Not Included: An Oil Change We Can Believe In

By Al Kamen
Friday, January 16, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama's tricked-out Chrysler sedan is on the auction block, but it may cost eBay bidders upwards of $150,000.

Obama leased the steel-blue 2005 Chrysler 300C for three years before he turned it in 2007. The sports sedan is fully loaded, with a V-8 engine, a GPS navigation system, a sunroof, leather seats and chrome wheels. (New models start in the $35,000-to-$40,000 range.) Obama put just 19,000 miles on the ride before upgrading to a Ford Escape Hybrid, an environmentally friendly sport-utility vehicle.

Last February, a few months after Obama turned the Chrysler in, a Chicago restaurant manager was out car-shopping and unknowingly stumbled upon Obama's ride at Park Plaza Dodge in Forest Park, Ill.

"I bought the car and everything and after the fact when I was leaving the showroom, the salesman that was in there said, 'You better hang on to that car,' " Tim O'Boyle said. "I said, 'Why is that?' He said, 'It used to belong to Obama.' " "I couldn't believe it," said O'Boyle, who paid about $24,000 for the car. "It was immaculate. It was like brand new."

In the months since, O'Boyle hardly drove the car, and in December he decided to cash in on Obamamania. He auctioned the car on eBay. Bids started rolling in, soaring above $100,000.

But then he withdrew the auction because his accountant said he'd "be better off owning it for over a year for capital gains purposes."

With the one-year mark next month, the Obamamobile is back on eBay, with the highest bid now above $150,000. And there's more.

"There have been offers outside of eBay that have gone as high as $1 million," he said. "We're just trying to substantiate where they're coming from."

High bids are nothing new, however. During the primary campaign, someone bid $20,000 for a waffle and sausage that Obama ordered at a diner in Scranton, Pa. And in 2005, a Houston multimillionaire paid $690,000 for a light-blue 1975 Ford Escort once owned by the late Pope John Paul II.

This Time, With Extra Saccharin

One of our all-time Loop favorites, the extraordinary John Tanner, former head of the voting rights section of the Justice Department's civil rights division -- that's the division charged with protecting the rights of minorities -- is offering his "deepest apologies" to Mary Frances Berry, longtime civil rights leader and former head of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Tanner, when last we checked, was still on the department payroll and teaching in Alabama. An inspector general's report this week recounted an unfortunate e-mail he had written to a colleague. In a letter Tuesday to Berry, Tanner wrote that his e-mail response a few years ago to an offer to bring him coffee "included the very poor choice of words that I would like my coffee 'Mary Frances Berry Style -- black and bitter.' " Okay, but see, there was some context here, he said. This came after he watched "a highly contentious Civil Rights Commission hearing and shortly after hearing an African-American customer order coffee, 'Black and sweet, like me.' " (Not going to comment here, save to note that we're not making this up.)

In the letter, according to a copy he sent to Talking Points Memo, Tanner said the e-mail was "flippant" and "ill-considered" and "careless" and "inappropriate" and "not meant to be disrespectful of you." He added that "the term 'bitter,' of course, meant no sugar in the coffee, and was not meant as a reflection on you or your attitude towards a challenging situation."

Of course.

A DHS Deputy?

Word from New York is that the U.N. assistant secretary for peacekeeping, Jane Holl Lute, is being talked about to be deputy secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. Before her U.N. job, she was executive vice president and chief operating officer of the United Nations Foundation and the Better World Fund, which were established to administer Ted Turner's $1 billion contribution to support the goals of the United Nations.

From 1994 to 1999, she headed the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict and was a senior public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, according to a U.N. biography.

She was on the National Security Council staff as director of European affairs during the Bush I and Clinton administrations, and before that she served on the National Security Council staff at the White House. All that came after a distinguished Army career.

Her husband is Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, who is working at the White House as deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan.

The DOE Picture

We're hearing that Susan F. Tierney, an energy and economics consultant with Boston-based Analysis Group who had been assistant secretary of energy for policy in the Clinton administration, is expected to be named deputy secretary of energy. Tierney, a former Massachusetts public utility commissioner, chairman of the board of the Energy Foundation and member of the National Commission on Energy Policy, is an expert on electric and gas industry issues and advises companies, government organizations and nonprofits on energy markets, economic and environmental regulation, and strategy, according to an Analysis Group biography. She has served on the Obama transition as a team leader for the Energy Department.

She's also worked on matters such as the siting of energy generation and transmission facilities, which could come in handy if the House Democrats proposal yesterday for a whopping $32 billion for improving the nation's "energy transmission, distribution, production and storage systems" becomes law.

From the Mouths of Babes

President-elect Obama, in a conference call Wednesday with inaugural donors, noted these bad economic times and then tried to lighten the mood by talking about taking his daughters, Malia and Sasha, to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday. They looked at the statue and read the Gettysburg Address, inscribed on one wall, and Lincoln's second inaugural address, inscribed on the other.

Obama said Sasha, who is 7 years old, stared at Lincoln's second inaugural address and said, "Looks long." She asked if her dad's speech would be that long, our colleague Mary Ann Akers reports.

To which Malia, 10, replied: "First African American president. Better be good."

Besides thanking them for underwriting his inauguration, Obama cautioned his inaugural donors to "be patient" and advised them to stay "bundled up" on Tuesday.

They probably know how to bundle. You betcha.

Rumors on Health Care . . .

Several names are floating as candidates for the next head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program. The list includes health-care quality guru Donald Berwick, president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement; Robert Berenson, a health-care expert and senior fellow at the Urban Institute; and Glenn Hackbarth, chairman of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), whose terms ends in April.

. . . and Russia Policy

There's buzz that Russia guru Michael A. McFaul, director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and a political science professor at Stanford University, is being looked at to pick up the Russia portfolio as a senior director at the new administration's National Security Council.

With Philip Rucker and Alice Crites

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