Assessing Obama's Cabinet Choices

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Sen. Hillary Clinton's decision to take on the role of secretary of state is the highest-profile news on a day when the propsective Obama Cabinet swells. New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner is said to be Obama's pick for treasury secretary and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will be asked to head the Commerce Department. Columnists E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times talk with Robert Siegel about the Cabinet choices.

Hillary Clinton To Head State Department

Word of Cabinet appointments by President-elect Barack Obama flew fast and furious late Friday afternoon: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), his archrival for the Democratic nomination, is his choice for secretary of state, Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM) for commerce secretary and New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner for secretary of the Treasury.

Obama's selection of Clinton is both conventional and controversial. Though she accepted his offer on Friday, she must still be confirmed by the Senate.

It's a conventional choice because she is arguably one of the best-qualified candidates for the job. The highest diplomatic position in the country holds enough prestige for the former first lady, who has been a senator from New York since 2000. She sits on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe and is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said on Friday that, in the eyes of Europe, Hillary Clinton would be a good choice for secretary of state.

"She is a very capable person whose experience is well-known," Solana told reporters.

But her selection is also controversial, because her appointment would naturally include her legendary lightning rod of a husband, former President Bill Clinton. The Obama transition team has been exploring Bill Clinton's worldwide financial activities and his charity work to see if there might be potential conflicts of interest if his wife becomes secretary of state.

The New York Times reported that Bill Clinton forked over a list of more than 200,000 donors to his philanthropic foundation.

Sen. Clinton takes pride in the role her husband's White House played in forging peace in Northern Ireland. Israel's right to exist, she says on her Senate Web site, "must never be put in question."

She also says, "Whether it is bringing an end to the war in Iraq, bolstering our efforts in Afghanistan, continuing to provide strong support for Israel, or pushing for an end to the genocide in Darfur, I remain focused on pursuing real solutions to our most critical national security and foreign policy challenges."

Over the past few years, Clinton has spoken often of her approach to foreign policy. She has said she believes that the U.S. must "renew internationalism for a new century."

"We cannot face the global terrorist threat or other profound challenges alone," she told the Council on Foreign Relations in 2006. She also said she "values diplomacy as well as a strong military."

And, she added, "Our foreign policy must blend both idealism and realism in the service of American interests. ... In an increasingly interdependent world, it is in our interest to stand for the human rights to promote religious freedom, democracy, women's rights, social justice and economic empowerment. But reality informs us we cannot force others — nations and people — to accept those values. We have to support those who embrace them and lead by example."

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from