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.

Clinton to Be Introduced as Part of Obama Security Team

President-elect Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday will seal their rapprochement when he announces her nomination as his secretary of state, Democrats close to the process said Sunday.

Mrs. Clinton, once considered the Democratic frontrunner for president, is flying to Chicago to appear together with the man who beat her for the nomination, a person close to Mrs. Clinton said. The sight of them together, as she joins his administration, would have been thought unlikely just weeks ago, but Mr. Obama concluded she would strengthen his team.

At a time when the country remains engaged in two wars and still faces the threat of international terrorism, Mrs. Clinton will anchor a national security team with more of a centrist character than some of Mr. Obama’s liberal supporters once hoped to see. In addition to her, Democrats said, Mr. Obama plans to announce that he is keeping Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has run the Pentagon for the last two years, and will appoint Gen. James L. Jones, a retired Marine commandant, as national security adviser.

Rounding out his national security team, Mr. Obama will name former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as his choice for attorney general and Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona as secretary of homeland security, the Democrats said. Mr. Obama also will nominate Susan E. Rice, his foreign policy adviser and a former assistant secretary of state, as ambassador to the United Nations, a job that will be given cabinet rank, as it had under President Bill Clinton.

The Obama and Clinton teams have been preparing the ground for this announcement for days. Mr. Clinton, who has extensive business and philanthropic interests around the world, agreed to a nine-point plan covering disclosure, vetting and other areas to avoid potential conflicts of interest, including for the first time the release of more than 200,000 donors to his foundation by the end of the year. That goes beyond the requirements of existing law.

The Obama team has planned for a while to unveil the national security team after the Thanksgiving holiday, but the timing took on additional urgency after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The attacks, which killed at least 180, including six Americans, offered a stark reminder that for all of Mr. Obama’s focus on fixing the economy, national security can capture a president’s attention at any moment.

Reports of the selections drew praise from a retiring Republican elder. “The triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and Jones to lead Obama’s national security team instills great confidence at home and abroad,” said Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, a former chairman of the Armed Services Committee, “and further strengthens the growing respect for the president-elect’s courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the best and the brightest to implement our nation’s security policies.”.

While the choices have generated praise across the aisle, some critics have pointed out that the team represents experience rather than the change Mr. Obama promised on the campaign trail. All of his top choices served in either the Clinton or Bush administration.

At a news conference last week, Mr. Obama said he was trying to “combine experience with fresh thinking” an added that “the vision for change comes” from him.

A Handpicked Team for a Foreign Policy Shift

When President-elect Barack Obama introduces his national security team on Monday, it will include two veteran cold warriors and a political rival whose records are all more hawkish than that of the new president who will face them in the White House Situation Room.

Yet all three of his choices — Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as the rival turned secretary of state; Gen. James L. Jones, the former NATO commander, as national security adviser, and Robert M. Gates, the current and future defense secretary — were selected in large part because they have embraced a sweeping shift of resources in the national security arena.

The shift, which would come partly out of the military’s huge budget, would create a greatly expanded corps of diplomats and aid workers that, in the vision of the incoming Obama administration, would be engaged in projects around the world aimed at preventing conflicts and rebuilding failed states.

Whether they can make the change — one that Mr. Obama started talking about in the summer of 2007, when his candidacy was a long shot at best — “will be the great foreign policy experiment of the Obama presidency,” one of his senior advisers said recently.

But the adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly, said the three have all embraced “a rebalancing of America’s national security portfolio” after a huge investment in new combat capabilities during the Bush years.

Mr. Obama’s advisers said they were already bracing themselves for the charge from the right that he is investing in social work rather than counterterrorism, even though President Bush repeatedly promised such a shift, starting in a series of speeches in late 2005. But they also expect battles within the Democratic Party over questions like whether the billion dollars in aid to rebuild Afghanistan that Mr. Obama promised during the campaign should now be spent on job-creation projects at home.

Mr. Obama’s best political cover may come from Mr. Gates, the former Central Intelligence Agency director and veteran of the cold war, who just months ago said it was “hard to imagine any circumstance” in which he would stay in his post at the Pentagon. Now he will do exactly that.

A year ago, to studied silence from the Bush White House, Mr. Gates began giving a series of speeches about the limits of military power in wars in which no military victory is possible. He made popular the statistic, quoted by Mr. Obama, that the United States has more members of military marching bands than foreign service officers.

He also denounced “the gutting of America’s ability to engage, assist and communicate with other parts of the world — the ‘soft power’ which had been so important throughout the cold war.” He blamed both the Clinton and Bush administrations and said later in an interview that “it is almost like we forgot everything we learned in Vietnam.”

Mr. Obama’s choice for national security adviser, General Jones, took the critique a step further in a searing report this year on what he called the Bush administration’s failed strategy in Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama has vowed to intensify the fight as American troops depart from Iraq. When the report came out, General Jones was widely quoted as saying, “Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan,” a comment that directly contradicted the White House.

But he went on to describe why the United States and its allies were not winning: After nearly seven years of fighting, they had failed to develop a strategy that could dependably bring reconstruction projects and other assistance into areas from which the Taliban had been routed — making each victory a temporary one, reversed as soon as the forces departed.

Several times during his presidency, Mr. Bush promised to alter that strategy, even creating a “civilian reserve corps” of nation-builders under State Department auspices, but the administration never committed serious funds or personnel to the effort. If Mr. Obama and his team can bring about that kind of shift, it could mark one of the most significant changes in national security strategy in decades and greatly enhance the powers of Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state.

“This is not an experiment, but a pragmatic solution to a long-acknowledged problem,” Denis McDonough, a senior Obama foreign policy adviser, said in an interview on Sunday.

“During the campaign the then-senator invested a lot of time reaching out to retired military and also younger officers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to draw on lessons learned,” Mr. McDonough said. “There wasn’t a meeting that didn’t include a discussion of the need to strengthen and integrate the other tools of national power to succeed against unconventional threats. It is critical to a long-term successful and sustainable national security strategy in the 21st century.”

Yet it is a task that, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush administration discovered, is far easier to describe than to execute, or to get Congress to fund.

