US president-elect Barack Obama is filling his Cabinet at record speed, choosing loyal friends and one-time foes to guide his wartime foreign policy decisions.
Obama planned to appear at a morning news conference yesterday in Chicago to announce Democratic primary rival Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state and say that US President George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, was staying on.
Democratic officials said Obama would name Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and Arizona Governor 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 UN ambassador and retired Marine General James Jones as national security adviser.
The Democratic officials disclosed the plans on condition of anonymity because they 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 would make them official yesterday 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 Governor Bill Richardson to be Commerce secretary, but those announcements were not yet official. Last week, he named key members of his economic team, including Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as Treasury secretary.
The decisions mean Obama has half of the 15-member Cabinet assembled less than a month after the election, including the most prominent positions at State, Justice, Treasury and Defense. With the world grappling with war, recession and terrorist threats that erupted this week during a coordinated attack in India, Obama was moving swiftly to try to bring reassurance and continuity in the federal government when he takes over in less than two months.
Clinton’s nomination is the latest chapter in what began as a bitter rivalry for the Democratic presidential nomination.
To make it possible for his wife to become secretary of state, party officials said, former US 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.
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Sunday on ABC’s This Week that he planned 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,” Lugar said.