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Obama Administration's Diplomacy Off to a Quiet Start

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"They ensured that Democrats were well represented in that department with their issues and their lobbyists," a Republican lobbyist opined, hoping the new pick will mean good news for the GOP.

So let's see, Obama's from Chicago, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is from Chicago, and LaHood's district is a couple of hours away. That means Illinois is the new Alaska! Minus the indictments and the convictions of course, the lobbyist said.

Eating Their Words

Six days after the election, we noted hearing that former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack was pretty much a "shoo-in" for secretary of agriculture. Two weeks later, the Des Moines Register referred to that item but reported that Vilsack sent the paper an oddly worded e-mail in which he said he'd never been contacted by Obama aides about the job and he did "not think it prudent or appropriate to speculate" on this.

We were a bit puzzled, given that major Democratic players had weighed in on Vilsack's behalf, and our intelligence was pretty solid. But we backed off.

Yesterday, at the Vilsack announcement, a Register reporter asked Obama, "What has happened in the month since Governor Vilsack was led to believe that he would not be the choice for secretary of agriculture?"

"Well, I don't know who led him to believe that," Obama said. "Whoever did, obviously, was misinformed, because here he stands."

Past experience would indicate that -- pure speculation here -- after the initial flurry of oddly spontaneous support for Vilsack, followed by the news reports and "near shoo-in" status, someone in Chicago, maybe someone like David Axelrod or another Obama confident, let it be known that he thought Vilsack should go low-profile for a while.

So Vilsack e-mails the Register and everyone backs off.

A few weeks ago, the Iowa Independent also noted that we "went so far as to call" Vilsack a "near shoo-in."

Overly cautious. Shoulda cut the "near."

Moving In

Peter Rundlet -- a former counsel for the 9/11 Commission; a former vice president and managing director for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress; and more recently a senior official at Humanity United, a nonprofit seeking to improve conditions in impoverished and violence-torn countries -- is said to be the Obama administration pick for deputy staff secretary at the White House, the No. 2 person controlling paper flow over there.

Former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle, now tasked with overhauling the nation's health-care system and the Department of Health and Human Services, will be able to count on former aide Mark Childress to help him. Childress is to be his chief of staff and also deputy director of the new White House Office of Health Reform. Childress had been Daschle's chief counsel and policy director when he was in the Senate.


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