That problem will be no less acute for Mr. Obama in Afghanistan, where the building projects and job-creation activities that Mr. Bush promised in 2002, soon after the invasion, and then again in late 2005, have ground to a halt in many parts of the country because the security situation has made it too dangerous for the State Department’s “provincial reconstruction teams” to operate.

Ms. Rice recently ordered a review of what had gone wrong with the reconstruction team strategy, part of a broader review of Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy that the Bush White House is turning over to its successors.

Mr. Obama has promised a diplomatic push that is much broader than Afghanistan. In October 2007, he pledged to make diplomacy a high priority. “Instead of shuttering consulates, we need to open them in the tough and hopeless corners of the world,” he said.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama promised to double overall American aid — to $50 billion — by 2012. In recent months he has begun to lengthen that timetable, citing the financial crisis.

One of the biggest questions, though, will be whether the money to expand this civilian capability comes out of the Pentagon budget. So far, Congress has been very reluctant to go down that road.

Mr. Gates acknowledged a year ago, during the Landon Lecture at Kansas State University, that for many in the Pentagon it was “blasphemy” for “a sitting secretary of defense to travel halfway across the country to make a pitch to increase the budget of other agencies.”

He noted that when Adm. Mike Mullen was chief of naval operations, “he once said he’d hand a part of his budget to the State Department ‘in a heartbeat’ assuming it was spent in the right place.” Admiral Mullen is now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he met Mr. Obama two weeks ago for their first lengthy discussion of priorities. It was not clear if he was asked to give up part of his budget.

Obama set to name Clinton as top diplomat Monday

Barack Obama was set to formally nominate his ex-rival Hillary Clinton as secretary of state Monday and roll out the national security team he will charge with defusing multiple foreign crises.

The president-elect was also expected to publicly say he has asked US President George W. Bush's Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on at the Pentagon and to name former marine general James Jones as his national security advisor.

Obama's formal roll-out of Clinton at a press conference in Chicago nearly a month after his historic election triumph will cement a remarkable alliance following the pair's acrimonious Democratic primary duel this year.

"I can confirm that she will be in Chicago tomorrow to be named secretary of state," a person close to Clinton told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Obama and vice president-elect Joseph Biden will name the team just days after the Mumbai terror assaults handed them a fresh South Asia crisis to add to the plethora of US national security challenges.

After taking office in January at a time of rare national peril, the Obama team must work out how to extricate US troops from Iraq, deal with the Iranian nuclear drive and address deteriorating conditions in the war in Afghanistan.

At the same time, the US economy in meltdown and successive market and financial crises are cascading around the world, threatening to further destabilize a fractious global security environment.

As well as Gates and Jones, sources said Obama will complete the top layers of his national security team with Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security chief.

Pending Senate confirmation, long-time Obama foreign policy aide Susan Rice is also set to be formally named as US ambassador to the United Nations while retired admiral Dennis Blair is set to be Director of National Intelligence.

Former president Bill Clinton cleared the way for his wife to become the face of US foreign policy abroad by reaching a complicated agreement on his financial arrangements and future role on the world stage.

There had been fears her nomination could falter over the appearance of conflicts of interest between her husband's charitable foundation and lucrative speechmaking schedule, and US foreign policy.

Clinton has agreed to release the list of donors to his charitable foundation by the end of the year, officials on Obama's transition team said on condition of anonymity.

He has also agreed to submit future engagements, speeches and sources of income to the State Department and the White House and to take a more behind-the-scenes role in the daily running of his foundation, sources said.

Democratic Senator Jack Reed said the ex-president's "framework of transparency and disclosure" is a key step in defusing concerns about how he may influence his wife's work should she become the top US diplomat.

"I think the presumption will be that both the secretary of state Clinton and... former president Clinton will be very judicious in what they take on, because there's a new dimension here," Reed said on ABC's "This Week."

"The secretary of state and the former president are married, and I think that's going to set the standard."

Senator Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed that Bill Clinton's agreement should help his wife's nomination.

"I plan to vote in favor of her confirmation," Lugar told ABC, while also praising Obama's "excellent selections" of his national security coterie.

The Obama transition team formally announced that the former first lady and the rest of the national security team would be introduced in a press conference at a Chicago hotel on Monday at 9:40 am (1540 GMT).

Last week, Obama named intellectual heavyweights and big political egos for his economic team, in a move which reassured markets traumatized by the raging financial crisis.

He defended his decision to name big-time political players of the Clinton administration to his team, saying the troubled times dictate the need for experience in his economic and national security teams.

Selecting Gates, who is respected across the political aisle in Washington for his performance since taking over from Donald Rumsfeld two years ago, would allow Obama to honor his pledge to name at least one Republican cabinet member.

Jones , a former NATO commander, is also respected on Capitol Hill and may be sought by Obama for his expertise on the Afghan war.

How Anger Determined the US Election

By definition, anger means a bad aspect of life. Everybody has felt or encountered anger more than one time in their lives. On some occasions they make an effort to control it; although people fail to do so every time. Hot temper not only hurts them, but also it is harmful for others. Street violence and high school fights are few incidents that emphasize the dreadfulness of anger in our society. Therefore, anger is unquestionably undesirable because it diminishes people’s lives, it transforms form generation to generation, and it causes to isolate raged people from the society.

First, from the biological perspective, apart from drugs and alcohols, evidence have already proved that hot temper hurts people’s mind and body. Some of the best scientists in the world believe that endanger of anger is as great as the harm of smocking. For instance, according to Elizabeth Scott, “those with higher rates of hostility not only had pooper [breathing problems] but experienced higher rates of decline as they aged.” ( Moreover, anger is the main cause for mental stress since it not only hurts physically, but also psychologically. When people become angry, they cannot behave as usual. For example, ill tempered people cannot answer to a question paper in an examination expecting a good result, or, similarly, they cannot drive a vehicle without causing an accident. In fact, “[people] who cope inappropriately with their anger are at grater risk for problem-ridden interpersonal relationships” (Scott Thus, as a result of anger, people could experience devastating outcomes both physically and physiologically.

