Some of the names being touted for Barack Obama’s cabinet show the twin pressures faced by the new president. Many people will find little comfort in his selections.
The final list has not been announced, but one name that is already hitting the headlines is Rahm Emanuel – who has been appointed as Obama’s chief of staff.
Emanuel is a fierce supporter of Israel, and as one of his friends told an Israeli newspaper, “He is pro-Israeli, and would not be willing to consider accepting the job unless he was convinced that president-elect Obama is pro-Israel.”
Colin Powell is another name being touted for Obama’s cabinet. As secretary of state under George Bush, Powell headed up the lies used to justify the invasion of Iraq.
He has since rebranded himself as a moderate and made a high-profile public endorsement of Obama during the election campaign.
Obama seems certain to keep Bush’s foreign secretary Robert Gates. If he goes with this choice it will indicate that there will be no substantive shift in the US strategy to manage the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Another name in the hat is Lawrence Summers, who was treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Summers, who is on the economic transition team, was a proponent of the “trickle down economics” that Obama attacked so successfully during the elections.
Obama faces pressures from more liberal sections of the Democratic party that wants to adopt a “new deal” for the economy.
This involves a possible plan to redirect a chunk of the £700 billion bailout fund to ease the plight of homeowners. Obama has also announced that he will reverse many of the executive orders of the George Bush regime.
Bush made these decrees without reference to Congress in order to satisfy the religious right. Among the measures Obama says he will revoke are restrictions on stem cell research and the permitting of oil drilling in nature reserves and the US coast.
These are welcome changes, and indicate that Obama is rejecting the social conservatism of his predecessor. However, the real test remains the economic and foreign policies of his new administration.