As has been widely reported, many Americans view resolving the current economic crisis as the most important issue the incoming administration faces. To mitigate the recession and revive the economy, Obama has appointed Tim Geithner to replace Henry Paulsen as Secretary of the Treasury. Geithner has worked under five previous Treasury secretaries and currently holds the position of president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The public responded positively to the appointment of Geithner, resulting in a 500-point surge in the stock market on the day of the announcement. Obama appointed Lawrence Summers, former Treasury Secretary under President Clinton, to direct the National Economic Council. He served as the Chief Economist at the World Bank for two years as well as the President of Harvard from 2001 to 2006. The President-elect borrowed another Clinton cabinet member, Peter Orszag, to be the Office of Management and Budget Director. Previously, Orszag served as a Senior Economist and Senior Adviser on the Council of Economic Advisers during the final two years of the Clinton presidency.
Despite the efforts of each new transition team to prevent the leak of information regarding the cabinet appointments, historically, leaks in this process have occurred without fail, and the Obama transition is no exception. A particularly notable buzz was generated about the nation in response to the leak regarding the possible appointment of Senator Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State. Several weeks prior to any sort of official announcement, the news was widely disclosed in the media. The question of possible conflicts of interests related to the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates added to the hype surrounding Hillary Clinton’s eventual appointment. Former President Bill Clinton released a list of donors and agreed to specific rules for giving speeches in the future in order to avoid a conflict. Following through on his pledge to create a “team of rivals,” President-elect Obama in fact publicly selected Senator Hillary Clinton in late November to replace Condoleezza Rice.
With America fighting a war on two fronts, the recent escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, and a number of other threats to national security, President-elect Obama chose to continue the tenure of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Gates took office in 2006 after President Bush relieved Secretary Rumsfeld of the position. Unlike his very unpopular predecessor, Gates is a registered independent and garners support from both the Democratic and Republican parties. Still, many liberals have expressed anger at retaining any remnant of the Bush administration, especially someone so closely associated with the war in Iraq, which Obama has opposed. Another cabinet member that will play a crucial role in shaping America’s foreign policy for the next four years is newly appointed National Security Advisor retired General James Jones. He currently chairs the Atlantic Council of the United States and has served in the Commander of the United States European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
The appointment of a number of members of the Clinton administration has drawn criticism for its arguable contradiction to President-elect Obama’s message of “change.” Opponents of this position feel that he has simply chosen the most competent people for implementing the changes he promised during his campaign. Eric Holder, the incoming Attorney General, exemplifies this line of argument. During the early 1990s, he served in the second highest position in the Department of Justice. Despite his controversial involvement in the pardon of Marc Rich by President Clinton, members of both parties attest to his qualifications for the position.
To serve with him in the White House, President-elect Obama has chosen two fellow Chicagoans: Rahm Emanuel and Valerie Jarrett. Emanuel’s appointment reached the media first ushering in a period of successive announcements. Prior to his new position as White House Chief of Staff for the Obama administration, Emanuel served the 6th District of Illinois as a Representative. He was previously a Senior Advisor in the Clinton administration. Nicknamed “Rahmbo” for his forthright approach to politics, Emanuel will likely be a critical agent for implementing the policy changes envisioned by the new administration. Valerie Jarrett will serve as White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. She worked as the deputy chief of staff for Mayor Daley, has served as a trustee on a number of boards, and is currently the CEO of the Habitat Company. The New York Times called her the “problem-solver” of Obama’s campaign.
Many other cabinet members comprise the new administration including former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services Secretary and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as secretary of Commerce. Although the new cabinet is not yet complete, at least to the knowledge of the public, it is not unreasonable to raise doubts regarding its potential to achieve the same bipartisan characteristic that distinguished Lincoln’s cabinet. With only a few weeks remaining until the inauguration, the entire cabinet will soon be determined; until then the American public and media will be left in wrapped suspense.