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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—as an indication of 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. (As of press time, a commerce secretary had not yet been chosen.)
Name: Joseph Biden
Position: Vice President
Past Positions: Six-term U.S. senator from Delaware; Democratic presidential candidate
Value: One of the nation’s influential policy leaders dealing with foreign affairs, terrorism, drug policy, and crime; he will lead a new task force aimed at helping “working families.”
Name: Rahm Emanuel
Position: Chief of Staff
Past Positions: Three-term U.S. Congressman representing Illinois’ 5th Congressional District; fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House; Senior Adviser 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.
Name: Valerie Jarrett
Position: Senior Adviser and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison
Past Positions: CEO, The Habitat Co., a Chicago-based real estate development firm; 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.
Name: David Axelrod
Position: Senior Adviser
Past Position: Chief Strategist for Obama’s 2008 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.
Name: Greg Craig
Position: White House Counsel
Past Position: Partner, Williams & Connolly law firm; 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.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY TEAM
Name: Timothy Geithner
Position: Secretary of the Treasury
Past Positions: President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Undersecretary of the Treasury for