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Saturday 23 August 2014

US DIARY ORLA HEALY

Published 11/11/2012 | 05:00

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Barack Obama knew exactly what number to dial the minute he put down the phone after Mitt Romney's "classy" concession call on Tuesday night. He also knew that thanking Bill Clinton for being his most effective campaign surrogate would fire up speculation that he will back Hillary Clinton in 2016 and not, as some party stalwarts had hoped, Vice President Joe Biden.

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And just in case that message got lost, senior Obama strategist David Axelrod appeared on CNN the following night to make the president's new course clear.

"As he said to President [Bill] Clinton, he was the most valuable player in this campaign," Axelrod revealed, referencing the high-five dialogue between the freshly minted Team of Rivals.

"He [Clinton] just campaigned his heart out because he believes there were two choices here, and one led us forward, and one led us back, and he was very effective out there. . . So, there is a strong sense of gratitude, and I think the president is looking forward to calling on President Clinton, in the future, for advice, counsel, and assistance."

Hillary, of course, has yet to decide whether she will make another run at the Oval Office. She is, however, on track to resign as Secretary of State early in the New Year -- a move that will allow her the breathing space necessary to make a decision and, one way or the other, "unfreeze" the Democratic hopefuls waiting in the wings. Unlike the 2012 race, the first presidential campaign that didn't feature a member of the Clinton or Bush dynasty since 1976, the 2016 race (which already has its own vertical on the Huffington Post) is shaping up to be a potential resurrection for both political brands with former Florida Governor (aka W's little brother) Jeb Bush looming large for the GOP.

Michelle wins in astute style

MICHELLE Obama, who has taken plenty of flak for her fashion choices over the last four years, silenced critics when, in cahoots with stylist Meredith Koop, she created a stylishly nuanced tableau for the First Family's victorious appearance at McCormick Place convention centre.

Mrs Obama's decision to recycle a silk magenta Michael Kors pin-tucked dress was cute and astute (fiscal cliff = fiscal restraint). It also gave the fashion flock the opportunity to focus on daughters Malia and Sasha, who played their parts to perfection.

Sasha, 11, came out on top for her age-appropriate glamour: a high-waisted abstract-print green Chris Benz skirt (soon to be reissued from his spring 2010 collection) worn with J Crew green/black cap-toe ballet flats, a bow-trimmed Zara top, gray cardi and a tangle of glittery necklaces, including a pink one that matched the skinny Zara belt that cinched 14-year-old Malia's peacock blue ASOS circle skirt (which matched her dad's tie), paired with a basic black boat-neck top and black J Crew flats.

President Obama, who wore his Sunday-best dark suit, white shirt and blue tie didn't fare as well with the fashion commentators, scoring just a B+ grade from WWD in its 'Man of the Week' feature. "He's swimming in his jacket ... [and] there's enough room for all his electoral votes in [his] pants," carped the critics, adding that he looked "exhausted and drawn" from the campaign trail.

The folks over at Businessweek magazine, who are also taking issue with his looks, are running a photo-shopped image showing a wrinkled, white-haired Obama on the cover. The picture's message, with the headline 'The Next Four Years', is as plain as it is stark. "The opposition remains considerable, and no matter how successful he is, the hardest job in the world will take its toll," the editors wrote on their Facebook page. Mr Romney: now would be your chance to crack a smile.

Hillary a hard act to follow

GREY hair will be the least of Obama's problems over the next few weeks, let alone years. Apart from dealing with the imminent danger of a nation teetering on economic disaster, the president has to oversee a high-voltage game of musical chairs as some of his most trusted lieutenants prepare to jump ship.

First off, officials say, Obama must find a successor to follow Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and calm a jittery Wall Street. Word is he may also be soon looking for candidates to fill the rather large shoes of Defence Secretary Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and US Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

The real headache, though, will be filling the Secretary of State slot. While the White House will be lucky to find anyone who has Hillary's panache for politicking, it is highly likely that the woman believed to be Obama's first choice, current US ambassador to the United Nations Susan (no relation to Condi) Rice, is not going to be an easy sell with the Senate confirmations committee.

The 47-year-old Stanford grad and former Rhodes scholar, who was a National Security Council director and assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Clinton, has a reputation for her provocative, pugnacious style. A spirited advocate of US aid to the Libyan rebels, Rice most recently raised hackles by suggesting the fatal September 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi began as a peaceful protest that was "hijacked" by militants -- controversial remarks that may be tempered after an investigation is expected to reveal her comments were based on subsequently revised intelligence.

If nominated, Rice would beat others shortlisted (including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry and National Security adviser Tom Donilon) to become the second African-American woman to serve as the top US diplomat.

Daniel takes on chair role

DANIEL Day-Lewis probably ruined Clint Eastwood's day when he reduced the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton (and the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Daniel Craig, Trey Parker and Matt Stone) to tears of laughter by making fun of the actor's bizarre performance at the Republican Convention.

In acceptance speech for an award (Lincoln) at Wednesday's British Academy of Film and Television Arts' Awards, he gestured to an empty chair and said: "I'm so extremely grateful and glad that. . . taking time out of his very busy schedule, the recently re-elected president of this country has made it here. I know as an Englishman it's absolutely none of my business," he told the imaginary Obama, "but I'm just so very grateful it was you!"

He insisted professional jealousy inspired his parody.

"This is no satirical comment on his politics or anything else," he said. "But when I saw him talking to a chair in front of a room full of strangers, I thought, 'I've got to try that'. That's a challenge."

Sunday Independent

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