African Press International (API)

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Clinton chosen for state department – Why is Obama taking in Republican Gates

Posted by African Press International on December 2, 2008

gatesGates, centre, is the only Republican in Obama’s cabinet [AFP]

Obama also named Eric Holder, who served as deputy attorney-general in Bill Clinton’s administration, as attorney-general and Janet Napolitano, Arizona’s governor, as homeland security secretary.

Barack Obama, the US president-elect,has confirmedhis nominationof Hillary Clinton, his former presidential rival,assecretary of state in his new administration.

Robert Gates, the current US defence secretary who has served two years in the Bush administration,is also set tocontinue in his post, Obama said at a news conference in Chicago on Monday at which he announceda number ofsenior administration posts.

clinton-secretary-of-state
Clinton and Obama campaigned together after
Obama won the Democratic nomination [AFP]

Obama criticised Clinton for her vote to authorise the Iraq war.

And Clinton said Obama lacked the experience to be president condemning him for saying he would meet with leaders of nations such as Iran and Cuba without conditions.

However, on Monday, she stood alongside Obamaand vowed to make the US a new force for positive change, saying that in her new role she would work with the world community to solve global crises.

“The American people have demanded not just a new direction at home, but a new effort to renew America’s standing in the world as a force for positive change,” Clinton told the Chicago news conference.

Clinton said she would “reach out to the world again” after eight years of the Bush administration and promised to give “this assignment, your administration and my country, my all”.

‘New mission’

Obama made the announcement just days after the Mumbai attacks added to the rising number of US national security concerns.

The president-elect, who is to take office on January 20, said he would give Gates a “new mission” to end the Iraq war and hand over control of the country to the Iraqis.

“I will be giving secretary Gates and our military a new mission as soon as I take office, responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control,” said Obama, pledging to focus on the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Gates had previously said he wanted to leave at the end of the Bush administration but agreed to stay on, although it is not clear for how long.

While Gates avoided direct criticism of Obama during the election campaign, he has advocated policies thathave been at odds with Obama on issues such as Iraq.

Obama says he will withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office, but Gates has argued against setting timetables and a quick pullout, saying it could jeopardise security there.

Al Jazeera’s Franc Contreras in Mexico City says Napolitano’s appointment at the department of homeland security will be watched closely in Mexico as she will have responsibility for the border between the two countries.

“Napolitano has fought to curb illegal immigration, but has been sceptical that building a fence along the US-Mexico border will solve the problem. She once said: ‘You build a 50-foot wall, somebody will find a 51-foot ladder.'”

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API/source.aljazeera

He also announced two senior foreign policy positions outside the cabinet – Susan Rice, his campaign foreign policy adviser, as UN ambassador, and retired General James Jones as national security adviser.

Obama introduced Clinton first, saying of his former presidential rival: “She possesses an extraordinary intelligence and toughness, and a remarkable work ethic.

“She is an American of tremendous stature who will have my complete confidence, who knows many of the world’s leaders, who will command respect in every capital, and who will clearly have the ability to advance our interests around the world.”

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said people hoping for fresh faces in Obama’s team would be disappointed by the choice of established Washington-basedfigures but that others mayargue that only those with significant experience could implement Obama’s message of change.

All theappointments except that of national security adviser need to beapproved by the US senate before they are confirmed.

Past disagreements

Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady, clashed repeatedly with Obama on foreign affairs during the Democratic presidential primary campaign earlier this year.

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