Obama Phones Leading Republicans

Sunday, 21 Dec 2008 04:45 PM

By Soecial From Newsmax's Most Informed Sources

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Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Obama Phones Leading Republicans
2. Pelosi Makes Demands on Emanuel
3. ‘Prosperity Gap’ Behind Riots in Greece
4. Rep. Ellison Makes a Pilgrimage to Mecca
5. Madoff Scandal Rocks Jewish Philanthropies
6. Obama’s E-mail Flood Producing ‘Donor Fatigue’
7. We Heard: Rudy Giuliani, Eliot Spitzer, Obesity Tax
 

1. Obama Phones Leading Republicans

In an unprecedented move, Democratic President-elect Barack Obama has been personally phoning leading GOP members of Congress, including the ranking Republicans on committees he will need to work with next year.

“It appears to me that he has made a very genuine and aggressive attempt to reach out,” said New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, who received a call from Obama.

“He said he wanted to work with me, and I said that I wanted to be as constructive as possible.”

New York Rep. Pete King, top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told The Hill newspaper that Obama’s early choice of which members of Congress to call “shows that he’s focusing on security and the economy.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky also received a call.

“I told the president-elect that I’ll be here to work with him once he takes office,” he said.

Some Republicans told The Hill that Obama’s outreach is the most aggressive from an incoming president that they can remember.

Obama clearly enunciated his name on voice mail messages he left with Republicans, saying his name “slowly, as though I would confuse him with somebody else,” said Rep. King.

Perhaps Obama was seeking to avoid a reoccurrence of what happened when he called Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Dec. 3.

After Obama called her and introduced himself, Ros-Lehtinen said, “I’m sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks,” and hung up.

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s choice as his chief of staff, then phoned Ros-Lehtinen and told her, “Ileana, I cannot believe that you hung up on the president-elect.”

The congresswoman hung up on him too.

Ros-Lehtinen did eventually take a call from Obama.

Editor's Note:



2. Pelosi Makes Demands on Emanuel

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is leaving no doubts with Rahm Emanuel that she’ll remain in charge of House Democrats.

Pelosi has “set parameters” for what she wants from Obama and his staff — no surprises, and no backdoor attempts to bypass her and cut deals with moderate Democrats or conservative Blue Dogs, Politico.com reports.

The speaker has told Rep. Emanuel — who’s leaving his post as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus to become White House chief of staff — that she wants to be informed when representatives of the new administration have any contacts with her rank-and-file Democrats, and why, sources told Politico.

During President George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House, the administration set policy and Republicans in Congress were expected to follow it.

“Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are signaling that they won’t tolerate a repeat with a Democrat in the White House and Democratic majorities in the House and the Senate,” according to Politico.

Pelosi’s communications director, Brendan Daly, has said the speaker will work closely with Obama and Reid on an economic stimulus package and other legislation.

But “there is going to be tension,” a Democratic Party insider said. “She wants to know what they are up to.”

Shortly after Obama named Emanuel as his chief of staff, The Wall Street Journal predicted that “Emanuel's famously sharp elbows” are as likely to be wielded against his fellow Democrats as against Republicans.

“With Democrats now so dominant, the fiercest fights — and the ones that really matter — will take place among Democratic factions in the White House and Capitol Hill,” the paper said.

Pelosi helped fuel Emanuel’s rise in Washington by putting him in charge of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005. But she refused to back him when he expressed interest in running for majority whip, the post now held by South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn.

Editor's Note:



3. ‘Prosperity Gap’ Behind Riots in Greece

The violent unrest that followed the police shooting of a 15-year-old boy in Greece was fueled by the rage of young people discouraged by “a society where all initiative is stifled,” according to a report in the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Riots broke out in Athens and two dozen other Greek cities and towns after the shooting on Dec. 16. In Athens alone hundreds of stores have been destroyed and looted, cars burned, schools closed, and police attacked with rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Economic conditions and dissatisfaction with the government have to a large extent led young Greeks to go on a rampage.

The country’s political class has created discontent due to years of graft, kickbacks and “widespread corruption,” a European Union diplomat told Der Spiegel, and several ministers have been forced to step down.

On the economic front, Greece has one of the highest inflation rates on the continent, 4.5 percent, and while unemployment stands at 7.5 percent, “the prosperity gap between the older generation — senior workers and civil servants — and young people who are fresh out of school, continues to grow,” the magazine observed.

More than 20 percent of the population has a university degree, but there are few well-paying jobs for young graduates and nearly one quarter of all adults under the age of 29 are unemployed.

Many young graduates are forced to live with their parents until well into their 30s.

“Today’s generation of young people has had great dreams,” said Stavros Stavrides, an architecture professor. “Now all their hopes and opportunities have been dashed.”

And novelist Petros Markaris told Der Spiegel that neither the center-right conservatives nor the socialists are willing to let young people take their place in society. Today’s Greece, he said, stilfes all initiative.

