Mid-week open thread: New pope and latest Obama cabinet news

White smoke rose from the Vatican today after the cardinals selected Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina to be the next pope. He will be known as Pope Francis I. CORRECTION: He will be known as Pope Francis. According to John Allen Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter, Bergoglio was the “runner-up” to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger during the last papal conclave in 2005. More excerpts from Allen’s profile of the new pope are after the jump. Bergoglio was not considered a leading contender; one Irish betting site had the odds on his becoming pope at 25/1. On the other hand, he was one of the leading Latino contenders. Pope Francis I will be the first non-European pontiff. Last month Senator Tom Harkin said it would be a “great move in the right direction” for the cardinals to select a Latino pope. UPDATE: Added comments from Iowa bishops and Democratic State Representative Bruce Bearinger’s speech about the new pope on the Iowa House floor today.

SECOND UPDATE: Added Representative Bruce Braley’s comments on the new pope.

President Barack Obama has not announced any new cabinet appointments in the last few days, but Thomas Perez, currently head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, is rumored to be the next secretary of labor. He would face strong opposition from Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley.

Susan Rice, who withdrew her nomination for secretary of state late last year, may become the president’s next national security adviser.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge wrote to the president this week, expressing concern that none of Obama’s new cabinet appointees are African American.

Attorney General Eric Holder, appointed in Obama’s first term, remains the Obama administration’s only black Cabinet-level appointee. According to a Politics365 analysis released last week, that’s the fewest by any president over the last 38 years.

This is an open thread.

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Weekend open thread: Kerry to Secretary of State edition

Catching up on news from this week, UN Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration for secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s cabinet. Republicans had been hounding her for weeks over public comments she made soon after the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

CNN reported yesterday that as expected, Obama will now name Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. I had concerns about Rice in that job because of her financial interest in seeing the Keystone XL oil pipeline completed. But it was phenomenally stupid for Obama administration officials to leak that Kerry was plan B for secretary of state. That gave Senate Republicans every incentive to throw a temper tantrum over Rice. A special election in Massachusetts means just-defeated Scott Brown has a chance to come back to the Senate. Surprise, surprise: Republicans are going to confirm Kerry with no problems.

Although Obama hasn’t caved yet on letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire, the president still has a bad habit of rewarding people who don’t deal with him in good faith. Senate Republicans had no problem confirming Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state in 2005, even though she had been national security adviser at the time the Bush administration failed to anticipate and prevent the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Obama acknowledged what he called “unfair and misleading attacks” on Susan Rice, yet he is giving Republicans a chance to narrow the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate anyway.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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Open thread on Hillary Clinton and Obama's national security team

At MyDD Todd Beeton has excerpts from this morning’s press conference:

Obama’s introductory remarks are remarkably poetic. “America’s values are our country’s greatest export to the world.”

He’s announced his nomination of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state (“I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state…She will help restore our reputation around the world,”) Robert Gates at defense (“responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control”,) Eric Holder for Attorney General (“The Attorney General serves the American people…I have no doubt he will uphold the constitution,”) Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security (“she insists on competence and accountability,”) Susan Rice as Ambassador to the UN and Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

“We will shape our times instead of being shaped by them.” […]

As for his choice of Clinton at state, “it was not a lightbulb moment…she shares my core values and the values of the American people. I was always interested after the primary was over in finding ways to collaborate…It occurred to me that she could potentially be an outstanding secretary of state, I offered her the position and she accepted.”

On whether he still intends to remove troops from Iraq in 16 months: “Remember what I said during the campaign. I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months keeping in mind that it might be necessary to maintain a residual force…As I said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders.”

Like I said last week, I have a bad feeling Gates and Jones were chosen in order to give Obama cover for breaking his campaign promises on Iraq.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press has details about the deal Bill Clinton made to allow his wife to become Barack Obama’s secretary of state. Apparently, the former president agreed:

-to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward.

-to refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

-to cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

-to volunteer to step away from day to day management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state.

-to submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel.

-to submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

I still think Hillary Clinton would be able to accomplish more over her lifetime as a senator from New York, but clearly she was strongly motivated to accept this position in Obama’s government.

However, I continue to be amused by the anguished commentaries from those Obama supporters who got too wrapped up in the primary battle to deal with Hillary in her new role.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

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Open thread on Obama's national security team

According to ABC, Barack Obama will roll out his national security team soon after this weekend.  

All indications suggest that Hillary Clinton will become secretary of state.

ABC says keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates on for at least a year is "a done deal." Others likely to be appointed include  

Marine Gen. Jim Jones (Ret.) as National Security Adviser; Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.) as Director of National Intelligence; and Dr. Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

 Todd Beeton goes over the pros and cons of keeping Gates in place.

 A lot of Obama supporters seem comfortable with this decision. If the new president keeps his promise to withdraw most of our troops from Iraq safely within 16 months, there’s an argument for sticking with someone at Defense who’s already familiar with the situation on the ground. My main concern is that Gates will strenuously argue that we need to keep a large contingent in Iraq and give Obama cover to break his campaign promise.

Looks like no one who opposed the Iraq war from the start will be in Obama’s inner circle on foreign policy.

In the unambiguously good news column, John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Glenn Greenwald (among others) made the case against Brennan last week.

UPDATE: Jon Soltz, co-founder of VoteVets, argues that “the Gates pick works.”

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