“…President-elect Barack Obama announced his new economic team. You know what he should do? Hire those people who were in charge of his fundraising campaign. We can pay this thing off in like a week.” -Jay Leno
Assembling the incoming Presidential cabinet has been all the more urgent in light of the relentless tidings of economic ill-fortune that seem to dominate the headlines. Aside from its obvious bearing on the government’s direction over the next few years, the Cabinet’s confirmation process is a useful indicator of the relationship between the incoming Democratic administration and the GOP, especially in light of Obama’s commitment towards bi-partisan cooperation in setting the tone for effective management.

Barack Obama’s successful bid for the presidency of the United States is as much a testimonial to a carefully orchestrated campaign executed by some of the most talented and media savvy products gathered within a single political apparatus as it is to the candidate’s well documented personal charisma and considerable ability to woo prospective voters, even those with previous racial biases.

Demonstrating an innate ability to side step potential land mines including the scandal with Jeremiah Wright and the rumor over his alleged Muslim religious affiliation, the Obama political machine transcended traditional boundaries, ethnic, racial and otherwise, by attracting a cross section of demographic groups including those previously considered to be disenfranchised politically. The result has been a marriage of those blessed with a facility for newest technology and old-fashioned organizing skills.

These included people like Face Book co-founder and Internet guru Chris Hughes, the entrepreneur who was the principle architect of the ground breaking online fundraising drive which transformed legions of small campaign contributors-average donation well under $200-into a $100 million juggernaut, and in turn allowed the Obama campaign to bypass the traditional public financing system that has been the backbone of the American political process.

In the wake of such an unprecedented victory, it is expected that similar care will be taken in the selection of the inner circle. Reflecting the administration’s stated intention of expanding diversity, the original appointees were a cross section of Americana, with two Republicans, five women, three Hispanics, three African Americans, two Asian Americans and an Arab American.

These initial steps at building a cabinet have disappointed some of the more liberal leaning devotees among the Obama faithful, who had taken perhaps a too literal interpretation of the campaign credo for “change.” By and large, his selections arguably possess “track records,” even the “rock star” of the group, Hillary Clinton, whose participation in her husband’s tenure went undoubtedly far beyond that of ceremonial hostess.

David L. Horne, Ph.D., a Pan African studies professor at California State University-Northridge and frequent Our Weekly contributor, predicts that most of the Cabinet confirmations will be finished within the next week or so, making for one of the speediest processes in history, echoing sentiments among legislators within both the Democratic and Republican parties, who view a quick approval as essential for mending the nation’s ailing economy. Candid about the precarious state of affairs facing America-and the world, Horne went over the nominees and their potential impact on the new government that will chart America’s course.

The Commerce Secretary designee, New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, has already bowed out over possible impropriety involving government contracts being awarded to a campaign contributor, an especially sore point in light of Obama’s pledge to run an administration free of special interest considerations and influence peddling. But even in this situation, Horne recognizes qualities of selflessness and political immaturity.

Noting Richardson in particular, Horne praised his display of character and integrity, since by stepping down he helped the new administration avoid the unnecessary spectacle of a long drawn out Senate debate, and in the final analysis, demonstrated himself to be a “team player.”

In any event, the Obama administration has weathered this along with the debacle over Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s alleged “pay to play” scheme in which he is charged with selling Obama’s recently vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder. In the field of politics, the ability to withstand controversy is a victory in itself.

The man pegged for Attorney General, Eric Holder, has been criticized because his recommendation lead President Bill Clinton to pardon commodities trader and Democratic fund raiser Marc Rich for tax evasion and illegal international trading, specifically oil dealings with Iraq during the hostage crisis of 1979 through 1981. Holder has acknowledged making an ill advised decision with insufficient information.

Horne applauds Susan Rice’s ascension to the Ambassadorship of the United Nations while lamenting that her increased responsibilities will prevent her from concentration on Africa, an area he believes has been especially ill-served by the Bush administration’s ham fisted diplomacy.

The retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense is characteristic of what Horne sees as Obama’s pragmatic approach. Gates is a proven commodity, has shown he can get along with both parties, and like most of Obama’s choices can “hit the ground running” in a situation with no luxury for on the job training. Horne stresses the choice of practicality over ideology, emphasizing the bottom line of getting the job done regardless of party loyalty, or the wishes of Progressives who want him as a counter point to the extreme excesses of the Bush Regime. Gates as a carry over from the previous administration, might be a particularly vexing point for these liberals, despite butting heads with his Republican handlers.

Possibly as important as the designated Cabinet appointees, are those not mentioned. A case in point is Harvard professor, Pulitzer Prize winner, and foreign policy maven Samantha Power.
Power was famously drummed off the Obama election campaign when she referred to former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton as a “Monster” last March, then unceremoniously added to the transitional team after his election in November. Power has long been in the inner-circle of academic advisers, both officially and unofficially, and is among those who are expected to help shape American foreign policy and international prestige in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison torture and prisoner scandal in Iran, and similar allegations of abuse within the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp in Cuba.
“Barack is incredibly empirical and non-ideological. He’s very aware of the tectonic plate shifts in the global order-the rise of China, the resurgence of Russia, the loss of influence by the US–and how those affect your ability to get what you want, on anything from global warming to getting out of Iraq to stopping genocide.” – From ‘How Obama Will Get Us Out of Iraq’ February 28, 2008 by Joe Wiener in The Huffington Post.
During the course of his interview with Our Weekly, Horne used the term “mother wit,” which may be googled as “innate intelligence or common sense.” Considering the complex and emotionally charged issues that will confront us all in the coming months (many of which will yield no unanimously acceptable resolution), such a phase might be the only remotely palatable remedy for public consumption.

Arizona governor Janet Napolitano, widely understood to be a shoo-in for Secretary of Homeland Security, is already a seasoned veteran with the hot-button issue of immigration reform as chief executive of a border state embroiled in this on-going controversy, a topic that will not go away.

Part of the problem faced by the Obama camp is that so much unbridled optimism has been attached to his presidency–a pivotal factor in his electoral success–that such high aspirations have become more than a minor inconvenience when facing the realities of fulfilling campaign promises and the nuts and bolts of making a bureaucracy work.