Secondly, younger generation, especially kids, learn eagerly from their parents and grand parents and imitate them. Despite people who believe that kids, who are under the age of five, do not learn from their parents because they are immature, researches prove that kids indeed are educated by parents because parents are their first teachers. (Po Bronson New York Magazine) Consequently parent’s hot temper has a huge impact on the lives of their children. As children grow, they mostly imitate parent’s anger, and might behave according to their parents. As Battista states, “the parents love their children, but they don’t realize that their [angry] behaviour can have devastating ramifications” (New York Times). Furthermore, the parent-children relationship diminishes when children become angry. However, parents too have to realize that their kids learn those rude behaviours from them. Hence, parents are definitely responsible for their children’s cantankerous behaviours because children learn those from their parents.

Finally, societies isolate angry people. It is quite obvious that nobody likes to be an employee or associate with an angry person. The best example is the Presidential Election of 2008 of the United States. As many have predicted, John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate, was defeated. Though the main reason for the defeat was his close relationship with most unpopular President George W. Bush, many political reviewers state that McCain’s hot temper should responsible for his defeat. Even before the election, Whites states on her journal, “John McCain lost all three debates, in large part, due to his deep, undisguisable anger” ( Literally, McCain’s poor performance at the debates stole the election away from him. Apart form losing the election, even some McCain loyalists said that he also lost his reputation as a genuine American hero as a consequence of his negative and angry campaign. For example, Collin Powell points out “I've also been disappointed, frankly, by some of the approaches that Senator McCain has taken recently, or his campaign ads, on issues that are not really central to the problems that the American people are worried about.” (Meet the Press). Needless to say, all of these evidences prove that people are not voting for the angry candidate because nobody wants an angry person to be their president. Accordingly, angry people are being portrayed as disgusting figures in today’s society.

In summary, everybody has unique characteristics. Some are pleasant and others are awful. However, undoubtedly anger is an undesirable personality not causes to destroy lives only but hurts others also. Consequences of anger may result with quarrels and even murders. Due to these reasons, anybody who is angry is rejected from the society. Therefore it is up to people to manage and control their anger.

Hillary Clinton: Secretary of State - It's Official

Obama will name Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State on Monday:

President-elect Barack Obama planned to nominate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his secretary of state on Monday, transforming a once-bitter political rivalry into a high-level strategic and diplomatic partnership.

Obama will name the New York senator to his national security team at a news conference in Chicago, Democratic officials said Saturday. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly for the transition team...

...The Clinton pick was an extraordinary gesture of goodwill after a year in which the two rivals competed for the Democratic nomination in a long, bitter primary battle.

Senator Clinton's path to the Cabinet was cleared after her husband Bill agreed to disclose the names of all the donors to his foundation and library as well as agreeing to further conditions:

Most remarkably, the former president agreed to release the long-secret list of 208,000 donors to his presidential library and foundation. As one of nine concessions, he has promised to put out the list by the end of the year.

"It speaks to President Clinton's willingness to do more than what's asked of him," said a Democratic official familiar with the protracted negotiations between Clinton emissaries and Obama transition aides...

...Here's the full text of the internal guidance about the agreement:

"At the request of President-elect Obama, and to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest between the work of President Clinton and the service of Hillary Clinton should she be nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State, President Clinton is taking the following steps above and beyond the requirements of current laws and regulations.

--The Clinton Foundation will publish the names of everyone who has contributed since its founding in 1997 (this year).

--Should Senator Clinton be nominated and confirmed as Secretary of State, during her time of service, the Foundation will also publish the names of everyone who contributes going forward on an annual basis.

--The Foundation will separately incorporate CGI [the Clinton Global Initiative] from the Foundation; President Clinton will continue to host CGI gatherings, such as the one in NYC and its meetings for college and university students, as Founding Chairman of CGI.

--Although President Clinton will continue to invite participants to CGI events (which involves normal registration fees), he will not solicit 'sponsorship' contributions for CGI.

--CGI will also not host annual events outside the US and CGI will not solicit or accept foreign government contributions.

The New York Times is reporting that Clinton will accept Obama's offer of the secretary of state position.

Mrs. Clinton came to her decision after additional discussion with President-elect Barack Obama about the nature of her role and his plans for foreign policy, said one of the confidants, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the situation. Mr. Obama's office told reporters Thursday that the nomination is "on track" but Clinton associates only confirmed Friday afternoon that she has decided.

"She's ready," said the confidant. Mrs. Clinton was reassured after talking again with Mr. Obama because their first meeting in Chicago last week "was so general," the confidant said. The purpose of the follow-up talk, he added, was not to extract particular concessions but "just getting comfortable" with the idea of working together.

A second Clinton associate confirmed that her camp believes they have a done deal. Senior Obama advisers said Friday morning that the offer had not been formally accepted and no announcement will be made until after Thanksgiving. But they said they were convinced that the nascent alliance was now ready to be sealed.

AP: President-elect Barack Obama plans to nominate Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state after Thanksgiving, a new milestone for the former first lady and a convergence of two political forces who fought hard for the presidency.

One week after the former primary rivals met secretly to discuss the idea of Clinton becoming the nation's top diplomat, an Obama adviser said Thursday that the two sides were moving quickly toward making it a reality, barring any unforeseen problems.

The senior adviser, speaking on condition of anonymity because the president-elect is not prepared to officially announce the nomination, said Obama believes Clinton would bring instant stature and credibility to U.S. diplomatic relations.

Obama is convinced the advantages of Clinton serving far outweighed potential downsides, the adviser said.

Transition aides said the two camps have worked out financial disclosure issues involving Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, and the complicated international funding of his foundation that operates in more than 40 countries. The aides said Obama and Hillary Clinton have had substantive conversations about the secretary of state job.

Clinton has been mulling the post for several days, but the comments from the transition aides suggested that Obama's team does not feel she is inclined to turn it down. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines would not comment, except to say that anything about Cabinet appointments is for Obama's transition team to address.

Clinton would have to surrender her New York Senate seat, which she has held for eight years, to take the job.

The nomination would be a remarkable union between the former first lady who was an early favorite to win the presidency and the first-term senator who upset her in the primary and cruised to a general election victory. Such a high-profile seat in the Cabinet for Clinton also would be another achievement for the most accomplished former first lady in U.S. history, who has been the first presidential spouse to serve in the Senate and run for the White House herself.

