Much has been made of President Barack Obama’s assemblage of “a team of rivals” for his first-term cabinet. Political observers compare his choices of Joe Biden for vice president and Hillary Clinton for secretary of state—fierce competitors for the Democratic presidential nomination—to the same political genius President Abraham Lincoln demonstrated when he selected political opponents to serve in his administration 148 years ago. Grappling with a nation divided by civil war and the issue of slavery, Lincoln wanted access to the country’s best minds to help him preserve the Union. He believed he would receive candid, straightforward advice from his critics. It is true that Obama has taken a page from his political hero’s book, but his cabinet and White House staff represent so much more. Consider them the Obama Dream Team, a diverse cadre of accomplished, well-educated public servants—many of whom served in the Clinton administration—equipped to take on America’s unprecedented economic, national security, and environmental challenges. We offer this snapshot of Obama’s White House staff and cabinet-level choices, looking at them through the lens of his policy priorities.
WHITE HOUSE TEAM
Past Position: U.S. Senator from Delaware
Value: One of the nation’s influential policy leaders dealing with foreign affairs, terrorism, drug policy and crime, Biden will lead a new task force aimed at helping working families
Chief of Staff
Past Positions: U.S. Representative from Illinois; Senior Advisor to President Clinton
Value: Nicknamed “Rahmbo” for his aggressive, in-your-face style, Emanuel’s ability to get things done and his insider’s knowledge of Congress is expected to be a huge asset—especially in getting Obama’s economic stimulus plan enacted.
Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison
Past Positions: CEO, The Habitat Co.; Chairman, Chicago Stock Exchange; Chairman, Chicago Transit Authority
Value: A close friend, confidante, and mentor, Jarrett brings years of political skill and business acumen to a post in which she will work closely with state and local government officials.
White House Counsel
Past Positions: Partner, Williams & Connolly; Special White House Counsel for President Clinton
Value: The only attorney to represent a president (Clinton) as well as a would-be assassin of a president (John Hinkley, who shot Ronald Reagan), this ultimate Washington insider is a foreign policy maven who can nimbly maneuver through a maze of complex legal and political issues.
Past Positions: Senior Strategist for Obama’s presidential campaign; Senior Partner AKP&D Message and Media
Value: Considered a keen observer and political genius, this trusted adviser will fiercely protect Obama’s image, message, and the integrity of his proposals.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY TEAM
Secretary of the Treasury
Past Positions: President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs (Clinton administration)
Value: As New York Fed Chief, Geithner has participated in such industry-saving acts as the sale of Bear Stearns to JPMorgan Chase and the multibillion-dollar rescue of AIG. Also, he’s an experienced hand at Treasury,