WASHINGTON (CNN) –A Florida congresswoman – convinced she was being prank-called by a Barack Obama sound-alike – hung up on the actual president-elect Wednesday.
Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was told by an aide that Obama wanted to speak with her. According to a statement released by her office, the Republican congresswoman cut off the caller, telling him she thought “this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks.” She then hung up.
Obama’s future White House chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel – a fellow congressman – then called her to let her know she’d actually been speaking with the future commander-in-chief. Ros-Lehtinen, convinced the call was another hoax, hung up on him, too.
Finally, an aide told Ros-Lehtinen she had an urgent call from Chairman Howard Berman, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Still suspicious, Ros-Lehtinen urged the California Democrat to recount a story only both of them would know.
Berman passed the test - and told her she had, in fact, hung up on President-elect Obama.
(CNN) – Oprah Winfrey is heading to Washington.
The talk show host told Access Hollywood Tuesday night that she will tape her inauguration week shows in the nation’s capital, and has rented the Kennedy Center’s lush Opera House – which seats roughly 2,300 - to serve as her studio for the week.
"I'm going to break that right here; that's where I'm going to be," she said. "See you there . . . that's the place to be."
Winfrey, who fundraised for Obama, appeared with him in several key primary states, including Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. She was also on hand for his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention in Denver, and his victory speech in Chicago last month.
“There are not even words to talk about what this night means,” Oprah told Access Hollywood that night. “Everybody keeps using the word historic — there’s never been a night like this on the planet earth… Nothing can compare to this.”
(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Duncan told CNN he will spend the coming weekend deciding whether to run for another term at the helm of the GOP, and could announce his decision Monday.
Duncan said he is torn about what to do - he said he likes his job very much, but also feels it may time for him to return home to Kentucky after being at the RNC for eight years.
Duncan's deliberations come as several other Republicans are publicly eying his post, following two straight election cycles during which the GOP suffered stinging defeats.
Duncan has steadily risen through the ranks of the RNC over the last decade. In 2001 he was elected the committee's treasurer and was named general counsel in 2002. In 2007, President Bush tapped him to replace outgoing RNC chairman Ken Mehlman.
If he enters the race, Duncan will face a long list of challengers: former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, former Mike Huckabee campaign manager and ex-Tennessee Republican party Chairman Chip Saltsman, and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis have already declared they are seeking Duncan's job.
An RNC source close to Duncan later called to say the announcement may not come until later next week.
(CNN) – Gov. Bill Richardson showed up to his press conference with President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday morning without the beard he has been sporting since dropping out of the presidential race in January, sparking his new boss to tell reporters he is "deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard."
"I'm going to answer this question about the beard," said Obama, when Richardson was asked where the facial hair went. "I think it was a mistake for him to get rid of it. I thought that whole Western, rugged look was really working for him.
"For some reason, maybe because it was scratchy when he kissed his wife, he was forced to get rid of it.," Obama continued as his nominee for commerce secretary smiled broadly. "But we're deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard."
Obama didn't let Richardson answer the question, but the New Mexico governor told Esquire Magazine in an interview posted online Wednesday that "After the campaign, I grew a beard as a rebellion against those consultants who told me I had to comb my hair, shave, lose weight. I said, You know, I’m gonna do what I want now. That was a good feeling."
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Secretary of Homeland Security-designate Janet Napolitano received a bi-partisan commission briefing Wednesday on potential attacks involving weapons of mass destruction. The commission’s chairman, former Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, didn’t mince words when he told the two members of the incoming administration that “it is more likely than not that between now and the year 2013 there will be a weapon of mass destruction used someplace in the world.”
After reviewing the 'World at Risk' report from the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism, Biden said that the government is not doing all it can to prevent a possible WMD attack.
“The answer that jumps out very starkly is no, we’re not doing all we can or should. And we’re not doing all we can to prevent the world’s most lethal weapons from winding up in the hands of terrorists,” said Biden. “But this report is, in my view, more than a warning about what we’re doing wrong, it’s a pragmatic blueprint how to get it right...”
Graham and Sen. Jim Talent led the bi-partisan commission that was established by Congress as a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission. Talent focused his comments Wednesday on steps they believe the government needs to take, including regulating work on biological pathogens and Pakistan’s nuclear elements because the country is “the nexus of all these threats right now and it’s deteriorating.”
Talent joked that he and Graham flipped a coin to see who would deliver the bad news, a duty that clearly fell to Graham as he told Biden, Napolitano and his fellow members of the Commission that terrorist groups are progressing, are more nimble and the ease of acquiring a biological weapon has increased.
“This leads us to the conclusion, one, that we have been losing ground and we are less secure today that we have been in the recent past,” said Graham. “Number two, that the threat is that it is more likely than not that between now and the year 2013 there will be a weapon of mass destruction used someplace in the world. And third, that it is more likely that that weapon will be biological than nuclear.”
