Post Politics Hour

[Photo of Ed O'Keefe]
Ed O'Keefe, of the Federal Eye blog
Ed O'Keefe Federal Eye Blogger
Monday, January 19, 2009; 11:00 AM

Don't want to miss out on the latest in politics? Start each day with The Post Politics Hour. Join in each weekday morning at 11 a.m. as a member of The Washington Post's team of White House and congressional reporters answers questions about the latest in buzz in Washington and the Post's coverage of political news.

Ed O'Keefe, Federal Eye blogger, will be online Monday, Jan. 19 at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the latest transition, executive branch and intergovernmental moves in Washington.

A transcript follows.

Get the latest transition news live on's 44: A Transition to Power, or subscribe to the daily Post Politics Podcast.

Archive: Post Politics Hour discussion transcripts


Ed O'Keefe: Hello and Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I'm Ed O'Keefe, the Federal Eye blogger and your chat host for the next hour. Plenty of things to talk about: Last-minute preparations by the Obama team, last-minute decision by the Bush team, any news or suggestions of news on who will replace Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate, and of course any and all questions about the inaugural.

Your chat host will be VERY busy in the coming weeks as the thousands of new Obama administration officials measure the drapes and move into their new offices. E-mail any tips, comments or questions to


Now to your questions...


Anonymous: I haven't seen a lot of discussion about a new secretary of commerce nominee since Bill Richardson dropped out. What's the latest? Any idea when it might be announced?

Ed O'Keefe: No clue and no word yet. Govs. Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas) and Christine DeGregoire (Washington) were rumored, but nothing yet. The Obama team delayed the hearings for Transportation pick Ray LaHood to comb over his vetting documents once again. One suspects they're being extra careful on whoever would replace Richardson. Stay tuned.


Did You Know?: Now that the Arizona Cardinals advanced passed the Philadelphia Eagles, we've had the losing candidate's home state football team play in the Super Bowl the year after the presidential election twice in a row.

Ed O'Keefe: Great bit of history! "Did You Know?" is correct because back in 2005 the New England Patriot beat -- who else? -- the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21.

Will the Cardinals do the same? (This Giants fan -- no fan of the Eagles -- hopes they do!)


McLean, Va.: Latest tally on the cost for this year's inauguration: $150 mil and counting.

Totally unnecessary, inappropriate, and uncalled for especially during these tough economic times.

Yahoo News

Ed O'Keefe: One person's opinion... discuss.


Transition City: What is the likely outcome of the White House e-mail litigation?

The Bush administration seems very focused on shredding all still available evidence before they leave the building on Tuesday. They had a late Friday filing before the judge who ruled that the WH needed to preserve hard drives and e-mail tape backups. The judge has ruled in the last week that the WH, having been non-responsive and claimed at different times to have "lost," "found," "never lost/never found" White House e-mails, would need to preserve all the media that might need to be searched for any missing e-mails.

Friday's WH response verges on contempt and seems to indicate that they aren't going to comply.

What is your take?

Ed O'Keefe: The National Archives has the responsibility to keep all the e-mails, but has no enforcement powers.

My take is that NARA needs enforcement powers in order to assure the proper archiving. That's not a reflection on the current administration, just something that seems prudent for a federal agency that has an important job to do.


Asheville, N.C.: Can we assume Bush's latest "pardon list" is nowhere available at this time? Or is this, like the secret re-institution of charges against Guantanomo inmates we just learn about now, something just time will reveal?

Ed O'Keefe: A Post editor somewhere will cringe, but Politico has a great compilation of 10 Bush pardons to watch for:

Among them: Scooter Libby, Alberto Gonzales, Jonathan Pollard, Michael Milkin and former Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R).

We could hear news on any pardons as early as today, or tomorrow morning.

_______________________ 10 Bush pardons to watch for (Politico, Jan. 18)


Richmond, Va.: You know, I'm a very free-enterprise kind of gal, but I want to tell you how angry I was yesterday at not being able to see the FREE concert at the Lincoln Memorial. I cannot tell you how inexcusable it was for HBO to be granted the only rights to show this fabulous concert. Here we are, those of us who cannot get to D.C., trying to be part of the festivities, and we could not, because, oh, my, oh, my, HBO (of which a very small segment of the population subscribes) SLAPPED us in the face and said, YOU MUST SUBSCRIBE, if you want to be part of the festivities. I am also ashamed of the media, which could have but didn't call out this division, at a time when we were all were supposed to be united. I wonder how many others feel as I do.

