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Obama turns to friends and foes for top posts

President-elect Barack Obama plans to announce longtime advisers and political foes alike as his picks for top administration jobs at a Monday news conference.
/ Source: The Associated Press

President-elect Barack Obama plans on Monday to announce six experienced hands to fill top administration posts, 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 Rodham Clinton as secretary of state and President Bush's defense secretary, Robert Gates, staying in his current post. The two were among six who 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.

Obama to make his picks official Monday
The Democratic officials disclosed the plans Sunday on a 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 will make them official Monday in his hometown.

Obama also has 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 State, Justice, Treasury and Defense. The team so far shares deep experience and proven ability to get things done, and it shares some characteristics with President 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 Powell. At HHS, both chose deeply experienced elected officials — Obama picking Daschle and Bush choosing Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

They also chose experienced Defense secretaries who had already served in the position — Gates for Obama and Donald 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 picking Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

Choosing experience in some cases
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 Commerce secretary, Donald 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 Republican Sen. John McCain, and she now has agreed to give up her Senate seat to be his top diplomat.

Former president makes concessions
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 Senate 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," Lugar said.