- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 27, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama on Wednesday rejected critics who say his hires so far too closely resemble President Clinton’s administration, insisting he aims to “combine experience and fresh thinking.”

Even as Mr. Obama is expected to name Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to his Cabinet, he pushed back against “conventional wisdom floating around Washington” that he is “recycling” Clinton veterans.

“Understand where the vision for change comes from first and foremost. It comes from me,” Mr. Obama told reporters in Chicago at his third press conference in as many days. “That’s my job, is to provide a vision in terms of where we are going and to make sure, then, that my team is implementing it.”

The remark came as Mr. Obama named former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Paul Volcker, 81, to lead a new President’s Economic Advisory Recovery Board and following the selection of former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers to be director of the White House Economic Council.

Mr. Obama on Wednesday acted as comforter in chief, saying it was important to reassure Americans as the holiday season begins and promising “help is on the way.” The markets surged for the fourth straight day since his announcement - for a total gain of more than 1,100 points since news first leaked about his economic team.

But hours earlier the government reported that consumer spending had dropped 1 percent, the biggest decline since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He said he planned to do holiday shopping but avoided urging Americans to shop over the long weekend. Mr. Obama and other Democrats have long criticized President Bush for not asking citizens to do more than shop after the 2001 attacks.

He said Americans must remember that it will get better, “that my administration intends to get this economy back on track; that we are going to create 2.5 million jobs over the next two years; that our future is bright if we make good decisions.” And he warned against getting “caught up in a spiral where people pull back from the economy.”

“People should understand that help is on the way,” he said.

Mr. Obama has chosen several key Clinton figures to be at his side while navigating the financial crisis, and will soon be announcing Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state. Staffers who served Mr. Clinton or Vice President Al Gore will again come to the White House - inviting pundits to ask whether Mr. Obama truly was offering the change he promised during the presidential campaign.

Mr. Obama bristled when asked the question Wednesday.

“It would be surprising if I selected a Treasury secretary who had had no connection with the last Democratic administration because that would mean that the person had no experience in Washington whatsoever,” he said, adding that Mr. Volcker had been around long before the Bill Clinton era.

He said he wanted to “combine experience with fresh thinking” and stressed he does not want to suggest that “because you served in the last Democratic administration that you’re somehow barred from serving again, because we need people who are going to be able to hit the ground running.”

Mr. Obama promised more names would be filling out the new advisory board in the coming weeks. He said his economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, will serve as its staff director and chief economist. He also will nominate Mr. Goolsbee to serve as one of three members on the Council of Economic Advisers.

Mr. Volcker, Fed chairman from 1979 to 1987, is best known for tackling massive inflation.

Mr. Goolsbee is a Fulbright scholar and economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

They join Mr. Summers, new White House Office of Management and Budget leader Peter Orszag and Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy J. Geithner.

The Obama transition office also announced Wednesday two White House appointments.

Cecilia Munoz will be director of intergovernmental affairs. She is currently the senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza, and is the most influential behind-the-scenes advocate for a comprehensive immigration reform plan. She also was hailed by Hispanic groups as the first Latino to receive a post in the Obama administration.

Jon Favreau, 27, will be director of speechwriting. He received wide recognition in the same job during the campaign. He worked for Mr. Obama’s Senate office and also for Sen. John Kerry’s presidential bid in 2004.

Mr. Favreau’s touch on the Obama concession speech in the New Hampshire primary in January inspired hip-hop singer Will.i.am to create “Yes We Can,” a music video that became a YouTube sensation and mobilized young voters behind the Illinois Democrat. The video later won a Grammy award.

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