ThinkFast: November 20, 2008

Politico reports that President-elect Obama has chosen Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) to serve as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Napolitano is a border governor who “brings law-and-order experience from her stint as the Grand Canyon State’s first female attorney general.”

A Texas judge has set a Friday arraignment for Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and others named in indictments accusing them of responsibility for prisoner abuse in a South Texas federal detention center. “Presiding Judge Manuel Banales said Wednesday he will allow them to waive arraignment or have their attorneys present rather than appear in person at the hearing.”

In the past week, the Bush administration “has adopted several hot-button regulatory changes long sought by business groups.” The changes include “new rules that open the way for commercial development of oil shale on federal land, allow truckers to drive for longer periods, and add certain restrictions on employee time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Antiwar groups “are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama’s national security team will be dominated” by hawkish appointees who favored the Iraq war. “Obama ran his campaign around the idea the war was not legitimate, but it sends a very different message when you bring in people who supported the war from the beginning,” said Iraq Veterans Against the War Executive Director Kelly Dougherty.

Relations between Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid are “in tatters,” Roll call reports. Republicans say that the “sudden deterioration in relations…is a direct result of what they view as an overly aggressive Democratic effort to unseat McConnell.”The health insurance industry’s two major trade associations said yesterday “would support a health care overhaul requiring insurers to accept all customers, regardless of illness or disability. But in return, the industry said, Congress should require all Americans to have coverage.”

The stock market suffered “another terrible day” yesterday, dropping below 8,000 points for the first time since 2003. “New-home starts in October were the lowest since at least 1959,” and the “consumer price index plummeted by the most since that series of monthly data was started in 1947, as the economy slowed so abruptly that companies had to slash prices to sell products.”

On the first day of Minnesota’s election recount, Democrat Al Franken gained a net of 43 votes. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver writes that Sen. Norm Coleman “had a lead of 215 voters over Franken in Minnesota’s certified, pre-recount tally; that margin is now 172 votes.” A state judge also granted Franken access to the “rosters of disqualified absentee voters…to determine if they were properly rejected in the counting of ballots.”

And finally: Yesterday, the Hill asked Senate Democrats their thoughts on the outgoing Vice President Cheney. Sen. Carl Levin said that he is “colder, more aloof” than previous vice presidents. Sen. Harry Reid noted his disagreements with Cheney: “I’m trying to think of something I agree with; I haven’t found it yet.” Asked about his relationship with Cheney four years after the vice president infamously told him to “Go f — k yourself,” Sen. Patrick Leahy said, “I love him.” He later clarified: “That’s a joke.”