Obama was picking other Cabinet posts as well. Obama has informally selected Washington lawyer Eric Holder as attorney general and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as health secretary and is likely to choose Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be secretary of homeland security, Democrats said.

Any of the plans could be sidetracked by unexpected glitches in the final vetting process, officials note.

Update 11/20: The New York Times reports that suspected leaks from the Clinton team are angering Obama aides and may threaten Hillary Clinton's position:

Both sides were engaged in a delicate public and private dance, maneuvering for position and reputation in case the deal falls through. Aides in each camp have grown increasingly sour toward the other in recent days as the matter played out publicly.

In their public signals, the Clintons are trying to take the former president's activities off the table as an issue, in their view eliminating any excuses for Mr. Obama not to give Mrs. Clinton the job. Some in the Obama camp are bristling at what they see as strategic leaks by the Clintons aimed at boxing in the president-elect and forcing him to offer the post.

The tension could foreshadow a complex relationship burdened by suspicion and enmity should Mrs. Clinton become secretary of state. By putting her in the cabinet, Mr. Obama could remove a potential thorn in the Senate on issues like health care and a potential rival for the nomination in 2012 if his term proves rocky. But he could also face a rival power center within his own administration with her on his team.

The Washington Post reports that, beyond the vetting, there may be another roadblock to Hillary Clinton's Cabinet seat: a clause in the Constitution.

It's called the Constitution of the United States, specifically, Article One, Section Six, also known as the emoluments clause. ("Emoluments" means things like salaries.) It says that no member of Congress, during the term for which he was elected, shall be named to any office "the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during his term." This applies, we're advised, whether the member actually voted on the raises or not.

In Clinton's case, during her current term in the Senate, which began in January 2007, cabinet salaries were increased from $186,600 to $191,300. This situation has arisen before, most famously in the case called "The Saxbe Fix," but it involves a controversial, somewhat tortured reading of the Sacred Document.

BIll Clinton has said he will do "whatever they want" as part of the vetting process.

Update: Clinton insiders say that, contrary to other reports, Bill's dealings are not the only roadblock to Hillary's Cabinet post. The Senator herself is undecided:

Reports that portray Clinton as willing to accept the job - once the Obama transition team vets the Clintons - are inaccurate, one Clinton insider told Politico.

Press reports that portray Clinton as willing to accept the job - once the Obama transition team vets Bill Clinton's philanthropic and business ventures - are inaccurate, one Clinton insider told Politico.

"A lot of the speculation and reporting is out ahead of the facts here," said the person, who requested anonymity. "She is still weighing this, independent of President Clinton's work."

Clinton, the person said, remains deeply "torn" between the possibility of serving in Obama's cabinet and remaining in the Senate to "help pass health care and work on a broad range of domestic issues."

That comment jibes with what others close to Clinton have been saying since the Secretary of State chatter began last week: that Clinton is conflicted and the deal far from done, despite screaming headlines in outlets including the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper claiming the offer was made and accepted.

Most of the speculation about Clinton's frame of mind in the last few days has been off-base, sources say, because she's played her cards close to the vest, consulting only her husband and two or three kitchen cabinet advisers.

Update 11/18: The Politico reports that the possibility of a Clinton in Obama's Cabinet is roiling his aides and supporters:

Barack Obama's serious flirtation with his one-time rival, Hillary Clinton, over the post of secretary of State has been welcomed by everyone from Henry Kissinger to Bill Clinton as an effective, grand gesture by the president-elect.

It's not playing quite as well, however, in some precincts of Obamaland. From his supporters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, to campaign aides of the soon-to-be commander-in-chief, there's a sense of ambivalence about giving a top political plum to a woman they spent 18 months hammering as the compromised standard-bearer of an era that deserves to be forgotten.

"These are people who believe in this stuff more than Barack himself does," said a Democrat close to Obama's campaign. "These guys didn't put together a campaign in order to turn the government over to the Clintons."


Inside the campaign, a prominent Democrat said, Obama's decision was also greeted with ambivalence - though his aides have, as usual, moved into a united front in public on the topic.

During the primary, top aides like David Plouffe and Robert Gibbs developed a particular distaste for all things Clinton, one that filtered down through the campaign. So the transition from viewing Hillary Clinton as a relic of a drama-filled Democratic past to the top choice to run the foreign policy of an Obama administration has been difficult for some campaign veterans, to say the least.

The wisdom of an Obama/Clinton team of rivals seems to be viewed with even more skepticism by the campaign's rank and file. One Obama insider said that while Obama's senior staff has come around to acknowledging the power of a Clinton choice, supporters have not.

Update 11/18: ABC News is reporting that "serious progress" has been made on the possible appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

It is not yet a done deal, but sources say both President-elect Obama and Sen. Clinton are increasingly optimistic that her assignment will happen.

And some Democrats say it could happen as early as in the next week.

One of the sticking points, of course, has been the complex web of international business dealings of former President Bill Clinton. But sources say there has been movement on that front, with some vetting being supervised by Obama attorney Christine Varney, with serious involvement by many officials whom the Clintons know and trust, including some Clinton Foundation officials.

Update 11/17: The New York Times reports that Barack Obama's advisers have begun vetting HIllary Clinton for Secretary of State -- including a look at Bill Clinton's finances and activities:

President-elect Barack Obama's advisers have begun reviewing former President Bill Clinton's finances and activities to see whether they would preclude the appointment of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as secretary of state, Democrats close to the situation said Sunday.

The examination of the former president suggests how seriously Mr. Obama is considering bringing his onetime rival for the Democratic presidential nomination into his cabinet. He met with Mrs. Clinton in Chicago on Thursday to talk about the prospect and word quickly filtered out. Many Democrats close to both camps said Sunday that it seemed likely that Mr. Obama would ask her to take the job, assuming they could work something out regarding Mr. Clinton's role.

A team of lawyers trying to facilitate the potential nomination spent the weekend looking into Mr. Clinton's philanthropic organization, interactions with foreign governments and ties to pharmaceutical companies, a Democrat close to both camps said. While Mr. Clinton has used his foundation to champion efforts to fight AIDS, poverty and climate change around the world, he has also taken millions in speaking fees and contributions from foreign officials and businesses with interests in American governmental policies.

