Last week, it was his economic team, stupid. This morning, President-elect Barack Obama announced his national security team, naming Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) as his designate for secretary of state, and keeping Robert Gates as secretary of defense. Both moves were expected for quite some time.
The Clinton announcement was conditional upon the willingness of her husband, Bill Clinton, to release the names of donors to his presidential library, as well as those foreign governments who gave to his international foundation. With that apparently resolved, and following the expected Senate confirmation, she adds another "first" to her resume: the first former first lady to become secretary of state.
Gates makes history as well, becoming the first defense chief to stay on from one party's administration to another. A former director of the Central Intelligence Agency under the first President Bush, Gates has been heading the Bush administration's war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan since Donald Rumsfeld was forced out immediately following the 2006 midterm elections. He may not exactly fit the "change" mode that Obama made during his campaign, but the Prez-elect probably decided he is best equipped to begin implementing his policy of withdrawal from Iraq while at the same time buffing up the number of troops in Afghanistan. And this is, after all, Obama's policy.
Also named today were Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano to be secretary of homeland security; retired Gen. James Jones as White House national security adviser; Eric Holder, a Justice Department official under President Clinton, as attorney general; and Susan Rice, a long-time Obama aide, as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Obama has indicated that the latter position will be elevated to Cabinet-level, as it was under President Clinton.
Clinton, Holder, Napolitano and Rice require Senate confirmation. Jones does not, and Gates, as a holdover Cabinet official, has already been confirmed by the Senate (a 95-2 vote on Dec. 6, 2006).
Musical Chairs in Arizona: If it's true, as President Bush intimated the other day to Charlie Gibson of ABC News, that he was mostly responsible for the Republican defeat on Nov. 4, then Obama is responsible for Arizona getting a Republican governor. With Napolitano likely to be confirmed and Arizona not having a lt. governor, moving into the top spot will be Jan Brewer, the Secretary of State and a strong fiscal and social conservative. Napolitano was constitutionally ineligible to seek a third term as governor in 2010 anyway, but making Brewer governor gives the GOP an advantage going into the next election. It will also be the 5th time in the last three decades in which the state found itself with a new governor without the benefit of an election:
1977: Gov. Raul Castro (D) resigns to become ambassador to Argentina; he is succeeded by Sec/State Wesley Bolin (D).
1978: Gov. Bolin dies; he is succeeded by Attorney General Bruce Babbitt (D).
1988: Gov. Evan Mecham (R) is impeached and removed from office; he is succeeded by Sec/State Rose Mofford (D).
1997: Gov. Fife Symington (R), convicted on fraud charges, resigns from office; he is succeeded by Sec/State Jane D. Hull (R).