Sunday, November 30, 2008

Obama's national security team a diverse mix

President-elect Barack Obama's likely national security advisers, clockwise from top left: Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Jim Jones, Susan Rice, Robert Gates and Janet Napolitano.

President-elect Barack Obama on Monday unveils a team of national security advisers that includes his chief Democratic former rival, a sometime-adviser to his Republican opponent and a member of President Bush's administration.

At a Chicago news conference, Obama likely will announce plans to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his Democratic primary opponent, as secretary of State and Eric Holder as the nation's first black attorney general, as well as retain Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, according to two Democratic sources with knowledge of the selection process.

The sources, who requested anonymity because the appointments had not been announced, confirmed that Obama also will name retired Marine general Jim Jones as his national security adviser, and nominate Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano for secretary of Homeland Security and Susan Rice to become ambassador to the United Nations.

Obama's latest picks would give him a foreign policy team with a moderate cast. Both Clinton and Vice President-elect Joe Biden have taken a more cautious approach to withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq than Obama, who wanted it done within 16 months of taking office. Jones, who last year chaired an independent commission appointed by Congress to assess the Iraq situation, called political reconciliation by the religious and ethnic factions in Iraq vital — a view shared by Obama. Jones, however, said a deadline for troop withdrawal would be "against our national interest."

Jones, who served as the commandant of the Marine Corps and the Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, advised both Obama and Republican presidential nominee John McCain during the campaign.

Gates would be the first secretary of Defense held over by a new president. He will not have to undergo a second round of Senate confirmation hearings, said Tara Andringa, spokeswoman for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Gates and Jones share Obama's view that U.S. dependence on foreign oil is a national security issue.

Jones chairs the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Institute for 21st Century Energy. Gates in 2005 led a war game for the National Commission on Energy Policy, a Washington think tank, which illustrated the vulnerability of U.S. energy supplies.

Rice advised Obama during the campaign and accompanied him on the trip he took to the Middle East and Europe over the summer. She is a protégé of Madeleine Albright, President Clinton's secretary of State, and a specialist on Africa. Rice wrote her doctoral dissertation on one of that continent's trouble spots, Zimbabwe.

On the domestic front, Holder was the No. 2 person at the Justice Department under Clinton. He gave the go-ahead for Clinton to pardon fugitive financier Marc Rich and won wide acclaim for his stint as the top federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia. Holder, who was part of the team that helped Obama select his vice president, was also a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan on the District of Columbia bench.

Napolitano is a former federal prosecutor who campaigned as "a conservative Democrat" for her first term as Arizona's chief executive. She won re-election in 2006 by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio. She has already been endorsed for the Homeland Security post by McCain. "I hope she is quickly confirmed," he said last month.


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