A tough team for tough times – Obama presents his cabinet as having the right stuff to lead America out of crisis. His administration is heavy in economic and political expertise.
“I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead. We have taken some major action to date, and we will need further action during this transition, and subsequent months,” Obama said in November. His closest counsellor will be Rahm Emmanuel in the role of Chief of Staff. This is a key post and the holder controls direct access to the President. Rahm is a heavyweight who has earned his stripes in political combat on Capitol Hill. His appointment is seen as partisan. But Obama held out the olive branch to his opponents by keeping on Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. The former CIA director had been put in the job by President Bush in 2006. “Change” was Obama’s rallying cry during the campaign. But unity was another important theme and he had hinted the cabinet might include Republicans. But other former rivals were to come on board. His nomination battle with Hillary Clinton was acrimonious at times but that did not prevent him naming her Secretary of State. The appointment was seen as an attempt to rebuild America’s reputation abroad. He is said to admire her work ethic and diplomacy skills. Bert Kerremans an expert in US politics in Belgium said: “The thing is, we see both in the foreign policy and in the economic team that Obama has chosen people with very strong personalities, a lot of expertise but also a very pragmatic approach.” That description fits Timothy Geithner, observers say. As Treasury Secretary he will play a lead role in dragging the US out of recession. The 47-year-old has proved himself at New York’s Federal Reserve. He has already been instrumental in shaping policy to stabilize the markets. So what will relations be like within a cabinet of strong individuals. Analyst Kerremans played down the risk of internal conflict. “Obama is a kind of person who knows how to deal with strong personalities, and he also knows how do deal with conflicts, which may be functional up to certain level, because conflict confronts you with different positions on a certain issue.” Energy is also a stated priority and this has fallen to expert hands again in the form of Steven Chu, a Nobel Laureate and leading academic in renewable power sources.