Obama advisers are discussing what Mr. Clinton would need to do to avoid a conflict of interest with the duties of his wife, who is said to be interested in the post. "That's the first and most important hurdle," said a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. "He does good work. No one wants it to stop, but a structure to avoid conflicts must be thought of."

During an appearance in Kuwait yesterday, Bill Clinton briefly addressed the speculation surrounding his wife. "If he decided to ask her to do it, and they did it together, I think she'd be really great at being Secretary of State," he said.

And Politico's Mike Allen writes on the latest deliberations in the Obama camp:

Team Obama, after all but offering SecState to Senator Clinton, is expressing EXASPERATION with the Clinton camp for the difficulty in getting a clean vet on President Bill Clinton's many entanglements. "The ball is very much in her court, but the president's finances have been a major point of sensitivity from day one," a Democratic official said. ("Day One!") "Given that everyone's mystified by how deliberately public the Clintons have made this once secret process, the assumption is either that the Clintons are trying to use the public buzz to steamroll their way in, create a sense of inevitability that overcomes those concerns, or that it's just a matter of time before they ... satisfy vetting somehow, some way. Otherwise, after all this speculation, there'll be a permanent dark cloud hanging over her finances. ... But generally the sense among the no-drama Obama world is: This is well on its way to winning best Oscar for drama."

Update 11/16: Henry Kissinger praised Hillary Clinton as an "outstanding" choice at a summit in India:

At the World Economic Forum's 24th India Economic Summit in New Delhi, India, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said of reports that President-elect Obama is considering Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, as Secretary of State, "I believe it would be an outstanding appointment. If it is true, it shows a number of things, including great courage on the part of the President-Elect. To appoint a very strong personality into a prominent cabinet position requires a great deal of courage."

Kissinger said that "Obama was my second choice in the election. But at the same time, I want to stress that this is the moment for non-partisanship in America. There are a number of challenges that must be dealt with...I believe that the United States faces a moment of enormous complexity, but also a moment of extraordinary opportunity."

According to two senior Democratic officials, Barack Obama offered Hillary Clinton the Secretary of State position when they met in Chicago.

Obama to unveil national security team Monday

Sources say President-elect Obama will nominate Sen. Clinton as his secretary of state.
Sources say President-elect Obama will nominate Sen. Clinton as his secretary of state.

President-elect Barack Obama will officially nominate members of his national security team at an event Monday morning, including Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, according to two officials.

The Obama transition team announced Sunday that Obama will unveil the full team at a press conference at the Chicago Hilton around 10 a.m. ET.

The officials said Obama is also expected to finally confirm that he is keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his current post, and plans to name retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as his National Security Adviser at the White House.

Also, two sources close to the transition said Obama will nominate Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security secretary and Eric Holder as Attorney General.

The officials said that after much contemplation, Jones has privately indicated in the last few days that he plans to take the job as national security adviser. But a source close to Jones said he still has to have one more private meeting Sunday that will finalize the decision one way or the other.

CNN has previously reported Clinton and Gates are on track for the State and Defense posts.

"There's a lot of people in Washington that feel relieved. These are known quantities, they've been around for a while," said CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider on CNN's "Late Edition Sunday." "And there's criticism. Some on the left say, 'Wait a minute -- we voted for change.'"

Last week, Obama pushed back against criticism that his Cabinet picks failed to reflect the change he called for during the election.

"What we are going to do is combine experience with fresh thinking. But understand ... the vision for change comes first and foremost ... from me. That's my job," he said.

Amy Walter, editor-in-chief of National Journal's "The Hotline," said Sunday that there's the "vision and there's the managing, which is who is getting out front, who is actually setting the pace. I think you'll see Obama keeping his team in line, keeping them on the same page."

All of the selections are people who have been mentioned often during weeks of fevered speculation about the likely nominees. In fact, retiring Republican Sen. John Warner, a veteran member of the Armed Services Committee, released a statement Saturday night praising all three nominees, even before they had been officially announced at Monday's planned rollout.

"The triumvirate of Gates, Clinton and Jones to lead Obama's 'national security team' instills great confidence at home and abroad; and, further strengthens the growing respect for the President-elect's courage and ability to exercise sound judgment in selecting the 'best and the brightest' to implement our nation's security policies," Warner said.

To some, the choice demonstrates bipartisanship and conveys that Obama has the self-confidence in his leadership abilities to keep one of the more widely respected members of the Bush administration.

"We've got confidence, continuity, and I still think the mission to get out of [Iraq] as soon as possible will be accomplished. So I think it's a great choice," Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel told CNN's "Larry King Live" last week.

Others say keeping Gates could delay the change that Obama promised during his campaign, because it could lead to potential policy conflicts over missile defense funding and a speedy Iraq pullout.

"If we don't have good civilian personnel alongside our good military personnel, we're not going to reform. It can't happen. You need the right people to make it work," former Pentagon comptroller Dov Zakheim said.

The president-elect has made no secret of his interest in having divergent views within his Cabinet, and Gates has served in various national security roles under Republican presidents, including CIA director during former President George H.W. Bush's administration.

As for Clinton, some observers have raised concerns about her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and suggested that his international business dealings, global foundation and penchant for going off script could present a significant obstacle for the incoming commander-in-chief.

"These are issues that I'm sure are being discussed, and they will have to be worked out, and it's legitimate to ask these questions," said James Carville, a former aide to the Clintons and CNN contributor.

Obama's transition team was given access to Bill Clinton's finances and post-presidential dealings, sources said. As part of the early vetting process, the team looked for any negative information that could jeopardize the prospect of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

A particular issue of concern, observers said, was the donor list of Bill Clinton's global foundation, which might show connections to international figures who push policies that could conflict with those of the new Obama administration.

Since exiting the Oval Office eight years ago, Clinton has reportedly raised more than $500 million for the foundation, a significant portion of which financed the construction of his presidential library. The foundation has also doled out millions for AIDS relief in Africa and other charitable causes around the world.

Amid repeated criticism from Sen. Clinton's primary opponents, Bill Clinton would not reveal the extent of the foundation's donor list earlier this year. But The New York Times has reported the list includes some foreign governments, including members of the Saudi royal family, the king of Morocco, a fund connected to the United Arab Emirates, and the governments of Kuwait and Qatar.

