World

Obama builds his team

While U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's leadership team will chart its own new course, many of its proposed members already know their way around Washington.

When U.S. president-elect Barack Obama introduced the picks for his security team in Chicago on Monday, he told Americans the time has come for "a new beginning, and a new dawn of American leadership."

While his leadership team, once confirmed, will chart its own new course, many of its members already know their way around Washington.

They bring with them experience forged in previous administrations, whether it's Robert Gates carrying on as defence secretary after George W. Bush leaves the White House, or Timothy Geithner, who is the head of the New York Federal Reserve but also was a Treasury Department official in Bill Clinton's administration.

Geithner would hardly be alone in his ties to Clinton, the last Democratic president. Obama, who was long rumoured to be considering Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton for secretary of state, has already found himself defending suggestions he's creating something of a Clinton cabinet.

Here's a look at Obama's proposed cabinet roster so far, along with some of those who are slated for high-profile positions in his administration.

The Security Team

Hillary Clinton. ((Associated Press))
Who: Hillary Clinton

Post: Secretary of state

Strengths: Senator for New York State, and was in the White House with husband Bill Clinton when he was president from 1993 to 2001. Already has high profile among world leaders. Earned a reputation in the Senate for her ability to reach out and build alliances in both parties.

Weaknesses: Was a harsh critic of Obama's foreign policy experience while seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Clinton connection: Bill Clinton supported her taking on the role of secretary of state, agreeing to take several steps to avoid conflicts of interest, including disclosure of donors to his library and international foundation.

Who: Robert Gates

Post: Defence secretary

Strengths: Would continue in the position, having served as defence secretary under George W. Bush for two years, and would bring a bipartisan flavour to the cabinet table. Was director of Central Intelligence Agency under Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, after rising through the CIA ranks. Is considered to be in sync with Obama on Afghanistan and closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Weaknesses: Not totally in tune with Obama on the war in Iraq, having suggested a slower exit of U.S. troops than Obama has proposed.

Who: Janet Napolitano

Post: Homeland security secretary

Strengths: Elected Arizona governor in 2002, four years after she was elected Arizona's first female attorney general. Has been a leader in the fight against illegal immigration.

Weaknesses: As governor, she commanded Arizona's National Guard but has limited experience in security issues.

Who: Jim Jones

Post: National security adviser

Strengths: A retired four-star general and former top commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Europe. Spent four decades in the marines, and became a respected figure in many foreign capitals. Seen as bipartisan and informally advised both Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain on national security issues during the election campaign.

Who: Eric Holder

Post: Attorney general

Strengths: Former Justice Department official, a Washington lawyer, and would be the first black attorney general. Widely respected by lawyers inside and outside government.

Weaknesses: Is expected to face tough questioning about his role in Bill Clinton's 2001 pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich. He later publicly apologized for what he called a snap decision and said he would have advised against it, if he had paid more attention to the case.

Clinton connection: Was top deputy to Janet Reno when she was Clinton's attorney general.

Who: Susan Rice

Post: U.S. ambassador to the United Nations

Strengths: Former National Security Council staff member and assistant secretary of state for African affairs in Bill Clinton's second administration.


The Economic Team

Timothy Geithner. ((Associated Press))
Who: Timothy Geithner

Post: Treasury secretary

Strengths: Has held senior roles at the Treasury Department and the International Monetary Fund and is head of the New York Federal Reserve. Has also been involved in financial institution bailouts, including those of AIG and Citibank.

Clinton connection: Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration, where he had a major role in negotiating assistance packages for South Korea and Brazil.

Who: Lawrence Summers

Post: National Economic Council head

Strengths: Was treasury secretary for Bill Clinton. Was chief economist at the World Bank, and president of Harvard University from 2001 to 2006.

Weaknesses: Observers question whether he can work as part of a team. His time at Harvard was marked by controversies, including his comment that differences between men and women might contribute toward fewer women having successful careers in math and science. He apologized for that comment, but it contributed toward his resignation as university president.

Clinton connection: Member of Clinton's cabinet, serving as treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001.

Who: Paul Volcker

Post: Senior economic adviser

Strengths: Former Federal Reserve chairman under presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Largely credited with ushering in nearly three decades of relatively low inflation.

Weaknesses: During his time as the central banker in 1980s, he initially raised interest rates and restricted the money supply to tame raging inflation, moves that helped send the U.S. economy into one of its worst recessions before inflation abated.


The Rest of the Team

Who: Tom Daschle

Post: Health and human services secretary

Strengths: Former South Dakota senator who served as Democratic leader in the Senate for a decade. Also served as a close adviser to Obama throughout the election campaign and recently wrote a book about how to improve health care.

Weaknesses: Has been a member of the board of the Mayo Clinic and an adviser to health-care clients at a Washington law firm, work that may raise questions about him being part of an Obama administration. Obama has said he wants to limit his appointees' potential conflicts of interest.

Who: Bill Richardson

Post: Commerce secretary

Strengths: Governor of New Mexico and one-time rival to Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Richardson shifted his support to Obama after dropping out of the race. He was also United Nations ambassador and energy secretary under Bill Clinton and is one of the nation's most prominent Hispanic politicians.

Weaknesses: Chinese-American activists in California are protesting any move to appoint him commerce secretary over his involvement when he was energy secretary in a controversy surrounding a former nuclear scientist. Wen Ho Lee was suspected of giving nuclear secrets to China. A judge later said there were major problems with the government's case against Lee and every charge against him except one was dropped, the New York Times reported.

Clinton connection: Richardson's declaration of support for Obama angered supporters of Hillary Clinton. The governor was painted as disloyal to the former president and the two, who were once close, apparently haven't talked to each other since.

Rahm Emanuel. ((Associated Press))
Who: Rahm Emanuel

Post: White House chief of staff

Strengths: Currently the No. 4 Democrat in the House of Representatives. Is considered a political centrist, and some observers say he could help prevent Democrats from moving too far to the left.

Weaknesses: As a former senior adviser to Bill Clinton, Emanuel earned a reputation as a fierce partisan attack dog, and had the nickname Rahmbo — not an image that would be in keeping with Obama's focus on creating a less hostile environment in Washington.

Obama connection: Close friend and fellow Chicago resident.

Who: Robert Gibbs

Post: Press secretary

Strengths: Has worked with Obama since 2004 and is seen as a passionate defender of his boss. Was communications director in Obama's presidential campaign. Known for top-notch political skills and quick wit.

Weaknesses: Aggressive nature: he's trying to work at being calm under pressure, something that will be needed in an Obama White House.

Who: Greg Craig

Post: White House counsel

Strengths: Washington lawyer and adviser to Obama's campaign. Was head of policy and planning in Bill Clinton's State Department. High-profile law clients included John Hinckley Jr., who tried to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Weaknesses: During the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, was a harsh critic of Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience.

Clinton connection: Also defended Bill Clinton in impeachment. Became friends with both Clintons while they were all at Yale Law School.

With files from the Associated Press

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