Obama Set To Announce National Security Team

Karen DeYoung of The Washington Post talks to Andrea Seabrook about President-elect Obama's plans to introduce his defense team Monday, and his expected choice for secretary of state: former rival Hillary Clinton.


The lineup is set. President-elect Barack Obama trots out his security team tomorrow in Chicago. The headliner, of course, is his choice for secretary of state, his opponent in the primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton.

But it's the rest of the Obama team that will define the soon-to-be commander-in-chief's relationship with the military. Karen DeYoung wrote about that relationship in today's Washington Post, and she joins us now. Thanks for coming on the program.

Ms. KAREN DEYOUNG (Staff Writer, Washington Post): You're welcome.

SEABROOK: Mr. Obama built his campaign on opposition to the Iraq war, but he's expected to keep Robert Gates as defense secretary and choose a retired general, James L. Jones, as his national security adviser. Those seem like pretty strong signals to a military that might be skeptical of him.

Ms. DEYOUNG: Well, I think that that is a concern of the Obama team. The president-elect has been very firm in saying, when I said during the campaign that I want to start immediately a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq to be completed within 16 months, I meant it. But I think that he wants to not ruffle feathers, not get people excited, not cause people to go back to a lot of things that were said during the campaign about his lack of experience in foreign affairs.

And I think, on both sides, people have started to kind of move toward the middle and say, well OK, 16 months out of Iraq, maybe 18 months, maybe a little sooner, maybe a little later. We can talk about this.

SEABROOK: I remember seeing a poll that people in the military, especially officers and high-ranking, really broke for McCain in this past election. Is there a sense in the wider military of apprehension, or is he starting to bring some of them around?

Ms. DEYOUNG: Well, I think historically, military people tend to vote more Republican. They have tended to see the Republicans as better stewards of the country's national security, for better or worse.

At the same time, though, I think that there are many in the military, both officers and enlisted people, who feel like things have not been good under the Bush administration, that they've been led down a path that has both stretched them thin and has put them in positions that they don't want to be in.

So I think that they're, so far at least, just say listen to Obama. They feel like he's been pragmatic. He's been fairly realistic. He's been very careful in the way he has addressed them. And so right now, I think they're watching and waiting and hoping that this kind of pragmatism that they see will stand them in good stead.

SEABROOK: Well, given that somewhat-more-wary relationship with Democrats, what's the feeling about the nomination of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state?

Ms. DEYOUNG: I think most military people, at least the ones that I've talked to, have some respect for her. They see her as, at the least, a moderate. Some people see her as a hawk. She was very careful when she entered the Senate to get a seat on the Armed Services Committee, and she has used that very intelligently from her perspective.

Of course, at the time, looking toward being a candidate for president, she's used it to have established relationships with senior officers. She's gotten herself briefed up over many years so that she can talk intelligently about these issues. And so I think that they are not uncomfortable with her.

SEABROOK: Karen DeYoung writes for the Washington Post. Thanks very much for coming to the program.

Ms. DEYOUNG: You're welcome.

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