The former president has also reportedly solicited funds from international business figures connected to human rights abuses that his wife has criticized, including the governments of Kazakhstan and China.

During the New York senator's White House bid, critics repeatedly said that foreign governments and business executives could try to exert influence through donations to the foundation, which prompted a pledge from the former president to publicly disclose all future donors.


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Geithner, Summers among key economic team members announced today

Chicago -- President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden officially announced key members of their economic team today, naming Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury and Lawrence Summers as Director of the National Economic Council. Obama and Biden also named Christina Romer as Chair of the Council of Economic advisors, and named Melody Barnes and Heather Higginbottom to serve as Director and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

"Vice President-elect Biden and I have assembled an economic team with the vision and expertise to stabilize our economy, create jobs, and get America back on track. Even as we face great economic challenges, we know that great opportunity is at hand -- if we act swiftly and boldly. That's the mission our economic team will take on," said President-elect Obama.

The economic team members announced are listed below:

Timothy F. Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury
Timothy Geithner currently serves as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, where he has played a key role in formulating the nation's monetary policy. He joined the Department of the Treasury in 1988 and has served three presidents. From 1999 to 2001, he served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs. Following that post he served as director of the Policy Development and Review Department at the International Monetary Fund until 2003. Geithner is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council
Lawrence Summers is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. Summers served as 71st Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as president of Harvard from 2001 to 2006. Before being appointed Secretary, Summers served as Deputy and Under Secretary of the Treasury and as the World Bank's top economist. Summers has taught economics at Harvard and MIT, and is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the American economist under 40 judged to have made the most significant contribution to economics. Summers played a key advisory role during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Christina D. Romer, Director of the Council of Economic Advisors
Christina Romer is the Class of 1957 Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, where she has taught and researched since 1988. Prior to joining the faculty at Berkeley, Romer was an assistant professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Romer is co-director of the Program in Monetary Economics at the National Bureau of Economic Research and has been a visiting scholar at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

Melody C. Barnes, Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Melody Barnes is co-director of the Agency Review Working Group for the Obama-Biden Transition Team, and served as the Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Obama for America. Barnes previously served as Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress and as chief counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee from December 1995 until March 2003.

Heather A. Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Heather Higginbottom served as Policy Director for Obama for America, overseeing all aspects of policy development. From 1999 to 2007, Higginbottom served as Senator John Kerry's Legislative Director. She also served as the Deputy National Policy Director for the Kerry-Edwards Presidential Campaign for the primary and general elections. After the 2004 election, Higginbottom founded and served as Executive Director of the American Security Project, a national security think tank. She started her career as an advocate at the national non-profit organization Communities in Schools.

Video of the press conference and the President-elect's full statement is below.

President-elect Barack Obama
Economic Team Announcement
Monday, November 24th, 2008
Chicago, IL

Good morning.

The news this past week, including this morning's news about Citigroup, has made it even more clear that we are facing an economic crisis of historic proportions. Our financial markets are under stress. New home purchases in October were the lowest in half a century. Recently, more than half a million jobless claims were filed, the highest in eighteen years -- and if we do not act swiftly and boldly, most experts now believe that we could lose millions of jobs next year.

While we can't underestimate the challenges we face, we also can&'t underestimate our capacity to overcome them -- to summon that spirit of determination and optimism that has always defined us, and move forward in a new direction to create new jobs, reform our financial system, and fuel long-term economic growth.

We know this won't be easy, and it won't happen overnight. We'll need to bring together the best minds in America to guide us -- and that is what I've sought to do in assembling my economic team. I've sought leaders who could offer both sound judgment and fresh thinking, both a depth of experience and a wealth of bold new ideas -- and most of all, who share my fundamental belief that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers; that in this country, we rise and fall as one nation, as one people.

Today, Vice President-elect Biden and I are pleased to announce the nomination of four individuals who meet these criteria to lead our economic team: Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury; Lawrence Summers as the Director of our National Economic Council; Christina Romer as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors; and Melody Barnes as Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Having served in senior roles at Treasury, the IMF and the New York Fed, Tim Geithner offers not just extensive experience shaping economic policy and managing financial markets, but an unparalleled understanding of our current economic crisis, in all of its depth, complexity and urgency. Tim will waste no time getting up to speed. He will start his first day on the job with a unique insight into the failures of today's markets -- and a clear vision of the steps we must take to revive them.

The reality is that the economic crisis we face is no longer just an American crisis, it is a global crisis -- and we will need to reach out to countries around the world to craft a global response. Tim's extensive international experience makes him uniquely suited for this work. Growing up partly in Africa and having lived and worked throughout Asia; having served as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs -- one of many roles in the international arena; and having studied both Chinese and Japanese, Tim understands the language of today’s international markets in more ways than one.

Tim has served with distinction under both Democrats and Republicans and has a long history of working comfortably, and as an honest broker, on both sides of the aisle. With stellar performances and outstanding results at every stage of his career, Tim has earned the confidence and respect of business, financial and community leaders; members of Congress; and political leaders around the world -- and I know he will do so once again as America's next Treasury Secretary, the chief economic spokesman for my Administration.

Like Tim, Larry Summers also brings a singular combination of skill, intellect, and experience to the role he will play in our Administration.

As Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and then Secretary of the Treasury, Larry helped guide us through several major international financial crises -- and was a central architect of the policies that led to the longest economic expansion in American history, with record surpluses, rising family incomes and more than 20 million new jobs. He also championed a range of measures -- from tax credits to enhanced lending programs to consumer financial protections -- that greatly benefitted middle income families.

As a thought leader, Larry has urged us to confront the problems of income inequality and the middle class squeeze, consistently arguing that the key to a strong economy is a strong and growing middle class. This idea is the core of my own economic philosophy and will be the foundation for all of my economic policies.

And as one of the great economic minds of our time, Larry has earned a global reputation for being able to cut to the heart of the most complex and novel policy challenges. With respect to both our current financial crisis, and other pressing economic issues of our time, his thinking, writing and speaking have set the terms of the debate. I am glad he will be by my side, playing the critical role of coordinating my Administration's economic policy in the White House -- and I will rely heavily on his advice as we navigate the uncharted waters of this economic crisis.

