Obama set to add to Cabinet choices

The Baltimore Sun


President-elect Barack Obama plans to announce six experienced hands to fill top administration posts today, moving at record speed to name the leadership team that will guide his presidency through a time of war and recession.

His selections include longtime advisers and political foes alike, most notably Democratic primary rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and President George W. Bush's defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, staying in his current post. The two were among six Obama planned to announce at a news conference in Chicago, Democratic officials said.

The officials said Obama also planned to name Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as homeland security secretary. He also planned to announce two senior foreign policy positions outside the Cabinet: campaign foreign policy adviser Susan Rice as U.N. ambassador and retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser.

The Democratic officials disclosed the plans yesterday on a condition of anonymity because the names were not authorized for public release ahead of the news conference. Those names had been discussed before for those jobs, but the officials confirmed that Obama will make them official today in his hometown.

Obama has also settled on former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle to be his secretary of health and human services and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary, but those announcements are not yet official. Last week, he named key members of his economic team, including Timothy Geithner, president of Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as Treasury secretary.

The decisions mean Obama has half of his Cabinet assembled less than a month after the election, including the most prominent positions at the State, Justice, Treasury and Defense departments. The team so far shares deep experience and proven ability to get things done, and it shares some characteristics with Bush's first Cabinet choices.

For secretary of state, both went with big names that campaigned against them in their primary race, with Obama choosing Clinton and Bush going with former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin L. Powell, who backed Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary. At HHS, both chose deeply experienced elected officials - Obama picking Daschle and Bush choosing Tommy G. Thompson, who was the governor of Wisconsin.

They also chose experienced defense secretaries who had already served in the position - Gates for Obama and Donald H. Rumsfeld for Bush. And both put well-respected governors as their first picks as homeland security secretary - a position Bush created - with Obama picking Napolitano and Bush choosing Tom Ridge, who was Pennsylvania's governor.

In some cases, Obama is choosing even more experienced hands. Jones and Richardson have more government experience than Bush's first national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and his first commerce secretary, Donald L. Evans.

Clinton's nomination is the latest chapter in what began as a bitter rivalry for the Democratic presidential nomination. After Obama defeated her, Clinton backed his general election campaign against McCain, and she has now agreed to give up her seat as New York's junior senator to be his top diplomat.

To make it possible for his wife to become secretary of state, party officials said, former President Bill Clinton agreed to:

* Disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward.

* Refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

* Cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

* Volunteer to step away from day-to-day management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state.

* Submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel.

* Submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

"It's a big step," said Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who said he plans to vote to confirm Clinton.

Lugar said there would still be "legitimate questions" raised about the former president's extensive international involvement. "I don't know how, given all of our ethics standards now, anyone quite measures up to this who has such cosmic ties, but ... hopefully, this team of rivals will work."

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