Page last updated at 23:14 GMT, Thursday, 6 November 2008

The shape of Obama's new team

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News, Washington

Rahm Emanuel (L) talks to Barack Obama, file photo from June 2008
Illinois congressman Rahm Emanuel will be chief of staff.

Although Barack Obama will not take office until 20 January 2009, he is already moving to fill the key posts in his administration.

With the US economy still in crisis, and US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, he is expected to act quickly to fill national security and economic posts.

He is also likely to reach out to Republicans and independents to attempt to build a centrist administration.


The selection of the next treasury secretary will arguably be the most important appointment for the president-elect.

Treasury: Larry Summers, Paul Volker, or Timothy Geithner
State: Chuck Hagel or John Kerry
Defence: Robert Gates
Chief of staff: Rahm Emanuel
Chief advisor: David Axelrod

Whoever fills the post will have almost unlimited authority to spend the $700bn allocated by Congress to help avert a financial meltdown.

Among the top contenders for the job of secretary of the Treasury are Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, and Paul Volker.

Larry Summers was treasury secretary under President Clinton and more recently president of Harvard University. He is known for his outspoken views which have sometimes landed him in trouble, but his international experience would be a plus in dealing with a global crisis.

Lawrence Summers
Lawrence Summers was Treasury Secretary under President Clinton

Paul Volker would be a less partisan choice. He was chairman of the Federal Reserve in the l980s, he clashed with Ronald Reagan and his supply-side economics philosophy of tax cuts.

Timothy Geithner is the head of the New York branch of Federal Reserve, which has been deeply involved in the recent series of financial bail-outs. He is also a former Clinton administration treasury official.

If President-elect Obama wanted to reach into Wall Street, the traditional place to find treasury secretaries, he might call on New Jersey governor and former senator, Jon Corzine. Mr Corzine was a former boss of Goldman Sachs, like his successor Hank Paulson, the current treasury secretary.

Wall Street

Another Wall Street possibility would be Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, one of the few banks to survive the sub-prime crisis relatively unscathed.

Lower down, Mr Obama is likely to retain Jason Furman, his chief economic advisor, as head of the National Economic Council. Mr Furman, a protege of former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, is known as a budget deficit hawk and a strong supporter of free trade.

And there are reports that he will name Penny Pritzker, the billionaire Chicago business tycoon who was head of his campaign finance organisation, as commerce secretary.

Overall, the range of choices suggest that Mr Obama will be governing from the centre, with people with experience in dealing with the financial crisis at the top of his list.

However, he may attempt to reward his support from the trade unions by appointing Andy Stern of SEIU as labour secretary.

Mr Stern was an early supporter of Mr Obama when other trade unions backed Hillary Clinton. Another possibility would be former Democratic House leader Richard Gephardt, who has strong union links.


There is speculation that President-elect Obama will want to ensure a bi-partisan approach to foreign policy by appointing prominent Republicans to key positions.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates
Robert Gates was a former director of the CIA.

This could involve reappointing Robert Gates as defence secretary to help ensure a smooth transition during a time of war.

Alternatively, the president-elect might want to reach out to two moderate Republican Senators, Richard Lugar of Indiana or Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who retired this year, and appoint one of them as Secretary of State.

Both were sceptical of the Bush administration's approach to the Iraq war. Mr Lugar has also played a prominent role in anti-proliferation efforts.

If he appoints a Democrat, the 2004 presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, or New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a former energy secretary, appear to be on the short list.

As national security advisor, Mr Obama might appoint Jim Steinberg, a former Clinton official who now works at the Brookings Institution, or Dennis Ross, Mr Clinton's Middle East envoy.

Susan Rice, who was one of Mr Obama's key foreign policy advisor, is reportedly being considered for the post of UN ambassador.

It is not clear whether Samantha Power, the Harvard professor who has written on the US response to genocide, will play a role in the new administration. She resigned as an advisor in March after calling Mrs Clinton a monster.

However, Mr Obama may want to acknowledge the importance of the global justice movement in his coalition by choosing someone beyond the "realists" who make up the majority of his foreign policy team.


Mr Obama is believed to be keen to encourage diversity in his first cabinet, and may also want to include some Democratic governors from Republican states to emphasise his appeal for national unity.

Among the top contenders are two women governors: Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who may be under consideration at the Department of Justice, and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, an early supporter of Mr Obama, as head of Health and Human Services.

Also in the running is former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, who may be agriculture secretary.

And Mr Obama may want to find a role for former Democratic Senate leader Tom Daschle, who lost his seat in 2004, who has excellent Congressional connections.

But there is unlikely to be a role for Colin Powell, Mr Bush's first secretary of state who backed Mr Obama in the election.


For press secretary the president-elect may call on Robert Gibbs, a campaign aide whose combination of a jolly personal style and steely on-message discipline impressed reporters.

Mr Obama's chief of staff will be Rahm Emanuel, the tough Chicago congressman who is a major political operative.

And his campaign strategist David Axelrod, the architect of his election victory, has also accepted the job of senior White House adviser - a post previously held by Karl Rove.

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