Thursday, December 04, 2008

Obama selecting his governing team

Meet President-elect Barack Obama's governing team. From the New York Times.

I've been watching the Obama team transitioning from an election team to a governing team, and even I will say that I am impressed with the efficiency of president-elect Barack Obama in appointing members to his government. From the New York Times:

CHICAGO — President-elect Barack Obama put the rancor and even some of the rhetoric of the presidential campaign behind him on Monday as he welcomed his chief Democratic adversary into his cabinet and signaled flexibility in his plans to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Introducing a national security team anchored by Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, Mr. Obama said a new strategic agreement with Baghdad put the United States “on a glide path to reduce our forces in Iraq.” But while he reaffirmed his desire to pull out combat brigades within 16 months, Mr. Obama emphasized his willingness to consider options put forth by the military.

“I believe that 16 months is the right timeframe,” Mr. Obama said at a news conference, with Mrs. Clinton and Robert M. Gates, whom he is keeping on as defense secretary, as well as other appointees. “But as I have said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders. And my No. 1 priority is making sure that our troops remain safe in this transition phase and that the Iraqi people are well served by a government that is taking on increased responsibility for its own security.”

Mr. Obama has long qualified his withdrawal pledge, but in the campaign the emphasis was on his intent to end the war. Now that he is taking office in 50 days, he is calibrating his statements to leave room to maneuver, knowing that some senior military officers are wary of moving too quickly and that the defense secretary he just reappointed has cautioned about timetables.

Now I know that the NY Times is currently focusing on Obama's national security team here, but even looking at the selection of Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state, and keeping Robert M. Gates on as Secretary of Defense, shows just how far Barack Obama is going in selecting candidates for his government. Hillary Clinton was his chief political opponent in the Democratic presidential primary, and now Obama is tapping her for the top foreign policy position in his administration. Gates is President Bush's secretary of defense, and yet Obama is keeping him on, perhaps as a transitional figure who understands the problems in Iraq and can bring Obama quickly into the fold on how to resolve the U.S. war in Iraq. It is going to take a brilliant mind, and a strong character, to bring out the best from the president's men, and women, here. Continuing further into the NY Times story:

Besides formally announcing Mrs. Clinton’s nomination, Mr. Obama said he was keeping on Mr. Gates, and while some close to the transition had suggested it would be a short-term holdover, the president-elect put no time limit on the Pentagon chief’s tenure. Mr. Obama also introduced Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant and North Atlantic Treaty Organization supreme commander, as his national security adviser and confirmed plans to nominate Eric H. Holder Jr., a former deputy attorney general, for attorney general; Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona for secretary of homeland security; and Susan E. Rice, a former assistant secretary of state, for ambassador to the United Nations.

The adults are coming back into the White House. It is about time.

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