VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Joseph R. Biden
With his appointment to chair the Middle Class Task Force, a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America, Vice President Joe Biden has been traveling the country and drawing support for Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. He meets regularly with Obama’s national security team, and his trips to Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan shows that he will be heavily involved in international affairs. During a recent summit of Latin American progressive leaders in Chile he upheld the decades-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba stands. Nevertheless, he plans to exert less authority than former Vice President Dick Cheney used in the position.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton
While her immediate goals are to stabilize the conflicts in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, as well as restore the U.S.’s international image, Hillary Clinton has been utilizing what she calls “smart power,” or diplomacy to strengthen relationships with allies. Since her confirmation, Clinton has visited Asia and addressed the economic challenges facing the international community. She committed to help curb drug violence in Mexico and she met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in an effort to repair U.S.’s strained relationships after Russia’s 2008 attack on Georgia.
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY
Secretary Timothy F. Geithner
Timothy F. Geithner will have his hands full in the next year as he supervises the economic recovery of both Main Street and Wall Street. From contretemps over unpaid taxes that almost derailed his nomination to extreme criticism over his approval of AIG bonuses, the treasury secretary has managed to weather the storm and craft a bank rescue plan that will provide financing for $500 billion with the potential to expand up to $1 trillion. He also encouraged Congress to pass a bill providing $17.4 billion in emergency government loans to Chrysler LLC and General Motors Corp. At the recent G20 summit he pressured foreign leaders to commit to more aggressive spending so as to help end the worldwide recession. Recently he outlined a framework for regulatory reform to subvert future economic crisis and issued restrictions on executive pay. Looking ahead, Geithner plans to make the tax code more intuitive and diminish the effects of mortgage-backed securities on the economy, while trying to reduce mortgage interest rates and increase homeownership.
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Secretary Robert M. Gates
Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently recommended a massive overhaul of military spending that would slash budgets for weapons programs and related private sector jobs, but provide billions for more troops and new technology to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Gates faces a range of challenges which include arms proliferation by Iran and North Korea, which recently launched a missile against objections from the U.S. and the international community. Most importantly he is coordinating the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from major cities in Iraq by the end of June 2009, and all troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011.