Obama sets about choosing his team
AFP - Friday, November 7
CHICAGO, (AFP) - - After the euphoria of his historic election win Barack Obama got down Thursday to choosing a presidential team that faces a mountain of problems, not least the economic crisis and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Democrat ducked out of the limelight after becoming America's first black president, but behind-the-scenes activity picked up with the formal creation of a team to handle his transition to power ahead of the January 20 inauguration.
In an immediate reminder of the mammoth task ahead, the Dow Jones share average plummeted nearly 500 points on resurgent fears of a deep recession followed by large sell-offs and a raft of negative financial data in Asia.
Democrats said Obama had asked combative congressman and former Clinton White House aide Rahm Emanuel, 48, to be his chief of staff, a vital post that helps set the tempo of the administration.
While Bill Clinton, the last Democrat in the White House, took weeks to announce his cabinet, Obama does not have the luxury of time with the US administration now dispensing a 700-billion-dollar bailout for Wall Street.
Obama has hinted at possible names to take over as Treasury secretary.
He noted to CNN last week that his economic advisers include Clinton's last Treasury secretary Larry Summers, 53, as well as former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker, 81; and mega-rich investor Warren Buffett, 78.
Another name being mentioned in the media for Obama's economic overseer is Timothy Geithner, 47, who as president of the New York Federal Reserve has been in charge of executing the US central bank's sudden explosion of market activity.
Obama made note of the acute set of challenges he faces in his victory speech late Tuesday before 240,000 people in Chicago and millions more watching at home in the United States and around the world.
"Even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century," he said.
"But America -- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you -- we as a people will get there."
Obama, a 47-year-old Illinois senator, crushed Republican John McCain, 72, with an inspirational message of hope and change. But now the hard part begins as he confronts the stricken economy along with war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
While his aides made no announcements of any briefings for Thursday, Obama cannot stay silent for too long as both Wall Street and voters suffering from the financial crisis look to their next president for reassurance and guidance.
A day after triggering a political earthquake not seen since Ronald Reagan's 1980 landslide, Obama named key figures of the transition team that will spend the next 75 days preparing for his inauguration and presidency beyond.
The transition office in Washington will be run by co-chairs John Podesta, a former chief of staff to Clinton; Pete Rouse, who was Obama's Senate chief of staff; and the Democrat's close friend Valerie Jarrett.
The transition team will oversee the job of vetting cabinet nominees and preparing the vital first political moves of the new administration.
US President George W. Bush offered generous praise to his successor. Pledging his "complete cooperation" in the transition of power, Bush invited the Obamas to the White House at their earliest convenience.
In another sign of the changing of the guard, Michelle Obama spoke by telephone with First Lady Laura Bush, who offered her own invitation.
CIA director Mike Hayden also said the US intelligence agency would begin sharing classified information with Obama.
The incoming president has promised to renew bruised ties with US allies , and to engage some of the nation's fiercest foes such as Iran and North Korea.
He has vowed to tackle climate change, cut taxes for 95 percent of working Americans, and guarantee near-universal health care at a time when many thousands are losing their insurance as their jobs disappear.
Congratulations poured in from world leaders, along with demands to turn a page on Bush's divisive foreign policy. China and Russia both pledged "constructive" dialogue.
Top Obama advisers will attend a White House summit being convened by Bush on November 15, as 20 world leaders thrash out a response to the worst financial crisis since the 1930s Great Depression.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev may meet Obama on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in Moscow. The Democrat's aides said they had no comment.
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