to Fannie Mae, an organization the Obama transition is especially antsy about. Their connection to Fannie Mae wasn't mentioned in the Obama announcement Wednesday about their jobs on the transition team. Donilon was senior vice president and general counsel to the mortgage giant from 1999 to 2005. Sherman, more removed from the core Fannie Mae operation, was in charge of its charitable foundation in 1996 and 1997.

You Can't Buy Publicity Like This

Loop Fans may remember the inauspicious beginning for Federal Communications Commission chief Kevin Martin's decision to sponsor NASCAR driver David Gilliland in three races to boost public awareness of the Feb.17 switch to digital television. The $355,000 cost doesn't include a couple of hundred grand more for information booths and staff at the races, which appear to have drawn somewhat spotty crowds.

During the first race last month, the car, festooned with banners announcing the plan to go digital, crashed into a wall at the aptly named Martinsville Speedway in Virginia and was unable to finish the race.

Well, no problem -- there were still two races left. The second was Sunday in Phoenix, and hopes were running high until a nine-car pileup set the car on fire and it was again unable to finish.

People who criticized the NASCAR project as misguided and a waste of money wondered whether this might be a bad omen for the impending switch. Not at all, Martin told reporters after the second crash. "Except for the cars that win the races, the cars that are in wrecks get a lot of attention," he said, according to Reuters.

So the idea might be for Gilliland to crash it again if it looks as if he's not going to win Sunday in Miami?

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