Editor's Note:



4. Rep. Ellison Makes a Pilgrimage to Mecca

Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has also become the first sitting member to make a pilgrimage to Islam’s holy city of Mecca.

The Minnesota Democrat had been planning the weeklong trip for almost a year, according to his spokesman, Rick Jauert, and hadn’t expected the battle in Congress over the bailout of U.S. carmakers that was waged during his absence.

“The plans were made not anticipating there would be a lame-duck session at all, and if there was, it wouldn’t be this late,” Jauert told the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

“He had let the speaker and majority leader know that he was going, and they were OK with that.” Ellison told the St. Paul Pioneer Press about his pilgrimage: "It was transformative. It was a wonderful experience. I learned a lot about myself, about my faith."

Ellison, who converted from Catholicism to Islam at age 19, was first elected to Congress in 2006. He created controversy when he placed his hand on a Quran, not a Bible, during the photo-op re-enactment of his swearing-in ceremony.

Editor's Note:



5. Madoff Scandal Rocks Jewish Philanthropies

Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff’s securities fraud scandal is having devastating repercussions in the philanthropic world — including several prominent Jewish organizations.

Madoff, founder of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was arrested on Dec. 11 after allegedly admitting to his board that a hedge fund he ran was essentially a “giant Ponzi scheme” that officials say lost at least $50 billion.

The next day, The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation, which financed trips for Jewish youths to Israel, was forced to shut down because the money that supported its programs was invested with Madoff, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Two days after that, the Chais Family Foundation, which has given out some $12.5 million each year to Jewish causes in Israel and Eastern Europe, was also forced to close down after losing all of its money through investments with Madoff, according to the Jerusalem Post.

The same day, The Gift of Life Foundation, a Jewish bone marrow registry
that relied on Madoff as a benefactor, announced that it needed to raise nearly
$2 million immediately to make up for losses suffered through investments with Madoff.

Yeshiva University in New York, where Madoff served as treasurer of the board of trustees, has reportedly lost tens of millions of dollars.

The fallout from the Madoff scandal “could be even greater,” according to the Post, which observed: “Philanthropy insiders note that Madoff and others heavily invested in his fraudulent fund were major supporters of a plethora of nonprofit organizations, served on their boards or advised those organizations on how to invest their money — in some cases placing large sums of the groups’ capital in Madoff’s hands.”

Federal regulators froze the assets of Madoff’s company and appointed a receiver to manage the firm’s financial affairs.

Editor's Note:



6. Obama’s E-mail Flood Producing ‘Donor Fatigue’

Following Barack Obama’s victory on Election Day, his team has continued to bombard the roughly 13 million people on his campaign e-mail list with a torrent of fundraising solicitations via the Internet.

E-mails from Obama’s campaign Web site, his transition team’s site or BarackObama.com have taken a wide variety of approaches, from seeking contributions to help victims of the California wildfires to hawking such items as coffee mugs, calendars, T-shirts, and fleeced scarves.

And there is evidence of donor fatigue, according to Politico.com. In the 18 days after the election, Obama’s campaign reported receiving only $1.2 from contributors, compared to the $1 million a day he was raising at the end of the presidential race.

“The continuing solicitations have prompted some Democratic Internet strategists — as well as some list subscribers — to urge an end to them, or to question Team Obama’s online tact,” Politico reported.

Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick wrote an open letter to Obama declaring: “Dear Mr. President-elect, please take me off your spam list.”

It’s unclear what Obama will be able to do with his e-mail list or how he will use the Internet after he takes office. But he will have access to WhiteHouse.gov, the official presidential Web site.

Editor's Note:



7. We Heard . . .

THAT New York State is considering a tax on high-calorie soft drinks blamed for contributing to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

New York Gov. David Paterson reportedly intends to include the “obesity tax” on non-diet versions of popular beverages such as Coco-Cola and Pepsi in the draft of a budget that seeks to close the state’s $13 billion debt.

A number of states have sales taxes on soft drinks, sweets and snacks, but New York’s tax — around 15 percent — would be the first to distinguish between “diet” and non-diet products, according to the Financial Times.

A 2005 study by the Center for Science in the Public Interest determined that sugared soft drinks are the single largest source of calories in Americans’ diets.

THAT former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer had to note the irony when made his first public appearance since resigning office over a call-girl scandal — at a party held at a former massage parlor in Manhattan.

Spitzer, a new columnist for Slate, was on hand for the online magazine’s Christmas bash, the New York Post reported. The site is now a lounge called — more irony — Happy Ending.

THAT former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is the leading candidate to succeed Bill O’Reilly on his radio show, the Post is also reporting.

O’Reilly has announced that he is quitting the show “in the first quarter of next year,” and Westwood One, which syndicates the program, has begun negotiations with Rudy.

O’Reilly’s show is carried on 430 stations, and Talkers magazine estimates its weekly audience at more than 3.5 million.


Editor's Notes:

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