- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2008

President-elect Barack Obama named two Cabinet secretaries who will be tasked with preserving the nation’s resources, creating new “green” jobs and helping rural America.

Mr. Obama, a Democrat, nominated Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado as secretary of the interior and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary.

“Together, they will serve as guardians of the American landscape on which the health of our economy and the well-being of our families so heavily depend,” Mr. Obama said Wednesday at a press conference in Chicago to announce his choices. “”These two gentleman are as accomplished a pair of public servants as we have in America.”

Mr. Obama said the nation must “grow advanced biofuels that will help make the United States energy independent.”

“How we harness our natural resources — from the farmlands of Iowa to the springs of Colorado — will speak not only to our quality of life, but to our economic growth and our energy future,” he said.

Mr. Obama said that Mr. Vilsack “led with vision” and “understands the solution to our energy crisis will be found not in oil fields abroad but in our farm fields here at home.”

Mr. Vilsack said that he aims to preserve natural resources and that he would help create new opportunities for rural areas.

He added his new department “must place nutrition at the center” of food programs.

“America’s farmers and ranchers” deserve someone in the post who “respects them,” Mr. Vilsack said.

He said the nation must be “truly dedicated to health and nutrition.”

“I look forward to serving Colorado, the West and the nation in this new capacity,” said Mr. Salazar, who sported a cowboy hat during the news conference.

Mr. Obama added that he and Mr. Salazar will make sure “tribal nations will have a voice” in his administration after he takes office Jan. 20.

Mr. Salazar becomes the second person of Hispanic origin in the Cabinet. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has been nominated as commerce secretary.

Mr. Vilsack ended his own presidential bid in early 2007, endorsing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He campaigned aggressively against Mr. Obama throughout the primary but later supported him during the general election.

A CBS reporter asked Mr. Obama if it is “difficult” to hold off on releasing the transition team’s internal report about its interactions with embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

“It’s a little bit frustrating,” Mr. Obama said. “There’s been a lot of speculation in the press that I would love to correct immediately.”

He repeated what he said Monday about the report, that it is complete but that the U.S. attorney’s office requested they hold off on its release because of the ongoing investigation. It is scheduled to be released sometime next week.

“It’s not going to be that long. By next week you guys will have the answers to all your questions,” Mr. Obama said.

Earlier Wednesday, chief Obama adviser David Axelrod, a longtime Chicagoan who will become a White House adviser, said on MSNBC that the transition feels “a little hamstrung.”

“Nobody is more eager than we are to be able to release that,” Mr. Axelrod said of the report. “When you see it, it will corroborate with what the president-elect has said, that there were no inappropriate discussions between members of his staff and the governor’s office in these matters.”

Mr. Axelrod also brushed aside questions about incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel potentially acting improperly by speaking with the governor about Mr. Obama’s vacant Senate seat.

“I have no concerns about Rahm. He is an enormous asset to us and will be an enormous asset to the country, as he has been in the Congress,” he said.

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