Durbin weighs in on Obama replacement

Obama mends fences with former rivals
CHICAGO Barack Obama's taking a page from a prize-winning book about Abraham Lincoln, called "Team of Rivals," which is about Lincoln's enlightened decision to appoint former political opponents to his cabinet to mend fences and get the benefit of different points of view.

Obama won't be appointing Republican opponent John McCain to a cabinet position, but the two will meet, and they'll presumably, they'll be working cooperatively on some issues.

As for a fellow Democrat and primary rival Hillary Clinton, she is reportedly under consideration for secretary of state.

"They're happy there's so much interest in transit," Clinton said to a group in Albany, New York.

Was Clinton's top-secret meeting in Chicago Thursday with president -elect Barack Obama? The president-elect is reportedly considering his vanquished Democratic primary rival for the most prestigious position in the new Obama cabinet, secretary of state, despite their foreign policy clashes during the rugged primary battle.

"I'm not going to speculate or address anything about the president-elect's administration, and I'm going to respect his process. I think any inquiries should be directed to his transition team," Clinton said.

"Senator Clinton is a very talented person. I don't know that any offer or decision has been made, but there are so many things she could do to add value to the administration," said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

Senator Durbin spoke to the media and the students at Jones Commercial High School in Chicago Friday, after he had lunch with Obama at transition headquarters on South Dearborn.

The two also discussed Monday's very public meeting between Obama and McCain, who could be helpful on issues of mutual agreement, like immigration, climate control, earmarks, and pursuing the war in Afghanistan.

"I'm hoping President-elect Obama can find an appropriate issue to work with McCain on. I think they can. The fact that they're meeting is a positive thing for this country," Durbin said.

As for Durbin, the number two Democrat in the Senate is envisioning a special relationship with a soon-to-be former Senate colleague whose potential he recognized before the rest of the political world. Senator Durbin was dealing with the tragic death of his daughter near Washington, D.C. So, he watched the big election night in Grant Park on television.

Durbin says his role in the Obama administration is likely to be as a, "first friend." He was the first prominent politician to encourage and endorse Obama's long-shot presidential bid.

Durbin has a bit of a dilemma as he tries to carve out a new relationship with his good friend and soon-to-be former Senate colleague Obama and tries, at the same time, to exert some influence over Governor Rod Blagojevich's selection of a new Illinois senator. Durbin has a chilly relationship with Blagojevich. But he is hoping for a meeting. And he is offering the governor some advice on what not to do.

"I stand by the governor's public pronouncement that he is not going to appoint himself. I think that is a wise decision," Durbin said.

Senator Durbin's said he's hoping for a new partner in Washington who is popular enough to keep the seat in Democratic hands in the 2010 election. And that's why he's advising Illinois' very unpopular Blagojevich not to appoint himself, or soon-to-be retiring Illinois Senate President Emil Jones, who is one of the governor's best political friends but apparently wants to hold the seat for two years and not run to keep it in 2010.

"I personally believe that whoever's appointed should be prepared to run for the job. So if the governor asks me my advice, that's what I would say," Durbin said.

Durbin coasted to an easy re-election victory on November 4 over little-known Republican Steven Sauerberg. But the veteran Democrat had to cancel his celebration and miss Obama's extravaganza in Grant Park because of the sudden death of his 40-year-old daughter in a Washington suburb just before the election.

"I had to be with my family. That was my first obligation. And I knew where I had to be. And Barack understood it and was kind enough to call me before and after. And so our friendship is as strong or stronger than it's ever been. And I'm just thankful for my family through a very difficult time," Durbin said.

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