BEHIND THE NEWS: All in the Cabinet

December 3, 2008 12:59:07 PM PST
Voodoo economics. How could I forget that slap at Reaganomics (supply-side economics) by the man who tried to prevent Ronald Reagan from becoming President in 1980? The man who would be picked later to be Reagan's Vice President? George H.W. Bush.

I forgot.

But many of you didn't, and reminded me of it after my column yesterday about examples in modern times of Presidents picking Cabinet members and Vice Presidents who ran against them in the primaries.

I pointed out the selection of Lyndon Johnson as Pres. Kennedy's running mate, after a nasty convention floor fight in 1960.

So thank you.

The point of the column yesterday remains the same, however: Barack Obama, like no other victorious Presidential candidate since Lincoln, is selecting formal rivals for top Administration posts. Today, he picked his third -- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as Commerce Secretary. He joins Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton as former foes who will now be charged with espousing the Obama line.

For Biden and Richardson, it's not much of a challenge. For Clinton, it seems a bit more problematic. Her vote in favor of the war in Iraq was the central theme in Obama's primary campaign. It was, for many people, the main reason they shifted support from Clinton, who was at one time the Democratic Party frontrunner, to Obama, who touted that his position against the war remained constant and steadfast.

I know, I know, both Clinton and Obama insist they've put their differences behind them and that they're on the same page. But Sen. Clinton has never ever never ever never ever said she was wrong in her vote in favor of the war, and President-elect Obama has never ever never ever never ever said he was wrong about his opposition to the war.

Seems to me to be a more-than-minor conflict with this little nugget of political viewpoint, and there are many Obama supporters who are quietly wondering how and why he is now trusting Clinton to be the nation's chief diplomat who will help make the case for or against future military conflicts.

In addition, the news today that Obama has apparently abandoned his proposed windfall profits tax on big oil companies has caused some supporters to question what's happening to their candidate's promise to tax the wealthy. He's already said he'll postpone trying to curtail the Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

We'll have the latest on the transition, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest on the Plaxico Burress case. The Giants have resolved this season's dilemma for their star wide receiver - he's out. Shooting oneself in the leg tends to sideline even the fittest of athletes. That Burress needs help is obvious. Whether he spends years in prison for having a loaded and illegal gun at a nightclub remains up in the air.

Also on the table of public scrutiny - the roles of teammate Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress and drove him to the hospital; the hospital itself (Weill Cornell Medical Center, aka New York Presbyterian) for not reporting the shooting to the police; and the nightclub (the Latin Quarter) for allowing an armed man to get in.

We're also at the kickoff of the 50th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe. Kemberly Richardson is there for us tonight.

And finally, a sad note. The great singer Odetta died yesterday of heart failure at Lenox Hill Hospital here in New York. What a force she was - musically, politically, socially. For those of a certain age, Odetta was a musical goddess.

She'd been in failing health and in a wheelchair for the past two years. Still, she performed 60 concerts, 90 minutes each, during that time. Her singing ability, said her manager, never diminished.

Six years ago, at "Winter's Eve," the WABC TV -sponsored event in cooperation with Lincoln Center, I had the honor of introducing Odetta before she performed in concert. I'm re-printing it here, as our tribute to this legend. She will be missed.

From Dec. 2, 2002:

"This is the time of year when many of us reflect on our lives - what we've done in the past year, what kind of impact we've had - not just on our own individual lives, but on something greater, a larger community, whether it's our neighborhood, or a city, or a nation, or even the world.

In the end, that's one way to take the measure of a person - what kind of impact they've had on a community outside their own familial sphere.

And so how-full-the-measure of our guest performer tonight.

Odetta. A one-word name that, for more than half-a-century, has made and is still making a huge impact on the greater community.

Through her music, Odetta has tried and usually succeeded in doing something that today isn't very much in vogue. Speaking out. Telling the truth, even when the truth may not be popular. Telling the truth, even when a lot of people don't want to hear it.

She's one of the rare artists who easily navigates between and within the musical worlds that are uniquely American. Odetta defies any one label. Be it folk, or blues, or spirituals, or jazz, or work and protest songs. She has refused - lo these many years - to put herself or allow anyone else to categorize her into one musical box.

In fact, to the contrary, Odetta has embraced and been embraced by such a wide variety of musicians and songwriters and performers that, even if one were to try, it's virtually impossible to box her into one artistic category or box.

And aren't we all - the better for it. Odetta symbolizes everything that bonds us in the greater community of humanity.

She was born Odetta Holmes, in Birmingham, Alabama, on New Year's Eve, 1930. When she was 6, she moved to Los Angeles, my home town, and it was there she discovered and developed her music and her abilities.

Her voice - always so powerful, not simply in pitch, but in octane - socially and politically.

In 4 weeks, Odetta will celebrate her 72nd birthday.

Between now and then, she has no fewer than 7 performances scheduled. This is not a gal that's ready for Bingo, unless of course it's singing the song to a group of kids.

My first recollection of Odetta was seeing that album cover from the early 60s - with that thick, short Afro.

And she was so beautiful. On that cover - and in her music.

She's so beautiful still.

I'm so proud to introduce to you - Odetta."

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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