Ed O'Keefe: Actually, HBO was working to make sure that all cable subscribers had free access to the pay channel yesterday, so check with YOUR cable provider to see if you had that option.

But you're right -- to some it stinks of favoritism and doesn't seem consistent with the "openness" of the Inaugural and new administration.

The Post's Paul Farhi

reported this past weekend


"For $2.5 million, HBO purchased the rights to air Sunday's all-star kickoff concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden will attend. The concert, featuring the musical stylings of Beyonce, U2, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, among others, will be available on television only to those who receive HBO and to households that receive digital cable. In the Washington area, between 60 and 75 percent of cable subscribers will be able to see the concert on cable systems owned by Comcast and Cox Communications.

"Walt Disney Co. has paid $2 million to the committee for two programs that will air on its Disney Channel and on its ABC network. The Disney Channel will televise a children's concert Monday night at Verizon Center. Hosted by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the event will feature singers Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Demi Lovoto, all of whom are Disney Channel stars. Disney will be the only network permitted to carry the concert live.

"ABC will carry the "Neighborhood Inaugural Ball," the first of 10 official balls, next Tuesday. The highlight of the program at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is likely to be Obama's first official speech of the evening and the Obamas' first dance as president and first lady. The ABC program will carry commercial breaks, meaning the network may be able to turn a profit on the event.

Also --


that "Bryan Boughton, Fox News Channel's D.C. bureau manager and the network bureau chief chair of the press pool from January-April, is speaking up about ABC's plans. ABC is currently set to air the first Inaugural ball ("Neighborhood Inaugural Ball") Tuesday night, restricting other networks from airing any of President-elect Barack Obama's remarks until 10pmET (previously 1amET) and the Obamas' first dance."

"Boughton has been working with Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs, representing the Presidential Inaugural Committee, and ABC News, representing ABC Entertainment, to work toward a compromise. 'We don't know what the end result will be,' says Boughton. 'I think both sides...have been dealing with us in good faith in trying to come to some resolution with this.'"


New York: Could there be a better time to release a stinko pardon than right now? Bush could pardon Madoff and it would be buried at the bottom of page one. Don't we desperately need some way to limit the pardon power? Might not a constitutional amendment for this get some bipartisan support? (At least cut it off for the last six months of a presidential term, when it would still impact the pending presidential election. Or require senatorial approval during this period).

Ed O'Keefe: That would require some rewriting of the U.S. Constitution, but what do you think folks? Does "New York" have a good idea?


McLean, Va.: Latest tally on the cost for this year's inauguration: $150 mil and counting: On the other hand, it's creating at least temporary employment for a lot of folks, especially in the D.C. area.

Ed O'Keefe: Good point! I was at a ball last night (reporting, not participating) and someone told me a waiter came up from North Carolina to work the weekend and probably bank some good bucks.


Re: GOP Appointees Hunt for Jobs...: Good morning and happy MLK Day, too.

The Washington Post has a story today about Bush appointees hunting for jobs.

I find a delicious irony that these appointees are the victims of their own policies.

Hopefully, this will serve as a warning to future administrations to be careful with their policies as it might even affect them!

What are your thoughts on this? Thank you... All That Experience and No Place to Go (Post, Jan. 19)

Ed O'Keefe: My thought is that Republicans are out of power, and that's mostly the reason they don't have jobs. Not necessarily a reflection of the national economy. When Democrats control the White House and Congress, then special interest groups, associations, corporations, etc., need to hire Democrats who will have their phone calls answered.

So yes -- some of it has to do with the economy (whatever you think of it), but it's mostly a reflection on the political climate and realities.


Boston, Mass.: My cable provided HBO free, but I also heard that NPR was carrying the audio -- everyone had access to that. I actually very much appreciated that there weren't commercial interruptions.

Ed O'Keefe: And there you go...