Gov. Napolitano kept her remarks brief but reiterated that “the threat, whether nuclear, biological, chemical, radiological is a very real one indeed.” The Arizona governor said she would act on the commission’s recommendations in the Department of Homeland Security “with the urgency called for by the nature of the threat that confronts us.”
After the foursome made their introductory remarks to the press, reporters were ushered out so the group could continue to discuss the commission’s findings in private. Asked by CNN if his role in the administration had been clearly defined, Biden ignored the question.
Ed Rendell is the governor of Pennsylvania. He’s been in politics long enough that he should know you don’t say stuff around an open microphone that can come back to bite you in your situation.
And if you’re a male chauvinist you should be extra careful.
Yesterday Rendell was commenting on the nomination of Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to be the head of the Department of Homeland Security. There was an open microphone nearby and we were treated to Rendell’s musings that Napolitano would be perfect for the job because she has “no life.”
To read more and contribute to the Cafferty File discussion click here
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new national poll suggests that Americans think President-elect Barack Obama's getting it right when it comes to his Cabinet picks, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates.
Seventy-five percent of those questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey approve of Obama's Cabinet choices, with 22 percent disapproving. That's 16 points higher than those in favor of then President-elect George W. Bush's Cabinet picks eight years ago.
The poll indicates that 71 percent approve of Obama's nomination of Clinton, the senator from New York, as his secretary of state. Democrats overwhelming approve of the choice, with two-thirds of independents agreeing and Republicans split on the pick.
Clinton and Obama were rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination during the very long and bitter primary season and the two didn't see eye to eye on some major international issues.
But the poll, conducted Monday and Tuesday, suggests that when Clinton and Obama disagree, Clinton won't go rogue.
"Will Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton try to push their own foreign policy agenda? Americans say no,"states CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Fifty-seven percent say that Clinton will follow Obama's policies rather than her own when she disagrees with the president and 54 percent think that her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will stay out of U.S. foreign policy.
(CNN) – Microsoft founder Bill Gates told CNN Wednesday he hopes President-elect Barack Obama and Congress immediately craft a wide-ranging stimulus package to help jump-start the nation's sputtering economy, and double the United State's commitment to foreign aid.
"Clearly we need a stimulus that doesn’t undermine the incentive for businesses to be careful about their spending and making those correct investments," Gates told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview airing on The Situation Room Wednesday and Thursday.
Watch Bill Gates on the economy
Gates, among the world's richest men and founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, is also calling on the future commander-in-chief to increase investments in the nation's education system and spur technological advances to improve agriculture, prevent disease, and economic growth in the world's poorest nations.
OPEN LETTER: Sign up for Gate's candid take
"The key point I’d make is that in addition to that stimulus, you’ve got to fund the kind of scientific work and educational investments that could really have us be a much better country as we emerge from the recession," he said.
(CNN) WASHINGTON – As Americans start the annual tradition of sending out Christmas cards, preparing Christmas dinner menus, and decorating their home for the holidays, President and Mrs. Bush have a decidedly larger task at hand.
Besides lighting the National Christmas tree Thursday night, President and Mrs. Bush will get into the holiday spirit by hosting 25 receptions, seven holiday dinners, mailing out 1.25 million holiday cards and creating a gingerbread house with more than 475 pounds of gingerbread and white chocolate.
Their home will have 780 feet of garland, 27 Christmas trees, 232 wreaths and 412 poinsettias (presidential pets Barney and Mrs. Beasley beware).
And if you’re lucky enough to be invited to one of the receptions or holiday dinners you’ll have a shot at trying one of the 22,000 Christmas cookies, 250 coconut cakes, 600 pounds of asparagus or 700 gallons of eggnog, among other items. It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the White House.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The chairman of the Republican Governor's Association wrote to President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday, urging him to steer clear of industry bailouts and pressing for conservative solutions to the ailing economy.
In the letter, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford thanked Obama for taking time to meet with him and the rest of the nation's governors in Philadelphia on Tuesday, and promised to work with the new administration to confront the country's economic woes.
But he expressed "earnest concerns with the direction some in Washington, D.C. seem to be headed with the recent so-called 'economic recovery efforts.'"
Alluding to the failure of some Wall Street investment firms and the weakness of the domestic automobile industry, Sanford wrote that "we must be wary of the moral hazard present in the idea of bailing out the private of public sector - for what in some cases were poor decisions."
Sanford, who has long pressed the Republican party to return to its small government principles, proceeded to outline four proposals to revitalize the economy: keeping taxes low, expanding international trade beginning with approval of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement, preventing the expansion of union power by not enacting "card check" legislation, and slashing government spending.
Sanford's spokesman Joel Sawyer said the note was officially written in his capacity as South Carolina's governor, not as president of the RGA, telling CNN there is "a broad degree of consensus from GOP governors on the general themes, but not every governor agrees with every point."