Guide to Obama's Cabinet

By Hunter Owens (Co-Founder, Editor In Chief, Columnist) [?]

Published: December 10, 2008 and Updated: March 11, 2009
Reprinted From The Windward Bridge

The election's over and Obama is picking this cabinet. Here is a guide to the major national security and economic picks.

Secretary of State: Obama has chosen former rival Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. The pick is lauded mostly because of her experience in foreign affairs. Clinton's selection should allow Barack Obama to focus on domestic issues while she attracts world leaders and works to solve today’s pressing international problems including the violence in Darfur, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and nuclear proliferation. New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Thomas Friedman has voiced his concern about whether Clinton will always be willing to answer to Obama. He notes, “I covered a Secretary of State, one of the best, James A. Baker III, for four years, and one of the things I learned during those years was that what made Baker an effective diplomat was not only his own skills as a negotiator — a prerequisite for the job — but the fact that his boss, President George H.W. Bush, always had Baker’s back." Since Clinton has been a rival to Obama, he may not always have her back in negotiations.

Secretary of Defense: Obama has pledged to assemble a team of rivals much like Abraham Lincoln did. As part of this pledge, Obama has asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (the Secretary of Defense from the Bush administration) to remain in place. This may also show Obama’s realization that the current Bush administration policies are working in Iraq. However, like Obama - and in contrast to Bush - Gates believes that we need more troops in Afghanistan, due to the increase in violence. In agreement with his belief that members of the armed forces should be politically independent, Gates (who held various military positions) is a registered independent. However, given that his previous high-level appointments were made by Republican administrations, Gates is a Republican in anything but name. Many partisan websites have stated that this pick will conform to the ideal that Republicans are better on defense than Democrats. However, most note that this is the most promising Republican appointment short of Obama potentially picking California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

National Security Adviser: Obama's pick is General James Jones, whose positions on Afghanistan mirror those of the President-elect. On the situation in Iraq, however, he believes that a concrete date for withdrawal is a bad idea. Jones is a former Marine and NATO General who served in Vietnam and was chief commander of U.S. forces in Europe. Jones has served as an adviser to the Congress on Iraq and was appointed special envoy to the Middle East in 2007. Another "rival" pick, confirmation with the Congress is expected to be smooth.

Secretary of Homeland Security: Arizona governor Janet Napolitano has been tapped to assume this post, which was created after the 9/11 attacks. She will probably shift the focus from the Middle East to border security, and then delegate external security threats to Gates, Clinton, and Jones. Napolitano is considered to have a moderate immigration position with both tough border security policies and a desire for comprehensive reform. Republicans have lauded the pick because she is a moderate and would be succeeded in her post of Arizona Governor by Republican Jan Brewer. Obama’s pick for this position clearly shows how his policy is working toward bettering the nation, rather than the agenda of his own party.

Treasury Secretary: Obama's nominee Timothy Geitner, the current New York Federal Reserve Chairman, has dealt with financial crises internationally in the Clinton administration his nomination caused celebration in the financial markets, where he is considered more competent than Henry Paulson. Geitner's pick predated a rise in the market, thanks to financial institutions believing that his experience in financial crises would help calm the market's turbulence. He is partnered with ex-Harvard President and Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, whose derogatory comments to women and legacy prevented him from assuming this post. However, he will chair the national economic council which will report directly to the president.

Overall, Obama has moved more to the center with his cabinet picks. He has followed a “team of rivals” strategy, with almost every single political faction represented in his picks. However, each nominee chosen by Obama is considered an expert in their respective field, and they may therefore compete for the attention and resources of the President, potentially derailing his presidency in the process.

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  • Jake S, on 12/18/2008, said:

    Hunter. great article!

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