Politics

Holder is Obama's top choice for AG

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

While his family visited Washington Tuesday, President-elect Barack Obama was hard at work in Chicago, shaping his administration.

On this transition Tuesday, the Obama girls are checking out their fancy new house on Pennsylvania Avenue -- with special attention on the bedrooms and all the cool play areas -- while dad, the president-elect, is back in Chicago checking out cabinet appointments, with special attention on their backgrounds and all the not-so-cool confirmation obstacles.

The big news: a tentative choice for attorney general that like Barack Obama. would be making history as the first African-American A.G.

The nation's first African-American attorney general is reportedly going to be a high-powered Washington lawyer, Eric Holder, who was deputy A.G. in the Clinton administration and may be familiar to some Chicagoans as Governor Blagojevich's choice to lead an investigation of suburban Rosemont as a potential site for a new gambling casino.

Holder's biggest obstacle in Senate confirmation hearings may be his decision to sign off on President Clinton's controversial pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich if Republican senators want to play hardball with the new Obama administration.

But Obama's unity meeting in Chicago Monday, with Republican opponent John McCain, and the likelihood of at least one Republican in the Obama cabinet, could provide the incoming president with enough political capital to safeguard his appointments, including his Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Clinton, who is likely to grab the most prestigious cabinet appointment, secretary of state.

"Listening to the talent he's looking at in the cabinet, that says a lot about Barack Obama," said Mayor Richard Daley.

The Clinton appointment probably depends on the vetting of Bill's lucrative and at times controversial business and philanthropic dealings in myriad countries around the worlds and the fundraising for the new Clinton library in Arkansas, according to Obama advisor Abner Mikva, who served as White House counsel for President Clinton.

"They talked about it and both have reasons for wanting to do it. There are problems they're going to look at," said Abner Mikva, former White House counsel.

One final note from the transition file: you may remember the name of Alan Keyes, the eccentric Republican who ran against Obama for the U.S. Senate in 2004. He filed a suit in California Tuesday that would hold up the awarding of California's electoral votes to Obama until he proves conclusively that he is a U.S. citizen born in Hawaii, not in a foreign country.

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