The Note

Change doesn't have to wait until January.

Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is gone. (A sign of a new day.)

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., is gone, partly, too. (A sign of a new order.)

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., isn't going anywhere. (But she's gone quite a distance to get there.)


Penny Pritzker leaves before she ever even arrives.

And the auto bailout came back to life after it was declared dead, only to die again. (It may yet rise again -- though not until next month.)

As for President-elect Barack Obama -- he is, for the most part, waiting for January.

Thus far through the transition, we're learning that Obama remains, at his core, a cautious and patient politician -- one who can be quite stingy with his political capital.

Meanwhile, the stock market is in freefall, Detroit is near collapse, and Congress is in a stalemate. Obama has had nearly half of his Cabinet filled for him, without a single formal announcement.

(If you're scoring at home, he's now had more haircuts than press conferences as president-elect.)

Other than a few comments, Obama has chosen not to play in the current crisis: "With the stock market plunging and the credit market entering a new freeze, cries are being heard for a new government intervention to prop up major financial institutions before President-elect Barack Obama takes office," Floyd Norris writes in The New York Times. "By resigning from the Senate before the current session began and allowing it to appear that a sense of drift could prevail until he is inaugurated, Mr. Obama may have missed an opportunity to exert leadership."

"How much can go wrong in the two months before Mr. Obama takes the oath of office? The answer, unfortunately, is: a lot," Paul Krugman writes in his column. "At minimum, the next two months will inflict serious pain on hundreds of thousands of Americans, who will lose their jobs, their homes, or both. What's really troubling, however, is the possibility that some of the damage being done right now will be irreversible."

"The problem is that nothing of significance can or will happen until the new President takes office in January, even though there is -- finally -- a great appetite for action in Washington. This is going to be a very frustrating few months," Time's Joe Klein writes.

Things get more dire by the day: "As the economic signs grow ever more grim, the opportunities for the Obama administration to drive through its agenda actually are getting better," The Wall Street Journal's Gerald F. Seib writes. "The thing about a crisis -- and crisis doesn't seem too strong a word for the economic mess right now -- is that it creates a sense of urgency. Actions that once appeared optional suddenly seem essential."

Not that the news is waiting for Obama. The word is out (this time, because the Obama folks want it out): Sen. Clinton is "on track" to be installed as secretary of state.

"Former President Bill Clinton's financial disclosure issues that once seemed an obstacle to Sen. Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state have been worked out," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "An aide to President-elect Obama says that everything is on track for Clinton's nomination to be the nation's top diplomat, though an announcement will not come until after Thanksgiving."

Who's pressuring whom now?

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