• Team Obama announced Bill Richardson for commerce secretary today, and the rumor mill has Richard Holbrooke as special diplomatic envoy to South Asia, Rep. Xavier Becerra for U.S. trade representative, and Louis Caldera for director of the White House Military Office.
  • Democrat Jim Martin, unsurprisingly, lost his runoff against Sen. Saxby Chambliss in Georgia yesterday by double digits and Al Franken is claiming that he is now ahead of Norm Coleman in the Minnesota recount. That assessment relies on a different methodology than that used by the Minnesota state canvassing board, however.
  • Marc Ambinder reports that Jeb Bush is mulling a run for the Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez in 2010, noting that the former Florida governor would be unlikely to face a primary challenge. Meanwhile, Nick Beaudrot comes out against Democrat Allen Boyd running for the seat, noting that Boyd was part of the 2005 effort to give bipartisan cover to president Bush's attempt to privatize Social Security.
  • While Barack Obama has signaled that he will replace all Bush-appointed ambassadors, The Washington Post reports that the Obama advance team is scouring federal agencies: "With pointed questions and clear ground rules, they are dissecting agency initiatives, poring over budgets and unearthing documents that may prove crucial as a new Democratic president assumes control. Their job is to minimize the natural tension between incoming and outgoing administrations, but their work also is creating anxiety among some Bush administration officials as the teams rigorously examine programs and policies." More, please.
  • I have to take issue with this characterization of questions about the constitutionality of Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state as some sort of wingnut plot. It's true that Judicial Watch is pushing the issue, but it's not as if the controversy was hatched by the Federalist Society and has no legal basis -- the Emoluments Clause is in the Constitution. Putting this and the precedent of the Saxbe fix aside, it's worth looking at simply doing away with the emoluments clause rather than revisiting this issue every four years (or less). The idea that Clinton deliberately voted for a payraise for herself in 2006 in anticipation of being appointed to the Obama cabinet is just ridiculous.
  • Today's great blog debate: Is "soft power" really an appropriate term for describing non-military power? Matt Yglesias thinks it needs to be retired. Kevin Drum suggests some alternative terms. Steve Benen recalls Ezra's observation earlier this year that it's the second term that's really the problem, not the first. Perhaps it's best to use "influence." After all, that's what we're talking about, right -- the ability of the United States to influence others without the threat of the military?
  • Steve Benen observes that conservatives are whining about the new Capitol Hill Visitor Center's lack of references to the role of "the faith of the Founding Fathers and other prominent figures" and Michelle Goldberg fields a call from the National Committee for Faith and Family featuring a recorded message from Newt Gingrich about "the relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square." If this is conservatism's best effort to reform and reinvent itself, I am not impressed.

--Mori Dinauer