- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2008


CHICAGO — Barack Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama” >President-elect Barack Obama unveiled his national security team today, nominating Clinton” href=”/themes/?Theme=Hillary+Clinton” >Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the presidency, as secretary of state and choosing Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to stay on as Pentagon chief.

He also picked retired Gen. James L. Jones to be his national security adviser. The 6-foot-plus height and square-jawed features of the former supreme allied commander of NATO and Marine commandant recalled the late actor John Wayne.

“I am confident that this team is what we need to make a new beginning for American national security,” said Mr. Obama. He only once mentioned President Bush but detailed all the ways he hopes to change America with his presidency.

All three choices did not come as a surprise and had been the subject of intense speculation for more than a week. Mr. Obama’s announcement came less than a week after he chose his economic team, which apparently took precedence because of the deteriorating economy.

Many of those he chose for his national security team have had long Washington experience, leaving Mr. Obama open to charges that he was not fulfilling his campaign pledge to bring change to the nation’s capital. But he made it clear that he wanted to surround himself with “strong beliefs, strong opinions.”

“I will be welcoming vigorous debate,” he said. “The decisions will be carried out my me after a full discussion.”

But, the president-elect told a news conference at his Chicago headquarters, “The national security challenges we face are just as great at the economic challenges.”

“The common thread is that our destiny is shared with the world,” he said. “Now more than ever, we have a stake in what happens in the world. The time has come for new leadership, new alliances.”

Mr. Obama also nominated Eric H. Holder Jr., a former Washington, D.C., judge and prosecutor, as attorney general; Susan E. Rice to be ambassador to the United Nations; and Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, a Democrat, to head the Department of Homeland Security.

If confirmed, Mr. Holder would be the nation’s first black attorney general. He said at the press conference he would make sure the nation is safe and that “our laws and traditions are respected,” and would fight both “criminals on the street or in a board room.”

Ms. Rice, 44, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs in he Clinton administration, was Mr. Obama’s foreign policy adviser during the campaign. As ambassador to the United Nations, if she is confirmed, Ms. Rice is likely to have cabinet rank.

Mr. Obama said his new team would combat terrorism “wherever it is found,” including aiding the effort to address last week’s attack in India in which at least 178 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

“Both myself and the team that stands beside me are absolutely committed to eliminating the threat of terrorism, and that is true wherever it is found,” he said.

He said his goal was to have a bipartisan national security policy,

“We can shape our times instead of being shaped by them,” he said.

He said his team reflects the sentiment among “a broad section of the American people, that now is the time for us to regain American leadership in all its dimensions.”

Vice President-elect Joe Biden said during the 45-minute news conference that “we brought together one of the most talented national security teams.”

“These are extraordinary times,” he said. “We face extraordinary challenges.”

“We share a view,” Ms. Clinton said, “that America has to be safe and secure through strength and diplomacy.”

Mr. Obama was asked how he chose the former first lady and junior senator from New York, 61, to be his secretary of state.

“It was not a light bulb moment,” he replied. “I always was interested in Senator Clinton,” saying she is “tough and smart. I was always interested in finding ways to collaborate.

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