Since Tuesday night’s terrific triumph at the polls and the euphoria that followed, Barack Obama has met reality squarely: he accidentally insulted Nancy Reagan, drew condemnation over his comments from Iran and concerned mumblings from Israel, Russia’s Medvedev wants an “early” meeting to discuss planned missile defenses in Poland and the Polish president says Obama promised to finish the missile project while the Obama camp says the President-Elect made “no commitment.” Now Mr. Obama has to select a Treasury Secretary and a Secretary of State from among a cast of well qualified and eager experts….
Barack Obama is wrestling with “back biting” and clashing egos as he tries to find a Treasury Secretary to help him pilot the US out of economic meltdown.
By Tim Shipman in Washington
The Telegraph (London)
Disagreements among senior Democrats and members of his team over who he should pick has given the President-Elect a wake up call about the treacherous partisan waters he now has to navigate, according to those familiar with the discussions.
Mr Obama used a national radio address yesterday to reiterate his support for a new $100bn “rescue plan for the middle class” and warned: “We are facing the greatest economic challenge of our lifetime.”
But despite the hopes of some aides that he would be able to name a Treasury Secretary in the first few days after the election, Mr Obama has found that he has to spend longer conisdering his decision after being bombarded by aggressive lobbying for the main candidates.
It is the President-Elect’s first taste of real dissent after having his views accepted without equivocation on the campaign trail.
Steven Clemons, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a centre-left think tank, said “policy and personality battles” have broken out over the Treasury and defence portfolios, as well as selection of a Secretary of State, the senior foreign affairs post.
“Tension, backbiting, and jostling for position is fraying the nerves of many who are highest on the list of candidates Obama is considering for senior positions,” he said.
Time is pressing. The US economy shed another 240,000 jobs in October, the tenth month in a row, and the big three car manufacturers experienced a sales slump of 32 percent, to their lowest level since 1991. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are now asking for a $25bn government bail out of their own.
But Democrat power brokers are split over the two frontrunners for the Treasury job. Lawrence Summers, who held the post under Bill Clinton, has influential support and is also pushing hard for the job. But he is blamed by many for the financial deregulation which contributed to the recent Wall Street collapse.
Feminist groups are horrified by his record as president of Harvard University, where Mr Summers suggested that women were inherently less good at maths than men.
Kim Gandy, the president of the National Organisation of Women, complained last week: “It’s very important that whoever is in key positions understands the importance of women to this economy.
“I do wonder whether if his had instead been a comment or an opinion about African Americans having less capacity for math and science, would he be on anybody’s short-list.”
Ms Gandy said she is lobbying Mr Obama to choose one of the female economists, Laura D’Andrea Tyson or Sheila Bair.