As one of the foremost experts on economic crises -- and how to solve them -- my next nominee, Christina Romer, will bring a critically needed perspective to her work as Chair of my Council of Economic Advisors.

Christina is both a leading macroeconomist and a leading economic historian, perhaps best known for her work on America's recovery from the Great Depression and the robust economic expansion that followed. Since 2003, she has been co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research Monetary Economics program. She is also a member of the Bureau's Business Cycle Dating Committee -- the body charged with officially determining when a recession has started and ended -- experience which will serve her well as she advises me on our current economic challenges.

Christina has also done groundbreaking research on many of the topics our Administration will confront -- from tax policy to fighting recessions. And her clear-eyed, independent analyses have received praise from both conservative and liberal thinkers alike. I look forward to her wise counsel in the White House.

Finally, we know that rebuilding our economy will require action on a wide array of policy matters -- from education and health care to energy and Social Security. Without sound policies in these areas, we can neither enjoy sustained economic growth nor realize our full potential as a people.

So I am pleased that Melody Barnes, one of the most respected policy experts in America, will be serving as Director of my Domestic Policy Council -- and that she will be working hand-in-hand with my economic policy team to chart a course to economic recovery. An integral part of that course will be health care reform -- and she will work closely with my Secretary of Health and Human Services on that issue.

As Executive Vice President for Policy at the Center for American Progress, Melody directed a network of policy experts dedicated to finding solutions for struggling middle class families. She also served as Chief Counsel to the great Senator Ted Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, working on issues ranging from crime to immigration to bankruptcy, and fighting tirelessly to protect civil rights, women's rights and religious freedom.

Melody's brilliant legal mind -- and her long experience working to secure the liberties on which this nation was founded and secure opportunity for those left behind -- make her a perfect fit for DPC Director.

I am grateful that Tim, Larry, Christina, and Melody have accepted my nomination, and I look forward to working closely with them in the months ahead. And that work starts today, because the truth is, we don't have a minute to waste.

Right now, our economy is trapped in a vicious cycle: the turmoil on Wall Street means a new round of belt-tightening for families and businesses on Main Street -- and as folks produce less and consume less, that just deepens the problems in our financial markets. These extraordinary stresses on our financial system require extraordinary policy responses. And my Administration will honor the public commitments made by the current Administration to address this crisis.

Further, beyond any immediate actions we may take, we need a recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street -- a plan that stabilizes our financial system and gets credit flowing again, while at the same time addressing our growing foreclosure crisis, helping our struggling auto industry, and creating and saving 2.5 million jobs -- jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, modernizing our schools, and creating the clean energy infrastructure of the twenty-first century. Because at this moment, we must both restore confidence in our markets -- and restore the confidence of middle-class families, who find themselves working harder, earning less, and falling further and further behind.

I have asked my economic team to develop recommendations for this plan, and to consult with Congress, the current Administration and the Federal Reserve on immediate economic developments over the next two months. I have requested that they brief me on these matters on a daily basis, and in the coming weeks, I will provide the American people and the incoming Congress with an overview of their initial recommendations. It is my hope that the new Congress will begin work on an aggressive economic recovery plan when they convene in early January so that our Administration can hit the ground running.

With our economy in distress, we cannot hesitate or delay. Our families cannot afford to keep on waiting and hoping for a solution. They cannot afford to watch another month of unpaid bills pile up, another semester of tuition slip out of reach, another month where instead of saving for retirement, they're dipping into their savings just to get by.

Again, this won't be easy. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes to this crisis, which has been many years in the making -- and the economy is likely to get worse before it gets better. Full recovery won't happen immediately. And to make the investments we need, we'll have to scour our federal budget, line-by-line, and make meaningful cuts and sacrifices as well -- something I'll be discussing further tomorrow.

Despite all of this, I am hopeful about the future. I have full confidence in the wisdom and ingenuity of my economic team -- and in the hard work, courage and sacrifice of the American people. And most of all, I believe deeply in the resilient spirit of this nation. I know we can work our way out of this crisis because we've done it before. And I know we will succeed once again if we put aside partisanship and politics and work together, and that is exactly what I intend to do as President.

Thank you, and I'm now happy to take questions.

Obama inauguration could take on subdued tone

Inauguration preparations at the Capitol began before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Inauguration preparations at the Capitol began before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Millions of people are expected to go to Washington to celebrate Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20, but with a troubled economy and pocketbook issues on the mind, the president-elect must be careful to set the right tone.

President Bush raised a record $42.8 million dollars for his second inauguration, and according to Public Citizen, more than 90 percent of the donations to that ceremony were from executives or corporations.

But this year, some say throwing a multimillion-dollar party would be unseemly in a time when crash, bailout, and foreclosure fill the economic headlines.

"A lot of it is about tone and making sure that the celebrations that do take place are not over the top, that they don't appear to be insensitive to the pain people have right now," said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The inaugural committee for Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to make sure the ceremony underscores the incoming administration's "commitment to change business as usual in Washington."

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has limited individual contributions to $50,000. There is no law restricting the size of donations, but in the past, inaugural committees have set contribution limits as high as $250,000.

Obama to unveil national security team Monday

Sources say President-elect Obama will nominate Sen. Clinton as his secretary of state.
Sources say President-elect Obama will nominate Sen. Clinton as his secretary of state.

President-elect Barack Obama will officially nominate members of his national security team at an event Monday morning, including Sen. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, according to two officials.

The Obama transition team announced Sunday that Obama will unveil the full team at a press conference at the Chicago Hilton around 10:40 a.m. ET.

CNN and will carry the event live.

The officials said Obama is also expected to finally confirm that he is keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his current post, and plans to name retired Marine Gen. Jim Jones as his National Security Adviser at the White House.

Also, two sources close to the transition said Obama will nominate Susan Rice as United Nations ambassador, Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano as Homeland Security secretary and Eric Holder as Attorney General.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Meet Jill Biden

Dr. Jill Tracy Biden (née Jacobs) was raised in Willow Grove, PA. Jill is the oldest of five sisters, and the daughter of Bonny, a stay-at-home mom, and Donald, a banker. Both her parents are deceased.

