November 22, 2008 by Robert Nedelkoff | Filed Under American Politics, Barack Obama, Congress, Democratic Party, Domestic issues, Economic issues, Election 2012, International Affairs, National Security, Obama administration
On Wednesday, the Associated Press sent out an interesting article listing the people who had either been confirmed for top Cabinet and staff positions in the administration of President-elect Obama, or were said to be among the ones being seriously considered by the President-elect and his advisors.
The first two to be named this week were Eric Holder as attorney general and former Senate Majority (and Minority) Leader Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Holder, apart from his unfortunate stance where the pardon of arms dealer Marc Rich was concerned in the Clinton White House’s final days, has a strong record, and, as the first African-American in this position, will be making history in a major fashion. Daschle’s appointment is significant because it seems to indicate that the President-elect has a major health-care initiative in mind and has moved to ensure that the person in charge of it is someone with a lot of muscle on Capitol Hill.
Yesterday, just as the financial markets were set to tank for another day, word came of the President-elect’s choice of New York Federal Reserve Bank head Timothy Geithner to be Secretary of the Treasury, beating out Clinton-era Treasury head Lawrence Summers (who, instead, appears set to succeed Ben Bernanke as chairman of the Fed when the latter’s term expires in January 2010) and former Fed chairman Paul Volcker. This news sent the Dow right up past 8000 and inspired, at least for the weekend, a bit of confidence on Wall Street. It’s interesting that Obama, for this job, chose someone almost exactly his own age, since most of his other selections are of people a decade or two his senior. (And it’s also worth noting that, once again, Christopher Hitchens has something to gripe about on the talking-heads shows next week: Geithner began his career as an employee of Kissinger & Associates in the 1980s.)
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, at one time a prospect for Secretary of State, seems destined for the Commerce Department now; his experience as an international negotiator should be helpful when it comes time to do his part to improve America’s standing in the field of world trade. And Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, with considerable experience in the field of border security, is a good choice to head the Department of Homeland Security.
Obama’s most interesting and surprising choices so far have been in the national security field. For the post of National Security Advisor (rather than former deputy NSA James B. Steinberg or former assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice, as the AP article suggested he had in mind) he is reported to have chosen four-star General James Jones, a 64-year-old onetime Georgetown University basketball star who has as extensive a range of experience as almost anyone ever selected for the post. For National Intelligence Director he is said to be favoring retired Admiral Dennis Blair, rather than former Indiana congressman Tim Roemer or Rep. Jane Harman as the AP article claimed. But the story did have one choice right – the President-elect is reported to want former National Couterterrorism Center John Brennan for the post of CIA Director.
When it comes to the selection of those who will represent his White House to the media and the public, today came the news that Obama has chosen Robert Gibbs, his campaign press spokesman, to be press secretary. Gibbs is a Southerner with very extensive experience on Capitol Hill working with politicians from below the Mason-Dixon Line, and conceivably can play a substantial part, come 2012, in improving the President-elect’s performance in Southern states. The choices of Ellen Moran, long an AFL-CIO activist, and Dan Pfeiffer to be, respectively, White House communications director and assistant communications director are also very significant. It’s evident that Big Labor will have some muscle in the executive branch to a degree perhaps unseen since the Carter years.
And still the question lingers about Sen. Hillary Clinton. It appears almost a done deal that a nomination for Secretary of State will be offered to her and that she’ll accept. But in recent days there’s been talk that former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the leading Democrat most experienced in the foreign policy field, will be offered the post of Deputy Secretary at Foggy Bottom. What could emerge from this synergy? I’ll look at that question tomorrow.