- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2009

FCC

Obama classmate tapped for chief

President-elect Barack Obama has selected Julius Genachowski, a technology executive and former classmate from Harvard Law School, to lead the Federal Communications Commission, a Democratic source said Monday.

Mr. Genachowski served as chief counsel for Reed Hundt, the FCC chairman under President Clinton, and held various positions at IAC/InterActiveCorp, as well as other technology posts.

Mr. Genachowski, who has been advising Mr. Obama, had been considered the front-runner for the job.

GUANTANAMO

Obama readies shutdown order

President-elect Barack Obama is preparing to issue an executive order his first week in office - and perhaps his first day - to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said two presidential transition team advisers.

It’s not likely the detention facility at the Navy base in Cuba will be closed any time soon. In an interview last weekend, Mr. Obama said it would be “a challenge” to close it, even within the first 100 days of his administration.

But the order, which one adviser said could be issued as early as Jan. 20, would start the process of deciding what to do with the estimated 250 al Qaeda and Taliban suspects and potential witnesses who are being held there. Most have not been charged with a crime.

The Guantanamo directive would be one of a series of executive orders Mr. Obama is planning to issue shortly after he takes office next Tuesday, the two advisers said. Also expected is an executive order about certain interrogation methods, but details were not available Monday.

PRESIDENCY

Bush farewell set for Thursday night

President Bush will give a farewell address to the nation Thursday night, billed by the administration as a chance to reflect on his tenure and welcome his successor, Barack Obama, without fighting old battles one last time.

Mr. Bush will deliver the speech, expected to run 10 to 15 minutes, from the ornate East Room of the White House. He will have a small audience of people in the room, chosen for their stories of personal courage.

White House press secretary Dana Perino said Monday that Mr. Bush will “uphold the tradition of presidents using farewell addresses to look forward - by sharing his thoughts on greatest challenges facing the country, and on what it will take to meet them.”

The president also will defend his record, Mrs. Perino said, but will show graciousness toward Mr. Obama and not attempt to revisit the old battles of his presidency.

Mr. Bush will speak in prime time, although no specific time has been set. The White House has requested airtime from the major television networks.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Obama promises new ties to Mexico

Barack Obama told Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Monday that he would work to strengthen U.S. ties with Mexico, especially in the field of energy.

“My message today is that my administration is going to be ready on Day One to work to build a stronger relationship with Mexico,” Mr. Obama said after visiting with Mr. Calderon over a lunch of tortilla soup and other Mexican dishes.

It was Mr. Obama’s first meeting with a foreign leader since his November election.

“The friendship between the United States and Mexico has been strong. I believe it can be even stronger, and that’s going to be the commitment of my administration,” the president-elect told reporters in Washington.

“This will be the beginning of an extraordinary age in the relationship between the United States and Mexico,” Mr. Calderon said.

PENTAGON

Mullen: Might isn’t always right

The nation’s top military officer said it’s too easy to hand off foreign-policy problems to the well-organized, well-funded Pentagon, but that diplomacy is sometimes best left to diplomats.

“We should be more willing to break this cycle, and say when armed forces may not always be the best choice to take the lead,” Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.

Adm. Mullen said civilian agencies, including the State Department, deserve more money and support, because they often can do a better job of projecting American policy and ideas. It’s tempting to turn first to the can-do military when problems arise, Adm. Mullen said, but the experience of the Vietnam War gives him “an acute understanding of the finite application of force abroad, as well as its impact at home.”

Adm. Mullen did not mention more recent conflicts, such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, although top military leaders have said both will be resolved mostly through political settlements.

Adm. Mullen is the top military adviser to the president, and he will stay on to work for President-elect Barack Obama.

TRANSITION

Michelle Obama quits hospital post

CHICAGO | Michelle Obama has resigned from her job as vice president of the University of Chicago medical center to concentrate on being the country’s first lady, her former boss said Monday.

“Michelle Obama has resigned her leadership post at the University of Chicago Medical Center as she prepares to take on her new role at the White House as first lady,” the center said.

“We are so very proud of Michelle personally, and we are very thankful for her professional accomplishments in creating and expanding the strategic vision for the Office of Community Affairs,” said James Madara, the center’s director.

Mrs. Obama was the center’s vice president for community and external affairs. In 2007, she went part time and then took unpaid leave in order to help her husband during his White House campaign.

STIMULUS

Congress considers extra SSI payment

More than 7 million poor people who are elderly, blind or disabled and receive cash benefits averaging $477 a month could get an extra monthly payment as part of President-elect Barack Obama’s $800 billion economic-recovery plan.

Democratic congressional aides said the idea of an extra Supplemental Security Income payment is gaining traction on Capitol Hill as lawmakers and staff aides hold daily meetings to work out details of the upcoming stimulus bill. The aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations.

Democratic lawmakers hope to have an economic-stimulus bill ready for Mr. Obama’s signature by mid-February, although officials indicated Monday night that numerous provisions are unsettled.

Several said the emerging legislation likely will provide at least $70 billion over the next two years to help states meet the demand for Medicaid and an additional $25 billion to help individuals who cannot afford to pay for private, post-employment health care benefits.

INAUGURATION

Foreign leaders told to stay home

President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration next week will be a landmark event in world history, but don’t look for any foreign leaders in the crowds expected to throng the ceremony. They’re not invited.

The State Department last week informed all foreign embassies in Washington that, in keeping with past practice, their ambassadors and spouses can come to the event to represent their countries. Officials from their capitals, however, must stay home.

“These invitations are only for the chiefs of diplomatic missions and their spouses and are not transferable,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in a diplomatic note sent to the embassies Jan. 6.

An earlier note, sent by Miss Rice to the embassies on Nov. 24, says the exclusion of foreign leaders and top government officials is customary for U.S. presidential inaugurations.

MUJAHEDEEN

Iraq group stays on U.S. terror list

The State Department has reaffirmed its designation of an Iraq-based Iranian opposition group as a terrorist organization.

The presence in Iraq of the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran has long been a source of friction between Washington and Baghdad, which is under pressure from neighboring Iran to deport the group.

The People’s Mujahedeen filed a petition for revocation of its designation as a terrorist organization. But Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote in a notice published Monday in the Federal Register that after reviewing the case she determined the designation remains valid and appropriate.

A Paris-based spokesman for the group, Shahin Gobadi, said in an e-mail response to Miss Rice’s statement that the organization did not expect Miss Rice to revoke the designation, but filed the petition as a necessary step to going to court.

“We will take the case to the court, and we will win,” Mr. Gobadi said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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