Boston, Mass.: This inauguration is actually pretty cheap. It sounds expensive because people compare it to Bush's '05 $45 million price tag. But that didn't include security which added in made it $155 million. Given that Bush didn't have anywhere near the same crowds and it was just a continuation, Obama's suddenly looks pretty frugal.

Also, all that money is going into the tourism and service industry -- just consider part of the stimulus.

Ed O'Keefe: Interesting comparison.


Raleigh, N.C.: Just my $.02, but I voted for Obama and have absolutely zero interest in watching anything inaugural.

Get on with it.

Ed O'Keefe: One man's opinion...


Washington, D.C.: I work for an independent federal agency whose new chairman has not been appointed yet. Our current chairman has resigned effective tomorrow. Is there any chance that Obama will appoint new acting chairs for those agencies who don't have one yet on Tuesday?

Ed O'Keefe: He might, or Bush may do so in the final hours, as is his Constitutional right.

Otherwise, enjoy the "home alone" phenom until you have a permanent boss in place.

The Center for American Progress issued a series of recommendations last week about how the president can streamline the appointments process. I wrote about it in my blog, The Federal Eye

last week



Fairfax, Va.: I heard Obama say in an interview with CNN's John King that there may be away around the BlackBerry problem. Obama said he may still be able to use it as long as he remembers to think first before he hits "SEND." You hear anything on this front?

Ed O'Keefe: I've heard the same.

Do we want a president who uses and understands the latest communications technology? I think so.


Abingdon, Md.: Can Bush issue a "generic" type pardon to cover people who may have been involved in "enhanced interrogation methods" or even Dick Cheney, although he has not been charged with anything?

Ed O'Keefe: Back to our friends at Politico, who report in today's article that such a pardon:

"might be hard to craft language or justify pardon which immunizes some harsh tactics without overturning convictions for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib; certain to trigger outrage among liberals and inflame anti-American feeling abroad. Pardons expert P.S. Ruckman Jr. of Rock Valley College in Illinois downplays 'the idea of this big, last-minute, surprise, blanket, turbo-amnesty for war crimes.'"


Minneapolis, Minn.: Hi Ed -- What's the latest on Sen. Cornyn's attempt to derail Sen. Clinton's secretary of state nomination? What do you think is behind it? A last minute fit of Republican pique?

Ed O'Keefe: It seems it's mostly political posturing by more conservative Republican senators who want to see if they can force former President Clinton to release more information about the donors and activities of his Clinton Foundation. Cornyn joins Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) who was the lone vote against Clinton out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

At most this will delay Clinton's full Senate confirmation vote until Wednesday.


Princeton, NJ: Look, part of the problem with the country is fear. Banks are afraid to lend. People fear for their jobs. We wonder if Iraq and Afghanistan will go belly up. Etc., etc., etc. Remember what FDR said about fear. If the inauguration alleviates even a small amount of fear, $150 mil is dirt cheap.

Ed O'Keefe: Another man's opinion.


To Richmond, Va.: NPR broadcast the audio of yesterday's concert for free.

Ed O'Keefe: Indeed.


Boston, Mass.: I think in general the presidential records act needs updating. IM's should be treated like phone conversations and not recorded. And the president should be allowed to keep a private diary, or historians are going to want to kill us in about 100 years!

Ed O'Keefe: All of this -- the e-mails, the Obama White House ban on IMs -- does indeed suggest there needs to be a rethink on what qualifies as communications that can be archived, subpoenaed and archived.

But since this issue only comes around every four to eight years, or whenever there's a major presidential scandal -- it seems difficult for the Archives could ever win Congressional attention or support for such measures.


Chantilly, Va.: I didn't vote for Obama, I am tired of the adulation he receives in the press (Look! Obama's miracle touch turns tourist trap kitch into gold!), and I don't care for his ideology (and here's to hoping he proves me wrong!) ... but I don't get the obsessive concern over the cost of the inaugural activities. I believe a large portion of the cost will be covered by private financing -- and this is admittedly an event with true historical significance. And as someone else has noted, the money doesn't go down a hole; it is paid to someone for work who will (or should) pay taxes and then go spend the cash on someone else services.

