Amy Walter: “For all the hand-wringing over the lack of diversity in the Obama Administration’s second term Cabinet, Democrats should really be more depressed about the fact that their potential 2016 field is a lot less diverse than the GOP’s. Take away Hillary Clinton, and the Democratic bench looks more like that picture in the New York Times than it does the picture of Obama’s 2012 voting coalition.”
Coming in May: Rumsfeld’s Rules by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Noam Scheiber says President Obama made a mistake sending Joe Biden to haggle with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) once McConnell’s talks with his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, had broken down.
“From my after-the-fact discussions with Democratic aides in the House and Senate leadership, it’s clear that Reid had a plan for resolving the cliff and considered the breakdown of his talks with McConnell very much a part of it. By involving Biden, Obama undercut Reid and signaled that he wanted a deal so badly he was unwilling to leave anything to chance, even when the odds overwhelmingly favored him. It suggested that even if Obama plays his cards exceedingly well in the run-up to the debt-limit showdown, he could still come away with a worse deal than he deserves because of his willingness to make concessions in the closing moments.”
First Read: “The second-term cabinet shuffle has been an unforced error so far. (The reason why the White House is receiving criticism for a lack of diversity is that it has nominated three consecutive white men for cabinet posts — John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and today Jack Lew — but without a high-profile woman or minority thrown into the mix. And that doesn’t include John Brennan at CIA and a likely white male to be the next White House chief of staff.) Indeed, you could argue that the Romney folks thought a lot more about staffing a Romney administration over the next four years than Team Obama did about a second-term administration.”
“In fairness to the White House, its top officials were so focused on the fiscal-cliff talks in the past two months. What’s more, this kind of disorganization isn’t unusual for a second term, especially after winning a hard-fought race for re-election. And finally, it’s a process story. At the end of the day, it’s likely that Obama’s second-term cabinet will have plenty of diversity and top-notch names. But the process hasn’t been pretty. Question for the White House: Why didn’t it have a second-term transition director? Someone whose full-time job was to keep an eye on the optics of how and when to announce, on the leaks etc.?”
But Jill Lawrence says “a confluence of factors is making the frat-house syndrome seem worse than it is.”
Newser: Maybe Obama needs a binder full of women?
Ezra Klein: “In the continuing drama that is the Obama presidency, Biden often appears as comic relief… Yet just a few days before he was giving dating advice on C-SPAN2, Biden again proved himself perhaps the most effective member of the Obama administration. He reprised his role as the White House closer, the guy who can cut a deal with the Republicans after everyone else has failed. In the end, Biden got Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to strike a deal that the White House was happy with. That’s something neither Obama nor Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had achieved. And it wasn’t the first time. Biden also helped close the 2011 deal that lifted the debt ceiling and the 2010 deal that extended the Bush tax cuts in return for fresh stimulus.”
“Biden’s skills as a campaigner are also considerable. According to Nielsen, his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention won better television ratings than the addresses of either Bill Clinton or Obama (or Republicans Mitt Romney and Representative Paul Ryan, for that matter). His debate performance against Ryan bucked up anxious Democrats and arguably stanched the bleeding from Obama’s hapless initial appearance against Romney.”
“Republicans say Jack Lew will have to answer for what they view as the president’s bare-knuckle tactics when Lew undergoes the Senate confirmation process for Treasury secretary,” The Hill reports.
“It is not often that members of the minority party get to grill the chief of staff of a sitting president and there is little love lost between Senate Republicans and President Obama.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), “who spent his first two years in office establishing himself as a fiscal conservative, turned left in his third annual address to the Legislature, and sought to reclaim the state’s progressive mantle,” the New York Times reports.
Cuomo “had two emotional fulcrums in his sprawling 78-minute address: gun violence and Hurricane Sandy. But most of the speech was devoted to an onslaught of proposals favored by the left wing of his party.”
National Journal: “Cuomo’s aggressive advocacy for some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation is already heightening speculation that he’s seriously thinking about a presidential campaign in 2016.”
The reshuffling of President Obama’s Cabinet gained speed when Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation, the Washington Post reports.
But the White House said three others, including Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki would remain in their posts.
The Week: Why is Holder staying on?
New York Times: “President Hugo Chávez’s supporters have not ruled out swearing him in from his hospital in Havana. His detractors are calling for government investigators to go check his pulse themselves. The justices whom Mr. Chávez’s allies have named to the Supreme Court have decided that he can continue to govern in absentia.”
“In a country that Mr. Chávez has dominated for so long, his health crisis and the decision to proceed on Thursday with a quasi-presidential inauguration that he is unable to attend are producing a stream of bizarre developments and national angst about who is in charge.”
“The president is going to act. There are executives orders, there’s executive action that can be taken. We haven’t decided what that is yet.”
— Vice President Biden, quoted by CNN, in comments before a meeting with victims of gun violence.
ProPublica reports a small “dark money” group called Montana Hunters and Anglers, launched by liberal activists, bought radio and television ads in Montana’s U.S. Senate race — not supporting incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) but instead backing libertarian Dan Cox, describing him as the “real conservative” or the “true conservative.”
“Where did the group’s money come from? Nobody knows.”
A new Public Policy Polling survey shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Chrisitie (R) is now actually more popular with Democrats nationally than he is with Republicans.
Christie’s overall favorability is 51% to 23%, but his +29 standing with Democrats, 52% to 23%, is higher than his +21 with GOP voters, 48% to 27%. He’s most popular with independent voters at +34 at 52% to 18%.
The Cloakroom: Chris Christie fills the GOP void.
GOP pollster Bill McInturff:
“Republicans captured 49.4% of the two-party vote for Congress in 2012, yet won 54% of the seats in the House. This gap between the Republican vote and the seats they won is on the high side, but certainly not without precedent over the past 40 years. If you began your career as a Republican trying to win the House in the 1970s and 1980s, you would adopt, as I do, the borrowed adage ‘there’s no crying in redistricting.'”
Obama’s worst day: “Honey, have you seen my trillion dollar coin? I can’t find it.” “Check the laundry, I think I heard something.”
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 9, 2013
A Biloxi Sun Herald editorial takes their local congressman to task for voting against disaster relief for people affected by Hurricane Sandy noting that, “Seldom has a single vote in Congress appeared as cold-blooded and hard-headed as one cast by Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) last week.”
Palazzo quickly reversed himself in a statement saying, “I am fully committed to providing the relief they so desperately need.”
President Obama will nominate White House chief of staff Jack Lew for Treasury secretary as soon as Thursday, Politico reports.
“In doing so, Obama is throwing Lew straight into the middle of an increasingly nasty budget war, the likes of which Washington hasn’t seen since the mid-1990s.”
“Lew should be prepared for this type of fiscal and political environment, though — he helped President Bill Clinton strike the 1997 balanced budget accord as a top official at the Office of Management and Budget, the agency he has since run for both presidents. And Lew played an important role in the contentious 2011 debt ceiling debate.”
The downside, according to Kevin Roose: Lew’s terrible signature would be on our money.
The Week: The right choice?
National Journal says Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) “uncontroversial first term” raises doubts “about whether Republicans can even recruit a first-tier candidate against the former Saturday Night Live funnyman.”
Said former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), who lost to Franken in 2008: “He’s been pretty much invisible. In that sense he hasn’t created a lot of enemies. I don’t know if that’s his strategy, but it’s a pretty good strategy if it is.”
The Cloakroom: Sometimes it’s alright just to tell them to “shut up.”