Obama continues transition, foreign policy test begins

Sometime today (Friday 11/7) we’re expecting the first official press conference from President-elect Obama on the current state of his transition and his response to many things which have popped up in the past few days.

First, Israel is warning of threats and Russia seems to be already trying to test the new President before he’s even inaugurated, story from The Daily Mail:

Barack Obama was confronting a looming international crisis just hours after his White House election triumph.

The U.S. President-elect faced a triple threat with Russia, Israel and Afghanistan all threatening to test his mettle.

Locked away in his Chicago home, Mr Obama received his first national security intelligence briefing yesterday as he wrestled with appointments for his Cabinet.

He ventured out twice, once to visit his local gym and then his downtown offices.

Each time he was escorted by a convoy of black vehicles carrying heavily armed secret service agents.

Aides said he planned no public appearances until later in the week.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was first to lay down a challenge to America’s new leader – by increasing tension in a stand off reminiscent of the Cold War.

In a provocative speech from the Kremlin, he threatened to base warheads along the Polish border if Mr Obama goes forward with a Bush administration plan to create a missile shield in Eastern Europe.

Then Israel warned last night that the new U.S. Commander-in-Chief’s campaign claim that he was ready to open talks with Iran could be seen in the Middle East as a sign of weakness.

After eight years of staunch support from President Bush, the Israelis are now watching Mr Obama closely – even though he does not take power until January – looking for indicators as to how he will handle the nuclear threat from Tehran.

‘We live in a neighbourhood in which dialogue – in a situation where you have brought sanctions and you then shift to dialogue – is liable to be interpreted as weakness,’ said Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni.

Asked if she supported any U.S. talks with Iran, she quickly said: ‘The answer is no.’

In a step that will further increase Israel’s anxiety about Obama, Tehran announced last night that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had broken a 29-year tradition and sent his congratulations to the President-elect – the first time an Iranian leader has offered such wishes since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Ahmadinejad congratulated the Democrat on ‘attracting the majority of voters in the election’.

He said he hoped Obama will ‘use the opportunity to serve the (American) people and leave a good n
Robert Gibbs will be named the White House press secretary, a top Democratic official said.

Robert Gibbs, a top aide to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his campaign and in his Senate office, will be named the White House press secretary, a top Democratic official said.

Gibbs was usually the senior official on Air Obama, the campaign plane. As communications director of Obama’s Senate office, Gibbs was a key strategist in Obama’s rapid move to the national stage.

Transition planning is still at an early stage and the job has not been formally offered or accepted, officials said.

The announcement is likely to be viewed favorably by reporters because Gibbs has unquestioned authority, access and institutional memory. ame for history’ during his term in office.

Iran and the U.S. have had no formal diplomatic relations since 1979 when militant Iranian students held 52 Americans captive 444 days.

President Bush has repeatedly clashed with Tehran over its nuclear program and its opposition to the U.S.-led invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai demanded that Mr Obama ‘put an end to civilian casualties’ by changing U.S. military tactics to avoid airstrikes in the war on the Taliban.

I personally can’t imagine the pressure Obama is under right now. After two years of hard campaigning, he’s now almost immediately having to begin dealing with the hard issues facing our country.

Report on all this from the Associated Press:

Another report on the transition between President Bush and President-elect Obama, from CBS News:

In other transition news, Robert Gibbs has been named as White House Press Secretary, report from Politico:

Robert Gibbs, a top aide to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his campaign and in his Senate office, will be named the White House press secretary, a top Democratic official said.

Gibbs was usually the senior official on Air Obama, the campaign plane. As communications director of Obama’s Senate office, Gibbs was a key strategist in Obama’s rapid move to the national stage.

Transition planning is still at an early stage and the job has not been formally offered or accepted, officials said.

The announcement is likely to be viewed favorably by reporters because Gibbs has unquestioned authority, access and institutional memory.

Gibbs — a 37-year-old native of Auburn, Ala. — became familiar to viewers during the campaign for his sunny steeliness during frequent appearances on morning shows and A-list cable news programs.

From his July promotion announcement: “Robert Gibbs, one of Senator Obama’s longest-serving and closest aides, has been elevated to Senior Strategist for Communications and Message, taking on a broader strategic portfolio for the Fall campaign while continuing to serve as senior communications aide travelling with Senator Obama.”

The “podium job” makes the White House press secretary instantly famous around the world as the face and voice of Washington.

Amazingly, on another front, the turnout in 2008 was very close to the turnout in 2004, report from CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new report from American University’s Center for the Study of the American Electorate concludes that voter turnout in Tuesday’s election was the same in percentage terms as it was four years ago — or at most has risen by less than 1 percent.

The report released Thursday estimates that between 126.5 and 128.5 million Americans cast ballots in the presidential election earlier this week. Those figures represent 60.7 percent or, at most, 61.7 percent of those eligible to vote in the country.

“A downturn in the number and percentage of Republican voters going to the polls seemed to be the primary explanation for the lower than predicted turnout,” the report said. Compared to 2004, Republican turnout declined by 1.3 percentage points to 28.7 percent, while Democratic turnout increased by 2.6 points from 28.7 percent in 2004 to 31.3 percent in 2008.

“Many people were fooled (including this student of politics although less so than many others) by this year’s increase in registration (more than 10 million added to the rolls), citizens’ willingness to stand for hours even in inclement weather to vote early, the likely rise in youth and African American voting, and the extensive grassroots organizing network of the Obama campaign into believing that turnout would be substantially higher than in 2004,” Curtis Gans, the center’s director, said in the report. “But we failed to realize that the registration increase was driven by Democratic and independent registration and that the long lines at the polls were mostly populated by Democrats.”

Some experts also note that national turnout trends may mask higher turnout in swing states with more intensive attempts by both campaigns to get their supporters to the polls. Several large states, including California and New York, had no statewide races and virtually no advertising or get-out-the-vote efforts by either presidential campaign.

According to the report, several Southern states — North Carolina, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, and Mississippi — and the District of Columbia saw the greatest increases in voter turnout.

Overall turnout was highest in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, South Dakota and North Carolina, according to the report.

In 2004, 122 million Americans voted in the general election.

McCain’s biggest issue wasn’t Obama, instead it seemed to be the lack of GOP turnout, amongst many conservative voters. Even with Gov. Palin, McCain still struggled with conservatives it seems.