By Sarah Baxter
The Times (UK)
With the economy on the brink of recession and the country in the midst of two foreign wars, Barack Obama is considering appointing a cabinet of stars to steer America through potentially its worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s if he wins the presidency on November 4.
Obama has a well-regarded, close-knit team of domestic and foreign policy advisers who would follow him into the White House and key administration posts. But he is also being urged to make some high-profile appointments who would command the confidence of the country at such a troubled time.
Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks at a campaign rally in Kansas City, October 18, 2008.(Jim Young/Reuters)
“It’s important to send a signal,” an Obama adviser said. “With a comparatively new person in office and the awful mess we’re in, these appointments are going to resonate around the world.” Obama, 47, has been warning his supporters that the election is not over yet. “Don’t underestimate our ability to screw it up,” he said last week. But should Obama win, he will not be short of big names to choose for his administration.
A host of well-known figures, including some Republicans, have indicated they would be willing to serve in some capacity as Obama begins to acquire a winner’s glow. From Senator John Kerry, the 2004 presidential candidate with hopes of becoming secretary of state, to Larry Summers, a former US Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, and Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator who has been tipped as defence secretary, there are plenty who have signalled their availability.
Obama is thought likely to cherry-pick a few high-profile names, while rewarding the loyalty and discretion of advisers such as his foreign policy expert Susan Rice who have served him so well throughout the campaign.
“He has no patience whatsoever with prima donnas,” said one leading Democrat policy adviser. “He’s surrounded himself with people who are pretty smooth in dealing with each other.” All eyes were on Colin Powell, the former secretary of state under President George W Bush, to see if he would declare his support for Obama in an interview on Meet the Press, the flagship political television programme, today.
Powell is unlikely to return to the cabinet after the mauling he received over the Iraq war, but could serve as a special envoy abroad. He is regularly consulted by Obama on foreign policy and military matters, and said last year: “I always keep my eyes open and my ears open to requests for service.”
In last week’s debate against John McCain, his Republican opponent, Obama indicated that he would adopt a bipartisan approach to government, citing the Republican senator Richard Lugar, who worked with him on a bill to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation, and General Jim Jones, the former Nato commander, as figures he admired.
“Those are the people, Democrat and Republican, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House,” Obama said.
If the Democrats win sweeping majorities in the House of Representatives and the Senate as well as the White House, conservative voters could feel alienated from every branch of government. The McCain campaign is already playing up fears of a Democratic landslide to persuade Republicans and independents to back their man.
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