Jill and Joe met when she was a student at the University of Delaware, an introduction arranged by Joe's brother. When Joe called to ask her out, Jill made sure to mention she was not impressed with his title and that he should feel lucky that she had voted for him. At the time, Joe had two sons, Beau and Hunter.

The couple dated for two years, and, on June 17, 1977, they were married at the United Nations chapel in New York City. Jill has said that when she married Joe, she knew she was marrying the whole family, including his two sons. Beau and Hunter joined the couple on their honeymoon.

In 1981, Joe and Jill had a daughter, Ashley. All of the children are now grown and five grandchildren -- Naomi, Finnegan, Maisy, Natalie, and Hunter Biden -- have been added to the family. Beau is the Attorney General of the State of Delaware and a captain in the Delaware National Guard. Hunter is a lawyer; and Ashley is employed as a social worker.

Jill is in her 15th year at Delaware Technical Community College, where she teaches English composition. She also spent 13 years in the public schools, where she was a Reading specialist and English teacher as well as a part-time teacher with the Rockford Psychiatric Hospital Adolescent Program.

While working full-time and raising a family, Jill earned two masters degrees: a Master's degree in English from Villanova University (1987) and a Master's degree in reading from West Chester University (1981). And in January 2007, Jill earned her Doctorate in Education from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation focused on how to retain students in community colleges.

Jill has always been active and engaged in the issues that matter to her most, like health care. Jill had four friends with breast cancer, one of whom died. She thought that as an educator there was something she could do. In 1993, Jill started the Biden Breast Health Initiative, which in the past 15 years has educated more than 7,000 ninth-through-twelfth grade girls in Delaware about proper breast health.

Jill is also involved with Delaware Boots on the Ground, an organization that helps military families whose needs are not being met by existing programs or who have fallen through the cracks. This summer, she also started a program called Book Buddies to get kids reading at an early age. The program helps low-income children and raises money to buy books.

Jill makes sure to keep active, running 5 miles 5 days a week. She also ran in the Marine Corps Marathon.

Meet Michelle Obama

When people ask Michelle Obama to describe herself, she doesn't hesitate. First and foremost, she is Malia and Sasha's mom.

But before she was a mother -- or a wife, lawyer, or public servant -- she was Fraser and Marian Robinson's daughter.

The Robinsons lived on the South Side of Chicago, on the top floor of a brick bungalow. Fraser was a pump operator for the Chicago water department. He was a hero to Michelle and her older brother Craig -- even though he had multiple sclerosis, he hardly ever missed a day of work. Marian stayed home to raise Michelle and Craig, skillfully managing a busy household filled with love, laughter, and important life lessons. Fraser and Marian valued hard work, independence, and honesty. Today, their children point to their parents as their greatest teachers.

Michelle attended Chicago public schools, then Princeton. She studied sociology and African American studies, graduated in the class of 1985, and earned admission to Harvard Law School. When she returned to Chicago in 1988, she joined the law firm Sidley & Austin.

After a few years, Michelle realized that corporate law was not her calling. So she left to give back to the city she loves and to help others serve their communities. She worked for City Hall, becoming the assistant commissioner of planning and development. Then she became the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares young people for public service. Today, more than 350 young leaders have graduated from Public Allies Chicago.

Michelle got one great thing out of working for a corporate law firm -- that's where she met Barack. They were married in 1992. Today, they have two daughters -- Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7. Like their mom, both girls were born on the South Side of Chicago.

Since 1996, Michelle has worked for the University of Chicago. As associate dean of student services, she developed the university's first community service program. Later, she became the vice president of community and external affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center. Under Michelle's leadership, volunteering skyrocketed, both in the hospital and the community. Hospital employees serving in the community increased nearly fivefold, while community members volunteering in the hospital nearly quadrupled.

Since Barack began his campaign in early 2007, Michelle has met thousands of Americans, hearing their concerns and hopes for the future. As someone who knows the challenge of balancing work and family, Michelle has held roundtables with working women to hear about their struggle to do it all, particularly in a failing economy. In these discussions, Michelle heard the unique stories of military spouses, who work hard to keep their families together while their loved ones are away.

"We held a roundtable for military spouses at Fort Bragg," Michelle says. "It felt like the first time that many of these women had even been asked how they were doing. The tears and the stories went on and on. So we had another roundtable, and then another one."

Michelle looks forward to continuing her work on the issues close to her heart -- supporting military families, helping working women balance work and family, and encouraging national service.

"My first priority will always be to make sure that our girls are healthy and grounded," she says. "Then I want to help other families get the support they need, not just to survive, but to thrive.

"Policies that support families aren't political issues. They're personal. They're the causes I carry with me every single day."


Learn about The Obama Administration

"The change we need isn't just about new programs and policies. It's about a new politics - a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts; one that reminds us of the obligations we have to ourselves and one another."

The Obama Administration will look to the challenges we face as a nation with the same spirit of determination and optimism that characterized President-Elect Obama’s campaign. From the beginning, the campaign was about a nation tired of the same old politics, a nation eager to stand up and lead the world in a new direction. It was a campaign calling for change – to restore prosperity, create jobs, and cut taxes for the middle-class; to make health care and college more affordable; to invest in new energy sources, set a timetable to end the war in Iraq responsibly and restore our standing in the world.

While the Obama Administration will lead on all of these initiatives, we each must do our part to renew America’s promise.

"It is that American spirit - that American promise - that pushes us forward even when the path is uncertain; that binds us together in spite of our differences; that makes us fix our eye not on what is seen, but what is unseen, that better place around the bend."

> The President Elect
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The Agenda

President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden have developed innovative approaches to challenge the status quo in Washington and to bring about the kind of change America needs.

The Obama Administration has a comprehensive and detailed policy agenda. Among many important domestic and foreign policy objectives, priorities of the Obama Administration include: a plan to revive the economy; provide affordable, accessible health care to all; strengthen our public education and social security systems; define a clear path to energy independence and tackle climate change; end the war in Iraq responsibly and finish our mission in Afghanistan; work with our allies to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

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Video: Election Night Speech in Grant Park

by Amanda ScottThursday November 6 2008 02:54:35 PM

"I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to – it belongs to you." - Barack Obama, Election Night 2008

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