Ed O'Keefe: And some of the costs are covered by things like having ABC and HBO pay for exclusive broadcast rights to concerts and parties.


Washington, D.C.: A categorical pardon would be something new. Imagine a document that absolves anyone guilty of having violated a certain law or laws during a specific time period. The outrage would be so strong that juries would find many people guilty on tangential crimes, like conspiracy, negligence of duty, and conduct unbecoming. There are far too many catch-alls that would defeat any mass pardons.

Ed O'Keefe: Another legal opinion...


Philadelphia, Pa.: "McLean, Va.: Latest tally on the cost for this year's inauguration: $150 mil and counting.

Totally unnecessary, inappropriate, and uncalled for especially during these tough economic times."

Thank goodness this person isn't responsible for economic policy -- that attitude exemplifies Carterism. Hunkering down only worsens the problem. All of that $150M is economic activity -- money that's productively moving from one wallet to the next. That's what propels growth.

Here in Philadelphia, the economic growth engine is Phillies and Obama memorabilia. A shame about those Eagles...

Ed O'Keefe: Another opinion...


Poplar Bluff, Mo.: Ed, thanks for the chat. Will President Bush fly to his ranch at Crawford or his new house in Dallas after the inaugural tomorrow? A second question, what type of crowds do you think he will get at his send-off or his arrival in Texas? Thanks.

Ed O'Keefe: They leave Washington for a "welcome home" rally in Midland, Texas, and then will overnight at the Crawford Ranch. They will set up shop in a Dallas-area home, near where the Bush Library will eventually be built on the campus of Southern Methodist University.

Not clear yet what kind of crowd will show up in Midland, but he got a very kind editorial in yesterday's Houston Chronicle welcoming him home:


$150 million: $150 million equals only 50 cents per American, a veritable entertainment bargain, considering that parts will be televised!

Ed O'Keefe: Another good point!


Catlett, Va.: Ed, when people tell pollsters that this has been an incredibly smooth transition for Obama, are they ignoring or downplaying the problems with Geithner or Richardson or are they unaware of them?

Ed O'Keefe: You'd have to ask the pollsters. I think everyone acknowledges that Richardson and Geithner happened. But there's been no Zoe Baird, no Linda Chavez... Richardson got out before his problems got larger and Geithner made a big mistake, but has maintained his bipartisan support.

And if you ask Obama folks -- both on and off the record -- they're beyond thrilled at how helpful and welcoming the Bush administration has been in the past few months. "Exemplary" is a word I've heard often from Obama folks.


Curious: Does Bush spend tonight in Camp David and then helicopter in for the inauguration tomorrow?

Ed O'Keefe: No Curious, he was at Camp David over the weekend, got back last night, dined at Condi Rice's Watergate home and then stopped by a goodbye party at Glen Echo Park for Bush administration officials. He'll be at the White House tonight, according to the schedule, then welcomes the Obamas and Bidens tomorrow morning.

_______________________ Bush homecoming (Houston Chronicle)


Falls Church, Va.: You could have also watched the entire concert online via HBO's Web site.

I also think that $150M is a teeny tiny drop in the bucket when it comes to our big picture economic problems. Not only are locals getting some temp jobs, but tourists are spending money. The pros outweigh the cons.

Ed O'Keefe: Gotta love streaming online video...

The Post is doing some online streaming of our own tomorrow. Make sure to watch our live, uninterrupted coverage of the inaugural festivities, all day tomorrow from 8 a.m. ET until the parade ends! The Post's Dana Priest and David Maraniss, along with Chris Cillizza and Lois Romano will lead our coverage.

Yours truly shall be "live tweeting" what he sees from the National Mall all day long: Subscribe to my Twitter feed to see what I see:


Harrisburg, Pa.: At least with the $150 million stimulus spending on the inaugural, we can see where the money is going. Any idea where the Citibank spending went?

Ed O'Keefe: Nope.


Ed O'Keefe: Folks that's it for today. Enjoy your Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (a "day on" not a "day off") and no matter the cost, enjoy Inauguration Day from wherever you watch it.

Don't forget to read my blog,

The Federal Eye

, about all the goings-on at the nation's federal agencies and departments. And follow my live updates from the National Mall on Tuesday by "following" me on




Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

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