Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: Wednesday, Dec 17


President-elect Barack Obama is almost done with his first chore.

Obama, who takes office on Jan. 20, holds a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday to announce he has picked former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to head the agriculture department and Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar as interior secretary.USA-POLITICS/

With those selections, Obama moves closer to filling the last of the Cabinet posts in his administration, with nominees for transportation, labor and U.S. Trade Representative still to be named. 

It is a rapid pace for the next president, who has moved faster than his recent predecessors in making Cabinet selections. He hoped to have most of them out of the way before he heads to Hawaii on vacation at the end of the week. 

Detroit’s Big Three automakers hope Bush administration officials move as fast, as they wait for word on a bailout that could keep them solvent. 

Senior Democratic lawmakers said on Monday they expected action from the Bush administration as early as Wednesday on financing that would likely take the stricken companies through early 2009. 

from Commodity Corner:

First in, first out in the USDA hunt

One of the great rules of inventory management -- first in, first out -- could apply to the process of deducing who will be agriculture secretary in the Obama administration with a wry renaming. In this iteration, it is "first named, first discarded."

The list of potential nominees deemed as front-runners or consensus choices to run USDA has churned continuously since Barack Obama won the presidential election. And it is unclear when a nominee will be named. Most of the front-runners have faded from attention like flowers at the approach of winter.

In early November, the list of potential nominees was filled with Washington heavyweights, like National Farmers Union president Tom Buis or former Texas Rep. Charles Stenholm, along with former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.