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Political Junkie: Obama Builds His Cabinet

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Political Junkie: Obama Builds His Cabinet

Politics

Political Junkie: Obama Builds His Cabinet

Political Junkie: Obama Builds His Cabinet

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NPR's political editor Ken Rudin runs down the latest news, including President-elect Barack Obama's selection of Gov. Bill Richardson for the Secretary of Commerce post in his administration, and Saxby Chambliss' win in the Senate run-off in Georgia.

Also, former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has a new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America. He shares his recommendations to get Republicans moving the "right" way.

Obama Names Richardson To Commerce Post

President-elect Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson i

President-elect Obama (left) introduces New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his Commerce secretary during a press conference in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Scott Olson/Getty Images
President-elect Obama and Gov. Bill Richardson

President-elect Obama (left) introduces New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as his Commerce secretary during a press conference in Chicago.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

NPR Coverage

Obama's News Conference

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As advertised, President-elect Obama on Wednesday announced his choice for secretary of Commerce: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

The affable Richardson stood beside Obama at the Chicago hotel where the president-elect has been orchestrating his transition to the White House.

"Bill has seen what makes our economy work and what keeps it from working better," Obama said. Richardson brings "an international stature" and "a deep understanding of the global economy."

Richardson — speaking in English and in Spanish — delivered his thanks to Obama and his pledge to help the country.

With the choice of Richardson, Obama adds another former political adversary to his inner circle, which includes Sen. Joseph Biden as vice president and Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. Richardson, Biden and Clinton all ran unsuccessfully against Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination. Richardson withdrew early on and endorsed Obama.

"This is a great honor," Richardson said. He added that he is not a former rival of Obama's but a former competitor.

The nod to Richardson appears to address anxieties on several levels. The border-state governor is a high-profile Hispanic politician who has domestic and international experience. Richardson served as Energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton.

Like clockwork, the announcement was made with a reassuring air. Obama — starting a few minutes early — exuded confidence while nominating a former political adversary to a Cabinet position. Again on the TV screen the president's face was framed by news of a volatile stock market and unrest in other parts of the world.

America's standing in the world, Obama said, is essential "to our security" and "to our prosperity."

He spoke calming words: "We have everything we need to renew our economy."

Richardson, who occasionally sports a beard, appeared clean-shaven for the press conference.

"I think it was a mistake to get rid of it," Obama said in response to a question. The rugged Western look was working for Richardson, he said, reiterating that he was "deeply disappointed with the loss of the beard."

Smiling, Obama pointed out that Richardson was a habitue of the cafeteria while at the United Nations, "mixing it up with U.N. employees over lunch." And Obama said that during the 2002 New Mexico gubernatorial campaign, Richardson "actually broke a world record by shaking nearly 14,000 hands in just eight hours."

In a brief question-and-answer period after the announcement, Obama was asked about the possibility of Congress rescuing the ailing U.S. auto industry. Automakers are asking Congress for a lifeline of up to $34 billion.

Obama said that any plan would have to be "based on realistic assessments of what the auto market is going to be and a realistic plan for how we're going to make these companies viable over the long term."

Mixing jocularity with wonkiness, Obama also answered a couple of questions on the Troubled Assets Relief Program, saying that until he has more information at his fingertips it would be premature to comment on decisions on the financial rescue plan being made by the Bush administration.

Books Featured In This Story

Do the Right Thing

Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America

by Mike Huckabee

Hardcover, 232 pages |

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